Tuesday, 27 March 2012

A Relaxing Weekend

Wasn't very mobile at the weekend but did get around to a couple of places, mainly Big Waters though but did pop in to Prestwick Carrs and Gosforth.  Early Saturday morning I went to Prestwick Carrs to see if my old friend the Tawny Owl was viewable.  He certainly was but all I could see was a grey blob as the mist/fog was bloody awful.  On to Big Waters where it still was short viewing distance only as well.  Some nice Primroses showing well

and some glorious Blackthorn flowers

Then when the some came out 3 or 4 Small Tortoiseshell, still too quick for the camera but did get a Peacock landing for a couple of seconds so a quick couple of shots

Just outside the main hide a couple of Chiffchaff calling and showing well.  I did have 4 sightings 

A mid afternoon visit to Gosforth Park to sit in the Feeding Station Hide and 
finish of my Maccydees Latte watching the Nuthatches, Treecreepers, dozens of Tits
and this great looking Woodpecker

Next morning a drop into Big Waters again and a bit of Hanky Panky going on here.
I dont know what the legal age is for Mute Swans but this one on the left looks a
bit too young for what the one on the right is thinking about surely.

Still 4 Whoopers drifting about, although I think this is the first time
I have seen them awake all at the same time

Off up the road and at last decent light to see the Tawny

Short Eared Owl getting some grief from several Crows and some very personal
attention from this particular one.

Great weekend, decent weather, but it does make you kind of lazy, couldn't be bothered
to go anywhere, just meander round, a bit of chat and a sit in the car listening to the football
watching the SEOs.  If Carlsberg made lazy weekends this could have been one of them

Saturday, 24 March 2012

What A Wage Slave Does In Their Spare Time

Once again have had a busy week at work so here is a few pics I managed to get during the week in the odd hours I wasn't being a wage slave

Not quite sure what this is but it certainly attracted my attention on an early morning wander at Arcot

An absolutely awful bloody picture but it was a very quick shot of
a Small Tortoiseshell, my first Butterfly of the Year, at Big Waters
last Sunday morning

Sunset over Big Waters last Monday Evening WOW

Tuesday Morning down at the Quayside Newcastle.  The Kittiwakes have started arriving
back but if you look closely a wire mesh contraption has been placed over the front
of a few buildings where they used to nest

You can see the mesh better in this picture and they have renewed all the
spikes on the roofs also

Now........ where can I build my little love nest for the next few months

On Wednesday morning my favourite Muscovy and its partner arrived back at its spot on the Tyne
where it was for a couple of weeks then disappeared for a week.  I think there are at least four
people dropping titbits for them and thats just in the morning.  

There are a huge amount of Redshanks still showing on the Tyne

One from the wife, her favourite bird in the garden.

The North Scrape at Big Waters finally carved out, although it will still need attention for
a few months yet.  Big thanks to Alans J and F and Craig B for the final effort on Monday

Friday night at Big Waters, my first of the year, heard a couple during the week,
but don't count them until I see them

Monday, 19 March 2012

Big Waters Then SEO Watching

Saturday and a quiet day at Big Waters in the morning and a trip to Prestwick Carrs in the afternoon.  At Big Waters the numbers were down slightly with the exception of the Whooper Swans that were now up to 5.  9 Pochard were also around and apart from that there was only the normal suspects.  I decided to have a look at the Dipping Pond which had been attracting a few visitors who I suspect had seen Alan Js pic on the Northumberland Wildlife Trusts Facebook Page.  No frogs were there but plenty of Toads popped up now and then and were visible a bit further down.  I did see 2 Newts but knowing absolutely nothing about them took some advice from someone else but when we returned there we only caught a small glimpse of one so will have a look next time I am there.

Toad and plenty of Frog Spawn

Hi, My Name is Toady, Whats Yours

The One on the Left looks as though it is Smiling to me

Two of only Six Mallards reguarly on the Pond

This Whooper stands in this position a lot of the time, dosent feed much, dosent
mix with the others, either its not too well or its just a Billy No Mates

Up to Prestwick Carrs where the Great Grey Shrike was viewed well through
the scope to the woods east of the sentry box.  Then down to the bumpy road to
play that great game, Take 300 Pics of the SEOs and see which ONE you want to
keep to go with the other 5,000 you already have

Saturday, 17 March 2012

He Had A Dream

2 Years ago Alan Johnston "had a dream" (possible copyright infringement here) and submitted a couple of pictures to the Northumberland Wildlife Trust for the siting of a scrape at Big Waters.  The first was the before shot

Then there was his impression

About 6 weeks ago the first steps went ahead with Jeff from the Wildlife Trust and a few volunteers strimming the grass and weeds and felling a couple of trees in order to clear a space behind the reeds.  Then on Thursday another Work Party comprising of Alan, Jeff, Craig Ballantyne, John Day, Alan Foster and myself made a second concentrated attack on the reeds and cutting back the regrowing  "foliage" once again.  To say it was hard was a bit of an understatement although maybe advancing years in one or two cases contributed to the toughness of the task and ones own personal fitness did not help at all.

I was substituted in the water just after lunch with the arrival of Alan Foster and put on "easier duties", even though I thought I had the easiest job anyway as "Occasional Reed Puller Outerer and Pusher of Weeds into a heap person".  Alan and Craig (who isn't a bird watcher but his Dad his) were magnificent in their efforts and then when Alan F arrived it was obvious Alex Ferguson Alan Johnston had saved the Super Sub for an opportune moment.  Meanwhile Jeff and John managed to strip the foliage away with an amazing effort.
Here is a few pics of the day of all those gallant workers and me!

THE GAFFER (note the dirt on the face, compliments of Craig)

Alan and Craig pondering where to start

The weed chucking begins

After moving a lot of stuff to back up the scrape which took too much effort the 
floating island theory was formed and the plan changed to Alan and Craig pulling 
and me moving and pushing

Go on.... it'll come out

Just to prove I was in the water but for those who have figured out that I was
designated "pic-taker" of the day will realise that some of the pics were taken
from in the water

Super Sub Alan Foster arrives and with a quick change of waders the work rate doubles

John Day and Jeff cutting away and no doubt they will be back in
a month or so to do it again

Me trying to look important (and busy)
(Pic courtesy of Craigs Dad)

Alan going to see a man about a dog 

I then did a short video in the style of Murray Walker (called someone
by the wrong name, called Jeff, from NWT, Craig Whoops)
(Remember to play the UTube Version)

The finished version 

We then headed home with Jeff amazingly pushing his wheel barrow through the mud faster than I could walk, both of the Alans had quite bad cramps and unbelievably Craig just picked up the 3 sets of waders,
put them in a huge bag and carried them over his shoulder like their was nothing there.

Then an email today from Alan J showing the first bird to be seen on the scrape


Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Moorhen Battle

Prior to going on the "Big Walk" around Big Waters with Alan J, Ian D, Keith B, Alan F and Graeme B I did a wander round myself and when I made it to the main hide I watched an amazing battle which lasted on and off for 12-13mins but only got the camera out for the last couple.  Its a bit longer than my usual shorties but definitely worth a look.  The pair that you see fighting in the first frame have already been at it for 8-9 mins and I watched the whole thing and kept thinking should I get my camera out of the bag or not, yet another bad decision, but eventually I did rush across the hide to get it.

Remember to click on the YouTube logo then you can watch it in better quality
When the UTube screen comes up there are 4 buttons on the bottom right, dont
choose the full screen, try the next one to it which is the large screen and if you want
change the quality (thats the button that looks like a cog)

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Teeside Trip

Saturday and John A, Alan F and myself headed down to Teeside for a wander round.  We started off at Dormans Pool hoping to spot the Green Winged Teal but whilst there was plenty of Teal showing the Green Winged was conspicuous by its absence.  We did see quite a lot of Pintail, a couple of Little Egrets, heard a Water Rail, lots of Canada Geese, a few Greylags and continual passage of Gulls.  After a drive round looking at a few spots we headed into Saltholme.  A Jack Snipe was not seen although we were told several times it was there.  It was Alan F's first visit so we wandered round most of the reserve but after a cup of coffee we headed into Seaton Carew for Fish and Chips then down to Newburn Bridge to try and tempt a Med Gull with a couple of chips.  Unfortunately not one was seen but we were highly entertained by lots of Sanderling, Knots, Oystercatchers, Turnstones, a handful of Dunlins and a few Ringed Plover going up and down the beach avoiding the people and dogs that were enjoying the midday sun.

Did a bit of videoing at 60fps but playing them back at 30fps which gives, to my mind, a bit more insight into the birds characteristics and traits.

Oystercatcher landing amongst other birds and 
hardly a movement from the others

You know how fast they walk now look
at them slowed down a bit

We then moved on to look for a Black Redstart which had been reported and when it was eventually found, by John A, we had practically walked back to Newburn Bridge.  We had to wait a fair while in order to get some decent views but even then the bright sun against pale concrete didn't show it off in its true colours.

Even the handheld video was a bit on the pale side

Off then to the Headland to have another look for the Kumliens Gull which was again unsuccessful although Alan did spot a Glaucous which we eventually got a few decent views of.

A great day with a couple of great guys.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012


Early morning in the Hall Household and as I pop off to work all seems well
apart from the unusual amount of Magpies on the "Garden Tree" there were
at least 9 but by the time Carole had got her camera working and was aiming
it without the use of her all seeing Varifocals she only managed to capture 6
of them..

When I take the car of the hard standing and head for work is the time
for the garden to come to life, especially the House Sparrows who sit and
wait for Carole to come out and refill the feeders at about 11ish each day.

But 2 Gardens along Carole has spotted a figure in the trees but
it doesn't seem as though the residents of the garden have.  Must have
got her Varifocals on by now

Then it drops down to the garden next door staying close to the 
ground but alarm calls reverberate round the garden and its "offski"
for all inhabitants.

The  Sparrowhawk then settles itself in its preferred observation
point in the Garden.  Now I don't mind them being there as it usually
means the hunt is unsuccessful but as they hang out just across the road I think
that we are the first port of call on their well established route looking for 
food so maybe they haven't quite got into the swing of things early morning.

Now wheres the rest of the family, haven't spotted Mammy for a while.

p.s. Thanks for the pics Carole

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Brambling At Last

Just a quick Newsflash

Got the Brambling I've been looking for at last, the bad news is that it wasn't at Big Waters, but at least it was in Northumberland, so off to Big W now to look for one (again).

Here's a video taken from my 56 registered mobile hide.  I put it in position so that John A could get a decent pic from his window then had to hang out of mine and shoot into the sun to get the following vid (I'm just so kindhearted)

The pair then flew off and apart from a few brief glimpses over the next 90mins they did not return.  The owner of the house came out to chat but said they had never seen them there before.  As seems to be the
custom now I am supressing the exact location so as not to upset the residents of this nice peaceful and
tranquil place, whats that you said John, I shouldn't drive through those Red Flags, yes that is a 105mm
Howitzer flash, you normally see it before you hear the bang, no I didnt bring earplugs.

Heres a couple of shots from Prestwick Carrs taken on Friday when I got an early finish
and after a Toby Carvery (god was I stuffed - great value, specially if you get the 2 for £10 voucher)
we popped up to the Carrs for an hour.At the Carvery we sat  next to The Drifters (Birders who 
are under 40 have probably  never heard of these) who had been performing at the Sage and 
were off to Middlesborough (poor sods) for their next gig.