Friday, February 05, 2016

Late winter specials....

Off on a flexi day today and annual leave on Monday making a nice long weekend. Today, Phil Hanmer came to ours to replace an old owl box in the small wood next to our garden. The old one was dismal and last summer a Barn Owl nest failed in it due lack of protection from the weather so the new one is of much sturdier construction. Lets hope it gets used.

While out for a walk or two around the patch today, the Chiffchaff is still flickering around the Lane ditch while Brambling numbers in the finch flock have increased to 7 birds, 3 males 4 females. There were still 250+ Linnets and 50 Chaffinches with 1 Lesser Redpoll. Buzzard and Stock Dove kept the flock company in the stubble.

Down to the pond, it was quiet. There were no penduline tits in the reedmace ( prompted by one at Saltholme today!) but the Coot is still present ( please park carefully!)

Howick Hall Gardens open to the public tomorrow to see the snowdrops. There seems to be  nice show so far, all we need is some pleasant late winter weather rather than this grime, wind and rain that seems omnipresent....

Brambling. A male, probably adult but a strategically positioned twig stops us seeing an outer greater covert for contrast...



Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Iceland comes to the QEII...



Last year a fw Iceland Gull frequented the duck feeding area at the QEII Lake, Ashington. An unusual spot for a scarce gull, so what's the chances of history repeating? Well here we go, what looks like another first winter Iceland. Or is it? Could this actually be the same individual in retarded first plumage? There does seem to be odd grey feathers in the scapulars and mantle and second winters can have a dark eye too? Personally, I think it looks different to last spring's bird...Regardless its a nice bird and shows very well too. Best just say Iceland Gull 1 imm.


Sunday, January 31, 2016

Redpoll...week 4.

You will all be getting sick of me chuntering on about the Coues's Arctic Redpoll at Birling / Warkworth by now, but today we managed some great views and this time I even had the camera instead of the scope.

I've jumped the gun a bit though so first things first. I met John at Warkworth at 7.30 this morning just as it was getting light. It was nice and calm for a change, overcast and cold. To start things we walked down towards the beach and along to view the salt marsh, to check the local Twite flock for the first time this year. As expected, about 15 Twite showed well, in less than good light, but with them were 2 Redpolls, one a sure fire Mealy, the other more ambiguous. I dont recall ever seeing redpolls in this habitat before...

While here, a Barn Owl hunted the car park banks and a host of waders roosted along the edge, where Bar-tailed Godwit and Little Egret were both new for the year.  

Twite in the gloaming at first light.
From here we walked back up and followed the field north along the golf course to view the redpolls. Today numbers were up to 34 birds and the Arctic was easily picked out as they came in and sat, obligingly, along the fence line.

Coues's Arctic Redpoll showing well, sticking out like a sore thumb. This shot shows its bull-head and necked appearance well.
We stood back from the fence a few yards and the birds came in every so often. Here the Arctic is showing its typical puffed up pose, complete with huge, unstreaked white rump.
In this shot, the Arctic has not had time to fluff up, giving an altogether different appearance. It appears to be a first winter male as there are odd reddish feathers in the upper chest / cheek area. 
 This is my fourth audience with exilipes and he never fails to impress. What a little cracker!
As we watched, John and I met with John Richardson and Sasha Elliott who also got some nice photo's. Pleased to meet you Sasha....

From here, we returned to the car for a refill of tea, pasty and cake ( no....) then off down to the harbour and estuary. Highlights here were a nice male Goosander, 3 Purple Sandpipers and the adult Mediterranean Gull has finally returned, albeit a little bit late....

So, a nice winter morning out with some excellent birds. If only all weekends were like this....

Mediterranean Gull with Black headed Gulls, Little Shore, Amble.
 


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Lovely Aconites....

Every year at this time Denwick Church lights up with the golden glow of winter aconites. For me, these and Snowdrops raise the chequered flag to get ready for spring just a few long weeks away...



No doubt I will add more pics of these beauties as the snowdrops emerge between them. This year there seems to be a lot at Denwick, possibly due to increased light after the removal of a large dying tree last spring. All the trampling hasn't done the flowers any harm.


Monday, January 25, 2016

Time flies...

I've just noticed on my blog hit counter that its just passed the half a million page views mark! I would never have thought that back in July 2006 when I started....

I wonder if it will make the million? Here's hoping....

Sunday, January 24, 2016

And more Redpolls....

This morning was spent down at Warkworth with John.

We started in the gloaming with a nice Barn Owl hunting the car park. I had seen a second bird up the road near Hipsburn on my way too.

If only I could get the redpoll to sit for me!
While there, it would have been rude not to have a third look at the Coues's Arctic Redpoll at Birling ( which is just one field from Warkworth Golf Club). How pleased am I that John wanted to give it another go, because today it gave us some great views. Early on, we were the first ones looking, and sure enough the little flock of Redpolls were feeding in the usual spot down at the SE corner of the field. Using a little field craft, we stood on the field edge near the fence, with the light behind us. I took my scope but didnt think the light was any good for photos, a mistake I won't be making again in a hurry.

As we stood quietly, the birds arrived from the south just over our heads chattering away to themselves before dropping in to feed only a few yards from us! Despite quartering the ground with the scope we could only find three birds, a Mealy and 2 Lesser Redpolls. As is their way, they got up again, danced around a bit and dropped back in. On one occasion though, when they got up, they all landed on the fence line only about 30 feet away where they could be seen very well indeed through the scope.



A rapid count gave us about 26 birds - 1 Arctic, 2 Mealies and 23 Lesser Redpolls, but they dont sit around and off they went across the field into the hawthorns, where we could clearly seen the Arctic and 3 Mealies! So a finally best guess gives us 1 Arctic, 3 Mealies and 22 Lessers. A while later we managed to get more good views in the beach car park as they flew in for a wash and brush up. This time I suspect there were even more Mealies, but an accurate count was impossible as they hopped through thick thorn cover.

I think John got some shots of the flock on the fence, so when he sends me one I'll add it to the post ....

On our way back to the car, a male Merlin hunted a Skylark over head, frightening the poor thing into song, though I didnt see any kill right till both were out of sight high over the sea.

Back home, a second Chiffchaff was feeding in the ditch along the lane, while the first one was still in the garden....




Saturday, January 23, 2016

Winter Warbler....


As it was quite dry today for a change, I had an hour having a garden tidy up, prelim to spring. All I did was clear away from dead nettle and dock stalks so that the bulbs can see through more easily. While I was carting away a couple of barrow loads, I noticed the wintering Chiffchaff flicking around right next to me. Its a pity I didnt have the camera out I thought. The bird kept disappearing and reappearing where ever I seemed to go, so after I finished I popped back outside, armed. I managed to get 5 pics as it was flycatching along the drive. This one is the best of the bunch....

Down on the pond, a drake Tufted Duck and a lone Coot were new list additions, while 2+ Brambling were in the finch flock and a Buzzard soared overhead. Stock Doves are, unusually, being quite visible this year in small parties of up to seven birds.

85. Tufted Duck
86. Coot