Monday, 30 April 2012

The Big Waters Big Walk

The Sunday ritual of the Big Walk around Big Waters so didn't leave the house till later than usual and a brief stop at Arcot produced nothing apart from a few Tufted Ducks.  Moving onto Big Waters I just sat in the car for 10mins sheltering from the NNE finishing off my coffee and watching the Swallows (the only birds I could see) who were just about stationary as they flew into the wind, if only I had a boat the pics would have been amazing.  Eventually I made my way to the lakeside noting that the Dipping Pond was now a Dipping Lake

When your walking about you find indications of wildlife on the ground or in the trees/bushes of passing creatures and its always good to work out what they were but this one had me stumped for a little while although really taxing my brain I recalled the species to which they belong

Further clues were found a few metres further on in the shape of a couple of empty boxes of Foster Lagers and a multiplicity of empty cans.

The walk started with Graeme B, Ian D and Keith B.  Not a great lot was on the pond, 8 Mute Swans, a Gadwall, a solitary Cormorant, 4 Mallards, the odd Coot or 2 and about 30 Swallows with a couple of House Martins covering the lake in about 2-3 seconds in one direction then taking about 40 seconds on their return trip.  On the far side of the lake a Skylark, several Goldfinches, a Treecreeper and Blackcap were both heard then seen.  This little cutie though was watching us as we passed its pied-a-terre ensuring we were not up to any mischief

As we hit the "Horse Field" Graeme spotted a Jackdaw with a noticeable "white ring" which marked it as of Nordic origin.  I snapped a couple of quite long distance pics.  Another first for me.

We carried on and did the long walk encountering another Treecreeper which Graeme managed to pick out calling inbetween the gusts of wind.  Lapwings were still occupying the field West of the wood and the small flash was well occupied with various Gulls but alas nothing else was visible.  On round to the hide where Ian told us the water had dropped at least 6 inches but  the Feeding Station was still well submerged.

On the pond 1 of the Swans nest which was abandoned was now floating with several eggs visible.  A coot still sitting on its nest just outside the front of the hide was surely getting seasick as it bobbed up and down as the wind created small swells.  Well here's hoping the weather will be a bit better for the walk next week as no doubt we will be hearing tales of the glorious weather in Japan and Taiwan from a returning walker.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

2nd Blog from Saturday

Returning from Langdon Beck on Saturday I decided, as I was passing, a quick visit to Prestwick Carr to see if the Godwits were still there would be in order.  As I drove up the track towards Mayfair Cottage there was 2 Whimbrel in the first field, the first ones I have seen this year.

As I got to Mayfair Cottage I was informed that the path up towards the sentry box was flooded so decided a quick look in the horse field from the gate would be a better idea.  On view were 3 Black Tailed Godwits, 12 Golden Plover, 8 Dunlin, various Gulls and then a "cutie" wandered into view from a dip in the ground.

Unfortunately the pics aren't as cute as the Wheatear itself.  Bicycle Bill informed me that it was the first one of the year so not having Peter F's number I contacted Alan F who then contacted him.  They both turned up  a bit later.  Alan F did spot a Whimbrel flying in quite high and it headed towards the area where the other 2 were.

A massive crop from a dot in the middle of the viewfinder was obtained and if you look closely (you dont have to look closely actually) you can tell from the multitude of graininess and blurring how far it was off.
But when I left sure enough there was an additional Whimbrel although it was a good 50m from the other 2.

A short video of  the same Whimbrel just standing there doing nothing, just chilling out

Black Grouse - Langdon Beck and Beyond

Probably one of my worst days for taking pics but an absolutely outstanding day for watching birds.   I had a really early start rising at 2 then leaving the house at 3 then arriving at Langdon Beck at 04.50 for a 5 start.  The mist was bloody awful but I did get some great views of a Barn Owl somewhere near Edmondbyers.  At Langdon Beck about 20 members of the NHSN were gathering for the Black Grouse Lek and the first person I bumped into was Maria S who offered a ride around in her much larger vehicle as we were all car sharing to cause less hassle to the birds.  Off we went and when reaching the Lekking point there was 19 Males and a few females already "at it".  They were too far off again for pics but great views through bins and scopes.  Then we were blitzed by Snow and Hail Storms for 30mins on and off then it brightened up but the males were still holding territory although the females had vanished.  10mins after the "storm" ceased in came 3 females and it all started again.  At about 7 we then went on a drive round the area to watch the displaying Snipe and Lapwing which there was plenty of.  Also spotted were Curlew, 2 Short Eared Owls (which brought the convoy to a halt whilst one of them sat on a post a bit of a distance away but in an absolutely stunning setting but even Maria didn't bother to unholstering her beast of a camera as it was just a couple of lenses too far.  Off we went again and a Wheatear was just sitting on a wall as we turned a corner and never moved but the convoy carried on going and we couldn't tell anybody as the leaders walkie talkie had broken and he had taken  mine back (sob sob).  Several more Black Grouse were seen along with Pied Wagtails, lots of Redshanks, Golden Plover and a fleeting glimpse of a Dipper.  Then we stopped to observe a male Ring Ouzel and after a minute or so a female appeared also.

Then after about 75mins driving around we headed back to the Langdon Beck Hotel for a Full Monty Breakfast, then a great presentation by one of the Black Grouse Officers from the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, ably assisted by a couple of wardens from Natural Englands Moor House Reserve (the sound on the computer (distinct lack of it actually) was substituted by one of wardens, Chris, doing his interpretations "they are now explaining about...." "the Black Grouse males are now bubbling, bubble, bubble bubble" was probably better than the original.  Then some of the more able (fools) went out for a walk around then onto the Moor House reserve led by the Director, James Littlewood (he told us it was approx 3 miles, he didnt mention the up bits), it was a nice wander though starting with view of the Spring Gentian, a flower that I had never seen before, unfortunately it hadn't opened up yet (possibly something to do with the hail and snow a couple of hours previously).  The following pic is really bad but that was me not the weather not the distance this  time, I took 4 quick pics and this was the best

The walk was a good 2 and a half hours but some great spots included another couple of  pairs of Ring Ouzels, at least 2 pairs of Wheatears, and a single female, a possible fleeting glance of a Dipper,  Dunlin, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, more Black Grouse and a Red Grouse, Golden Plover and Redshank.


Friday, 27 April 2012

Beehive Flash

 A trip down to the Beehive Flash this morning before work was rewarded with an Avocet and 26 Black Tailed Godwits.  Would have wrote a bit more but am off to bed due to an early start for Langdon Beck in the morning.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Its A Ruff Life But Not In The Garden

Saturday and at last a chance to get out after 5 days of work.  Unfortunately on Friday I had left my phone at work so went to Shibdon for a wander round prior to going back into Newcastle to recover my phone.  I was glad I did go as I bumped into George S on arriving who told me the Ruff were directly in front of the hide so shot straight along there before going around for a walk around.  The 2 Ruffs were a lot "bonnier" then when I had last seen them and really stood out although they were getting a bit of hassle from one of the Mute Swans but just flew 10m back and forward to the 2 little mounds of earth that were visible in the vastly increased height of the water.

I then went for a wander round, a few Chiff Chaff and a couple of Willow Warblers were calling away incessantly throughout my walk.  Also plenty of Sand and House Martin over the pond and the odd Swallow.  I did see a small wader fly in and land on the far side of the Island opposite the Hide from the Boardwalk but only got a quick glimpse of it on the ground but presumed it to be a Common Sandpiper.

Then headed off to pick up the phone, then the wife, then the shopping, then a mature lady who fell over in the centre of Blyth (why do old people (and I'm 61) always insist they are alright then fight their way up even though they are obviously hurt) then a nice meal in Blyth (Sambucas) where for a change I had the Fish Platter (dont normally go for them as they tend to be loads of stuff deep fried from the freezer) but thoroughly enjoyed Salmon, Cod, Mussels and Squid in a not too overpowering garlic and onion sauce) and not a bit of batter in sight.

Back to the house to empty the car so decided to do a bit of Garden Watching rather than head out again.  There are now 2 Blackbird nests in the hedge although the next door has built a 6ft fence around his property which gives the cats of the neighbourhood a place to practice their balancing act (including both of mine) and sit only a couple of feet from the nest looking down into them.  The Blue Tits are still both taking material to the hole in the wall of the house opposite and the Coal Tits are somewhere in the next garden but feeding regularly on Carole's Coconut Shell.

The house opposite attracts the 3 Herring Gulls where the resident puts his scraps out at the same time every day so they turn up quite regularly and start calling when the food is not put out on time.  The pair of Lesser Black Backs haven't been around for a couple of weeks, probably off doing better things.

The Collared Doves have increased from 4 to at least 6 although they tend to only come in 1 or 2 at a time now instead of altogether.  When Carole goes into the garden they and the Stock Doves tend to hang around but the Pigeons are off like bullets.

Have seen at least 4 Great Tits at one time although I suspect there are more as there is just a constant stream of them.

I still cant estimate the House Sparrow numbers at the moment as their constant movement makes an accurate count impossible but c40-50 minimum

Plenty of Starlings around although the number will no doubt  vastly increase in the not too distant future as they bring their offspring into the garden and leave them in a sort of creche being watched over by 3 or 4 what I presume to be females.

Recent additions to the Garden List include Mistle Thrush, Grey Heron, Greylag and Mallards (all overflies)

The other regular visitors, Robins, Dunnocks, Goldfinches, Wrens, Common Gulls, Jackdaws were all seen although didn't manage to get snaps of them

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Last Week in Glorious Colour (Sort Of)

Had a decent time out and about this week as I only managed to fit in 3 days at work.  So heres a few Highlights pictures that were printable and a couple that aren't but you are getting the option to not bother see them if you wish and a small Video at the end

One and a half Ruffs at Shibdon

Couple of Snipe at Shibdon also

I just love photographing Redshank at Whitley Bay and always take 
more pictures of them than anything else although I am still waiting
for that really good one

Kestrel at Big Waters on Monday

On Friday I went for a trip up the coast with Alan Foster and we had 
a pretty good day despite the nithering wind.  For those that don't know
Alan, here's a pic of him from his good side

We had a Short Eared Owl sitting on a tree just past the gypsy encampment 
before Cresswell which took to the air and then was promptly harassed by a Crow

Then onto Druridge where the SEO underneath was the first bird we 
encountered then when it took off another one joined in the hunting

We also spotted at least 3 Hares between the Budge and the South Facing Hide

A pair of Pintails which despite many pics never managed to get them
with their heads up together.

At Hauxley there was quite a lot around but nothing out of
the normal although we did spot this Greylag with a Neck Tag
which I forgot to write down, but I am sure Alan has it and will
text it to me so I can find out about it.  Also had our first Orange
Tip of the year in the sunny warm spot near the screen over the bridge.

At East Chevington my first Sandwich Tern of the Year
Its Sixth from the left (honest guv)

The bog standard shot of a Meadow Pipit on barbed wire
Its always appealing and I defy anyone with a camera
to tell me they dont bother.

Finally a pair of Stonechat but couldn't get them to perch 
together long enough for a picture

Finally a short video of a Marsh Harrier in Slowish Motion
Remember to watch in UTube and change the quality to its highest

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Busy, Busy, Busy

Its Busy Busy in the Garden at the moment.

This young lady is obviously a trendy young thing and is into the
female pink thing

The next ones are obviously sticking with traditional build materials of 
dirty claggy stuff that sticks well together

Carole asked why don't the Daddy Blackbirds help with the building, I replied
"Did you let me pick the Wallpaper and furniture and arrange the room",
"Yes, I understand" she said

The House Sparrows below are getting through a lot of Cotton Wool which
my beloved has put out for them along with a few bits of Sheeps Wool which
I collected from Upper Teesdale

Then after a hard days Nest Building a long cool soak in the bath

Then a bit of shaking and shimmying 

This is a substituted pic of the normal bathing session after a hard days
work as once again I managed without any difficulty at all to delete
the pics which my beloved had spent many seconds tiring her right index
finger out to take (sorry Luv)