Monday, 28 February 2011

Quick Glance at Last Week

Highlights of week include what seems to be an influx of Song Thrushes late last week with 4 within a couple of hundred metres of each other instead of the usual one

At home in the garden a few Goldfinches have returned alternately swopping places on the Nijer feeders with the Siskins.  The Goldfinches haven't returned in the same numbers as last year but have now seen 6 instead of the pair that have been around since last year.

The Siskin numbers dropped off for a few days but they are now back in force with a high count of 62 late  Saturday afternoon

Most of them favour the tree in the Garden either side of mine then swoop down to feed on the feeders and table although some of them are now perching in the Hawthorn and Privet Hedges with the House Sparrows

At the weekend I didn't venture far with only a couple of trips to Big Waters taking place.  A fleeting glimpse of a couple of Ringed Plover taking off from the East end of the lake was the only new bird on Saturday morning.  The Feeding Station was still alive with Siskin and a fleeting visit by half a dozen Long Tailed Tits added further colour.   On the pond 2 Oystercatchers were the only other waders we spotted although they just stayed put on the island, if only they would come onto the slowly developing scrape and possibly attract a few more.  The Lapwings just flitted in and out during a 2hr spell although they never landed (at least not in view from the hide).

On Sunday a walk round with Alan J and Ian D increased the patch count with 3 Partridges, one of which launched itself from a ditch only 2ft from Ians feet making us all jump to say the least, 3 individual singing Skylarks, 2 Mistlethrushes and as we were nearing the hide a couple of Shelduck were on the pond.  When we got to the hide and looked out they had dissappeared, no doubt the Mute Swans were involved one way or another just as they were culprits when a flock of 6 other Swans landed but within 10 secs the resident pair were straight into the middle of them with that look of evil.

The next picture shows the 11.40 Emirates on its way into Newcastle although this one came right over the pond instead of a bit more to the South and not one bird flinched.  Just for Alan J

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Sundays Travels

Sunday and the weather was a tad better than the previous day so the Beloved and I shot up to Big Waters for an hour.   Not many duck around but the resident Mute Swans had decided to wander into the Feeding Station for a poke around and a bit of a snack. 

Amongst the 30-40 Siskins flying around was a "Mealy" Redpoll although even after looking at various books and pics I'm still not 100% positive, so just give me another 15-20 years and I might be able to tell them apart as quickly as everyone can tell Glaucous and Iceland Gulls apart.

Once again the beloved beat me to the punch with the following pic

We then set off for Howick Hall to see the Snowdrops although the first thing we saw was a Treecreeper
scrambling up the wall, time for a quick rather unfocussed pic but it is one of those
birds that I tend to fit into the prehistoric looking types and never get fed up of looking at them

Whilst wandering around looking at the Snowdrops which were actually still quite firmly closed due to the still crappy weather we did come across an unusual plant.  I asked a couple of knowledgable looking people who were looking around and they didn't know either.  Why did I think they were knowledgeable ? well they were all old (60ish) the male of the species were carrying binoculars, one of the females was carrying a SLR camera, they were appropriately dressed - hang on, I am describing Carole and I and knowledgeable I am certainly NOT

After a nice wander round the stomach was runbling so off to Seahouses for Pie and Chips.  First we stopped off at Beadnell and 6 Black-Tailed Godwit were feeding quite merrily on a high advancing tide. 

There was also quite a few Turnstones moving around at a fast rate of knots

Also a bunch of Redshanks playing follow the "littler leader".  I thought they were all Redshanks when they (16) came flying in and landed in single file along the rocks on the edge of the advancing tide.

Finally, Oystercatchers which are some of the prettiest birds in flight you can see.

It was then time for food so after grabbing a Pie and Chips we headed back to Beadnell to sit and watch the waders being forced off the shoreline and lots of Eider coming close in and doing a bit of this and a lot of that.  Pics taken through car but destroyed due to being out of focus a bit on the risque side.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Snowy Saturday

Saturday off for a day out again with the Beloved.  But first this lovely shot of a Blue Tit that I took at work during the week.  

Anyway off to Allen Banks for a nice walk,  in Newcastle it was absolutely hissing down but further West it was cold but a lot drier with just an odd drop of rain.  Some early lambs were frolicking around but before I could get the camera on them along came the farmer and down went the bucket which they kept swopping over feeding from every few seconds.

After a couple of hours wandering around with the glimpse of a Tree Creeper, loads of Great and Blue Tits, the odd Mallard we then headed off North.  As we were driving along Carole shouted and I pulled over as soon as possible.  She said she saw a fast moving bird then feathers flying everywhere.  About 20m behind us in a field was the Sparrowhawk riving away at what looks like a Wood Pigeon.  It picked it up at least 3 times and tried to fly off but only managed a couple of metres each time.  Sat and watched it tear away for about 15 mins ignoring the Corvids that were flying overhead occassionally dropping down close

Quite few miles further on yet another shout from Carole and when I pulled over she said I had run over a bird.  Turned around quickly and as I made my way back I could see a bird in the middle of the other side of the road and the first 2 cars I had seen in 20mins driving also went straight over it.   Got out and walked up to it expecting it to be wiped out and it walked off to the other side of the road.  I realised immediately it was a Crossbill and remembered seeing one last year on a road also.    Got out a bit of seed and dumped it by the side of the road and walked round forcing it to go to the side of the road where it walked into the seed then flew off, did a couple of circles then landed on a conifer and walked along the branch.   It seemed quite happy so we watched it for a little while then drove on and went for another walk.  First birds we saw were a pair of Crossbills sitting way up on top of a conifer.  Thanks to Carole who took these pictures whilst I was trying to get it off the road.

After a 2 hour walk through the snow we decided it was time for a hot meal so off we went stopping at a hostelry not too far from home for a Big Mixed Grill.  Absolutely great day out, not a great amount seen but the scenery in Northumberland is amazing specially when there is snow around.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Carole's Garden

Haven't wrote about the Garden at Chez Hall for a while so here goes.  The picture below was taken a couple of weeks ago prior to my Staff and Resident Landscape Garden Consultant deciding on a slight redesign.

Gone is the Pigeon and Sparrows roundabout and a couple of feeding platforms installed.  It looks a bit better now but desperately need to trim hedges but suspect I have left it too late.  Note the expensive custom made hide at the bottom right of the picture

The House Sparrows are here in force with approximately 70 flitting between ours and the Neighbours Gardens.  Quite a few Blue Tits and Dunnocks are gathering also but no sign of Great Tits for a while.

The small flock of 8 Collared Doves are still coming into the garden and are looking for a new place to
perch with the removal of their "roundabout"

The most enjoyable site in the garden is Sparrow Bath Time.  This sometimes goes on for up to 30mins although it does not happen every day.  About 7or 8 of them spend a few minutes going crazy in the water then fly off into the Hawthorn to dry and a couple of minutes later another few arrive and the process goes on

The Starlings are now returning in quite large numbers and although they are not Carole's favourite bird as they tend to chase the smaller ones away their antics are sometimes quite hilarious.  They also enjoy a good bath and the tit bits we put out in anticipation of attracting a more exotic species and are almost immediately devoured or "stolen".

We still have a few Goldfinches joining us daily although nowhere near the amount we had last year

After getting our new garden lifer, Siskin, only a few weeks ago our garden is visited at least thrice daily by a flock of aprox 60 of them and they feed on the niger and "British Finch Mix".  Havent spotted any Redpolls with them yet as I scour the flock each day but live in hope.

Only 22 species spotted so far this year as opposed to 28 at the same time last year with no Grey Heron (one landed on top of the Greenhouse in next doors garden last year) nor the Oystercatcher which appeared 3 times in the same day last year, no Long Tailed Tits and not even a Herring Gull yet.  She also just reminded me that we are out of peanuts (you think petrol is going up fast, check peanuts out). 

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

The Big Six Oh

The big day came and went last Thursday, 60 years of age.   After wading through the mountain of presents and cards I managed to get a couple of hours at Big Waters whilst the beloved slipped back into the sheets for a couple of hours more sleep

I was alone at Big Waters with lots of birds for a change and a nice Sunrise.

12 Goldeneyes flitted around the pond with the occasional displaying.

On the island it was constant change with approx 60+ Lapwings arriving, the single Oystercatcher, lots of Gulls, Mallards, Teal, Greylags etc

On the Cormarant Tree were a couple of Cormarants and a couple of Gulls who never seemed to move the whole of the time I was there

I then had to shoot off home for 10 and a quick change and off we went into town for a meal and a few drinks.   We tottered into the Bus Station both weighing a few pounds heavier and it wasn't food, with the Beloved waving her Bus Pass (I still cant get mine till 6 Jan 2012 due to the new changes) around 6ish, cant believe how much public transport is.  We arrived home just before some of the kids (some just tottering around the 40 mark) arrived to hand me more pressies. 

Friday was up and away with the wife for a visit to family in Darlington, nice Full Monty in Darlington to start the day off before the visits and then a bit of Bird Watching in Newton Aycliffe area.  Saturday we started earlyish and up to Hexhamshire Common for a good couple of hours walking around.  Not a great lot to see but plenty of Thrushes around the outskirts of the moors.

On the moors themselves the Beloved got her first glimpse of Black (1 only) and Red Grouse (at least a dozen) with a couple flying off from within 2-3 feet of the path giving great views and little flutters of the heart as they hurtled form the grass. 

Returning home we purchased a new Bird Feeding Table from the Sawmill near Langley.   Great work and great prices too.  Well thats it as Sunday was another Lazy Day with only 2 hrs at Big Waters (missed the Pintails on Saturday) and then out for meals and Ice Cream with the Beloved.

Normal Service will be returned next Saturday, weather permitting I hope.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Rain, Rain and more Rain

Sunday morning armed with aqualung and flipper I set off for Big Waters, it was absolutely pissing pouring with rain but even so I stopped on the track in to listed to a lovely Song Thrush who sand for a few minutes before a territorial Blackbird came storming in.   It was still there singing 30mins later when the next lot of people came into the hide.

I think a lot of the birders in Northumberland headed for Big Waters today as there was 10 in there at one stage (much drier in than out was the reasoning I think).   Even with the persistent rain there was still quite a lot of activity.  Seeing 2 Wrens together was quite unusual though only managed a pic of one.

Once again the Mute Swans were the most active as they chased off at least 7 others who were attempting to drop in for a break.  They didn't event allow them to land and settle before they were up and at'em

The Siskins were once again numerically superior and at one stage I did a quick count of the ones sitting in the trees at the Feeding Station and got a total of 71 and that wasnt counting the numerous ones on the ground or feeders.  This one taking a bit on interest in some Peanut Butter.

When Alan J arrived he quite quickly spotted 2 Lesser Redpoll outside the Hide although they only stopped for a few seconds and a arse hurried shot from the rear was all I could manage

At 12.30 I called it a day and went home and although I was still dry, (first time I have ever had to use my emergency burgundy red brolly although it paled into insignificance alongside ISDs green and white one which could have sheltered the whole Celtic team)one can only take so much rain.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Hen Harrier and Mealy Redpoll

Had a nice week in the Garden with the return of the Great Spotted Woodpecker and the pair of Siskins now becoming regular visitors.  Also several Blackbirds appearing especially very early morning.

Saturday and off to Big Waters and on the way in put up 3 Pheasants from next to the Boardwalk who I think in turn put up the Woodcock.  Thats 3 I have seen this year so far yet only 1 Snipe has been seen.   A  flock of 50-60 Siskins was once again flying around.  Inside the hide all was well with Willy and Malcolm already in attendance clicking away quite merrily and Keith B followed me in a minute later.  After a couple of minutes of  "Hows Things" we got down to looking at the Birds and the first thing I noticed was that a  few more Reed Buntings than normal were flitting around.

Half a dozen gorgeous Long Tailed Tits were in and out of the Feeding Station on at least 4 occasions and eventually managed to snap one sitting still for more than 3 seconds. 

Siskins outnumbered all the other birds present as the Tree Sparrows were conspicous by the small numbers present.

Graeme B turned up and after a scan around went out to look for Red Polls and returned after about 10mins to tell us that 4 were feeding on the boardwalk.  Keith and I went out to join him and sure enough after 5 mins 4 were spotted and 1 of them confirmed as a Mealy.  Too far for pics though.  Big shouts to Graeme who always seems to turn something up for me.  Otters were seen on 3 occasions with 2 together at one stage in the pond and on the North side.  Out on the Pond was quite a mixture with 14 Goldeneye, 2 Coot, 200+ Teal, Lots of Mallards, 30 Greylag with 2 Pinkfeet, quite a few Wigeon (forgot to write down Alan Js counts), 31 Lapwings, 4 Cormorants and the largest flock of Gulls I have seen for a while.

Alan and Graeme left the hide to do a bit of and I spotted down at the far end of the pond what I thought was a Buzzard flying low over the waters edge, pointed it out to Keith as I went to pick up and my bins and within a couple of seconds he was shouting Hen Harrier.  It flew right up the North Side then back down and across the pond with birds going up everywhere.  Went out to tell Alan and Graeme and they were rushing back to tell us as they had seen it . 

I then went up to Prestwick Carrs to see if I could see the Hen Harrier again but after watching a lovely flock of Yellowhammers flying around for 20mins I bumped into another birder who told me it had just flew over and dissappeared Northwards.

Finally the pic below was meant to go higher up the page but I find it so bloody difficult to move pics when I have forgot to put them in before I start typing I just left it at the bottom.  For Carole all those who cant recognise them they are Siskins.  :)