Saturday, December 31, 2011

The final curtain...

2011 Highlights...

Mmm. Now then.

On the patch 154 species. Down on last year but still not too bad with nearly the lot self found ( or maybe even the whole lot). The list included -  Great Northern Diver, Water Rail, Mealy Redpoll, Waxwing, Lapland Bunting, Roseate Tern, Quail, Storm PetrelBalearic Shearwater, Mediterranean Gull, Tree Pipit, Black Tern, PintailShoveler, Scaup, Velvet Scoter, Snow Bunting, Black Redstart, Short eared Owl, Twite and White fronted Goose.

Those in red are firsts for the site.

55 new moths for the garden too, the best being Mullein, Great Brocade and Fen Wainscot..

Plus several new birds for me - Black Scoter, White throated Robin, Sandhill Crane, Greater Yellowlegs and not forgetting the Eastern Black Redstart ( though not a 'tick' cos its just a race). This is the most I've added to the list for several years, quite surprising considering the lack of easterly winds and twitches.

Marsh Fritillary and Northern Brown Argus. Great butterflies and great crack with my companions.

Two Minke Whales in Scotland...

2011 Lowlights...

The weather. A cold wet summer and a westerly autumn resulted in very little migration or seawatching on the patch.

2012 Targets...

1. I must update this blog more. I am almost a hundred posts down on other recent years. I would like to say that its quality over quantity but not so I'm afraid. Must do better.

2. I will keep up with the whole genaralist naturalist thing. Its much better than just constant birding, you should try it. You do? Oh ok... 

3. Look for High Brown Fritillary, Mountain Ringlet, Small Blue and maybe Scotch Argus. I've seen the latter two but not for years. Natterjack Toad may be combined with the Cumbrian butterflies.

4. Finally do some mothing off-piste...

5. Do some garden alteration. Remove some knackered old shrubs and replace with something better. Increase the flowering season and quantity to help the insects.

5. Stay healthy. I have not taken a day on the sick since 2003 and have only had two days off in the 4 years before that. Long may it reign.

6. Try to be less miserable, drink more water, get more sleep, eat less of everything particularly chocolate. I'm getting the blame now for increasing the weight of other birders in the county...
 Here's wishing you all health, wealth and prosperity in 2012.  A Happy New Year to you, where's that bottle....

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Out early...

This morning our terrier had me up and out at the first crack of dawn. It was calm and mild, Tawny Owls were hooting, and Robins ticking with a cacophony of Pheasants in the gloaming. The local Barn Owl was quartering the back field before heading off to roost. Three Meadow Pipits and 5 Redwings flew around flushed by the owl.

Later on a couple of walks around the village and coast path turned up 3 Reed Buntings in the back hedge, 3 Nuthatches together near the gatehouse, 12 Eiders close in on the sea, 35 Curlews in the coast field, one or two Jays making a racket, a female Sparrowhawk and a Buzzard were in the pond field.

 This afternoon I have finally got around to putting up another few Tree Sparrow nest boxes that John made, plus a couple of smaller ones donated by kids in the village ( thanks Evan and Ailsa!). Hopefully there will be an improvement on my one pair from this year...and speaking of which, 20 Tree Spugs were at our feeders today, so it all bodes well.

And thats about it. Christmas over and work beckons...

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Merry Christmas all.

What a difference it is today compared to Christmas past. Its about 14 degrees warmer today, and much easier to get around.

I notice that Warren ( Pitswood Birds) has commented on the lack of birds down there if the weather stays mild. Last year and the year before, we had Waxwings and Woodcocks aplenty, Water rails in Village wood and showy Ravens and Raptors, but there were zero passerines away from the bird table, all either dead or moved out ahead of the cold front. This year I think it will be very quiet for those first species, but we still have pipits, wagtails, buntings and waders, and maybe our Barn Owls will survive?. Keep it above freezing I say...

Well, after a rib-lifting dinner and watching more pixar animation any sane person can take, its time for more champagne in front of Downton Abbey!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Only a couple of things around about today, 1 male Siskin on our feeders was the first since the spring, 15 Redwings were in the village copse and a good flock of 5 Purple Sandpipers were on the Rumbling Kern.

I had no sign of Ian Douglas's Hooded Crow at the Haven, but it might still be around so I'll keep checking. Wednesday's elusive caller remained in hiding, so we'll just let that one drop, and assume it was a Coal Tit...

So, here's wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas 2011.


Friday, December 23, 2011

..And the fire is so delightful...

Here are a few pics from last weekends childrens Christmas Party in our village hall. It looked really nice after we had decorated it with tree and lights, but the centre piece was the fire place that we loaded with holly and various evergreenery...Needless to say FC did not arrive via the chimney...( and before you ask, no it isn't!)

Since last weekend the weather has been very mild for the time of year. I have had the moth trap on for the past two nights and caught -  7 December Moths, 1 Chestnut and 1 very late Blair's Shoulder Knot, the latest county record by over a month.

Not much birding really, but on my day off on Wednesday, I heard a tantalising call from the village gardens that repeated several times before the vocalist just vanished. I wont be saying any more on the matter unless I actually find the thing this weekend then you will hear all about it!

Easier to find were a party of 4 Bullfinches and 10 Redwings just along from our garden.

Less welcome is our garden Mole. It has a dozen heaps so far, and luckily, for him, not in the lawn.  Although I do like them and won't harm him, I'll be trying deterrent methods as the weeks progress. There are acres of grass just yards away that I am sure will be more suitable...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

When the weather outside is frightful...

Out at 8.30am with JWR over the moors to do a WeBs count at Branton Pits near Powburn. How different the weather is only a few miles west of home! 4 inches of snow covered everything and open water was all frozen. So, before leaving the car...

...time to fit in a winter warmer.

Very little wildfowl to count on the ponds with 8 Russian Whitefronts being the highlight.

So, we headed back up to an arctic Corby Crags where the air was filled by an exuberant male Crossbill, warbling a canary-like song high in a larch. Another 4+ were feeding with him on the small cones. Maybe the sun had opened them slightly to assist those crossed mandibles. On the moor, 2 Red Grouse stood out against the white.

...and thats about it really, home again for lunchtime.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

We've got wind.

As I write this, it a tad breezy outside.

When I say 'breezy' I mean its a  'we'll be lucky to have chimneys in the morning' type of wind.

I have just had to wedge the telephone box door closed with a short railway sleeper as it was smashing open against a stone wall, rocking the whole box. Outside I can hear a neighbours shed rattling and banging. Its one of those metal constructions and it  sounds like a drum beat in the wind. I hope the damage doesn't cost too much....LATE UPDATE - 9.30pm - Just been outside and the neighbours shed is totalled. Its flat and half way up a tree! Not bad for an 8 x 12 ft building. According to the Met Office observations at RAF Boulmer, winds here are gusting 75 mph and blowing a constant 50 mph. Worrying thing is that the pressure is still falling? Does that mean its getting worse?

Off work today, on leave, to get some shopping done. Out with Bunty along the coast path, a lone Purple Sandpiper was with three Oystercatchers, and one of our Tree Sparrows stunned itself on the window trying to evade Sparrowhawk capture. After a passport photo, it flew off strongly none the worse for wear...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

S'no show for snow!

Its all gone. This morning was very mild and calm, much better than the cold stuff from yesterday. Didn't do much birding today though, time spent shopping and xmas decorating etc...

A dog walk had 69 Curlews in the stubble behind the Old Rectory, 1 Lapwing S, 1 Buzzard in the heronry and a good few Mistle Thrushes around the village. Odd Yellowhammers and Bullfinch added to the interest.

I haven't even bothered my arse to pay a visit to the Newbiggin Desert Wheatear even though its been there a week now. As I've seen 4 in the county I am hoping one will skip along the rocks here...

Only 5 weeks until the Winter Aconites show, 6 weeks until Snowdrops, 8 weeks until Toads head for the pond and 10 weeks until Blackbirds start singing.....roll on.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


What a shock this morning to get up and find this -

The views above are the front and back from our house. Snow was falling quite steadily and was wholly un-forecast. Last night was a cold -2 with a clear full moon.

The usual Saturday morning walk around the coast path was mostly quiet but a few birds were moving south over head - 56 Golden Plover, 4 Lapwing, 27 Skylark, 1 Greylag and 16 Cormorants. A Red throated Diver was close in on a heavy swell.

In the garden, birds flocked to be fed, with Tree Sparrow numbers increasing to 19+ birds now. Here are a couple of feeder shots. I make no apologies for another Tree Sparrow pic. Great little birds. Both male and female Great spotted Woodpeckers visited the peanuts too.

Tree Sparrows - a bit of Meerkat about them?

As busy as the Metro Centre...

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

A short interlude...on behalf of the Natural History Society of Northumbria.

Time for an advert.

I see that the Natural History Society for Northumbria are doing some courses over the winter. Please check out HERE for further information. I believe that the society is in the process of reinventing itself, not a bad idea as its been pretty much unchanged for 200 years!

The society is now doing all sorts of interesting things, like trying to get Natural History into local schools as a core part of the curriculum, trying to open up the Hancock collection (which is full of good stuff, including 4 Slender-billed Curlews and a Great Auk) for research and more.

So, it may be worth getting involved!

And now, to the weather....

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Barns and Trees.

A cold but fine day with only a light NW breeze. Quite nice for the time of year.

Around about the village today. First off, a dog walk north to Cullernose Point found a nice fw Mediterranean Gull with other gulls and pigeons feeding in stubble. A flock of 12 grey geese came right over head and looked very like Beans but I can't be sure. Pity that, that's a good bird for the patch.

Back home, Tree Sparrows are now up to 14 and are second only to House Sparrow for most abundant garden bird. A Sparrowhawk did its best to reduce their numbers, but it nearly became lunch itself when a neighbours cat lunged at it, flushing the whole garden.

The Barn Owls looked nice catching some rays while they still can.

Further up just past the Hall a very dark Red Squirrel complete with black tail was caching food right on the roadside. Whats the betting it gets flattened this week. I hope it goes back into the woods...

At dusk we walked down to the pond where things have gone quiet since being shot last weekend, but a Goldeneye skulked along the edge and 2 Woodcocks flushed in Village Wood.


Saturday, December 03, 2011

Patch List 2011

I thought my list ( see right column) was a bit light. I have double checked and find that I have missed off a whopping - 17 species! They are -

Canada Goose
Tufted Duck
Manx Shearwater
Ringed Plover
Golden Plover
Common Sandpiper
Feral Pigeon
Sedge Warbler

Taking the list up to a respectable 154 ( 2010 - 161, 2009 - 147). some very common species there that have been overlooked.

Note to self, must do better with record keeping in 2012. I've been concentrating on the moths too much!

Friday, December 02, 2011

In the spotlight...

Headlights really. On the way home from work tonight I was pleased I took the decision to use the A1 rather than the coastal route. As I came off the small sliproad roundabout at Stannington, I noticed a very nice Long eared Owl perched on top of a verge-side bush, nicely lit by overhead lights and car headlights.

The long 'ear' feathers were blown forward by the breeze giving it a very distinctive outline.

A brief but great view of a lovely bird...