Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Big Waters and Prestwick Carr

Tuesday and off to Big Waters.  Straight into the first hide and Alan J was already there with 9 White Faced Geese in front of the hide along with approx 90 Greylag.  After 30mins all 9 of them took to the air and headed North but landed after going about 3 fields.

Also on the pond was a Med Gull, only the 2nd one I had seen this year at Big Waters.

We were joined by Maureen and her son then went to the main hide where Brian B was trying to spot one of the elusive Otters.  Ian D joined us also.  After 45 mins of banter the number of adult Mute Swans on the lake was universally decided as 21 after many recounts.   We left the hide as I was going to head to St Marys when Alans phone went, it was Alan F in the hide letting me know I had left my small digital camera in the hide so had to go back.  Thanks guys and in appreciation for contacting me, the following pic which was left on the phone, from them, is published so the rest of the blogging community can appreciate what a couple of good looking guys they are.

After collecting the camera I changed my mind and headed towards Prestwick Carr to see the Owls and possibly the Shrike.  I also bumped into Maria and Sherpa TensingPeter and several others.  I reckon if you visit Prestwick for 5 Days you will probably meet 98% of birders in the North East as its been one of the best shows in town for a couple of months now and you cant go just once (for the tick).  Great views of the Owls and Shrike were had but all I could manage for posterity was a SEO atop a tree, but who cares cos for 90mins it was absolutely absorbing as usual.

Back on Patch

Christmas Day and after opening the pressies me and the Beloved headed up towards Newbiggin with the target bird being the Desert Wheatear.  After a walk along the beach heading North and having seen 2 other birders scrutinising a certain spot then leaving and walking along the golf course I was confident it was going to go in the Notebook.  Got my bins on it from a 150 or so metres away but then it took off and flew straight past us so we turned around and headed back only getting one more glimpse of it on the edge of the banks about 100m from the caravans.  We then headed down to St Marys but it was absolutely chokker so headed home for Christmas Dinner.
Boxing Day and Carole decided to give it a miss and try to get rid of the cold completely (its now 07.00 on Tuesday and she failed miserable so I will have to go out along again today) so off to Big Waters.  Arrived 09.00 and only 1 vehicle there so a quick wander round but nothing much around apart from the wind whipping me to death and a small flock of Siskins in its normal spot.  Off to the 1st hide where there was a delightful Little Grebe feeding just outside and giving me the eye for disturbing his meal

On the Island were several Cormorants mainly intent on making themselves look good and it was quite a while before a couple of them put their heads in the recommended position to ascertain whether they are carbo or sinensis.  So the following pic (small digi camera clagged up against ancient Nikon scope) has the heads at the correct angle for identification as suggested in this article.  After studying it intently and with all my accumulated years of  birding expertise (3 and a bit) I have decided that I still am not sure so am sending the pic to someone who might.  

Whilst I was away in Norfolk the last of the Whoopers departed any only Mute Swans were left which were a bit more active than in the last few weeks with lots of aggro going on.  Couldn't quite figure out which ones were the resident couple as there seemed to be 3 Adults (no red rings on) and 1 Sygnet ganging up on others and chasing them then I became more confused when 10 Sygnets came coasting in and settled in with the other 4 birds I have just mentioned.

No sign of the 100+ Geese including the White Fronted which have been around Big Waters for a couple of weeks with the exception of this solitary Greylag which was soon  chased off by the aforementioned Swans

Then headed up to the main hide where 3 Greater Spotted Woodpeckers in the Feeding Station were the highlight as the scrape is now non existent due to the influx of water.  A small flock of Siskin also came in.  Ian D arrived and a 30min chat ensued with me doing most of the talking about Norfolk and its delights then I headed off to Gosforth whilst Ian went on "The Big Walk".

At Gosforth I dropped into the new(ish) feeding station first where Jack (Whitley Birder) was already esconed.  It was quite active with Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Treecreepers and Nuthatches being the highlights although there were plenty of Tits, at last a couple of Chaffinches and several Goldfinches and Blackbirds.

Then headed off to the Pyle Hide where I was pleasantly suprised at the the reed cutting that had gone on since I was last there, it certainly enhanced the viewing experience of the birder.  A Water Rail was spotted up the left hand channel which was being harassed by several Moorhen and finally decided to leg it.  At the very extreme of the channel a slight movement betrayed the presence of at least 3 Snipe which eventually were chased off by the Moorhen yet again.  A very badly digiscoped (once again cheap camera pushed against ancient Nikon lens).

Next to appear was a Kingfisher and this time the excuse for not getting a decent pic was that the camera kept focusing on the reeds in the background making the actual bird look a bit like one of those cuddly toys I bought someone might buy from an RSPB outlet.

Finally a short video of  a Nuthatch taken with my ever increasing elderly bridge camera (hoping the wife with take pity and let me buy a new one even though when I do bring up the subject she always says "its your money buy one if you want" then turns away with the head up in the air.  I want one that does HD Videos like this one from Cain's blog of the Desert Wheatear

Sunday, 25 December 2011

St Marys In Great Winter Sunlight

Happy Christmas to all out there in Birding Land and outside of Birding Land (mostly my Kids, Grandkids and Great Grandkids) and especially to those who profess their dislike of the festive season.  

Returned to Howdonland on Friday evening then after a bit of admin and shopping on Saturday Carole told me to go and watch some pretty birdies somewhere while she washed clothes, tidied the house up and I suspect wrap a couple of presents.  So after a bit of protestation which didn't last too long and telling her that she should be resting as she has failed to dislodge the horrible cold she has had for a couple of days I was out of the door like a shot in the direction of St Marys.  Parking outside the cemetery I walked past the North Field which was as usual populated by mainly Curlews and the odd Lapwing.  The tide was nearing its peak so there was plenty to see close to with lots of Gulls, Redshanks, Sanderling, Turnstones and the odd Cormorant close to the promenade.  On the promenade itself were plenty of Pied Wagtails, several Rock Pipits and Turnstones who weren't too bothered by human presence.  

In the Wetlands there was a substantial amount of Gadwall (18 I could see although I was told later there were 30+).  Wandered around to the top of the grass bank overlooking the North Bay where I met a nice guy who has just moved up here from Sunny Wiltshire to Non Sunny Monkseaton, Nick Adams.  I spent about 2hrs there watching Sanderling, Turnstones with the odd couple of Purple Sandpipers "playing" and feeding in the tide line.

Nick was interested in Colour Ringed birds which I have recently become more interested in and we spotted 3 Turnstones and 1 Sanderling with rings.  Nick kindly sent me an email with the details on as I had forgotten my book.   The highlight of the day was watching a Peregrine making several attempts at getting his Christmas Eve Dinner but as far as we could see failed despite at least twice cutting a single Golden Plover out of the flock of many hundreds but never succeeding in the final kill.  Most of this happened in glorious light and was an amazing spectacle to watch with hundreds of birds wheeling around the sky or diving onto the muddy rock faces to disguise themselves.

Other birds seen were quite a few Eiders and a solitary Med Gull (seen by Nick but by the time I got onto it I could only describe it as a "blob in the distance".  There was also a couple of Greater Spotted Twerps frolicking in the Surf although I am not sure if they were of the Human Race as the male looked a bit like Jamie Oliver

Finally, whilst away in Norfolk/Suffolk over the past week my lifetime total increased by 4 to the magnificent total of 256
they were
Egyptian Goose
Caspian Gull
Yellow-legged Gull
Western Sandpiper

Once again Happy Christmas to everyone, even those Bah Humbugs in Beadnell and Wallsend

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Its Nice To Be Back

A trip up to Scotland for a few days where the first day was sheer white out in certain spots with almighty winds but the rest were just cold with the odd spot of rain and snow.  Managed a holiday tick total of 78 species, nothing spectacular apart from the scenery which was truly magnificent in places but even better was the evening entertainment in the bar accompanied by the odd few pints and gin and tonics and the company of Big Eric, his wife Kathleen and Vernon and his wife Dot.  

We arrived back on Friday night and when I woke up Saturday morning was absolutely loaded with cold but the beloved suggested a walk in the fresh air around Big Waters might be beneficial.  Off we went and was surprised to find that the pond was 80% iced up as it didn't feel all that cold.  There was still a couple of Whoopers on the island, 15 Mute Swan and 11 Sygnets, 7 Gadwall, 4 Goldeneye, 4 Lapwing, 4 Little Grebe, 5 Canada Geese and plenty of Mallard, Wigeon, Coot and Teal.

We then headed for a wander round the public end where there was plenty of Fieldfare but only saw a few Redwing.  Also saw 5 male Bullfinch and 2 Treecreepers, quite a few Goldfinch although no Greylags were found in the fields.

A Kestrel came and landed quite close us to us on a tree and didn't leave till we had gone right past it, then it only flew about 50m then landed on a fence post next to the path

A flock of 76 Siskin with at least 1 Redpoll in was feeding in several spots around the woods, I first estimated about 50 but got a shot of them in flight and counted 77, have now added How to Estimate Better to my list of things to learn about Birding at No 124

Then after a couple of hours wandering around we went for a quick visit to the hides, bumping into Keith B, Charlie and Graeme B.  Not a great lot close to the main hide due to the ice being at its thickest there.  So headed back home to a nice cuppa and a few doses of LemSip but am now feeling a lot better.  Now its Carole who has it pretty bad and today is her 6???th birthday and we are going out to lunch with one of the kids so no doubt I will get the blame for her feeling off colour.

Am off again on Monday for a few days in Cley.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Where Have All The Whoopers Gone ?

Saturday morning and didn't arrive till 10ish due to a bit of last minute Christmas shopping and handing my application into Nexus for my Bus Pass which I will be eligible for on 5 Jan 12 which is 329 days after my 60th Birthday but due to the new increase in the pension age everything is being "staggered" back to bring men into line with females (I always thought men were brought into line by females anyway).  So I went for a walk round with Alan J and the pond was already showing large swathes of ice which seems to bring the Mallards out in force with 122 of them on the pond/ice.  

The Whooper count has now reduced to 2 over the last couple of days since the wind became wild and woolly although Alan thinks that the weed from the pond has been blown to the edges, which is forming rather large piles (see the picture at the end) and as this seems to be the main source of food he suspects that this is the cause for the Whoopers departure

Also on the pond were 119 Wigeon, 5 Shoveller, a couple of Tufted Duck, 5 Goldeneye and 50 Teal.  There was also Coot, Cormorant although the Mute Swan adult count has reduced to 12 but the Sygnet count has gone up to 13.  

From the 1st Hide we could see a few geese behind the trees over on the fields across the lake, 2 of which looked like White Fronted Geese so off we set on a walk round to try and get a better look at them.  Despite the very strong winds over the last few days, as we walked round we only found 1 tree had gone over, fortunately it didn't have a nest box on it.

We disturbed a couple of coveys of Pheasants, a couple of flocks of Redwings and a few Fieldfare, caught a glimpse of a Little Owl but carried on at a much faster walking pace than normal in case, yet again, the Geese had flew onto the pond whilst we were walking round.

At last we got to thefinal field they could be in and thankfully they were.  We eventually got a count of 8 Adults and 1 Juvenile White Fronted and 137 Greylag Geese

Here is the weed that I mentioned above and it is quite widely piled up around the bottom (East) end of the pond

Completing our walk round we came across 6 male Bullfinches and 3 Females, the most I have ever seen here.  Also spotted were a couple of Treecreepers

Nice quiet walk round only bumping into about 3 or 4 members of the public but no birders/photographers although we did see John Ds wagon on our way out.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Sunday Walk

Sunday morning and didn't bother with the hides at Big Waters, just meandered around the public end with no purpose at all, just quite pleasant in my new T**t Hat which my wife had given me as an early Crimbo present.  As I had left the house that morning I said I was going to Go Outdoors to get a new hat, you know one of those stupid ones with the furry insides and Deputy Dawg pull down ear things, my beloved said hang on and delved into the bottom of her wardrobe and gave me a small package, damn I thought, hope its not a camouflaged one but suprise suprise it wasn't so now I'm a happy warm stupid Deputy Dawg lookalike with an early crimbo present.  Mind you the prize for the daftest looking birding hat still goes to a very nice chap who I bump into occasionally although I haven't seen him wear it since last year at Blyth.  Suppose I better mention the birds now, 3 Goosanders flew off the pond as I got to the bottom end, if I'd had my eyes open and could hear properly I might have noticed them and got a decent shot in the open instead of shooting through trees and reeds, this shot is the best of a bad bunch which now lie on the cutting room floor (deleted).  

I did manage to spot a few things which I did get pics of, a nice pair of bullfinches into the morning light although once again this was the only one of about 5 shots in focus (ish).

A Goldfinch of quite a largish flock, 20+, which settled onto this "plant" for at least a couple of minutes whilst I tried to see if there was any Redpoll around.

The odd Redwing dropped onto the Grass round by the area where the "Alien Circles" are.

Stupendous Blackbird up near the Car Park.

The birds I saw and tried to photograph but failed were a Treecreeper down by the boardwalk over the dipping pond. a couple of Goldcrest on the bushes by the picnic table, another 2 Bullfinches (male), several Fieldfare seen on at least 3 occasions, the 2 Barnacle Geese which came in with the Greylags again but were just a bit too distant.  Finally, whilst complaining about the weather I happened to glance back at my pics from last year and the following was taken a year ago Sunday.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Honestly Alan, They Were Under Constant Observation

Didn't get out till late this morning, 07.15, was stuck trying to get through a very difficult level of Angry Birds, but eventually got to Big Waters when it was light.  Bumped into Malcolm so went direct to the hide with him where Charlie was already in situ.  Everything was up by the hide trying to keep out of the nithering (now why should nithering come up as an error on spellcheck when my Gran use to say it all the time) wind.  
Now my first pic was taken when I first arrived at some bloody ridiculous ISO and other settings which I hadn't changed from taking my last pics on this blog, the starlings.

Started doing my count of the birds on the pond and for the first time since the Whoopers arrived they outnumbered the Mutes, there was only 5 in view and 5 Sygnets with the Whoopers numbering 14.  The next bird in was a Kingfisher which landed on the nearest perch.  Got a few pictures of it but wont bore you with them as everyone seems to put up stunning pics of them which will outshine anything I do.  So after counting I came up with 4 Shovellers, lots of Wigeon, Mallards, Teal, 6 Goldeneye, about 100 Lapwing floating around with about half of them dropping onto the North Field for a late breakfast.  Also floating around was a small flock of about 20 Fieldfare and a larger one of about 40 Goldfinch which dropped into the Feeding Station.  Also spotted 4 Little Grebe which I didn't think anything unusual about that at the time. Then I got back to watching the Whoopers, a great past time, who were very active today.

 I then went for a quick trip up to Prestwick Carr, there had bean geese there but they bean gone now.  No Shrike could be seen, was probably there but the low sun meant you couldn't see to where it normally hangs out.  I did see a Short Eared Owl in a tree and 2 flocks of about 50 Fieldfare.  Headed back to Big Waters after 30mins and sitting in the bushes by the entrance to the car park was this gorgeous Robin not 3ft from my drivers window who did a few poses then left.

As I got out of the car Alan J arrived and we set off for a walk together, first thing we saw were 4 Goosander (3 Male, 1 Female)pass only about 20m away coming into land on the pond, one of them decided he didn't like the look of the landing strip so off he went but the other 3 stayed.  We then started discussing what I had seen earlier and when I mentioned 4 Little Grebe Alan looked at me and asked that dreaded question "Did you have them under constant observation at all time" as if there was 4 that will be a December record since records began.  Yes I had as he stared at me and this banter went on for quite a while.  Anyway we got to the bit of the path round the lake where we would be out of the nithering wind and get warm when suddenly the birds we were going to look at, Greylags, took off from the North Field and flew onto the pond, a quick look at each other and we turned round and retraced our steps all the way to the 1st hide.  From the hide we got a count of 82 on the lake and 19 still on the Field but they were all Greylags.    The 2 Barnacles were still with them.  Alan started counting again, checking on my counts and actually getting more than I had earlier and he even pointed out the 2 Little Grebes he could see and reminded me of the Constant Observation Rule.  About 5 minutes later I did draw Alan's attention to 4 birds on the other side of the pond - 4 LITTLE GREBES - we then spent about 20 minutes trying to morph them in to 5 but failed miserably.  Anyway a pic was taken of 2 of them as they came over to the hide but I could never get the 4 of them together.  

A canny blowy cold visit was made better by quite a few birds and good company, forgot to mention Martin (hope I got the name right) and his wife who were in the hide with us.  Nice couple.