Saturday, 27 February 2010

Up To A Century

The weather looked bloody awful but saw on the BBC that it was a bit better down Teeside so off I went to Cowpen Bewley although when I was driving through a Snowstorm just South of Easington I was a bit worried that they had got it wrong again but by the time I arrived the Sun was trying to peep through and no wind. Sauntered to the lake and immediatel spotted (with a bit of help) the Ring-necked Duck. The chap I was talking to said just sit and wait and it will come over, sure enough it did tucking into the Peanuts that the chap was throwning out for the Ducks.
The lake also had a couple of Female Goosander and a pair of Goldeneyes but neither of them came close enough for any decent pics so heres another couple of the Ring-tailed Ducks

Also present was plenty of Mallards, Coots, a couple of Gadwall and a pair of Mute Swans.
Toddled off back to the Feeding Stations and spotted my first Brambling of the year (Tick 100) and also this big fella who was out within 30 secs of the feed being put out for the birds.

Headed off to Headland (my first visit) where there were 2 big flocks of Eiders about 400yds offshore, along with 3 Red Throated Diver and a Long Tailed Duck but all I could see was a blur through the bins but a chap further along (with a scope)assured me it was. On the south side of the Headland was 40+ Oystercatchers, 15 Purple Sandpiper, several Cormorants, lots of Turnstones and 3 Seals cavorting about. A nice place to just chill and stroll along the promenade and see plenty of activity with a soundtrack of House Sparrows and various Tits in the gardens behind you.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Once Upon A Time There Was A Caterpillar....

Sitting at work yesterday afternoon when all of a sudden there is a little squeal from one of the young ladies and a lot of chit chat ensued. Eventually the lovely Hazel brought this charming little fellow round. One the lads (the healthy young one) was munching on some pea pods (my idea of a little munch at work is chocolate) and gave one to one of the young ladies (another healthy slim young thing) as she was about to eat it something dropped out, hence the aforementioned little squeal.

Thinking to myself its a bit early for caterpillars I asked where the pea pods had come from, "Morrisons" was the reply, Nope, where was it packaged, hoping it would tell the county as I presumed it had been grew in one of the greenhouse about 2miles long and 2miles wide somewhere in Kent. Egypt came the reply!!!!, sure enough the packaging said it had been grew in Egypt (Air Miles, Carbon and all those things the ECO warriors talk about flashed through my head), why bring pea pods all the way from there when there is all these huge greenhouses in England in which you can grow anything.......

Back to the question, have we got any Egyptian Botanists out there (PML - of course Egyption Botanists are followers of a Blogger from Howdon - however stranger things have happened (I might see a Goldcrest this weekend))who can tell me what this caterpillar would have turned into so I can tell the girls or am I being stupid (probably am). Tried to Google but gave up after 30mins.

p.s I took the little darling down to my feeding station and put him amongst the little bit of greenery left for a hearty last meal before...........RIP

Saturday, 20 February 2010

More Waxwings less Goldcrest

Friday afternoon got off early to eventually look at the Waxwings. The weather was not the greatest but got some really good views seeing (counted 36 of them at one stage) them from all angles. But even with the wonders of modern technology I didnt do much to the pics as demonstrated by the one below.

Woke up Saturday morning, loads of snow and no clouds. I didnt have a business appointment (hoping to see a Goldcrest till about 10) til later so shot up to Ashington again. No one around but spotted about a dozen flying around then another flock of a dozen or so. Got quite close to them in 2 or 3 different locations but still didnt find the Rowan Trees they were feeding on. Saw Alan Ts pics of a tree with a few berries on and saw him arrive just prior to me leaving and the people that were there ealy didnt know where they were either. Anyway the following pics, I think, are better than my normal happy snap so was quite pleased.

Then shot off for my appointment and an observation test (which I failed miserable) of trying to spot 1 dead and 2 live "Wildlife items". Yes, I passed (NOT), didnt spot the water vole with a couple of punctures in it on top of the bird box (Hells Bells Im not very big as one description of me by a former colleague was "you cant miss him, vertically and horizontally challenged and the missing folicles on his head can be found on his chin" and nearly missed the following until
given really big hints. I did manage to say that I thought they were Tortoiseshell but was corrected as most of you will know that I was only 50% right.

Anyway couldn't resist putting this lovely pic of "Wilhemina No Mates" Teal which wandered around all alone for most of the time that I was there on the frozen Big Waters.

Then went to look for the Goldcrest which as someone said to me will end up being your bogey bird and guess what........... quite a few Coal Tits BUT NO GOLDCREST. Thanks (yet again) for the informative tour AJ which is like being with a entertaining Encyclopia of Birds and Wildlife.
Have now succumbed to the dreaded Tick Lists and whilst out today realised what I have done when I listened to a conversation. 2 chaps came up to me and a birder I was standing beside and said "Hi (to the chap I was talking to) Im up to 129 what you doing" "on 156" said he proudly, the other chap said "thats good for this time of the year, Im on 132". I didnt say a THING (my year count of 98 (Waxwing included) and 22 for my garden, with 23 for work (the last 2 only include birds that touch down (except Grey Herons)) seemed to be paltry.
PS have disguised the numbers said by the chaps to preserve anonimity.
No Birding today unfortunately, off to a Birthday (my sons), Baptism (Grandsons), Wedding Anniversary (Wifes Sister).

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Early Morning Tyne Visit

Tuesday Morning, decided to have my first early morning wander along the Tyne. The first to come to my attention was this delightful Shelduck which swam round and round in circles for the 30mins I was there.

Above I said I was going for a wander whereas I never moved more than 5m as behind me was some marvellous singing going on and the birds on the river seemed to be coming to me for a change.
Next came a couple of Mallards which seemed to come from undedrneath the wooden landing where I also notice a mammoth rat come running out.

A Curlew flew in and landed right opposite me even though I was in plain view.

A couple of Teal wandered back and forward whistling their heads off.

Finally a pair of Cormorant flew up and down the River and eventually flew onto the Dunston Staithes further up.

Eventually I managed to get a shot of the Crooner behind me which had held me in the spot

I know these are not even good pics and the blog is crap but it is the first early morning pre work trip for nearly 3 months which really brightened my day up. Im posting this at 06.25 and am shooting off now down to the Tyne again. PS had my first Siskin at my work site yesterday when one of the girls came up and said why was there a canary eating from my feeders. Shot down and sure enough it was a "Canary Siskin".

Monday, 15 February 2010

Damn, Missed The Goldcrest Again

Once again an early start, headed up towards Wideopen, as was sitting in the house bored at 6.30, looking on the slimmest offchance for a Waxwing. Drove past where it was sited on Saturday but nothing so went looking for the Deer and Buzzards by Seaton Burn roundabout and wasnt dissappointed. 2 Buzzards just dozing away there but further down I could see at least 8 Roe Deer wandering around. It was only just coming up to 7 but a large ISO and several tweeks of the white balance enable me to get several shots off.

After watching them for about 10mins, the Buzzards never moved, I then headed off to pick up John who I was going to have a day out with. As I rolled up to High Farm the Sunrise looked absolutely beautiful over that well know Beauty Spot, Wallsend.

Off we then went to Gosforth Nature Reserve. I wont bore you with more details as you can read what happened in Segedunum Warblers Blog at
Although I did like this piccie of a Nuthatch I managed to snap.

Also below is my pic of a Lesser or Mealy Redpoll (answers on a postcard, or in a comment,or an email, or on a stone tablet)

Once again a Great Day out with John.
A ps for a regular reader. Missed the Goldcrest again as the couple leaving the reserve, whilst we were scoffing lunch in the car, told us they had just seen. Damn only managed to see a BBBBBB

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Back To The Patch

Saturday morning and back to the routine, early visit to Gosforth Nature Reserve and was greeted by a pair of Mistle Thrushes singing their heads off. Into the Reserve itself and was paying too much attention to the last calls of the Thrushes when 3 Roe Deer came galloping past me no more than 10m away. Plenty of Tits and Robins around (they seem to be everywhere) could hear geese flying overhead and the closer I got to the Reeds the louder the whistling from the Teal became. A small flock of Long Tailed Tits could be heard off to the North and seemed to be on an equidistant path to mine. I arrived at the Feeding Station and so did the Long Tailed Tits.

There were a couple of Nuthatches keeping up their busy busy routine of in, collect a bit of food, leave and come back 30secs later. They use the same alighting place every time then do about 3 separate hops/flutters to the next places before picking up the food and offski. I just focus my camera on the blade of grass in the picture and wait. It never waivered from that spot and one other during the 30mins I was there although they change their food collection point every week so better piccy ops will arise.

Off for a walk further around and bumped into 2 more lots of Roe Deer, quite a few more patches of snowdrops and plenty of birds calling from the lakes.

Then went to my favourites place where there was plenty of life on the lakes, a lot of it taking to the air as one of the otters decided to have a leisurely tour round his territory. He came quite close to the Hide but this time you could see him with the water being exceptionally high and the lack of reeds.

There was a Sparrowhawk flying very high over the bottom end of the lake and we were all watching it through bins, when it suddenly plumetted down and came like a bullet across the water only a foot or so above it, managed to grab the camera and press the button twice but failed miserably with only a couple of severely blurred blobs. Im sure the Feeding Station birds employ a couple of lookouts as it only took a few seconds from the Sparrowhawk dropping a couple of hundred feet then traversing the lake at unbelievable speed and by the time it entered the Feeding Station it was entirely empty. Just as we were about to leave the hide a pair of Goosander slipped onto the lake without any of seeing them come in.

Then went for a walk round with Alan and Graham. Plenty of things knocking around but nothing ultra unusual. A few Mistle Thrushes, Fieldfare, the odd Yellowhammer, a couple of Kestrels, couple of Buzzards, a few Greylags and a couple of Pinkfeet flew over and landed on the lake and not many Reed Buntings were seen compared to the hundreds a few days ago.

Headed home early as my weary old legs were beginning to feel the strain from the last 8 days walking.

A Day at Geltsdale

Off for my first trip to Geltsdale. Got to the Car Park at 10 and set off blind as we had no map of the place, so straight up the hill and when we got to the top you could see for miles so the obvious place to head to is the Tarn. On the way there I saw what I thought was a Stoat moving at a fast rate of knots through the very muddy ground, a couple of tits, a Kestrel hovering in the far distance and what I thought might be a Marsh Harrier right across the valley. As we neared the Tarn I caught my first glimpse of a Drake Smew and its partner, they are beautiful birds. Also on view were several Mallards, a couple of Teal, couple of Greylag, 2 Goldeneye and a single Pochard. They were quite a distance away but believe me 2nd from left is the Male Smew (Alan you might need your glasses for this).

When we got to the Screen by the Tarn I was amazed to see a Black Swan, immediately got my IPOD out and checked Birds of Britain and Ireland Pro but nothing listed then remembered I had seen one before but cant remember whether it was in Washington or Martin Mere WWT and realised that it was Australian. Dont know what it was doing here as there were no pubs or bars for it to work in.

Its a lovely bird but to be honest I do prefer the Mute Swan.

We then moved off towards what we thought might be the Information Point and bumped (not literally as anything you bumped into would have to be invisible as you can see for miles in all directions)into a chap called John who told us that there was a Ring Tail around, I nodded, then we talked about the other things around and he told us where to go and which pub to have lunch in. When he left I got my IPOD out again and looked up Ring Tail but nothing could be found so I said to the wife, trying to sound intelligent "I think it must be a collaquilism for some sort of duck". When we got to the Information Point the door was open and everything was laid out, nice and clean and not a sound could be heard. We used their facilities and was reading some literature when i heard somebody coming down the stairs, at this point I once again observed the "Marsh Harrier" through the window then the person who had came down the stairs started talking to me, the conversation went on for a couple of minutes but suddenly he shouted "Ring Tail" at the top of his voice three times and said to me "look theres a Hen Harrier over your shoulder" and went outside. When outside Carole and I were astounded to find people pouring out of the previously silent house and now there was 9 of them outside. Anyway the Hen Harrier performed for about 7-8 mins coming within 50m of us at times, yet another awesome bird. At this point I must admit that I had never seen a Marsh or Hen Harrier previously so guessing it was a Harrier was a bonus point!!! Unfortunately no piccies (aaahhhhh).
We took the High Road back to the Car Park and was absolutely knackered by the time we got back. We then took up Johns recommendation and headed for something to eat in The Blacksmith in Talkin. The one disappointing thing about the trip was that I didnt see any grouse whatsoever but when I got home there was a letter from the Hospital reminding me that I must have my annual Eye Test within the next couple of weeks.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Happy Birthday To Me

Wednesday 10 Feb, only 1 year to go to the Bus Pass, but like most days that are involved with Birding it turned out to be yet another Supa One. Due to a failure of there only being 24hrs in a day I have condensed Wednesday and Thursdays wanderings to a view of some of the pics myself and wife liked best. We got around quite a bit, Wednesday we visited St Marys, Hauxley, Amble Harbour where we had Fish and Chip (unfortunately not the best) Druridge Pools and Beach, QEII and North Shields where we bumped into Susan of Big Waters Fame.

Thursday we intended going to Geltsdale but due to a couple of hiccups on the Domestic Scene we stayed a bit closer to Newcastle. We went to Lamesley Water Meadows, Lamesley Reed Beds, a drive round the Crawcrook area and a lovely lunch in the Rising Sun, Clara Vale, Thornley Woods and back to the College to fill up the feeders (which I hadnt done since last Friday).

Took loads of piccies but heres some WE liked.

The first is the Blue Tit in our Garden which normally hides in a Coniferous tree in the next garden whilst belting out his morning song but today it was in plain view for over 30mins singing his little heart out.

At Hauxley Carole took this pic which is out of focus, not framed very well etc etc but we both just love it.

A nice obliging Coal Tit which stayed still for more than the obligatory .5 of a second

Found a pond in Crawcrook with lots of "birds" on it which was 90% frozen so Carole fed all the birds with a complete Wholemeal loaf (3 for a £1 at the Greggs Return Shop on the West Road) and I scattered a bit of seed around. We spent 30 mins there at a lovely enchanting spot. Several cars stopped and said hallo and asked us was there anything special which did cause a bit of holdup for the odd car but nobody seemed to be bothered, a nice laidback part of the world. This swan just sat there looking at me and I snapped him from about 2 ft away (dont know how I managed to get an all black background as there was loads of light)

Further on at the top of the hill in Crawcrook we stopped outside a Farm Entrance to watch a couple of Red Kites soaring around. In the 10mins they were aloft I think I only saw about half a dozen wing beats. Amazing birds.

This second bird was absolutely massive and one of the farmers came out and said "He's the Big Bugger around here"

At Clara Vale which I must admit is in a much better state that the last time we went (about July last year) we spent a pleasant hour in the hides there. This Blackbird (partial albino I think is the term) was at both hides. I was informed that he has been around for at least 4years.

4 Long Tailed Tits flew around for a while and got some canny pics but I like this one the best.

Just as we left this "Tatty", as the wife says, Pheasant arrived. She oohed and aahed and poor thinged over it. Personally I think the colours on it are great and wish it had come earlier when the light was much better.

A couple of great days with the highlight being the Red Kites, the company of Carole and nearly forgot the The DVD-ROM Guide to British Birds which our son Gary bought for me (Thanks Gazza)

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Blood Pressure Blues

Tuesday 9 Feb 07
Hospital appointment this morning so didnt get out till 10.30. But prior to departing to the Hospital there were quite a few Blackbirds doing some posing in the garden.
Had to take it easy after the appointment due to them fitting me up for a 24hr Blood Pressure Test so my beloved accompanied me to St Marys. A couple of Bar Tailed Godwits were on the South Beach along with a few Redshanks. The North Beach was host to quite a few Turnstones and a flock of over40 Sanderling. The Turnstone below gave a nice view as he drifted in to alight just below us.

The Sanderling for a change stayed at the edge of the rocks and didnt bother to come to the Beach (probably because there was quite a bit of Human Wildlife "playing" around).
They took of and did a couple of circuits on several occassions which were a joy to watch.

We then moved onto Blyth Estuary where the Eiders were out in force. 8 Males did a lot of displaying and fighting and 8 Females did a lot of ignoring, bit like the Big Market on a Friday night.

Another decent day out.

Monday, 8 February 2010

2 Good Walks

Monday and no work, had a lie in, didn't get up till 6am and by 7.30 the wife and I were off to Gosforth Nature Reserve. Didnt expect to see much on our way in as there was already a car outside and through past experience the first one in seems to send the mammals to the outskirts of the reserve but we encountered a pair of Roe Deer which came from behind and flew past us even before we reached the first boardwalk. We also spotted several Blue and Great Tits, a Dunnock and a GSW before we reached the Feeding Station. At the Feeding Station there were many Blue and Great Tits, as well as Robins, a Nuthatch, Dunnock and a couple of Moorhens pottering around. Off to the Pearce Hide, nothing on the actual pond in front but several Mute Swan and plenty Teal were on view through the Reeds. Then decided to do a full tour of the Reserve. We came across our first Snowdrops of the year, the only ones we found in our whole circumnavigation of the reserve.

A couple more sightings of a pair of Roe Deer and a Male, Female and a youngster. They stood and watched us for about 10mins through the trees but the minute I stepped to the side to get a better angle, they bounded away, the Male leaping high into the air. Another family of 3 came pretty close to us just a couple of hundred yards from the exit also.

We finished our "short walk" at 11.30am after seeing and hearing many of the usual suspects.

Off then for a sit in the Hide at Big Waters but when we arrived I said to Carole do you fancy a walk round as you have never been round the whole reserve, she said "is it far ?", "not very" says I. We wandered round and a couple of circuits of the area frequented by the Green Woodpecker but with no luck but seeing plenty including a Snipe, charm of Goldfinch and bumping into ISD (Ian) and a couple of minutes chat elicited that there was a couple of Pied Wagtail and plenty of Geese further around. Only saw a singular Pied Wagtail but watched 6 Long Tail Tits playing around for a good 5 minutes. Eventually when we got to the hide our legs were beginning to ache, its the longest I have walked in Wellingtons for quite a while and to be honest they are not the most comfortable of things. Most of the birds on the pond had dissappeared but there were a few Mallard who strayed over for a snack.

Lots of Greylag on the North Field with only 2 smaller Pinkfeet in view. Although something flew over the rushes opposite towards the end and the sky was filled with Teal which when they landed sent a few Goldeneye scuttling across the pond which I had previously failed to notice. The Feeding Station was absolutely heaving with birds, the ground being absolutely covered with Chaffinches of which I counted 27 at one time. I have never seen that many before but no doubt Mr Johnson will give me chapter and verse....... This Robin was most obliging and sat on the branch outside the window for about 5mins.
Finally a picture of my companion as she wandered round Big Waters, Pink Hat and Wellies with camouflage coat, most fetching. The other pictures were all taken by her.

Back Home for 16.30 via the cake shop and a nice cuppa

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Newcastle to Darlington - 3hrs 25mins

Sunday morning and the wife and I set off to Darlington to see her 2 sisters. Why do we have to leave at stupid o'clock says the beloved, "just popping in to somewhere on the way to have a 10min look at some birds". As we took the the turnoff on the A19 for Hartlepool I could feel the wife looking in my direction, eventually she said "not quite as the crow flies ehhh!". Went to the Marina but the only thing there was 6 Red Breasted Merganser. They were a bit far away and the weather was crap but managed to get a few murky shots.

Also had a walk along the promenade near Newburn Bridge where the wind was blowing a bit, plenty of Purple Sandpiper, Oystercatchers and Knot having a nod as the tide had reached its peak and was now rescinding. Eventually got to Sister No 1s house at 11.15, not bad, Newcastle to Darlington 3hrs 25 mins.