Sunday, 29 November 2009

Should Have Listened to the BBC Weather On Sunday

Saturday off to Big Waters for a couple of hours. It must have been "Low Tide" as most of the water had gone from the Feeding Station and the lake level had dropped ever so slightly. The problem today was the mist, even when I left at 10:00 I still could only make the Island out occassionally. Plenty of birds on the lake including Goldeneye, Gadwall, Teal, Great Crested Grebe and all the normal suspects. The feeding station was absolutely alive with birds even though the Male Sparrowhawk came through twice the birds returned quite quickly. Heard quite a few geese but only saw 1 small flock of Greylags on the North Field when the mist cleared for a few seconds. The Otter was also out having a poke around quite early on also.

Went home to collect wife and she had sorted out the growing amount of feeders/tables in the Garden (now numbering 20) and when I pulled round the back of the house there was 30+ Starlings, 20+ Collared Doves/Pigeons, 20+ House Sparrows and half a dozen tits feeding. None of them moved at all so I just sat there and watched them for over 10mins. Now readers of the Blog will know that I have been trying to lure Goldfinches in with a Niger Feeder but to no avail. Last weekend we took the Feeder down and gave it a good clean and was intending to get some more Niger this weekend. Looking through all the birds I noticed a flash of red on the foremost of the pole feeders and bugger me a Goldfinch was on the fatball feeder. This brings my Garden Count (only count birds that have landed/fed in the garden) to 20 the other latest additions being Greenfinch and Great Tit.

We then went to Newcastle to top up the feeders at work and when we arrived there was a small (20ish) charm of goldfinches flying around. Carole decided I HAD PUT THEM OUT WRONG so she rearranged them. Sat in the car for about 20 mins and about 15 Blue and Great Tits started feeding with Dunnocks, Chaffinches and Robins scrapping around on the ground.

Quick trip over the water to Shibdon, not much there apart from Gulls, Swans, Mallards and a large flock of Canadas feeding on the Grass. Up to Thornley for 15mins, managed to see a few birds including a couple of Nuthatch through the 16 Grey Squirrels who were fighting to get on the feeders and chasing the birds. Even the table feeder in the Car Park was being raided by 2 Greys also. Nice shot of Robin in a Christmassy pose made the visit worthwhile.

Decided to visit St Marys for an hour but by the time we got there (14:30) you would have thought it was dusk. The Golden Plovers supplied a nice backdrop display to the Lighthouse for a few minutes. Thought I saw the Water Pippit fly in and out but the moral is always set your camera when you get to a new location so when you press the button you get "pretty pictures" not pics that look as though they were taken in the 1920s with a box brownie.

Sunday morning we set off early for Amble for the market to get some Niger and the Aniseed flavoured seed that the House Sparrows go mad for. Foolishly I had plumped for the ITV forecast which said very windy but only showers as opposed to BBC which said Lots and Lots of Wind and Lots of Rain (BBC was right). As we arrived (0830) the few vans that had arrived for the market were packing up (no sign of the feed man) or just hadnt bothered to unpack and headed home.

Went to the quayside where there were 3 or 4 trawlers and lots of crew repairing nets all speaking a language I did not recognise. They were also gutting fish and tossing the remnants into the water and the Eiders, Cormorants and Gulls were going absolutely bananas. The harbour was absolutely full of birds and the sandbank on the far side was quite crowded as well.

Decided to go for a bit of shelter at Hauxley and took a slow drive via the costal route, the fields were full of Turnstones, Gulls, Oystercatchers and an inordinate amount of Curlews. Arriving at Hauxley only 1 car in the Car Park and guess who that belonged to. We checked out pools from the reception hide but not a great amount to be seen. We then went to the little delapidated hide just off the car park and spent an enjoyable 15 mins watching the many "little birds" as the wife calls them flitting about. This chaffinch was quite puffed up to say the least.

Decided to call it a day then, rain was absolutley tipping down, wind howling and a Roast Chicken Dinner was more appealing than this.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Didn't She Do Well

Off to work at 06.30 and filled up the feeders, spread a bit of Sainsburys (4 for a £1) blueberry muffin (couldnt eat them all as was busy cleaning bird bath) and installed a bird bath (empty ice cream 2l tub which I was forced to polish off last night in order that the birds get their daily cleanse). Whilst I was filling the seed feeder I heard a Long Tailed Tit (extremely loudly), it was no more than 18inches from my head. I took a couple of pics with the flash on and it never moved and stayed there for about 10mins singing then just flew off. Seemed so strange that a tiny bird was not scared of a well built (extremely dumpy and small) human being who was banging and clattering about in the bushes.

At lunchtime I had my first Female Greenfinch which was joined a few minutes later by another female.

Off home and it was still daylight (WOW). When I got home the beloved shoved her camera in my hand and said got a couple of good pics of a Blackbird this morning whilst doing the feeders and then at lunchtime I was busy watching Loose Women when I noticed this strange looking bird perched on the fence, it was a bit bigger than a sparrow but not as big as a Gull. I waited till Loose Women finished then went and got my camera and took a few photos through the kitchen window (doubled glazed and cooking at the time). Can you have a look at them and tell me what the second bird was. Put them on the puter and yes the Blackbird was quite a good shot

Then (with jaw dropping) I looked at about 10 misty shots of a Sparrowhawk just sitting there.
Had to Auto Enhance, sharpen and crop but its still a good first record shot of a Sparrowhawk in our Garden. Said to the beloved "you said it was a bit bigger than a Sparrow" she replied "Well I didnt have anything to compare it to as all the other birds had dissappeared for some reason". She reckoned it had been there for 20mins but after photographing it through the window had tried to go outside to get better pics but it shot off when she tried to open the door.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Gosforth Nature Reserve

Decided to take the beloved for her first visit to Gosforth Nature Reserve, but, as she is not an early riser I went up for a quick walk round Big Waters and a visit to the Hide. This took me from 7.30 to 11.30 and when I got home the beloved was just finishing Brekkie and onto about Page 10 of the News of the World (which I had went out at 6.30 to get). Well it was a great session at Big Waters (as usual) but just a couple of photos.

Absolutely stunning back shot of the Spuggie showing the colours to its best.

A visit by a Grey Wagtail had my lens working overtime trying to keep focus as it "Wagged" around.

Finally a decent (ish) shot of a wren, have been trying for ages to get one but they are too fast for my tired old fingers.

Eventually got to Gosforth at 12.30 and spent just over 2hrs walking around and 30 mins in the Pyle Hide. It was extremely muddy as the beloved kept reminding me but still had a great time. Nothing really unusual but its just such a quiet place, never bumped into a soul. Found plenty of different kinds of Fungi.

Settled in the Hide and watched loads of Widgeons landing and taking off every 2-3 mins.

The most spectacular sight was 12 Sygnets practising take offs and landings with the Hide being the end of the runway for both. They didnt seem to care about the Moorhens, Coots, Wigeons etc and just plowed their way through them.

Heard quite a few calls on the way back but didnt see a great deal, heard a bit of scurrying in the undergrowth but didnt see anything and when we were returning on the Boardwalk something came flashing underneath causing a great deal of comotion and noise, once again didnt see nothing but felt the wife grab my arm and nearly rip it off. Cant wait for the place to dry up a bit to have a good walk round. Well back to work tomorrow and see what the feeders have brought in.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Super Display at St Marys

My little feeding station at work goes from strength to strength, especially since Carole did some homemade Suet Balls in Coconut Shells which I hung up on Friday morning and when I returned at Lunch Time there was a few people from work just standing watching about 10 Blue Tits trying to feed on them. Whenever I popped out this week there was always someone there who would ask me questions (thank god there not hard ones and I can recognise the birds that turn up)

There also seems to be an endless amount of Robins there also, at one stage I could see 6 individuals wandering around although most of them tend to feed off the ground along with the Dunnocks and Chaffinches. The Goldfinches dont come to the feeders although they tend to sit on the next lot of bushes and I hurl a few handfuls of seed toward the concrete block where they congregate and they then seem to peck around it.

Saturday morning off to Big Waters for a quick visit. Should have brought a pair of flippers and snorkel for John so he could get into the feeding station. The Swans were there when I opened the shutters and stayed for over 30 mins just feeding all around the Hide where the mud was 2 weeks ago.

Whilst being distracted by the family of swans a few of the birds on the lake did a quick noisy exit and then the Otter appeared. It was very close and within a few seconds was into the Reeds only about 5m away and just stared at us for about 30 Secs and then it was away also. We followed it through the reeds by the movement but it never came into view again.

This is where the waders used to congregate but now even the Little Grebe does a bit of diving for food and actually swam into the feeding station and had a look round for a few minutes this morning. I chose this pic for the blog because its the first time I have seen the Little Grebe out of the water.

In the Feeding Station there was quite a lot of activity with a pair of Bullfinches turning up although Daddy was the only one to stand in the little bit of light there was around.

A Dunnock came and sat about as close to the hide as you can get without actually coming in for a cuppa.

On the way out I stood for about 10mins listening to this Robin sing its little heart out. I actually took my pack off, sat down at the foot of the bush, took a couple of pics and listened to it sing.
Then went and picked up the wife with the intention of going to Hauxley and Linton but got distracted whilst having a wander through Dobbies then when we left the beloved mentioned she was a bit peckish (only midday) so we headed off to Sambucas in Blyth. A quick wander round the market then into Poundstretchers, couple of cheap feeders for work, then a lovely lunchtime special in Sambucas. It was 2.30pm by now so Hauxley was scrubbed and off we went for a 10min view of the Eiders in the Blyth then to St Marys. Now I have seen the Golden Plover and Lapwings do a few perforfmances there but todays was special they flew around together, separate, mixed bunches then joined back up then repeated the process. This went on for nearly 30 minutes and by this time there was quite a few people just standing and watching. Simply amazing is the only way I can describe it, no pics can do it justice, I doubt even a video could. The pic is just about the logistics of the thing and you will have to click on it to see the birds but bloody hell I would have paid money to see that.

Right now lets see what Mr Weatherman has to say about tomorrow and hopefully Mr Dickie Branston can stir his bloody staff up and fix my telephone (3 Days not working) and my TV on Demand (15 Days not working), I cant even ring up to complain (well I could with my mobile but the credit crunch wont allow me to take a second mortgage out to pay the bills) and emails to Virgin are an absolute joke.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Deja Vu

My little feeding station at work is coming on well, have added a nut feeder now and the birds are pouring in. Got lots of Goldfinches, BlueTits, Great Tit, the occasional Coal Tit and Long Tailed Tit. Blackbirds are all over the place and a "Stand and Stare" session for 20mins will let you see at least 10-20. On Friday I saw this "Blackbird" flying towards me and took a quick pic and when it passed I thought to myself thats a bit big. It flew off to the top of a tree and parked itself next to a Magpie. Checked the pic and it was quite blurred but there was this strange red beak and red legs. I immediately pressed the delete button and didnt think anymore, although I was puzzled about the red legs and beak, about it till I was watching Autumnwatch that night. Had I seen a Chough ? Have been looking today and yesterday but no luck. Once again my pics are the ones I like, not my best (Cough, Cough). Song Thrush I believe although the 2 are now down to 1, a single was on view all day today although quite a distance away but no sign of the 2nd one.

Underneath the block of cement must be quite a big hole as there seems to be at least a dozen goldfinches using it as a Pied a Terre. The singing is quite tremendous and seems to echo around the patch.

Saturday off to Big Waters, not a lot but this pic of a swan against the Dogwood is just tremendous.

This Dunnock seems to be having a blue day (JB checked my settings on camera and changed the colour one!!) But, I still think it looks pretty.

Off for my first visit to Gosforth Nature Reserve. Had a good walk around the outskirts taking about 2 hours. Lots of water and mud around. Didnt bother too much with pics as was just taking in the scenery. Saw a Fox just a few metres away getting mobbed by 3 Magpies. Not a great amount seen but the weather was not too good and later found out that several bonfire night celebrations in the locality had frightened off quite a bit of the wildlife. Anyway the sight of a Robin always brightens me up.

Found this dramatic Fungi growing on the roof of one of the Hides (inside).

Saw several Teal, Mallard, Swans, Moorhens also from the Pyle Hide.
03.30 Sunday morning we set off for Caerlaverock (same as last weekend) but first took my wife through the centre of Newcastle to see the Wildlife and by god was there some. The Wildlife Rangers were quite conspicous in the Big Market Area and the lower end of Dean Street. Several variety of birds were on display, although strangely the females were the prettier ones for a change (with the odd exception). A few of the males were in a bit of distress although it looked like an absolute dream place for pellet collectors. There were several feeding stations open even at that time of the morning with many of the perches on them completely full especially the ones in the Subway.
We then headed for Scotland and by 6.45 we were standing in the Salt Marshes with about 15 others watching the Barnacles waking up then taking off for Breakfast on the reserve. It started to P**s down at about 07.45 so we went into the Hide where a better view could be had but the atmosphere was not the same as standing in the open with the Barnacles, some of them appearing out of nowhere and flying just a few feet above our heads. Once again a few more pics from there. Mayhem at feeding time.

Hoopers in desperate need of Water Skiing lessons

Why do photographers always take my photo in unflattering circumstances (Might have to lose a few ounces to attract the chicks)

Its just a load of A**e here atm

Air Traffic Controllers must be on their Lunch

Another great weekend was had by all and on the way home my beloved asked about her "lateish" Sunday Lunch, no problems says I just stop in Carlisle. If you think Im going into a Restaurant looking like this (I look her up and down and tell her I still think shes gorgeous despite the extra couple of pounds of mud spread about her person). 90mins later we are sitting in the car at North Shields Fish Quay with Fish and Chips keeping a quiet eye out for the Sabine as the sun goes down (Great romantic end to a perfect day).
ps would have been even better if the Gull had turned up

Monday, 9 November 2009

Well, finally managed to find time to do the blog. On Saturday 7th Nov I headed off to the normal haunt at Big W. The weather was quite good although there was not a lot to see for a change, as usual sods law dictates loads of stuff there last weekend and bucketfuls of rain. A couple of interesting things though. Spotted 6 Deer in two groups of 3 on the North Meadow and they were visible on and off for over an hour.

On the way out a Buzzard came quite low over me and landed in the bushes close to the Public viewing platform but despite a 15min hunt could not find it .

Decided to head to Holywell to see if I could catch sight of the Green Winged Teal but no luck there either. Simon had been there for over 6 hours but nothing of note had appeared although there was a lot of activity including, Pinkies, Greylags and Lapwings in the field behind the hide and popping over the lake now and then.

Now that the feeders are back in action the tits, robins, chaffies etc are now well represented and present a nice background of song and calls. Several Long Tailed Tits were seen on numerous occasions although none of the continental variety said a couple of others in the hide (will have to look up what that means as I just nodded and agreed with them).

Sunday up early and away to Caerlaverock to see the Barnacles and the Hooper Swans. I had an absolute super day, the weather was beautiful and met some great birders and saw some great birds. The feeding pond was the first place to go and up in the tower I managed to spend 2hrs just watching the many movements of great flocks of Barnacles, Lapwings, Starlings. Damn I put the wrong photo in and have left my portable HD at work, never mind its quite a decent pic anyway of the Feeding Pond.

There were Barnacles everywhere but in the main flock there had to be at least 5000.

Several individuals seemed to come in from the Solway and fly obligingly over the Tower to the delight of the many Photographers.

Super looking Wigeon

The Hooper Swans were also obliging and I could have filled my cards up with just pics of them alone.

Not my best technical flight pic but the setting is just awesome

Lots of Canadas were also present.

Finally this Hooper which seemed to have a crooked neck. Spoke to one of the staff and he said it had been like that for 3 years.
Finally during my time there and in the vicinity of the reserve I lost count of the Buzzards I saw. Saw several deer wandering round in front of the Big Hide which looks out onto the Solway. Watched a Peregrine knock a Kestrel out of the Sky, fortunately it recovered just before hitting the ground and fled away. Saw at least 1 Male and 1 Female Sparrowhawks on several occasions. Was with one of the staff (Richard, was unvelievably helpful) and looked at a flock of Pinkies on the far shore of the Solway which he stopped counting when he got to 3,870. Behind the Pinkies was just an unbroken line of black and white which turned out to be Oystercatchers as far as the eye (or super duper scope) could see. On the way home I saw the "Gretna Roost" for about 15 Seconds performing the most amazing swarm I have ever seen. I couldnt even estimate the amount of Starlings except to say the Sky was just absolutely covered with them. An exceptional days visit.
Im now getting into this birding lark and enjoying myself so much it hurts when I cant get out.