Monday, 27 January 2014

Stag Rocks 27th January

We decided to take advantage of a brief settled spell at the start of the day to have yet another look for the Grey Pharlarope at Stag Rocks, but as on the previous 4 occasions it did not appear. This didn't spoil our visit as there were many other things to look at including 200+ Common Scoter, several Red Throated Diver,1 Black Throated Diver,4 Slavonian Grebes,20+ Long Tailed Duck and the most unusual of all, a Kingfisher flying around the rocks beside the lighthouse and feeding in the rockpools.

Late news from coastal sites . .....

Friday (24th Jan) was spent counting geese around Budle Bay and the southern end of Fenham Flats.  The Barnacle geese remain in pastures around Budle Bay with a small number of light bellied brent.  The main activity were in grass pastures on Elwick and Smeafield where there was a flock of 1700 pink footed geese and 750 light bellied brent.  The flock also held 1 barnacle and 1 Greenland white-fronted goose.  Wild bird seed mix plots held at least 70 tree sparrows, 30 goldfinches and 60+ linnets as well yellowhammers, greenfinches and grey partridge.

The following day was spent walking around Ross Farm.  Highlights were 240 Barnacle geese, 1 long-eared owl, 14+ woodcock, 9 grey partridge, 2 common buzzard, 12+ tree sparrows and a flock of 40+ linnets.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Glossy pictures

Glossy pictures
We decided to have a day in southeast Northumberland and started at East Chevington where the predominant species was Goldeneye closely followed by Tufted Duck. From there we headed to Lynemouth Flash where we were lucky enough to get onto the juvenile Glossy Ibis which has been there for about 5 days, next to Cresswell Pond where there were large numbers of Wigeon and Teal.
Our final port of call was the Budge screen at Druridge Pools, again there were large numbers of commoner ducks which also included some very showy drake Shovelers and Pintail plus a male Green Winged Teal.

Don't tell the grouse men!

This morning we were walking on an area of moorland "to the north of Alnwick" when we had excellent views of a male Hen Harrier that circled around us at less than 200m and remained in view for a good couple of minutes before disappearing into the murk.  This is the first cock bird we've seen for several years.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Todays sightings....

Hi all, just a note to say that there is a Glossy Ibis in the Cresswell - Lynemouth area. It has been there for a day or two now but is quite elusive and mobile. Today it was on a flooded field just north of Lynemouth traveller camp along the coast road. Nearby a Green winged Teal and Little Gull were at Druridge Pools and further north a Sandwich Tern was at Stag Rocks!

Please click the links for pictures of these birds....

Cheers Stewart

Fenham Flats WeBS count

In really poor conditions I set out from Elwick Hide, visibility was rubbish and there was a constant battle to keep the optics dry. Nevertheless the birds were still there including 320 Shelduck, 119 Brent Geese of which 4 were Dark Bellied, 380 Eiders, 290 Oystercatchers,1320 Knot and 52 Grey Plover. On reaching Guile Point I could hear this distinctive yodelling call of Long Tailed Ducks as 15 drakes could be seen chasing 2 females on the water, whilst there I also noted 2 Snow Buntings. 

Friday, 17 January 2014

Wild goose chase

Another afternoon counting geese on fields around Budle Bay and Fenham Flats.  There was a large mixed flock of geese to the north of Chesterhill.  This included 460 greylag, 160+ barnacle, 135 pale-bellied brent and one pink-foot.  The rest of the area was very quiet.

From the Elwick hide, there was 264 curlew, 9 golden plover and 8 redshank in the flooded field to the south.  The tide was in and there were relatively few birds except for 2 slavonian grebes, 6+ long-tailed duck, 4 red-breasted merganser and 40+ mallard.  A male peregrine appeared to kill a jackdaw.  A wild bird seed mix plot held 34 yellowhammers, 8 tree sparrows and at least one grey partridge.


Over the past couple of years we've had the impression that Yellowhammers have been in significant decline on our home patch at Titlington Mount, both as wintering flocks and as calling, breeding birds.

It was therefore great this morning to see a flock of around 50 birds in a hawthorn hedge below our farm road.  There were one or two Chaffinches with them but the vast majority were Yellowhammers.  No camera with us I'm afraid and anyway it would have been hard to get any useful images as they flitted about in the hedge.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Out of the area......

Yesterday, Anna and myself were in the North Pennines surveying an area of moorland close to Blanchland.  As is the norm at this time of year, there was not a lot to see on the moorland with the exception of good numbers of red grouse and a small number of wrens.  On the in-bye ground there was a flock of 80+ lapwing and a smaller number of golden plover.  There was also a steady passage of immature herring gulls moving in a south west direction towards Lancashire.

The highlight of the visit was a bat flying around a neighbouring property at about 11:30 am in the morning.  It was probably one of the pipistrelle species.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

River Breamish 8th January

As I had a couple of hours to spare and the weather was spring like I decided to check out the riverside beside Hedgeley Lakes. What was obvious immediately was the number of Dippers on territory, singing and chasing each other up and down the river. On reaching the bridge which conveys the quarry haul road over the river I noticed a small dark coloured wader with a large white rump, it landed beyond the bridge and after a certain amount of stealthy movement I managed to get a couple of photos of a very smart looking Green Sandpiper

Monday, 6 January 2014

Grey skies, grey seas and a grey phalarope

Whilst most people were going back to work, I had to take a bit more time off to look after the kids.  A stroll along Bamburgh beach is a traditional 'teacher's training day' activity.  On the way to Bamburgh, there were 80+ wigeon in a flooded field close to Bradford Kame.

Stag Rock car park produced good views of great northern diver (1-2 one bird flew south), red throated diver (12+), black throated diver (1 flew south), long tailed duck (9+), red breasted merganser (3) and good numbers of auks and gulls.  There was a flock 30+ purple sandpipers, 10 turnstones, 3 knot and a party of twite (12).

A walk towards Budle Point produce good views of long-tailed ducks, common scoter (at least 300 in three different flocks), velvet scoter (5+ - four males and at least one female) and a good number of kittiwakes offshore.

Back at the car, we met Winnie, who had been looking for divers and grebes.  After a discussion, we decided to part - Winnie headed for the Golf course.  We were just about to leave, when a 'sanderling type' wader came into view and suddenly land in the sea, just offshore.  This was no sanderling but one of the grey phalaropes that had been lingering in the area.  The bird was watched for 5 minutes - landing in the sea and onshore.  Needless to say I went to find Winnie and we came back to search for this marine wader but the wind had picked up and viewing conditions were poor.

There were 7 purple sandpipers and 120+ lapwing on the rock to the north of Seahouses harbour.

Sunday, 5 January 2014


Add caption
On Sat. 4th at 1545 Bert and I arrived at the parking area between the East Chevington ponds to watch the hundreds of starlings swirling around before roosting in the reeds, the murmuration.  I could hear them before I spotted them but by 1645 all was still and silent.   It was a wonderful spectacle added to because of the beautiful sunset.  The image doesn't do it justice but I've only got a wee camera.  It really is a lovely experience, not as spectacular as those shown on T.V. but it is ours.

Mora Rolley, Alnwick.

Druridge Bay area 5th January

As it is back to work tomorrow we decided to have a day down south, in frosty conditions our first stop was at Newbiggin where a number of Common Gulls, Black Headed Gulls and Herring Gulls were joined by a couple of Mediterranean Gulls. On the way up the coast we stopped at a flooded field near Woodhorn where amongst a large number of Greylags we picked out 3 White Fronted Geese. Next to Cresswell Pond which appeared very quiet apart from the hundreds of Wigeon feeding in the surrounding fields, this may be because an Otter had been noted over the last couple of days, of interest were 2 Red Breasted Mergansers and at least a dozen Common Snipe in front of the hide. Our final port of call was at Hauxley were access to the lower hides was made difficult by flooding, the problems caused getting to the first hide were outwayed by the sight of a Slavonian Grebe only 30 metres away accompanied by a very cute Little Grebe.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Ice phenomenon follow-up

Since I posted the pics of the "Angel Hair" ice in Kielder on Boxing day I've researched some more and appear to have found some definitive explanations.  There's a professor at Illinois State University who has become obsessed with ice formations and by following links from his blog I found a German article, fortunately with English summary sections.  The conclusions seem to be:

*  This type of ice is formally called Haareis or Hair Ice
*  It is caused by the presence of winter-active fungi in decaying hardwood
*  It only forms where the bark has been lost from dead twigs/branches
*  CO2 released by the fungi forces water, plus some organic material, out through small channels in the dead wood
*  The organic material acts as a freezing catalyst for rapid ice formation near the exit points
*  Thus happens at temperatures only slightly below zero
*  Experimentally, if the fungi are killed the ice formation no longer happens

Hair Ice is reported from various places in Europe and also from the Pacific North West of the USA

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Lothian away day

With a good forecast at least till early afternoon we headed off to John Muir country, our first port of call was Fidra where we also got the star bird of the day in the form of a female King Eider, it was swimming around with Common Eiders, Common Scoters and a few Teal. Next to Ferny Ness which didn't produce any Red Necked Grebe as it usually does but there were at least 6 Red Throated Divers offshore and a couple of Slavonian Grebes. Next to Lidl's at Prestonpans for some unhealthy sausage rolls a bar of chocolate and the hope of a Black Guillemot from the carpark, on this occasion no such luck. Our final port of call on the outward journey was at Musselburgh, no sign of the much talked about Surf Scoter but there were a number of cracking male Velvet Scoters. The trip home took us via Skatteraw where a large mixed flock of Herring and Black Headed Gulls wheeled about and on the shoreline Sanderling, Dunlin, Knot,Turnstone and Redshank fed along the tideline.

New year and more storms

Happy New Year. The last few days have been spent in Berwick-upon-Tweed.  The highlight of the 1st was a female long-tailed duck flying up river.  There were again good numbers of seabirds were off the mouth of the river.  These included gannet (50+), cormorant (100+), shag (30+), red-throated diver (at least 3), lot of auks including 2 little auks, kittiwakes and a large number of gulls.  Other highlights included 3 goosander, 3 red-breasted merganser, and at least 40 mallard on the river.  The collection of seabirds especially the gannets and kittiwakes is quite unusual for this time of year.  Further storms are likely to see more seabirds close in-shore.