Sunday, March 29, 2015


After the clocks changed last night I was up at first light this morning, and was out to meet up with John. A short wander around the village was calm and quiet but very overcast. This later turned into irritating showers for most of the day.

A Fieldfare was sub-singing in the trees at the Old Rectory, while 3 Brown Hares were near by. A ploughed field held a nice finch flock - 50+ Linnets, 2 Greenfinches, 7 Goldfinches, 12+ Chaffinches, 3 Bullfinches and a Yellowhammer.

From here we went down to the Coquet Estuary at Warkworth where the rain became quite frequent, interspersed by short sunny spells. 45+ Knot and a Bar tailed Godwit were on the estuary, 2 Red breasted Mergansers were further up stream, while a dozen of so Shelducks were getting a bit feisty with each other.

Across from Beal Bank a group of 4 Roe Deer ( the three from the other week plus an adult buck) were feeding. Well, the does were while the young buck would not leave the old fella alone to eat in peace. Some half hearted sparring took place for half an hour or so until they moved off into cover. Its not often you see Roe Deer doing this kind of thing, they always seem quite placid.

In the village a Grey Squirrel looked dapper near the old road bridge, 2 Stock Doves displayed in the bankside trees and a pair of Goosander were on the river. Along the dunes and top car park there was a steady light passage of Meadow Pipits and Alba wagtails.

At Birling, another 2 Red breasted Mergansers shared the sea with 2 Red throated Divers, a pair of Common Scoter and several Eiders.

Down on Amble Pier, a Woodpigeon was nesting below the wooden walkway....?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Brief Encounter.

I do like a chance encounter with wildlife. We were looking from our kitchen window this afternoon when this Brown Hare gambolled past. I popped out, camera in hand, but I was too slow, more like a tortoise, and the hare had made a sharp exit.

Half an hour later, there he is again, cantering around, stopping to snack on grass, so I headed him off by peeping over our garden wall. Our meeting lasted all of 2 minutes as he trotted towards me, then carried along on his way.

It may have been brief, but very nice all the same.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Spuggy fight!

House Sparrow usurps Tree Sparrow...

Two Tree Sparrows move on two House Sparrows...

No where to land...

House feels Tree has had enough...

'Bugger off, I've just got a seat!'


A day off today and the sun is shining. A loiter around the garden had a nice Red legged Partridge singing from the back field. I saw it as it ran off over the rise. This is a garden tick for me taking that list to 121 species in almost 6 years. Not bad.

While out, the local Goldfinches were very active today with males singing and swaying side to side for females nearby.I think they look territorial so there might be a breeding attempt in the garden this year?

Female Goldfinch.

Male Goldfinch singing...

Male swinging and swaying his fanned tail...

While the camera was out a Starling looked to good to ignore...

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


...or the Digital Darkroom. This is the correct term for Photoshopping your photos.

To the uninitiated this is when people can take a subject and place it somewhere it has never been in the first place, or, like when celebs are made to look like gods and goddesses when really they are just like Joe public.

This isn't the method I'm talking about. There is nothing unreal or fraudulent about the images here, they are just tweaked a bit to make brighter and sharper or closer looking.

To the old school, this is frowned upon as cheating but for me its a real asset!

 It makes my best shots even better that I would imagine. So, imagine what some of my photos would be like straight off the camera....its not pretty I can assure you. If you check though the blogs, ALL of the best ones 'enhance' their images in some way. Caution is needed though, too much 'enhancing' makes the pictures look artificial and hard on the eye - 'noisy' as it is known.

What is the point of this you ask, well, this morning, patch year tick 103 arrived in the garden and was visible from a misted up kitchen window. Wanting to get a record shot, with little time to mess around two or three shots were taken that looked like this -

Male Blackcap, straight from the camera via our kitchen window.
After a few minutes mucking around the result is a bit more pleasing. Its never going to be magazine quality but it will do for the blog. The 'cropping' removes a lot of the clutter, the light balance adjustment removes the fog and the sharpen and unsharp mask, well, make it sharper.

A photoshopped male Blackcap.
103. Blackcap

Monday, March 23, 2015

Winter is leaving....

On my way to work this morning as I crossed a bridge known as the Dry Arch, a bird flushed from the roadside and flew towards the car. All I saw was a broad pale band on the end of the tail and knew instantly what it was. I screeched into a worn laybye and looked back, with no bins or camera, to find a lone Waxwing hopping about on the verge. What on earth it was doing there fails me, but, in headless chicken mode I thought, get home for the camera. I drove back through the arch to the Howick Hall main entrance then thought better of it, I would be massively late for work, so I turned around again but this time the bird was no where to be seen? Maybe on Wednesday when I'm off...

In a winter when they have reverted back to normality after a good few years of influx, I never thought I would get one on the patch, but this one was inside the boundary by about 10 metres!

A recycled Waxwing photo from a few years ago, its been on here before, but no camera this morning.
On the return from work journey at 6pm I passed a field at Warkworth containing 120 Whooper Swans where yesterday there were only 23, so I fancied they might be on the move. Nearer home I got my eye on a flock heading north, containing about 60 birds, just outside my patch. I put my foot down hoping to get them looking back from home, but I was too late.

Inspired, I set off with Bunty in the dusk over the back field. Nothing was seen other than 2 Goldcrests in the hedge but no 'whooping' swans. We headed back. Just as we approached home, there was the distinctive bugling coming from the east. Manoeuvring into a better position I waited until 90-100 Whooper Swans flew north along the coast and out of sight at Craster. Lovely.

Not a bad non birding day then :)

101. Waxwing
102. Whooper Swan

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spring Buntings...

Sunday morning down at the Coquet Estuary at Warkworth is never a bad thing, but its even better when there are unexpected blue skies and sunshine.

We followed the usual route via the estuary viewpoints. The only migrants noted were Chiffchaffs with one in the top car park and 3+ singing near the river in the village. A female Eider looked quite incongruous against a wooded back ground feeding well up stream near the road bridge. A few Snipe and and 5 Gadwall were seen.

There seemed to be more passerine activity this week with several pairs of Reed Bunting, Stonechat, Meadow Pipits etc all in fine fettle singing and chasing around potential nesting sites. Although we didn't see any Short-eared Owls, a Barn Owl did a brief lap of the car park hill.

Stoat coming out of Ermine waited near a small reed bed before vanishing out of sight.


Reed Buntings
A real highlight was a nice flock of buntings at a pheasant feeder near Birling Carrs. There were 15+ each Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting with Tree Sparrow, Grey Partridge and a male Sparrowhawk for company. Nearby a field held 23 Whooper Swans, a Stock Dove while Buzzards soared over distant woodland.

Stock Dove

Friday, March 20, 2015

Seconds please...

I suppose that there will be more photos of this morning's solar eclipse than there are of wheatears on the blogosphere today. Not to be out done, here is another. We got up to clear blue skies this morning though a few clouds soon began to show, making us a bit anxious that we would never see the partial eclipse. We need not have worried and the morning remained very pleasant with 75% clear skies with some thin, steadily moving clouds.

This is my second eclipse after the one in 1999 and I cant wait for my next in 2026. I heard on the BBC today that there have only been 8 solar eclipses visible in the UK in the last 500 years, so to have been fortunate enough to be around for two of them is a privilege indeed.

How it started seen through reversed binoculars on the back door. 

And later when there was cloud cover I managed a proper direct photo.

 While waiting for the 09.35 Armageddon, a check of last nights moth trap catch was a nice surprise - 24 moths of 9 species including the second garden ( and 12th Northumberland ) record of Acleris cristana, though this one was of the form cristalana.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Keep waiting...

Grey Wagtail at Howick burn mouth.

Despite the weather being overcast, misty and generally a dreary sort of day, I still managed two walks around the patch. Nothing new was added and the chiffchaffs from the other day seemed to have moved on. Around home, a Golden Plover was flushed from the heugh by a passing Peregrine and 3 Goldcrests flitted around the back field.

I scoured the Craster end for Black Redstart but it was just a repeat of Sunday with singing Willow Tits, Bullfinches etc. A lone Purple Sandpiper was out on the rocks and a few more Goldcrests hinted at migration.

At the Howick burn mouth I just sat on the bridge base for an hour and waited to see what would appear. A Roe doe sneaked up on me and continued feeding until she just calmly wandered off and a Grey Wagtail fed on the stream. The sea was just about lifeless, or seemed so due to the big swell and low visibility.

In another month or so, the spring arrivals will be here in force. I hope.

Goldcrest, Craster. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Unreal birds...

Another day off on holiday, getting the annual leave used up before the end of the month....

No real birding as such today but I still managed to add two new species to the patch list. Firstly, as I left Howick on my way to Alnwick, a pair of Red legged Partridges ran over our lane. Although the worst of 'plastic', being cage hoppers for shooting purposes, everyone else adds them to the list, so 'When in Rome' I say....This is the first record here since 2012.

On the subject of introductions, 2 Canada Geese flew over south honking as they went, making it to No100 on the patch list.

As the day is drizzly and overcast, here is a cheery pic from yesterday's sunny interlude...

A concrete sink at our door was planted with bulbs in the autumn and look at it now...
99. Red-legged Partridge
100. Canada Goose

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Early spring.

As John was busy this morning, I spent the time combing both north and south ends of the patch for a possible migrant or two. I was hoping for maybe a Black Redstart or even a Firecrest on a light easterly breeze, but they remained 'pie in the sky'. Still, the day wasnt written off just yet.

An early start at Craster was enjoyable, mainly because it was so quiet being pre-tourist time. The picture above is a little known view of Craster that is not shown on the holiday cottage websites but I like its, er, rustic charm. It looks like somewhere a serial killer would hang out!

A seawatch for half an hour was slow but some dillegent checking of distant strings of Guillemots and Razorbills produced the expected result - a Puffin. Only one was picked out as most birds were distant, but it was a first for the year. A couple of Red throated Divers and Red breasted Mergansers the only other things of note. A check of the harbour walls and gardens was bird free, even the Purple Sandpipers seem to have gone leaving only this smart Great black backed Gull watching over things.

I then wandered the wooded and scrubby areas where the highlight was 4 Willow Tits, including 2 singing males, doing their tree pipit like cadence from tall trees on the roadside. 4 or 5 Goldcrests would be return emigrants.

After breakfast, I started at the southern end of the patch- the Howick burn mouth. En route a scruffy set a side off Tommy's track had a large flock of Linnets with over 200 birds present. I decided to scan with the scope for something more unusual and was amazed when only the third bird in turned out to be a Twite. A rare visitor here and not annual. More scanning showed this to be a loner in with the Linnets, but there were 9 Skylarks and 10+ Yellowhammers for good measure.

Down at the footbridge, 2 Chiffchaffs sang and flitted around the canopy and in dense rhododendron cover evading photography attempts while the walk back up the coast and Rumbling Kern had 3+ Stonechats, a Red throated Diver and 2 Rock Pipits.

Quite a profitable morning I would say....

96. Puffin
97. Twite
98. Chiffchaff 

Monday, March 09, 2015

Blogger Top Tip!

I've just found this top tip on Google for making your pics on Blogger larger than 'Extra-large'. I've wondered how to do this for ages...I amended the tip slightly by only changing the width and removing the height altogether. This makes it easy for me to make the photos fit my blog width.

Cheers Malbork!

Sunday, March 08, 2015


Today was full of 'almost' and 'nearly'.

It all started well down on the Coquet Estuary with John. Once the blustery breeze had died down a bit, a nice variety of species were seen. A pair of Gadwall above the weir was a good sighting for here, plus the 2 Short eared Owls on the dunes looked excellent hunting and squabbling over the main track down to the north side. We enjoyed watching the owls from near the car park with scopes but when we went down to try for a photo they just drifted away.

Off shore from Birling were a pair of summer plumaged Great crested Grebes, 2 Red throated Diver and a few Lesser black backed Gulls. A very distant bird tantalised us by almost becoming a Bonxie but it would have taken the Hubble to sort it out...Meanwhile lots of Skylarks were moving north in small parties of up to 25 birds in each. We must have had almost a couple of hundred this morning.

Today's real highlight was a family group of Roe Deer feeding on seaweed up the river Coquet. A doe with yearling buck and doe looked oblivious to our presence as they pottered about on the far side of the river.

Back at home a big 'nearly' happened when we returned after a dog walk to find a superb pair of Peregrines soaring, low, right over our house! What stunners in the sunshine, but I had left my camera indoors. Still, great views were had as they cruised away up towards Hips Heugh. I'm a bit gutted really as I would have had a chance of some nice shots...

The second big 'nearly' was when we headed off to Amble shopping this afternoon. On approach to Warkworth, a large dark raptor was seen approaching from the east with a gang of Rooks in tow. No bins or camera this time. I am almost certain this was a Marsh Harrier, but could just feasibly have been a ring tailed Hen Harrier too. It just sailed away NW over the fields, mostly in silhouette.

In Longhoughton last years very unusual semi-albino Robin played hard to get in an overgrown garden. I must try and get some better pics of this one, its a great looking bird.

A strange early spring day...

94. Lesser black-backed Gull
95. Peregrine

Saturday, March 07, 2015


Above, this Curlew has been wandering around over our garden wall for over a week now. It doesn't look very well, but seems to be feeding on worms ok and it can fly, with some effort. Lets hope it pulls through.

Below, while taking a pic of the poorly Curlew over the wall, a few other healthier specimens flew in including this one with an absolutely massive bill. Its almost the length of the rest of it!

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Amble Harbour.

Today's weather turned out a lot better than expected. The forecast on Thursday said it would be raining all day and blowing a gale. It was windy, but the sun shone brightly most of the time.

I met up with John and we covered the Coquet Estuary area from Warkworth road bridge down to the harbour. Bird-wise it was all a bit same-old same-old so we just pottered around getting some nice photographs in bright sunshine.

This Turnstone on one of the trawlers in the harbour came out well. It is almost a full image, with only a very slight crop to balance it out.

Its not often I wish I hadn't left my small lens in the car, but this young Great black backed Gull was way too close for my 300! It spent the whole time pulling bits of flattie from the net, followed by an entourage of Turnstones cleaning up after it.

Wigeon are usually the most wary of wildfowl but here, half a dozen birds were pushed up by the rising tide to a point they were used to people wandering around the prom. The drakes are stunning in the sunshine, one to be appreciated when the opportunity presents itself.

They were accompanied by a nice adult Med Gull loafing just offshore...