Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Time Off (Guess What? - Its Raining)

Well where will I go wednesday evening thought I as the boss said "Sure John take a couple of days off". Watched the BBC New at 6 with the Met Office retracting their statement made a couple of months ago that we were going to have BBQ weather throughout June and July. Carole is a bit off colour also so no buggering off for whole days either.

I have spent a couple of mornings at Far Pastures before going to work, it is extremely relaxing and puts me in a great frame of mind before tackling the masses of paperwork the end of the Education Year brings. On leaving this morning at about 7.45am there was a strong smell of smoke in the air and when I headed down to Newcastle passing the path to the Thornley Hide I could see lots of smoke and about 100m further down was 2 Fire Engines and Police, couldnt stop and rubber-neck (too much traffic). I checked the Chronicle and listened to local news but didnt find anything. Anyone out there know what happened?????

There has been a Little Grebe keeping me entertained at Far Pastures (all on his lonesome), I have been willing him to come within decent pic distance but no joy.

Got a few sightings of the Kingfisher but havent quite got that picture that you know is the one you want

The Kingfisher appears most mornings but I think you need a bit more natural light to get a better picture or a camera that costs more than my car.
Grey Heron keeps eye on the pond most of the time although none of the other inhabitants seems to be worried about him, its quite comical watching the Moorhens go really close to him and give him an earful as they pass, Im sure I can see him jump when they start on him.

2 of the cats have appeared and are sitting in front of the screen and wont move until I give them their cheesy treats. One of them sits with his paw hanging in the air like a dog and makes the loudest purring noise I have ever heard until I give them their treats. The other one (the female) just sits and looks and Im sure she thinks that why should I do all that when my daft brother is making enough commotion for the two of us. When they have had their treats they then dissappear and lie on the settee, then the 3rd one comes up, he likes different treats but is a bit lazy, he dosent even jump up or make any noise, he just sits by my leg and waits.
Well better wash the dishes and make Carole a cuppa.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

People Get Nicer and Nicer

Got the key for Big Waters eventually so had a couple of visits there. They must have known I was coming so they laid on a flypast for me. I think they had another show to do as well at a small place called Sunderland

The people I met there were outstanding and I was told so much valuable information, especially from John and Allan, the hard bit now is to remember it all. Watched this Woodpecker from quite close and was mesmerised by it.

One of my favourite birds "so far in my extensive birding repertoire" is the Reed Bunting but this time it was now nearly close enough to touch

Its great to look out one window and see the best feeding station I have so far come across then turn around and look out onto a great lake with many different species, not too many waders though, although there is not too many anywhere atm after the "small showers" last weekend.
This attentive Mam never let the wee uns get too far away from her.

Even when I was leaving a resident of the community popped their head out to ask if I had enjoyed myself, he went on for so long I thought he was going to ask me to fill out a Customer Survey Report (which I would have gladly done and given them top marks).

Well back to work tomorrow, might give it one more go at Far Pastures in the morning to see if I can see the Kingfisher again. If he comes I might have some better luck with the pics after a nice young gentleman, Bill, gave me some basic instruction on how to use the camera and when I got home I actually broke one of the males basic rules (I looked at the instruction manual).

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Twas a Good Omen

Arrived at Far Pastures at 06.10 and started getting my gear together, poured myself a cup of tea and leant over to have a look at the log. Walking across the page was the beastie below - picked the camera and a quick pic, didn't notice the word Kingfisher underneath.

Half an hour later the duly noted Kingfisher appeared.

Popped down to Holywell later on at night and took many photos but being a bit of a softie at heart I really like watching the youngsters (specially as they are not mine)

Well time to fill my ever expanding tum, havent been on the bike for nearly 3 weeks although have walked a lot - but it dosent seem to be doing much good as I walked up and down quite a steep hill at work today twice and was bloody shattered. Will definitely go for a couple of rides this weekend prior to going to watch those big metal birds in the sky at Sunderland, cant wait to see the Vulcan again, last time was in 1982 and my weekly trip to Hauxley etc on Sunday.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

4.30am and I was up making the tea and toast. Sorted out the feeders etc in the beautiful morning light then thought what should I do before work, quick shower and by 6.05 I was in Far Pastures. Its quite a lovely place although like most of them the foliage could do with a bit of trimming in places.

I took the following photo of a Reed Bunting and noticed what I would have put down as Red Eye if it had been a "Human", but in this case it looks more a case of beak flash.

There wasn't a lot around but got this nice pic of a Mallard doing its thing.
I also officially saw my first chiff chaff, would have posted a photo but when I actually publish the blog a lot of my photos wont open when you click on them and therefore you just see the scabby little photo I put up, but some do ????
The actual highlight was a 10 second glimpse of a Kingfisher which shot across the whole area and then shot off around a tree to the South in its version of an Immelmann. If the weather is nice tomorrow might go there again, no traffic at that time of the morning and with the School Runs not happening atm then I can nip across the Tyne and get to work in less than 15mins

Monday, 20 July 2009

Back To Work

Well, its Back To Work Day. Have replenished my feeders in the Garden, made Breakfast and am now listening to the News. Back to the Grindstone. On my last day of freedom we ventured South and visited Compen Bewley. It was quite a nice place, with pleasant staff, well kept but there seemed to be a distinct lack of wild life, or then again it might be just one of those days when everything was there 10mins before we came and 10mins after we left. A gentleman on the bank told me that the sign used to read NO FISHING but then again he told me a Tufted Duck was a Teal and a Mallard was an Eider and as he left he was telling his son (aged about 5) to hold onto his hand in case the alligators came running out of the reeds!!!!

Although the feeding station is closed during the summer someone had put some feed up and there were several of these around (Dunnocks I believe)

The Seen Today Board in the Reception Centre had loads of birds and wild life on and I asked the young lady when it had been updated and she said it had been like that for a long time. Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Roe Deer, Stoat all listed along with dozens of others gives a false impression to visitors. Dont get me wrong it was a nice place for a walk with lots of grassed tracks but the map was a bit hard to follow (I did pass CSE Geography) and will definitely go back there again but it just had that "nice and comforftable" feeling unlike other sites where you sit/walk round with that anticipation that something is going to happen at any second. But then again I've only been doing this for a couple of months so what do I know. We then decided to drive by Saltholme as my feet were walked out. Looks quite good although there seemed to be as many people on the road with big scopes looking into Saltholme as there seemed to be in the Car Park.

Headed North to Souter Lighthouse to see what was going on at the Wildlife day there - plenty of stalls with good information being imparted and the bonus was a couple of minutes walk to see the Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Cormarants etc then a trip to Minchellas for an Ice Cream.

Hope to get out in the evening for an hour or two but still havent got a key for Holywell or Big Waters despite going twice to the Wildlife Trust at Gosforth to be told sorry they havent got them in yet (also they want £7.50 for a key).

Friday, 17 July 2009

Sun and Rain

We went to Low Newton today to have our first look at the pond which Newton Stringer mentions a lot. What a lovely part of the County, and the scenery was great. Get the awkward ones over with first - Can anyone help we with this bird ?

We did meet a very knowledgable chap in the hide who helped us identifying lots of birds and gave us some good advice, one minute there was nothing there then all of a sudden loads of "wee birds" were in and out like express trains - forgot to ask his name but he did say he was from Shilbottle. Then along came our first Water Rail, quite a fussy little bird and a bit skitterish.

We were there a good 90mins but then had to depart to fill ones stomach. The walk back to the car was the slowest we have ever made. There is just so much to see on that little track (including the piles of dog shit that are liberally sprinkled throughout the place). Caught a courting couple trying a bit of jiggery pokery but scared them off

The next little fella gave me the eye for staring at him, wasn't bothered as I thought I could take him

Forgot to mention that on our way to Low Newton we popped in to try and catch a sighting of one of the Barn Owls, only one came out this morning but stayed quite far away although he did suprise us and came directly over our heads and then circled for a few seconds (yes, I was changing my batteries at the time) but got a couple of distance shots anyway.

Back to the story, remember our bellies were rumbling so we headed to Craster to sit and look at the harbour and enjoy our healthy meal of wholemeal roll, bit of brie and a fresh fruit salad prepared by my good self. This was given a back seat when the smell of grilled kippers permeated the car park. The wholemeal bun was fed to the sparrows, I ate the brie and the Kipper Buttie was great. The harbour contained 3 Female Eiders plus several chicks, 3 Redshank, 5 Black Headed Gulls, zillions of starlings wheeling about and loads of cute (aaaahh) sparrows.

I also espied a 2nd good looking bird that day with their beady eye on me

With my grumpy old man hat on and my even grumpier wifes we wish to point out the state of the toilets at both Low Newton and Craster. They were both disgusting (I wont bother to describe them), I went into the Tourist Info Office at Craster to complain but the lady behind the counter was on the phone for at least 10mins so gave up, there were others trying to complain also. First thing I did when I got home was zing off an email to Northumberland Council. This spoilt a great day out, even the rain on the way home couldn't spoil it although a couple of prats doing ludicrous speeds in those dreadful conditions nearly did.
Well its absolutely Pi****g down atm, haven't even gone out to replenish the various feeding stations in the garden, although only the pigeons have arrived so far and they are just scratting around the ground, plenty of stuff there. I decided to try a Nyger feeder (bloody expensive stuff) and after 4 days still no sign of Goldfinches even though this chap assured me it would work practically straight away (I have see Goldfinches on 2 occassions in my street so I know they are around).
Time to get ready to go out (Thinks, where is there a hide close to a car park so we dont get wet)

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Thornley Woods and Sunny Gateshead

We decided to try all the hides that are run by Gateshead Council so we arrived at Thornley Woods Centre at 9.30 to buy the key which would let us into all the hides, (should have read the website properly) it was closed. We looked at each other and were thinking of where to go when a young lady appeared wearing a council type uniform. Brushing my hair through my fingers, pouting and sucking in the stomach I said that I had misread the instructions and thought the centre had opened at 9 not 12 as I had just found out, she asked what the problem was and I told her. She said no problem, she would go back into the centre and get me a key (Hallelujah to Gateshead Council and their employees).

Of we went and eventually found the first hide, I was amazed at what was in front of me, even for a beginner, I did recognize straight away, Jays, Yellowhammers, various Tits, a Woodpecker, Chaffinches, Robins and about 5 Red Squirrels. All these I saw in the first 60 seconds. We stayed about an hour then had to drag ourselves away as we wanted to visit each one of the sites just to find out where they were. See couple photos below.

Far Pastures was next, we went in and there were 6 guys and 1 lady there, they all had cameras with lenses bigger than Brigette Neilsens inside leg, I kept my Fuji Finepix S8100fd close to my chest. Nobody spoke a word for 20 mins, saw nothing at all then heard the word Kingfisher mentioned. Now, nothing against these fine lads but I have bumped into a couple of people before in the very South of Durham who were there to look for Kingfishers, nothing else, just Kingfishers. I told them that we had never actually seen one, the disbelief was amazing. Then thats all they talked about for an hour, whilst I was happily snapping a couple of mallards, coots etc. We said our goodbyes, actually I grunted it was time for food and left.

Off we went to Lamesley Pastures, not difficult to find, nobody there and at first seemed like it was very quiet but I am learning a bit now and started scanning the distance with my new Spotting Scope. Eventually found a few birds then within 20mins the place was alive with allsorts. Carole and I spent 20 mins discussing this flock of about 60 birds half of which were black with lots of white on and the other all black. We eventually thought the black and white ones were lapwings and the all black ones we dont know. Have a look at photo and see what you think thats providing anyone out there reading my blog knows what I am on about.

Off then to Clara Vale, eventually found the hides with help of local lady and her dog, the track for the hide by the cricket pitch is harder to find but after spending half an hour in there we saw a few tits, chaffinch, moorhen, mallard and heard many songs but still cant identify any yet apart from the obvious ones that everyone knows, Cuckoo and Magpie.

Went to the second hide, the smell was overpowering, someone had left 2 big boxes of appples in there (last entry in book was 20 Jun) and some of them were well done on Gas Mark 8. Not knowing whether birds like rotten apples we scattered a few of the better ones around. We had noticed a sign saying that feeding had been suspended in the summer months. After 30 mins not a thing had stirred so we tidied the hide up a bit then left, heading for Shibdon Pond. Into the hide no problem today, loads of birds around and spent a happy hour watching them. Then headed along to the bit where all the birds come for a slice of Warburtons Wholemeal. Watched my wife feed them with them all flocking around her when all of a sudden they all took off like a tornado. Immediately into view came this Tyson dog, you know, the one with the chest harness with the big metal motif on the front. It charged into the water but by this time 2 swans were up and hissing at it, following behind the dog the family arrived, the young teenager son was very apologetic and immediately got it onto a lead, the mother was muttering that the dog was a free wild creature like the birds and had as much right to attack them as they had to attack him and anyway no harm had been done but their dog had got wet. I then remonstrated with her but to no avail, she stated that I did not own the birds so I could go away!! The son had taken the dog away and as I left he again apologised. We then headed back to Thornley and after a quick visit we went home.

Apart from the last incident a good day was had by all.

Friday, 3 July 2009

My First Blog

Well, after reading loads of blogs for quite a while I decided it was time to concoct one of my own. Whilst it may primarily be about wild life the occasional mention of one of my own Juveniles may appear, thereby keeping them informed on what their parents are doing and what their other siblings and our many Grandkids are doing.
Im just a beginner in the bird watching although I have been "just looking" at them for many years, normally from the car on a Saturday, Sunday or Holiday with a big Ice Cream in my hand purring contentedly, note the Greater Spotted Better Half bringing sustenance.

Still dont know many birds although Im getting quite good with Wild Fowl and Waders. Have bumped into a few birders on my travels and am not afraid to ask them "Whats That", most respond with an easy friendliness although I have had one who looked down on me as I was a bit of dirt on their boots and said "Thats a Shelduck, you've got a lot to learn". Shame on you for treating beginners like that.

Well, after getting my car fixed, Garage said it would be only an hour so I could wait, guess what... I spent over 2hrs outside the Garage at the Silverlink looking at Birds (take my small binos and camera everywhere). Spotted my first Greenfinch (now any birder reading this will know how much of a beginner I am - well I think it is a Greenfinch, if anyone can correct me please do.

Eventually arrived home to find Better Half (BH) sitting outside with both the bikes waiting for a ride to the Silverlink. Whilst there I bumped into a nice bike rider chappie who knew a bit about birds so off I went for a bit of brain borrowing. Found out from him that there was a 2nd pond in the north part, bloody hell, only been going there for bike rides and walks for over 2 years.

After the ride we sped off to Newcastle to catch Greggs on West Road (my BH likes the brown bread for the "birdies") then off to cross the border into Durham, thank god we are in the EU, didnt need our passports.

Arrived at Shibdon for our first walk round, we previously had only fed the birds at the South side of the pond along with Zillions of others (the ducks here must be the fattest in the North East). Half way round the skies opened, we had spotted a hide with at least 4 people in on the other side so headed round the lake (HAHA when we found the deadend) walked back to the hide getting wetter and wetter and when we eventually got there found it locked. Googled it when I got home, now understand the words keys, buy, Gateshead Council.

Started off for home when the BH said do we have to, nowt on telly, so when its chucking down and you dont really want to get out of the car you head for Bolam Lake. Sat there for over an hour pleasantly watching the Chaffys, Tits, Robins, Blackbirds etc pick the food off the walls. Carole is furiously looking thru Bird Books to see what some of them are, she is still doing it now sitting behind me whilst I do this.

Then back home, unfortunately my sat nav isnt the best in the world so it took us via Seaton Deleval (Ice Cream - Yummy). Stopped off for half an hour at St Marys, saw about 10 Cormorants, loads of Black Headed and Herring Gulls and 3 (normally see only 2) Oystercatchers.

Not a bad day out, even the bloody rain couldn't spoil it completely - heres a couple of photos I took during the day - anyone know what they are ?

Well thanks to everyone who helped me, unwittingly of course, start Blogging.
Alan Tilmouth - Great Blogs
Stewart - Boulmer Birder
and all those other Bird/Wild Life Bloggers