Friday, February 25, 2011

Sorry no photo's...

Another day out and about with nothing to photograph. The last few weeks the light has been dreadful but today there wasn't anything either in range or sitting long enough.

Various walks out and about with the terriator had -

Purple Sandpiper 8 in a nice tight flock on the rocks from the coast path. This is an excellent count here where 3 or 4 is considered a good number.
Oystercatcher 21 in the same group as the Purps.
Peregrine 1 imm from our drive, soaring over the back field for 10 minutes. It tried to flush prey from the pines up the hill without success.
Stock Dove 2 in the Long Walk.
Woodpigeon 300+ in local fields. Peregrine food.
Skylark 3 in song around the area. the first ones back in teh village. Still no Meadow Pipits.
Rock Pipit 1 feeding along the coast path.
Siskin 1 male in full song next to our garden would have been a nice photo if it hadn't done a runner while I went to get the camera.

On the plant front I saw my first flowering Coltsfoot and Dandelions of the year around the village this morning.


Thursday, February 24, 2011


Last night on the way home, I had to rescue 4 newly awakened male Toads from the road at our lane end. My first amphibians of 2011 were closely followed by a Smooth Newt this evening on the road near the phone box.

Another good sign of spring is the increased Fulmar activity around the village. The other morning 6 together were slowly stiff flappng around the woods and back field before moving off inland. I imagine visitors would get a suprise if they saw this pelagic species behaving so gull-like, but they 'nest' in the local quarries around about. When I say 'nest', they seem to, but I have never seen any chicks at these sites, nor on our local sea cliffs come to that...

Had a good moth catch last night with a couple of early arrivals, see here for more details...

Im on a long weekend now, so no work until Tuesday. Get in...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


...morning on my way to work at about 8.15am, two tremendous floaty pale Barn Owls were hunting 20 or 30 yards apart on a small patch of rough right next to the roundabout on the southern edge of Amble. In the gloom, they positively glowed.The last few days have been a bit blustery so maybe they were still hungry and took advantage of a dry calm spell.

After work I popped down to the Gosforth Park Marriot to meet up with Mark Skevington ( Skev's blog in the column over there) who was up here on business. Its great to get a chance to meet up with other bloggers who you almost feel you know just through reading their regular postings. I just hope I didn't bore him to death, I don't get too many people with the same interests to chat with up here!

Saturday, February 19, 2011


On my way to drop Jane off at Amble at 5.30pm this evening, we were commenting on the large congregation of pre-roost Jackdaws and Rooks, about 500+ or more, when an owl showed up coming along the roadside.

At first glance I expected it to be a Barn Owl, then it showed up brown against the trees. The shorter wings and jizz immediately eliminated short-eared owl, and as we got closer it was more apparent that this was indeed a Long Eared Owl. Coming out of Amble too!  It soon flipped over the hedge and disappeared along the river side. No doubt this is a bird heading back to its Scandinavian breeding grounds and its been held up by these strong SE winds and rain...

If only it had been at Howick.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


After my short venture into non romantic fact, I need to get back to birding.

The weather is back to winter here, with a hard frost and -2 degrees last night. The wind is a gusty strong SE 6.

Blog posts have been sparse lately because there is nothing much to see and less to write about. After a lull of a couple of weeks a couple of new species have graced the OFFH list this weekend.

On the pond, a pair of Little Grebes have returned as harbingers of spring to come, and in the garden on Saturday 3 Waxwings arrived from the south, perched for a few seconds and were instantly set upon by a Jackdaw. They flew off strongly NE and are probably in Norway as I type this now...Still, a good bird to get, there may be none next winter.

I did the WeBs count at Branton Pits with John on Sunday. Signs of spring abound up there too, with flocks of Lapwing and Oystercatcher returning inland to nesting sites. A nice flock feeding on fallen Alder seed was made up of 10+ Siskin, 8+ Lesser Redpoll and 2+ Mealy Redpoll.

The wildfowl were in good numbers for this site too with many birds displaying, 37 Goosander, 18 Goldeneye, 3 Pochard, 28 Tufted Duck, 44 Wigeon, 35 Teal, 20 Mallard and 8 Coot.

Once this weather gets a bit better the first Lesser black back will be out there waiting to be seen.

Monday, February 14, 2011

An unhappy Valentine...

This is a short tale of deceit, infidelity and intrigue worthy of a Christmas edition of Eastenders.

Howick Pond is a small, insular body of water, idyllic in aspect, sheltered and edged with reedmace and meadowsweet. Rafts of yellow water lillies grace the open water, a spot ideal for raising cygnets. The resident pair of Mute Swans, UNA (him) and FUZ (her) have raised many an ugly duckling here since they arrived in 2002. Things were going swimmingly with the birds, now getting on a bit, even surviving the hard freeze of January 2010 by cuddling up together to keep a hole in the pond ice free.

UNA is a  Teesider, his formative years beginning at Peterlee on 10th August 1998 when he was one of a pair of cygnets ringed from a brood of four. FUZ is a Northumbrian, but is very similar to UNA. She was ringed at Ellington Pond on 8th August 1998, one of two cygnets from a family of five. The pair crossed paths on the river Tweed at Berwick in the summer of 2000, and as bright and breezy two year olds they had their minds set on starting a family of their own...

From the Tweed they flew south,  moving in to Rock Pond in April 2001, a temporary measure until they found a place to bring up baby. Howick Pond fitted the bill nicely. A des res indeed.

The pair, often accompanied by four or five brown woolly cygnets were familiar faces on the pond until cracks began to show last November...

As the snow fell and the mercury dropped, UNA was found alone on the pond. A bedraggled figure, with a swollen and bloody neck, there was no sign of his beloved. Visitors assumed the worst. He had been the victim of an errant hound, and the carcass of FUZ probably lay hidden in the wood.

December arrived colder than the previous month and the wild things found life hard. UNA vanished and in his place were two new posuers, APN a young female and a strapping cob, 817. It looked like a new regime had arrived to replace the old timers. This was a sad day for the villagers of Howick, who had developed a bond with their old downy neighbours. However the new leading lights soon dimmed as UNA burst back on to the scene to regain his kingdom in the hope FUZ would return unharmed to resume domestic bliss.

This to-ing and fro-ing continued into the New Year with some days the old ruler in charge and on others it would be the young turks.

It is well known that in affairs of the heart, one day the truth will out, and last week this surely happened. UNA was found wandering the track to the pond, far from the water. He was looking weaker than ever. A local, out with his dog, managed to get him underarm, and carry him back to the water. Here they were met by a very agressive pair of Mutes who were both clearly up for a battle. UNA struggled free and ran back up the hill into the wood. There's no way this old timer whose strength had been sapped by heartache and a hard winter could survive up here, so after a few phone calls and emails he was rescued by Berwick Swan Rescue and taken up north for his own safety and recuperation...he will be released back onto the Tweed after a few days rest and relaxation.

Curious, the local man, decided to check out those young swans to see if the mild spring weather had brought such an violent response. There were two swans sure enough but not APN and 817...

The bloke stooped to read the ring on the close bird on the bank. F..U..Z!

It seems that the 'loving mate' of UNA had sloped off at the onset of winter, with her toy boy, after giving the old man a right bashing, only to return for a spring clean with chummy! So much for Mutes pairing for life....

UNA during happier days...
FUZ and UNA. Two summers ago...

I wonder how the new couple will get on in 2011? Will UNA return ...Mmmm.


Sunday, February 06, 2011

Rained off today with a steady heavy drizzle until dusk. Pity, as it was nice and calm.

I spent a bit of time identifying a moth I caught last night, as a new species for the garden. See here for more details...

Around here masses of Snowdrops are out now and at Denwick the Winter Aconites seem to be having a really good year. As I'm off on Friday I might try and get some photos of them if the weather is bright enough...

Saturday, February 05, 2011

A pleasant day after the gales for the previous two nights. The wind has dropped right off and it was quite mild. This mornings walk headed off inland along the back hedge and back by the village wood. Two Mealy Redpolls were still in the small alders so I presume they are the same birds from a week or two back.

Around our garden were 3 or maybe 4 Great spotted Woodpeckers together. I had three in view all at once then a squabble broke out and two flew off. A few minutes later two were together again, and I hadn't see any return? A nice adult male Sparrowhawk strafed the feeders so fast that it had gone before the tits alarm called.

In the afternoon we took a walk along the coast to Craster and back. A few nice Eiders in breeding fettle were offshore with a female Goldeneye. 3 Shags flew north and all the gulls were checked for that errant Ross's to no avail.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011


Mr Tilmouth alerted me to this yesterday, in the latest edition of Birdwatching Magazine...apologies to the mag, I havent read it since Chris Dawn was editor many years ago...I have a sneaky peak in WH Smiths sometimes though.... ;)

Anyway, thanks to BWM for the plug!


I wasn't out for very long on Sunday but I still managed to fit in a walk from home, a short way inland to a small wood I have never been to before and back via the Hall.

It is still very quiet on the bird front, with the most visible being 4 or more Treecreepers in various spots on the route. A Jay showed well and a Tawny Owl in full hoot in the middle of the day were the only other things of note.

Less visible, as usual, were the mammalian residents of the patch, but all it takes is a keen eye ( or not so keen for that matter) and signs of recent activity can be found. I was like Davey Crockett without the 'coon skin hat!
Five species of mammal were noted but only one seen -

Field Vole - Chewed grass runs visible after the snow has thawed.
Mole - Hills everywhere, despite the attentions of the catcher. Oh, his metal detector and spade has gone...
Brown Hare - A well worn run in our back field.
Roe Deer - Droppings and tracks, but a doe and with her yearling were seen too.
Badger - An active set. I didnt go for a look last year but I will this year.
Fox? - only a possible. They are shot out in this area, and I still havent seen one in the last two years, but some scat on a molehill looked suitable. I'll keep an eye open for this one...


Field Vole runs in chewed grass.

Well used Brown Hare run.


Roe Doe and yearling.