Monday, 28 January 2013

Big Garden Birdwatch...

Female Blackbird  MJR. 
It's as well I am a Bad Birdwatcher because watching in the garden during this snowy spell has been a little dull. The hour's count for the RSPB Big Garden Bird watch was not 'big' in any form as I haven't a big garden, nor any 'big' birds nor yet any 'big' numbers to report. Sad to say I saw 3 Blackbirds, 1 Dunnock and 3 House Sparrows.

Not much to report BUT for 30 minutes I had a lovely time watching a female Blackbird. She came in to peck at the apple cores I throw out each day so spent some time enjoying them before flying on to the branch of the rosemary bush. There she sat for half an hour enjoying the sunshine, now and again preening and turning her head to check that nobody else was around. I like to think she really appreciated a quiet place to take her ease and a break from the bustle and competition in other well stocked gardens. I know I enjoyed sharing some time with her.

Mora J Rolley, Alnwick.

26th & 27th January

Saturday morning was spent walking on the beach at Boulmer.  I am always impressed by the range of waders species and their numbers.  There were fourteen species of wader including good numbers of grey plover (34), knot, turnstone and dunlin.  There were smaller numbers of sanderling and purple sandpipers (2).  Other birds of interest included a short-eared owl that flew in off the sea, a small southerly passage of fieldfares and skylarks and a Scandinavian rock pipit (close to the car park).

A drive to Edlingham, produce a green woodpecker on a roadside tree. A stoat in ermine was spotted in Glanton on Saturaday looking for mice in a building site!

A slushy walk around Branton Ponds, prodced one or two species of interest including a kingfisher, several snipe, 4 lesser  redpoll (very close), 3 goosander and 6 goldeneye.  There was no sign of the water rail or willow tit.  There were tracks of a female otter with a least one cub across the ice on the southern shore of the west pool.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Harehope Hillend.

    The snowy spell has ment more time watching the feeders and has been interesting. Plenty of the usual Coal Tits,Blue and Great, but also a gang of seven Long Tailed at times. For three days we even had a pair of Marsh Tits, which were good to see.  Waring Blackbirds and Robins and a bad tempered Siskin or two.
Great Spotted Woodpeckers in numbers are very regular, and one drumming when the sun tried to shine.
Nuthatch are another regular and the number of Chaffinches have gradually increased but no other finches.
One more unusual visitor is a Jay, not too welcome because it has a habit of destroying nut feeders. Regular sorties by the local Sparrowhawk adds to the action.

      Jim Clark.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Cattle Egret!

News just through today of a Cattle Egret that has been present on Holy Island for 3 or 4 days. It is along the crooked lonnen by a flood in a field next to an old horse box.

This will only be the second record for Northumberland, since one was at Barrasford from 30th Sept - 11th Oct 1986. That bird was only seen by 3 observers so no doubt this one will attract some local interest.

Guess where I'll be in the morning....

Oh the crossing times are quite good, its from early morning until lunchtime...

Friday, 25 January 2013

Titlington Jottings

Thursday (24th) morning brought the first drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker of the season.  He didn't continue for long, but it takes your mind off the snow. Earlier that same morning there were at least two and probably three Tawny Owls calling loudly from the woodland beside the house

We keep seeing what we now regard as our resident Stoat in and near the garden.  We have a large old uprooted tree stump which has been gradually rotting away for the last dozen years.  A few days ago we realised that in front of it was a small pile of mammal bones - mostly rabbit - and we are quite sure that the stoat is using the stump as a winter shelter and bringing prey back to it.  Not in ermine unfortunately.

Then today (25th) I drove down Titlington Lane to Bolton.  Near the crossroads a Barn Owl got up from the hedgerow and leisurely drifted down the hedge top ahead of the car for at least a couple of hundred metres before moving off towards Bolton Mill.

Snow fields of mid Northumberland

I had to venture into the heart-land of mid Northumberland yesterday.  It is a very snowy scheme and in places, there is a lot more snow than Glanton.  There were relatively few birds about but highlights included; at least two red grouse feeding on the tips of grass and heather poking out of the snow from the road between Moorhouses and Rothbury and a 'dark' barn owl flew over the road between the Lordenshaws turnoff and Forestburngate.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Wintry Branton 24th January

A short walk with the dog along the Whaupie road, made narrow by high drifts of snow, was enlivened by the call of a Peregrine fly over the moor. It flew towards one of the pylons and proceeded to buzz another bird which turned out to be a Peregrine also, this all visible from our garden.
Later I decided to brave the deep tiring snow around the ponds. I was not disappointed. On the West pond at a wet flush with grass and water flowing 4 Moorhen were joined by a Water Rail and just as I was enjoying this I realised a Barn Owl was hunting over the reed bed. I kept going to the East pond, and at the inflow from the West pond a Kingfisher was to be heard. Nearby 2 brilliantly coloured male Bullfinch were feeding at which point I heard a small bird calling which produced excellent views of a Willow Tit. 15 Snipe flew over flushed by an unseen predator, while as I left for home a Brambling added a final splash of colour.

Lemmington Hall Siskins...

Definite influx of about 60 Siskins to Lemmington Hall area 5 miles west of Alnwick, Northumberland in the last three days; with a similar number of Goldfinch.  Seem to be travelling together.  I have re-caught some birds not seen since 2012 in Feb/March. 

Also two Yellowhammer (probably more local - but this species never seen here before under feeders!).  Weather too cold / wild at times to allow much ringing.

N.B. Most of the Siskins are adults not juveniles. This is not the usual situation, indicating that the birds have had a poor breeding season but a high proportion of adult birds have survived.  

Philip Hanmer; Natural History Soc of Northumbria Ringing Group.     

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Seaton Point

A walk round Seaton Point on a raw Wednesday afternoon had some immediate consolation!

 Among the black headed gulls very close in, was a juvenile kittiwake showing very clearly the dark "W-pattern" across its wings. When it dropped on to the sea , I managed a quick pic where the ear spot and black half collar are visible along with a black bill.
As I reached the Point itself, I had a quick glimpse of perhaps fifteen brent geese hurrying south flying just  above the water line in spectacular close formation.
I walked away from the sea towards an area of set -aside and the ever burgeoning flock of linnets were immediately in evidence, doing their impression of a mini starling murmuration,as they moved restlessly from stubble to set -aside to hawthorn bush to telegraph wires and back!
Content to forage in the stubble field was a sizeable flock of fieldfare interspersed with a smaller number of redwing.  With my bins, I scanned  the few bits of tree in the area (straggly hawthorn bushes), one of which was host to a group of chaffinch.
 I then got a glimpse of orange rather than pink and the scope confirmed at least four brambling were among them.
My first sighting of the species in Northumberland - I returned home cold but very content.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Beadnell Birding.

Please see this report from Gary Woodburn, birding around his home at Beadnell...

Howick Garden

No not the Howick Gardens, my Howick garden...

Snowed up this morning so a few birds seen in the garden -

17+ Fieldfare, 6+ Blackbirds and a Redwing on some apples we had put out, 4 Brambling, 6+ Tree Sparrows, 10+ Chaffinches, 5 Goldfinches and 4 Long tailed Tits on the feeders. 4 Lapwings and a Redpoll flew south over head...

Do not adjust your computer. Apologies for the picture quality it was dull and they were through a partially steamed kitchen window!

Snowy Branton 22nd January

Like Richard and Jane we have been restricted by the weather and are slowly running out of feed for the birds.We are getting up to 20 Tree Sparrows and as many House Sparrows but we are still getting up to 4 Bramblings both on the ground and on the feeders,a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers are certainly going through the fat balls.The ponds are very quiet although this morning Keith observed a single Water Rail out on the snow near a wet area.

Titlington white-out

We've scarcely been out of the house for three days, so sightings have been limited to our bird feeders.

We seem to be feeding the majority of the local Chaffinch flock, but our count includes regular Tree Sparrows, and an occasional House Sparrow. Blue, Great and Coal Tits are regulars as are our three or four Great Spotted Woodpeckers.

There's a regular pair of Collared Doves and Dunnock and Robin appear as singles, usually on the ground under the feeders.  The Blackbirds still seem to expend much unnecessary energy chasing each other rather than concentrating on feeding.  Siskin are present in small numbers and an occasional Greenfinch appears

Far more unusual for us have been the couple or so Starlings which don't normally visit the garden and yesterday we even had a Yellowhammer under the feeder.  Disappointingly there have been no Bramblings which in the past have occasionally appeared with snow.

Most of our local Pheasant have by now been shot, but as I write there's a single cock bird under the feeder.  Whether our regular Sparrowhawk hasn't been around or whether we've just failed to be looking at the right time I'm not sure.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Snowy weekend

Not a weekend for wildlife watching but sledging!  Leaving work on Friday evening, a barn owl then 2 woodcock flew over the office at Haugh Head.

Saturday morning was spent clearing snow but Glanton's tree sparrows were enjoying commuting between bird feeders.  A walk around Branton Ponds, we managed to locate an Ian Davison and most of the species that he recorded in his earlier blog. 

There was renewed interest in the bird feeder at home with unusual species (for the Dodds') comprising of wood pigeon, great tit and chaffinch.  These are all visitors when it is snowy but are rarely seen at other times.

One of our local starling also decided to break out into song.  This year's song includes extracts from house sparrow, mallard, lapwing, blue tit, greylag and tawny owl.  A few years ago it or another adult starling had at least 10 bird calls or songs in its repetoire including golden plover display song!.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Deep and crisp and even

Almost 12 inches of snow coated much of Branton Ponds today but the wildlife was still in evidence. The first sight was a pair of Kestrels mobbing something on the ground, this turned out to be a Stoat carrying a vole, the question is, whose meal was it in the first place? Further on a call from the reeds revealed a group of 4 Stonechats, a very unusual sight at Branton at this time of year.

A small open area of water revealed a mixed group of about 30 Teal and Wigeon plus 4 Goldeneye. On reaching the spot where water enters the East Pond from the West Pond movement alerted me to a male Kingfisher diving into the ice free water.The rest of the walk added Lesser Redpoll to the list and shows that even on a bad day nature will be always looking for ways to survive.    

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Blog Addition...

If you check down the right hand column you can see I have added a new section - Other Useful Sites.
The first on here is Eakring Wildlife an excellent site created around the study of Sherwood and Notts wildlife. There is something to learn for everyone on here, not just for those in the midlands!

Winter Wonderland

After quite a bit of snow through the night we had a couple of hours checking out Branton and Hedgeley Ponds. Branton was fairly quiet, Wigeon, Teal and Tufted Ducks being the most numerous.
On walking down the River Breamish just below the County Bridge we noted a Kingfisher being
chased by a Dipper, on the ponds themselves were 2 Scaup and at least 6 Little Grebe with another 2 on the River.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Fenham Flats

Part of the weekend was spent counting waders and wildfowl on the mudflat at Fenham.  There was generally a good mix of waders including a small party of ringed plover (close to the Fenham le Moor hide).  There were 318 pintail but only relatively small numbers of wigeon and light bellied brent.  Other highlights included a 1st year peregrine (probably same as Ian Davison's bird), a merlin, which killed a redshank, 2 short-eared owls (on Lindisfarne), small parties of twite and lesser redpoll. The male blackbird was still attacking cars at Fenham le Moor.  A brown hare was on the foreshore feeding on saltmarsh plants and common scurveygrass was obvious amongst the grass on the shoreline.

Elsewhere there were at least 42 whoopers with mute swans north of Fenham Mill.  A Bewick swan flew west with a whooper south of the Causeway.  There were at least 190 barnacle geese feeding on Ross.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

January WeBS

Towards the Cheviots.
WeBS count today at Branton and Hedgeley. This area is always well covered by observers but Stewart and I had such a good morning I thought I’d share it.

A cold morning with the band of weather to come, lurking in the distant North West sky.

Wildfowl were mostly on the eastern of the two Branton ponds. The light was good and Tufted Duck were most numerous with upwards of 100 counted, lovely to watch through the scope with the birds being in top condition at this time of year.

Two Scaup and a single drake Pochard were spotted which were nice to see.

Also of note a couple of Kingfisher, 7 Goldeneye, Teal, Mallard, Wigeon and 2 Goosander.

The island, Branton East Pond.
 Hedgeley was a little quieter but interesting nonetheless. 6 Little Grebe, 9 Moorhen were notable with Goldeneye, Goosander, Wigeon, Mallard and Teal also seen. 

A flock of 35 Lapwing dropped onto the island just as we were leaving Branton and 22 Curlew were in the field adjacent to Hedgeley ponds. Its always good to see waders inland early in the year even if they will probably be returning to coastal areas if the cold weather returns this week..

We walked past the Hedgeley ponds to check out the River Breamish, this was well worth it as a Green Sandpiper flew upstream as we approached from the track to the north of the ponds.

The River Breamish gravels. Home of Green Sandpipers...

The soft sand at the edges of the small pools in the exposed gravelly areas on the river bank had footprints of a wader likely to be Green Sandpiper, evidence of this little wader feeding around these pools. Also spotted in the soft sand were several Otter footprints that looked really quite fresh. This caused us, as we returned to the ponds, to reflect upon how our noisy discussions as we approached the area could possibly have deprived us of a sighting of this Otter. It pays never to forget the basics, keep quiet.

Otter Track on River Breamish

Fenham Flats 13th January

Mid morning saw me by myself doing my monthly WeBS count on Fenham Flats. The weather was perfect,bright,sunny and no wind,the birds were impressive too, not large numbers but good variety. On the way out to Guile Point I encountered Shelduck numbering 409,Curlew passed the 100 mark, whilst BarTailed Godwits finished up with an impressive 345. On reaching Guile Point a scan of the small island offshore produced a 1st winter Peregrine, it gave the impression that it had just missed out on dinner and was sitting there forlorn and wondering what to do next. Out on the water a yodelling call alerted me to a group of 17 Long -Tailed Ducks,the males were displaying to the females,a great way to round off a super day.

Branton Ponds

Just to show that it's not only Ian & Keith who report from Branton,  Jane & I took an hour's stroll round the ponds this quiet, cold Sunday morning.  Inevitably we came across Stewart & John and spotted Hugh Tindle.  But on the bird front we were rewarded with 28 species and that was without really trying.

The stars had to be the two female Scaup with the largish group of Tufted Duck on the east pond, but there were at least six Goosander, and a similar number of Goldeneye, plus four Shelduck, along with the decent numbers of Teal, Wigeon and Mallard.  A surprising lack of geese, with just a trio of Greylag.

Off the water there were no large flocks of anything, but ones and twos of a range of passerines, including Yellowhammer, Redpoll, Long-tailed Tit and Siskin.

Botanically the only point of interest was that some of the Alders are already showing ripening male catkins.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Love is in the air!

Although winter has not revealed its icy grip yet, Fulmars on and around Cullernose Point are already returning to their nest sites and actively rekindling their relationships.
These are likely to be the older breeding birds using their experience to pre-empt any issue over the right to a nesting site.
So as we contemplate what still might be in store for us on the weather front, Fulmars are perhaps reminding us, that spring is around the corner!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

What Smew...

8th January and I was out with my bird watching friends.  

We put off doing a survey due to the forecast for heavy rain which did not materialize.  However, standing outside the southerly hide at East Chevington gave us beautiful views of the visiting red-head Smew. When I read that only about 100 come to this country in winter I felt really honoured to have watched it preening, diving and flying with the Goldeneyes.  I am told this will be a female as the juvenile males will now be in their full, stunning plumage.  

We also enjoyed watching the courting Goldeneye ducks and drakes.  Two males were displaying to a female who eventually adopted the submissive pose with her chin right down in the water, being interested in one of them.  He then decided she was obviously too easy, lost interest, turned away and paddled off.  Now the second reckoned he was on to a good thing and took over throwing his head back and looking stunning.  It was no good, she'd become bored or hungry or was a one drake duck and tootled off.  It's rather like a soap on T.V.

Mora J Rolley

Branton Ponds 9th January 2013

What a difference a day makes,the ponds today were looking glorious in a lovely midwinter sunlight. The Shelduck numbers had risen to 6 and were joined by many Teal and Wigeon, along by the riverside I came across a lone Willow Tit. Back on the ponds 23 Curlew were on the East Pond island and 26 Herring Gulls were on the West Pond with 50+ Common Gulls. Kingfishers were also in evidence as I noted 2 on the East Pond with another bird showing well in one of the small bays.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Branton Ponds 7th January

Yet another dull,damp day but at least there are a few birds about.I walk around Branton Ponds this morning produced two pairs of Shelduck,the earliest record on the ponds for this species.Whilst watching an entertaining group of Long Tailed Tits I heard a thinner higher pitched call and noticed a tiny mouselike bird crawling up a tree,it was a Treecreeper.Another good sighting was a Barn Owl hunting the long grass in the early afternoon,an unusual time of day but could it be on a brood of chicks! or is it stocking up for worse weather to come?  

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Alnmouth 6th January

Today we were in the Alnmouth area doing our Northumberland Estates bird survey,the weather was calm and very mild.There was nothing of real note but lots of different species seen,it was great to see Grey Partidge,a bird which has been in real decline recently,a total of 26 during the survey was not a bad count.Also of note was a single Stock Dove,a couple of Lesser Redpolls and a very striking male Bullfinch.  

Happy New Year

It has been a festive period away from the computer.  Christmas was spent in Berwick.  The only highlight was 24 red throated divers off Spital on the 26th Dec. 

The last week has been spent in Lincolnshire.  A summary of wildlife included a small number of grey seal pups (second largst colony on the east coast of England).  There were also a fly over waxwing and a number of little egrets.  On the 4th January, there were 3 little egrets, dark bellied brent geese and a good selection of waders and ducks.  The highlight of the trip were two peregrines talon grappling over-head.  It looked as though it was an adult and an immature female.  The male was very aggressive, targetting the head of the juvenile several times.

It was good to be back in North.  A walk on the beach yesterday at Boulmer produced 7 species of waders, five species of duck, good numbers of rock pipit (15), linnets (90+) with a small number of twite.

There was aslo a passage of pink-footed geese north - 45 north over Alnwick, 75 north over Whittingham

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Druridge Bay December 3rd 2013

On a morning which was dull and grey but unseasonably mild we headed first to Newbiggin where about 12 Purple Sandpipers were noted on the rocks near Beacon Point.The beach was checked next and amongst the small group of gulls were at least 10 Mediterranean Gulls of varying ages.Next to Cresswell Pond where we added Scaup,Lapwing,Gadwall and a very smart male Pintail to the list.As we headed back north towards Chevington we were stopped in our tracks by the sight of at least 2500 Pink-Footed Geese feeding in a field next to the road.At East Chevington the north pool yielded up a single Slavonian Grebe and a couple of lovely Long Tailed Ducks.