Thursday, 28 April 2011

Harthope Valley

A trip up to Harthope Valley on Monday in some gorgeous weather but started slightly later than anticipated so it was "packed" when we got there so instead of Hawsen Burn we went up the one just past the Cattle Grid.   First of all a couple of Beetles which we found in the Valley.   Have looked at a couple of Beetle sites but with no luck.

At the foot of the Burn there was plenty of Birds on nests and Thrushes feeding chicks with this Chaffinch in and out of its top floor flat tarting up the nest.

When we got about two thirds up it was time for a rest so No 1 Spotter took her place spotting whilst I was sent on to find out the lie of the land further up (needless to say after 5mins I returned and suggested that we sit here a while before heading back down).

We stayed there for over an hour before heading back down.  Birds saw on the way up then down included 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Green Woodpecker, Willow Warblers, Chiff Chaff, Curlew, Oystercatcher, loads of Chaffinches, 7 Buzzards, Mistle and Song Thrushes and a very early Spotted Flycatcher. 
The following are a few snaps taken whilst walking along the bottom of the valley.  This Partridge and its partner saw us driving into the valley and both just calmly turned round, waddled away without ever glancing back

At the ford inbetween Wooler and the Valley we were entertained for a few minutes by a couple of Common Sandpiper flying back and forth round the car.

Finally near the foot of Hawsen Burn there were a couple of Wheatears with this speciment posing graciously for us.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Easter Break - Part 1

The Easter break came and went, I had 5 days off and it was out from before dawn to dusk.  Last Wednesday before work I went over to Kibblesworth/Lamesley area where the sunrise was misty but stunning.

Thursday morning and over the border to Rainton Meadows and after hearing at least 5 Grasshopper Warblers I finally managed to see this little beauty moving round a hedge.

On No 2 a delightful Little Ringed Plover moved around all over the place never staying in the same place for more than a couple of minutes (the shot below is digiscoped as though you hadn't guessed)

Also on view were Common Sandpiper, Coots galore with at least 2 broods around, Shelduck, Lapwing, Grey Heron having altercations with various Gulls and Canada and Greyalgs.  Bumped into Andrew Kinghorn and thanks to him was soon onto a Reed Warbler.  If your reading this Andrew I hope you heard my shouted instructions on where the Cuckoo was you were searching for across the Bollihope Valley next day.

Several Whitethroats around but had superb views of this one who was singing directly in front of me.

Friday and back down to Rainton with Carole for another wander round with more of the same seen, also a pair of Kestrel and 2 Little Owl and for the second day in a row a Stoat bounded across the road in front of me.  Saturday and starting off at Big Waters with yet another great misty sunrise.  Got there before 6 and within minutes there was another 5 people there.

Apart from the sunrise the other noteworthy photographic opportunity was of a Sedge Warbler who worked his way round posing for every one of us at one stage or another.

Then over to Bollihope intending to have a look at the quarry but arriving late morning meant the place was already teeming with visitors (Should have taken note what in says in Where to find Birds in the North East.  Went for a wander round the moors and valleys instead where we heard our first Cuckoo which called on and off for 20mins.  A couple of fleeting glimpses of it shooting between copses down in the valley with at least 4 different groups trying to find it.  Red Grouse all over the place with Lapwings, Curlews and Sand Martins galore in and out of their temporary lodgings (whenever I see these it always reminds me a bit of Byker Wall) on the river banks.

Part 2 to follow shortly

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Firing Blanks

Some hightlights from the last few days.  Friday sitting in the office and a familiar sound graced my ears.  Grabbed the camera and straight past the office flew a Chinook dropping straight towards the helipad never to be seen again that afternoon .

Saturday morning and up to Bamburgh arriving at 0610 armed to the teeth with gear I headed down to the beach and within 2mins had spotted the Black Scoter which was quite close in to the rocks.  Took aim with my weapon and not even a dull click.  Had taken all my SDHC cards out of cameras and pockets and cleared them all Friday evening but left them on my desk.   Never mind it gave me a chance to watch the Black Scoter and a couple of Velvet Scoter plus chat with the other birders.  After a couple of hours I was walking back to the car and heard shouting behind me.  Looked round and saw the biggest bird I have ever seen, White Tailed Eagle, go soaring upwards along the beach less than 25m from me.

Dropped into a couple of places on the way back including Druridge where I heard 2 Grasshopper Warblers, 1 near the entrance and 1 at the far end near the turning circle.   Also 4 Wheatears together on the fence.

Next morning up to Big Waters where I heard then saw a Grasshopper Warbler next to the feeding station and got some record shots (which I wont bore you with).  Chatted with Graeme B for 45mins then went to pick the wife up.  Graeme had mentioned he had been checking the Ouseburn out so as we were passing we dropped in for a quick circuit round.  Several Long Tail Tits were whizzing round, Greenfinches calling in the Car Park, Moorhen running up the road ! then under Byker Bridge, but the special thing which had the wife cooing was the 2 familes of Mallards with at least 12 chicks between them running around in the dirty mud.

We then headed off to Washington WWT where this delightful Wren perched on the dead branch and kept us and a few others entertained for several minutes singing its head off.

In the Wader lake were 4 Avocet, a Common Sandpiper, 15 Shelduck, several; Shoveller and 20+ Redshank plus many others.  There were also 2 Black Tailed Godwits.

In the Heronry we could see at least 30 Grey Herons and the following couple with 4 young ones.

We stopped on the way back at Lamesley and ended up there for nearly 2 hours.  Great views of this Mistle Thrush which was parading around and feeding right outside the hide window. 

Also in the distance were a couple of Little Ringed Plover, a Buzzard which made several forays very low across the water meadows moving everything around.   Several House and Sand Martins were around all the time we were there.  The Weather, the Birds and the Company made the weekend a super one

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Mainly the Carrs with a hint of Gosforth

Tuesday late afternoon dropped into Gosforth for a quick walk round and saw at least 3 treecreepers at different points throughout my walk round.  Very quite otherwise.

I then went for a wander round Prestwick Carrs and just over the road from the White House on the way in was the Ring-Necked Parakeet which nibbled away at the growing buds for over 10mins before flying back to sit on the window sill of his adopted home.

On Wednesday afternoon, up the bumpy track I honed in on the Tawny Owl which has become a bit of a fascination to me.  A further session with my new toy (digiscoping) produced the following:

In the Horse Fields the Wheatears, 4 of them, were conspicous even from quite a distance although they were at the very limit of my equipment as the following pic will verify.

Once again approx 2-300 Golden Plover dropped in but again at quite a distance away, amazing plumage through the scope but not through the camera lens.

Other birds of note were several Willow Warblers, only 1 Chiff Chaff heard and seen and a Grasshopper Warbler reeling (only a couple of times), maybe its the weather as it was coldish with an occassional spit of rain.  A couple of deer were spotted over towards the woods

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Babies and Bullys

Sunday afternoon and off to a well known birding haunt in Durham.  Spotted a couple of GSWoodpeckers, ChiffChaff then into main hide where Sedgedunumwarbler and friend were sitting down to a Wallsend 3 course meal (3 different kinds of sandwich).  After being talked to death by him (you all know what he is like) which I think was a ploy to allow Carole control of the camera enabling her to take most of the following pics.  The first chicks (6 of them) we have seen this year paraded around with the beloved tut tutting that the mother wasn't paying them enough attention.

Note the size of the feet already

There were several butterflies swirling around including Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Whites and a few Orange Tip (unless it was a single which flew around in front of the hide for about 90mins).  The Bullys were in fine form and put on a good show for all of us although getting them together for a happy couple shot (off feeders) was impossible.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Bits and Pieces from Saturday

At Creswell very early I espied this Pied Wagtail sitting watching the Avocets and thought it might be thinking " they are black and white like me so will I grow up to be like them"

A pair of Grey Partridge hiding near the Budge Screen which were continually being harassed by a pair of Lapwings

Shovellers flexing their wings with a couple of circuits of the field before plonking themselves down in the same spot they took off from.

One of the many Meadow Pipits on the open area north of Druridge entrance.   There was plenty of Skylark, twite and Linnet around also

Finally up at Prestwick Carrs this (to me) exceptionally big Buzzard soared around for a good 10mins and in various positions seemed very light coloured

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Tawny Owl

After a morning up at Cresswell and Druridge looking at the delightful Avocets, Yellow and White Wagtails, Twite, Linnet, Grey Partridge and Wheatear to name but a few (dipped on the Shorelark unfortunately) off I went to Prestwick Carrs to look for the Tawny which Peter had reported.  Like Dick I was also well armed but also took my Digiscoping kit and my No 1 Spotter (the wife).   After having a look round we also spotted Mistle Thrush, Wheatear, Curlew, a bloody huge Buzzard and Golden Plover (note to self, must check what I wrote as after the post being up 12hrs I noticed I had typed Golden Partridge instead of Plover).  Then off to seek the Tawny.  It wasn't as hard as I thought as it was in exactly the same place as last year.  We spent an hour watching it, and with the aid of my Mr Nikon new scope and digiscoping kit the following pics and video were produced.  Pictures not as good as last year but it was delightful to watch it.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Gorgeous Garganey in Gosforth

Sunday morning and off to Gosforth Park.  Walking to the hide the woods were alive with bird calls/song.  Noteworthy views were several Long Tailed Tits, a Treecreeper and a Nuthatch.   At the Lake Hide there were quite a few ducks showing including the 2 I had really come to see, the Garganey.

The pair eventually dozed off in the morning sun between the showers which brought quite a lot of Sand Martins feeding on the waters

30 Seconds of Gorgeous Garganey

Not far from the hide I spotted (been there about 2hrs) a Snipe which was obviously sitting its final NVQ 2 Camouflage exam which I gave it a pass for

This shot was taken with my Nikon DSLR and heavily cropped

This following was one I tried out my new digiscoping skill (dont laugh) but think I need a few more lessons before I can even upgrade my skill level from bloody useless to incompetent

Now some Posing Pochard which are just stunning (the bird that is, not the pictures)

A couple of Little Grebes squawked their way round the lake the whole of the time I was there so it would be a shame not to include a picture of one of them

Finally on the way out some 5hrs later I bumped into this little beaut and we just stared at each other for a few minutes before it wandered away.  At last Im now learning to stand still for a while before grabbing for the camera and scaring things away