Sunday, 30 December 2012

Littlemill Famland Survey.

In less than perfect conditions we finally managed to get the bird survey done this morning. Although the sun shone, the wind was a strong W6 making birds mostly keep to cover.

In an hour and 40 mins we managed some good sightings -

Brambling 48
Yellowhammer 38
Tree Sparrow 7
Bullfinch 3
Treecreeper 2
Goldcrest 2
Jay 1
Woodpigeon 2000+

Brown Hare 9
Ermine 1

Unfortunately the Ermine had vanished by the time I got the camera ready!

Bird seed crop near Littlemill.

Bramblings and Tree Sparrows, Click on image for a larger view.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

A Murmuration....

Sitting at my desk I noticed pink clouds behind the trees.  Could there really be a pink sunset after all the rain?  Moving to the front of the house which faces west I saw indeed banks of pink clouds and under them a small flock of starlings swirling around.  Another few joined them and as I stood in our bay window I watched with delight more small flocks appearing over the roof tops until the 12 became 20, then 50 and finally approximately 200 birds swirling and swooping, dividing and joining and apparently enjoying themselves as much as I was watching them.  O.K. it was not as spectacular as the huge flocks seen around the country but it was happening right above a short cul-de-sac in Alnwick, outside my window and against a sky that seemed to promise a bit of sunshine tomorrow.  Brilliant!  I wonder where they're roosting?'

Mora J Rolley.

White Wings

The 29th saw us out of area at North Shields Fish Quay looking for 2 reported white winged gulls.There was no sign of the Iceland Gull but we did get close views of the 1st winter Glaucous Gull as it flew past us with a mouthful of food and several other large gulls chasing it. Also of interest was the sight of Carrion Crows dropping shellfish from a height onto concrete to get at the tasty bits.
Back on home turf there are 2 Scaup on Branton Ponds and can be seen with the Tufted Duck flock. 

Thursday, 27 December 2012

One Snowflake

Disappointed with the lack of seasonal weather, I ventured to Warkworth late afternoon, where last Christmas, I remembered, there was a lively flock of Snow Buntings in the North Pier area.

Today, I could only find one -  a photogenic, confiding, adult male in its winter garb.

It thankfully let me get within a few yards, as it fed ferociously at the shore edge,with high tide approaching.

Result - an instant raising of spirits!

Christmas Day...

Tuesday 25th December...

While improving our appetite for Christmas Dinner, walking out in the far reaches of Bewick Moors, we came across a Buzzard perched on a fence post. Not a Common Buzzard, generally much paler in colour with white tail and a black tail tip. In flight, more direct than Common Buzzard with longer wings held more horizontally with a slower beat. A good sighting of a Rough Legged Buzzard.

                                                                                                                                    Jim Clark.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Ross Back Sands 26th December

A walk along Ross Back Sands to get rid of the Chrismas pud was the order of the day.When we got there only one set of footprints could be seen in the sand, just offshore we noted 4 Slavonian Grebes and a single Red Necked Grebe,flying north was a Red Throated Diver .On reaching the Wideopens several flocks of waders flew over and we managed to pick out 50 Bar Tailed Godwits and about 20 Golden Plover .As we headed back along the beach the footprints on the sand increased and the stillness was broken.The only negative for the day was the sight of a dead Tawny Owl on the side of the road between Bellshill and Chatton.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Weldon Bridge 24th December

Christmas Eve and some fresh air was called for after two days of relative inactivity,so we decided to go to Weldon Bridge to look for Marsh Tits.The start was promising as we encountered numerous Long Tailed Tits along with several Tree Creepers and Nuthatches,a patch of mud beside the swollen River Coquet yielded up some fresh Otter tracks,however yet again no Marsh Tits,a species which seems to be in severe decline in our area.Lets hope 2013 is a better year for all our wildlife.
Merry Christmas
Ian and Keith

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Winter Warbler

A male Blackcap was a pleasant surprise on the fat ball feeder in my garden this morning.

 He clearly didn't fancy the trip South!

 He will though, have to be wary of our local male Sparrowhawk who made menacing sorties around the feeders throughout the day.

Merry Christmas to All

Thursday, 20 December 2012

A Good Hare Day...

When you are a bad bird watcher like me it's really good to spend time with good bird watchers and this is what I do most Tuesday mornings.  

I believe it's the birds we enjoy just as much as the pub lunch afterwards.  

Wanting to contribute something useful we are taking part in the BTO Winter Thrush survey and our patch is near Newstead Farm.  This week we enjoyed two large flocks of Fieldfare accompanied by a few Redwings as well other farmland birds.  Last year in the same area we saw a flock of approximately 50 Yellowhammers and there has been no sign of any this year.  However, I think the best sightings were of possibly 8 Brown Hares.  Each romped across the fields so we may have seen a very energetic individual more than once but they do lift the spirits on a grey day.

Mora J Rolley

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Late news from the weekend

The weekend was spent counting geese and waders around Lindisfarne.  There were 80+ Barnacle geese in Budle Bay. 1180 Bar-tailed godwit, 750, Knot, 1477 Light-bellied brent geese, 273 Pintail and 441 Eider were highlights from Fenham Flats as well as this strange wader that was close to shore near to the Fenham le Moor hide. 
The jizz and the photo would suggest that the bird is a semi-albino/leucistic Knot.  I have to admit it had my pulse racing for a while.  From head-on shots it looked like a 'fat' female Ruff!  There were also 8 Twite and a small number of Tree sparrows around the hide.  If you park next to the Fenham le Moor bird hide do not be surprised if you get a visit from the very confiding Blackbird that likes looking at itself in your wing mirror. It can also leave a lot of mess down the side of the car!

There were 29+ Whooper swans north of Fenham Mill feeding in an oilseed rape field.

The drive home from Berwick in the evening produced a Common frog hopping across the road at the bridge over the river Till close to Doddington (I think this would be a first for me at this time of year!)

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Fenham Flats 16th December

Today saw me doing my monthly WeBS(wetland bird survey)on Fenham Flats,what a perfect day for it,no wind ,dry and for once sunshine. As usual the sheer numbers of birds was breathtaking,just in front of the hide were 270 Shelduck,840 Brent Geese and 860 Knot.As I continued on a huge flock of about 540 Lapwing flew over,along the tideline 124 Bar Tailed Godwits probed for worms whilst just offshore 103 Eiders fed and bathed. At Guile Point 423 Oystercatchers basked in the sunshine and a Red Throated Diver did as it's name implies in the channel.The journey back provided other interesting birds including a single Little Egret and a Spotted Redshank at Elwick Flash,what a day,aren't we lucky to live in such a wonderful place!.  

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Resident Egret?

A walk by the estuary at Alnmouth  once again gave good views of what appears to be a resident Little Egret.

I first noticed it in early November and have seen it regularly since that time.

This afternoon, it was feeding voraciously employing a familiar technique.

It raises one of its large, bright yellow feet to disturb the surface of the water, then its rapier bill quickly skewers a fishy victim.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Branton Ponds 10th December

A late afternoon walk around the ponds with the dog saw us almost back to the village with very little seen,suddenly out of the long grass flew a BarnOwl,for the next 5 minutes it proceeded to flit along the edge of the trees in front of us.It finally dropped down out of sight behind an earth mound,at this point we went into stealth mode,not easy when attached to an over eager Labrador,when within 3 metres of the bird it suddenly eyeballed us from behind a tussock and then took off back in the direction it had come from. 

Howick Haven

Late afternoon, 9 Goldeneye feeding in the bay, 3 males and 6 females.
Occasional display from one of the males.

Suddenly I was aware of a Kestrel in a nearby tree watching the Rock Pipits and Pied Wagtails prospecting in the shore debris.

I managed a quick digiscope, before it swooped down on to its prey and was lost to view.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Bad Birdwatching...

It has been suggested that I may like contribute to the blogs on this site, which is surprising as this year I have been learning 'How to be a Bad Bird Watcher' by following the advice of Simon Barnes in his book of that title.  I've kept no lists and just concentrated on watching and enjoying the birds I happen to see.  For instance, consider gulls.  I live in a wee house in a cul-de-sac in Alnwick with a very small back garden half of which is garage.  On 5th December I was cooking a chicken casserole and threw the cut up chicken skin on to the roof of the garage into the snow.  Within a couple of minutes the black-headed gulls were there swooping and calling and picking up the courage to dive down to gobble up their lunch.  A brave carrion crow managed to sneak one piece while a magpie fluttered between the gulls but in no time at all the food was gone and so were the gulls.  How do they discover the skins in the snow in the first place?  On two occasions recently I've heard gulls crying above our house and on looking up they have been telling a buzzard to get out of their way.  It is a real delight and thrill to see these raptors flying gracefully over Alnwick.  My husband has always wanted to have a herring gull sitting on our chimney, throwing back its head, opening its mouth and shouting joyfully but they always choose a chimney on the opposite side of the road.

I've also noticed that the blackbirds that visit my tiny patch of garden prefer me to throw the apple cores on to the soil rather than the paving stones but I'll have to spend more time admiring them to see if there is a reason why.  It is very relaxing being a bad bird watcher. 

Mora J Rolley, Alnwick.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Kimmer Lough

My December survey visit to the Kimmer Lough site this morning was remarkable only for the lack of activity.  The lough was about 50% frozen over and the only bird on it was a male Goosander.  A clump of willows held a small group of seven Yellowhammer.  Otherwise, if one ignores the 28 Pheasant, there were only minimal counts of Wren (2), Robin (1), Blackbird (1), Dunnock (1), Meadow Pipit (3), Woodpigeon (1), Chaffinch (2) and Blue Tit (2).

Although there were quite a few corvids - mostly Rooks - on adjoining grazing fields there were none at all on or even over the survey site.  A small group of 26 Starling flew over one of the Bannermoor fields.

Unusually no mammals were seen, although there was some Mole activity along the Bannermoor fence.

The only plants seen with any flower were a patch of Climbing Corydalis (right) and some sparse flowers on some of the Gorse.  But at ground level the Hard Fern was looking healthy, as were the tussocks of the large moss, Polytrichum commune (left) and some clumps of Green-ribbed Sedge (Carex binervis) (below - photo taken in spring)

Branton Ponds 8th December

A quiet period at the ponds,the East Pond has about 90% ice cover with very little on. The West Pond however was almost ice free this morning,small groups of Siskin and Chaffinch were joined by a single Brambling On the water a mixed flock of 50 Teal and Wigeon were joined by 5 male Goldeneye who were strutting their stuff to a couple of disinterested females.a Kingfisher made a brief appearance.  

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

A late afternoon stroll by the Aln from Alnmouth to Lesbury, very atmospheric in the snow flurries.

A large group of Wigeon were whistling  in the waterlogged grass alongside Curlew.

At least 20 Mallard were on the river along with 2 female Eider plus a male and female Goosander  in the company of a male and female Red-breasted Merganser.

Finally, by the Iron Bridge, in fading light, a singleton Fieldfare was feeding in a garden's apple tree,  still bedecked with fruit.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The Font

Today was spent walking up river from Netherwitton to Fontburn Reservoir before the sleet set in.  The male catkins on both the alder and hazel are starting to emerge.  A brown hare running through some wet woodland caused some amusement.  On the bird front it was relatively quiet but marsh tits were seen at two spots (Netherwitton & Ritton), one big flock of siskins (at least 100 birds), at least three flocks of long tailed tits and a 'fly-over' male goshawk.

The biggest surprise was a green sandpiper.  I know that they winter on the Breamish but this bird was feeding along the river under the canopy of the trees at South Healey!  Has anyone seen this behaviour before?  I associated this bird with open habitats not foraging like a woodcock.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Cold Coast

Cold and Icy this morning, Stewart and I decided to take a walk from Church Point north to Long Nanny Burn Mouth, returning via High Newton and south to Newton Pool.

Newton Church Point
As we walked through the dunes north of Church Point it was very quiet until we reached Football Hole, here in the weak morning sunshine sea duck, gulls and waders were feeding in the surf and on the rocks. Eider, 17 Goldeneye, 6 Common Scoter, single male Red Breasted Merganser and female Long Tailed Duck as well as Turnstone, Sanderling and Redshank.

Approaching Long Nanny Burn the fields to the west held large numbers of Curlew, Lapwing and Golden Plover which took to the air urgently as a large female Peregrine flapped low heading south carrying prey that seemed to be a Teal.

The Burn Mouth was quiet but a lovely flock of 14 or so Twite lifted from the salt marsh and landed on the bridge over the burn giving good views. Stonechat, Reed Bunting were seen in this area too.
Twite on the Long Nanny bridge

Cormorants, Long Nanny

Newton Pool was busy with wildfowl. Teal had to be counted twice as the initial count was foiled when a Sparrowhawk landed in Willows on the edge of the pond flushing previously unseen birds into view, 220 Teal were counted. Other birds included 6 nice Gadwall, 32 Mallard, 10 Wigeon, 7 Tufted Duck and a single Goldeneye. The flooded fields to the north of Newton Pool hosted a noisy flock of Grey Lag Geese.

Before heading back to the car for a cup of hot tea we paused at Low Newton Haven to watch a flock of Sanderling and a couple of Stonechats feeding on the high tide line.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

More Swans 1st December at Branton Ponds

More swans but not wild ones this time,the first one was early this morning as Keith took the dog round the ponds.Standing on the ice with 2 Mute Swans was a stunning Black Swan it's white flight feathers showing well when it flew.The second bird,a Mute Swan could have been said to be wild as it was trapped in the school wildlife area and was not very happy,especially when Keith finally managed to catch it and release it onto the pond.