Tuesday, 22 September 2015

ID Parade

Ok, so here's the tale. Some friends were cruising (not in the Arcot sense!) from (Wonderful, Wonderful) Copenhagen to Newcastle and took these three photographs. They are not birders.
According to my friends; 'An 'expert' lady who was on the ship had the book Birds of Britain and Europe and said they were XXX on migration. They had an identical picture in the book, she showed us pictures of XXX having stripes down their chest and....., they also have the black markings through their eyes looking like cheetahs, also had black and white bars across their tails.....' When I saw the photographs, I disagreed with the ID. I sought expert help and when I replied to the friends, he explained the italicised paragraph above and asked for a 'recount'. Thoughts, Oh Great and Good readers, please.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Right Up My Strasse!

I love overt, grammatical errors, especially where the writer has gone to some lengths to make his/her point and FAILED due to a lack of knowledge of Our Sovereign Lady HM The Queen's English! It's not snobbery or me being smart, we all make mistakes, it's when the writer goes the extra mile to make a public point and thereby makes their stupidity obvious to the world. Examples are tattoos spelt incorrectly or graffiti on a railway or road bridge. I labour the point a tad and so today's birding highlight made me smile this morning. Clearly, a local 'big man' or 'big woman' has taken a marker pen out and passed through West Hartford with it. There's risk and there's M&S risk! They have sought to add some social comment to one of the signs erected at the start of May, and undoubtedly been looking over their shoulder at the F&RS HQ and visitors who might catch their dabbling with Sec 1 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971. Pulse racing; heart beating; breathing shallow and the deed hurriedly done. And after taking time to endorse the sign with a valid point, voila, an enormous FAIL!!!!

Friday, 5 June 2015

Ferr-eeeeeeee, Cross the Mers-eeeeee!

BH weekend and off the NW for a tad of family time and soupcon of maritime heritage in the form of Cunard's 175th berrrrf-dee! Billed as the Three Queens Festival (no, not Messrs Walliams, Norvelle and Clary), the Queen Mary 2, Elizabeth and Victoria were in town for three days. Above - QM2 leaves the Pier Head to meet the other two in the mouth of the Mersey. Below - QE and QV arrive. And some more views of the arriving duo: And all three: Crosby beach Baywatch? Not quite...... And one of Anthony Gormley's Another Place statues (made of left-over Angel of the North bits):

A Smile (or may be a few)

The first ever brood of Shelduck ever arrived yesterday at Arcot (I know they're not Mega BUT they are cute; all nine of them!). I was told by SWMBO (think about it) that I should take a few snaps and so, with the camera in the wrong setting (nob!) here we go: And then there's the never-ending drip drip of fly-tipped $h1te. That said, given the essence of fly-tipping, I did have a grin at the livery on the right hand cannister (recycle, my ar$e!!!):

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

One! Point?

Well, here goes; a slight spleen ventilation follows. I have been birding 'seriously' for nine years, next to no time compared with many others but we all have to start at some time. In the near-decade that followed my initial scope / bins / Birdguides expenditure, I have developed a reasonable grasp of the politics in upper and lower cased letters. An aspect of this great pursuit that still frustrates immensely is the often lack of detail on web-based facilities that are surely intended to assist the viewer to see what's about and then act, or not. I realise that each service provider may gather intelligence from others, and so the detail in their notification is only as good as that which was provided originally. The onus must, therefore, be on the submitter to be specific. Birds do move (unless it's the B-w P at Bothal who has clearly been watching those street statue artists in Amsterdam's Dam Square!) and so there may be nowt to gain by stating the quarry is '...in the 3rd bush from the left if viewing from the gate' etc. But it's a good start. Let me decide if I want to watch an empty bush, don't decide for me; after all, it's my time I'm wasting! The opposite end of the spectrum of an almost worthless 'one today' or similar is equally futile, especially if the area is substantial, such as Holy Island or Cramlington. Whilst there may have been a Honey Buzzard over Cramlington yesterday morning, give those who may want to go and see if it's going to repeat the journey a chance to have a look by adding some value; my town's a big place! The Black Kite of May 2013 returned to Wessie H twice after the initial sighting and to keep the Bothal thread running, the G-b Tern came back once more (as those who were waiting on night no. 3 will vouch). The rantings of this mad man will not change anything, but the cathartic aspect of this narrative has benefited me enormously. Thanks for reading this far.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Don't just sit there.....

.....sign this, please. It'll be the beginning of the end if we don't stop all this wildlife-related destruction now!

Monday, 11 May 2015

Faint Heart Never Won....

The Red-throated Pipit's presence at Seaton Common yesterday coincided with a necessary visit to a sick, elderly relative at Sunderland Royal. Given I was, therefore, but 15 or so miles away, and I did see her there on Wednesday, I momentarily toyed with the idea of dropping SWMBO off at the hozzy, hot-footing (car-ing?) it to the Common, and popping back with the bird in the bag. But I did say 'momentarily'; there are certain things a conscience prevents! So, tea cooked / eaten sharpish, dog walked (by another for a change) and at 6pm, off south and a welcome wee crowd-ette on a mound looking at the edges of a big puddle with lots of long grass surrounding but reassuring murmurs of 'it shows well' and 'it's still there' and after pestering the periphery of the throng for some landmarks, voila! Then gone. Then voila! Then gone again. And after half an hour, it flew within about 15 yards (I can use imperial measures now I am retired - none of that metric nonsense!) and so time, in fading twilight, with a bit of a breeze (getting my excuses in early) here's the shitty-shotties:

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Big Bogey Removed

Well, the shitty signs as referred to in my last blast worked - NOT! This p.m., and the 'how many birds can my black Lab put up' challenge was again in full flow as the dog owner let her 'pride'n'joy' spoil my day. It's all getting a bit tedious! On a more positive note, after a barren drop-in at Arcot I was heading for N/landia and at the W end of the lane, turned to head N on the A1068. A large bird was heading S on the E side of the road and it's 'relaxed' flight was not indicative of the ubiquitous Common Buzzard. And as we crossed, the forked tail confirmed Red Kite. There are three bogey birds for me in Viet-Cram: Milvus milvus, Pandion haliaetus and Anthus trivialis. And now there are but two!

Thursday, 7 May 2015

A Load O' Bollocks or a Stroke O' Genius?

You decide. Between 0700 and 2000 today, a mystery sign putteruper has worked his/her 'magic' at Wessie H. The first one appears on the public side of the green access gate.
So Barbara Wire is clearly a dangerous lady, her forename abbreviated as we can see. If they meant the fence to which the sign was attached, 'Barbed Wire' would have been correct! There'll be box sets of DVDs next instead of boxed sets!
Then on the gate, this. The only fly-tipping was years ago when the local travellers' site was a base to leave the odd hedge clipping and the famous bath. SHOCK UPDATE: THE BATH IS GONE! Then these:
Elves beware!
The gulls' knees might give the game away!
And again. And so to the title of this email - H&S gone well and truly mad OR cheap'n'cheerful signs that if they keep one anal sphincter on a horse or with a dog off the Flashes will have paid for themselves many times over?

Early Worm II

Wessie was freakin' freezin' this morning, albeit bright, clear and dry. The water held its usual gulls, the equally predictable warblers were in full voice too. A Grey Heron came in from the E and the gulls and a Lapwing lifted. Didn't think gulls feared herons to the extent they were up and off W towards the NIE. And then the real reason appeared and remained for a minute or so before it was off SW. Excuse the cold-handed, panic-ridden shots that barely hit the 'record' threshold:
I initially thought it was an adult F as with the naked eye there were light wing patches but the camera never lies so juvenile it is.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

The Early Worm...

... catches the birds. Up'n'about at ten minutes past the early hour of 6am (I could get used to this 'no work' palava) and as usual, not a lot at Wessie H. Off to Arcot, and in line with the earlier venue, not a lot bar a few distant yaffles from the golf course. Beacon Lane next; was the Rouzel still there? If he was, he was having a lie-in and so not seen Just south of South Stream, in the wood to the west, the year's first Garden Warbler heard first ten seen (that saved a trek to the NW corner of Arcot!). And walking back, a 'Kestrel' dropped from a tree top and off west over the corn field. Except via the bins, this was not what it first appeared, but rather a Cuckoo that was lost from view near the far NW corner of the gold course. Nowt at N/landia so a flat finish to match the flat start.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Ring Irritation

Nope, not an add for Germaloids but two words to describe an hour on Beacon Lane this evening in pursuit of a male Ring Ouzel. First seen by 'Yours Truly' at 7pm in the horse paddock on the E side of Beacon Lane near South Stream , it 'disappeared' in the field's undulations and then for good. The other horse fields at the N end of the lane were checked by Mr McD and I and nowt, so back to the original location and after a few minutes, it rose from the ground into the top of a tree, pursued by a male Blackbird. And then chased from the tree onto the ground and so time for some sneaky, sneaky camera action. Into the field and a glimpse-ette as it was harried by a Magpie and another Blackbird and eventually into a a large Elder from which it never emerged (a closer look indicated it had gone south). So no snaps but a good time was had by all (well, me and Linds).

Monday, 4 May 2015

Two Ticks

Whilst putting the numerous ills of the world to rights this morning at Arcot with J Atkinson Esq, as well as four Common Terns, the year's first Swift. And then after a not-so petit dejeuner, taking the hound around the ground(s), we sallied forth past the end of Cheadle Avenue and today's Bank Holiday Bonus were two Lesser Whitethroats here A look on the 'back nine' and there was one to the west, in the hawthorns along the northern edge of Cramington Blue Star's car park off Crowhall Lane.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

(1 + 1) x 2

Bit of a run at the moment; or on a positive note, put in the time and get the rewards. Repeated visits locally throughout the day do, as they have in years gone by, increased the year's patch list. Saturday was a nice start with a good 'tick' in the form of a Dunlin at Arcot. And mobbed by corvids and in from the east was a brown raptor, lost behind the trees in the NW field and written-off as a Common Buzzard. WRONG! Five or so minutes later, like Mr NatureNorthEast and his feckin' Osprey a few weeks ago (Jealous? Moi?), over the SW field and so over my left shoulder, an immature Marsh Harrier that quartered the west shore reed beds, and then back over the NW field and lost from view somehow. And today, whilst toiling for the public good (did I mention I retire on Friday? No. Well, I retire on Friday; only three working days left) a text from The Guv relaying news from Sir McKeown of Southfield of a Common Sandpiper at Arcot. En route home, a drop in proved better than expected. Not only was said bird still there, but alongside, a Wood Sandpiper too (never a good idea to link the word Wood with Arcot, you'll find!). Henny-weez, spot on and Mr Sometimes on scene ASAP to corroborate. All's well etc.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

G Whizz

Great day! Opened with another G bird this morning, the first-footing Grasshopper Warbler of 2015 reeling away at 6:15am somewhere just north of the NFRS HQ at Wessie H. And at 11:15, a text from Mr Malloy (or 'Sir' as he will be known henceforth) that read 'Make REDSTART horse fields next to North burn hill off cycle track view from gate just north of wood'. Well like a WWII Spitfire pilot waiting for the hun to come in over the briny, I dropped my roly, grabbed my hat and flying goggles and ran to the runway to board the crate (I actually put down my coffee, picked up the car keys and walked to the drive to get in the car) and was there in a flash. After what seemed like an age, spotted the little blighter and then ten minutes of trying to get a reasonable shot of what was a hyperactive chap considering its journey north. Anyway, here's the best of a well-shite bunch:

Monday, 13 April 2015

You don't get anything for a pair....

....not in this game! But it's birding, and the great Viet-cram v Big Waters competition and not Play Your Cards Right. So a point to the home team for two of these: And a patch Lifer too!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Gimme a G....

G. Gimme another G. G. Rain stopped play, so after an early tea and the day's precipitation ceased, it was off out. Wessie H first and still a tad of an 'in yer face' breeze. The usual gulls on the water, a few Teal too, and wading through the water near the west shore, a Redshank. No year ticks so far. However, scanning the shore to the north had a napping Greenshank. Belter! Off to Arcot, and as the afternoon matured, the numbers of Sand Martins increased, along with a few Swallows. No year ticks so far here either! Some well-fresh Pied Wags on the horse-decimated SSSI field, and then a pair of duck low from SE to NW, one like a mini-Greylag in terms of light wing flashes and after webbed-foot and water met, voila, a drake Garganey. Its companion was not a female. In the words of the late, great, Big Daddy, 'Easy! Easy! Easy!'.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Got the Runs

Spring nears and within days the first Chiffchaffs and Sand Martins should hit the patch. Meanwhile, a bit of a run over the past couple of days, with Pintail (a stunning drake) and two Shelduck at Arcot on Thursday (and still there today), and at Wessie this morning, the year's first Redshank. Nice! This afternoon, nowt at Northumberlandia (the fun starts nearer dusk) but three flocks of LBJs over and so a wee trek located a flock of some 40 Linnet in the wood to the west of the Azure Garden Centre.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015


Popped in to Morpeth last Tuesday en route north with a work commitment; the appeal of an easy Waxwing was too good to pass over: Today, as yesterday, Wessie H was dead. Unless you like gulls and Teal. Oh, and foxes. And so to Arcot, which yielded the year's first Little Grebes yesterday, and today, another patch first for 2015, this waxxer:

Friday, 20 February 2015


Brass ones, that is, and three wise ones too! Spent 90 minutes at N/landia at dusk along with The Guv and Mr Sometimes this evening. Bloody freezing but worth it to add Woodcock, Grey Partridge and LEO to the year's patch list.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Professor of Cunning at Oxford University

Baldrick: I have... a plan, sir. Blackadder: Really, Baldrick? A cunning and subtle one? Baldrick: Yes, sir. Blackadder: As cunning as a fox who's just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University? Baldrick: Yes, sir. And here's said Professor, not in Oxford but at Wessie H this morning: Popped in to East Cramlington Pond and its mystery feeders a few times this week. They were in need of a top-up on Monday, had it on Tuesday and were back to their 'voidness' on Wednesday. Still, they are busy, with: Great, Coal, Blue, LT and Willow Tits; Green, Bull and Chaffinches; GSW, Dunnock and Robin and a few odds'n'sods more besides.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Nice Start

Clear diary. Day off. Five Golden Plover over Westwood Grange, Viet-cram, towards Beacon Lane area.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Two Words

Some combinations of words are sure to excite. Excluding those that may be bedroom-orientated (No, Mr Hall, not 'pine furniture'!), these include 'free beer', 'blue cheese', 'red wine' and arguably one of the best, 'showing well'. And so, after a week or so of 'will it, won't it', the dreaded Rose-coloured Starling at sunny (and it was) Prudhoe was described as just that. Some birds I especially want to see, and this was one. So off south and into Cheviot View and there was number 9 but no crowd, not even a solitary birder. On driving east along the block, one camera-clad chap was duly interrogated and gave me the 'last seen' location. After parking the car, collecting the kit and raising the bins, it took about ten seconds to locate the little blighter in the trees at the rear of the end house of the block (13?). There's a grassed area at the side of this des-res and at the rear of the house some leafless deciduous trees and a line of conifers. When it wasn't out of sight in the garden, it was in these trees. If I was Big Daddy, and with free beer, blue cheese, red wine and despite the unnamed nocturnal lexicographical duets, I soon may be, I would say, 'Easy! Easy! Easy!'

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Bit of a flurry

GGS still at Wessie H this a.m., but little else on land or water. Arcot had 3 drake Shoveler, 1 drake Pochard, a Tuftie pair and a Mute Swan. Teal and Coot abounded (whatever abounding is!) Plessey Mill Farm Wood was dead-ish. Added Nuthatch to the year list and had the closest views ever with 3 Roe Deer and later, a Common Buzzard (until they realised there was a big lummox watching!). And nice weather too!

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Patchy Progress

Quick spin round Viet-cram yesterday had the Shrike active in its usual field at Wessie, Teal and Mallard on the water but no sign of any Stonechat(s). There was a slight whisp of a breeze tho'! The Burn yielded nothing although others had seen the usual suspects. Beacon Lane produced Bullfinch, Willow Tit to add to the year's List, and Starling, Redwing, Chaffinch and gulls too. No Woodcock on the golf course fringes, sadly. Back out later.....