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Friday, 30 May 2014

The Long Nanny-Terns

Another visit to the Long Nanny this time via Newton which is a much shorter walk, the Warden team now well encamped , and the area roped off , the wardens where all young and very keen and enthusiastic I had a good talk with a young lady on her first assignment and what better place to start your career in conservation , I remarked that at some stage it would feel like she had been there for years but also at some stage it would all end and then seem like it had gone over  in a flash  but the memories would always be there. Apparently there where some 50 odd Little Terns and an unknown number of Arctic Terns at the time of my visit Terns where well spread on the beach  with some staking claim to sites in the Marram  Grass, amongst those on the beach where a couple of Little Gulls and a Sandwhich Tern , I had opted not to take the scope but it would have been worthwhile although there was a strong heathaze, not long after I had left a Great White Egret had dropped in and recently the report  of White Winged  Black Tern passing through , it really is a fantastic place and a stark contrast to my last visit , with another visit in the next week or so , it should be even better. The breeze off the sea was rather cold and also brought in a mist so I opted to go back through the dunes , only Wall Browns of note and a single Wheatear .
 Beadnell in the distance
 Arctic Tern just by the Wardens hut in the more flattened areas , they seem to have spread past the hut from what I remember from past visits

 I only had my SX50 camera with me and it's not very good with flight shots
 but I did manage to quickly get onto one of two Common Lizards that came onto to snap up an insect or three
 It made my day to see these and manage to get a photo
 I sat in the shelter of the dunes to have lunch with the company of a Reed Bunting singing close by
 A few Violets in the dunes I really must take a book and sort these out at some stage ,attractive nevertheless it's another world when you get right down on the ground
 Not seen these odd shaped Fungi before but have seen them since at Workworth ,another one to look up sometime
 Wall Browns a few around but flighty
 I like this wheatear especially amongst the flowers ,there is always a limit how close they will let you get

 Most of the day there was the sound of I can only describe as someone using a very clunky footpump in need of a good oiling , which turns out to be this which I could only partly see through the hedge near the carpark , which turns out to be a Guinea Fowl they also have Peacocks
 I presume this is a garden escape Cypress Spurge ?
And my last photo of the day as a Wall Brown settles



Some insight into the life of the Bee-Fly on Springwatch I have only seen one once but they are probably more common just a case of looking out for them , I had read they where parasitic on Mining Bees and thought the one I photographed was in the process of looking for a nest to lay eggs but was surprised that they actually lobbed the eggs in to a likely  location while in flight ,how bizarre .

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Springwatch 2014

Well another Springwatch is being aired on our TV's and for me this is undoubtedly the best yet , I have been fascinated by the webcam on the Bittern nest , how else would you get to see such behaviour of this very shy and secretive bird  . The eating of the dead chick which was later regurgitated and fed to the remaining two was fantastic and it's all live and in your face not edited to tell the story they want but just as you see it . It's some years since I was at Minsmere and it's obviously changed enormously , but I can still remember it as if it was yesterday ,what's also  interesting is listening to the reserve management team describe how the habitats are achieved and maintained with a tremendous amount of hard work and thought. We where informed how the site of the Bittern Hide had been manipulated to encourage the birds into the open with some birds actually visibly  booming  to a packed hide ,  how I wish we had a reserve like this in Northumberland , yes that same old chestnut but why not, Minsmere is an Internationally renowned  reserve/tourist attraction call it what you will ,apart from it being fantastic  for wildlife  it must also put millions into the surrounding economy via jobs and visitors .
Well done the BBC.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Rothbury to Thropton along the Coquet

A couple of weeks ago I paid another visit to Rothbury for the Green Hairstreaks last visit I seemed to early and this visit to late as I saw no sign of any the weather was good enough but after an hour of searching I gave up and started to head towards Thropton for a walk along the river bank. This was an area I had not  been in before and I had not brought a map thinking I would be spending my time getting some photos of Butterflies, a chat with one of the locals soon put me on the right track he sent me on a slight detour but it was well worth it for the views . I ended up on the river edge crossed the footbridge to head along the south bank thinking I could get back into Rothbury that way you could years ago , well it turns out you can't the Golf Club has extended their course and now comes right to the river edge  so rather than just go along the edge of the course which I would have done one time I headed back about a mile to another footbridge and returned to Rothbury along the north shore . A very pleasant walk with some stunning views I would recommend it
 asses of these Moths on the wing and many even smaller so small I could not find them in the viewfinder when they landed
 These footprints in the mud as I looked over the road bridge at Thropton
 A few new flowers along the stream banks I suspect some where garden escapes from waste dumped
 I followed the stream till it came out in the Coquet
 Looking west along the Coquet the footbridge at Thropton in the distance
 The photos are not in order as some are from the phone and some the camera , a  Buzaard called as it flew low among the trees and then landed it was way off I could just make it out with bins, I gave it a go with the camera and was amazed with these photos it took some finding but lucky for me it sat around long enough which is unusual as they are usually gone long before you see them perched
 It even flew around and landed again this time giving slightly better views hence I used these two shots
 The following shots are all taken with the phone  this looking up the Valley
 and then down
 This is the sort of view the residents of WEST WESTHILL  get from their gardens and windows, I had a very pleasant chat with the Bungalow owner from this view taken from the road just outside , I must admit I would never have found the footpath as one stage you have to go up someone's drive which I did to find a couple sitting enjoying the sun and just on the corner of their garage is a yellow marker taking you through the garden and back up onto the hillside
 Much of the landscape is just fields of sheep or cattle
 This looks like the well worn path of an old drove road
 Which brings you over the top
 Through an old farm yard where I found this sandstone wheel long broken in two the other section visible in the grass it's got to be 6' across
 The views just go for miles and miles
 Looking down towards Thropton
 This was my lunch stop  as there was a park bench to make use of just got the coffee poured when it actually did pour and I had to take shelter under the bushes it did not last long thankfully the sun returned and I hung my fleece over the bench to dry. A Cuckoo calling with Reed Bunting, Sedge, Willow & Chiffchaff all singing with Linnets ,Yellowhammer and Goldfinches also dropping in nearby. The footpath actually heads down through the gorse  but there are so many sheep trails it's would be easy to get lost, so I headed down the Bridleway which the seat is located on and came into Thropton
 View from the footbridge ,  Lots and lots Swallows and Martins , Common Sandpipers , Ringed Plover , Oystercatchers, and a couple of Dippers

 The river was running very fast at some points and would be impossible and dangerous to cross
This old WW11 pillbox with the gun slits just visible is on the rougher part of the south bank and not far from here I had to turn around and go back to another footbridge

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Blyth and beyond

Just a catch up with some photos of last week had the bike out a few times , along the estuary ,Seaton Sluice, St Mary's etc: also a couple of visits to Holywell  Pond one afternoon 16:25 I thought I 'm off at half past but with  the sight of a Marsh Harrier in the west gap  that put paid to that idea . Initially I thought female but no creamy shoulder patches , and the head looked more like a male but it was overall brown well it quartered back and forth along the pond edge on the north side dropping down and presumably settling out of sight it was thought it perhaps had made a kill but no as it lifted again it started hunting again there some very light patches of grey  on the underwing but they did not stand out , the most prominent feature other than the head was the tail which had a pale grey centre section which stood out and through the scope the grey seemed to also be very, very light spreading on either side terminating with a brown triangle on each outer  tip. Well myself and another birder watched this bird for an hour and I soon realised how little I knew about Marsh Harriers and damn it as I had headed out to seawatch which was aborted I had no camera . The Bird at one stage dropped in the reeds and you could see it just on the edge looking down at something and with the flurry and splashing of water a bird must have been seriously panicking , up it lifts again going around the far half of the pond dropping out of sight again this time for ten minutes or so till it again lifted and returned to drop in and harass the bird from earlier, but oddly it made no real attempt to grab anything it just sat and looked down . When I got home later looking for info on ageing Marsh Harriers I was not much further forward save for finding out that some young males can appear like females to avoid confrontation with territory males , my feeling was that this was a male 1st summer bird but whatever it was great to see . While along the estuary a count of 82 Black Tailed Godwits was noted and on another day they where located well up river feeding on the far side .
 There seems to have been large numbers of Black Tailed Godwits through the County this flock of 82 on the Blyth Estuary
One or two coming into Summer Plumage I thought there would have been more !!!
 Young Blackbird had me puzzled at first  as it was singing from deep in cover a harsh loud sub song !
 Sedge Everywhere now this one popped up at Cresswell carpark north end there always seems to be one holding territory there
 Little Owl looking at me with rather distain took a quick shot or two and quickly moved on
 Nice carpet of Bluebells at Widdrington
 Herring Gull collecting nesting material for use on the nearby factory roofs not something I have witnessed before
 It seems to be only selective roofs are suitable for nesting Herring Gulls & Lesser Blackbacks  Industrial estate Blyth
 These where all washed out last year with the torrential rain , nothing could have withstood the downpours !!
 This was a strange sight I came across along the River Blyth, this is the rail bridge, a SUB SEA contractor was on site with digger , dumper truck and a team in the water complete with survival dry suits.  they where loading these stones into the dumper via the digger then tipping them on a large raft , where the men/divers would float it into place and then they placed them around the base pillars . I ask you is that not an embarrassing bit of engineering , I did not photograph the guys to save there blushes , it will be interesting to see how many weeks/days they will last.
 Blackcap there was more interestingly a Garden Warbler nearby  but only the glimpse of that as it relocated along the back of the hedge
A Couple of Barnacle Geese drop into Holywell  with some Canadas

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Fulmars-Common Sand

Out on the bike last week stopped at the cliffs just south of Seaton Sluice to try for the Fulmars that just seem to hang around I presume they are not yet mature enough to breed as there have been birds at various points on these cliffs for years but as far as I know non have nested. It is just fantastic to watch as they shear along the cliff face sometimes drifting up to have a look at you , forget the big lens they come so close so fast its impossible to focus , I had my SX50 which I have to admit is rubbish at flight shots to slow to focus and to long a shutter lag so I went home with many shots of the tip of a wing or just the sea. It was still early so I called along at the estuary at what is known as Monkey's Island  very little around but I did hear a Common Sandpiper first for the year ,when I located it on the mud and  was surprised to find actually three , I tried to get them all in one shot but they where not having it   
Guillemot on the rocks never a good sign 

 I tried to be arty with these two Rock Pipits first focusing on one then the other which would also get the sea in focus ,but reality is you would need a tripod  so it did not work
 I took quite a few of the Fulmars it looks so easy till you get the camera up , your own delayed reactions and the camera delay all adds up to a missed shot and I had loads
 I did at least like the composition of this one although the bird is slightly out of focus
 And this one if I had caught it a second later would have had St Mary's lighthouse in the background
And here are some loafing on the sea there where seven
 Common Sandpiper one of three on the mudflats,
 This straight out of the camera as is no processing at all
A spider where I sat so I tried Macro/close focus but you have to be very close indeed