Monday, 31 January 2011

Big Waters and a belated Garden First

Well a new record for the year, I actually got home from work about 15mins before it became dark and this week the day will be extended by just over 23mins so I will be able to have a wander round before work and possibly after in a couple of weeks time.   Off to Big Waters Saturday and the pond was 90% frozen again with everything gathered in the centre.   Heard the distinctive trilling of Waxwings when I arrived but didnt see them but within 5mins Keith C arrived and asked whether we had seen the 15 Waxwings flying down the side of the path into Big Waters.  The Feeding Station was quite full but this didnt last for long as Mr Sparrowhawk came in and plumped himself down on a stump up the other end.

It left after a few minutes, but took the rest of them a little while to come back and when they did we spotted a stranger through the trees although obscured by the branches but eventually a pair of them made their way out but stuck to the other side (the one where the Sparrowhawk hadn't been).  I hadnt seen a Brambling since New Years Day so hopefully this pair might stay a while as I spotted them later on away from the Feeding Station and in the same tree on Sunday.

Approx 40 Greylags and 4 Pinkfeet were on the pond (ice) fast asleep but it wasnt too long before they were off to the North Field for a bit of Breakfast (no pinkies in this pic)

Had to leave early to catch Laverock Farm to replenish my supplies for the garden so took the opportunity to pop into Blyth Harbour for another look at the Red Necked Grebe.  Its was in the River Estuary right against the North Pier so no pics but good views.  The Snow Buntings were on the Beach but only for a short while as there were a couple of dogs there also.   Managed to get a couple of shots of them before the light went from getting bad to bloody awful in the mess of railings where they are camping out.

I then went home to replenish all the feeders so the beloved could do her RSPB Garden Birdwatch on Sunday   Sunday morning and I was off too early as it was still very dark so decided to drop into Killingworth.   It was quite full as usual with nothing unusual, had a little hunt around for the Nordic Jackdaw with no luck.  Managed to get a few shots off (with the assistance of the flash) of a few Tufties, Swans, Coots and Canadas

After a delightful 45mins I headed up to Gosforth where despite the cold it was quite muddy but the water was mostly frozen.  This didnt help the Mute Swans when they were trying to chase off the several that tried to land (thought they could tell the difference between water and ice) but everyone of them landed on the ice with some quite amusing results.

Also managed to see a Nuthatch, Sparrowhawk, at least 4 Grey Herons, lots of Teal, Coot and Wigeon.  Popped up to Big Waters on my way back but was summonsed by the beloved to do a bit of shopping and to do the Birdwatch with her.   Whilst she was sitting there watching and I was enjoying a cuppa and a bacon buttie listening to her talking to herself, "a nice couple of Blackbirds", "the Starlings are at the Grapes again" etc etc when the comment "them funny looking small Greenfinches are back again" and "John will you have a look at them please".  Through the Bins I immediately saw 2 Siskins feeding on the Niger, whilst I have seen a couple of small flocks shooting over I had never seen them in the Garden.  The beloved insisted they had been there a couple of weeks now and if I had looked at her camera more often I would have seen them.   I insisted that if she had used Binoculars more often then she would have seen they werent Greenfinches.

When she sloped off to watch some Tits (these were ones whizzing around on ice I had a look at the pics and sure enough there were some on there dated the 23rd Jan (very blurry as she wont open the window cos its cold and has terrible eysight and just points camera in the rough direction). 

Monday, 24 January 2011

Murder, Football and House Hunting

Arrived home from work last Thursday just as the light was going and at the end of the hard standing in my Back Garden was a Sparrowhawk with what looked like a House Sparrow in its Grip.  It took off as I gingerly opened the door and settled behind the trellis on next doors fence.  It glared at me between each bite of the poor sparrow and stayed there for about 10 mins then of it went to sit on top of the church scanning around for a pudding.

At work the Respite Home opposite my office has put a couple of feeders up (behind iron railings to stop the local knackers from pinching them) and its attracting quite a few garden birds.  Unfortunately they have put them in shadow so no good light but on the bright days last week was able to get a few moody, soft focus shots (my excuse for out of focus, badly lit pics).  This one I particularly like

Off to Big Waters at the weekend and a new record was set with the finding of the 11th Football in the area.  This one for those not familiar with Football-Watching is the Blue Umbro (with a definite hint of leucism).  Anyone spotting any of these balls please leave a comment especially if it is the Gola sponsored English World Cup Match Ball which there is no records of yet, not even one blown off course between its normal migratory route from Russia to Qatar

The Feeding Station was full of the normal suspects including about 20 Siskins who seemed to like feeding together whether it be on the ground (up to 10 within a couple of square feet) or on the moss side of a tree/stump

Also delicately place (chuck) a few morsels on a log and off they go standing in a line of 5 (yes I know there is only 3 on the pic but the others were just too out of focus (unlike the ones in the pic who are just slightly out of focus))

The Tree Sparrows were definitely feeding en masse also (note the others hanging around until the sparrows have finished)

The banks must be lending money for the mortgages again as this couple look as though they have got enough together already to lay out a deposit on a single room newish bungalow - there were a couple of new builds close to it but obviously they have not put together a big enough deposit yet

The residents Swans are now becoming very territorial, on Saturday 14 other mutes in different combinations of 1s, 2s and 3s tried to drop in but the male was up and at'em before they had completed their landing

Finally the Water Rails put in a few appearances in the Feeding Station with the assistance of Johns strategically place tidbits.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Not A Bad Weekend (apart from that bloody Football Result)

Saturday morning a quick trip to Gosforth for an hour produced decent views of the 2 Bitterns once again.  There was still a bit of ice round the edges of the reeds and it was mainly Mallards sitting on it and in the water was up to 80 Wigeons, 100 Teal and a handful of Lapwing.   

These birds were very unsettled taking to the air quite a lot as a couple of Sparrowhawks decided to do some exercising in the area.    Also the first Cormorants of the year for me and a couple of Grey Herons out looking for a bit of Breakfast were welcome additions.   On my way out I bumped into Nigel T who said he had just seen a Kingfisher flying along the Stream.  Spotted 2 Roe Deer through the trees and watched them for a couple of minutes until they were spooked by someone walking through the Woods and were a great site running and jumping in my direction then over the hedge into the open fields.  At Big Waters a lot of the ice was gone and the pond was filled with birds.  Spotted Graeme B in the car park and gave him the pleasure (some may call it that, some don't) of my company on a wander round the public end for 45mins.  Then went to the hide and was amazed at the amount of Teal I could see even though Graeme had said he had got to just over the 300 mark.  When Alan J arrived he started counting in earnest and after a lot of movement they settled down and a count of 602 was obtained, a record for January since records were started.  Other notables were 2 Great Black Backed Gulls, the first Snipe of the year, 8 Wigeon, 5 Lapwing and a Goldeye.   In the Feeding Station plenty of Siskins, a Water Rail scuttling across at an unbelievable speed, 5 Reed Buntings along with the normal multitude of Finches, Robins, Dunnocks and the Tree Sparrows.

Alan whilst replenishing the feeders moved the broken cage feeder into the trees and the whole dynamics of the Feeding Station seemed to change, all the birds moved to the left hand corner of the hide nearest to the Hide (the light was bloody awful and annoyingly didnt get any decent pics) with 8 or 9 Blue Tits sitting in lines along the branches, they were then replaced by Tree Sparrows and every bird seemed to be targetting one feeder.  This was obviously noticed by a young Sparrowhawk who came storming into the mass of birds but speed along dosen't get the meal and he left "empty clawed".

Sunday Morning up to Cresswell early.  Andy M was already there preparing for his WEBS count and there was plenty of stuff around, including 5 Red Breasted Merganser

428 Wigeon was Andys count but he carried on so might have got even more.  An enjoyable 2hrs was had there with people popping in and out including Vee and lots of movement on the pond, my first views of a Shoveller this year and 5 Shelduck along with nearly 200 Curlew made the visit even more enjoyable.

Off down to St Marys via Woodhorn whilst searching for the Greenland White Fronted Geese I spotted Graeme Bs car so knew I had got the right place.  Got onto them straight away and that was a lifer for me.  20mins of enjoyable chit chat and watching lots of geese movement North (Graeme, the 3 flocks I took pics of were 124 Pinks, 136 Grey and 175 Pink, didnt take pics of the 4 other flocks) then to St Marys, a bag of chips and the second half of the match in the Car Park (No more to say on that other than "We Were Robbed".  Whilst sitting there jumping up and down I did notice that the BHGs were getting there Black Heads already.

Bumped into a couple of young (young to me anyway) who had spotted a Common Scoter but unfortunately I didnt get onto it.  Lots of Golden Plover and a couple of Grey Plover, even in the bad light, were lovely to see.  Plenty to see though as usual although only spent 30mins looking as the crowds were gathering to get across to the lighthouse with the tide revealing more and more of the causeway.  It looked like the start of the Grand National with about 50 people waiting for the tape to go up, unfortunately the young gentleman (showing off to his girlfriend) who broke the tape also slipped and ended up quite wet (I just dont understand people who can't be patient)

Walking South along the promenade on the bend there was a sad sight of a young dead seal which had just been uncovered by the outgoing tide with various Gulls paying it attention.  Heres hoping that the light next weekend might be a bit better so Mr Nikon can be unholstered.

Monday, 10 January 2011

When Is It Going To Get Warmer ??????

Well into the New Year and the cold weather is beginning to let up a bit HOORAY.  Managed to get out a few times since the 1st so heres a few photos of places I've been and things I've seen although I was counted out for a couple of day with a Viral Infection but thank god for anti-biotics.   Trip to St Marys was quite productive with most of the normal birds you would find there on view including several Goldeneye in North Bay and a couple of Cormorants who seemed to be giving an Eider a bit of grief.  Googled it but couldn't find any reason for the animosity they were showing unless they were possibly fishing very close to the Eider but the Eider was squawking away at them also.

Meanwhile back on the patch at Big Waters on Monday a very small bit of water was showing although this was soon frozen over again when we arrived on Saturday with only a small handful of ducks seen.  In the Feeding station the Yellowhammers were showing well along with a Brambling and a couple of Water Rail.

A trip to Gosforth on Monday afternoon brought several deer sightings.  The lake in front of the Pyle Hide is still frozen solid.  A walk round with Nigel and a stop off at another hide enabled us to see a Fox getting within 1m of a Bittern before it shot off. 

So back to work on Tuesday and after promising myself not to put anymore feeders up for the local toerags to pinch I decided a couple of cheapies from Poundland would do and within 2mins of putting them up and a few Fatballs the Tits and Finches along with a few Blackbirds were feeding away.

Saturday came round and off to Big Waters as mentioned above.  Noticed a couple of Bullfinches skulking in the undergrowth.

A bit of repositioning of various perches has gone on in the Feeding Station enabling one to get some better pictures including this delightful one of a Dunnock

Despite the frozen lake approx 40 Pinkfeet circled around whilst we were out walking, looking for a place to land and when we got to the lake there was roughly the same amount on the lake but putting the bins on them we soon realised they were Greylags therefore the Pinkfeet must have landed in the fields out of view (Alan J used this as a great example of his counting method LOL).  Finally a nice out of focus mood shot of two wandering Mute Swans after being chased by the resident couple

Finally on Sunday off to Gosforth again and the Pyle Hide was standing room only again.  Bitterns from a distance again although on a wander round I did come across my first Grey Herons there, possible early returners looking for a prime nesting site.  Well heres hoping its not a 4 layer clothing weekend again.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

End & Beginning of A Year

New Years Eve and I decided to make a final visit to Gosforth as I hadn't been for a while.  It was like going to a new site, the reeds round the boardwalks have been completely flattened and you can see for "miles" as they say.   Got the Pyle Hide and within a few minutes 2 Kingfishers were chasing each other round the lake, perching alternately right outside the hide.

A Fox came scampering across the ice but before I could get Mr Nikon working it darted into the reeds but if you strain your eyes you can just see it darting away.

A good wander round produced a couple of Treecreeper, Nuthatch, several Long Tailed Tits but unfortunately, just like the other ponds and lakes, nothing to see.  Anyway a quiet night at home with Carole for the New Year.  Set off at 9 to Big Waters and the first birds I encountered were a couple of lush Bullfinches and on arrival in the Feeding Station a Brambling put in an appearance.

Alan J arrived (so the Brambling went) and put the food out and immediately the place was full of Pheasants

Once again lots of Siskin high in the trees but only a couple of them dropped in for a bit.   With the decimation of the foliage you can now see into the wood just a bit which gave us the chance to watch a couple of Water Rail wandering round.  There also seemed to be an influx of female Blackbirds.

I waited for 9 months last year to see 2 birds and unbelievably saw 2 Goldcrests and a Redpoll on the first of the year.  The Redpoll being a new Big Waters tick.  The place was overrun with Chaffinches today, this particular one should have rung NHS Direct to get someone to fix his neck.

The end of the day saw me achieving 36 Species for the start of my first full year of proper counting and starting 4 Lists, Overall, County, Big Waters and Garden