Sunday, 25 November 2012

Campfield Marsh and the Solway

Picked John A up at 06.00 and off we headed to Cumbria.  My target bird for the day was the Great White Egret but was really going to check out Campfield Marsh and the surrounding area.  It wasn't a big tide but time of the High Tide coincided with no rain, a time of the day coinciding with that big yellow thing in the sky  being visible and me not being at work.  We arrived at Bowness-on-Solway and immediately the speed decreased as we kept stopping and looking at the Solway with lots of ducks, waders and gulls around.  On our second stop I thought we had spotted the Great White Egret but as it bobbed up and down about 300m away I realised it was a Little Egret but that was still a great start.  Other birds on view as we stopped started on our way to Campfield included Knot, Bar Tailed Godwits, Shelduck, Redshanks, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Curlew and a few Snipe were also noted.  Eventually we got to Campfield Marsh and in we went, plenty of small bird action with Linnet, Chaffinch, Robins, Wrens, Skylarks, Dunnocks, Goldfinch, Greenfinch and on the Farmland Pools were lots of Teal, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveller and a few Pintail.  From the main hide there were plenty also including a Whooper Swan and a couple of Roe Deer.   Back out to the Solway and after a tip from a couple of locals and a 50m drive in the car we spotted the Great White Egret although I don't think we would have missed it without the information.  We did spend a good hour watching it though as the tide was dropping now and the majority of the birds seemed to be heading out to the sandbanks in the middle of the estuary.  We then headed along towards Anthorn making notes of places to visit when the weather gets a bit warmer in pursuit of John's beloved Dragonflies.  Just as you reach Anthorn the amount of birds on and next to the water dramatically increases with the far off sandbanks well inhabited with Waders.  Lots of Barnacle Geese around here with quite a few Shelduck around also.  A stop here for 30mins then a return drive took us into lunchtime.  The biggest hint I can give anybody who visits this place is to bring lunch with you as shops are non existent and pubs have nothing to fill ones wee empty stomach.  We actually ended up in Carlisle at a well know establishment that we purchase Latte from frequently.  We then headed off for our other main aim of the visit, the Gretna Murmuration.  We got to where all the action had happened the past couple of years and so had a few other people but as it got dark and nothing happened we headed off into Gretna Green itself and as soon as we reached the Village Shopping Outlet we spotted them.  By now it was very dark and not a great lot could be seen but the noise was tremendous as they dived down into the trees right next to us on the edge of the outlet.  They did about 5mins of Swarming but then headed into the trees.  Not a bad day which would have only been bettered by a longer and better view of the murmuration, mind you one can not have everything although John did as he had John for company (wink wink).  Now for the pics and the vids although not as many as usual as we spent a lot of time "just looking"

For those few who have not visited the area this sign we came across might be handy.

Great White Egret

Barnacle Geese near Anthorn overlooking the Solway 

Finally a couple of videos as well but as usual the reminder is 
that they are better watched thru UTube in HD in the large format

Friday, 23 November 2012

River Tyne, Ponteland, Bee-eater Land and Big Waters Catch Up

Just a couple of things from the last few days.  Didn't have time to do much but got out a couple of times.
Early morning down on the Tyne in Newcastle, went looking for birds down the winding stairs from the Vermont Hotel but the only things seen and heard were Blackbirds with the inevitable Gulls soaring overhead, then a wander along the Quayside but what a beautiful morning.

A trip up to the North of Newcastle and my first view of the Little Owl for quite a while.  If you look at my header picture its the same place and not much different from Allan F's picture.

Remember the Bee-eater, who doesn't, well I still have a few more bits and pieces and this movie gets quite close in whilst it is demolishing a handful of Wasps.
Remember to watch thru UTube HD

A shot of a Grey Heron on "The Big Waters Tree".  
Still one of the most photogenic birds around in my opinion

Finally another small video from last weekend at Big Waters with the Greylag that has more than the standard splash of white about it.  Even the Mute Swan looks at it closely as it passes.
Remember to watch thru UTube HD

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Big Waters Walk

Sunday and up to Big Waters for the weekly wander.  Decided not to head to the hides so started the walk alone at a very slow pace.  The pond was quite full of Wigeon with a definite increase in Gadwall also.  I decided to leave the counting to Alan J when he decided to get out of bed (he needs the practice).  A couple of Grey Herons were down by the bridge but were off as soon as I went their way or it could have been the Otter which I got a couple of glimpses of as it came up the burn into the main pond.   

Down the track the faint call of a Goldcrest had me standing at a tree for 5mins watching it working its way around before it popped out for a photo call, of course it was in the darkest place.

Further on and several Goldfinches with a possible Redpoll in tow but I couldn't get an eye on it to confirm as they bounced along the treetops.  Then a bit of movement in the trees and a Bucks head was spotted through a gap

It hadn't spotted me so when it moved along I followed on behind eventually getting to a point for a better picture but this time it had me in its steady gaze.  We stood and stared for at least a minute without any movement gradually bringing up Mr Nikon to get a couple of  shots.  I only took single shots as I did not want to frighten it off with the Machine Gun effect and it worked as it stood there and I managed a few shots  although I could see slight movement each time I pressed the button.  I took about 6 pics then lowered the camera and the deer then just turned away and strolled off (it was obviously thinking that I was a National Geographic photographer and I had enough pics to select one for the front cover of Decembers edition)

The Stare

Eventually I was joined by The Ex Teacher, Manic and the nice Mr D.  Allan showed me the newly named Grey Wagtail pool (minus Wagtail) as quite a few Greylags arrived on the North Field.   I had seen approx just over a 100 earlier as they did a couple of laps of the pond but they shot off.  By now we were well out into the Bondooks and not much little bird action apart from a couple of Wrens.  On our return to the Reserve a couple of largish birds flew behind the trees and all I had was an impression of a lot of white and thought it was possibly a Shelduck but Alan said it was a Greylag with a lot of white.  On the pond he was again proved right as these 2 seemed to be all on their lonesome and despite other Greylags they just stayed by themselves.

We then popped up to the main hide but not for long as it was bloody freezing in there.   Note the
new Feeding Tables, definitely working well.

On our walk back along the boardwalk several Long Tailed Tits and a ringed Willow Tit were seen then we heard the call of a Redshank, a patch tick for the year.  It flew around calling then went towards the field South of the reserve but couldn't locate it.  Also a pair of Bullfinches were spotted on the way out. Good walk as usual.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Long-billed Dowitcher, Jack Snipe and Barn Owl (Great Day)

Saturday and off with John A to the Long Nanny to try and see the Long-billed Dowitcher.  The BBC lied, it was still raining at 08.45 but being hardy soles we got out of the car and ventured forth (it stopped completely within a few minutes, despite BBC saying 07.00).  A Wren and Robin were greeted us by the buildings by the Car Park (Patrons take note of the new car parking charges which the huge notice said were on the machine - they were but the machine come up with a minimum £2 charge).  The walk along to the Nanny was not very productive apart from the normal gulls and corvids.  The first bird I saw when we got to the Nanny was a Kingfisher which sat there for about 2-3 minutes whilst I tried to guide John onto it from about 50m away so I headed toward where he was and the Kingfisher was off.  We then tried to relocate it but failed so we continued along the path and with 5 seconds of setting off the Dowitcher took off from the grass just 20m away, it flew straight past us and continued going South with a Kestrel joining, seeming to be giving it a bit of grief.   A look around the Nanny produced a few Redshanks and lots and lots of Gulls but nothing else so after 30mins we started back but we spotted movement which didn't seem to be a Redshank across the other side of the burn. A passing birder joined us and got his scope out and after a bit of looking we were onto it (I hadn't brought my orange box to stand on so it was a bit of a performance adjusting the telescope up and down for a midget, tall John A and in Johns word "how bloody tall are you, I'm on my tip toes here" to the kind birder).  Later on in the day we bumped into him and another chap who we also saw and they told us they had got much better views a bit after we left.  Anyway so as not to fill your mind with drivel we headed on down the coast stopping at various places (including Craster for a Craster Kipper Bun)as we headed homewards ending up at Cresswell where some great views of Stonechats were had then up to the hide to see the Jack Snipe.  In the hide we encountered our first fellow blogger of the day, Peter was on Bittern Watch but he and a fellow birder put us onto the Jack Snipe which was unbelievably well hidden as you will see from the video later on.  It was getting quite darkish now but we still managed to see the Long-tailed Duck and the pond was filled with a myriad of birds.  John A was getting distracted with the Starlings going to roost only feet from the hide when a Barn Owl was spotted on the East side of the road, it quickly made a kill but a Kestrel came zooming in and took the kill from it and beat a retreat (why oh why had I not been filming).  I then stopped filming the Jack Snipe and concentrated on the Barn Owl which made some quite lengthy forays up and down its hunting patch before making a kill and it nearly being hit by a couple of cars.  When John and I left we waited a few minutes to see if the Barn Owl would appear again but no luck so off we went and we hadn't gone more than 50m when the Barn Owl came out of the hedge just a couple of metres in front of us prompting a quick application of the brakes.  No wonder they appear regularly on blogs as being found deceased.  Anyway onto the bit all you readers are waiting for, the pretty pics and the fantastic filims (note the geordie spelling).

This film is 2mins 23 seconds of bobbing as the light gets darker and darker and guess what, just
as it gets dark it decides to come out...........a bit.
Mr J Snipe and his amazing camouflage

This is a fuzzyish film of a Barn Owl hunting just a couple of minutes before sunset
for his dinner after a Kestrel stole his first catch.  Watch for the close misses with the
cars (obviously it hasn't learnt the Green Cross Code).
The noise you can hear in the background is about 1,000 Starlings
roosting in the reeds right outside the hide

A Black Headed Gull which dropped onto a post right next to us as were
scanning the mud flats on the estuary at Amble.

One of the 3 Stonechats we saw at Cresswell

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Lest We Forget

Last Sunday I attended the Rememberance Day Parade in Newcastle
and I must admit to a tear or two as it brought back memories.

Then on Friday midday I attended the Light Dragoons Homecoming Parade through Newcastle 
after returning from a tour in Afghanistan.  Amazing turnout with lots of cheering and the
inevitable tears once again.  The following is a small video showing all those brave lads
and lasses who put their lives on the line.  Particular tribute should go to Sgt  Lee Davidson
who gave his all.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Red Kites and Caerlaverock

As a follow-up to my post on 1st November about our trip to Dumfries and Galloway I have cobbled together a couple of videos about the Red Kites and Feeding Time at Caerlaverock.  The Red Kites one is not one of my best works as a lot of stuff went on the cutting room floor as I didn't realise I was going to be so close to the action and some of the movements of the Red Kites as they flashed by were just blurs, you will see what I mean at the end of the video.  I will take that into account next time I go up there.  In the Caerlaverock one it is shot from behind glass but it doesn't affect the quality too much.  A cameo role by the back of Mrs Halls head and her camouflaged pink hat is made towards the end


Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Waxwings At Blaydon

At last I have got round to looking at some of pics of the Waxwings at the weekend so here is a 
sample of them.

We got there and they were already scattered around with about 60 on this tree.

Departing for the opposite bank of the River Tyne where they sat for a while and I managed 
to count 156 although there were still 70 on a tree just a few metres from us

Finally the inevitable Video but please remember to watch in UTube and change quality to 1080
to watch it at its best.  

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Beef-eater (Naaa, thats been done already)

Yesterday, Saturday, myself and John A headed off down to the Fulwell area via Blaydon (intentionally) and Chester-le-Street (unintentionally due to a Satnav malfunction again).  Where we and quite a few others looked amazingly at the Bee-eater once again.  As a result of this I will post a few more boring pics to ad to the thousands that were took yesterday and the 8 days previously by hundreds if not into the 4 figures of Birders that have wandered the streets down there.  These are quick crops with a touch of sharpening but nowt else done.  All of the pics were taken with Mr Nikon although the last 2 were done with Mrs Fuji.
For all those with a penchant for my videos, dont worry, I took many of them yesterday, and they will appear later on in the week, I bet you cant wait, especially you Alan!!!!!!

Take note on this one that I focussssssed on the Wasp so the birds is JUST slightly out of focus

Heading back to its lair with its capture to bash its brains out although I dont know it manages to find it as the canny folk of Fulwell seem to have all picked the same Bee-eater attracting equipment to stick on their chimneys having heard a while ago that one might pop over for an Autumn visit.

Now a couple from Mrs Fuji and I am amazed that the person whose shoulder I took this over had a 2 and a 1.4 converter on a 500mm (I wonder which 3 feathers he managed to get a shot of).

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Sundays Patch Walk & Pictures of Aerials in Seaburn

Sunday I went for the normal walk round Big Waters with the same old motley crew.    Just before the other 4 arrived 6 Goldeneye flew in but only 2 were still here when the others managed to drag themselves from their beds (remember, the early birder catches the birds).  Then quite a few Snipe showed themselves with at least 30 in 2 groups going for a couple of laps of the pond before settling.

The pond was full of birds with large counts, especially Gadwall (31) and Wigeon (263).

Walking round we had some nice views of Redpoll which were happily snapped but then when I saw Allan Fs pics I decided I wouldn't bother to put mine up.   Several Grey Herons were also seen, a couple of Brambling vanishing out of the Feeding Station, Greylags on the North Fields and 3 Roe Deer also.

I then headed down to Seaburn hoping to see the Bee-eater which we had missed yesterday.  I was in luck and spent a good 90mins watching it.

Bit off focus but couldn't quite get it in focus before the Wasp vanished down its throat

Finally the inevitable video (so that Alan can tell me he hasn't watched one yet except for 
the cat and fox) of the Bee-eater returning to the aerial with several Wasps to the on 
and off soundtrack supplied by Myself, Maria and Maria's Nikonnnnnnnnnnnn 

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Last Weekend - Catching Up

Just got round to sorting out a couple of videos I took last weekend
at Big Waters.  The Otter stayed out for quite a while but doesn't
spend much time above water.  The Water Rail came out from its
normal skulking place in the reeds and decided to have a little wander

Also a trip to Gosforth Nature Reserve where the 
Nuthatch was showing quite well

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Dumfries and Galloway

Have just spent a few days in Dumfries and Galloway with Carole.  We just pottered around visiting WWT Caerlaverock, RSPB Mersehead, Galloway Forest Park which includes the Kite Trail and the Red Deer Trail and dropping in to Bellymack Farm.  I had planned an itenerary but as usual this went all to cock on the first day as we didn't arrive at Mersehead till about 4 hours past the anticipated arrival time as we just stopped along the way to look at Buzzards sitting just metres away on telegraph poles or bushes, flocks of Barnacles seemed to be landing in fields all over the place and stopping to try and identify several small flocks of birds and just generally dawdling looking at the countryside and as usual my el cheapo Satnav Lady kept telling me to turn when I knew it wasn't right but of course when a woman speaks the man must obey that is until Carole commented that the road sign said one way and Miss Satnav was telling us to go the other so out came the Map (Carole then guided me !!!!!!!).  The plan then went ever more awry the next day when as we were starting off Carole spotted this amazing looking bakers so we stopped and partook in a couple of cakes with a nice Costa Coffee (we had already had a Full Cooked Breakfast) overlooking the river at Annan for nearly an hour and from then on it was all impromptu.   Here is a few pics of our visit.

This was one of the reasons for our stopping and starting, who can turn
down the opportunity to gaze at a Buzzard.

Fields full of Geese everywhere

Arrived at the viewpoint for the Red Deer and a couple of the Stags were having a little huff and puff but no real action then a Photographer arrived and went right up to fence and stuck his big lens through so this moved the Red Deer back up the hill

Then the Rangers arrived and went to feed the Deer so all animosity was forgotten as about 30+ of them crammed into the small space by the feeding trays

Plenty of Hoopers around with small groups of  4 and 5 spotted all along the coastal route

Quite a few Red Kite seen in the Galloway Forest but then as usual they seem to disappear around midday so you head for Bellymack Hill Farm and we arrived about 1pm and plenty of small birds around including Treecreepers, Yellowhammers, Willow Tit and quite a few of the commoner species.  There is a new RSPB built viewing station which we were invited in to watch the feeding as it was not quite finished although the proper opening ceremony was not till the next day but they confessed it wasn't still quite ready.  The viewing platform outside was brilliant and as we stood there watching the feed being put out we could still only see a handful of Kites but after about 5 mins a Jackdaw came down and tried to get a bit of the action and immediately Kites just appeared from everywhere to see it off and at one stage there was over 50 in the air at the same time.

A great trip albeit a tad cold but bags of Sun, better than the weather in the North East for a change