Wednesday 31 March 2010

Bay Watch 31/03 starring Phoenicurus ochruros

The patch walk today started along the Waggonway past Churchill playing fields and on to the Brierdene. Then over the fields to the cemetery and along the sea front home. The star finds were two Black Redstarts in Whitley Bay cemetery, a male and a female, gerrin! Other birds of note included a Chiffchaff and er, not much else.

The route was interesting thanks to the heavy rain yesterday.............

.......the footpath is under there somewhere.

Many of the Elders have this on them. Wonder what it might be?

Whitley Sea Front

I passed the fair being erected on the links and a painting on one of the rides caught my eye.........

You can't tell me that wouldn't hurt!

Also picked up a Blogger tick - Birding Sometimes

Sunday 28 March 2010

Harwood hike to take a butchers at a Shrike

Knackered. That was after yesterday's failed attempt to see the Great Grey Shrike at Harwood Forest. Rather than take the easy route to Tutehill Moss from Harwood village, I opted for the scenic route starting from Fontburn reservoir. Big mistake.

Setting off around Fontburn Reservoir

Heading over the top to Harwood Forest to the sound of Skylarks.

Finally I entered the enchanting Harwood Forest.

Unfortunately, I grossly underestimated just how long and hard this hike would be. And to add to the woe I made the error of 'shortening' the route by going 'off track'.

There are lots of these off track.....

..... I fell in most of them.

Soaked to the knees I stumbled on and as I approached what I thought was Tutehill Moss I spotted a light coloured bird on top of a very distance spruce. Through the scope it was impossible to ID because of the distance, wind shake and by being slightly obscured by branches. It could well have been a ball of 'string'. I got as far as the metal tower but no bird to be seen. As I now know I was looking in the wrong place. With only 3 hours of daylight left I headed back and collapsed in Fontburn at sunset, wet and disappointed.

This morning I decided to have another go, especially as winter is set to return tomorrow - Harwood is not where you want to be in bad weather. This time I drove to Harwood village and walked back to the tower (fourty mins instead of two and a half hours), and then down the hill on the track to a cleared area where a couple of birders had seen the Shrike an hour before. Thank you gents!

Here's the sweet spot:
View Shrike in a larger map

Ground Zero (Shrike is on far horizon on a dead tree stump)

With gale force winds from the NW I took shelter amongst the trees south of the area to scan for the bird. After an hour and no joy I headed around the area to the North and after another hour getting battered by the wind (strong enough to blow over a heavy duty scope and tripod) and dampened by horizontal rain showers, I sought refuge in a shooting hide. It was never going to be easy to find a small grey bird amongst the twisted remains of felled trees which are by sods law, grey!

It was from here I struck lucky after another hour. 
Scanning with the scope, there was my first UK Great Grey Shrike!

As you can see from the video below they're not called 'butcher birds' for nothing. Here it impales it's latest prey, a vole I would guess, on a branch.

Plenty of other birds too, including Buzzard, Goshawk, Redpoll, Crossbill, Siskin, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Treecreeper and Chaffinch. And Roe Deer.

The cherry on top was this Red-legged Partridge on the way up on Saturday.

Hope you all had a good weekend. Mine was brill :)

Friday 26 March 2010

Dodging Balls

Two Wheatear at Newbiggin golf course today, western edge by the first horses/ponies. No sign of the reported Ring Ouzel.

Wheatears in the rough
Also saw my first butterfly along the beach here, probably Small Tortoiseshell - blew past in the wind so no clear look.

Thursday 25 March 2010

Thank Frog for That!

Every morning for the last couple of weeks I've pulled back the bedroom curtains to find no frog spawn in the garden pond. Last year this went on for weeks after which the frogs nipped over to next doors pond and laid all their spawn there.

To be honest, this year it had become a bit of a concern; were there no females, were they infertile, could the females not get to the calling males due to next doors fence having no way under??

No need to fret anymore. Result!

Tuesday 23 March 2010

Moth All

Another mothless night for the moth trap. I may have to move house.

Sunday 21 March 2010

Crane Video

Got to Eshott late afternoon and the Crane was showing well, albeit a mile away. I checked the distance on a map and it's a mile almost bang on.

Thankfully it's not too distant for videoscoping........

If you want to see the Crane close up then Dusted Off Bins got a bit closer and bagged some pics.

Saturday 20 March 2010

4 Sand Martins and a Chiffchaff

Got a report of a Common Crane today near Eshott so I fired up the Quattro and spent an hour scanning the fields where it was reported. Couldn't find it but saw 3 Buzzards, 2 Kestrels and got some recordings of Skylark and Lapwings, the latter displaying with some impressive aerobatics. 31 seconds into the following recording you can hear the powerful wing beats of a Lapwing as it displays.

Turns out I was looking in the wrong field for the Crane. Birding Sometimes has a very helpful map here. And Dusted Off Bins has managed some pics.

Next it was a flying visit to East Chevington. I had 4 Sand Martins flying northwards and a Chiffchaff in the trees north of the reserve by the pay and display car park.

Frog Chorus

It's 2am, it's raining and I'm standing at the doors to the back garden recording frogs - scary. Must fix that dripping gutter. A poor recording as I was quite a distance away so turn up your volume.

Common Frog (Rana temporaria)

Friday 19 March 2010

Absolutely Mothing

Last night was second time out for my moth trap and nothing again, other than a few flies. Hopefully when the garden comes more into life there will be more habitat to bring them in. Lets hope so.

Thursday 18 March 2010

Bay Watch 18/03

Walked to St Mary's via the waggonway and then returned along the beach picking up 38 species. Temperature hit a tropical 16.3 deg C!

Along the waggonway there was a flock of c150 Greylag in the fields between the golf course and the Beehive pub.


At St Mary's the wader numbers are way down. No Bar-tailed Godwit, no Ringed Plover, no Dunlin and only a single Sanderling on Whitley Beach. Lots of OAPs throwing chips at the gulls. Oh, and there was a pair of Shelduck on the wetland.

'Punk' Grey Heron on St Mary's Wetland

Fresh landslides on Whitley beach

Lumpsucker on the beach

I got a new Blogger tick - Tyne to Tweed. He did better than me and picked up a Barwit and Purple Sandpipers.

High Speed Recon

I visited my BBS (Breeding Bird Survey) square, NZ2494, for the first time yesterday to see how I can best tackle it surveying wise. Despite being popular with flytippers and having the east coast mainline running through it, it has good potential for birds with a good habitat mix of woodland, hedgrows, fields and housing. I counted 18 species on my visit including a mixed flock of 100+ Fieldfare and Redwing.

View Larger Map

The village here is called Widdrington Station. Nothing stops here.

After my recon mission I headed south on the A1068 towards
 Ashington and came across 38 Whooper Swans.

Monday 15 March 2010

Brace youself pet!

The milder weather has brought my pond to boiling point. No spawn yet but it's just a matter of time.

Other signs of spring included my first Bumblebee on Saturday and my garden thermometer reaching double figures for the first time this year.

PS. That's not a spelling mistake in the title - that's hoo wi spell up north.

Thursday 11 March 2010

Blame it on the moon

Up early today to board the Sarah JFK at Amble for another day surveying the North Sea with Martin Kitching for sea birds and cetaceans. It was a beautiful day with great visibility offering fantastic views of the Northumbeland Alps (Cheviot Hills).

The only complication was missing high tide to get back into Amble Harbour. 4 hours later we arrived in North Shields. Still, we got to see plenty more...............

Gannets with the snow covered Cheviot Hills





Tuesday 9 March 2010

Bay Watch 09/03

A walk along the beach to St Mary's and back didn't give me the Wheatear I was hoping for but I did get a year tick with a single Lesser Black-backed Gull on the beach (pics below) with Herring and Black-headed Gull, by the mouth of the Brierdene. The Med Gull was still at the Brierdene car park blagging chips.

At St Mary's there was a single Bar-tailed Godwit (pic below) with small numbers of Sanderling, Dunlin, Turnstone and Redshank.

A Grey Heron at St Mary's Wetland

Plantains, Dandelions and other verge plants are now starting to push up a few green shoots.

Monday 8 March 2010

Migrant Alert

A Northern Wheatear was reported from Portland Bill Bird Observatory today. Should be arriving here imminently. And with an estimated UK population of 540 thousand individuals there maybe a few.

Saturday 6 March 2010

Et Voila!

Just got home and decided to check the pond - four frogs! The first this year and by the look of them, all males. Let's hope the ice keeps off for them.

Friday 5 March 2010

Bay Watch 04/03

A cold but sunny day with light winds made for good conditions to take a walk along the Waggonway to the Brierdene and down to St Mary's Island, then back home along the beach. While underfoot there was frozen ground, in the sun it was pleasantly warm. I picked up 45 species. Along the waggonway there were around 200 Greylag Geese in the fields west of the golf course.


There was a single Bar-Tailed Godwit at St Mary's, a few Sandling, Golden Plover, Curlew, Dunlin and Turnstone. On the sea were 2 Goldeneye and 20 Wigeon.

Spring Tide  - looking SE from south bay at St Mary's

St Mary's Lighthouse was adorned with Starlings enjoying the spring sunshine. I got this video:

A dead Lumpsucker on Whitley Beach kept was closely guarded by a Carrion Crow until my Golden Retriever did what is in his nature.........

Wednesday 3 March 2010

Nest Box Day at Wildupnorth Ranch

It was a big day at the Wildupnorth ranch today as the newly delivered nest boxes were installed.

First to go up was a House Martin nest, followed by a House Sparrow Terrace and lastly a Double Chamber Swift Box.

House Martin Nest

Sparrow Terrace

Double Chamber Swift Box

At ground level there are still no frogs in the pond