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Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Blyth Harbour and Beach

Monday 22nd Started the  day at Blyth Harbour  in the hope the hard weather had pushed something into its sheltered waters walking along the entrance road 2 Meadow Pipits lifted from the verge and further along a Reed Bunting , a pair of Red breasted Mergansers a Guillemot and about a dozen Eiders in the South harbour , with several Turnstones ,  Redshank and Sanderling along with a single Purple Sandpiper on the beach either side of the pier. (plenty fishermen on the pier end).
Went further along the beach small parties of Sanderling   all the way along to Meggies Burn outflow where there was about 80+ Gulls mostly BHeaded but also about 15 Common Gulls and a few Herring Gulls no sign of any Meds despite the constant effort to check them all, a single juv Kittiwake dip fed with the Black Headed Gulls . Two Skylarks passed overhead new for the year also another Reed Bunting, with further birds across the road along with a pair of Stonechats also new for the year , going further along the beach road  a field opposite with a flooded section near the road held the following : (to view pull in at the toilet block  and north for about 200yds plenty of room to park side on )
225 Pinkfeet
30+ Greylag
60+ Curlew
30+ Redshank
40+ Oystercatchers
50+ Black headed Gulls
20 Common Gulls
10+ Herring Gulls
5 Great Black Backs
c100 Fieldfare
8 Grey Partridge
80+ Golden Plover
c15 Dunlin
4 Lapwings
a f  Mallard
Numerous Starlings
and  flock of small birds to far to I.D.
Heading back towards Blyth 12+ Redwings near the Church and a further 10 Fieldfare up towards Newsham where I walked the fields a Jack Snipe lifted from  the path edge but only another 3 Meadow Pipits added to the list  and despite being about only 1/4 mile away from the coast the snow here was deep and very wet with streams crossing and at one point along the path the fields are simply saturated making walking rather a trudge .
No photos of anything today it rained /hailed /snowed from the time I left home to virtually the time I got back and given that I never even took my camera other than my digi scoping one .
(Edit the Bean Goose was still present on sat the 26th although I could not see it on the 22nd)

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Red Kite Roost

Last week I went over to Thornley Woods area  via Shibdon Pond and Far Pastures, I checked out the old Stone bridge near the roundabout just along from Shibdon  I usually have Dipper ,Kingfisher and Grey wagtail  here but today nothing and heading to the pond I could see it was mainly frozen with a small area at the south end open but I went into the hide and gave it about 45mins in the hope of a Water Rail perhaps below the hide , checking out the gulls near the open water for perhaps a white winger or especially a Yellow legged Gull as the odd one has been reported here but only the  common varieties of Great Black backed, Herring ,Black headed and Common Gulls . A single Redwing on the grass area as it fed below the trees. From here I headed to Far Pastures the track down had 2 Goldcrests and 3-4 Coal Tit  just at the carpark a Nuthatch got my attention as it worked its way along branches coming tantalisingly nearer and nearer before flitting off before I could focus on it . A willow Tit did the same flitting towards me but always with branches in the way , then it would sit in a nice pose and just as I got on it off it went , so for the sake of my sanity I went in the hide for my coffee etc:. Surprised to see about half was free water with about 15 teal , a pair of Bullfinch in the background and Fieldfares on the tree tops no Water Rail back outside I saw my first Red Kite of the day  it was way off and already the light fading ,no chance of flight shots today , I started to slowly walk towards the viaduct more Bullfinches and a Treecreeper before I was out onto the viaduct with 3-4 kites coming in they started to settle on the trees rather quickly there was to be no flying overhead today I must have had about 15 in total but by this time I was frozen stiff  so started to make the climb back up to the road I saw a couple of birds through the trees before it became to thick , it was still a good end to the day , I will return about mid Feb  perhaps they will be more active and in better light.
 The ever gorgeous Nuthatch , when I first started birding  the place to go was that huge tree in the carpark at Wallington where your first sighting could virtually be guaranteed from the comfort of the car !!!!
 Redwing feeding amongst the leave litter
 Very Confiding Dunnock complete with bling as where all the birds at far pastures carpark
 Willow Tit
 Red Kite over the valley
Snow covered Lichen
The best I could get of the red Kites , but even so they are a fantastic spectacle as the gather before dropping down to roost , apparently they sometimes have a pre roost , so will all settle before heading off to roost , you have to check it out if youv'e not been , it's a birding must   !!!!!

Saturday, 26 January 2013


Very interesting talk last night at The Hancock Museum  all about Bitterns a lot of it was about what they require in the form of habitat and I was surprised to learn that Leighton Moss has a decline in breeding birds , this was "the" place to go if you wanted to see your first ,or many birders had to wait years to see one in their  County, also touched on the booming of the Males again I did not know that each male has it's own unique boom , three different males  called Tom ,Dick, and I forget the other, had been recorded and their sonograms showed when listening to their boom they  where all distinctly different (although they are not sure if the more immature Bitterns develop  perhaps louder or more resonant call as they age ) I remember sonograms in the early editions of BWP and for the main could not make head nor tail of them , but have more recently used them myself on bat and bird recordings . So all I need is a Bittern( or more)booming over East Chevington , Cresswell etc: and I will be there to record and produce my own sonagram and then I can come up with my own name  perhaps something like ELVIS.

The Natural History Society of Northumbria gives a range of talks on many subjects as well as many other benefits of membership . check out the link below
.LINK : Natural History Society of Northumbria

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Blyth estuary - Leucistic Herring Gull

Another visit to Blyth Estuary this time I got the tide right and it was heaving with birds , Teal I roughly counted out at 300 , with Mallard ,Gadwall, Shellduck , c10 Goldeneye a single Long Tailed Duck , Dunlin , Bar Tailed Godwit, Redshank these all in good numbers and this was just east of the bridge , in between the bridges where about 15 Moorhens and about 30 Mallard , the Mallard look so much more impressive feeding in the river amongst the flow of small torrents , a bird caught my eye as it flitted through the trees behind the new workshops it looked like a Chiff but it was gone before I could confirm . walking further downstream both sides of the river where alive with waders the Dunlin and Golden Plover  feeding on the far bank in an area I see them often it must collect  food between tides consequently they are a bit far away should anything turn up amongst them ,in the field a large flock of Fieldfare dropped down to feed , c8 Grey plover which mostly stayed on the far side  of the spit but one fed beside the outfall. Bar Tailed Godwits where well spaced out making counting harder but there had to be c30 . I picked out  the Leucistic Herring Gull again on the far side its been around for awhile  it is mostly white but does have faint brown on the wings tips and a smudgy mark on the tail although I did not see it in flight , the bill appears all dark so it should be a first year bird . I thought it would be an Albinistic bird being mostly white  but apparently  the presence of Melanin which in this case is being blocked from most of the feathers but not the eye ,bill or tail. But in Albinism the Melanin is blocked from bare parts as well hence a  true Albino  has pink eyes because the only colour present is the blood vessels behind the eye showing through . I have over simplified it so it's worth reading up on 
 Goldeneye another one that is hard to digiscope
 Herring Gulls pair bonding

 I tried taking so much video of the LTD that I ran out of batteries and  trying to get this bird side on took ages , I put one of the dead batteries in my pocket and the warmth revived it enough to get a few more shots

Short video of the Long Tailed Duck ,if you have ever tried to even view them while they feed you can forgive the jerky video trying to keep it in view was a nightmare.You can just hear it calling faintly towards the end which is why I left the sound on

Monday, 21 January 2013

Seaton Delaval to Holywell to Seaton Sluice

Last week I went back to Holywell Pond via the avenue then through the dene and on to Seaton Sluice ,trust me to pick the day of heavy snow started off at the church yard beside Seaton Delaval hall with a GSW high in the nearby trees with nothing in the graveyard the large Yew tree not having owl pellets for years now,it was about this time I heard the heavy thunder it seemed to go on for ages but minutes later it started snowing but I was now committed the plan had been to go and find the Pinks being a nice bright day I might have got some shots of the Bean goose , so plan "B" head that way anyway incase of a break in the weather but if not head for the reserve hides. Well legging it through the whiteout  along a track there right in front of me some very large Highland Cattle I 'm not normally bothered by cows etc: but thought the sight of me coming out of the heavy snow might spook them and I can't run that fast with scope/tripod/camera etc: so I gave them a wide berth having to go through all the wet area of the field ,but as it happened it brought me along the edge of the potato field so looking through the gloom tried to find the geese ,not a one to be found  so it was off to the hide . Two Buzzards around first of the year in the parish but not much else a very large number of Wood Pigeons around still, a flock of Curlews over and a couple of Redshank. I headed off to go through the dene and out to the south to look for the geese as a flock of 60 ish headed that way , no Dipper for me along the stream heading out onto the fields looking towards the cem at Whitley no sign of any geese ,they could be anywhere by now. Headed back into the Dene and eventually came out at Seaton Sluice  so I thought why not have a look at the sea not much around but amazingly I did have a Black Throated Diver south passed by a Red Throated heading north. 
 GSW calling from the tree tops
 The path to St Mary's
and looking south
Looking from the graveyard across the fields the Oberlisk to the left

another view of the GSW I thought it may have turned around for me

 The following are views through the Dene all taken with my phone

 A one point there are paths on both sides of the stream with others heading North & South with many permutations

 This stretch being tidal you would expect to be good for waders  but apart form a couple of Redshank thats it .

Seaton Sluice harbour with Blyth in the distance

Friday, 18 January 2013

Blyth Estuary

A visit to the estuary a few days ago I unfortunately miss timed the tide and it had already pushed most of the waders of the mud. The small pools held Water Rail at least you could hear them calling despite most of the reeds having been cleasred, about 6 or so Moorhens around and I saw one hop into a Buckthorn bush and start and eat the orange berries which I believe are very high in vitamin C it dropped back onto the ground  but 10 minutes later hopped up again so I got a digi shot. About 40 gulls on the newer of the pools ,not sure why they had to add another , Goldfinch Greenfinch and a single Fieldfare and Bullfinch with 7 Red Breasted Mergansers amongst the boats before the heavy grey sky saw me head home 
 I think this Bullfinch was feeding on the buds
Moorhen feeding on Buckthorn berries new one on me !!!!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Bean to Holywell Pond

Saturday I took a run up to Holywell Pond area to look for the Bean goose ,only to be told all the Geese had been scattered by a shooting party ,and only now where some returning to the potato field . It was a  bitter cold wind myself and a couple of other birders stood on a slight mound to give us some height advantage across the field , luckily the bird was in the open and I picked it out fairly quickly but was undecided yes it had orangish legs but that was about all you could see so we went through the features and compared it with the nearby Pinks it wasn't an obvious bird to us but perhaps in better light it would have stood out SP did very well to pick it out of  a flock of several hundred . Whilst scoping it a male Merlin went through the bottom of the scope as it crossed the field  I managed to follow it till it climbed and went behind trees till it came over them and headed south always a nice bird to see especially in the parish . Checking the pond nothing of note save a tufted  that resembled a Scaup but on scoping  it out ,it failed to pass the test.

I make no apologies for the following image taken over a long distance and under stress of  a strong bitter cold  wind !!!

Monday, 14 January 2013

Morpeth Riverside

The other day I had to go up to Morpeth so too the opportunity to check out the riverside usual there are one or two Goosanders  coming to bread which can give you the chance of some photos (but it's hard not to include the bread in the shot) but alas today non plenty of Mallards and BH  Gulls ,I walked along to Scotch Gill woods  still nothing on the river a couple of Jays making their usual racket before revealing themselves as they flew overhead  and apart from numerous Nuthatch calling and some Great & Blue Tits it was rather quiet and very dull .
 The stepping stones over the river
 The river looking rather tranquil although this section has flooded many times
looking back to the road bridge  this section a favoured haunt of Goosander
 I took this photo of the old gas light  but forgot to read the relevance of it
 I have taken  this before  two sections of Whalebone
 This Ash tree had a very large Burr on the trunk
 This evergreen no idea of what but it seems to be coming into flower, is it the species with the yellow flower spikes ?
 probably a garden escape
Some fruiting funghi coming through , look at the leaves on the verge of falling apart

Friday, 11 January 2013

Geese ,Geese and more Geese

Tuesday 8th January was as you know a much brighter day but very cold with that westerly adding to the chill factor I headed up the coast via Lynemouth stopping at the flash  which held about 100 BH Gulls but the field had  a few hundred Wood Pigeons  and a flock of Corvids  with 3 Redshank being the only waders ,passing Cresswell Pond several cars in the car park as usual these days so I headed to the next one Long Tailed Duck noted just on the edge of the reeds buty could not make out much else in the strong light, I could hear Pinkfeet so immediately looked up in the sky seeing non I realised they where in the field going up the hill ,Greylags in the foreground but hundreds of Pinks  behind and disappearing over the hill , a succession of cars pulled up along the fence  I waited till they moved on and with camera and scope in the car and the window down parked along near a small pool.
Eventually they moved closer and many started to bathe in the pool ,with so much water around they probably are spoiled for choice, There cackle was loud and constant along with a low groaning or moaning sound which I've not heard before obviously some form of conversation was going on . I checked as far as I could see but no neck collars or colour rings could be seen , so I just enjoyed the spectacle till another car pulled up and they all moved off again so I headed North.
Pulled up the field that usually holds the Twite but no sign for me only Goldfinch flock with a few Greenfinch in, I got talking to farmer who was dumping manure in the field (this may bring something down as it spreads out)as he could not get to his usual site due to the flooded fields , I asked if the geese posed any problem "yes" was the reply the field with winter wheat in was there evening  roost he said it was now like a ploughed field and would probably be lost "but what can you do you just have to get on with it" was his last words.
Druridge Pools by the screen held good numbers of Teal & Widgeon I scanned through them but further north just beyond the old coal road a huge number of geese , I walked along with the scope but checked the outfall are on the beach for Snow Buntings first just in case , got myself on a slight hill and scoped the geese they just went on and on covered the field then into the next and even more in the adjacent  field no way could I count these so I counted 100 and multiplied it as I went through them I reckon up to 5,000 probably way off the mark  but it's not science its just an observation , again no neck collared birds to be seen and as far as I could tell all where Pinks, another flock of about 30 Goldfinch with a few Greenfinch fed around the cattle field(which is always worth checking) and a single Stonechat sat on the fence in front of me . 
Called again at Woodhorn on the way back no geese on the way up although you could miss them as they where down in the dip nearer the rail line Picked 2 Greenland Whitefronts in with the Greylag why they keep returning here is a puzzle , I found another bird with a few Greylag in-between the South flash and Summerhill Pond .

 Pinkfeet bathing in a small pool formed in the field by the road at Cresswell
 I estimated about 800+ here although they are also over the hill
This is about as near as they came ,till another car pulled up and they rapidly walked off

 Not the best digi pics I know but does show the extensive black
 The two birds kept close company and mostly with just there heads showing , so I had to endure the honking of horns etc, till I got some pics (funny you would think they would not let 12 year olds behind the wheel of a car )

And even a bit of video

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Waxwing walk

Well today I could not go far another bout of Conjunctivitus  this time my vision was slightly  blurred so no driving for me some ointment from the chemist should soon see it OK . Headed up towards Cramlington on the bus ,walked along the Horton Burn from the Old Fire station(actually it looks very modern but has been replaced with one at West Hartford) right through the estate to Nelson  ,so sign of Kingfisher or Dipper apart from the odd Blue Tit there was nothing . later in the distance I could see the outline of some birds sitting in the treetops they look like Waxwings to me and sure enough legging it much nearer the bins revealed the outline of numerous Waxwings 14 in all later increased to 18 most where well spread flitting into the air apparently flycatching but what ,I have no idea todays light as you know was rather dire  so even though they where obliging the light was not and I could only get what I  describe are poor record shots ,pity as they frequently flew off there perch and returned to the same place. As I was taking some shots  being stood still some Siskins had moved to  just behind me feeding on Alder again they where very close but shooting against the light is never good , but never mind 2 more birds for the parish list . headed towards Northumlandia to look for Owls over the opencast but only a Kestrel which ended the day.
Edit :  I had sent a report of these waxwings to Birdguides but apparently I sent a control message and not a report message , go figure !!! 
 2 of eventually 18 waxwings
 The face of Northumblandia someone stood to the left to give you the scale
 Siskins on Alder

 Waxwings will tolerate you just so far and then their off