Tuesday, 27 September 2011

A Weasley Good Weekend

At last a bit about the weekend at Big Waters, Saturday was great, bad light but great views of two different Kingfishers early morning but seems to shoot off about 9am.    So heres yet another snap of one, whilst not in the same league as other with quantity of pics taken I must admit if one turns up I watch first then Mr Nikon get to have a look also

Also a bit of a distant video of one fishing

There were at least 3 different Great Spotted Woodpeckers around also with a couple of them having a go at the new "Totem Pole"

Once again another short video this time of the GSWoodpecker

The highlight of the weekend though was the Small Mammal trapping event which was done by a lady whose name escape me but she was extremely knowledgable and 18 of the 20 traps produced mammals including various voles and shrews with best being my first view of a Pygmy Shrew which unfortunately was about the only thing I didnt photograph.  One of the traps contained a weasel, how it managed to get in there was unbelievable but I suppose the lure of easy food was too much.  The traps are opened in a big plastic bag but when the one with the weasel in was opened and it leapt out the poor chap doing the opening nearly had a coronary.  It was put into a plastic box after a minute or so, in order for it to be released so as not to stress it out but it just kept sticking its head over the box and looking around at us.  After a few minutes it shot out and darted between the planking on the boardwalk.

Finally a couple of random shots from the weekend

Get Off My Tree
Part of a Flock of 114 Greylags arriving at Big Waters

Monday, 26 September 2011

I'm Rich

I was standing at Prestwick Carr last night when I felt someone pressing something in my hand and thought immediately it must be another lady leaving me her telephone number but when I turned to see who it was I was suprised to see Peter who gave me a broad wink and sidled away.  A bit worried I opened the folded paper and  

So to all of you who said he would never pay up for that slightly rash bet HAH!   Its OK Peter I promised not to spend it rashly on Wine, Women or F4 Lenses.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Prestwick Carrs

Haven't been able to get out this week due to work and other commitments (the garden is looking tidier, the house has been hoovered and my new tivo is great).  So here is a few things I saw flying around Prestwick Carrs last Sunday although I think I was the only person there for the first 2 pics and there were, it felt like, about 500 for the next 3.

Found another pic with 3 SEOs in the frame

Thursday, 22 September 2011


A young Sparrowhawk which decided to have a rest in the Feeding Station at Big Waters.
It just sat there for just under 2hrs in the morning and about an hour in the afternoon.

Took a few short videos of it during the afternoon rest with
this one showing it taking off - it did return about 2 mins later
and stayed for another 15mins.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

See A SEO and Win A Tenner

Great views of the Short Eared Owls were being had at Prestwick Carrs on Sunday night with up to 8 being seen at the same time when a chap behind me said "Bet you £10 you cant get 3 of them in the frame at the same time".  Well being the top notch pictaker I am, within 5 mins I produced the following pic.

Now I thought I was biding by the rules of the bet when I showed him this.  Nothing was said about them being in the air so when he said "I should have worded my bet more carefully and said they should have been flying", I immediately put the following one forward saying "You only have to ask".  No doubt the bet will be honoured sometime (LOL) by the Anonymous Wagerer


Sunday, 18 September 2011

Blue Streak v The Killer

Hi, I'm the beautiful Kingfisher and I am the 
Photographers dream bird and this is my perch

 Bugger Off, Im a ferocious Sparrowhawk and a
Photographers dream also and you have been evicted

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Patch Birding at Big W

The New signs went up at Big Waters this week to officially let everyone know this is a Nature Reserve. 

Spent most of my birdwatching time at Big Waters again this weekend.  Even the urge to twitch the Sharp Tailed Sandpiper at Greatham Creek was not taken up.  One chap said you must be becoming boring spending most of your time there but I disagree as seeing something in your own little patch is just as exciting. Although I dont lay claim to finding the Black Necked Grebe (first since 1998), the 5 Whinchats (none since 2003) and seeing then photographing my first Osprey over Big Waters was fantastic.  Last week I arrived home from work slightly later than usual and made a cuppa, changed and sat down in front of the computer and looked at what had been seen around the area on Birdguides, SEO at Prestwick, Curlew Sandpiper at Blyth, great I thought as Carole said 10mins to Dinner then I saw an email from AJ saying Black Neck Grebe at Big Waters and when Carole appeared with my dinner and said "oh your going out then" I was sitting there redressed with bag on back of chair and knife and fork ready.  Thats when I realised that Patch Birding was becoming the main focus.  Back to the weekend and arrived at Big Waters and wandered down to the public end and the first things I saw were these Mallards in a line and the first thought that came to my mind was


There was quite a lot around including 4 Gadwall, 7 Little Grebes, 11 Pochard and a possible sighting of the Black Necked Grebe again but I couldn't be positive as it was right up the far end and if it wasn't then a claim for the record for this year of 8 Little Grebes will be put to the Big W Official Records Team (AJ).  The one Great Crested Grebe which has been around for a while was joined by another younger one which seemed to be chased in by a Grey Heron and was still there on Sunday although the 2 never get close.  4 Tufted Duck and 2 Shoveller were also spotted.  A Kingfisher put in an appearance but after sitting on a perch for a couple of minutes it was promptly set upon by a Sparrowhawk which chased it for a few seconds with the Kingfisher letting out some "fearsome squeaks", but eventually it got away although I never managed to get the 2 in the same shot.

Outside the hide a Common Darter was having a snooze on the boardwalk rails

A record count of 19 adult Mute Swans was seen although on walking up to the hide on the boardwalk I did see 5, then another 2 take off and fly Southwards then about 1min later I was in the hide and counted 19 on the pond but under the "Graeme Bowman" method of constant observation I can only claim 19.  Anyway here is another couple of boring pictures of Swans with the unmistakable Big Waters "Tree" in the background

A Kingfisher put in several appearances on Sunday obviously not phased by the Sparrowhawk as according to most of the photographers who told me when I arrived "The" Kingfisher had been several times and one did appear several times whilst I was there also. 

A slight readjustment of the Feeding Station furniture means that you can get some glorious shots of the more common birds now and who can resist a good shot of a Blue Tit which is spoilt only by its jewellry (those bloody ringers).

A walk round the reserve, the long way on Sunday produced very little due to the wind.  Even in the most reliable spots where a couple of Darters or a Hawker and a Warbler might be seen were in the process of being Strimmed by the "Rangers" so absolutely nothing was around.  The signs of Autumn are showing with this wilting beauty being the only place along a nice walkway being availed of by insects.

A good (ish) weekend and looking at the weather forecast for next weekend a bit better than the one that is forecasted although the BBC still have time to get it wrong as in the background whilst I am typing is Paul Moody saying today, Wednesday, is the best day of the week with it being downhill from here.

Friday, 9 September 2011

A Day In The Garden

Early morning and Carole has been out to replenish the feeders and scatter a bit of scraps around for the multitude of birds.  First in are the Blue Tits, Great Tits, a Robin, a Dunnock and today the first Goldfinch for while.  Also the semi resident pair of Herring Gulls and a Juvenile are early arrivals to check out if our next door neighbour has thrown out some titbits

An early rising House Sparrow pick up a bit of bread and flies back to the hedge

The advance guard of the Starlings take up position on one of the hangers and
normally tend to stay there for quite a while

Then the small flocks start arriving building up to sometimes 150+

The House Sparrows tend to travel in 2 flocks, one of about 25 and one of about 40 although they sometimes will flock together and then fill the hedges

The Starlings will also settle amongst the House Sparrows although this morning they stayed on the ground picking away at the various items Carole has put down.

After they have had their fill she then fills up the water so the fun can begin.  At times there is 50 birds waiting to get in this Water Dish although there are 3 others but they are metal which they mainly drink from.  The Blackbirds and Magpies favour the metal ones and dunk their food in it then fly off with it, at first I thought it was to feed chicks but now I have observed them doing it all year round.

Couple of Starlings joining in now although they are normally 50/50 with the Starlings doing a bit of bullying to get more space.

This one is the biggest and is reserved for House Sparrows who are doing
individual training for the 2012 Olympics

After a few lengths of the pools they then head up to the sun deck
and lie on the hot top drying themselves off

After a bit of a sunbathe they tend to scarper as this bugger is always
lurking somewhere.  Carol said all he did today was fly into the
bush and stay there for about 10 minutes before heading back
to his lair at the church

Monday, 5 September 2011

Sunday at Newbiggin and Big Waters

Sunday morning and it was so pleasant I thought a sit down at Newbiggin armed with a Large Latte and watch for a Long Tailed Skua would be a good idea (failed miserably) but obviously a few others had the same idea as 1 after another 5 more appeared.  Sat and chatted with Steven Fryer (he who puts great pics on Gateshead Birders including that fab Cuckoo one) and his well behaved pooch.  Not a great lot seen, but the weather and company were canny and with the assistance of Steven and another gentleman who I recognised (ish) but didn't know his name we spotted 2 small flocks of Common Scoter one with 5 Velvet in, although I could only see 3 with white flashes but then again I think my scope was made from Brown Ale Bottle bottoms and the others were not.  Also a couple of Red Throated Diver put in an appearance with 1 of them lazily paddling across the front of the viewing point giving some great views.  3 Whimbrel shot past and approx 15 Knot came in close and were past in a couple of seconds and a small flock of Sanderling zoomed past (god they are pretty in flight) although it took a while to recognise them as Im only used to seeing them 2ins above the sea at St Marys.  A Seal kept bobbing up close in although the 2 Dolphins? that we saw kept their distance.  There was lots of Sandwich Terns passing and it was the only time I picked up the Camera but without a lot of success so no pics

Left for Big Waters at 08.30 and upon arrival was greeted by 10 Magpies sitting on the fence a not altogether common site.

The Resident Swans and their family were on the bank looking for people with bread but not a soul apart from me was around..  Nice pic of one of the Sygnets though.

A good walk around with Ian D and Alan J produced quite a few birds although the highlight was 5 Whinchat which were the first ones seen at Big Waters since May 2003 (unless of course some photographer pops up with a couple of pics) also a Collared Dove whilst not exactly rare is a good tick for the patch.  Eventually back at the 1st Hide for 10mins at the end produced a couple of Gadwall and the duck numbers increasing.  Also a personal best count of 14 Adult Mute Swans although I'm still one behind Alan J.  It looks like the Waders will pass us by as the water is just not receding and will stay like that unless someone plugs a big electric fire in to warm the place up (Not much hope of that according to the BBC Weather Girls, but "hey" I've lost count of the number of times they have been wrong recently).  As I got into bed last night I looked up in the direction of the Big Guy and asked him nicely if we could have some bad days like Beadnell Birding Stringer although even his have been a bit better lately.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Big Waters - Saturday

07.25 and off to Big Waters via Macydees for a Latte.  On arrival not a soul around, no cars in the car park and very little sounds on the walk to the hide apart from a Chiff Chaff it its normal place by the gate.  Not even John B's car was there so all alone I opened the hide windows thinking nobody had disturbed anything so what would be out there.  Well there was plenty of stuff but it was all in the distance from the Island down to the Public End.  Alan J was the only other person to come later on (when the rain had stopped) and during the period we saw 13 Adult Mute Swans and the 9 Sygnets, who were doing their first warm ups with their wings going full blast for 5-10m.  The Adults were still doing their Im the King of the Castle thing but I think it is just showing off as nothing was chased off although some did fly off but returned after a couple of circuits of the lake.  Also a couple of Pochard just appeared, no sign of them flying in so dont know how long they had been there.  An adult Little Grebe and a juvenile were spotted but once again they never came together.  A Great Crested Grebe is still by itself and has been for nearly 2 weeks now with no sign of the one it was with for a week.  62 Lapwings had a spin around but the water still hasnt receded enough for them to drop in.  No sign of the 700 Gulls that were around last week with only a couple of Lesser Black Backed and a handful of Black Headed Gulls around.  An juvenile unringed Great Spotted Woodpecker was in the Feeding Station along with a Ringed one so we know that there is at least 3 around.  A Sparrowhawk or possibly several made at least 6 runs through the Feeding Station and collected a Blue Tit on the first foray, lots of bad pics taken but one decent(ish) one when it stopped for 2 Seconds on a stump (the bit that I took was decent anyway(the head would have been if I had got it in frame))

Also in the feeding station was a Chiff Chaff who does the round of the cages and seems to peck at the seed but dont know if he actually eats any as he is only in a couple of seconds and by the time you get the bins on it he is away to the next one.  Got a couple of pics as he seems to settle on the branches for a little while before he does his circuit.

Also seen were a few Skylarks going over and a couple of Meadow Pipits.  Went down to the Public End to try and get a better view of the ducks and swans that were around but sods law dictated that a lot of them went towards the hide by the time we got down there.  There was still a few Common and Migrant Hawkers around and as soon as the sun popped out so did they.  Couple of other pics from the day:

Mute Swan Sygnets and a few Mallards
Swan in Full Attack Mode Which Fizzled into Nothing
Blackbird Looking A Bit Wet