Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Tundra Bean Geese at Big Waters

Sunday morning and off for an early start at Big Waters.  At the Car Park 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker were already drumming away and several Long Tailed Tits flitting around.  On the pond were a few Geese but it was still a bit dull to make them out properly as they were right at the West end and as usual my scope was still in the boot of the car.  An amazing amount of 31 Mute Swans and 10 Sygnets seemed to fill the pond.   Off to the 1st hide, picking up scope on the way, and on the first field by the entrance to the reserve 2 Grey Partridge were aimlessly wandering around, even though it was only 7.04am (noticed time on the exif) and the light was still bloody awful I snapped off a couple of shots but they didn't take a blind bit of notice.  Wandered down to the hide and on opening up there were 10 Mute Swans immediately under the window some of which I couldn't have possibly counted previously and they were all "Loved Up" and trying to claim a bit of the bank until another one came charging across the pond straight into the middle of them.  From the hide I could see 2 Little Grebes, a Great Crested Grebe displaying but nobody was interested, 8 Male and 5 Female Tufted Ducks, 5 Male and 8 Female Goldeneye, lots of Wigeon, a few Teal, several Gadwall and quite a few Lapwing resting on the island.  The Greylags could be seen more clearly now and the 2 Barnacles were still there and in amongst them the 2 Whooper Swans just floated past unconscious to the world as usual.  

Swans "Luvving It Up"

Black Headed Gulls and Lapwings taking control of the Island

Greylags, Barnacles and a few of the Goldeneye, note Mute Swan in
the reeds, the problem is that you cant do a proper count from one
spot, you have to go to a minimum of 3 places and Graeme wont
let you do that cause you dont have them under constant observation

Up to the main hide, catching view of a pair of Bullfinches and a Treecreeper on the way, where John B was laying out a full 5 course meal for the "Little Birdies" hoping to attract the elusive Brambling (didn't appear as usual) so hunkered down to see what else I could see and picking up the book I noticed that Keith B had wrote Pintail down for yesterday.  Within a couple of minutes and help it   was seen in the far North West corner (thats how I had missed it from the other hide (LOL)).  

Very bad Record Shot of Pintail

Also found a couple of Pochard.  I then headed off to meet Keith B for a little walk round as Ian D was off "Rabbit Feeding!" therefore Alan J's Limo was not available to pick him up at 09.30.  Keith and I headed off and immediately spotted 100+ Lapwings but not a great lot else as several people and their canine friends had been around.  One came and did its business right behind us and its owner on a bike just cycled past (ignorant bastard).  Spotted 3 Song Thrushes in one of the fields feeding away on the ground with a few Corvids.  Round to the fields and overhead came the Geese and sure enough the ones I was looking for were with a small bunch of 10 or so Greylags, Tundra Bean Goose, so off we went to where they landed and some great views were had.

Back round to the hides to see Alan J, who had been joined by his holiday pal, Alan F,  who had pulled himself out of bed by now (Life must be hard now he has dedicated himself to Bird Watching Full Time) and I had to carry a bucket of Fat Balls myself to the hide (bloody hell are they heavy after a 100m or so).  Wheres a young, fit, strong 50+ yr old guy when you need one, all I had was Keith B.

Lots of chat occurred and a little Birdwatching was done but approx 15+ Snipe did a lot of flying into and out of the Reeds, great to watch and eventually the Whoopers did decide to lift their heads for a few minutes, no wonder they dont have to feed a lot to build their energy up, they sleep for ages.  During the day I also added Oystercatcher, Curlew and Skylark to the Patch list

Time to go and get some food said I, so I couldn't go with them to see the Bean Geese again, then I would pop to Gosforth.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Way Down South

Saturday and John A and I headed down South, we intended to visit lots of places but as usual we got delayed at Cowpen Bewley, cut short our visit to Saltholme, extended our 5min stop at Newburn to over an hour, then wandered round the Headland for a couple of hours and stood looking through the gates of the Fish Quay at 100s if not 1000s of Gulls.  The tale is too boring, lengthy and uninteresting so here is some pretty (well sort of) pictures for you to enjoy/dislike/ignore/laugh at (delete as appropriate)

We heard several singing and each time we stopped, listened and watched (absolute magic)
Also spotted the Smew but not sure if we spotted the Ring-necked Duck so will have another
look during the week.

The Water Rail showed well from the Watchpoint and prior to that a couple of Little Egret flew over, a Bittern made a couple of appearances and a brief chat with Ian F was highly informative.  We never made it round to the main Saltholme hide as we planned to as our walking speed decreased as we found more interesting things to look at.

We stopped at Newburn Bridge to have our lunch and whilst disposing of a couple of chips John
spotted a Med Gull diving down for it.  The next 30mins was spent feeding said Gull and at one 
stage there was 2 Med Gulls present, the chap in the next car photographing them also said
that there is normally 3 there.  So heres another 2 pics to make up the total to 3.

We then moved round to the Headland to have a look at the Gulls and see what we
could spot.  

Out of the thousands we could see the only white winged one that we could
recognise was this 1st Year Glaucous Gull.  This was later confirmed by a 
Gull expert (he said he was from Newcastle so must have been at expert at 
something)who arrived to look at them also (maybe expert is a bit strong
as he said he knew a little bit and confirmed it was what we thought).  

On the headland beach was quite a lot of stuff including this Bar-tailed
Godwit.  I always thought of them as slightly bigger than the average 
wader but when I saw it next to a bottle of water I was quite suprised.
Also on the Headland were quite a few Dunlin and Knot.

Tomorrows exciting episode will consist of Pictures which I havent got round to
sorting yet ????????????????????????????way 

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Not A Kittiwake In Sight

Sunday went to Far Pastures to hunt for the elusive Firecrest.  It was going to be difficult as I only had half a binocular after them being knocked off the shelf (by myself) in Gosforth the day before then having to brake sharply when an idiot in the normal white Audi shot round a roundabout without indicating nearly taking myself and another guy out.  We both braked hard but he hadn't left his binoculars resting on the front seat so when it bounced off the dashboard it was $*&?**  broken.  Anyway when I arrived there was already someone there looking for it and despite  many false alarms (nearly all of them Goldcrests) we failed.  Also there was this beast

It was being used for weed clearance in the pond and had done part of it on Saturday and for the first time in a few months there were birds there, not many (5 Canadas, 2 Teal, 2 Mallard, a Little Grebe, 2 Reed Buntings, and quite a few Gulls)but better than the big fat none I have seen in my last 3 visits.  The operator told me he had been in the area for 6 days and still had Shibdon to do afterwards.  The other places he cleared were Maryside (which I had never heard of) but one of the Rangers told me it was near Clara Vale across a public right of way on a Golf Course and it had been completely overgrown, the other was at Ryton Willows and was called The Gut Pond, which had also been overgrown.  It might be worth someone checking them out, if they know where they are, cos I dont. 

I then went off to town and purchased a new pair of Opticrons, I decided to look at a pair of Bushnells and Nikons in Jessops  first but despite being told they were in stock on the website the assistant told me they had no Nikons in the shop but there might be some in the stockroom but he couldn't look for them and the only Bushnells were on display.  I went across to Jacobs and they couldn't have been more helpful allowing me to take outside and try several pairs but in the end I went back to Opticrons as the Leicas and the Swaroski were just the odd £1,000 too expensive.

Arrived back at Far Pastures and within 30mins had several views of the Firecrest (mission accomplished) and a good bit of crack with several birdwatchers present although in this months Birdwatch magazine punkbirder is interviewing Graham Catley who says it is best to look for rarities alone or one watcher will drag the other one down so does that mean 

a.   When I am out with Alan J, Ian D, Graeme B, John A they must be dragging me down and not letting me birdwatch at my full potential because of  their constant chatter and requests for information from me


b.   I am dragging them down whilst they are answering my questions and spotting the birds which they then have to point out for me (even though it is my 4th calendar year of bird watching, as someone has mentioned once or twice)

I will let you figure out which is correct but a hint is that Ladbrokes have stopped taking bets on answer b

A blog without a bird picture WOW but at least I was trying tonight at 5.20pm whilst my beloved was ordering the meal when I took this pic which I will call

  "Waiting for the Kittiwakes from Saffron"

ps.  the meal was stunning and I even helped Carole finish her Lamb Jalfrezi

Finally, Congratulations, to Marsch1962, commonly known as Maria who managed to get 3 of her pics of Short Eared Owls on Winterwatch tonight

Monday, 20 February 2012

Quiet Saturday

Saturday morning and didn't really get moving as I had a few home chores to do and depleted stocks 
of seed meant me going to Laverock to buy food for the Garden Birds, thats if you can include Herring 
and Lesser Black Back Gulls although to be honest they dont touch the seed but certainly demolish the remnants of the household food put out by Carole and the neighbours.  I also stopped off at the 
stubble field near Blyth to look for the Snow Buntings but despite being there for an hour 
watching intently I didn't see LBBs or LWBs at all.  I wouldnt have stayed so long but a
 late breakfast/early dinner of a super portion of Fish and Chips kept me satisfied whilst scanning
for Birds.  I had to get a couple of things in The Toon also so by 13.30 I somehow ended up at Shibdon
for 30mins.   Plenty of Lapwing, Teal, and the normal suspects although on the far side of the
pond I did count 47 Snipe tucked into the base of the reeds.  Of to Gosforth where I spent 45mins
in the Feeding Station Hide which whilst not full had a few coming and goings, notably the illustrious
Terry C with his Front Turrent Gun salvaged from the Bismark (Paul M has the other one).
It was absolutely full of birds with the most prolific being the Blue Tit.  I concentrated on trying to
get a few shots of the Goldfinch  with a bit of movement but the most movement was in my hands
whilst trying to keep the camera steady.

This pic of a Goldfinch just studying the feeders awaiting his chance
to leap onto one was my favourite of the day.

Off to the lake where it was extremely windy and was suprised to
find at least 9 Shoveller although there could have possibly been 
a few more but they were at a bit of a distance with only 1 or 2
venturing close enough for a happy snap.

A Bittern did a bit of a fly past but the odd shots that were got off
amounted to nothing more that a shape with a good amount of blur.
I then headed back to the Feeding Station where I was able to get
a couple of decentish shots of a Treecreeper and a small video.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Amorous Affiliations At Amble

Not being one to deprive my adoring public of Bird Photos par excellence, I asked Maria and Keith if I could use some of theirs, they said they would love to as my readership is massive compared to their normal small circulation place of publication which they have been sucked into a water tight contract with, the odd reader might have heard of them, FLICKR, so I will have to use mine again, SORRY.

Here is a few that were taken last weekend, as so far this week my birding has been restricted to 20mins on the Fish Quay yesterday afternoon with the beloved where a Juvenile Iceland Gull sped past a couple of times before we went in for a quick special at Sambuca 2.  (Wonder if I can get a bung of them as I have mentioned the place a few times now, maybe I could start a new blog "Ice Cream Vendors and Restaurants I have Visited Whilst Birding")

There is a Jack Snipe in there if you look carefully

I wish my hair was as long as his

God, aren't birds ignorant - Hoy, I'm taking a pic of you turn round

After looking at all the pics of the Waxwings in the garden 
(taken by another member of the Family) and wondering 
why they were drinking the water, if you can call it
water, from there

I realised why as this was happening at the same time

Yet another crap pic of the Peregrine at Big Waters but its my Patch

An even crappier picture of a Slavonian Grebe not on my Patch

I think this is my first ever pic of a flying Eider

Across the harbour at Amble a Billy No Mates Bar-tailed Godwit
wandered around

Finally just to please a certain reader of this blog a bit of the other

Get your coat Luv, you've pulled

Are you sure your on a healthy fish diet, you feel a bit heavier.
Probably those exquisite chips from Harbour Chipshop in Amble
(Another good marketing opportunity wasted)


I don't, I feel blurry and fuzzy or maybe its just the

Monday, 13 February 2012

Starling Mini Murmuration

On Saturday John A and I decided to check out the Starling "Mini Murmuration" at Brunswick.  We arrived at 4pm and spent 45mins driving round to find the best vantage point and after a couple of wrong decisions we placed ourselves next to the Pylon they were gathering on and close to.  I realised we were in the right position when in the back garden of a couple of houses several people came out with cups of tea and sat in a line looking at the pylon.  We were also approached by a gentleman with a dog and his opening statement was "Are you from the bloody council come to get rid of these bloody birds for us, will you shoot them?"
After explaining that we were just interested as observers of wild life in the local area his attitude changed from his initial gruff approach to one of an informant telling us of his woes all surrounding "Bird Shit" on his car and caravan.  Both John and I noticed several dollops of Bird Shit on his coat as he had walked directly under the Pylon where the Starlings were gathering but didn't say anything as we nodded sympathetically to his outpourings.  

Anyway as far as Murmurations go it was very mini compared to the ones I have seen at Gretna and Martin Mere but it is our own little County one, although the experienced birders will no doubt regale us of the massive ones that happened all over the area when they were just knee high to a White Stork Common Crane (someone mentioned that I must use birds that are tickable in the UK).  The gentleman that we spoke to above also told us of "them bloody gatherings" being 10 times bigger a few years ago.  So here is a couple of short videos (up to my normal standard of visual and audial perfection) for you to look at, if you wish.  I have linked them to UTube as you get better quality then (and they definitely need any help they can get)

The Gathering (Press the UTube logo to view)

Going To Roost (Press the UTube logo to view)

Complaints about the light in the 2nd Video should be directed at

"The Big Guy Above The Clouds"

Sunday, 12 February 2012


Friday was my birthday so took the day off and went to Big Waters where a pleasant morning was had in the company of Alan J and Ian D where the highlight of the day was again the Peregrine which spent a couple of minutes harassing the inhabitants of Big Waters although the Ducks on the pond never moved but everything else in the vicinity certainly did.  Only managed to get a long distance shot as I didn't put my binoculars down till it was just about to disappear.

Also a small flock of siskin entertained me in the feeding station for 20 mins.  

Alan and Ian then went for a walk round but due to it being slightly later than usual I had to go and push some carbs into my poor withered body so ended up at Gosforth Park after a quick Maccydees.  It was bloody freezing by now so just had 45mins in the feeding station where Paul McM joined me for part of it.  It was extremely busy with literally a hundred or so birds being in view for a considerable amount of time.

Room for 1 more on top

Shot off home for a quick bite to eat then picked up Sedgedunum Warbler and off we went to the Hancock for a presentation on Visible Migration given by Keith Clarkson, East Coast Area Reserves Manager for the RSPB.  A great talk by a great orator.

I could go on about Saturday which was a day out up North with Sedgedunum Warbler but the day was brought down to earth with a bump when Mrs Howdon Blogger contacted me about 10.30 and said "You know those pretty coloured birds with the spike on their head and the bright bits of yellow on their wings", not exactly a Collins description but I knew what she meant so I said yes, you mean Waxwings, she said she had just seen some in the garden which were chased by a Sparrowhawk.  No photos but she said she would keep a watch out.  Now as you know Im a  bit of a happy snapper with the camera and Carole is not exactly a snapper and only sometimes happy so I wasn't expecting anything and I even thought that she might have been winding me up.  So when I got back and picked up her favourite bridge camera, not a pic.  Then she said "No I used the one with that thing that keeps making a noise and keeps moving when I take photos".  For the technically minded thats a Nikon D70 with a 70-300m lens (the £100 one) and here are some of her pics taken at god knows what settings cos she presses buttons and moves the "windy thing" at random to fit the things in the picture.

ps.  She apologised for not getting the Sparrowhawk (and so she should) ;0

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The Big Walk

Sunday morning and off as usual for the "Big Walk" round Big Waters with Alan, Ian and Keith.  Must have been a bit nippy for the 3 young uns as they were hatted and gloved but us trained to kill ex servicemen can handle a bit of snow so al fresco it was.  Had a quick walk up to the main hide and back before the others arrived searching for the elusive Bramblings, unfortunately, again they remained elusive.  I did spot Bullfinch, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk on the walk in and the usual suspects in the Feeding Station.  

The newly refurbished Feeding Station a minute or so after a Sprawk Flythru

Back for the walk and all the  birds had gathered in one spot on the pond now with all the gulls hanging around the other bit of open water. At the public end a Kestrel relaxing on the edge of the plantation.

Walking down the track chatting away and everything lifted, eyes scouring the distance looking for a raptor, spotted a Peregrine, but didn't say anything, I let young Alan J take the kudos in spotting it (hmmm, really).  It lazily flew through and like Moses the waves of birds parted in his path.  It eventually alit on top of one of the Electricity Pylons and stayed there for quite a while.   Further on 8 Eyes hunted for a new species for the year, a Pied Wagtail, Feral Pigeon, Redpoll but unfortunately zilch.  Further on the Greylags, 2 Barnacles and 2 Canadas came in to feed in the fields

A Treecreeper was spotted quite close so I managed to snap off a couple of pics of an unusual confiding bird.

Then came the highlight of morning when a "Darvic Ringed" Iluyshin II 76TD flew overhead heading for Manchester at an altidude of 23,500ft.  It had been initially ringed on 5 March 2010 as the 3rd in a batch of 3 Fledglings as Blue on White RA-76952.  Keith had been nervously tracking it for over an hour looking skyward most of the time and when it came out of the Cumulus he was quietly squirming excitedly in his anorak.  20mins later he told us it had been diverted to Prestwick and when you look at the pic I took of it at 23,500 ft you could see it was a fragile looking thing:

But when you look at it landing at Malta shod with more rubber than the forests of Burma 
why did Manchester turn it away

Anyway, Keith took off his anorak and got back into a sensible hobby and joined us in the hide to go though the weekly argument discussion about the number of birds on the lake to try and break patch records see if there has been any movement in species.  30 mins chewing the fat and counting and it was time for the young uns to head home to watch the football whilst this old un headed up to Prestwick Carr where some great views of Short Ears was had and a chat with Big Waters Regular Alan F.  Also managed to see a few Lesser Redpoll and a Willow Tit.

One of several Redpoll feeding on the Thistles

Short Eared Owl at Prestwick