Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Work Patch Brightens Up

Monday and back to work, went for a little walk round my work patch at Lunchtime and either my wealth of bird seeking skills (LOL) failed me or Rye Hill had been turned into a Resident Pigeon Zone only. Didn't even hear another bird. Tuesday morning 7am went to put fresh water out and check the feeders and they had all been severely hammered even though I had only filled them 24hrs previously and hadn't seen bugger all yesterday. Still couldn't hear anything either. Came out at Lunch and WOW my first Long Tailed Tits around here of the year:

Then when they left a few Great Tits, Dunnocks and these Blue Tits arrived for their Lunchtime snack:

Then about 7 or 8 Chaffinches dropped in:

No Robins though and 36hrs without the song of a Mistle Thursh. Wandered across the road to the Hospice and my first House Sparrows for a few months were sitting quite happily whilst a bunch of students were smoking away quite happily at the base of the tree.

Whilst taking a couple of snaps with my 300mm non VR lens into a murky sky and trying to remember which way to turn the White Balance (see you dont need a 24 trillion mega pixel, 500mm, 1.4 longer see-er to apologise for taking a bad picture) the students and I started "conversing". Once the initial piss-taking from the students finished I think a couple of them were actually quite interested and the chat lasted for about 10mins, its the first time students have talked to me as I wander round checking feeders and peering into bushes as its normally members of staff, a few of them taking the piss (the comments about out looking for tits feeding on my balls does become tiresome specially when its from the women).

I know these are run of the mill birds but I get constant pleasure from seeing them and whilst a "Red Breasted Yellowneck Duck" would be quite welcome Im quite happy watching the Chaffies, Finches, Gulls or literally anything that flies by.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Great Company, Great Birds, Treasure!, Crap Pics

I sit and read other blogs and see comments like, this is only a record shot, the light was awful, was too far away and Im sitting looking at stunning pics!!!!!. Well thats not the case for me. So the weekend started with me picking up Segedunum Warbler (Johnny) for a days wander round. We went first to QEII where there was a lot of Swans to-ing and fro-ing from the lake but a silhouette of a Great Crested Grebe was spotted (it was just a couple of mins after 8) and we watched intently for a few minutes catching a couple of more glimpses but then it dissappeared. Off up to Linton next but across the road in the far fields from the QEII there was at least 40 Swans (type unknown). At Linton we were looking for the Smew but with not very happy results, the 3 guys in the left hand corner of the hide saw it for a few seconds as it popped out from behind a clump of grass, Johnny saw it for about 2 Secs and me sitting in the right hand corner saw it for precisely 0 Secs. Never mind there was plenty else to see, including a few Shelduck,

lots of Teal doing their best to impersonate Roger Whittaker, several GoldenEye, loads of Canada Geese who seemed to have ants in their pants with their constant moving around the lake.

A Grey Heron also popped in for a few minutes. Some of the Canadas broke up into pairs and started doing their "thing" which involved quite a lot of neck biting (still not as good as the GoldenEye though). A few Pochard were seen also and a couple of Gadwall(Note to myself - must remember to write notes).
Next in line was Longhirst Flash but only a couple of Mute Swans and a Grey Heron were showing.
Off down to Bothal Pond which was still partly frozen next to the road therefore all the birds were quite well into the pond. Lots of birds there including a couple of stunning Bird Book looking Goldeneye, lots of Teal, Mallards, Lapwings, a Shelduck, Pochard and Canada Geese.
Back into the faithful steed and down to Druridge where there was very little on the main pond with the exception of a couple of GoldenEye, a few Teal and Mallard and that was it. Next door in the screen was exactly the opposite, the fields were flooded with quite a lot of mud on the margins. Teal, Mallard, Curlews, in abundance with Lapwings, Redshank, a few Dunlin and when we went round to the other Screen we saw a Bar Tailed Godwit with even more Teal and Curlews

Down to Cresswell and a little walk down the path between the ponds where we spotted lots of Curlew with 13 Brent amongst them.

They all took off several times and flew together for a couple of laps around the lake then landed again. Had only seen Brent before in Martin Mere.

Finally we headed down to Blyth Estuary where it was right on bottom water and it was absolutely packed with birds including lots of Redshank, Dunlin, a Shelduck, a Little Grebe, Turnstone, a few Ringed Plover, Lapwings and a couple of Bar Tailed Godwit.
We spent a good 90mins surveying the estuary which was really the highlight of the day. Thanks John for a great day and good crack.
Next morning had to go to Big Waters (withdrawal symptoms setting in). Still suprised to see that some of the lake was still icebound even though the Feeding Station was now mud instead of a foot of water. Realised that it was getting dryer when Alan was able to update the log on the White Board which had been unusable since November. The pic shows a couple of Mallard about 30m from the Hide practising for "Dancing On Ice"

Spent an hour in the hide where the normal suspects were seen including Siskin, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting and a solitary wren. Then went for a walk round with Alan, Ian and Graeme with my ears wide open straining to hear every bit of valuable information they imparted and trying to remember it (some hope as the hard disc was screaming full after about 10mins). First thing I spotted was this unknown passerine with a minature Scottie Dog in its pouch (or have I been having too many psychiatrist interviews lately).

You thought the pics before were crap, now look at these. Alan said "John get a pic of that Jay, as I haven't got a pic of one at Big Waters", after eventually finding it in my bins and knowing roughly where it was I pointed the camera. Result ???? (Honestly there is one there)

After a while Alan had to go and do some Sonly duties (might have been shopping as I know he is such a fan of it) and Ian went with him. Graeme and myself wandered on a bit more and eventually started scanning one of the fields for Linnets and Skylarks but the cupboard was bare and "all" we could find was at least 100 Reed Bunting which kept flying around without any purpose although they still might have been spooked from a Sparrowhawk which was around.

We then headed back and when we got to the bridge Graeme went off to the Car Park whilst I decided to look for the elusive Green Woodpecker. After about 10 mins I spotted a woodpecker in the trees, wrong type unfortunately but still unusual (for me that is, birding alone without someone to confirm that I had seen a Sparrow)

Wandered on for a bit more and caught a glimpse of something about 50m away moving along the ground (remembered that Ian had casually remarked that they are groundfeeders when we were looking previously as the others were looking on the ground and he had noticed I was looking at the top of the trees but had said it in such a way that I didn't feel a fool). I got the bins on it and what a magnificent bird, lot bigger than what I had thought, watched it for a couple of mins then thought I had better try (LOL) to get a pic of it in the bad light, bit of drizzle and god know what settings I had my camera on. Took a couple of quick snaps just as a ball came bouncing across the open ground closely followed by a Labrador. Up it went but I followed its flight path and saw where it landed so started to follow with the Labrador running up to me and jumping up (If dogs are prone to jumping up why dont owners keep them on bloody leads when they get near people or learn how to BLOODY call them off). Got the bins on it again but it kept hopping around and I couldnt get much closer, it eventually dissappeared but despite hanging around for another 15mins I never saw it again.

Finally the treasure. One of us decided they needed to relieve themselves and whilst wandering into the wild blue yonder spotted something in the base of tree.

It turned out to be a plastic box full of little "treasures" such as crayons, pink headband and several other little items including a book showing who had found it and what they had taken and replaced, it had been there since Mar 09. There was also an explanation for finders saying that it was part of a treasure hunt and if you wanted to know more you should go to http://www.geocaching.com/.
Well, great weekend even if the weather was crap and the pictures were. As long as the birds are there and the company canny what more can you ask.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Top Tunes

Just before I hit the Half Century at the end of last century I came across this Bands album Sehnsucht and since them I have been mesmerised.

After watching Newton Stringers D.R.I which I must admit I hadnt really come across but did like I was spurred on to just enter this Groups name into UTube and about an hour later after watching some of their vids for the millionth time I pulled myself down off the ceiling took my atenolol, lisinopril and other associated tablets and rested for a while.

Gary, thats my son Gary if you read this let me know how to embed the link from UTube into the post like others do so that it shows and plays in the post

Sunday, 17 January 2010

My Wet Left Foot

Saturday morning off to Gosforth Nature Reserve, still not sunrise but was hoping to catch sight of a fox or the deer. First birds I saw were a couple of Goldfinch which flew straight across the road away from the reserve. Into the reserve and there was still a bit of snow although the pouring rain seemed to be finishing it off and small lakes appearing. First bird I saw on the reserve was a wren it sat for a while but was still a bit dull so couldnt see it properly. I was distracted by the movement about 30m in front of me and saw a couple of Roe Deer scarpering away at a fast rate of knots, good sign I thought but unfortunately it was my first and only sight of them during the day. Well inside the reserve now, the rain not as bad due to the trees so headed for the Feeding Station. Not much food out so put a bit out and soon the tits, robins, chaffinches etc came in. Couldnt get any decent pics due to the rain getting heavier but I rather liked the following effort.

Wandered round on the North side of the reserve trying to follow the paths but losing them in the last bit of snow and growing mass of water and mud but eventually got all the way round, saw plenty of Wood Pigeons, lots of Corvids and heard a few geese going over but never managed to see them. My left foot had been gradually getting colder when I realised it was actually soaking wet (it had taken time to get through the 3 pairs of socks) as I had been plodging through a lot of water so I headed home (back before 12, the wife nearly fainted).

Next morning up for a walk round the public end of Big Waters but as I didnt fancy suicide by ice I hopped back into the car and headed for Prestwick Carrs but stopped for a quick chat to Graeme who was returning from his WEBS count at the hide, must have took him all of 2mins but as were standing gassing unlucky 13 Lapwing (3 times I have seen 13 Lapwing land on he lake in the past couple of weeks) circled and circled and eventually landed (think that brought his species up to 6 :( ). Got to Prestwick and not a soul in sight although there were quite a few Field Fares and Thrushes on top of the trees although any closer than 50m and they were away. The corner fields were full of Gulls and a few Blackbirds didnt see any raptors though. 10am and headed for the shop to change my wellies, little bit of hassle but had only had them since 6 Dec so they gave a full refund but had no decent ones left so bought a pair for a tenner which to be perfectly honest were a better fit than the others. Off back to Big Waters and bumped into Segedunum Warbler. There seemed to be more birds around along the boardwalk as we walked to the Hide until Mrs Sparrowhawk passed within a few feet of us then utter silence. No one at the hid but several others arrived within a short time and a good chat was had especially when Alan went to replenish the feeders wearing a pair of waders that leaked (LOL). Sympathy poured from the hide! (Had to admit though none of us would have gone out there specially me as the only method I would have had of cracking the ice was to push it with my waist line). Once again the Robin was in the feeding cage as Alan was putting the feed down. When things settled down lots of birds including Siskin, Yellowhammer and a 2nd fleeting visit by the Sparrowhak put that to a stop for a while. A Buzzard showed well (to those who had spent a small fortune on their optical equipment) and a Fox galloped across the North Field but left the couple of Greylags alone that were on there. Several Mallards also arrived along with the first Mute Swan since the resident family had left.

After about an hour Segedunum Warbler and myself went to St Marys. Went to the Viewing Post for the Wetland and was told there was a Pintail although we couldnt see it then. Went for a walk round and spotted several Rock Pipits, Turnstones, Ringed Plover not much around though apart from lots of people and dogs. Had a good walk round meeting lots of birders every time we lingered and from the various viewing points saw Male Shovellers, Teal, Mallards, Widgeon, lots of Redshank and eventually the Pintail although it lay there snoozing with its head tucked down for nearly an hour until something put up every bird in the Wetlands and it shot off but never managed to get a look at it in flight. The only birds not to move were the bloody normally skittish Redshank who just stood there and never batted an eyelid (bloody amazing).

Well time for home after a good day with good company. Pity we didnt find out about the Brents at Newsham till just after 4.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Carole's Garden Blog

This is our tiny Garden, the standing is where John parks his car when he is at home. It dosen't affect the birds at all, actually its quite handy being there as one can sit in the car and watch the birds at even closer range. When we roll in from a day out sometimes we just sit there as none of the birds seem to dissappear

The top left hand corner is rather crowded with feeders but the tits, chaffies, robins prefer to hover round this area.

The top right hand corner is the Sparrow corner and also the place where most of the visiting species seem to appear first as can be seen from the pic of the Sparrowhawk below.

The pics below are all from the last few days when there has been an influx of birds, several that I had not previously seen, including, Grey Wagtail, Mistle Thrush, Red Wing, Field Fare and even a Woodcock, John didnt see this but having had a good sight of it and then checking the books I am 99% sure. The feeders deposit quite a lot of seed on the ground as the wind whistles into the bush corner and I am forever picking up the feeders.

I love watching the birds bathing although our bird bath has seen better days and has a big bit missing so the big freeze actually allowed us to put more water in taking care not to chip away the ice where the crack is. This particular Blackbird has been there most days trying to pick off the icicles prior to chipping away the ice and refilling it with a bit of warm water.

John bought this big tray which I hate to put the food in but it seems to be working and can clean it out easily and it stops the food getting all over the garden. Although it is totally ignored once the apples and fruit go out.

Back to the Bird Bath with the Starlings holding court.

and as you can see when there is no fruit out the tray is filled with birds

The Sparrows now have a turn taking a dip, even the pigeons and Tits go in there but unfortunately they are a bit fast and I never get a chance to get a shot of them.

All of the above photos have been taken with Johns "Cast Off" cameras normally through our windows so the quality isnt the best at times.

Monday, 11 January 2010

A Good Wander Around

Saturday I spent most of the time at Big Waters increasing my portfolio of Robin, Yellowhammer, Siskin and Reed Bunting shots against the snow. Great day with great company.

Sunday out early to St Marys promising to get some bread and milk for the beloved and plonked my backside on a rock in the North Bay in a bloody awful wind and didnt move for just over an hour as the incoming tide pushed the birds towards me. If it hadnt been for the 3 pairs of socks, insulated trousers and 5 layers of clothing I might have been cold. After 10mins all the birds just ignored me and carried on flitting around and feeding sometimes within 2-3ft of me. Got some great shots but after a while just laid the camera down and watched them. Unusually there was not a lot of Gulls around although they were probably gorging on the 6 Tesco Mince Pies which I couldnt manage to get down and had thrown on the grass next to the Car Park. There was quite a few Golden Plover, loads of Sanderling, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Redshank, couple of Mute Swans on the South side of the Beach and Lapwing and Oystercatchers flying back and forward.

Right next to where I was sitting several Rock Pippits were in and out of the pile of debris that had deposited itself during the previous high tide.

Went along to the Park at Tynemouth to see if the Barnacle was still there but it was absolutely chocker full of Gulls, Mallards and a couple of Teal.

Up to the point overlooking the Haven to sit in awe watching the sea which still had nearly 2hrs to high tide pounding the two piers.

Shot off home to replenish my flask (having forgot to get the bread and milk, but had picked up that literary masterpiece, the News of the World for the wife). Then shot up to Big Waters and had a quick walk around the public end seeing a couple of Blue Tits, a couple of Field Fare but nothing else at all, not even another human, looking through the bins even the Hide windows were all shut so I decided a quick half hour at Prestwick Carrs was next on the list. When I arrived I realised there was nowhere really to park so just pulled over to the side and watched a Kestrel flutter around but it eventually moved off and so did I to Gosforth Park.
It was like a picture postcard when I arrived, bumped into a couple of lady walker who settled down in the hut to have their dinner. Off I went and within 5 minutes I startled 6 Roe Deer, which unlike every other blogger in Northumberland within the last few days I failed to get a photo of. Went to the Pyle Hide but the lake was still completely frozen. Did a quick U turn and headed to the Feeding Station and it seemed like it was like Piccadilly Circus compared its normal quiet self. 3 Hooper Swans flew overhead honking away. I spotted movement in a hollow stump so stood and watched and eventually a wren popped its head out. It moved up and down the stump appearing in 4 different places. I did a City Birder (acted like a tree) and eventually got my camera into position whilst it retreated back into the stump. I was less than 5ft away and it just stared at me and I didnt dare start buggering around with settings on the camera so just switched it to automatic and started clicking. It kept moving from hole to hole giving me time to get further back so I could watch it much better. It was bloody fantastic.

Eventually it just stayed inside the stump so off I went and bumped into a nice chap who turned out to be CityBirding and spent a pleasant hour in his company. Whilst we were wandering through the reserve the amount of track visible was phenomenal some of which I didnt have a clue what they were. Alan, Marian if you are reading this I remember you saying you had a track book. These tracks were in a single straight line !!!!

Stayed in the Feeding Station Hide for half an hour and saw my first Nuthatch of the year. Then had to go unfortunately as I still had to get the bread and milk whereas if I had carried on wandering round with Dick I would have seen closeup the deer he did. Alas all I had was a glimpse of a fox.

Monday morning off to work and refilled the feeders and put down a Fat Slab which my wife had made and scattered some feed around where the snow had thawed although unusually there was no sign of life. Popped back at Lunchtime and there were 3 MistleThrush, 4 or 5 Blackbirds, 3 Dunnocks and a couple of Robins all on the pavement or the margins of it feeding away, but strangely still nothing in the bushes or trees.

Well hopefully I will be able to get out on Wednesday after a visit to the hospital and a bollicking of the Doctor for putting on weight over the christmas (who didnt).

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Quick Roundup for Last Weekend

Last weekend (just getting round to it - 4 days late) before back to work. Good walk round Big Waters produced the following: A stunning looking Reed Bunting

and a gorgeous Yellowhammer.

Saw 2 Buzzards in trees next to each other both were mobbed by Crows but neither of them moved until some people walked close to them. Couldnt get a pic of the other one as it was a hidden by branches but seemed to be a lot larger than this one.

The GSWoodpecker gave this box a real hammering during the last couple of months and I think a new plate might not be the solution.

Back at home in the Garden a few thrushes have been showing their pretty little faces

and a freezing cold looking Blue Tit.

Well Im back at work now so my infrequent blogs might become even more infrequent.