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Saturday, 26 October 2013

Grey Seals of Coquet Island

Thursday 24th October
With some days having a stark contrast from one another it was a pleasant surprise to get up on Thursday to a very nice day especially as it was a day out Kayaking and the calm pleasant day meant it was a trip out on the sea . A paddle out and around Coquet Island was the plan first we had to check the harbour entrance at Amble which apparently can be tricky at times but today it was very calm.
We launched at Amble Braid at a spot I have been to many times as you have great views over the  area to watch the tide push the waders up the shore to larger and larger groups , from here we headed to the harbour exit and out to sea as soon as we got into the open the wind was apparent about 2/3 this being my first trip out away from the shoreline it took me by surprise as it tried to push me from the side . . The Island looks a long way off when you are virtually sitting on the sea but a steady pace found us at the North end where we cut through a gap in the rocks to a sheltered pool which had a couple of  Grey Seals in ,heads bobbing about and I pointed out a Purple Sandpiper just feet away. You could hear the sound of more Seals on the East side of the Island and there sounded like a good number , but I was totally amazed at just how many there where, a huge group huddled on the rocks with there calls becoming more and more raucous  some started to slip in the water and rather than  spook them all we went further out and they soon settled . To follow was the most amazing sight I have ever seen ,to be honest I find Seals rather boring they lay around on the rocks or you see a head or two bobbing on the surface  but now as we paddled along the East side there where what seemed like hundreds of Seals all around us there curiosity outweighing their  fear and now it was my fear outweighing my curiosity as some would come up just ahead beside or behind you spy hop and then dive and seem to slap their tail on the water , one came so close I thought it was going to tip me,down it went slapping hard on the water I was drenched this is by far the most amazing event I have ever been involved in , we weren't just watching from the deck of a boat we where in amongst them and when you see the size of some of the Bulls lying around the rocks I did momentarily get a bit scared but soon it seemed we where out of the zone looking back heads where bobbing about all over the sea as we left them behind and back into the wind for the return leg.
Now this paddle to Coquet  has been done probably thousands of times by others and there is even a race around and back to Amble , but I must confess I was just not expecting it to be so fantastic and for the rest of the day I was totally pumped up , Seals are not so boring after all as they certainly got my heart  racing!!!!

 Unfortunately no stunning shots of curious Grey Seals only a couple of snaps with the phone before heading out this the harbour entrance(thankfully flat calm )
 The target for today
 The chosen transport, I was not the Explorer but the Romany, make of that what you will !
The Starting Point and one of my favourite places to sit and watch the tide come in at Amble Braid

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Tynemouth Castle/Priory

EDIT : It seems I have stirred some memories apparently in the 60's some members of  NTBC used to seawatch from a pill box in the castle grounds , but thought the height and distance a disadvantage ,   given the optics of the day that's no surprise  , I will at some stage take my scope in and give it a go, although it would never be  a practical location I am intrigued as to what can be seen  Cetaceans perhaps ? 

Its many years since I was in Tynemouth Castle/Priory/Gun Emplacement this post is more for those perhaps wanting to visit the Northeast  a day of mixed weather which added to the atmosphere .The first thing that struck me as I looked out to sea was the fantastic views looking down and over the sea this would be the  place to seawatch from apart from having to pay the £4:75 to get in , along the rough edges of the cliff which is overgrown there has probably been many a migrant landed  here and worked it's way around the thick cover to the south of the site  and over to Prior's Park .
The site history is well documented and it's odd to see a Castle enclosing a Priory, substantial Gun Emplacement , Graveyard and a modern Building used by the Coast Guard, which now seems to be empty and disused 
 View from the Castle wall looking out on the ships at anchor as they await a berth in the Tyne
 View looking along the pier from the Castle walls
 Several windows of stained glass still survive
 I don't know if it would be any good for seawatching as you can't tell till you try  but certainly has commanding views over the sea
 The Breach of the gun from the 40's as it was a WW11 and earlier emplacement with many bunkers ,rooms etc: beneath
 A serious piece of kit but apparently the earlier guns where much larger
 Looking through the Castle Keep up Tynemouth high street ,at the weekends there is a Fleamarket/Craft Market in the renovated Victorian Station well worth a visit
 Collingwood Monument on the right as you look across to South Shields the views are truly stunning
 Various clubs inhabit the bay ,Rowing ,Sailing, Kayaking, the old Lifeguard Station to the left of the monument is also a must visit site.
 Gun Emplacement  bunker in the foreground, Graveyard and Coastguards Station beyond . The Building looks unused now which seems a modern day trend of  a very short lifespan of buildings (Opened in 1980 closed 2001) certainly make a very good something but given its location and limited access my thoughts are it will be demolished (Apparently it is up for sale ?)
 Photo of a Photo showing the  aerial plan of the site
 Looking North  the Spanish City gleaming in the distance and St Mary's Island beyond
Looking down from the Castle walls it looks like a moat but if memory serves it was dug out when they built the pier (another must visit site)

 The Building to the left is a visitor centre and  toilet ,
 Ruins of the Priory some of the blocks of sandstone are huge how did they build this is amazing
Again looking towards the pier from the remnants of Castle buildings

Saturday, 19 October 2013

American Golden Plover

This is even longer ago than my last post  the American Golden Plover at St Mary's Island 20/9/2013 where does the time go it just seems like last week I was lucky enough  to see it on the 19th just before it got dark thankfully as you all know it was still present the next day roosting on the rocks before they where all flushed  and it re-settled on the small near rocky island nearby till again flushed by a dog walker.
I have had to take the sound off as there are lots of comments in the background  which is a pity as the bird is seen and heard to call , this was a good bird for the finder how many of us have looked through the flock over the years in the hope of such a bird ! 

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Red Backed Shrike

I could not access the photos of the Red Backed Shrike that was along Blyth links the end of last month , I got the header done but not the photos for the post ,so here they are rather late but I took them so may as well use them.
Another run on the bike along what is becoming a monotonous route, through the churchyard along to the park and then along the links road checking the small pool ,although it's had nothing on for weeks now ,passing the Astley Pub I glanced  sideways while cycling along  a bird sitting near the top of a small bush  House Sparrow I thought as there is always lots in these bushes but that's a long tail, so I stopped and looked through the bins , Red Backed Shrike not far from the busy and noisy roadside . I had tried for this bird a few times as did others but with no luck , thinking it had gone off  along the hedgeline of the fields opposite , so I got a few photos till it flew North  I put the word out and headed to St Mary's , but on the way back much later it was back in the same spot catching Bees so I got a few more shots captured Bee included . Nice bird and glad to catch up with it.

Not seen many Commas this year this one in Blyth park

 And the now, dare I say Common Speckled Wood what a rapid expansion of this species in recent years

 Common Darter .here I'm trying to be arty but it looks as if the wings are folded back
 Luckily the light was good
I tried the zoom on this one but its a bit soft 

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Snow Bunting

last week as cycle along the coast ending at Holywell Pond ,still plenty of Speckled Woods on the wing also noted Red Admiral and a Comma , at the outflow to Meggie's Burn several Goldfinch ,Reed Buntings, and Meadow Pipits had come down to drink an bathe and a single Snow Bunting noted as it sat in the middle of the pool on a rock then flew to feed on the dune slopes . Two coveys of Grey Partridge along the links also a good number of Golden plover in with the Lapwings and hundreds of Black headed following the plough , near Seaton Delaval hall a covey of 8 Red Legged Partridge right in the centre of a field and 7 Mistle Thrush over west . Holywell Pond was quiet  I was there in the hope of some Dragonflies and sure enough up to three Hawkers plied the pool edge in front of the hide  but none would settle nor give me very good views Migrant and Common Hawker was my thought . A reverse of the cycle ride to take me home but somewhat faster ,I did check the small mud pool along the links but only 2 Redshank .
 Speckled Woods easily in into double figures but only one Red Admiral and Comma

 This Reed Bunting sat here for so long that I just have to get the camera out and try a shot it was rather too far but it looks OK
 Snow Bunting working the dune slopes interesting to note it was especially looking into footprints presumably where wind blown seeds would gather.
 I just found a spot to sit and waited till it came to me ,has to be one of my favourite winter visitors
 Seemed to have no problem  finding seeds
The pensive look

Sunday, 13 October 2013

4 Sausage Rolls ++++

4 sausage rolls
7 Sandwiches (Cheese n Pickle or Tomato )
4 bags Crisps
4 cakes
5 Custard creams
7 flasks of hot water
What's all this to do with birding, well its the stuff I have consumed while sat on my backside birding to me the ultimate birding experience "Seawatching "  not for many years have I had a few days seawatching like these four days of October  with Friday being the highlight with a staggering 354 Great Skua heading North not counting the distant ones just to far out to confirm (which included a possible flock of up to 30 ) and no time to count the Gannets as they came past in ever larger strings with many of the Juveniles struggling at times with the strong winds and heavy sea with one individual tipped into the sea by a Bonxie but then ignored   .The flocks of "Kitts" as they settled on the sea then lifted again and let the wind push them south so they could drift back again working the water surface they look so at home in the elements . There are always birds you miss and there always will be ,Sabine's was mine seen moments before arrival and despite checking every flock of Kittiwakes thereafter I could not pull it back , and those birds heading south with the wind up there backside and far out ,they become just pure guesswork.  2 full days and 2 half days of sheer magic , stiff with the cold and tired from getting up 4 days in a row very early , I wouldn't change a thing except  next time I might take a bit more to eat !!!!!!