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Thursday, 27 November 2014

Hume's Warbler

Monday the 24th caught up with the Hume's at Briardene having first checked out the three Waxwings nearby  just in case they decided to feed elsewhere , what a dull miserable day it was , but the Hume's being faithfull to a nice Sycamore tree still with plenty of leave on and presumably providing food of some sort . So it was not long before the bird appeared calling loudly and profusely at first as it relocated  ,views where very cood whcich is the main thing but trying to get any shots in the dull light of a small bird in thick cove r was a challenge to say the least . I tried to get some recordings but someone would talk just at the wrong time , a Willow Tit also passed through the tree picked out by DE on a short visit from his usual patch of East Chevington area . Well the bird went off to the far side of the dene so I headed down to St Mary's for a walk around Tree Sparrows and Grey Wagtail in the Cem but St Mary's was quiet although a Grey Phalarope was reported later near the causeway on the high tide. It brightened up somewhat in the afternoon so I headed back to try and get some more shots of the Hume's , indeed it was much pleasanter  with the Sycamore bathed in sunshine alas the bird decided  the feeding was better on the far side and it took an hour before it popped back  flitting around as close as it was going to get ,but sod it didn't the camera battery die on me  and even the spare was dead ................ always check your gear before going out  !!!!!

 Last shot before the battery went just as it was coming out into the open
I used my SX50 for this  shot the light was so poor , hopefully I will find some over the winter

Monday, 13 October 2014

October Sunshine

The first two weeks of October over already been enjoying the sunshine and the last flush of Butterflies & Dragonflies also some good seawatching  with large numbers of  Little Gulls passing through the area ,this is just an overview of the Month so far .
Kestrel drops in beside me with prey and just as quickly moves on to a better perch to consume it , a good photo opportunity missed
Barnacles past Seaton Sluice  in this case heading North into Blyth River where they seem confused and then head west  also 350 South in an hour and a half
Speckled Woods very numerous in their second hatch  lost count how many I have seen
Common Darters are still common I have seen them go late into November if conditions are right
I would have liked this one completely on the reddish  brown re-constituted plastic seat , but you get what you get
Few Small Copper around a fantastic looking Butterfly , often goes unseen due to it's small size

Small Tortoiseshell also in good numbers as are Red Admirals of which I have seen many but did not get any photos and a couple of Painted Ladies 
This is the Little Stint from Cresswell I just wanted to see what sort of shot I could get from the hide  and it's not bad given the distance 

Sunrise at Seaton Sluice ready for a Seawatch , looks nice but this day the bright sun  hampered visibility , the sea looked like silver foil , you have to look well North to get any I.D 's on passing birds
Comma I have never seen these in any numbers ,this one in Blyth Park as I searched for any migrants that had hopefully dropped in !!!!

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Newcastle's Swing Bridge & Victorian Tunnels

As can be seen from the photo dates earlier this month I took advantage of a visit to the engine room of Newcastle's famous Swing Bridge , although we did not get to see it open the action was very well explained, it uses only water power to open and close having two huge accumulators that store water ready to operate the gears. Everything is very heavily engineered and will easily go on for another hundred years or more .
The Bridge was erected   in place of a fine classic Georgian stone bridge to allow ship access to Armstrong's works further up the Tyne 

Later that day I visited the Victorian tunnels near Ouseburn , this was a tunnel that ran from Spittal Tongues pit right down to the quayside to carry coals to the waiting ships , during the war the tunnel was used as an airaid shelter with numerous entrances added  along it's length at one point I asked how deep we where 55` , it's not open for all it's length as some has collapsed, blast walls where also added during the war as was lighting and it was used as a convenient walk way   well lit fairly dry access to the City which was in a total blackout situation , they are well worth a visit  and have plenty of  history , like the cost of adding entrances which spirraled out of control due to the difficult conditions  and the large cost of  "light bulbs" having to be continually replaced not because they wore out but where removed , the explanation was  courting couples where drawn to the fact that they could access the tunnels and not wanting to be seen the bulb was removed and once removed you could not see where to put it back so the bulb went off in some blokes pocket !!
One guy spent the whole war living down the tunnels having come through the first world war .his family taking food etc down to him . Somehow I cant imagine today's generation  putting up with it no phone signal for one thing 1
It's well worth a visit takes a couple of hours but can be rather chilly and chilling !

 The left hand gears are engaged and this turns the table ( the grey bit ) to swing the bridge , the right hand gears are the slightly faster gears, that have never been used  and the whole set up is repeated on the right side of photo so it would always be able to operate

 Brass everywhere
 Now that I think of it the tower bit was never explained , but the road runs just behind the white rails
 A different view of the Tyne Bridge  and the Blinking Eye

On along the Quay To visit the Victorian Tunnels well worth a visit 

 This is the OUSEBURN
 An art centre
 I did not have the camera to get any good photos in the tunnels these where bunk beds when the tunnels where used as a WW11 airaid shelter
 There is not much height or width for that  matter  just enough room for a coal wagon I think we went about 750 metres then back again

 This is the Grainger market(south end near the flower seller)apparently also used as a WW11 shelter there is no access other than they had the entrance open to show where it was .
The following are copies of a photo display showing the shelter from I think the 60's

Friday, 26 September 2014

Feas - Seawatching

Well like many I got caught up in the quest for Feas Petrel  first sighted past Flamborough  early morn of the 21st , I have never seawatched from there but I presume your looking down on everything and it has been a remarkable site for some fantastic movement . well at the time I did not give it much thought though  it was speculated that it could track North  at least somewhat , Hartlepool was mentioned  as the best hope , if it passes there we had a good chance well no word was put out , but for some reason there was a buzz that it would be worthwhile getting to the coast at a suitable point to try your luck , suitable point in this case was  more than just a look at the sea it would help if information was forthcomming of the birds progress , it would help if there where other experienced watchers . So MHp and I first decided to forego  the charms of Seaton Sluice and head to Newbiggin knowing there would be many observers set up ready ,but we also weighed up the possibility of going to St Mary's , I have seawatched from here more times than Newbiggin  and thought it would be easier to get onto the hoped for bird , so that's where we ended up by the Ladies toilet block only to find not a sole there , the tide was out and we wondered if everyone was on the island , having only seen one Sooty we packed up and headed for the Island , mild panic was just starting to creep in , why I don't know  but I did suddenly realize I wanted to see this bird , I mean I really did want to see this  bird I have put in many hours staring at the sea  and hoped this would be some sort of payback .
Well arriving at the hide you could see the shutters open I think it was a young lad "Dan " that let us in (thanks for that) he was on his own , what's going on I at least thought there would be a few people set up , perhaps it was the rising tide that put them off . Set up and viewing it takes a while to get your eye in , this happens at any site you go too there all different, some are high and your looking at more sea , some are low and you have swell or chop that even Gannets can disappear in ,   a few Sooty where evident ,I have lost the notes from the day so cant remember any totals for Sooty/ Manx or anything else . Well more observers joined us just enough  to fill the space and with the tide over the causeway we where committed , I was enjoying what was on offer but deep down thought we are not going to see this surely at some stage the bird is going to head out to sea  on a huge loop and be lost , a report of a  sighting from Cowbar  ?  then much  later Ryhope  the tension was starting to mount and we still had a long wait , next report was Whitburn which has a very good following of seawatchers  and I knew there would be plenty of observers there , the bird was reported as lingering in with Kittiwakes  great for those watching it , panic for us waiting along the coast , finally another report the bird had now moved North and out of sight . Now for the next hurdle the "Whitburn Triangle " many birds seen tracking north do not get picked up  further north  I think the run off from the Tyne pushes them further out beyond view from the coast.
Finally a report from Tynemouth it's still on the way . the game was now on  but it was going to be fairly short game you would have to get onto it quickly or it would soon pass and become only  history .
And then the clincher a call from observers at the loos it was just south of the Yellow Buoy , you could here the elated shouts in the background , I hurriedly moved to  scan and there as it sheared up I saw my first Feas  everyone got onto it with ease suddenly the silence ended   and you could feel the tension lift  as the bird seemed to sheer slowly up and down as it crossed our view point , I had expected it to be flying lower more like the passing Manx , meaning it  could have got hidden from view in the swell ,  I resisted the temptation to try and get a shot , I will leave that to the next one . What a fantastic bird , by far the best bird sighting I have seen in Northumberland .

Done a couple of  sessions this week
The 23rd saw about 350 Barnacle South  early eve
24th    76 Little Gull ,2 L T skua and a Juv Sabines from St Mary's  then continued from the Sluice
24th     174 little Gulls (one group of 52)  and the juv Sabines
spent an hour or two at Gosforth Park  and had a Bittern & 60 returned to the Sluice where Little Gull passage had ended for the day with only 3 picked up heading North

Friday, 12 September 2014

Lancaster Bomber -Durham Tees Airport

Last Month I took advantage of a visit to Durham Tees Airport to see the Canadian Lancaster Bomber which is on tour of the UK ,it was an Opportunity to get up close and personal with this iconic  aircraft , I left home very early the plan was to call at Bishop Middleham  on the way down but the weather was rather poor so I headed straight down to the airport . Durham Tees is a very small Airport just like Newcastle was when I took my first holiday flight , but the importance for today is this was the wartime home of the Lancaster Bomber group . There where numerous Military vehicles also on display and merchandise of the Lancaster tour also available but as is usual they had converted dollars straight to pounds  making a baseball cap £15 , so I resisted temptation. Eventually a very large queue formed once the Lancaster was brought on the tarmac  I thought this is going to be a nightmare to get in if you have to show your booking form etc , but no the gates finally opened and it was one mad rush in. The plane was very impressive close up and certainly no plane buff but was not going to miss this chance of being up close to such a fantastic aircraft , well I snapped away from this angle and that angle  eventually I noticed a queue forming and the rumour went around that we would be allowed inside the aircraft  so in true British fashion I joined the by now long line of expectant visitors , well little did I expect I would be standing there 2 hours as some struggled to get up the short ladder at the rear and took even longer to get out again . I got to one point and thought time to move on and forget about it luckily I spent the time having a conversation with the people in front and slowly we edged forward , several veterans had turned up on this special day and it was moving to see them get from a wheelchair and struggle up the ladder for a look inside this really impressed the Canadian crew as we eventually neared the doorway it was revealed by the crew that there had not been a planned event of allowing access but it was a mistake by the organizers letting the crowds think there was access  anyway I ended up about three from the front and the crew said not many more would get aboard as it was nearing time to get ready for take-off . One guy approached and put the question of this as by now the queue was just as long if not longer , I eventually got on-board and took some hasty snaps one of the veterans was sitting up at the controls  ,inside it's not like a clear passage along the planes length there are  all sorts of obstacles in the way it was brilliant to see the look on his face as he left , when I got back outside the police had dispersed most of the crowd and where on the end of the line . It was time for the aircraft to ready for flight and very impressive it was too as it flew back and fourth till eventually re landing signalling the end of the day !!!
 I have never classed myself as a photographer and this shows ,how difficult would it be to get some shots of this huge plane , well very difficult as it happens huge crowds around the ever changing light etc: but I certainly enjoyed the day and have at least captured some lasting memories

 Once inside it was some quick snaps lots of which where rubbish taken with haste this looking forward
 and this looking back
 looking back
 Views from an open canopy atop the plane

 This veteran was thrilled to have the chance to look around
 Flight controls

 A vitage bus arrives with some passengers to take a short flight