Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Spring on the Snook

It didn't feel like spring on the Snook today, it was cool and damp with only limited sunshine, however spring must be near as nestled amongst the dunes was a single Primrose in flower, very early for this harbinger of spring. More seasonal were the 3 Short Eared Owls which came up from the grass at our feet and the 5 Snow Buntings picking away at seedheads washed up on the high tideline.

Yes, signs of spring!

Doing the NEBS survey yesterday at Townfoot brought an unusually high total of Dunnocks, which presumably is an indicator of the mild winter.  But even better was the fact that many of them were definitely paired up, with some involved in courtship behaviour.  And the Skylarks were up and singing.

Then later yesterday I went to check a small group of Larch at Titlington Mount which are often the first to show signs of leaf buds breaking.  I took the photo showing just the first sign of green, but then found a twig where the buds were really advanced and took the second pic.

So definitely spring, even if we've got March and then lambing storms in April to look forward to yet.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Signs of spring ?

There was a real springlike feel to the air today as I walked around Branton Ponds, this was reinforced by my very first sighting of the day, a very pale looking Adder stretched out on a south facing bank sunning itself, not the earliest I have seen one( about 15 years ago on the 14th) but still surely a sign of things to come. Another interesting sight was a single Lesser Black Backed Gull in amongst a large flock of Black Headed Gulls and Common Gulls, again quite early for the site. There were also plenty of other things about including a single Willow Tit with a small noisy flock of Long Tailed Tits, several Yellowhammers and suddenly lots of paired up Reed Buntings. Another sign of better days is the increased numbers of Song Thrushes singing in the trees, birds which seem to have been totally absent for the past few months, all we need now is a few lambs in the fields and the transformation will be complete.

Monday, 17 February 2014

From the other side of Fenham Flats

Conditions were good for counting waders and waterfowl from the Fenham le Moor area yesterday.  Geese and swans were scarce with only 4 light-bellied and 2 dark-bellied brent being counted.  There were good counts of other waterfowl including 487 shelduck, 254 wigeon, 67 pintail, 51 mallard, 208 eider, 10 long-tailed duck and 8 goldeneye.  Waders included 169 lapwing, 652 curlew, 440 dunlin, 310 bar-tailed godwit as well as smaller number of knot, redshank, grey plover, turnstone and oystercatcher.  There were 2 slavonian grebes just offshore, 2 peregrines (adult female and 1st winter) and a female/1st winter merlin.  A brambling and 2 rock pipits were at Fenham Mill.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Fenham Flats 16th February

Fenham Flats 16th February
Apart from a stiff breeze the conditions were perfect for my monthly WeBS count, as I set off from Elwick Hide I could see large numbers of birds on the mud flats including a rather large Peregrine which everything was giving a wide berth. As I headed towards Guile Point the numbers started to add up-650 Pale Bellied Brent Geese, 360 Curlew, 150 Oystercatcher, 409 Bar Tailed Godwit, 46 Grey Plover, 15 Sanderling, 950 Knot, 220 Dunlin and 88 Shelduck. On reaching the point I noted a single Red Throated Diver and 5 Long Tailed Ducks, as I headed back around the point a 1st winter Merlin flew up clutching what looked like a Rock Pipit, it landed about 30 yards away and proceeded to pluck it's prey eventually moving off into the dunes. On reaching the area known as the Wideopens I noticed a Snow Bunting on the track only 5 yards in front of me, once I had started to scan it I noticed there were 2 others which then suddenly turned into a flock of 25 which I watched for some time, the day was rounded off with a very clean looking Slavonian Grebe in front of the Hide at Elwick.    

Friday, 14 February 2014

In between the storms!

I was another goose counting day on the coast.  In and around Budle Bay there were 180+ barnacle geese, 450+ light bellied brent and small numbers of pink-footed and greylag.  In the Elwick area, there were up to 45 barnacles, 70+ light bellied brent and 70+ greylag.  From the Elwick hide, there 2-3 slavonian grebes, 8 grey partridge, 1 female goosander, 5 red-breasted merganser, 2 red-throated divers and good numbers of shags.  There were good views of parties of tree sparrows and yellowhammers close to the farm buildings.

Lunchtime was spent at Stag Rocks, Bamburgh.  There was no sign of the grey phalarope.  Common scoters were much in evidence with at least two flocks of 400+ birds.  Other highlights included 6+ red-throated divers, 1 black-throated diver, 1+ velvet scoter, 1 slavonian grebe, 1 guillemot and a puffin.  A small party of twite were in the field behind the car parking area.

On the way home, there was a flock of at least 15 brambling feeding on the road at Fowberry Tower.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Mole Catching

While doing the Kimmer Lough NEBS visit on Tuesday morning I had a brief chat with a chap who was driving a landrover around, slowly, in the Bannamoor fields on the north side of the site.

He'd seen that I was bird watching and wanted to let me know that he was about to start his mole catching. The reason this was relevant was that his method involves waiting in an area of mole hills until he spots slight movements of soil and then blasting the spot with a shotgun!  He reckoned he'd got 36 moles last year using this technique.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Stag Rocks (yet again)

After a morning spent doing a bird count within sight of Bamburgh Castle it would have seemed churlish not to have gone to look for the Grey Pharlarope yet again!. The conditions looked perfect when we got there, not too much swell, the tide right in and lots of birds feeding close to shore, but no sign of the quarry. This didn't deter us as we were soon having cracking views of 3 Little Gulls feeding very close in, also present were some large flocks of Common Scoter, Eiders, Purple Sandpipers and several Slavonian Grebes out beyond the breakers.At this point Keith noticed a small grey bird in the water 300 yards south of the lighthouse, it could be only one thing, the elusive Grey Pharlarope, we spent the next 20 minutes getting excellent views as it moved up and down the tideline delicately picking food items off the surface. This should have been a great end to a perfect day, however we decided to listen to the Tyne-Wear derby on the way home and the grey clouds descended yet again.