Saturday, 30 June 2012

The Storm On Thursday

My sympathies go out this morning to my friend John Atkinson (aka Sedgedunum Warbler) who was one of the victims of that awful weather on Thursday.
I visited him yesterday afternoon and the ground floor of his house are ruined.  You can see the water marks at least 2 foot high all over.  His car sits outside with water marks on the top of the bonnet probably ruined.  His calmness when Carole and I visited yesterday was amazing as he chatted to to us and the Gas/Electric Man who was informing him that his Gas was off and would be for some considerable time and Electricity limited. 
John, Margaret, I hope everything goes OK and if you need a hand, you know who to call. 

Other victims of the bad weather on Thursday were the 4 young Common Terns on the island at Big Waters.  The water level has risen dramatically and the island is completely flooded which also means the Black Headed Gulls nest is also gone.  The Great Crested Grebes now seem to be fighting a losing battle with their nest which yesterday morning had 3 eggs but was barely visible although the Grebes were still attempting to keep it afloat.  The Gadwall ducklings have now reduced to 8.  

Thursday was a bad day for many of us and puts my small problem with my shed and my neighbours failure to replace guttering after the bad winter 2 years ago into perspective.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Nightjars and Woodcocks

John and I set off at 18.00 for the wilds of Slaley Forest with 2 birds in mind, the Nightjar and Woodcock.  Arriving at 19.00 and parking at X marks the spot kindly supplied by Keith B as the best spot to watch from  we set off for a 2hr wander around.  Plenty of Fungi, lots of slugs (strange thing was that the Slugs on the outside of the forest were big and fat and the ones on the rides inside the forest were slim and short and some were brown) quite a few Meadow Pipits, a few Gulls, plenty of Robins and too many bloody trials bikes ridden by a couple of men who looked nearly as old as me.  We bumped into a couple of people from Durham Wildlife Trust and as we were standing chatting a Tawny Owls distinctive call drifted across the Fell, we also head Red Grouse on several occasions inevitably followed by shotguns blasting off many times over a 2hr period.  Eventually we got back to the car and I thought that the warnings about Midgies were somewhat over exaggerated but 30mins later I realised the warnings were true.  We started looking and listening seriously about 21.45 but didn't hear our first Woodcock until about 22.20 and another 3 possibly 4 in the next hour, 3 of which we also saw but only as silhouettes as they went over our heads.  I heard a Nightjar for a few seconds but it seemed far away.  Then we both saw a bird flying over thinking it was a Woodcock but as it banked the lack of longish bill made me realise it was probably a Nightjar but unfortunately it then vanished behind the trees so no real confirmation.  We then spotted several Bats (or possibly the same one several times) so out came the camera for an attempt to get a picture LOL (see pics at end).  Then we headed for the car for a 10min break as by now the midgies were intense.  Got into the car and so did a couple of hundred midgies so we didn't spend too long in there and on getting out John immediately picked up the distant churring of a Nightjar.  We headed towards it and must have walked 4-500m before we realised it was right in front of us only about 20m away but couldn't see anything.  Even when it stopped it only did so for about 15secs then started again.  We listened and looked for 25mins then headed back, once again encountering several Bats.  A great experience which I hope to repeat again in the not too distant future.

A view towards the Fell from the South side of Slaley Forest

All the White "Splodges" are Midgies

Trust John to Find a Place with Few Midgies

South Side of Slaley

Note the Bat at the Bottom

The Best of My Several Point and Shoot as John Shouted Bat

Lots of Toads and Frogs on the Road out of Slaley

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

I Was Going To Call This Post "FUTILITY" but........

Its now 4 days since the Great Crested Grebes decided to lay an egg on what we thought was going to be a breeding platform, but then on Saturday a first egg was laid and then lo and behold on Sunday another egg was seen although they didn't seem to be paying much attention to them.  Then at about midday on Sunday they decided to pay a bit more attention to the nest when the mother of  all intense rain showers occurred.  The sky went from Clear to White Cloud to Grey Cloud to you couldn't see the bloody sky because of the heaviest burst of rain that it has been my pleasure not to be in.

After the rain I would have put money on the nest disintegrating but to my amazement it was still there over an hour later and three days on it is still afloat, but, I have this feeling that its demise is as inevitable as the Titanics from the second the lookout  in the Crows nest shouted "Iceberg".  Its only redeeming factor is that it is in the middle of the pond where it can see the Otters coming from all directions !!  The Otter has already passed it a couple of times but obviously its waiting for its "food to be cooked".  Actually they are probably just beginners at the game and if they had played their cards right like Sofia is going to they could have been set up in a nice little semi detached supplied by their local Council.  Hopefully they will succeed as its been a while (will have to ask Alan when the last success was) since the pond saw the little pitter patter of obvious "Toon" fans (black and white, get it).  Here is a couple more pictures taken in the last couple of days of this daring couple and their possible offspring (anticipated birth date 20th July) so start thinking of presents now.

Great news, a first for Big Waters.  As Alan J and myself were in the main hide yesterday, from out of the NW corner a line of ducklings appear and we both started counting them, we both reached the figure of 11 when Alan said "They are Gadwalls, not Mallards" so I grabbed the camera and took a few pics.  They then went straight to the reeds in front of the hide and were not seen again yesterday.  Today all we saw was the adult female who only gave us a 10 second glimpse then flew back into the reeds, hopefully to be with her young ducklings.  These are the first ever Gadwall to breed at Big Waters so if anyone sees them please put it in the book or send an email.

Finally, yesterday Alan did the Constant Effort and I was assisting as usual by holding things (up), twisting the odd net, breaking the odd pole, losing the odd tie but otherwise being very helpful.  Another birder came into the hide and we mentioned that we had caught a Sedge Warbler that had previously been in France.  The birder who shall remain anonymous to protect his stupidity  identity then asked the obvious question


Pick the answers they were given and it wasn't c.

a.   It tweeted in a French Accent

b.  It said "bonne journée, je viens de Strasbourg, en France"

c.  It had a ring on its leg which said Strasbourg

Monday, 25 June 2012

Weekend - Started Bad, Finished Good

Saturday started off bad, lots of rain so a trip to Laverock Hall Farm to replenish the depleting bird feed supplies along with Carole seemed a good idea and whilst doing this we heard an advert/chat with someone for a Kitewatch day over near the Derwent so what the hell of we went.  Stopping for a Full Monty at the Coffee Quarter on the Team Valley then onto Winlaton Mill Car Park where we had heard on the Radio that it would be signposted from there (No Signs).  Started walking up the Kite Trail and noticed a couple of banners saying it was on but not where.  Asked a few people including a couple of obvious birders but nobody knew anything.  Headed back to the car and thought ask at Thornley Wood.  At Thornley I asked a "Warden" who came out of the offices but to be honest he talked to me like I was a child and just said head up there then turn back on yourself, its on Kite Hill, how far I said, its on Kite Hill everyone knows that.  "I dont know Kite Hill" I said but no answer was forthcoming and he walked off shaking his head like I was some sort of pillock to prune the bushes around the centre.  Headed up to Far Pastures and down the track, asked another couple of birders who hadn't heard of the event either.  I later found out that the event was from 10-2 but when BBC Newcastle interviewed the chap at about 11 who was giving the impression that he was organising it he said he was in the house so didn't think there was any hurry.  Anyway as we came out of Far Pastures we spotted a couple of Red Kites heading up towards the Sherburn estate area so headed up there and spent an enjoyable hour watching some stunning flying displays by 4 or 5 Red Kites leaning on the bonnet of the car.

After that we went to one of my early morning spots and watched Sand Martins and their young along with Grey Wagtails and a family of Blackcaps which held our attention for another hour.  Off home we stopped for a walk on the Tyne Bridge as Carole hadn't seen the Kittiwakes yet but she was visibly upset as the first nest we saw had an adult prodding at an obviously recently deceased chick and without using Bins I could see another 2 deceased and one in an obviously distressed state all in different nests.  No pics of Kittiwakes today  but a couple of  our local landmarks.

Sunday and the rain stopped just in time for the Walk around Big Waters.  Nothing unusual cropped up on our walk round but when we got to the first hide Alan said the Common Sandpiper we saw earlier was now on the Island, I looked at instantly raised the ante to 3, then Alan came back with 4 and finally Ian top trumped us with 5.  There were also now 5 Common Tern young on the island.  The pair of Great Crested Grebes had built a platform/nest in the middle of the pond which had an egg in it (more of that in another post later)

Finally, that Warbler was at it again, bombarding our ears with a multitude of calls, some say it isn't, some say it is, heres a bad couple of pics but the only ones so far, now where did I put my 8 Track Recording Machine and can anyone out there carry it from the car to the hide for me please

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Common Terns/Carp

Beautiful weather yesterday (Wednesday) so managed to get away for a couple of hours to Big Waters yesterday.  The dipping pond was like Piccadilly Circus with all versions of Damselflies filling the place although they were slowly being decimated by young lad with big stick watched by Grandparents.  A 5min chat and the lad had stopped and was pointing out the different coloured ones to his now more enlightened grandparents and asking why 2 had joined together to make pretty shapes (left that to them to answer).  Well that was my good deed for the day done so off to the 1st hide where to my surprise there were at least 2 Common Tern chicks on show on the island.   Alan J arrived and told me that there were at least 2 in one family together but it looks like that had been reduced to one so it looks like that at least 3 had hatched though only 2 could be seen now but there was at least one more Tern still sitting on eggs.  Just hope the Otters keep away this year.

In the main hide at least 3 large Carp were visible in the shallows next to the scrape, managed to get a short video of a couple of them

A couple of Black Headed Gulls are attempting to build a nest on the blind side of the tree in the pond but looking at the size of some of the sticks/reeds they are taking it looks like the start of a Skyscraper

Noted in the hide book that the Blue Streak was seen twice yesterday

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Usual wander round Big Waters on Sunday brought my first views of the the new family of Signets.  There seems to be at least 5 so far although there are still 2 eggs on the nest although it dosen't look like they are being brooded as the nest just seems to be a base of operations for them now.

Also during the week 4 Great Crested Grebes were seen, a 3rd Osprey of the year went over (dipped on all of them, so far) and the Tufted Duck count is now up to the staggering total of 5.

On Monday morning I went out early before work for my weekly check of the Kittiwakes and some of the "Young Uns" are coming on quite well although there is still quite a few still sitting on eggs.   A few photos taken in decentish light for a change follow:

A bit of Wing Flexing already taking place.  This individual continually flexed during my 45min stay

A couple of flight shots but the 2nd one was a bit of a mystery, the shot before and after it were quite decent but cant figure out why that one looks as if the bird is enveloped in mist, but I actually like the look of it.

Finally a couple of videos of the young Kittiwakes taken with my new Camcorder which my beloved gave me for our 30th Wedding Anniversary.  The first video is the one Carole likes the best (when I first showed it to her she went Aaaahhhhhhh) and I prefer the second one.

Always use the UTube button and play in HD on Large Screen

Monday, 18 June 2012

Sh****ng On Your Own Doorstep

Due to ones heavy workload and inability to get out a lot due to other commitments I have taken on an unwaged person to the Howdon Blogger staff after his continual pleading.  AJJ has been a regular at Big Waters for a short while and is now learning his way around.  His photography skills are second to anybodies but in order to secure his services I have to give him Birdwatching lessons to try and improve his limited skills.  Well he forwarded his first pic to me yesterday and personally I think it is a pile of shite but I promised I would post it to see what the public think.  

The birds everyone loves to ring Stock Doves

Last Friday, I managed a day off and was going to do a few birdy things but due to the weather it was cancelled so got dragged out to see the Olympic Torch by the wife who then took a few pics, guess which one is me

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Getting As Much Birding In As Possible

Out for an a early wander on Thursday and whilst walking along a path a loud squeal and a thump made me turn round and lo and behold this not so little bedraggled thing was looking at me.

It was severely bedraggled but not 5m above me a Magpie was giving audibles at an astonishing rate so I just walked off and within 10 secs the Magpie fluttered down.  "Good Luck Little One

A Coal Tit was flying back and forth feeding some young in a unknown place as it kept vanishing
into some dense shrubbery.

Thursday night the BBC said it would rain heavily and for once they were right - anyone out there in that awful weather - I was (watching Olympic Torches Kissing) getting wet (Damn, I could have gone birding)

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Early Morning Stroll

The weather looks bloody awful for Friday and Saturday so to compensate I had a couple of early starts before work.  Up to the Derwent and as soon as I got out of the car a Mistle Thrush just sat and watched  as I unpacked my Tripod and bag, got my camera out, one pic and it was away.

Further up the path I set up next to the open area where the Grey Wagtails normally feed from the stones in the river but there has been a sharp rise in the water in the last few days so no stones are showing then to my suprise one came and perched only 3m from where I was standing.  A couple of shots then he gave me a long look and off he went.

Decided to head downstream for a change and I was so glad as I spotted 3 juvenile Grey Wagtails spread along the bank.  I'm not sure when they become self sufficient or even if they are feeding at all but the 2 adults never approached them and neither did the juveniles make any effort to feed at all.

A small video of a Grey Wagtail making itself pretty and another prancing around
Remember its best to watch it through the UTube button and put on full HD in a Large Window

A Blackcap family of 2 Adults and 2 Juveniles was tucked away but the male kept popping up all over the place although the others stayed right at the back of a tree.

I also came across at least 2 if not 3 Wren families in a 400m area with at least 2 Juveniles in each one although I did get a glimpse of 4 moving together but dont know whether it was the complete family or not.

10mins in the centre of Newcastle to have a look at the £100,000 worth of Olympic Rings which they finished at 4 in the morning on Tuesday but leaving the bridge footpath on the East side closed due to the workmen not removing the cones/fences which stopped me walking along to see how the nesting is coming along.  Dropped down to the quayside and was quite impressed with what had been done.

A couple of shots of  Kittiwakes a bit away from their nests (Don't we all like a bit of time to ourselves)

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Damsel Rescue at Big Waters

Some Creepy Crawly (Damselflies) pics taken over the weekend at Big Waters

Now this poor chappie was in the pond completely waterlogged so Sedgedunum Warbler
in his other role as Lifeguard donned his red trunks, red hat and with his big pole!! managed
to get it to dry land and laid it on the rail.  Within an hour it had dried completely and then as
we left it decided to fly off also. 

Spotted this chap across the pool crawling up and down the inside of the reed.
A quick glance at him and I thought he was on his back but then realised the
three blue dots which to my mind looked like a face must be some sort of
predator protection function.  Was going to put it on ISpot but then thought
there must be some clever/knowledgeable/anoraks who read this blog who 
might just know. 

Monday, 11 June 2012

Marsh Warbler

A short video, now if only I could get the sea to quiet down so I can record the song.

 Play through UTube at Highest Quality with Sound at Full

A few different views of the above very accommodating Marsh Warbler at Hadston Carrs.
The 3rd one is my favourite, a tiny bird in a moving sea of reeds.