Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Too Busy To Do A Full Blog

Saturday and Sunday I had my usual visits to Big Waters for the major part of the day with a trip to Gosforth Park Feeding Station post Big W on Saturday and Newbiggin on Sunday for an hour, adding Black Redstart to my year list, before shooting off to Big  W for a wander round with Alan, Ian and Keith.

I am quite backed up with admin chores around the house at the moment and doing lots of little jobs I have been putting off for a rainy day (its bloody bucketing now) so you wont have one of my diatribes to read (if you bother of course).  So here is a few pics from the weekend in no particular order.

One of a 140+ Greylags at Big Waters on Saturday

Reed Bunting pic with a bit of artistic flamboyance after playing with the settings

Partly frozen Big Waters but still plenty of birds around

Gorgeous looking Nuthatch at Gosforth Park

Med Gull at Newbiggin (7 on the beach)

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Iceland Gull - North Shields

Shot off from work at 16.00 and was at the North Shields Fish Quay by 16.25 and the following pic was taken at 16.29 in the ever increasing dark

The adult Iceland Gull did put in an appearance but flew around then dropped behind the shed.  The gulls on top of the shed were spooked a couple of times but the Juvenile either stayed or was one of the last off.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Quiet Day On The Patch

Sunday morning and off to Big Waters for a wander round with Alan J and Ian D but the wind and rain conspired to put us in the hides but even then it got a bit wet and windy inside.  The pond had the usual collection of stuff although the numbers were a bit up on the last couple of visits.  Plenty of Goldeneye with the highest count reaching 13, the 2 Whooper Swans were still around, 3 Tufted Ducks stuck together like glue and more than half a dozen Cormorants managed to stick around in the wind.  We wandered up to the main hide inbetween squalls and found that the water by the hide was still frozen with a few Mallards standing or sitting on it.  Good look round but nothing much around and despite Alan's promise not to move from the Feeding Station windows until he had spotted a Brambling, nothing flitted into view and no new species for the year made their way onto my list.  Didn't take many pics but heres a couple I did.

Nice sunrise at St Marys but the wind was bloody awful and only stayed out of the car for 15 mins

12 of the 13 Goldeneye sticking in a tight group

The 2 Whooper Swans with their heads up for change

Why Mallards like to stand on ice beats me

Barnacles arriving with the Greylags.

Ducks gathering in the North East corner to avoid the wind and 
the 2 Otters that were patrolling the fringes.

Just another quiet day in that little jewel on the edge of Tyne and Wear

Saturday, 21 January 2012

First Border Crossing into Durham of the Year

Couple of more shots from last week which I have just got round to taking off the camera tonight.  
The first one is the Greylags arriving at Big Waters with one of the Barnacles tagging along on the end.

At Killingworth the lake was 75% frozen with all the Mute Swans tucked away in the biggest bit that was Ice Free and with this Gull looking on wondering if there is any space left for a swim.

Back to today and I had all sorts of things planned but the weather changed that so I thought a venture over to the other side of water starting at Shibdon where I bumped into George on his morning walk and had a nice catchup chat whilst looking over the pond for the Glaucous Gull.  Next visitor to the hide was Stephen B, a new birder but one who has the same Fuji as me but also has a TCx2 which he let me try out, thanks Stephen.  Then Ron H and his bazooka dropped in but unfortunately it didnt get much use as the Glaucous still did not appear but we were told it had been seen at Stella.  We did see a Kingfisher, several Dunlin, Snipe, couple of Sparrowhawk although the wind and rain at times did make viewing rather difficult.  Heres a couple of pics.

Had a quick run up to Far Pastures where several others had had the same idea and were wandering around the car park looking for the Firecrest but to no avail.  Several Goldcrests, a couple of Treecreepers, and the usual tits and finches kept us entertained especially when you put a little food down.  A couple of Red Kites wandered over but had put by camera away by then and only had long distance shots although it was a year tick.  My last port of call for the day was Lamesley where I saw my 2nd Kingfisher of the day but there was very little variety with only Curlews, Teal, Mallards and lots of Gulls on display which I studied but couldn't turn them into anything more exciting.

Back home early to get my new router installed by son Gazza and my new phone connected properly.  I remember 25 years ago I was teaching them how to programme in basic, building computers, communicating with compunet, black boxes etc etc and now I need them to get my bloody phone working.

Looking forward to my Sunday tour of Big Waters tomorrow providing that the BBC has predicted correctly

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Short Eared Owls & Other Pics From The Weekend

A few pics from last weekend which I have just finished doing post production (a little cut here and a little sharpen there) on as I went snap happy and took hundreds.

Mary Poppins tells us we must "start at the very beginning" but this is the final pic I took this weekend as I was heading home from Cresswell it was just perching next to the road about 200m before the purveyor of all that is fantastic (the Ice Cream Shop).

This beauty landed on the ice at Gosforth park hope it had a bit of protection down below as it seemed surprised that it was not water.  (Can they tell when they come in to land if it is water or ice??)

Once again a Short Eared at Cresswell but this time on the posts by the watch point.

Delightful Stonechat which kept us thoroughly entertained between bouts of Short Eared Owl activity

A couple of  "Happy Snappers" at their Roosting Area hoping a
Professional will come along and show them how the big black
things work If anyone sees them please take pity and give them a
bit of advice cos if you look at their places where they put their
happy snaps K's and M's you will see they definitely need help.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Coloured Rings

Have received a few reports back of Coloured Ringed Birds Nick A and myself saw in December which I had mentioned briefly in a previous post but have had a spare hour whilst waiting to go to the Doctors for my  annual 100 Blog Service

Ringnumber 896215 First ringed on 19 May 2009 at Sandgeroi, Iceland and has been back and forward to Whitley Bay on at least  3 occasions since then and has been reported over 70 times in both places

Pic by Paul McMullen

Was one of seven birds ringed between March 1998 and February 1999 on the Amble to St Marys coastline.  A single ring is missing on the Right Tarsus

Ringed 3 Feb 2000 at St Marys Island, Whitley Bay (BTO Metal Ring No SX83315) as an adult (born before Summer 1999) In recent years it has been reported at St Marys in December 2009, January, September and November 2011.

Ringed at St Marys by me (Robin Ward) on 3 February 2000 as an immature (born in 1999) BTO Metal ring No SX83306.  I've no recent sighting of this bird so great sighting - Many Thanks

Unfortunately no pic of this bird

Sunday, 15 January 2012


Saturday morning and before going to Big Waters I thought an hour at Gosforth Park might be worthwhile so arrived there about 07.30 and even then there was 2 vehicles already there but off to the hide I went but it took me over 35mins to get there, 10 lovely deer, 5 in the West fields and 5 in the woods kept me hanging around for a while. They ones on the field knew I was there immediately so had to keep still but after 5 mins watching I started along the path and they started also heading in the same direction but keeping the same distance, 3 more appeared on the path directly in front and another 2 wandered in from the woods but as soon as they saw me they were off.  

Them watching me watching them

Onto the hide but stopped again by 2 Greater Spotted Woodpeckers drumming away marking their territory and the woods were alive with Blue and Great Tits.  Eventually arrived at the hide and was surprised to only find Paul McM there who was staring through his lens and said he couldn't move cos he could see a Bittern through it (just) but when he looked away he couldn't make out where it was.  So after a lot of directions (blind leading the blind thing) and 25mins later I stumbled on it.  It was only 30m away but in the middle of the reeds.  After 10mins I realised there was another about 6ft away when it moved, Paul spotting it also.  Watching them both I took my eyes away from the scope and a Bittern took off from the reeds and flew  behind us, I asked Paul which one had gone and he said he had saw the one fly also but there was 2 still there, sure enough there was still 2 there.  A few minutes later one of them flew across the pond and landed about 15m from the hide where it started walking in and out of the gully and reeds for the next 2hrs.  Meanwhile the other one decided to get to the edge of the reeds and do that amazing balancing act that they do on top of the reeds.  It was without doubt a great 3hrs viewing (btw, didnt get to Big Waters).  Here is a few pics taken in amazing sunlight which makes everything look golden but for a special head and neck shot check Paul's here.

These 2 were the earliest shots I took when the sun wasn't that intense
and me and Paul were absolutely shivering in the hide

Can't remember the sun disappearing and the settings didn't change  but it was in 
an area where there was shade 

If you look at the Bittern's legs you can see their proper colour where the reeds are
putting them in the shade

Finally, I took several hand held videos (you can tell my the wobbling which was caused by the bloody shivering).  They are in full HD but they look much better if you view them in the UTube Viewer

Saturday, 14 January 2012

"Undisclosed Location"

Had a day off work yesterday so did a trawl up the coast in the fantastic light dropping in at most of the reserves on the way.  I don't have time to do a normal "long-winded" blog but at my last stop yesterday there were at least 3 if not 4 Short Eared Owls hunting from about 13.30 till 15.30 and a couple of my friends who were already there said if I put it on my blog a lot of those bloody photographers (LOL standing there looking at their lenses on a gimbal which is heavier than all my gear put together) would be around and they wouldn't be able to get parked.  Now as most people know I'm not a supressor of all those rare birds I have self found (started LOL again and had to take a sup of my early morning cuppa remembering all those rare birds I have self found and 2 seconds later I resumed typing).  So now in my 4th calendar year as a Birdwatcher (someone said that to me the other day) I realised that I cannot suppress this vital information fully so have done what all those photographers on Bird Guides, Flickr etc do and publish a photograph and say yes I have seen them but use the caveat "UNDISCLOSED LOCATION" so here is a pic that I managed to snap with my camera which cost just a couple of quid more than a gimbal at an undisclosed location.

Short Eared Owl at Undisclosed Location

Monday, 9 January 2012

A Fun Fuji Weekend

Saturday and off early to play with my new Bridge Camera, the Fuji Finepix HS20 EXR, thought it was time to upgrade from my now ever so old Fuji which has had more drops and bangs than any of my equipment.  The first pic I took with it earlier on in the week was a memento of a momentous day in my life, the Bus Pas for Wrinklies - my first Zero Fare ticket.  Cant see myself using it a lot at the moment but might be handy when I eventually finish work and don't have to shoot off at dawn when I'm off work to get the maximum birding time in

Headed off to Gosforth for a couple of hours before going to Big Waters on Saturday,  no Bittern but there was a trio of Snipe who failed their camouflage test as I spotted them, a few ducks on the pond with my first Pochard of the year and an hour in the hide with Paul M, Davy and Nigel T was quite agreeable.  I bumped into Terry C on the way out, looking like a pack mule as he lugs his big lenses around.  I stopped at the Feeding Station for 10mins where a couple of Nuthatch, Treecreepers and Woodpeckers were "showing well" until a Sparrowhawk put paid to the chatter and everything went silent apart from Jeff and Paul banging away repairing the store shed which didn't seem to phase the birds at all.

I then moved on to Big Waters where I added two more bird to my patch list, Long Tailed Tit and Song Thrush.  A pleasant couple of hours spent with AlanJ and KeithB added to the enjoyment.  Then onto Prestwick Carr where nothing had been seen for most of the day but as a lot of people left out came at least 2 Short Eared Owls.  

On Sunday off to Blyth where at least 20 Snow Buntings wheeled around and above the Stubble Field next to the church although a lot of their movement was caused by quite a few walkers and their dogs and during my 30mins there I didn't see one of them pick up any deposits left by their uncontrollable dogs (there is more shit lying round that area than passes through the main inteceptor pipe for the Howdon Sewage Plant), 4 of delightful well under control dogs, ran at me barking with one of them jumping up and putting its paws on my back.  When they eventually get control of their dogs the standard phrase used by these morons spews out "They wont hurt you, they just like people", well how the F**K do I know that, how would they like it if I ran around waving my tripod in the air and stopped just in front of them telling them I was just having a bit of exercise.  A flock of Curlews flew over and eventually landed on the field to the South but a delightful little Scotty Dog, white with tartan coat (thats the owner, not the dog) ran into the field sending them up again and the bloody woman never took a bit of notice as she puffed away on a fag.  The 8 Partridge I saw were quite mobile due to various dogs trying their sheepdog tactics on them.  3 of the owners got together in the middle of a field for a chewing the fat session whilst their dogs ran wild, although I did hear the odd call for them to come back which they totally ignored (thought I heard the call FENTON at one stage also, which made me look up in case I had missed a herd of Deer).  On to Big Waters for a wander round with AlanJ and IanR and as I arrived 2 Goosander flew over my head in the direction of Arcot and then when we got to the pond there was another 5 swimming around.  Unfortunately that was the highlight of the visit but even so the walk was informative and entertaining as usual.

Onto Prestwick Carr where the Short Ears were definitely outnumber by the big lenses.  I tried the panorma shot with the new camera but even cropped that as 50% of it was just hedges.  I did meet a colleague from work, who whilst not an avid birdwatcher is quite interested in the countryside and had come to see the SEOs.  I also went along to show her the Shrike but they had found it themselves.

Well a couple of days playing with the camera is probably not enough as I still hanker for the instantaneous action of my Nikon "instamatic" but the old camera definitely needed replacing.  I will give it a couple more weeks but still feel the need for a 300 F4 (and if that Lottery Win happens I will get an even bigger lens and hopefully hire Maria's Sherpa to carry it round for me)

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Desert Wheatear

Monday took an early trip to Newbiggin, was the first there apart from the Father and Son collecting the Coal Dust off the tide line with the Desert Wheatear just wandering around the tractor and trailer.  I wandered round the beach and it seemed to follow me rather than the normal way round.  Had a bit of seed in my pocket so put some down and was suprised to see it come up and take a couple of bits although it did return quite quickly to looking for insects.  After about 90mins, there was about 10 people there then, I decided to leave and headed down the beach but the Wheatear then flew ahead of me and stopped about every 10m to allow me to take a couple of pics then would set off again.  This went on for about 2-300m with all the rest of the birders trailing along also.  So have added my pics to the zillions that are out there now of this particular bird.  Also visited Woodhorn, Cresswell, back to Woodhorn and inevitably to Big Waters then to Prestwick Carr finishing the day by picking up the beloved and heading off for our last meal of the holidays before returning to work on Tuesday (I Couldn't Wait)

Slightly blurred but shows off the tail well

This one looks like a furry ball in the early morning sun

Sunday, 1 January 2012

The Last Post (of the year - so you will all have to suffer next year)

Happy New Year to everyone, its 07.00 and I'm itching to get out there but the beloved is sitting in bed with a big cuppa and a toasted teacake humming and haahing as whether she will join me or not.  Whilst I'm waiting I have just read John's Blog about his 2 highlights of the year and bugger me if I wasn't with him for both.  His fast lane comments struck a chord also as at 00.40 when the phone rang and it was one of the daughters ringing to say Happy New Year I replied in not quite the same vein of exuberance then passed the phone to Carole rolled over and had a sip of my Lemonade then went back to sleep.

This was my first real year of keeping full information of what I have seen and here are the results of the "Howdon Jury"

Patch (Big Waters) the most important - 112 (but I dipped on the most important - Great Grey Shrike)

Northumberland (including Newcastle and the Tyne) - 197

Great Britain - 222

All Time List - 258 (only since 14 Aug 2009 although I was birding earlier)

Haven't had time to do a blog the last few days, its the fast lane life I lead, so here is a couple of pretty (except one of them) pics taken since 27 Dec.

One of 3 birds that I managed to take pics of with Colour Rings on in the last few days (this is the worst one but it was great to get it flying and see the rings)

One of my favourite birds, the Sanderling, performing their aerobatic lightning fast desplays

Take heed of the sign.  Was driving up Arcot Lane when this Harris Hawk flew down the lane towards the car then veered off at the last moment and I shot this through the window.  I then got out the car and was within 6ft of it when a chap appeared and said it was his.

Back to St Marys very early, no people or dogs, just the odd wierdo with cameras taking pics of inanimate objects (lighthouses) with big pieces of plastic across in front of their lenses (puzzling)

Once again the Sanderlings at rest but all with an eye open watching the idiot with the camera

3 of the 9 White Fronts at Big Waters

And the Final shot of the year was taken by Alan J as he held one of my cameras whilst I did the lying down in the dirt to see through the hedge to take the above picture.  Didn't know he had done this till I got home.  Was going to increase the size of the pic to XL but then again I think I don't have to bother

Once again Happy New Year to everyone with particular felicitations to

Alan J 
Ian D
Alan F
Keith B and C
Paul M
Peter PCW
John A
Jack B
Maria and Sherpa Tensing
John B (Camo Man)
Nick A
Tim S
Nigel T
Willy C
Graeme B 
George from Shibdon

If I have missed anybody out I apologise, blame the wife as she has just asked for another cuppa and I am just here to obey