Sunday, 30 October 2011

No Bills Today, So Wasn't Cross

Early start at Big Waters and when the sun started to rise there was some amazing colour.

It was still quite dark when the 14 Whoopers decided on an early morning stretch.  Camera was on the wrong settings after taking the shot above and I was just pointing it and shooting but the movement in
this one I particularly like

In the Feeding Station the apples were attracting lots of Pheasants and at one stage there
were at least a dozen in view

Plenty of birds around with a couple of Goldeneye, 2 Buzzards over the pond, 16 Lapwings making several appearances but never landing, 23 Mute Swans and 10 Sygnets, 2 Little Grebe, 4 Great Crested Grebe, 18 Gadwall, 18 Teal, 43 Coot and lots of Wigeon.  Half a dozen Long Tailed Tits arrived at the same time as Treecreeper (my first ever in the Feeding Station) and it kept working its way up a tree, flying off but immediately returning to the self same tree.  A Water Rail also did a few runs inbetween the Reeds and the Filling Station.  A delightful Wren kept me and Charlie busy trying to get a shot of it as it flitted from one side of the Feeding Station to the other.

 A Kingfisher was present till about 9.30 and returned later when we returned to the hide to get out of the rain and have a chat with John D.  The Otter was active for a lot of the morning also catching at least 3 fish and keeping the birds on their toes as it worked its way round the pond.  I went for a walk with Alan J and Keith B but we only got to the bottom of the pond when we spotted some birds dropping onto a conifer just as the rain started.  We stood and watched them for a while, identifying them as a couple of male Crossbills, a female and 7 Redpolls.  See what you can count in this very distant, overexposed, oversharpened picture.

The walk was abandoned after 30mins sheltering in the trees, which enabled us to spot a couple of
Goldcrests, a couple more Redpoll, Long Tailed Tits and a Buzzard.  We headed back to shelter in the 1st hide and I spotted a Juvenile Sinensis Cormorant with a coloured ring which hopefully Alan will be able to trace

A flock of Greylags arrived and after several recounts we decided on (I think) 71 plus a couple of Barnacles (a patch tick for me)

We then headed up to the main hide for a chat with John D and as mentioned above the Kingfisher returned the Otter came out again to stir the birds up and despite trying no one could confirm my early morning count of 14 Whoopers with only a count of 12 being obtained.  As Alan and I left we realised there had been quite a large fall of Blackbirds and a few Thrushes with at one stage nearly 30 Blackbirds in view so the inevitable hunt for a Ring Ouzel took place but with no luck, one day though...........

Despite the rain stopping the walk we had a super time and as you always learn something when you are out no matter how old you are the one thing that will stick with me today is the positioning of the identification number of the 7 AWACS planes (dont ask).

Arrived home early to take the beloved out for a meal but she was too interested watching the film crew outside the house doing an episode of Vera starring Brenda Blethan so that saved me a few bob (well done Brenda) but no doubt she will want a nice meal out tomorrow and has already reminded me a couple of times that the bird food stock is getting quite low and the garden needs a bit more attention.  The life of a Birder is so simple, allowed out for birding then do what your told, sound familiar anyone?

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Wonder Where The Pipit Went

Friday morning and up a little bit earlier than usual so decided to have a walk round St Marys to blow the cobwebs away.  Suprised to find myself the only person around when I arrived (well no cars around).  Tide was just starting to recede so after a once round the reserve I took a couple of pics and was quite happy with the results.  The lighthouse I believe has been lit to celebrate breast cancer day.

Not used to shooting in the dark I upped the ISO on this one.

Tried a bit of arty farty shooting as someone had left a bike here (only saw one other soul - who arrived by car, humped a camera out with filters and all bits of stuff set everything up and looked as though he only took one pic then left)

Finished work early in the afternoon and headed back to see if I could see the Richards Pipit.  There was 3 or 4 people scanning the fields to the West of the Wetlands so presumed it could still be around.  Then all of a sudden 2 individuals with scopes and cameras climbed over the barbed wire fence and started walking around the fields with the result that several birds took to the air heading West.  They then headed West themselves and climbed over another fence which then put them in the field where the Curlews feed so up they went.  They then turned round, climbed another fence and probably by this time if the Pipit had been there it wasn't now.  The people watching eventually drifted along and several nice things were said about the 2 gentlemen who had kindly put the birds up for us.  I could be doing them disservice, they might have been doing an authorised survey or might have even owned the land that we thought they were trespassing on, but .......................

ps.  afterwards after spending an hour watching a spot where a YBW had just been seen and only getting glimpses of a Goldcrest, Robin, Blue Tits and a Chiff Chaff I decided to leave as the light was just about gone.  I walked back to the car and on the bush by the first stile was a YBW which 2 of us got a good 20sec view (success)

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Good Day Down South

Picked John A up at home and after a swift discussion the car went South to Teeside instead of North to Big Waters.  We arrived at about 07:30 and there was already 37 people there that I could see.  The throng gradually increased and must have grown to over a couple of hundred but spread around the area quite liberally.  We parked ourselves at the top of Dormans Pool and waited and waited but at least we had decent company to pass the time of tday with, JohnB and friends.  There was plenty of things to see whilst waiting including Pintail, Shoveller, Great Black Backed Gull, Snipe, Little Egret, Gadwall and the many skeins of Greylagss that flew over.

We  waited till about 10 but even by then quite a few people had drifted off so we headed over to Saltholme for a Latte and a Bacon Roll (gone are the days of a mug of tea and a ham sandwich consumed whilst wearing flat caps).  We sat down and whilst having our Tens'es we were treated to a great flying display by a Kestrel right ouside the window of the cafe.  A lot of the shots I took were through the glass which turned out quite well but this one I must admit I stuck my head round the balcony door.

A quick look in the Phil Stead Hide had us looking at Black Tailed Godwits, Dunlin, Lapwings, Grey Wagtail and a Little Egret.

Off down to Greatham Creek where there were some Common Seals just next to the bridge,
2 of them had a good old scrap or possibly a bit of heavy petting, never can quite tell with seals (bit like some couples in the Bigg Market on a Saturday night).  This actually carried on for nearly
an hour as we walked all the way down to the Hide at Seal Sands and back and they were still at it.

We heard over the grapevine (guy sitting next to us in the Sea Hide got a phone call from his mate) that a Semipalmated Sandpiper was back at Salthome so off we went arriving just in time to spot it vanishing into the distance.  We waited in vain for it to return for a proper view but sadly no such luck so off we went.  Arrived back in the reception and John need to "wash his hands" so I said I would wait for him and standing there reading the literature on the notice boards a cry went up "Pallid Harrier" so I rushed outside just in time to see it come soaring across the top of the Phil Stead Hide then across the main road all the time being mobbed by a couple of crows then it dropped out of site.  John came out with his extremely clean hands cursing his luck but within a couple of minutes it was up again so out came the instamatic and some crap pics were obtained.  If you wish to see better pics check out Ian Forrest's or John Beeson's

After this we headed up to Dormans Pool where we chewed the fat with a few lads then headed home where, for the information of all those that commented, I successfully finished off the hedge

Once again another great day with great company

Friday, 21 October 2011

General Things From The Past Week

A few more pics from last weekend and during the week.
A beautiful sunrise over Northumberland

Back at Big Water lots of movement due to the Otters sauntering around.  I did notice that the Wigeon seem to be one of the first to take flight, even before the Coots sometimes.

Another panic caused by something at the back of the scrape.  A Fox perhaps but they dont seem to come out in the open much although John B got some stunning pics of one in the middle of last week

Couple of Whoopers just having a bit of exercise, havent been there since Wednesday so hope they are
still there on Saturday but one of them was ringed at Welney a couple of years ago so they might be
heading back there.

A flock of, sometimes 60+ and sometimes 110+, Greylags have been making an appearance
over the last couple of weeks with a few of them going onto the scrape

A couple of Water Rail put in an appearance the last 2 weekends but only managed to
get a pic of one of them this week

Thank god its Friday, just one more day stuck in our Sauna of an office then Big Waters here I come, but alas our lass wants the hedge finished off so will have to spend a couple of hours on that also.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Whoopers 1 - Mutes 0

Saturday and a quick trip down to St Marys to see if anything had popped up overnight.  Once again a Redstart was viewable in the gloom, a dozen or so Redwings flew in and landed in the field next to the Curlews.  45 mins hunting around with a couple of others but nothing found apart from a Chiff Chaff so back to Big Waters with the light getting better.  Quick wander round the public end with 6 Mistlethrush sitting in one tree, most I can ever remember seeing together.   A record count, for me, of 29 Magpies, in the field near the entrance to the reserve.  On the pond were loads of Wigeon and Coot which I never got round to counting as the Otter and 2 appearances by a Hen Harrier and a Buzzard overfly kept everything going around like a merry-go-round at a fair.   I then went to the other hide where Alan J, Alan and Ian were sitting watching the Whoopers, with Alan J doing yet another count to see if the figures can be improved.  A bit of a fracas broke out to say the least when a Mute Swan decided to have a go at a Juvenile Whooper with the following results.

The whole family of Whoopers, Mam, Dad and 2 siblings came to the rescue of the beleaguered juvenile
and made mincemeat of the Mute Swan which eventually slunk away with its head held extremely low

After this the family had a little celebration of their own which was commentated on by that star of Radio 4s Saving Species "Alan J"

During the day we we noticed quite a few Red Admirals, Common Darters and Migrant Hawkers showing well in the sunlight and when Graeme B arrived he pointed out that all the Red Admirals were moving N to S as though on a migration.  We had already seen about 7 or 8 but Graeme started from 0 and ended up in the 30s.  On departure from the hide there was a Common Darter sunning itself outside the hide so after a couple of pics I put my hand next to it and it just walked on to it, staying there for a good 30 secs whilst I raised it up in the air to show Maria in the hide.  When it flew off from my hand it landed on my head and stayed there for a short time also.  Unfortunately when it went on my hand it was too close to focus and couldn't quite aim my camera at my head whilst it was on it so you just have to take my word for it.

Once again a super day with super company

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Day Off

Friday and a day off work so off for a wander round Big Waters.  Walking up the boardwalk I could see lots of Swans in the the gloom so stopped and peered through the bins.  I could see 8 Hoopers on the Island so turned round and went back to the first hide.  Opened the hide as quiet as I could and gently let the windows down.  The whole bay was filled with just about every bird on the pond and some of the Hoopers were only about 10m in front of the window.  Gently brought my camera up but just then about every bird in view took to the skies.  Cursing myself I leaned forward and looked out through the window and realised it wasn't me that had set the birds of but an Otter which was now swimming in the Bay just where the Hoopers had been previously.

8 of the Hoopers had stayed on the Island but everything else had scatterered all over the lake

Spent a pleasant hour watching them but things never settled down as the Otter was very active and was in and out of the reeds on both sides of the lake never giving anything a chance to settle.  Also spotted 3 Snipe, 4 Pochard (increase of 2 on the past few days), the Wigeon count had also increased and was now near 100.  The Gadwalls seemed constant at around 15 and the Teals had increased to14.  The 2 Great Crested Grebe now seemed to be feeding together instead of at either end of the pond.  Also a Kingfisher made a couple of appearances outside the Hide.  I then headed up to the main hide where John B was clicking away.  Stayed for a couple of  hours watching a Kingfisher flitting around,

the inevitable Greater Spotted Woodpecker

a Shoveller, 35 Coot, 4 Pochard, 18 Gadwall, 11 Teal, 13 Cormorant, 6 Tufted and 80+ Wigeon.

The number of birds on the Pond was constantly changing with more Hoopers arriving putting
the number up to 23.

Also sitting at the Picnic Table was Alan J doing his daily count before setting off on the "Big Walk" then texting me to say he could see 3 Golden Eye which despite searching the Pond I never got to see.  Off for a wander and to see if the Turtle Dove was around but only a couple of Mistle Thrushers were around sitting tucked away in the bushes.

Decided a nice walk to stretch my legs was needed so headed to St Marys where there were a couple of birders who I knew who said there had been a couple of Yellow Browed Warblers seen but all I managed to get my bins on was a Chiff Chaff and several quick views of a Redstart.  After a couple of hours I decided to head home and take the beloved for a meal and just as I turned the corner on the west side of the reserve a birder beckoned me over and sure enough there was a YBW sitting in the bush.  Went home happy and picked up Carole for a well deserved meal.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Back To Big W For A Further Gander At The Turtle

Sunday morning and off to Big Waters with John A for a look at the Turtle Dove.  We
had intended to head down South but a combination of the weather and a Turtle Dove
changed our minds.  Got there for 7 and there was already a car there then within a minute
another car arrived and expecting to see some birders alight was suprised when the occupant
of the 2nd car, a lady, got into the front seat of the first car, next to a male.  Then within the next
minutes another 2 cars arrived and a couple of people walked down the path.  Now I have
been coming to Big W for a few years and this was its equivalent of Piccadilly Circus with
only John and myself interested in Birds, of the feathered variety.   Too many people around and no
site of the Dove so we headed for the hide.   There was plenty to see and below is just a quick
snapshot out of the North looking window.

We passed a pleasant hour with John B and Charlie, watched the Otter cause havoc on the pond, then
the Sparrowhawk tear through the Feeding Station.  Also overhead heading Westerly were
10 Curlews calling as they went.  A Kingfisher also put in an appearance but just sat on a distant
perch.  The light was getting a bit better so we thought it was time for a wander and a further
hunt for the Turtle Dove.  We bumped into Keith B on the way and off we went to try and
find it.  There were about half a dozen people there but only one had seen it before it shot
of after a plane flew over.  We split up but it only took about 10mins before I found it not
to distant from where it was perched the day before.  Took a couple of distant shots again
but didnt want to get too close and disturb it.

This pic courtesy of Keith Bradley is the original one taken when found the previous evening.

John and I after a good hour headed off to St Marys hoping that the bad weather might
be keeping away the general public, unfortunately there is some people as idiotic as us
and the place, whilst not packed, was not what I call empty.  On the North Bay 2 females
with 4 dogs ensured that nothing much was feeding although a Bar Tailed Godwith and a
Curlew did venture onto their normal spots on the Beach but didn't stay too long

On the promenade there was lots of birds including a few hundred Golden Plover which
never stopped landing and taking off after a minute or so then breaking off ito individual
groups, dispersing then rejoining.  The sun did break out infrequently giving us quick
glimpses of the magnificent colouring of these birds.  A Sparrowhawk flying along the edge
of the seashore had just about everything up with wings apart from a couple of Great Black
Backs who just looked around contemptously.

From the lighthouse we did spot several Common Scoter, a couple of Guillemots and Razorbills
with quite a few unidentifed (too lazy to carry scope and tripod) birds in the distance.  We did go
down to the Haven for a looksee but alas no YBW came out to put us in their Bloggers seen list.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

It Isnt the 2nd Day of Christmas - So Why ?

Extremely glad the weekend had come, had only managed to get out for an hour on Wednesday
to Tynemouth but managed to get some good views of the Yellow Browed Warbler.  So early saturday no sooner had I arrived at Big Waters Hide after a quick walk round the public end and managing to catch glimpses of Chiff Chaff, Bullfinch, Treecreeper and 2 Kestrel a Harrier was spotted by JB and even though it was only 07.20 all 3 of us present had a go with the cameras, why I dont know as the pic below is the
best one I got and JB and Malc binned nearly all of theirs also.

The Sparrowhawk made several appearances, occasionally just
sitting in the Feeding Station demonstrating his power

A Water Rail actually ran into the pond then realising it was a bit deep
had to fly across the pond (tried hard to think if I had seen one
fly previously but cant remember).

The Hen Harrier and 2 Otters kept the birds on their toes making
several appearances and making everything shoot from one
side of the pond to the other

During the week several good sighting were had including 60+ Brent Geese, Marsh Harrier, Pink Foot
Geese, Peregrine, 13 Siskin and a quite an increase in totals of ducks with Gadwall hitting a new record, Wigeon and Coot increasing and also, with a bit of perseverance, after going through the 100s of Gulls
 Alan J managed to find the elusive Med Gull.

Today about 20 mins after Keith B left for home Alan got a phone call and immediately left the hide saying
Turtle Dove down by the beacon so off we went.  I realised this must be quite a rarity as I had never seen
one and Alan had started "running", not quite as fast as a speeding bullet but faster than a pensioner on a
mobility scooter.   Just before we got there the 11.20 Emirates flight came over and Alan looked at me
and said "bet thats put it up".  When we got there he was proved correct and despite looking for 15mins
we couldnt find it.  Keith had to leave but showed us a couple of pics and we were now both convinced
that he had seen it (I never doubted you Keith) as in the past people have got Marsh and Hen Harriers
mixed up and sent people texts, then after showing pictures only for the more experienced birders to point out their errors (or possibly just start laughing).  Anyway Alan and I started looking and after 15-20mins I
spotted it flying into the scrub from the stubble field.  So keeping it under constant observation (technical
term learnt from Graeme B - which translates loosely as dont take your f*****g eyes of it) I hollered for Alan.  When he arrived and confirmed it several texts were dispatched and a mini twitch was on.
I didn't get the best of pics (see below) but it certainly is a bonnie bird.

Quite a while since one has been seen at Big Waters (Lifer for me) as you can see from
the data supplied by Alan J below (Thanks)