Sunday, January 31, 2010
Above - A poor shot of the Merlin...
I then went and did a couple of atlas tetrads nearby.
Above - This square didn't hold much...
Above - Its a lonely life, atlassing...
Then when you do find something, its already been shot. Like things aren't hard enough for Woodcock already...
The highlights of both squares were 115 Tufted Duck on Longhoughton Quarry, 3 Buzzards, a pair of displaying Sparrowhawks, a small flock of Yellowhammers and a live Woodcock flushed in the first square, but only the shot signs in the second...
At home, only the Merlin really...apart from a few Snowdrops in flower, and the Winter Aconites are out in Denwick church yard too. Once this snow goes we'll start to see more signs of spring, I'm sure...
Saturday, January 30, 2010
straight back a fortnight to snow and sub zero. I'm not sure if there was this much snow further south in the county? But, it was a lovely sunny day and we all had a walk up the coast to Craster for hot choc at the cafe.
There was an dearth of birdlife though with only 6 Purple Sandpipers, below, in the harbour added to my list. A few Eiders were loafing around, 6 Golden Plovers flew north and 4 Rock Pipits were with the purps in the harbour but thats about it really. At home 10 Tree Sparrows were at the feeders and the Wrens went in at dusk but I havent seen or heard the Ravens now for over a week?
After our walk I came home and had a Newton Stringer-esq rant via email at every Local Authority dignitary I could find about the diabolical road condition. Not a sniff of grit today, roads like glass, but, on Tuesday a gritter was going full bore past me on my way home from work. The problem? Well, it was the mildest night of 2010 with not so much as a frost!
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
But I flicked through some old notes the other night to see what is possible over the next few weeks...
I've kept mostly local.
5th February 1989 Double crested Cormorant, Billingham. Very boring but a true mega. How many of those are overlooked?
18th February 1990 Terek Sandpiper Wintering on the Blyth Estuary. Imagine that one on your WeBs count.
Above - Top Female Pine Bunting, Big Waters, Newcastle 27th February 1990 and Bottom, Male Pine Bunting, Cresswell, 1st February 1992. The male was a great find by Ian Fisher, but how many females are overlooked in Yellowhammer flocks? Get out there looking, according to the Italians who have a few wintering birds this is the best month. Not bad though 2 in 2 years in the county....
3rd February 1991 Two barred Crossbill, male, Harwood Forest. Some controversy back then but looking back I cant think why. It was a cracking male with huge white wing bars....
Above - Pied billed Grebe, Druridge Pools December 1992 until at least 15th February 1994. Top notes are my first sighting on day two in winter plumage and the bottom was my last, on the date above, in summer plumage. How many would twitch one now?
Above - Ross's Gull, Sunderland, 1st March 1994. A lovely bird, a lifer at the time and I've seen only one other, a summer adult at Teeside.
Above - 5th March 1995 Forster's Tern, Musselburgh. We spent 6 hours looking before it showed down to less than 10 yards...
Above - 11th February 1996 Arctic Redpoll, Alnmouth south Dunes, self found by John Rutter and myself. We did the double with another at Druridge Bay Country Park on 17th March 1996. During a year when there was a massive influx. I haven't seen another.
Above - A bit further away, a day out twitching on 25th February 1996 had Black throated Thrush at Peterborough, Cedar Waxwing in Nottingham and Laughing Gull at Sunderland. Cleaned up!
Above - Lastly this White billed Diver turned up in Blyth Harbour on 20th March 1996. I jumped in the car and was there in 20 minutes - still wearing slippers! Excited or what....
So, for all of you getting down about the flagging year list when there's nothing doing until the migrants start...think on.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
I staggered around in delerium to feed the birds this morning when a call over head attracted attention. On looking up, a Skylark was being hounded by a Merlin over the garden. Despite some great side steps, the lark decided enough was enough and dropped like a stone into the gardens opposite followed like an arrow by the Merlin.
I lost sight for a second until the Merlin reappeared, flying west, carrying its kill. For once the Lark lost its battle. I've seen so many of these chases where the Merlin loses the Lark. Maybe this one was still weak after the cold spell....
6 Tree Sparrows and 8 Goldfinches were at the feeders, viewed from a horizontal position on the sofa...
Saturday, January 23, 2010
The flickering candle illuminates my final words as I struggle from the sweat soaked death bed to bring you what could well be the last post...
No birding today, just a wallow in self pity, punctuated by 'Bob Fleming' style coughing fits. Still, in the middle of all this, a OFFH new addition appeared at the feeders. A Greenfinch. Its hard to believe that its taken 23 days to see see a Greenfinch here. A once very common bird, it has definately taken a drop in numbers this last year. I hope things improve for it in 2010.
As I struggled up the road with Bunty tonight the mole hill Woodcock avoided photography thanks to my coughing and hacking while getting the camera ready. It would have been good too, it was close. I looked up with camera poised and it had flown off.
With a dire weather forecast for tomorrow, it might be some time until I post again.
Its growing dim.....
OFFH List 87
Friday, January 22, 2010
Anyway, not much to add except the other night I had 2 Barn Owls on route home from work, one at Red Row, the other at Longhoughton. I'm pleased they survived the cold spell. Barn Owls can be quite badly affected by prolonged snow cover...
Tonight I took the dog out and was pleased to 'lamp the Woodcock' again (thats not a euphimism either) as it prowled around the damp molehills in the sheep field. It sounds as if I gave it a black eye there too...I never touched 'im, honest...
I heard my first singing Song Thrush today distantly at Bedlington from the office window. Oh yes, it's all about to kick off...
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Monday, January 18, 2010
December Moth 3
Chestnut Moth 1
Well, it is just January!
Garden Moth List 2010 - 3
Sunday, January 17, 2010
When my neighbour, Julie, asked if I would take over her WeBs counts on the shore near here for a couple of months I thought I would blend it in, seamlessly, with the 'On foot from home' listing.
The count is from Boulmer pub, north to the Howick Burn. Although out of my usual on foot range, both Boulmer and Howick are my patches so I thought what the hell. The furthest point away is about 3 miles making it a 6 mile round trip not including detours to coves and bays during the count.
The tide was well out making the waterbirds distant or invisible so there wasn't really a great deal of counting but I did add six species to my list, and there was some real quality in there too. First up was a group of 8 Goldeneye off Howdiemont sands, then a lone Shelduck flew over. In a muddy corner of cattle feed a small flock contained 14 Linnets, 6 Skylarks a few Goldfinches and 3 Twite.
From here it was down to Longhoughton Steel. I was scanning the rocky foreshore when an unusual call behind me attracted my attention. I turned and found two birds about ten feet over head calling ' peeeuuu', abit like both snow bunting and skylark though not quite. Arousing suspicion a saw them land distantly out on the rocky skeers. They were tricky to get onto with the scope on this big featureless area but I soon found them - 2 Shorelarks! Fantastic. After missing one here found by Ipin Robson a few years back I was well chuffed to pull this back. A rare bird up here, I've only seen about ten or a dozen in my life so it was great find them myself.
Above - Into the notebook, please excuse the writing errors...
Their yellow and black faces showed well against the dark rocks even though too far for a photo. I knew they wouldn't stay out there for long so I thought I would stalk them for a record shot ( ie a crap shake induced blurred image) but once down on the rocks I lost my bearings only seeing the birds as they flew low to the stream outlet, stopping briefly before heading up to the cattle corner. A Kingfisher was out on the rocks fishing the pools.
After putting the news out I continued the survey. A female Sparrowhawk hunting the shoreline and only 2 Dunlin with Turnstones were the last of the new birds. Still no Greenfinch...
Back home the Ravens flew over being mobbed by crows. they didn't seem too bothered...
A great day, January is turning out to be a good month locally...
OFFH List - 86
Saturday, January 16, 2010
This Smooth Newt was wandering over the road near our house shortly after dark tonight. Usually my first amphibians of the year are frogs or toads around about Valentines Day. Newts are often a bit later, so this one was quite unusual. After all the cold weather recently today was equally foul but in a different way. Blowing a southerly gale (good for nowt) with heavy rain and sleet all day until dusk, the air temp was significantly milder than lately. Hence the Newt. I released him, after the photo call, into some stones and ivy in our garden to continue with his hibernation undisturbed.
On the same dog walk, we were going along the main road when a movement in the periphery of the torch beam caught my eye. I shone the light into the coast sheep field and found a Woodcock wandering through a patch of molehills. I followed it for a minute in the torch beam before letting it go about its nocturnal business. Great birds to see doing what they do without being flushed.
As I type this a female Tawny is calling loudly in the copse next to the garden...
Friday, January 15, 2010
I got a text from Alan Priest about a single Bewicks Swan with Mutes near Alcan the other day but I dont think its been seen since? We used to get a few Bewicks each year, sometimes up to a dozen, but lately they have reached twitchable status in Northumberland. For example none were recorded in 2007, the first time this has happened.
OFFH List 80.
Mammals - 4. Rabbit.
Monday, January 11, 2010
...according to the classic volume, 'Weather and Bird Behaviour' by Elkins ( 2004 ed).
In living memory our worst winters have been 1916/17, 1946/47, 1962/63, 1978/79 and 1985/86.
The winter of 62/63 was the coldest in central Britain since 1740. In this spell, the freeze was from late December until March. A high pressure system extended east to cover most of NW Europe, while an arctic airmass over the Barents sea drove intensly cold air south into Europe, then west into the UK. (Does this pattern seem familiar). Persistant easterlies and atlantic depressions, blocked by the high, gave periods of prolonged snow cover from 10 days on the south coast to 40 - 70 days in central England. Even so, this was less snowy and sunnier than in 46/47.
But here is the hard bit...
Birds that could leave did so on a massive scale with Larks, Plovers and Thrushes leaving en masse. A Redwing ringed in Warwickshire landed on a ship, only 3 days after ringing, 1000km NW of the Azores. How many didn't find ships in the middle of the Atlantic?
During the 62/63 winter 15,000 corpses were found, mostly of larger birds such as Woodpigeon and Lapwing while tits, Treecreepers and Goldcrests died unnoticed, and were only conspicuous by their absence.
During the subsequent breeding season, according to the Common Birds Census, Wren numbers were down by 78% and Mistle Thrushes by 75%. Song Thrush, Green Woodpecker, Lapwing, Pied Wagtail and Moorhen dropped by over 50%. A bird not monitored by the Common Birds Census at the time, the Grey Wagtail dropped by 80% in a 12 month period.
A positive here is that the remaining survivors can now utilise optimimun habitat and food supplies and should successfully rear good broods. It takes between 3 and 5 years to recover the original numbers.
Birds on the edge of their range can suffer tremendously such as the Dartford Warbler when 98% were killed but the New Forest population rose from only one or two pairs in '63 to 250 pairs by '74. Lets hope they benefit from global warming after this...
Get the book its a good read...
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Much milder today with the temp rising to 5 degrees. A lot of snow has melted already and long may it continue. The wind was very strong, up to E8 causing a raging sea.
Unfortunately for the Canada Goose ( see yesterday's pic) the thaw came too late. But, 'waste not, want not' is the motto of the wild and I was pleased to see both Ravens getting stuck in. At one stage one was carrying a Canada Goose head and neck around the field, a pretty gruesome sight. I'm not sure if the goose died of natural causes or if it was helped on its way...
Later one of the Raven pair showed very well in Village Wood calling and flying just overhead, obviously pleased with its breakfast.
Not many highlights around about today but a dozen Fulmars off the coast path and a lone Pied Wagtail wandering on the frozen pond were list additions.
The Brambling was stil in the garden, but today's best were when we were off to Alnwick for some shopping. On the way, the Water Rail ran over the lane just in front of the car then on the way back, a Kingfisher was perched on a fallen branch over the ditch in the same spot the rail ran over. A bit of luck there....
4 Roe Deer were in the Vilage Wood and only one Woodcock flushed as they ran off...
Saturday, January 09, 2010
A great day wandering around the village with Bunty, with several new species added to the list...
Merlin 1 female S looked very nice uplit by the snow.
Woodcock 5+ in the Village Wood including one feeding out in the open in a ditch at dusk. Great views.
Water Rail 1 ! An unexpected cold weather bonus legging it along the ditch next to the one being utilised by the feeding Woodcock at dusk.
Brambling 1fw female at our feeders.
Lesser Redpoll 6 showing well in Village Wood.
Treecreeper 1 with a couple of Long tailed Tit and Coal Tit.
Skylarks 6 the rest have been snowed out now. Only the stragglers, maybe to weak to go, are left.
Canada Goose 1 still in the back field. Today it looks even bleaker than this. There is no vegetation showing above the snow at all now, this was taken yesterday.
I have added the full On Foot from Home 2010 list in the right hand column. It will be updated as necessary.
OFFH Total - 77
Below - Aging Bramblings in the garden. Top is todays first winter female ( a young bird essentially). Bottom is a male I first thought to be adult but now I think its probably a first winter too, also in the garden on 14th November last year. Click on the pics to read my text. It might be of interest to some one who's snowed in looking at garden birds....
Friday, January 08, 2010
Out with Bunts in the dawn twilight had a few birds leaving roosts in the village wood - Buzzard 1, Redpoll 1 heard, Marsh Tit 1 heard.
On my way home from work this afternoon a Woodcock was circling Linton roundabout in the sunshine, flushed by an unseen foe.
Then, back home and out along the coast path with the dog before dusk set in. We didn't see too much. On the shore were 4 Golden Plover, several Redshank and Oystercatchers and singles of Grey Plover and Rock Pipit, both new for the list. 22 Grey Partridges in two coveys and 1 or 2 Woodcock were also of note.
The placid garden Mistle Thrush has reverted to stereotype today now it has a full belly. The bird table is now his property and woebetide anything else who dares approach. A Blackbird made the mistake and was half plucked for his trouble...
On roostwatch, 13 or 14 Wrens (I think one came out and went back in?)but no sign of the Ravens...
OFFH List - 71
( I must have miscounted yesterday)
Thursday, January 07, 2010
So all we did was walk around the village taking in the arctic vistas.
This is NOT a snow scene. Its a photo to show the snow right down to the tideline. Click on it and you will see that this isn't a 'frosting', its a solid couple of inches right up to the waves. I haven't seen so much snow right on the coast for a very long time.
A main feature of the day was the large movement of Pink footed Geese heading south. Parties passed by all day and I managed over 1,750 by dark. They were joined by 20 Greylags and two parties of Whooper Swans totalling 13 birds.
We kept the birds fed all day. This Mistle Thrush had its fill but unusually it was quite a placid creature, sharing the table with Blackbird and Starling alike. Also in the garden were 7 Tree Sparrows, 2 Yellowhammers and a Woodcock, the first of 3 today.
Around the village the cold was definitely having an effect on the birds. The Skylarks in the back field looked very poorly and I tried to pick one up but it flew off so I left them to it. A lot have moved on now leaving about 140 in the flock. 15 Grey Partridges ( 12 above) had joined them.
Along the lane was good first thing with Marsh Tit, a Brambling S and 3 Kingfishers chasing around an open field against the snow before moving into the pond field. The pond was totally frozen so these birds will be driven to the shore to feed. One of the Ravens showed well and later went to roost alone, without any sign of its mate?
A cracking male Peregrine sat in the snow would have made a good subject but flew off too soon for a photo and frightened the life out of the Larks.
The 'On Foot...' List additions today -
Total - 68
Brown Hare 2
Total - 3.
White shouldered House Moth 2 ( well they all count....)
Total - 1
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
Meanwhile, on foot around Howick the bird list stands at 58. The area is about 'tetrad' sized or so.
Best so far...
Red throated Diver 3
Woodcock 11 in 3 days
Lesser Redpoll 8+
Snow Bunting 2
Mammals - List stands at 2
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
After another couple of inches of snow fell through the night getting to work was proving a bit tricky today. At lunchtime when the snow started falling again, quite heavily, I decided to get home before it got dark. This meant I could get into position in the hide, er, porch, to await roost action.
Bang on queue they arrived, well 1 did, then another and another until a final flurry of 4 together and the Wren roost was full of 13 individuals. The Raven pair flew steadily past to their preffered area, just as 2 Woodcocks flew in to the copse behind our shed to begin a cold night trying to find food.
Not a bad evening. Its all in the timing...
As its too dark to photograph the Wrens, the drawing shows how they cling up the stone door frame before heading inside...
Monday, January 04, 2010
This morning 7 Fieldfares and 9 Redwings had joined several hundred Skylarks in the back rape field. Two Woodcocks flushed from the garden copse by I'm not sure what?
At dusk, 4pm, I waited in our porch overlooking the outhouse for Wren activity. The Ravens arrived from the north again as per usual and a Woodcock flew out from the copse presumably to feed. It headed down to the shore, which is quite strange, but I wonder if they eat sandhoppers under seaweed?
Between 4.07pm and 4.20pm 9 Wrens popped straight into their roost without much hesitation. I thought there would be more? Due to work I'll probably miss them tomorrow but I'll keep looking when I can.
That outhouse must be comfy, what with Swallows and Wasps nesting in summer and now Wrens roosting...
Sunday, January 03, 2010
More snow fell last night, about an inch or so. 2 Common Gulls in the garden eating seed meant for more worthy customers was quite unusual.
I had a good walk around the patch keeping a list of what's what, that I'll update once I've counted up. Of note were -
Pink footed Geese 490 S split into about 4 skiens.
Skylarks 300+ still.
Snow Bunting 2, 1 S and one with 200 Skylarks in the hayfield behind the Bathing House. Photo of some of the flock below...
Siskin / Redpoll flock increased to 40 birds. Impossible to get seperate counts.
Woodcock 8 was an excellent count. I tracked one to is rest spot (see prints and probe spot above), before it did its usual evasion tactics.
Quite a few thrushes on the coast path included this Redwing associating with a Rock Pipit on seaweed.
Golden Plover 26.
Raven 2 at dusk flying over the back field in full voice.
But my highlight came from one of our commonest birds. The Wren. At dusk Jane was looking out of the kitchen window when she drew my attention to a flock of small birds that had flown to our gutters. About 10 or so? I went to the porch for a better look and found Wrens clinging all over our wall and on Jane's car wipers, wing mirrors etc before the whole lot flew into our boiler shed to roost! The were huddled into the old Swallow's nest with tails sticking outwards. Altogether now....aaaaah.
I have read of communal roosts of Wrens before but have never seen it in all these years. Tomorrow I'll be waiting to get a proper count....
At lunchtime I did an atlas square at Longhoughton seeing 37 species including another 2 Woodcock and 3 Snipe.
The cold spell looks set to continue...
Saturday, January 02, 2010
I toted the bins and scope around the village this afternoon just to get back into the swing of things.
In the copse next to the garden were 3 Bullfinches feeding on nettle seeds, 4 Redwings and 3 Song Thrushes feeding on a frost free sheltered bit of field. I had another 5 Song Thrushes in my short walk and another half dozen Redwings.
A short freezing seawatch over a mountainous high tide was, as usual for the time of year, quiet but I was pleased with 24 Kittiwakes including one with Black headed Gulls feeding in the Rumbling Kern cove. 3 Red throated Divers and 2 adult Gannets flew N.
On the way back a flock of 7 Lesser Redpolls and a male Siskin were in the usual spot but there was no sign of my suspected Mealy from the other day.
Here the 2 Ravens were soaring and harassing a Buzzard. The Ravens were bigger so the Buzzard was probably male. One Raven briefly did some upside down display rolls while calling, which is always good to see.
The oddity of the wander was a single Canada Goose wandering around the back field for most of the day.
Looking at my stats for 2009 I see that I had 60,558 hits in the 12 months. Now, with 53 followers, there has been a massive increase in traffic since last January. I hope every one continues to pop in and leave comments...Cheers.
A nice snowy Christmas this year, at home, looked like this -
and looking back towards our house in the trees from the coast road.Nice and scenic. But thats not snow, no, this is snow...
The day after Boxing Day we headed north, to Speyside hoping to do some bracing winter walks and maybe take in some specialities like Crested Tit, Capercaillie and the King Eider with two Snow Geese on the coast.
Well those plans were pie in the sky. We arrived at Bynackbeg, Nethy Bridge on Monday afternoon at 3pm when the temperature was a record breaking -17 degrees in the villages and everything was covered in 18 inches of snow.
Our holiday home with superb underfloor heating, thank god.
On stepping outside you instantly became a foot taller...
Jane and Bunty doing a 'Shackleton'....
Everything frozen and coated with snow and ice...
Hard times for the Blue Tit. We saw very little else. Birds must have moved out and left only the feeder visitors to hold the fort...
Every morning was the same. Snow falling to about 8 - 10" through the night and me cleaning off a bogged down car. Luckily it was much warmer now. -8.
This bush looked like either, and make up your own minds, the Sphynx or Dougall from the Magic Roundabout...
Right up to the windows....
the main access roads were looking well...
The picnic chairs weren't much use and the gutters collapsed later with the weight...
Far too deep for a terrier, so what was she to do? What she usually does when confused - dig for it. The birch trees behind are all bent under the weight of snow.
As the snow built up, I couldn't even get into the car let alone drive it. The sweeping brush is not pushed in to the bottom. By now the level ground was 2 feet deep and fences were 3 to 4 feet...
On New Years Day we were rescued by a farmer with a bulldozer...
and we finally escaped back home. Taking 6 hours to do 240 miles. Thanks to our neighbours in confinement, Simon, Jo and the children Molly and Matthew who also were freed but had to drive home to Plymouth the same day (they made it safe and sound), we managed to stay sane .
After such a multitude of snow scenes making Boulmer Birder look like Whitchwood Ramblings, I will not be doing anymore scenic snow scenes until next Christmas.
Never have we been so glad to get home...