Wednesday, 31 August 2011

"Did You Put It In The Book", "What Book ?"

Most of the weekend was spent at Big Waters (how unusual) and the following pics of a Great Spotted Woodpecker were taken over the 3 Days.  There are at least 3 frequenting the Feeding Station, 2 of which are now ringed and one that isn't. An unringed one was seen after the bird shown in the last pic was ringed.  I have only seen 2 at the same time but others have seen 3, although this is anecdotal evidence, as most of the visitors that come to the hide can spot birds but haven't spotted where the sightings book is.  When discussions are taking place and someone says "haven't seen a Little Egret this year" and then 2 people proffer their cameras with pics of Little Egrets (taken at different times) and show one pottering about only 10m from the hide, the 15 seconds that is needed to write it down would not make you miss a shot of a Kingfisher or a Sparrowhawk for example.  If these people read the book then they would see remarks made by others telling them where other birds are on the reserve, goldcrests, treecreepers or even a Whitethroat (someone said they have never seen a Whitethroat although they have been coming to Big Waters well before I got hooked).  A few of my "friends/acquaintances/fellow birders and photographers/people who are just polite for politeness sake/those who look down on me (I'm only 5ft 4) " may recognise yourselves but dont worry I wont stop taking the piss
 mickey out of you as long as you dont stop taking it out of me.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Big Waters Osprey

Mid Afternoon yesterday this beauty was over Big Waters for about 5 Minutes circling as though looking for fish but unfortunately it was not tempted but a new patch tick for me although Alan J said its OK its my 2nd of the year over Big Waters.  Will send him this picture to see if it looks like the one he saw earlier which he didn't get a pic of

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Carole And Her Sparrowhawks.

Since the middle of last week Carole has regaled me with stories of the Sparrowhawks that have been terrorising her beloved garden.  She has now watched them take 2 Sparrows and at least 1 Pigeon although I did find remnants of another one 2 nights ago but slipped it into the bin without telling her.  She has been merrily snapping away through windows and each night this week as I return from work she has handed me a camera and said "theres quite a few pics on there".   Well there has been but unfortunately not the best quality in the world but then again neither are mine.  Well heres a few she has taken in the last few days.

I am sure that there are at least 3 different ones using the garden as a Take Away and all of these pics were taken at different times and according to Carole none of the forays were successful.  She says they just wait for me to go to work then come in and out then dissappear just before I get home although the last pic is the only Sparrowhawk I have seen in the garden in the last 2 months and that actually appeared as I was walking up the stairs to change as soon as I returned from work when Carole shouted from the Kitchen "theres another Sparrowhawk here"  I grabbed my camera and got off 3 shots from upstairs as she walked around in the garden.  When I arrived home from work today she once again handed me a camera and said that it had let her down as it had run out of electricity or space or something and she had to resort to getting another camera out of the bag.  I said that it might have something to do with the amount of pictures she took as the word FULL was flashing.  For  the umpteenth time she explained to me in firm tones that she just points and presses the button and its my job to see what she has managed to get.  She had taken 277 pics all of a Sparrowhawks.  The first couple were of a one very early morning then the rest were of a successful attack which commenced when she was refilling the feeders.  She said she was just cleaning out a water bowl when there was a loud thump and a couple of screams.  She turned around and there was a Sparrowhawk with a Pigeon not 6ft away.  She headed into the house and went upstairs to get a camera and started taking pics out of the window then when "the electricity" ran out she grabbed the "little" camera and went downstairs and took a few pics from behind the shed.  As usual the standard was not brilliant but she explained it away saying she was nearly crying for the poor pigeon.  The Sparrowhawk eventually departed after our 2 OAP cats (they are 18 and 19) wandered in.  Carole then had to cover the pigeon with a big plant pot to stop the cats getting at it and when I arrived home I was ordered to dispose of it.  Well heres a couple more pics of hers from today.

God, I hope they dont come tomorrow, 4 nights in a row now going through pics with her but she makes a cracking dinner.

She said "Why do they keep coming to our garden", "No idea" says I

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Pond Over There

Didn't do a great lot at the weekend apart from treading round the patch, enjoying the peace and quiet.   This was broken occasionally by a few cyclists, now I dont mind cyclists, was one myself for quite a while, until knocked off twice in a week by inconsiderate drivers, but the ones that dont bother to indicate their presence because they dont have a bell (buy one here for £1) and say something innocuous like "beep beep" when they are only a couple of feet from you are pillocks of the highest order.  If you are a cyclist and see some prat staring into trees with an outsize pair of glasses just indicate your presence when you are a bit of a distance away to give the idiot on the path (note the word path : A way or track laid down for walking or made by continual treading) ample time to become aware of you.  

Back now to some pretty pics.  The first was taken near one of my favourite spots in the North East, Cresswell Ices.  It was too early to Stop Me and Buy One but the Swallows were gathering and there was a handful short of about 150 gathering on the weird looking wires or are these standard wires and I am not being observant.

It was only a quick visit to Druridge with not a great lot to see so headed off to Big Waters.   Spotted these mushrooms which were a bit unusual, had a whirl at identifying them but failed.  Its the first time I can remember seeing slight spikes on mushrooms but then again I cant remember what I did yesterday at work so the first part of the sentence means nothing.

A Southern Hawker posed nicely for us on a Bullrush in the "Pond over there" as I call it whilst gesticulating with a pointed finger, although Alan mentioned it was called something like "The Outfall Pond to Little Waters" although I probably have that wrong.

There was quite a few birds around but nothing out of the normal apart from a pair of Great Crested Grebe which whilst were both on the pond never seemed to get together.  Also on a walk down the public end a Goldcrest, possibly 2, was showing well.  A Treecreeper also put in an appearance albeit briefly.  Several Migrant Hawkers were spotted and a section of the path was full of Britains most common Ladybird, the 7 Spotted.  Whilst further on a patch with several common 2 Spotted Ladybirds and a yellowish one in the centre of them but failed to get an ID on it before it flew off.    A couple of Small Coppers also put in an appearance and its no wonder they rest for quite a while as when they fly they are certainly one of fastest around.

The next morning back to Big Waters for what I call the Big Walk Round which takes you up towards Dinnington then back around on the South side of the reserve.  On the pond the 2 resident Mute Swans were chasing off a couple of intruders and were making hard work of it for a change as most intruders seem to leave quite quickly but they kept at it obviously didn't want to be shown up in front of their 9 young uns.

Managed to get a pic of the ring number and initial enquiries have it coming from Yorkshire so we await further information.  In the "Pond Over There" came across a Moorhen with a couple of youngish looking chicks which I haven't spotted before.  Whilst watching them I caught a bit of movement and after scouring the tree and bush line a Migrant Hawker was just hanging there and remained so for a good 10mins for its early morning sunbathe.

Other notable sightings on the walk were Kingfisher, 12 Pied Wagtail, 5 Linnet, male Blackcap, Buzzard, Kestrel and many others.  Finally a pic of a Caterpillar which I have spent ages in trying to identify and thus delaying the publishing of this long awaited blog (LOL).  Any clues ?

Sunday, 21 August 2011

"The Horse (Darter) Whisperer" not starring Robert Redford

With my recent interest in Dragon and Damselflies getting more and more an acquaintance invited me out on a balmy day to Big Waters, he stated that in 1998 he had watched the film "The Horse Whisperer" and that conjured up an idea which he had been working on in private with some success and now wanted to show someone the results.  Without explaining his idea he took me to a spot and explained that here was quite a good spot for Common Darters so to be ready with the camera.  He then took off his cap and just stood there and made a strange humming sort of sound that seemed a bit vibratory but within 30 seconds a Darter appeared and flew around his head (although I was unable to get a good focus on it) and eventually it landed on his forehead.  I was going to take a pic but on our walk out to the spot he asked me not to take pics which would give away his identity.

He stopped his humming noise and commenced patting his right arm and the Darter dropped down to the exact spot.  By now I was absolutely amazed but when he started drawing his left index finger up and down his sleeve and the Darter followed it I was more amazed than the committe who were listening to the "Murdochs" at the recent Parlimentary hearing.

He then indicated his right index figure with his left one and started the weird humming noise again.

The Darter after a few seconds took to the wing and flew around my colleague twice then landed on his pointing finger.

He then stroked it a couple of times and turned his hand around allowing me a few more shots.  He then explained (in an exceptionally quiet voice for a change) that it was hard to hold their attention for more than about 40 seconds so in order not to stress them out he would now send it on its way. 

He then made a clicking sound with his tongue and it immediately flew off although it hovered for a few seconds looking back then off it went.  Alan then explained that he had only had success with Darters and Hawkers but found that he could only do it once a day and suspected it was the scent being left that put off others till he had bathed.

Once again I must stress that my colleague does not want to demonstrate this ability to others as he is quite a private and shy person and even asked me to not blog this until just after March next year so if somebody found out his identity then there would be no Hawkers or Darters around.  I pleaded with him and said that if I could blog it now I would not pass his name onto Keith, even if begged me, so with that codicil he reluctantly agreed.

Just a note that all of these shots have only been cropped with a bit of sharpening (as even with my VR on the excitement of watching the above happening made my hands tremble) and the use of Photoshop as is as always banned in my house.  No insects were harmed in the make of this blog.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Saturday Was A Good Day

Friday morning and a quick run up to Prestwich Carrs to stretch my legs.  First things I set eyes on were a bunch of Ruff in the flooded field at the front of Mayfair cottage.  Stayed in the car, photographing through hedges, so as not to alarm them but found out later they were quite accommodating from speaking to someone and looking at someone else's pics.  I then parked up and went for my wander which was not very successful apart from a few Lapwings, Golden Plover and Gulls but did feel a bit better when I got to work.

Saturday morning and off to Druridge arriving by 06.15.  It was extremely quiet and only saw 1 car upon arrival and there were just 2 when I left some 2hrs later.  A quick look from the Budge Screen produced nothing, you could hide an elephant in some of the grass so off to the pond and on the path I bumped into this inquisitive little fella.  He was on the boardwalk when I first saw him and I was just turning onto the path by the seat so I just stopped and after 3-5mins he had worked his way down to just in front of me stopping and looking every 5m or so then he sat for 30 secs staring then just wandered off into the undergrown with what looked like a cheeky grin saying I've finished looking now you can be on your way

The screen at the end of the path produced exactly what the other did "nothing", could hear a few chirps, whistles and miscellaneous thing but all I could see was tall greenery.  The pool hid was a bit more productive as I put my gear down ever so silently, set by bins up and put Mr Nikon close by then silently I opened the first shutter, I had peaked through a gap and could see quite a few Teal dozing by the side of the pool so I raised the shutter and fastened it looked out then the shutter decided to attack my head, luckily I had a hat on which softened the blow but still felt a bit shaken for a few minutes.  The Teal had shot off and not a thing could be seen.  After a few minutes a Common Sandpiper decided to come in for a bath and frolicked around in the water then perched on a couple of stones just preening but with very little bobbing.

The early morning sun then went behind the clouds giving crap light just in time for the arrival of a couple of Spotted Redshank who paraded back and forward for 10mins and whilst getting great view the photography leaves a lot to be desired.  There are some decentish pics on a couple of the blogs, see Alan T's, but heres a few of mine anyway

Also saw a Greenshank but it landed behind the tall stuff and never really stuck its head out so after a couple of hours the pull of Big Waters had me going up the Spine Road  and arriving at 09.15.  Decided to have a look from the Public end but all that was on view was a couple of Cormorants on the dead tree at the island and the Otter dissappearing up the gully on the North side (was the Otter the cause of complete "nothingness" along with the 2ft rise of the water?).  Wandering down to the Feeding Station there was very little to see apart from this little beauty as I was snapping away with my little Fuji

In the Feeding Station there was quite a lot of activity with the Sedge Warbler nipping from table to cage to wherever there is seed (unusual, but entertaining) and seeming to feed at each stop.

A couple of Juvenile Bullfinches with an Adult Male spent a short time checking the Feeding Station then off they went but did return an hour later for another 5minutes.

Also up to 5 Siskins (2 male, 2 female) were flitting around

Plenty of other birds around including a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Tree Sparrows, quite a few Greenfinches, at least 3 Wrens, Willow Warbler, Chiff Chaff which resulted in the pass through of a Sparrowhawk on a couple of occasions.  Meanwhile out on the pond very little was happening apart from the Mute Swans with their band of 7 Sygnets, a few Mallard, Coots and Moorhens and the strange absence of Gulls made one wonder "Where the Hell are they".  On the way out several Peacock and Whites were spotted along with this delectable Red Admiral

I then popped up to Gosforth where it was even quieter but had some outstanding views of a Sparrowhawk as I departed

A great day out was had by one and all (one)

p.s.  couldn't be bothered to check for typos

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Early Morning

An early morning wander round St Marys on Sunday last was great, nary a soul to disturb anything so just sat in a couple of places and watched the world and the birds go by for a couple of hours.  There always seems to be 1 Curlew feeding in the same place on the corner of the beach and several times I have seen it take what looks like a large mussell then fly out to one of the points and stay there until pushed off by the incoming tide, today was no exception

As I stood on the rocks watching the birds flying around a single Dunlin landed only 6-7m from me and just stood there stretching his neck and peering around before settling down for about 5mins in the same spot without moving.

Even when I moved away it just stayed hunched there.  Moving back to the centre of the beach sitting on a rock as the tide pushed the birds up, especially the Sanderling.  As the water got closer some of the birds, instead of running across in front of me, would take to the wing and do a 8-10m flight hop whilst others were happy to walk directly in front of me so it gave me a chance to improve my flight photography skills (NOT)

Ringed Plover
It stayed peaceful until the first dog walkers arrived and put the Golden Plover up which were absolutely stunning then shortly afterwards I headed for Big Waters