Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Morning Campus Walk

Contrary to what the BEEB said the weather was quite good this morning so set off early for a wander round the Campus to see if anything new was around.  At the spot where I normally see the Redwings and the Goldfinch some big yellow tractors have now taken residence along with lots of piles of various stuff for road reinstatement and a few pipes.  Down towards Scotswood Road quite a few Blackbirds and the sound of Sparrows ringing around, didnt enter the Cul de Sac where they chill out as a guy with bins at 6.30 in the morning looking in the direction of their houses could attract some unwanted attention.  In the centre of the Campus I bumped into a couple of the workmen heading towards their Yellow Tractors and they tell me where a White Headed Blackbird is so off I go and an watching it within a couple of minutes.
I have seen this guy before but only from a distance and only have 1 severely blurred pic so a few of these whilst it was hunting for brekkie was a good bonus.  He didnt seem as skittish as most Blackbirds and I was standing looking over a wall from less than 10ft away.  I then went and refilled the feeders and put a couple of nails in the posts and skewered a couple of apples on and within 30 secs a Starling was on it chomping away.   The Niger seeder is certainly a centre of attraction now and you always see a Goldfinch if you hang around for about 10mins.
On the lawn outside the office the Mistle Thrush is busily hunting breakfast also but without much success
Then when he finds a couple he is off up to his favourite tree where he sits in the golden morning sun.

Then its off into the office to get my own brekkie of a nice cup of Ringtons and a couple of slices of toast dribbling with Lurpack (wonder which one of us had the more carbs).

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Im Feeling A Lot Better Now

Took bad last Sunday and wasnt fully OK till Thursday so reports from weekend (didnt even look at my pics) didnt get done. I managed a couple of hours on Wednesday afternoon just to get a bit of fresh air down at St Marys. This weekend I didnt stray too far as I still didnt feel 100%. The following is just bits and pieces from the last 8 days.

Whilst at Far Pastures this Canada mistimed his approach to the pond, hit a tree and landed just outside the door of the hide, thought it was for the pot as it hit the ground with such a wallop but when I tried to see if it was OK it had a right go at me.  He tried to take off but kept hitting the sides of the hide, eventually got somebody from the hide to chase it in the opposite direction away from the hide.  The reason it kept trying to take off towards the hide was that its partner was in the pool making a hell of a racket and had walked right up to the windows of the hide (probably working on the principle of shortest distant between 2 points)
Later on took John and his Scouser friend down to see the dippers on the Derwent, unfortunately these 2 came about 5 mins after you left John
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that we had our first Goldfinches in the Garden after having Niger feeders out for over 6 months.  We had our largest Charm the other day when 11 flew in and they patiently waited in a good old fashioned "British Queue" taking their turn.  Next day Carole had put out 2 feeders so they wouldnt have to wait so long.
The garden is coming along nicely now that Spring is beginning to show its colours and the nestboxes, whilst technically not mine are practically in my garden are definitely being squatted at the moment.
At St Marys I got my first Northern Wheatear, just luv this shot of him leaping from rock to rock whilst trying to catch insects at the same time (I think)
Meanwhile back in the depths of Gateshead my first Chiff Chaff of the year, yes it is nice to hear them for a while but 2 bloody hours of the same 2 tones going on does tend to get up ones nose a bit
And up in the Bowels of Northumberland at Big Waters no rest for the Swans trying to keep their patch of water to themselves hopefully in preparation for another successful brood like last year
Down in Lamesley a standard shot of some Mallards flying into the Water Meadows but with a great background of Low Fell in the background
I spent most of today just chilling out at various places on the Derwent Walk watching Red Kites and the occassional Buzzard, what a glorious life.
Finally as Gary (Newton Stringer) would say "Aint Sparrows Brilliant" (Courtesy of a new button I found on my new Nikon D5000-Might get round to reading the instructions someday)


Friday, 19 March 2010

The Last Few Days

Tuesday evening, went with John up to Rising Sun to try and spot an Owl, failed miserably but eventually got to see the magnificent Stag that John keeps seeing, quite a memorable beast to say the least.

Thursday morning at work arrived early to listen to the ever increasing number of Mistle Thrushes, there must be about 7 or 8 dotted around now but havent seen the Red Wings since Monday.  This Mistle Thrush is just a few yards from the main door to the office and is always being hastled by a Blackbird.
Had Friday off so headed up to Far Pastures at 06.30 but had been beaten there by another John and his sidekick from Scouserland.  A lovely Little Grebe was going around in circles just outside the hide, it looks like a donut with a head stuck on it.
Went for a wander into the Car Park on the offchance of seeing a Goldcrest, but my tick list failed to increase, although I did spot this little fellow and its mate running around for a while.
Also spotted were several Bullfinches, Great and Blue Tits with a small flock of Long Tailed Tits which kept moving around during the time I was there.  There were also several Red Kites which soared around although for the first time for quite a while the Coal or Willow Tits were conspicous by their absence.  Mind you the absence of a lot of birds could have been due to the several vehicles including a JCB trying to fix the road which was damaged by a truck a couple of days earlier.  Everytime a birder or someone came from the Sewage Works the vehicles had to retreat all the way down to the Sewage Works and then head all the way back.   The one bird that continues to impress me is the Dunnock although no pic can ever do it justice (and this one certainly dosent) you just have to see and hear them in the flesh.

Back in the Hide that well known game of "How Many Snipe" was coming to a conclusion as a Moorhen decided to wander into the area where we could see at least 5 that were in training for the UK Allcomers Camouflague Championships and up came 8 of them and they immediately dropped down about 3m closer although within 30 seconds we could only see 2 with this one being the definite 1st round loser

Also on the pond were several Teal, Mallards, Coot, couple of Canadas and a Grey Heron. 

A couple of pics of some of the others I saw starting with an amazing lithe looking female

and the inevitable Robin
To round off my trip out I went for a walk round Shibdon, normally I just wander down look onto the pond and a 5 minute scan then leave but I decided to wander round the boardwalks and met a nice chap called George Simpson who took me on a full guided tour of the place and down to Derwenthaugh Meadows also - thanks George learnt quite a lot and will definitely be spending more time there later on in the Spring.  Did see a couple of impressive looking Lesser Blacked Backs who seemed to have laid down Squatters Rights on the little island

Monday, 15 March 2010

Weekend Digest (Too Busy Birding To Blog)

Well the weekend looked quite canny according to the Good Ol BBC so Friday morning before work quick trip round the College Campus, didnt get far though as I stopped and sat down and watched 5 Redwings having Breakfast, at least 3 of them pulled large worms then took a little while to digest them.

Got away from work a bit early and decided to head for Prestwick Carrs even though it was a little bit early (15.45). No Owls but plenty of Reed Bunting, Pied Wagtail, Redwing and some lovely Fieldfare with a few Mistle Thrushes. Got a quick shot of as this Fieldfare came into to land, not as good technically as the shot afterwards with it sitting on the branch but this just has a bit more reality to it.

Saturday morning up early 5:30am to Big Waters, no sign of live but by the time I reached the Reserve Gate there was 3 of us all with the same idea of an early start, 1 of the lads had just come to try and catch the otters. We were highly entertained for a couple of hours by the arrival and dissapearance of Canadas and Greylags

they landed and some of them left quite quickly

the chaser of course being the Female Swan which picked on individual geese although it seemed to have a penchant for Greylags,
its partner of course just hung around eating, occassionally popping its head up to see what was going on but never volunteering its services (Remind you of anyone ???). This went on for nearly 90mins with the geese retreating into the scrape and onto the fringes then waiting for the Swan to go and harass some others then trying to sneak back onto the lake. It eventually got a little bit tired to say the least and came up and collected its partner and buggered off to the bottom of the lake for a rest and possible a quiet word (haha) into the ear of its partner.
Anyway the chap who came to see the Otters left about 08.30 and the good new for him was that the Otters never turned up whilst I was there, the bad news was that the Mink came right across the Lake up onto the fringes and walked across and went under the hide.

Left about 09.45 and then went to Gosforth. Plenty of stuff on the various pools including Teal, Wigeon, Pochard, Mute Swans, Cormorant, Grey Heron and a swift glimpse of what I thought was an Otter but wasnt 100%. Out of the hides came across a couple of Wrens, Blue, Great and Long Tailed Tits and also a Buzzard. Saw several Roe Deer and they saw me first of course which resulted in the following:
Didnt take many pics but quite like the colours on this one taken in the Feeding Station.

Sunday morning and off early (getting quite a routine this) with Segedunum Warbler. Now to save all the duplication I will now insert Johns URL for his Blog and you can read all about it there and see the photos . Have put a couple of extra ones in though, the scenery up there is amazing although most of you reading this probably know already:

Couple of pics of the Tree Creeper which John didnt put in his blog:

They might have still been there along with the Tits if a nice couple with their 2 dogs hadnt came in let the dogs run around for 2mins have a piss and crap then left.
Once again John thanks for the Company

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Another Early Morning Walk and A Quest for Info

Off for an early morning wander round Newcastle, started off at the Keep and wandered down the stairs towards the Tyne and along the myriad of pathways.

Lots of birds singing, especially Tits, Dunnocks and possibly the loudest Mistle Thrush I have ever heard although the place sounds like a natural amphitheatre (for those without a classical greek education thats a place where you can sing loudly and badly and still sound like Pavarotti, otherwise known as a bathroom). Stood and listened to them whilst watching the Sunrise over the The Sage and the Tyne Bridge and joined in the calling.

There are some absolute stunning stairways and little cutoffs with a mixture of old world and new right next to each other. There were many birds around and Gulls flying up the Tyne, also a couple of mammals, unfortunately they were both big rats.

Then went up to the College to check on the feeders and was suprised by this little beauty who sat there throughout whilst I tidied the place up and refilled the feeders and water.
This pic is of an unknown species that I come across occasionally and is the one contradiction in the birding world where generally the male is the "more handsome", this one is definitely not.
I believe he is of the same species as this next picture (note the well defined crest and the pink wingtips) as I have been reliably informed that he was present when this bird alighted in the Feeding Area and has been there for several days showing very well with several photographers managing to get very close without putting him up. Originally thought to be a migrant of the PoundusLandus or the MaryShazza variety I was eventually corrected so if you have any more details of these 2 puzzling species I would like to hear from you.
Not another bloody Robin Pic!!

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Early Morning Walk

First morning for a while I haven't had to de-ice the car so decided a early morning walk along the Tyne would be a good start to the day. Started off from the Quayside where the Kittiwakes are beginning to assemble.

Several little spats took place as they seemed to vie for position and the sight of them dropping together fighting then separating a couple of metres from the ground is quite a sight. Unfortunately all my shots of them doing this were severely out of focus.

Wandered along the Promenade in front of the Copthorne and this Curlew came screeching past me calling loudly. Didnt expect to see one this close to town.

Not much to see until you reach the first landing although several Blackbirds and a couple of Thrushes belted out a couple of top 10 hits as I walked along. Tide was quite well up as I got to the Landing forcing the birds quite close although they dont seem too bothered as a couple of runners passed me and a few bikes whistled along. I have a bell on my bike and always ring it if someone is walking away from me but only 1 in 5 seem to do that nowadays and the amount of frights you get as someone just whooshes past you is unbelievable. Anyway a few Shelduck and Curlew were scattered along the Tide Line with a multitude of Gulls.

Across the river in the Sun there were several pairs of Mute Swans.

Took several snaps of Gulls wheeling around the skies and quite like the one below

Several Teal also came out quite quickly from underneath the Jetty which was unusual as they normally all come out at first light or is a combination of light and tide or my noisy feet as I wandered around not thinking there was anything there the reason.

Anyway by this time it was 07:45 so had to get back into town quickly before some some Traffic Warden started booking cars right on the 8am start time.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Great Birding But The Ice Cream Could Have Been Better

06.45 Sunday Morning and my first Dipper. John (Segedunum Warbler)and I went to the Derwent by the Tennis club and spotted one within 5 minutes. It led us a little dance up and down from the Weir to the Bridge a couple of times but we saw it dive a couple of times also. Still a bit dark for decent pics but what a great bird. We also flushed out a pair of Goosander which motored off quite quickly down the river.
We eventually got a bit closer and it was a bit lighter so a bit better (ish) piccy.

We then went up to Far Pastures, vowing not to stay as long as last time. From the Hide we observed a couple of Snipe, a Little Grebe, Coot, Moorhen, Mallard and that was it. From the Car Park lots of Bullfinches, Coal, Long Tailed, Great and Blue Tits, Robins and looking through into the Sewage Works we saw Pied and Grey Wagtails. The best bird around in my opinion was the singing Dunnock.

Next stop was the Lamesley Reed Beds where the air was filled with singing of many birds and this lovely Song Thrush was no exception.

Saw a multitude of Robins but didnt hear the Cettis Warbler which I had been boning up on its singing and calling on my IPOD as we walked down.

Shot along the road a couple of hundred metres to the Sewage Works where just peering through the gate was so enjoyable, watching the Pied Wagtails and Magpies sitting on the wires of the filter beds pretending it was the Hoppings. John counted over 30 Pied at one stage. We also saw a couple of Grey Wagtails and several Meadow Pipits.

We then shot off to Lamesley Water Meadows which was mainly populated with Lapwings although there was the normal Moorhens, Coots and variety of Gulls and after a quick wander round the nature reserve we shot off back home as John had visitors.

Being the dutiful husband when I got home I asked my beloved if she fancied a meal out (standing there in 4 layers of clothing (a bit soiled now), wellies (covered in mud), stupid camo hat (turned up at the front to let me look (like a dork) through the bins and cam lens) but being so irrestible she immediately said yes but stated only on the proviso that it was Fish and Chips down the Fish Quay as I wasnt fit to be seen with in a restaurant without being de-gunged (She know I just love this Romantic wordplay).

Well the place was bloody packed but eventually got the food after waiting 20mins in the queue but looking around at some of the other I thought I looked quite respectable. Off to the Car Park and got the last space so sat and filled my empty belly. It was at this stage we found out (via Radio Newcastle) that there was to be a 21 Gun Salute in celebration Of Admiral Collingwoods 200th birthday so we decided to sit and enjoy the Sun and do a bit of scoping the Gulls. We also gave the birds our remnants (not enough to feed a sparrow actually)

To cut a long story short the 21 Gun Salute turned out to be a 3 bang affair, a real anticlimax and there was a lot of people there brought along by the Hype although I later found out HMS Cumberland did fire a 19 Gun Salute but not where and when we were told. But as I sat there I did see some strange fashion trends. The amount of "Young Uns" walking with their trousers nearly as low as their testicles was unbelievable.

These 2 gentlemen were obviously not advertising their "Barbers" although I wish they were so I could give it a miss.

Knowing how to treat my women I decided on a late pudding (99 Sugar Cone), it was one of those Mr Whippy things which is not a patch on Cresswell Ices, or Seaton Deleval Ices or even the legendary Minchellas but then as they say "There is no such thing as bad Ice Cream, just some are better than others".
So a great days birding was brought to an end with an average Ice Cream.