Thursday, 28 July 2011

Bottle Art at Dinnington

Last weekend I did a bit more than Southern Hawkers so here goes with a few more pics.  First of all was a Swallow which really stayed put on a fence whilst we approached and only flew off when we were just 6ft (note the non metric measurements - now Im getting old I feel the need to rebel so changing from metric back to the 1824 imperial measurements is on the edge for me)

Next was a peculiar piece of "Urban Art" just outside of Dinnington.  It consisted of quite a few bottle tops (lots of beer ones) hammered into the ground by a budding Tracey Emin/Damien Hirst or just some P****d Up Numpty.

I also think the Blue Flash fanatics better get some bigger lenses as its now twice I have seen it decline the pleasures of the green slime deposited by the wind under the most photographed stick in Northumberland and head over to the island.

On the magnificent Budleia Bush on the path to the reserve at Big Waters a myriad of butterflies fluttering then alighting were a spectacle to behold, there were at least 6 different species flying around including Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshell, Large White and the highlight was a Comma which is not regularly seen in Big Waters.

Also spotted was a moth which I think might be a Barred Umber but the bar across the wings looks slightly different (does that sound as I know what I might be talking about - not likely).

In the feeding station it was lovely to see young Tree Sparrows being fed by their parents.  If you want to know about Tree Sparrows on Big Waters you could listen to Saving Species on the Iplayer where a "local chap" chats to a BBC Radio 4 researcher about them.

Also keeping the people in the hide with cameras on their toes was a very active Common Sandpiper who was all over the place but always returning to the same spot on  the only bit of scrape viewable due to the influx of that wet liquid

Also in the feeding station were a few juvenile Willow Warbler.  They stayed there quite a while until an adult came in and called then they all headed off down towards the other hide .

Time for home but couldn't resist a quick spin past Arcot and arrived just in time to see the 2 Little Egrets heading up to roost high in the trees.

A stunning end to a great day.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The Birth Of A Hawker

On Sunday morning after a brief trip to Arcot where I observed 2 Little Egrets and 2 Grasshopper Warblers I headed up to Big Waters for a check of the Dipping Pond.  To my delight there was a Southern Hawker just emerging from its Exuviae.  It was now about 07.50 and I started taking pics, unfortunately it was a dark morning and they were in a dark (note to one's self, must stop using 2 adjectives, specially when they are the same, in one sentence) corner  but with my amazing "photographic skills" I managed to produce the following record which I stopped at approx 09.30 to go for an amble round with Alan and Ian.

Just after this pic I realised my batteries were running low so ran (ambled) back to the car and then realised that I had dropped my keys somewhere so 10mins frantic searching later when I found them lying by the side of the pond within 2inches of the water I was slightly, to say the least, relieved.  Top Tip No 1 - If you are taking pics lying, kneeling or in some other non natural posture then make sure you have zipped pockets.  Anyway this little upset made me miss the Hawker getting out completely and flipping over (sob sob).

At this stage it hadnt done anything for about 10mins so we all set of on our walk with me expecting it to take about hour or just over which according to the book would be enough time for the wings to dry completely and for it to settle for a while.  The walk got extended and we ended up doing the big circuit nearly up to Dinnington and with the stops to ooh and ahh at all the things we saw, and there were a couple, it was a tad over 3hrs before we returned to the pool.  Unfortunately the Hawker had departed but I did see one flying about but not being a Hawker myself I couldn't confirm it was the same one.

I also took several short videos (saves me editing long ones) which I will bore all 2 of my readers with in my next post after I have looked at them myself to see if they up to my usual Conrad L. Hall standard (not a relation unfortunately).

ps.  was out with John A (Sedgedunum Warbler) at St Marys last night seawatching (along with the rest of the Northumberland Birders going by the reports of Storm Petrels on Bird Guides) and saw 4 of these delightful creatures, 2 of which were very close in.  Might even pop back tonight as conditions seem right also

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Ringing Day

Friday morning and off up to Newbiggin for another session of Sea Watching and after half an hour seeing only a few Common Scoter, a few Gannet and an Artic Skua Andy McC arrived and brought some birds with him.  He spotted a Velvet Scoter (my first of the year) then later on we had 3 Artic Skuas also plus a couple of Black Tailed Godwits, a Red Throated Diver and a small flock of Golden Plover in addition to what was seen yesterday.  Some of the Gannets came close and with a heavy crop were recognisable.

A trip up to Cresswell afterwards (hadn't had a decent ice cream for a few days) and the big bonus was a Pectoral Sandpiper on Lynemouth Flash.  My first ever one in Northumberland.   A half hour in Cresswell hide then headed off to Saltholme to see the White-rumped Sandpiper.  Plenty of people around to point it out so 20mins later I was heading back home, dont normally go for a quick look but forgot I had promised to take the wife for a meal.

Next morning up to Arcot for a quick look round and sure enough the Little Egret was still around and the Grasshopper Warbler was still singing.  A lone Oystercater flew in which it has done on the last 2 times I was there also.

Then off to assist Alan J at Big Waters as his "Bird Ringers Helper" due to John D being incapacitated.  What you learn in 6hrs with Alan is unbelievable although there is so much I need to be told it  2 or 3 times before it sinks in.  The birds ringed yesterday included Tree Sparrows, Wrens, Willow Warbler, Chiff Chaffs, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Dunnock, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler and Grasshopper Warblers although we were hoping for a retrap of probably a day old one we ringed a couple of weeks to see how much it had grown as Alan reckoned it was one of the smallest bird he had ever netted and ringed.  The following pic shows how small it was when ringed:

There is a pair of Moorhens who built a nest quite high in a tree in the Feeding Station and not unexpectedly one of the chicks fell out but bless their cotton socks one spends all of the time time shepherding it aroud.  They then swop over and then the other one looks after the chicks high up in the tree although they sometimes stand at the bottom of the tree calling for the others to jump as they are spending a 100% of their time looking after them and have realised that if the one that fell out of the tree is existing then the others should be out as well thereby making it easier to look after them if they are together.  No jumpers yet though

Friday, 22 July 2011

Wonderful Warblers and Harmed Hawkers

The last of my long weekends for a while produced some nice birds withn a few Northumberland ticks.   Thursday started brilliantly with an intended 10mins at Arcot which extended into 90 at least.  Whilst crossing the road I could hear the distant song of a Grasshopper Warbler then a few steps further another one further on.  It took me all, with my consumate search and find skills, of 30 secs to spot it sitting on top of a bush right next to the track I was walking on.  Knowing they are quite a confiding bird I gradually got to the bush and by this time it had dropped slightly down to the other side.  It carried on reeling then as I shifted my balance to bring up my camera it took off, damn I thought, I knew I should have not taken that extra step but I was completely amazed when it whirled round the bush and alighted on the closest branch to me and started reeling again.  The following pic (uncropped), taken with my trusty 18-200mm lens shows the closest it came to me without me moving.  Its definitely the closest I have ever been to taking a pic of a bird in the open since my previous Grasshopper Warbler taken at Arcot also last year.

Heres a couple more taken from different angles as it moved round.

Whilst I was watching the Grasshopper Warbler I was rudely interrupted by a Little Egret flying over my head and I resisted the temptation to turn suddently and take some pics so had to wait until its flight path crossed the direction my camera was pointing (resulting in crap pics).  Anyway it settled down further down the pond where I managed to get a distant pic of it on the bank.

After Arcot I headed to Newbiggin where fortunately I bumped into Andy Mc who is an absolute wealth of information and had a pleasant couple of hours watching Common Scoter, Gannets, Sandwich Terns, Artic Skua, Guillemot, Razorbill, Manx Shearwater, Puffin, Fulmar with Andy contributing snippets of valuable information.   On Newbiggin Beach I also saw 4 Med Gulls, a Turnstone in absolutely stunning Summer Plumage and a Black Tailed Godwit again an absolute beautiful bird.

I then took a trip up to Big Waters to check out the beastly flying things and found a Darter within a very short period of time of releasing itself from the Xuviae.  I was about 5m away and watching it through the bins when an obviously "well trained" labrador came bounding down the steps ran across the boardwalk behind me then bounded into the outskirts of the pool and rand through the reeds.  It then ran off with its owner shouting for it in one of those wimperish voices you know that every dog just disobeys.  I went over to where the darter was hatching and after a minute or so looking I found it floating in the water so I got it out with a stick (it was still moving) and left it to dry off in the sun but I think it was a forlorn hope as its wings were in a big tangle (I didnt have my bug 1st Aid handbook ready) and as I moved it round still on the big stick to get the best rays of the sun I decided to just leave it as I was not sure whether I was helping it or hurting it.  Anyway I returned about 4.30 and it had gone so I felt better (trying not to think that it had been served up as a starter for some passing bird) Nature is Cruel  (Pity I couldn't do with it what Lesley did with her baby sparrow).  The following is a pic of how I left it.

Then a trip up to Kibblesworth which apart from meeting Mike Eccles who I had a 25min chat with, was quite a dissappointment although I did spot my first Painted Lady of the year, a few Small Heath, a couple of Grayling and a Small Tortoiseshell.

Small Heath

Small Tortoiseshell
I then head back up to Big Waters (see sob story above) and did see a family of Blackcaps although only got this half hidden pic of Daddy.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Wet (But Great) Weekend

Saturday and Sunday was mostly spent at Big Waters where the incessant rain assisted in its renaming to Gigantic Waters.  Despite this an extremely interesting time was had by all (well at least me anyway).   The following interesting facts were noted:

Greater Spotted Woodpeckers do not like rain as this one settled under the feeding table and waited there for 15mins whilst the heavens opened and when it died down off it went.

Sedge Warblers dont seem to mind the rain as an adult sat on top of the reeds singing away whilst it was tipping down and this young one  was perched just a few feet away the whole of the time.

I noticed that the Kingfisher seemed to sit on its perch with its head pointed upwards and when I commented on this a wiser head came up with the hypothesis that it was just making itself a small target just like terns do.

Then as I was leaving on Sunday lunchtime I stopped by the dipping pond to show Graeme some Exuvia I had previously discovered but blow me down there were 2 Hawkers just emerging and after watching them for a while Graeme spotted another one coming out of the reeds then attaching itself to a small branch of a tree.  The Exuvia was just a couple of feet below it.  Then the skies opened again so managed to get a couple of pics of each one then went back to the one that had been freed from the Exuvia and it had gone.  It was amazing to see so here a couple of pics

Out of Exuvia and hanging by the side of it
 If you look at the top left of the pic there is another empty Exuvia which had been there for at least 2 days

Teaming with rain now but Hawker is still attached by the white cord

The above is the 3rd Hawker which had detached itself from the Exuvia and seemed to be taking a breather but if you look closely across from the thorax you can see a bit still attached to a leg.

After discussion and confirmation through pics on the "tinternet" I am now sure it is a Southern Hawker.

Finally on Sunday afternoon when the rain ceased and after a bite to eat and a tub of ice cream at Seaton Burn with the beloved we returned to Colywell Bay as the sun was now beaming through and it was a shame not to do a bit of sea watching whilst soaking up the rays (well at least Carole was ready for it whilst I still had my wellies, slightly damp trousers and polo neck now beginning to overpower the smell of my retro 70s deodrant and aftershave - Brut) .  We were watching some Guillemots and Razorbills being divebombed by a few Sandwich Terns when we started a conversation with 2 chaps walking along the cliffs and after a few minutes conversation they introduced themselves as Killybirder and Tom.  Once again it was great to meet fellow bloggers and hope to see Brian, Tom and the absent Cain again.

p.s also managed to see 5 Common Sandpipers at Big Waters and 2 Greenshanks at Arcot.

Friday, 15 July 2011

3rd Long Weekend, only 1 more left

Big Waters on Thursday morning, very quiet with a quick glimpse of a Common Sandpiper, the Kingfisher on a distant perch for a couple of minutes and a drop in of a trio of Oystercatchers and not a soul to talk to.  On the way out a few Meadow Browns were around the treeline where the 2 fields are split with this being the most well worn one I have ever seen.

Also in the same area on the other side of the track was a couple of Yellow Shells

Off to pick up the beloved and after a quick meal in Killingworth we went for a walk along the cliffs in Collywell and Old Hartley.    Quite a few birds seen but most of our attention was taken up these burks about 1000m of Collywell Bay in a dingy that looked more like something that would be used in a swimming pool.

They were paddling in for about 10mins and when they got to this pot marker the girl in the front clung onto it for a couple of minutes, then they started paddling again with the tide pulling them to the rocks.  People were standing on the beach and I could see them and others on the top of the cliffs on the phones.  They eventually managed to get to the beach (god knows how) and looked absolutely exhausted, just then the police arrived and spoke to them for less than a minute then they left and the Volunteer Coast Rescue arrived and spoke to them also (Why didnt they shout at scream at them but no doubt there is some rule somewhere that says just tell them in a nice soft voice that they are a pair of PRATS but do it in a nice diplomatic and soothing manners so as not to offend their already mixed up emotions, confusion, fright and stupidness),

Anyway just as this finished we bumped into Dick (City Birder), his lovely wife and daughter Linda (Kirkstall Creatures) who writes a great flora and fauna based blog for near Leeds.   After a bit of a chat and a walk further down the cliffs we headed off for an ice cream, unfortunately it was a bit late by then so we nipped to B&Qs for a new bird bath for the garden then headed off for a curry.

Friday morning a trip up to Church Point and a chance meeting with Gordon enhanced my Sea Watching skills (not much to improve on) until the clouds began to change to that "your gonna get wet look" so we headed for the car.  A list of what was seen is on Gordons blog but I can add 4 Med Gulls on the beach at Newbiggin.

Then up to Gosforth to wait out the terns hoping that they would push out the Bittern into plain view but  despite all the mobbing of what I presumed was the Bittern it did not appear althoughthe 2 brief appearances of the Kingfisher did put a smile on Keith's and my face.   We kept our trigger fingers flexible by trying to get mating Emperors in flight (failed miserably) but had more success with Sedge Warblers and partial success with Common Terns against a battleship grey sky

There is now 4 young Common Tern on the platform with 6 adults guarding them ferociously.

Well it looks like a crap weekend  so a big umbrella, flask of coffee and a telescope for a bit more seawatching could be the answer or possibly a few hours in a hide somewhere (I wonder where that could be)