Monday, 24 August 2009

3 Day Weekend

Took Friday off and headed down to Saltholme for my first proper visit. It was extremely windy but us Northeners (thats North of the Tyne) are Tough. With only 3 layers on the Mrs insisted I carry something to keep my light frame (nose grows uncontrollably) on the ground. That turned out to be a haversack with tripod, scope, big flask, 2 towels etc etc. After 5 mins in the Reception I was quite sticky to say the least. The reception is quite impressive and stood and watched the Little Gulls having a snooze only 20m away. Then saw the Black Necked Grebe I had come to see. Didnt bother with pics through the big glass viewing area but used the various scopes that were knocking around. Eventually got out into the reserve, another first was the Little Egret, I was using my binos and at quite a distance I noticed this white head bobbing up and down, not wanting to look a complete numpty I whispered to the wife that I thought I had seen a Little Egret and then when I turned around about 10 scopes were looking where I was and a posh voiced person turned around to his wife and said "Darling, you can observe a Little Egret behind the Taupish Green Bush". Little Bubble appeared above my head saying I think you will find that books and language has evolved since the 1880s.

Found a Greenshank, well I think its a Greenshank and there was absolutely no one around to try and impress with my knowledge but on second thoughts maybe the absence of people was a good thing.

Next bird that stood out was the one below (bet you cant guess which one I am talking about). I stared at it for quite a while but couldn't decide whether it was one of them or one of the other. Eventually plucked up the courage to ask the question in a room where the cost of the scopes on view was more than the remainder of my mortgage. Anyone know what that white thing is in amongst the Canadas said I. There was about 100 Canadas and this white thing had stayed with them for over 30mins taking off, flying, having a dip then lying down. A quite voice whispered Hybrid, within 30 seconds 10 people were talking at the same time trying to figure out who Mammy and Daddy were.
Saltholme is quite good but there was a bit too many loose ends, tatty signs, red and white tape blocking access, the map whilst adequate could have been made a lot better for such a big organisation. Having to go through the restaurant to get a decent outside view of the Swallow Wall, whilst a good way of tempting you to buy their food is not a good idea. Lot of litter lying around, picked up 3 soft drink cans myself.
Saturday we went on our first visit to Washington Wildfowl, what a great place with exceptionally friendly staff. Only 2 complaints about the place, the cost of the food and once again the map took a bit of figuring out (thinking about it maybe Im just a crap map/diagram reader). It tooks us nearly 6hrs to get round and we still didnt get to look at the Sandpiper Pool. Took loads of piccies of strange and beautiful looking birds but the one below made me think. On our way to Washington there was a news item which said Mike Ashley was going to make an announcement about the Clubs future on Monday. The following pic summed it all up for me. The aptly named Magpie Goose and as they say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It was strikingly Black and White walked with a bit of a limp (Lame Duck) and all the other birds were hissing at it. Remind you of anyone???????
Cant recommend Washington enough, great day out for Birders and for the Family but bring a packed Lunch.
Sunday we visited Big Waters and St Marys, wasnt going to put a picture up from Big Waters but when I was flicking through I saw this lovely shot of a Robin and decided to put it in. Bugger me, it was one of the wifes, she is more of a point and click merchant than me but somehow keeps getting better whilst my Learning Curve has flattened out into a straight.
At St Marys there was too many people around, combined with a massive tide there was little to see unless you went right out to the low water mark (Didnt want to cause the Lifeboat to come out for a rescue so stayed on the promenade except for a trip down to the wooden staithes and the little beach there - didnt see a thing apart from the 3 7/8yr olds in wet suits playing on body boards. Hey, the beach is for everyone. Managed to get a couple of pics of one of my favs, the Starling.

Bath Time after the Match

Beautiful Colours.

Monday morning dropped into Thornley Wood, read that a Redstart had been seen there. Once again my text to him didnt get through to arrange the appointment cos it wasn't there. Instead the light was bloody awful but because of that got what I think is a great pic of a Chaffinch

Well thats it for a few days, back to work, lots of students to enrol and budgets to sort.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Big Waters (Wheres is Little Waters Then)

I would just like to concentrate on a specific place for this chapter - Big Waters. One of the nicest places to go especially if you like a bit of comfort, friendliness and dont want to walk too far (like me). Get there early morning and the sunrises are just magnificent over the lake.

I go there at least 3 times per week accompanied by the beloved on at least 1 occasion. Her favourites are the family of swans and she must have took dozens of shots trying to get the whole family in line (and in frame).
Then there is the Kingfisher, what more can I say, possibly the most sought after bird for photographers. I dont class myself as a photographer so my "happy snaps" are just that. They are more luck and shouting out to someone "what bloody iso do I use now" and twiddling the knows then when I get ready to shoot the bird has left.

The shots above were posed for by a bird I had bribed, well why else would he have stayed so long for a numpty like me to get a couple of decentish photos. I was extremely proud of them then heard the other guys "you know the ones with the big ones (lenses that is)" saying I should have dropped that down a stop, the colour is a bit faded, should have opened up the aperture a bit more.

Lovely pic of a young Bullfinch, havent worked out if it is a male or female yet, know the colours are female but do they change when they grow up to be like Mammy and Daddy (must consult one of my growing pile of books)
A Harrier, not the one you want to see but I am interested in seeing them so it gets included. Not one of the regular flights into Newcastle which after a while you become immune to the noise but just like the other Harriers quite a rarity.
Below is another nice bird, a Willow Warbler, although some knowledgeable person will possible tell me its a Chiff Chaff (I cant tell the difference yet unless I see the 6th Feather on the wing but they dont stop long enough for me to look). Think they have different coloured legs also (will have to consult the books again)

Dont you just hate it when other birds try to muscle in on your photo which you have waited for, especially when someone says "if you had a different iso setting you would have had a better depth of field and it wouldnt look so blurry" Point, click and look is my philosophy.

A nice dunnock, you see the odd one wandering around, I think they are great birds, the same as I love Starlings also (people think Im crazy).

Finally a few odds and sods in one picture, the passerines at Big Waters are many and varied and if you watch my blog I might bore you with some of my pics of the Water based birds in the near future of which there is many.

Friday, 14 August 2009

It Always Perks Up

Monday Morning, the picture is nice but the weather wasn't.

As usual off to Far Pastures for a couple of hours relaxation before work. I think the birds had forgotten I had arranged to be there as they certainly were not. After looking at a couple of Moorhensfor a while I wandered round the hide and took a few pics of cobwebs and anything else that was in there.

Spider (Spiderus Unknowus)

Round Spider (Roundish Spiderus Moreus Unknowusi)

Went back at dinner for 30mins and the only thing I got was as follows

Long Thingy (Thingis Missis Dislikjis)

The next day things perked up - was treated to a fantastic display of flying, diving and fly/mosquito eating by upwards of 50+ Martins. We just sat and watched for about 10mins without even moving. Then an unknown bird popped in, took a couple of photos but they were not too brilliant so got the following of Chris (thanks)

We were tossing up between Wood and Green Sandpiper but eventually plumped for Green but even then we sent a dispatch rider hotfoot over the interweb for confirmation from a local expert - thankyou local expert.

Next day the Kingfisher came 3 times (if I print out all the photos I now have it will save me buying paint for the bedroom but the paper/ink outlay will probably be more) and I took some photos yet again. You can never have enough photos of birds said this chap as he pruned his collection of 1800 photos of 1 bird down to 1500. So yet another one for you to see

Had a couple of trips down the Tyne at Lunchtimes this week, by the West End of the Business Park. The amount of birds there is enormous. Saw at least 3 flocks of Lapwings of 25+ standing in rows that a Sgt Major would have been proud of. The Lapwing below was a Billy No Mates and was not afraid to come right up to the promenade wall where I noticed a couple of employees were tossing their excess dinner, wrappers and drink bottles onto the mud.

Well its the start of the weekend, weather not too promising and I cant even get my normal early start as I am taking one of the Sons and Family to the Airport at 0615 for 2 weeks in Florida. Hopefully he will bring some pretty pics back of birds for his poor old Dad.

Monday, 10 August 2009

The Half A Bino Weekend

What a HUMDINGER of a weekend, the weather was extremely good for a change.

Up at Sparrowsfart as usual I shot off to Far Pastures for my couple of hours solitude looking at a normally empty lake in the quest for the Kingfisher (actually the time before when the Kingfisher appeared I didnt even take any photos, just sat and watched it). As I approached the Car Park I noticed this bird land on a Gate Post, I slammed on the anchors and it never moved, took a couple of quick photos through the window then pressed the button to wind the window down. Abracadabra and it was gone, took about 3 secs to dive behind the nearest bush but when it flew away I got a look at its underside which seemed quite light (but it was quite misty).

I have decided its a Thrush, Mistle or Song Im not too sure about but am plumping for the Mistle. Cries of you silly boy or stupid pillock can be made in the comments.

The Kingfish turned up about an hour later and I took a few photos

Work kept me busy for the rest of the day and a visit by some of the offspring and a call from mother in Scotland (shes 85) to tell me she is going on holiday (call alone took up 93mins) killed the evening trip to St Marys.

Up and away very early the next morning to Big Waters, still dark when I left. Got a couple of great photos of the sunrise and the mist from the Boardwalk. There were 2 lads already in when I arrived.

Couple of hours watching, chatting and moaning about my replacement bins which hadn't arrived and scanning the lake with half a set of broken ALDI £6 binos, (if they ever come on offer at ALDI again buy a pair, they can be left in the car as a stopgap or even a proper set if your plastic is melting through constant use) cos Im too lazy to carry my Dads old 20x50s which he used for Horse Racing and weighed about the average weight of a new born child.

Quick run back home, wife waiting, quick change and off to Seal Sands. TIP OF THE DAY - always check that the tide is on its way in and not about 1hr before Low Water then you wont need an astronomical eyepiece to see the seals. We shot off to North Gare and had a walk, if you can call it that, it was more ducking, diving and swerving from the crowds (there were hundreds) and the wayward golf balls. Big signs said dogs must be on leads, of the 20 we saw not one was. Buggered off and went to Hartlepool for sustenance, quick KFC, remembered docs orders and just had a wrap and chips instead of the Family Meal (Im a martyr to my weight) - snigger snigger. Went back to Seal Sands and only 200m from the Car Park watched the seals swim up the river and then went on the bridleway to watch them from about 40m away, was worth the wait. Also there were loads of Martins around, flying furiously then resting for quite a considerable time (the ones below were on the fence for about 10mins)

When I first arrived and went to the Hide I could see hundreds of birds unfortunately the Aldi Bino was not working at peak efficiency and I said to the beloved I thought there was a flock of Curlews about 3 sandbanks away. The chap that was in the Hyde with me readjusted his minature version of Jodrell Bank and after wiping away 2 bucketfuls of sweat politely informed me that they were Godwits as he looked disdanefully at my "bino".

Next day I was at Big Waters for Dawn and was left all alone to contemplate the meaning of life and watch a couple of Herons go 10 rounds stripped to the waist. One of which nearly took out the 2 Little Grebes nest that they have been tending now for 10days. Back home and off to Amble with the wife, stopping at a Car Boot Sale and picking up a great book for 75p "The Birdlife of Britain" by Peter Hayman and Phillip Burton. Up to Amble Market, the petfood guy sells aniseed bird food, the sparrows absolutely love it on my feeders. Eventually arrived at Hauxley and there was more people there than I had ever seen, it had to be the 2nd coming.................... or an Argentinian Pintail.

Wandered round but didnt see the pintail, was even willing to get a record shot of the 2nd coming but that failed also, instead got a nice pic of a Juvenile Dunlin (thanks Al)

Decided to drop into Big Waters on the way home, nobody in the hide but loads of things with feathers around, stayed for over 2hrs, eventually got home at 20.55 knackered but happy.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

What a nice way to spend a weekend, the cats just lay there in the sun, stirring not too frequently to go get a drink from the bird bath or wander in for some food. Note the wooden bird feeder in the background, we had to put a plant in it and 2 solar lights as the white cat used to sleep in there on the cool stones and when the birds fed above her the crap used to rain down.

This "Greater Crested" AWACs flew round the coast near St Marys Island for over an hour on Tuesday evening. When I lived near Geilenkirchen in Germany we saw them all the time and had the opportunity to get inside one on a couple of occassions. I have never seen them round here though.

Also at St Marys there was a substantial amount of Curlews although they were scattered all over which was different from normal as they tended to congregrate in 2 places on the foreshore to the South of the lighthouse and the field at the back of Nature Reserve.

A trip to Killie Lake on Sunday to see the Great Crested Grebes was extremely fruitful, we sat and watched a pair and their 3 chicks going about their normal routine, over the hour that we watched them the male (presume it was the male) went up the far end of the lake and back 7 times and brought a fish back each time. The same chick rode on the mothers back all the time till the last few minutes then as soon as it was "dumped" off another one jumped on. When we left we decided to go to the smaller lake and bugger me if there wasnt another Grebe with one chick only, it seemed to be doing the babysitting and the feeding as we watched for another 40mins but there was no sign of a partner even after a good sweep with the bins.

Couldnt pluck up the wherewithawl to go out tonight so just sat and looked out of the window, watching birds and caught the 10min docu on BBC2 about the Terns.