Saturday, 28 September 2013

You can only grin.......

Thursday was spent in the College Valley.  There was a small movement of meadow pipits and swallows but there were few other birds with the exception of a pack of 20 red grouse, 3 ravens, 1 kestrel and two very noisy peregrines.  We had just finished our lunch and there was a loud chatter high in the sky.  This turned out to be a juvenile peregrine harassing an adult expecting to get fed.  This reminded me of my children when they want some money!  The adult kept climbing and left the scene - a good move.

There were good numbers of dor beetles especially where the sward was short.  I also decided to look at some lichens - one rock had at least 6 species (no species were determined).  In a recently burnt area hare's tail cotton-grass had started to flower again!  I had not realised that the 'flower' spike is held in a little sac at the base of the stem - it looked like a cacoon of a moth or butterfly

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Holy Island 25th september

The weather looked perfect for a trip to Holy Island, it was damp,miserable and murky,so off we set to our first port of call the Snook. The trees at Snook House held 2 Yellow Browed Warblers with another one in the dunes and a fourth at the Half Moon Slack plus a single Redstart. Next to the village which apart from visitors was very quiet, the Vicars garden only held one Chiffchaff. We then headed off to the Straight Lonnen via the Harbour where we failed to find a reported Little Stint, the Lonnen was also strangely quiet except for a small patch of Willows at the north end. We could hear and see birds flying about and soon got onto another 2 Yellow Browed Warblers, the best bird was still to come in the shape of a first winter Red Breasted Flycatcher, at first views were brief as it was being continuously chased by a Pied Flycatcher, but eventually it settled down on a low branch and we had much better views, lets hope for more miserable weather!.   

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Ravens and more....

Three ravens were found 'croaking' away close to Longridge near Berwick, this afternoon.  There were also snipe (2) golden plover and pink-footed geese on the move south.  Devil's bit scabious, tormentil, yarrow, marsh hawk's beard are still in flower but there was very little evidence of waxcaps in an area of acid grassland.

Autumn roost

Arriving at work this morning (8am), there was a a huge amount of twitter around the office buidling and beyond.  Thre was a flock of at least 350+ swallows and house martins feeding in fields to the west of the site.  This is the largest concentration of hirundines that I have seen around the office.  It would suggest that they roosted close by in near-by willows on the Wooler Water or around the margins of a large pond to the south west.

A nuthatch also appeared.  This is a new bird for the office list!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Flocks gather

Wetland bird count started with a bang.  The first birds that were seen from Fenham le Moor hide was a black tailed godwit being persued by at immature peregrine!  Fortunately after a 3-4 minute chase the godwit got away.  This put a smile on my face as they are a favourite of mine.  The wigeon flock was at least 8,000 strong with supporting cast of pintail (29), light bellied brent (1239), pink footed goose (73) as well as a good selection of waders.

Other species included little egret (2), wall brown (5+), common dater (1) and a large number of grey seal (800+)

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

A hint of things to come

The weather forecasters keep telling us that we are in Autumn and today it certainly felt that way. A walk around Branton Ponds showed some leaves beginning to turn and ripe berries hanging heavily from the Rowan and Guelder Rose. The ponds themselves were alive with the sights and sounds of Autumn, hundreds of Greylags loitered about on the muddy edges whilst Goosander numbers seem to increase on a daily basis. Teasels were being picked over by Goldfinches,some of them juveniles still begging to be fed whilst back on the pond Lesser Black Backed Gulls settled down to bathe and over head hundreds of hirundines swooped on the last insects of Summer as they stocked up ready for their long journey south, at this time of year a sad sight to see, but one which was soon made happy by that sound of Autumn which everyone listens for, the "wink, wink" of dozens of Pink-footed Geese as they flew over heading south west . A sad time of year as our summer migrants leave us but also a fantastic and thrilling time of year as we look forward to old friends heading back to our shores from all points north.

Monday, 16 September 2013

A view from the weekend

Wandering around Glanton on Saturday morning there had been a definite increase in the numbers of chiffchaffs, willow warblers and blackcaps. There are broods of both swallows and house martins still to fledge.
The afternoon was spent in Berwick. There were at least 56 goosander roosting at the mouth of the Tweed. A painted lady was feeding on budlia in Devon Terrace. The highlighted was a juvenile curlew sandpiper feeding with dunlin, redshank and ringed plover on Little Beach.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Back to the Point

We decided to kill two birds with one stone and combine the dog's evening walk with a spot off seawatching at Newton Point. The sea was quite calm but there was plenty of passage, once again large numbers of Gannets of all ages were heading north, we soon began seeing Arctic Skuas which finally totalled 8 birds, some pale and some dark morph birds. Amongst them we managed to pick out 3 Manx Shearwaters and a total of 7 Sooty Shearwaters, some of them taking advantage of a Gannet feeding frenzy about 800 yards offshore. The most interesting sighting occurred towards the end of our watch when about 400 yards offshore hundreds of Swallows were seen dipping delicately on the surface of the water, and the dog enjoyed her walk.  

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Low Newton 11th September

It looked like there had been a good passage of interesting seabirds on Tuesday so I decided to go to Newton Point and maybe find a few of my own. The weather didn't look too promising, what little wind there was appeared to be almost S.W., however there were birds out there, Gannets were streaming passed in small groups which added up to many hundreds of birds. An Arctic Skua was the next  bird to be noted along with several Manx Shearwaters( which eventually totalled 19 birds), after about 45 minutes watching 2 Sooty Shearwaters glided into view quickly followed by a Great Northern Diver still in breeding plumage, the final birds of note were 2 Red Throated Divers heading north.  From here I decided to head off in the direction of the hide at Low Newton, the tideline in front of the pub turned up a couple of Sanderling plus several Bar Tailed Godwits, Ringed Plover and Dunlins whilst overhead flew a flock of about 150 Golden Plover. My final port of call was the hide where Mallards and Teal lounged about and a very noisy Kingfisher made his presence known 

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Seabirds and waterfowl

A trip to Stag Rocks, Bamburgh was in order after dropping off one of my sons.  This proved productive with the first bird being an adult pomarine skua.  There were a large number of seabirds with at least 500 gannets feeding, 10+ manx shearwaters, 8+ arctic skuas, common and arctic terns in abundance, 2 roseate terns, 1 black tern, 5+ common scoter, 2 adult (summer plummage) red throated divers and good numbers of kittiwakes and fulmars.

A quick stop off at Monk's Pool produced a black-tailed godwit, 5 shoveler, 3 gadwall, and a large number of teal  and mallard.

Holy Island 7th September

On Friday evening the weather looked good for migrants so we decided to go to Holy Island early on Saturday morning. We started at the Snook where apart from several Meadow Pipits, Whinchats and Wheatears the only other bird of note was a Barn Owl fast asleep in a Sycamore.
Next we headed off towards the Village, unusually the Vicars garden like everywhere else was very quiet as was the Straight Lonnen, so we decided to head back to the car, on our way back we were called across to a small bush by two other birders , on reaching them we were told they had a Nightingale or Thrush Nightingale in the bush. We had watched the bush for about 20minutes before we eventually saw some movement, at this point more birders turned up and the debate began as to what kind of Nightingale it was. At some times when in deep shade it looked quite grey, but when in the open looked more rufous brown , we felt it looked more like Common Nightingale but unless someone gets much better views or a good photo the debate will continue, watch this space!.  

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Stag Rock 1st September

A dull,grey, windy day saw us seawatching at Stag Rock, the sea was covered with birds of all descriptions, mainly Gannets and Auks but also a steady stream of Manx Shearwaters, we eventually came up with a total of 54 birds some of them flying through but many were piling in with the Gannets into invisible sources of food hidden below the surface. After a short while we noted a couple of Sooty Shearwaters heading past and then the jackpot with a small group of Manxies we picked out a single Balearic Shearwater. As more birds went through our totals mounted up and were added to with the passage north of 4 Arctic Skuas whilst on the rocks a group of Sandwich and Arctic Terns were joined by 2 Roseate Terns.