Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Birding home and away

The day got off to a really good start when 9 Grey Partridge appeared in our garden, they ran and jumped about in typical gamebird manner but stayed still long enough for a few photos through the kitchen window. After breakfast we headed off to Stag Rock to look for a Bonepartes Gull reported yesterday, after a scan around the lighthouse we headed off towards Budle Point. Just offshore from the sandy spit were a group of Black Headed Gulls feeding, one bird was smaller and showed an all grey nape and head. On getting the scope onto this bird we realised it was the Bonepartes Gull, a dainty little bird with a black bill, a grey mantle,a dark cheek patch,limited black on the primaries and pale pink legs. What a delicate looking bird to have flown all the way from North America.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Nature laid bare

Autumn not only is a bright,colourful time of year but it also reveals things which have been hidden during the summer months. A good example was this wasps nest found around Branton Ponds today,at the height of summer invisible as it is cloaked in the seasons leaves, but after a strong wind and cooler weather it is exposed to all.

A walk in the woods

With autumn in full swing and a week's holiday we felt it was just the right kind of day to go to Holystone Woods. On the way across we noted 3 Bramblings on a hedge near Biddlestone, once into the woods themselves we soon heard the chatter of Jays as they forage around for the huge numbers of acorns lying on the ground. The Oak trees were just starting to change colour and the spring sounds of warblers were replaced by Blue Tits, Nuthatches and crunching leaves. As we headed on a bewildering array of Fungi were there to be photographed including Russula's, and many kinds of bracket fungi, some of which looked remarkably like streaky bacon, if anyone can identify some of the photos it would be much appreciated.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

And now for something a bit different...

Hello all,

Just a quick note to say this smashing Siberian Stonechat has been frequenting the cliff top about 50 -100mtrs south of the Howick Burn footbridge for the last few days. Found by a visiting birder from Wales on Sunday, his first day up here on holiday, it has been showing very well, feeding around the tops of scrub and umbellifers. It can be seen flycatching quite easily, I have even seen it from my patch by looking from the north end of the bridge!

It is a lot paler than our own Stonechats, looking more like a Whinchat but without the white eyestripes. These birds breed way out to the east of Asia and are rare visitors to the UK. Its about 12 years since I last saw one in Northumberland, but they were reasonably common in China when I was there in 2008...

At the time of writing I haven't heard if it has been seen today but it was still around yesterday. Its well worth a try to see if it is still there...

Stewart. ( Photo courtesy of Ian Fisher)

24th October

Most of the day was spent vegetation surveying in the College Valley.  Birds of interest included a female hen harrier drifting south, 7 twite and a good selection of thrushes.  Ring ouzels had been seen in the Valley until the middle of last week!  There was one swallow (adult) flying around Hethpool in the late afternoon.

There was a good selection of waxcaps on the west side of Coldburn Hill.  These include meadow, crimson, heath, parrot and snowy.  There were also good numbers of yellow fairy clubs and a patch of earth clubs.

Our first sample point produced heath grass (illustrated in the las AWG newsletter).  Other plant highlights include heath groundsel, thyme, mouse-eared hawkweed and thyme-leaved speedwell.

A peacock butterfly was seen close to the entrance ot the Valley.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Golden & grey

A quick walk around Whinney Hill, Longhorsley produced a flock of 40+ golden plover, 2+ male grey partridge, 20+ tree sparrows, 30+ yellowhammers and 10 reed buntings.

Snowy, meadow and parrot waxcaps as well as good numbers of fairy clubs

Monday, 21 October 2013

Garden visitor

I was sitting at the computer this morning with a feather in hand looking at a bird book and mulling over emarginations, luckily at this point my attention was drawn to a commotion outside and a thump as a large bird hit the window. As I looked at the powder impression left on the glass I noticed a juvenile Sparrowhawk perched in a tree just outside, it was quite recently fledged and still had a number of white feathers on it's mantle and wings. After a short rest it flew off, later in the morning my attention was drawn to Wrens and a Robins making a real racket down the garden, I was expecting a cat but there on the hedge was the juvenile Sparrowhawk looking very subdued, it must have flown into another window as it remained there some time, long enough for me to get one or two photos before it flew off. Many people would not be pleased to see such a bird in their garden, but as the top avian predator I think it is a privilege and shows a healthy population of small birds.


Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Reds, white-tails and martins

Old news. Last week was spent on the Movern peninsula,east of Mull. The weather was very good and the wildlife was fantastic. The Rahoy Estate is tucked away at the end of a 7 mile single track road. No TV, emails or mobile reception - bliss! The red deer stags were in full cry in the evening. A number were strutting their stuff outside of the cottage. The bellow of a stag amongst the autumn colours of the trees with blue sky is something to behold. Another visitor to the cottage was at least one pine martin on several nights. Lure of raisins was too much. These also attracted a female red deer and her calf. This all happened within three feet of the cottage door! This part of Scotland is a very good place to see white-tailed eagles. We were not disappointed with four birds being seen during our stay. One adult flew over my head (within 30 feet) being pursued by a couple of ravens. Other highlights included seven species of waxcap, a passage of whooper swans on the 8th / 9th Oct, harbour porpoise (7), many species of lichens, a good selection of common passerines including redwing and fieldfares, good numbers of greenshank and of course otters

Monday, 14 October 2013

Something stoatally different

Whilst on a short morning's visit to Holy Island we were watching the area around the first white cottage on the Crooked Lonnen hoping to see a Great Grey Shrike, when we noticed a Stoat running across the field and entering the garden. A few minutes later it came back out and ran across the field carrying what looked like a yellow tennis ball, when we got better views we realised it was in fact an apple. This is something I have never seen before and wondered if anyone else has seen such behaviour?, and to carry on the tennis theme,the Shrike wasn't playing ball!.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Fenham Flats 13th October

Today was my monthly WeBS  at Fenham Flats, the weather wasn't too promising, damp and breezy, but the birds didn't seem to mind. The Wigeon numbers have really started to build up and todays count was 2570, the sight of so many birds taking off at once is awesome and the sound they make made me think of a friend who was born on Holy Island and told me that Islanders called them "Hugh's" as that is the sound they make, their call is a repetitive "Hugh,Hugh,Hugh". Geese numbers were also impressive today, with totals of 723 Pale Bellied Brents and 400 Barnacle Geese. It was also nice to see 3 Little Egrets feeding on the salt marsh and also all the small wadres taking to the air when a single Merlin flashed across the Flats. On the way back I came upon a Seal pup with an injury to it's mouth, it was also at least 500 metres from the colony, but it did look very well fed and obviously had hauled up at high tide, gone to sleep and been left behind. Fortunately my last view of it was of a Labrador sized slug flopping it's way along the beach in the direction of it's friends.  

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Early snowflakes

As we headed off around Branton Ponds this morning with the dog the sky was a stunning bright blue and the slight breeze gave the day an autumnal effect. This was enhanced when we caught the distinctive call of Whooper Swans and soon we had 10 perfect white snowflakes banking over our heads and landing on the ponds. We have Mute Swans here all year round but nothing can compare with the sight and sound of true wild Swans which have spent the summer on the Arctic Tundra.
Numbers of other birds also seem to be on the increase, especially Wigeon ,Teal and Goosander which can number up to 100 birds, but alongside all of these winter visitors there were still 30+ Lesser Black Backed Gulls on the west pond today, maybe with the huge number of Rowan Berries the next thing to look out for is Waxwings, watch this space.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Last week..........

A few records from the last week include a fly-over brambling at Glanton on the 31st September.  There was a small passage of redwings, song thrushes and blackbirds on the 2nd October.  A woodcock flew over the office at Haugh Head on Thursday.

A snow bunting was on the beach at Low Newtown yesterday with a possible shorelark.  Both birds flew out to rocks and could not be located.  There was also a large flock of golden plover (250+) and good numbers of white wagtails (7).  Newtown Pool held a female pintail, little grebe and a selction of commoner ducks.

There was a good selection of birds at Branton Ponds in the afternoon.  Counts included goosander 117, little grebe 12, wigeon 40+, lesser black-backed gull 55, great black-backed gull 2, chiffchaff 5+, kingfisher 1 and pintail.  A migrant hawker dragonfly was in the car park.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Southeast Northumberland 5th October

We set off early on Saturday morning for Druridge Pools, or more specifically a patch of Blackthorn about 200yds to the north. The bird we were looking for was a Subalpine Warbler, a small group of birders had gathered and after a short while the little beauty appeared(rubbish photo attached), it kept us entertained for quite awhile as it flew from bush to bush
All of this before 10 o'clock, we were on a role so we then headed to St Mary's wetland near Whitley Bay where we soon had our second little sprite of the day in the shape of a tiny little Firecrest which flitted endlessly amongst the upper branches of a Willow tree,whilst in another group of Willows we managed to find a Yellow Browed Warbler,other birds included a couple of Stonechats and at least 1500 Golden Plovers(but no American) on rocks north of St Mary's Island.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Budle Point 2nd October

We decided to spend the morning at Bamburgh, the weather looked promising with low cloud and a strong southeasterly. After parking at Stag Rock we headed off across the Golf Course, the bushes were full of birds ,mainly Reed Buntings but also a number of Redwings. At this point a small looking Skua flew over our heads, we immediately recognised it as a juvenile Long Tailed Skua.
As we headed further on we came across many Goldfinches and Linnets and the bushes near the old military defences produced a single Brambling. The journey back along the beach was also interesting as we picked up the distinctive trilling call of a flock of 4 Snow Buntings, which finally landed a short distance away( close enough to take some rather poor record shots ). Out to sea large numbers of Gannets were feeding along with a flock of about 100 Eiders, on land we also came across Rock Pipits more Goldfinches and at least 2 Stonechats.