Saturday, October 31, 2015

It takes a bit of luck....

The lane in autumn.

Earlier this week the wind took a turn from the south east. It was mild, and damp with odd thick foggy spells and some drizzle. If only I had booked a holiday from work it was very promising for finding some good birds on the patch. As it was I had to make do with half an hour out with Bunty at first light each day.

On Tuesday it was clear that this weather was grounding a few migrants. As we left the house at 7.05am, 100+ Redwings and a few Fieldfares were flying around the village. A good start. As I rounded the first corner, 2 Little Egrets emerged from the fog at a little over roof top height and flew North, only the third record here in 7 years.

Now, at the coast road most of the time I turn left, north to the coast path, but today I fancied that my short amount of time might be better spent checking the scrub at Rumbling Kern just to the south, so I took a right turn.

This is where the gods of fate kick in. Bunty lead the way along the road for about 100 yards when she flushed a small bird at her feet right on the road verge. In a split second I thought 'pipit?' but soon focussed onto a small wader - a Jack Snipe no less! It flew just along the road and dropped back in to the opposite fence line. As we approached it got up again, giving a better view this time as it circled over then flew off west. Unusually it made a very brief call as it took off, a faint 'cough' sound a bit like part of a Common Snipe call. I cant say I've ever heard a Jack call before?

This is a bird I have looked for in damp areas on the patch but have never found, so this  a real patch list bonus!

Also here a Grey Wagtail fed along the manure heap.

Jack Snipe notes...

On Wednesday birds continued to arrive with many Fieldfares, Blackbirds and Redwings with a few Goldcrests and Brambling to look through. On my return from work, in the dark, a Woodcock was sat on the road in the village then flew off into the night. Many Redwings were calling, easily 5 calls per minute at various distances. Its great to see and hear migration in action.

This is what gets my blood flowing, but I've still heard birders saying that it was 'quiet' simply because there were no rarities locally.  I was happy with my 'jack' and the sight of so many birds arriving from across the North Sea. Most birders are just too used to getting rare birds regularly. They need a spell wandering around my patch!

By Thursday, bird numbers began to dwindle as the weather changed. It remains mild and the moth trap has been out, catching my first December Moth of 2015 this morning. This moth usually marks the end of the mothing season for me, but I'll keep trying as long as it stays mild...

December Moth
144. Little Egret
145. Jack Snipe


Monday, October 26, 2015

Late autumn...

Sea Buckthorn
A very Scandinavian looking Blackbird newly arrived.
The day started off quite cool with a light grass frost in shady areas, but soon warmed up into a very pleasant late autumn day.

I met John at Amble Marina car park at 7.30am to give the patch a once over.

As the weather was from a light westerly direction, passerines were not going to be too inspiring so we wandered around looking for bigger game.

First off a stroll along the road path to Warkworth and back checking the river Coquet for wildfowl, grebes etc. The tide was low, encouraging 7 Little Egrets and a handful of Grey Herons to feed in the shallows. 200+ Wigeon were widespread along the route with a good few Mallard and a scattering of Teal. A couple of Rock Pipits added to the show with an very odd high flying Great Tit dropping in.

A good few Blackbirds were on various berries in the car park and John saw a Kingfisher fly upstream, while I had to make do with hearing the whistle call only.

Two Peregrines were exciting near Beal Bank, one big female moving off SW while a bright male left a kill on Helsay Farm and circled the fields for a while.

Geese were obvious around here with 100+ Pink feet and 50 each Greylags and Canadas.

You can just about see the male Peregrine here...
  Next move was along to Birling Carrs to check the sea and game crop along the coast. Small birds were all but absent in the seed field which was surprising, but 3 Goosander flew over S.

The sea was more interesting being well up by now. It was calm allowing good viewing conditions.

A scan of the bay had 20 Red throated Diver and a cracking Black throated Diver that flew from the south and dropped in with small group of Red throats quite close in allowing good views in the scope. The first water based bird I've seen for ages and certainly brightened the morning.

Black throated Diver, Birling Carrs.
Also here were 1 Great crested Grebe, 13 Common Scoter and a male Goldeneye with a few Guillemots. Out on the carr were 18+ Grey Plover, 10+ Knot and 2 Sanderling.

Bck home, a Chiffchaff was investigating the bird bath and a Tawny Owl showed sat out on a telegraph pole in the darkness at tea time.

Roll on Spring....

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The smell of decay...

While autumn does its stuff to the plant life around the garden, the small of dampness fills the air. Its a sweet 'soily' smell and it feels cool. A Red Admiral is still flitting around this afternoon and a huge female Sparrowhawk flew in then ran around the garden under the shrubs before flying off emmpty handed.

This Merveille du Jour is my third of the season and always brightens the day...

Sunday, October 18, 2015


Despite the steady north easterly breeze and the fact that Norfolk is grid locked with rare sibes we still managed to get out this morning and find little in the way of 'good' birds. John  and myself covered the whole of Warkworth North Side - Birling area but it was rather quiet. Still, after a dull start, the day turned out to be very pleasant with some nice autumn sunshine.

As there were no birds, our attentions drifted elsewhere. In the dunes, this Red legged Shield bug  Spiked Shieldbug ( thanks to Graeme Lyons...)was doing something despicable to a small caterpillar. The photo has come out quite well with the 300 lens.

Up at the car park, the wildlife took on a 'big game' feel when we were disturbed from our morning cuppa by some distressed squealing in the picnic area. Now, in a car park like this, that could have been anything, but this time it was a seriously myxied rabbit doing its best to avoid being eaten by a young Stoat. After some 'Benny Hill style' chasing around and wrestling, the Stoat ran off and the Rabbit left by another exit. I bet the Stoat tracks it down again later...

Flying Stoat.
May not be as good as one getting a lift off a Woodpecker, but I was still pleased to get this one...
You wouldnt think it from this shot, but the Stoat was spooked by us watching and legged it. The Rabbit recovered and ran to cover.
So, with all this carnage around, I was pleased to get back home to do the moths...Lately rather than just trying some voucher shots on slate, I have been trying to show some off on some nice surfaces...

The Dark Chestnut
and the Brick, both looking very seasonal.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Its still around...

Just a of our Yellow browed Warblers is still around the garden, mainly at dusk when it appears to come to roost? I heard one brief call at lunchtime then nothing til 6pm when it was going its dinger in my neighbours garden. Letting off a bit of steam before kip probably...

'One of our Yellow brows'... its great to say that isnt it :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Good birds....

Although I was at work today I managed to see a couple of nice birds. At lunchtime, I took an extended spell off and popped down to Blyth Harbour to see the Shorelark that has been around for a day or two. I saw Jack Bucknall's pics and fancied I might stand a chance. As is the way with these things, the bird spent 99% of its time walking and facing away with its head down to the ground, but a lot of pics taken must ensure a good chance of a fluke or two so here they are...

What a great little bird, quite confiding and even doing a little bit of sub-song in the warm sunshine.

Its not often in these pages that a bird as good as a Yellow-browed Warbler plays second fiddle but so it is today. After seeing four on the patch last week, including one in the garden, I thought that might be it over til next year, but no, I was wrong. I returned home from work tonight at 6pm in the gloaming to be immediately met with the excited calls of a Yellow-browed Warbler. As I watched the tall sycamore at the end of the garden, two birds flew out and over my head. They both looked alike but surely not? After some sneaking along the drive I soon found 2 Yellow-brows in the rowan near where we park the cars. What a sight, a brace of sibes in full territorial squabble mode only about 10 feet from our back door! After about 10 minutes they both flew to our 'pied flycatcher' oak then back up into the sycamores. What a garden record....

I managed one very poor pic, but at ISO 6400 its the best I could do...


Sunday, October 11, 2015

There you are!

After my frustrating miss with the Yellow-browed Warbler next to the garden, things have improved on the patch. That was a week past Tuesday. Since then I've been a bit too pre-occupied with other things to get blogging so this is a short catch up.

Friday 2nd October....
The first white frosts of autumn here, on the car windscreen and on grass shaded by pines at RAF Boulmer radar base this morning. The only bird of note was a Peregrine that flew low over the road uplit by the evening sun.

Saturday 3rd October....
A trip to the smoke to see Ian Fisher's photography exhibition and very good it was too...
Back home 22 Barnacle Geese flew N and nicely on to the patch list.

Sunday 4th October....
Birding with John around Craster where there was little to show for it, then Warkworth with the highlight being 3 Crossbills N. Back home at lunchtime either Tuesday's or another Yellow-browed Warbler appeared in the rowan along our drive. I hovered around the garden for the next three hours trying to get a photo without success. At least I saw the bird about 5x well but just too quick to get an image.

The ever elusive Yellow-browed Warbler in the garden.

Monday 5th October....
Yellow-browed Warbler still in the garden. Heard calling as I left for work...At work in Ashington 30+ Redwings and 1 Brambling flew W overhead.

Tuesday 6th October....
A day off to look for migrants. Heavy rain all day and 100% overcast ensure a couple of good soakings for yours truly.
Still, up at Craster, 3 Yellow-browed Warblers in rapid succession was good, but other birds were scarce - 2 Blackcap, 4 Chiffchaff, 1 Woodcock, 15+ Redwings, 20+ Song Thrush, 6+ Goldcrests. I missed out on 5 Ring Ouzels here later.
At home, the Yellow-browed Warbler was still in the garden with 2 Chiffchaffs, 1 Blackcap and a Brambling heard calling.

Thursday 8th October...
I gave a talk about my notebooks to the Northumberland and Tyneside Bird Club at Gosforth. It seemed to go down well and I really enjoyed it.

Thats us up to date then. This weekend has been quite busy with family commitments so no real birding. Its a bit frustrating as there seemed to be a lot of good birds around the county today with 2 Little Bunting, 7 Yellow-browed Warblers and a Barred Warbler at Bamburgh, Great Grey Shrike on Holy Island, Firecrests at St Mary's Island and Tynemouth etc.
A few dog walks around our village had 1 Blackcap, sev Goldcrests and the usual suspects viz migging S.

The mothing has been interesting this weekend with a  nice selection of autumn goodies -

Red Sword-grass

Large Wainscot

Merveille du Jour

This week looks a bit interesting weather-wise, so I'll need to check my work calendar tomorrow for another day off....

142. Yellow-browed Warbler.
143. Barnacle Goose.