Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Little Grebe...

I was a bit inspired by my Little Grebe nest yesterday, so just rattled off this sketch on an old bit of cardboard packaging. Literally 10 minutes in the making, I quite like it's roughness...in both senses!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Spotty Fly..

Out with Bunty this afternoon and this Spotted Flycatcher was loitering around the village wood. It was tricky to get a look at in the thick foliage...a patch year tick for me.

Brown Hawker in Northumberland?

Recently I have heard reports from good observers that they have seen Brown Hawker dragonflies at Newton Pool. This is a very rare species in Northumberland, so I thought I would have a look today. The sun, in sheltered spots out of the wind, was warm and there were lots of insects on the wing but no Brown Hawkers...

The scrapes were chocca with birds, including 2 Wood Sandpipers, 8+ Black tailed Godwit, 6+ Ruff, and an adult Mediterranean Gull amongst dozens of commoner species.

On the main pool, a Little Grebe had 4 newly hatched humbugs on its nest, a bit late I think, and there were good numbers of wildfowl including 3 Wigeon. Willow Warbler and Sedge Warbler were in the willows.

I spent some time wandering the track outside hoping for the hawker without success but I did see a single male Common Darter and a host of butterflies  - 1 Painted Lady, 1 Red Admiral, 2 Wall Brown, 2 Small Copper, 3+ Green veined White, 2 Large White all in a short distance.

The seawatching was poor, the wind needs to be more northerly than north westerly here.

Above - Painted Lady with an unidentified caterpillar not seen until the pics were on the computer.

A pair of Wall Browns

Small Copper

Large White

Sunday, August 17, 2014

All's quiet...

Wall Brown
 Apart from solid lash, what could be the worst weather for an east coast birder in August? Yep, a strong westerly with bright sunshine. Still I headed out to check a few sites, just in case. Starting off at Boulmer, at high tide,  A wander around Seaton Point was borderline depressing, where the highlights were 1 Whinchat, 1 Wheatear and a scatter of waders roosting on the shore.  This area has taken a severe down turn in the last five or so years since I covered it regularly. The fields are sterile and surrounded by blue 'daleks' to feed the local 'game'. People complain about open cast sites in the county ( I was one of them) but I think it would improve things here...

Turnstones at Seaton Point
 Moving on, a short stop at Foxton for a glance down at the tide full river flood plain had 130 Curlew, 4 Common Sandpipers, a Greenshank and an unringed Little Egret.

With the morning holding little inspiration, I drove down to Hauxley Goose Sanctuary  Nature Reserve. The pool was full with no muddy margin for waders, so a check around the lushly vegetated car park had a scatter of Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap. The flowers here are still looking good with masses of Marjoram and Fleabane adding the colour. A few butterflies were around, Wall Brown, Speckled Wood and Peacock. On returning to the car a Whimbrel flew over calling.

Willow Warbler
The final stop was Amble Braid as the tide was beginning to drop back. Lots of birds were dancing around waiting for the mud to be uncovered, but there was nothing out of the ordinary. 35 Shelducks was a good count. The wind was still increasing, so I cut my losses and headed back home.

Lets hope that wind does a 180 soon...

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Caspo Expo!

Apparently this large gull in Amble Harbour is a 4th year Caspian Gull. The yellow darvic ring, PKCS shows that it was indeed ringed in a caspian gull colony in southern Poland, so what more could you ask for in confirming its identity?

Well there is unrest in the camp, with words such as 'unconvincing' and 'hybrid' being bandied about by the twitching fraternity. There may be some discrepancy in a retarded moult in the P45 or something (?) but this morning I visited and kept an open mind.

Ring or not, this gull was a doddle to pick out from the rest when given a good view. The most striking features were the dark 'piggy' eye, the very long bill and best of all for me, those legs! Is it a hybrid with an avocet I wondered ! It seemed very large, possibly indicating a male and was quite aggressive when squabbling over the warburtons, but the locals soon took the better hand. 

Looking through my pics below you can see its very distinctive shape, with the sloping posture when walking that is very unlike argenteus Herring Gulls. I haven't had a chance to consult back issues of  'Gulling World' to check the required patterning on the primaries, but I will, later.

For me personally, I cant see why this is not a Caspian Gull. Had it been wandering in a pig field at Blythburgh no one would have questioned it I'm sure, but they are very rare up here, where just about every non conforming bird of any species is deemed a hybrid.

[ Ive just had a bit of a read of birding world info and on the internet. All features seem fine for Caspian coming into 4th winter. I would like to see it after it has moulted all of the primaries, but I cant see what the doubters are on about really?]

Tell you what, its going on my list, not only a county tick (332) but a proper British tick (403) too! I have seen them in Slovakia and Hungary ( that looked like this), so that'll do. I might just use a pencil tick though til its accepted...  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Wader fest...

Met up with JWR this morning at Alnmouth. As he had not yet been to see the Stilt Sandpiper at Cresswell, we headed off south. Years ago this was where we cut our birding teeth, but, since we live in the north of the county its not somewhere we visit these days, preferring to find areas that are less heavily watched. Still, it was nice to tread old stomping grounds.

The first stop at Cresswell pond was largely lifeless, with little of note, so we moved on to Druridge in the hope the Stilt Sand might be back in front of the hide. What a change since  I was last here! The vegetation has grown vastly and we nearly didn't find the track to the pools! On route down to the hides, the track flitted with young warblers and goldfinches. Out on the main pool, there were a lot of birds but mostly common wildfowl. A few Snipe showed close enough to photograph.

Moving across to the little hide facing the budge fields was better. The marsh looks excellent and will hold waders through out the season I would imagine. Today there were 2 Wood Sandpipers, 1 Green Sandpiper and 2 Common Sandpipers, Ruff and Greenshank adding to the interest.

When the sun came out, so did the butterflies with plenty of Peacock, Red Admiral and Wall, plus this nice Comma.

After some discussion, and verbal abuse from the resident local patchworker, another trip back to Cresswell was on the cards.

What a change in the last hour! Waders were everywhere. 30+ Snipe, 20+ Dunlin, 4+ Common Sandpiper, 4+ Ruff, 3+ Greenshank, 1 Spotted Redshank, 4 Avocet and the Stilt Sandpiper put on a great show, along with 3 Little Egrets and a Wheatear. Its a shame they were too distant to photograph, but great scope views were had. I think Dave Elliott was a welcome year tick.

After the excitement we reverted back to form and headed north, starting at the Coquet Estuary between Amble and Warkworth. Although the tide was very low, there were a few highlights, including 1 juvenile Mediterranean Gull, 1 Spotted Redshank, 2 Bar tailed Godwit, 2 Knot, 3 Sanderling and a summer plumaged Grey Plover, 2 more Little Egrets mad us reflect on their abundance now compared to only very recently.

A final pause up at Foxton Bends was quieter (as usual) with 4+ Common Sandpipers, 3 Goosanders, 2 Little Egrets and a Swift overhead. 2 Spotted Flycatchers in the scrub were probably locally bred birds.

So, not a bad morning. I love autumn, me!

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Bully for him...

Sitting in the garden on Thursday evening we were visited by this Bullfinch that came to sample the honeysuckle berries around our door. He didn't seem too bothered by our presence as we sat quite still till he ate his snack before vanishing back into cover...

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Is it that time already...

I was out early this morning after yesterday's rain. It was bright and clear early on, but things are beginning to feel different. You cant quite put your finger on it yet, but slowly, change is in the air. Maybe its the sounds, the light or the smells or all of them but I know that within a couple of weeks summer will be over.

On the wires, swallows and martins gathered, stretching and chattering in preparation for a long journey, a first for the majority of them. 

Up at Low Newton, a selection of warblers included Chiffchaff, Sedge Warbler, Willow Warbler and Whitethroat, while on the scrapes, 14 Black tailed Godwit, a Little Ringed Plover and 2 Ruff were with a number of Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Snipe, Oystercatcher and Lapwing. A Gadwall, was with her brood on the main pond while sneaking about on the reed edge was an early Wigeon.  

Chiffchaff After some discussion with Ian Fisher, it looks like this bird is actually a Willow Warbler. My sloppy observations, having seen another 3 chiffs in the same area, I just assumed this was one too. Must look closer... 
Willow Warbler

Gadwall and familiy
 Next stop was Foxton Bends and the Aln Estuary. Here 5 Little Egrets, 2 Greenshank and a few Common Sands were nice but we were soon off down to the Coquet Estuary.

Although there were no scarce waders, it is looking good, with 117 Dunlin, 250+ Redshank, 17 Knot, 4 Sanderling and a Greenshank amongst others. More phylloscs were around the braid car park

Even the butterflies looked autumn today. In the garden were 3 Peacock, 3 Large White, 1 Green veined White, 1 Wall and a first...a Small Skipper! Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshells were along at Low Newton.

If the weather is favourable, passerine migration could be on the cards for next weekend...

Red Admiral, a lot fresher than the last one photographed....