Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Beast.....

What a difference since Monday! Around our house this morning... maybe more to come later...

Since I took these, things have just gone downhill. The wind has increased from the east, drifting the constant snowfall into 2ft deep wedges through gates and across roads. At the time of writing [ 2pm] it is a white-out across the fields behind us. When walking out, you need to keep your face covered or it will freeze and the dry wind blasted snow is stinging. The roads are closed on both of my available routes to work, so I am now on holiday.

Our garden is heaving with birds. We have fed them three times and changed the water four times as it freezes. There are 100+ Starlings, 60+ Tree and House Sparrows, 20+ Chaffinches, 7 Robins, 6 Dunnocks, a wren, 6+ Redwings, 6+ Fieldfares and 20+ Blackbirds. Out in the back field are 6 Skylarks and a Meadow Pipit, 2 Grey Partridges with 2 Golden Plovers and a Curlew all trying to get respite from that Siberian wind.

Hopefully this wont last too long after all, it is March tomorrow. I cant see the Garden Moth Scheme opener being up to much on Friday!

Above - This Redwing didnt look too good, sleeping during the day.

A fitter Redwing than at the top, but it still looks bewildered by the freeze.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Anyone think of a headline about a Bittern?.....

Saturday was chilly but bright, so Jane, Peggy and I took a drive west over to Harwood Forest for a walk. Little Peggy is very timid of loud noises so our coastal bird scarers have her a nervous wreck in minutes.

Harwood is very remote and is generally silent and free from traffic or industrial noises so seemed ideal for an afternoon walk. Only the usual pine forest species were active with Crossbills, Siskins and Coal Tits, Sparrowhawk and Great spotted Woodpecker plus 3 Roe Deer to break the monotony.

Sunday was bitterly cold, dry and breezy. The kind of wind that chilled the bones within minutes of exposure. The beginnings of this 'Beast from the East' had John and me seeking shelter where ever it could be found. Once out of the wind, the day wasn't too bad at all.... 

A short scan of the Coquet Estuary from Amble Marina seemed a little quiet, with 29 Whooper Swans N being the highlight.

Down at Druridge Bay Country Park, we scanned the lake for wildfowl. This used to be the county's premier site for Smew 20 years ago but not these days. Maybe the cold on the continent will drive a 'white nun' across the North Sea. Its years since Ive seen one here.

At the boat launch, this darvic ringed Black headed Gull has wintered here from Norway for the last 5 years. On the water, 5 Red breasted Merganser and a Pochard were the best, while down at the feeding station 10 Bullfinches were cleaning up the last of the feed.

The area was quite busy with dog walkers so we drove around to East Chevington and walked up to the L shaped hide to get out of the wind. These steel structures are cold in July, but at least they keep the wind chill off.

From here, 3 Otters cavorted at the south end of the pool for a while and on the lake, 32+ Goldeneye had a lone Long tailed Duck for company.

After a short wait John called me to look north, where a Bittern had jumped from the reeds and was flying along the north shore before dropping back into the phragmites at the NW corner. 

Distant Otters...

Distant Bittern....
 So what started as a bit of an ordinary day didnt turn out badly after all....

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

In the woods....

On Sunday I met John at Homebase at 7.30am when we headed south to Morpeth before crossing over west via Elsdon and back to Alnwick by Rothbury and Alnwick Moor.

The day was calm and frosty, very pleasant indeed.

First stop was at Abbey Mill where two Marsh Tits were calling and flitting around near the bridge layby. Its not so long ago you could bump into Marsh Tits in any wooded areas such as Howick, Warkworth, Bothal, Morpeth etc but now they are very scarce indeed, meriting almost twitchable status. These are my first for a couple or three years now.

From here, a short walk to the Hornbeam row found a pair of Hawfinches, the male in full song. It seems that there are very few keys left on these particular trees for them to feed on so maybe they've dispersed further.

Hawfinch pair, him on the left.

A quick check of the River Wansbeck near the car park had a brace of Dippers sitting about 2 feet apart, back to back in a territorial border dispute.

A successful start then.

We decided to head inland to Harwood Forest and old stamping ground of mine. I used to come here every Saturday morning walking the dog, for several years back in the day, where Long eared Owl, Hen Harrier, Gos, Great Grey Shrike, Two barred Crossbill and Water Rail [?] were noteworthy.

No such goodies today on offer but we had a good walk for a few miles around the clear felled conifer blocks, seeing only Crossbills really. Maybe 30+?  but this did include a nice family party with well fledged young being fed.

A couple of Red Grouse chased around the moor, but then it was time for a scenic route home.


We had a brief stop to check out a site near Elsdon for a visit in summer for inverts, flowers etc.

Today it looked like this...

It might be in interesting place in June....

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Gold and some Barnacles....

Winter Aconites and Snowdrops at Denwick Curch.

On Sunday morning John and I headed North towards Lindsifarne.

First stop was Stag Rocks to scour the sea for sea duck, grebes, divers etc. We had exactly - nothing. No birds on the sea except one Red breasted Merganser and I missed that. A few smart sum plum Herring Gulls flew N along the rock edges.

Down at Budle Bay, the wintering Spotted Redshank was calling hard as it ran around the nearest creek. A lot of birds were on the bay, with 400+ Brent Geese, 142+ Shelduck, many Wigeon, 6 Shoveler, 18 Ringed Plover, hundreds of Teal and a tightly packed roost of 150+ Redshank .

I fancied a walk so we moved up to Elwick and wandered across a few fields then along the bund on the S edge of Fenham Flats. This is a magnificent, huge , open area with thousands of feeding birds, it was difficult to know where to start.  There were 600+ Barnacle Geese inc 2 white ones, 75+ Pink footed Geese, 600+ Brent Geese, 340+ Shelduck, 84+ Grey Plover, uncountable Wigeon, Mallard and Teal, 1 Little Egret, 6 Meadow Pipit, 1 Buzzard, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Fox, 2 Roe Deer and a Hare.

Prize though must go to the swirling mass of barking Barnacles as they flew over head. Magnificent!

On the way back home, Denwick Church yard Winter Aconites were such a spectacle I just had to turn the car around and stop for a photo or two. I cant resist these every winter, a fore runner of spring unsprung....

The Lindisfarne Elwick Barnacle Geese were superb...

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Going for 'The'.

What does that mean? I think i have used this on here before, so if you are seeing a repeat, please forgive me, its my age...

Well, a lot of birders spend their whole birding time touring around seeing the birds that other people have found. I'm not knocking it, each to their own and indeed it can be quite fun sometimes but more often than not we only tend to 'go for the' when 'the' is a good bird for us, a rarity.

The birders I refer to above go for 'the' Slav Grebe or 'the' Little Stint, or whatever, birds that can be found yourself with a little bit of research and the imagination to check suitable locations. I'm not too bothered about doing that ( but have still done it in the past and will no doubt in the future too, if I happen to be in the area).

In the past I have had people say to me 'Have you been for 'the' Red necked Grebe?' when in actual fact, I am wondering which Red necked Grebe they were on about?

Today we thought we would try and make a change for us, and go for 'the'.

In this case it was 'the' American Wigeon, 'the' Great Grey Shrike and 'the' Hawfinches. All birds that have lingered for a while and have attracted a steady number of visitors over the winter. Mornings like these can mean that very little else is added to the notebook as a lot of time is spent sitting in the car.

First stop this morning was down the far south west of Northumberland to look for Black Grouse. Despite checking a lot of suitable areas on a beautiful frosty morning, they remained elusive. Still, a ringtail Hen Harrier mobbed by a crow as it flew past the car was a nice diversion.

Roadside Red Grouse telling us 'go back' ' go back' were nice as were flocks of early returning Lapwing and Golden Plover in the fields.

Next stop was Grindon Lough for 'the' American Wigeon. Despite hunting through hundreds of Wigeon and Teal, we failed miserably to find our target. A drake Pintail and 20 Goldeneye were the best on offer.

Time to track north where the next stop was to see the returning Great Grey Shrike at Prestwick Carr. If you check my blog for last Feb you will see that I made a similar trip last year. These birds scarcely count as 'the's due to their rarity and are really actually worth twitching.

In the sun it looked lovely sitting atop choice hawthorns in a marshy field. A bit too far away really but some nice views in the scope were had.

Above - Great Grey Shrike at Prestwick Carr.
   All too soon our time was up and we had to call it a day. We never did get 'the' Hawfinches....  maybe next time...