Saturday, 31 January 2009
I remembered that there are normally one or two Rock Pipit hanging around the small harbour at Craster, so after loading the kippers with no time to spare I parked illegally and started scanning the big rocks on the south side and the tide line. Not a peep, a single Turnstone fiddled with the piled seaweed, and I thought , here we go another bird that I can add to my 'Not Found in January List'.
Just as I turned back to the car, already on the verge of being late, a Pipit called from the north side of the harbour as if to say "I'm over here idiot". Sat on the ledge, sure enough a single Rock Pipit.
It wouldn't be Saturday without a Common Buzzard so today's birds were two displaying just west of Lesbury, one in a field near Howick and another tucked into the shelter belt on the outskirts of Longhoughton.
Friday, 30 January 2009
Thursday, 29 January 2009
So with reports of Iceland and Glaucous this month as well as the odd Snow Bunting and a hot cup of tea and extra hands 100yards away at my parents I headed off after the school drop to Blyth South Harbour.
Now I lost my cherry in Blyth South Harbour, metaphorically (and close in real life too!). It was my first birding location, growing up within a two minute walk It was my playground in the Seventies. Kittiwakes roosting on the jetty opposite the Harbour Master's office and Cormorants, gull roosts and high tide wader gatherings were all absorbed into my subconscious. Tide line corpses and Gannet skulls, 'Skemy's' eggs, Linnets in the sand dunes and oiled Guillemots often brought home for safe keeping were all part of growing up.
Sadly it has changed with the old wooden fish sheds filled with lobster tanks now a distant memory and the fishing fleet decimated. The cormorants have moved from a jetty on the North pier to a pontoon in the South Harbour. On the positive side the Eider population seems to have grown, I counted over thirty today and I was struggling to recall ever seeing more than half a dozen when I was a lad. The old Nautical school site which is to be developed for housing currently looks like prime migrant habitat and worth a sniff once things get going. I remember often having small falls of winter thrushes in the allotments just north of the site when I was a kid.
Unfortunately the Birdguides blog was right, Spring has obviously arrived as in full sunshine there wasn't a white winged gull or a sniff of a bunting to be had. In fact the best bird of the day was a freak, a Pied Wagtail without a tail, which made it look kind of Dipper-ish when it flew.
With fifteen minutes spare late afternoon, I pitched up at the top of Whorral Bank and had a quick recce for Skylark and Meadow Pipit or maybe even an SEO. Barren landscape. I think I manged one distant Crow although it could have been a Rook. I came home to slaver over the explosion in Bittern numbers in the North East with birds now appearing to occupy almost every puddle with a phragmites sticking out of it and tomorrow is work.
Tuesday, 27 January 2009
images courtesy Sergey Yeliseev
A half mile later and a Common Buzzard lifted from its roadside perch and gave good views as it glided down a slope to a safer distance. Needing to be back for school chucking out time I had just enough time to slide up the road toward Newton Underwood to look for Tree Sparrow. There weren't any of course but it wasn't an entire waste of time as I still needed Yellowhammer for a year tick.
They should know better at Birdguides shouldn't they, read their own news service, Spring birds let me see Waxwing, Waxwing, Glaucous, Iceland, Waxwing.....nope don't see it.
Last night we had an extra six year old for tea who needed to be returned under cover of darkness to the far side of Morpeth. Eager to boost the still meagre 2009 year list, I decided to come back 'the long way round' by driving to within spitting distance of Mitford and then taking the sharp right up to Fairmoor and from there a short trek up the A1 to the Hebron/Longhirst turn.
"Lets look for owls" I'd said to Stumpy my own six year old.
So we drove with full beam lighting up every hedge and overhanging branch, we stopped twice and I tried in vain to whistle up a Tawny till my mouth was dry. We shone our headlights into empty barns and over gateposts for a Barn or Little but by the time we arrived home Stumpy had decided that owls only exist in pictures and stuffed on the top of coat stands (roadkill).
Today has been only slightly better with five Goldfinch and now six Siskin lurking around the big willow and the apple tree. My single albino feathered female Blackbird is still around as well so I may be forced to write a note on Single Feather Albinism in Blackbirds if things get much worse.
That's it then as I'm off to do some work on some maps for Bird North East as I am planning to do monthly county maps summarising what was where each month.
Sunday, 25 January 2009
In 2007 when our twins were born and at the enlightened age of 42 I abandoned all hope of ever birding properly again. I lowered my expectations, I became an armchair birder, reading about other people's birds.
I tell you all, hardened birders and Glaucous -winged veterans alike, this tale so you might understand when I tell you I went out with three kids and a pair of dusted off bins today for a Wren and came back triumphant. Expect nothing and everything becomes exciting.
Hugh now has a blog as well as a website, well worth checking out here.
Some of the pictures are to die for.
Saturday, 24 January 2009
Up the A1 and overnight Northumberland has been carved in two, west of the A1 it's as if someone has taken a large paintbrush and a tin of white paint. every field and hill dusted with snow, an inch or so by the time I got up higher toward Swarland and Newton on the Moor.
To the East as soon as you drop to the coast it could be Spring in the sunshine.
I changed my usual delivery route today to go and sniff around the beach at Boulmer, an absence of seal carcasses left me less worried that one of those gulls would be enticed as my back was turned.
High tide and a joy to catch up with a kerfuffle of waders milling around the few exposed rocks opposite the lifeboat house. Twenty or so Bar-Tailed Godwit were resplendent in the sun, small groups parading up and down in the air. Oystercatchers wandered hither and thither, a few Grey Plover amongst small numbers of winter plumage Knot.
image courtesy & copyright MarjK
Along the tide line Ringed Plover, Turnstone and Dunlin mingled interwoven, the occasional bird lifting noisily in the air. The odd Redshank patrolled a solitary inspection further up the beach.
A female Stonechat flicked from seaweed to sand snapping at unseen prey. A Pied Wagtail rocked along in it's own world.
The sea was fairly calm with little about except a few gulls and several Common Eider until I caught sight of three chunky black ducks with bold white wing panels powering north about 50m out, my first decent seabird of the year, Velvet Scoter.
image courtesy& copyright Lawrie Phipps.
Proper seabirds always give me a lift, so before heading back to work I took a quick look at the mouth of the Aln just in case there was a stray diver or auk (ever hopeful), the best I could muster here were four Common Scoter riding the waves.
Friday, 23 January 2009
Wednesday, 21 January 2009
Saturday, 17 January 2009
As can be seen they are not your typical bird images, yet they possess a strange quality that seems to draw my attention. After getting past that unearthly feeling these images have like any birder I immediately wanted to identify them, not an easy task although I'm sure it could be done by most given time.
The images were all taken at the Natural History Museum in Berne Switzerland and form part of some interesting photo collections that these Hungarian photographers have produced. Their website, whilst offering a greater diversity of material than natural history is also interesting for those with curious minds.
images copyright and courtsey of Curious Expeditions.
Two in a field 1m east of Little Mill and one in exactly the same location north of Longhoughton as last Saturday morning.
The media attention on the pictures of CB taking that Grey Phal is a mixed bag as you would expect. Having done a bit of a tour I found little to complain about, most of the media seem to have stuck to the facts and have not been too over the top with the headlines. The Overblown Headline Award goes to Times Online with "Horrified Twitchers watch as Starving Buzzard Kills Rare Phalarope"
The birdwatchers in question were so horrified that not even wads of cash as their images have been sold to the UK media was compensation.
As expected the Anti Raptor Lobby have used it as an opportunity to leap to the defence of the favoured victims of the shooting fraternity farmland birds. A typical example from comments in The Scotsman
"More propaganda and lies from the RSPB.Buzzards do nothing but kill other birds and in fact have killed almost all the common partridge in Aberdeenshire.Buzzards also systematically destroy the nests of ground nesting birds such as lapwings and golden plovers.The population explosion of buzzards is unfortunately upsetting the balance of nature (in this area at least) and it is high time that a serious cull of that predator was instigated."
Yes, clearly someone who understands prey/predator relationships.
Friday, 16 January 2009
I have come across some wonderful quotes whilst looking at this though so I thought I'd share one or two here:
"Any time you get an open field and grass, you’ve got birds,” said Robert W. Mann Jr., an aviation industry expert in Port Washington (obviously an expert). from NYT.
"As a last resort you have to do lethal control to convince the rest of the flock that we mean business,” said Russell DeFusco (last resort means after trying and failing to lure the birds to an offshore detention camp) from NYT
"The risk is real," Curtis says, "Birds are a threat every day." (absolutely, why only the other day I was harassed by a Mallard) from Time
"Abrams rode around the runways with a megaphone, a horn, a starter pistol, and a shotgun. " (unfortunately this article didn't detail what Abrams was riding but I bet he wore a stetson.)
from Huffington Post
"Birds are less able to hear or see modern aircraft." (mmm, must be the cloaking devices).
I'll leave you with two facts from CNN
Commercial aircraft are certified to be able to withstand engine strikes by single birds up to four pounds.
Thirty-six bird species in North America weigh more than four pounds -- many traveling in flocks.
A quick scan on the flooded field adjacent to the road into Alnmouth about 9.30 produced a rich variety of common birds although nothing exceptional. The waders and duck were quite vocal in the morning sun so the sounds of Teal and Wigeon mingled with the bubbling calls of Common Curlew and the occasional alarm of the Redshank. A Dunlin flew up from a damp hollow and three Grey Heron lined the estuary along with two Shelduck.
With some deliveries to do in Foxton and Lesbury I managed to get a few minutes to look over the upper part of the estuary at "Foxton Bends" this added a couple of pairs of Common Goldeneye, one pair of Goosander, two Little Grebe and a Great Spotted Woodpecker to my day list. The latter was harrassed by a Kestrel and let out a hoarse alarm call that crackled drawing my attention to it, not a call I have heard from GSW in twenty years birding on and off.
Wednesday, 14 January 2009
I took my twins to lunch today with an old friend. It turned out to be a day for old friends as whilst I was shopping for lunch I was tracked into M&S by a wily old birder ADMC, who having spotted me, used a bit of fieldcraft to get close by the cooked meats. He's off to India with a bunch of other local lads in the next few days so I'll look forward to some exciting trip reports when they all get back.
I needed the twins to kip before lunch so I ended up driving around a bit to get them to have a nap. I eventually stopped at Old Hartley overlooking the bay and as I was scanning the sea, window down up popped this female Stonechat to investigate the noise coming from the car radio. Her partner was a little further down the fenceline.
Saturday, 10 January 2009
Setting off at sunrise an undulating male Bullfinch crossing the road at Hebron was the only noteworthy bird on the outward journey.
Turning from the Howick road toward Longhoughton a Common Buzzard rose from it's roost within spitting distance of the road. Looking out over Foxton bends a few minutes later another was stood sentinel like on a post surveying the river where little moved in the frostiness of the morning.
image courtesy and copyright NE Wildlife
Friday, 9 January 2009
I had to visit the bank in Alnwick today so with 45 minutes to spare I thought I'd drop in to Hulne Park and check for Hawfinch. I have never had much luck with this species at this location but they have been reliably reported over the years.
On arrival my first bird was a Treecreeper with an identity crisis as it was creeping around the stone gatehouse feeding in the crevices. About to stroll through the entrance I noticed the signs "Hulne Park Closed to General Public Today", luckily the well stocked feeding station at the entrance continues to pull in the birds so over the next few minutes I had a Nuthatch, several Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Chaffinch as well as a confiding Red Squirrel and a couple of female Pheasant.
Just north of here I stopped at the River Aln to check for Dipper but dipped, a single Great Spotted Woodpecker my only reward.
The absence of Common Buzzard was possibly more notable than seeing one would have been.
Thursday, 8 January 2009
I have used Bird Recorder 32 a simple database program I acquired back in the early 1990's to maintain all my bird records, transferring everything over at least twice as a result of previous back up issues.
I think most if not all of my notebooks and written records have gone as a result of our quest for space over the last six years (three children).
I believed I had a backup on the stand alone hard drive, there is always a but isn't there, but it appears to be the program without the data.
Twenty years of records lost, life list, patch lists, times, dates, weather, numbers.
Gutted doesn't even scrape the surface.
Tuesday, 6 January 2009
I promise you there was no editing here, no jiggery pokery. Everything above is true, the "Albabtross" came courtesy of my 15 month old son switching on the hifi after fiddling with the volume control. Despite the Fieldfare being two frames of triple glazed glass and about 5m from the hifi it obviously heard the racket as can be seen by it's reaction.
Within three or four minutes a Long Tailed Tit and a Reed Bunting had both appeared in the garden as well completing a hat trick of garden ticks for the morning.
Two Med Gull on the beach at Newbiggin and a fine male Sparrowhawk on a hedge not far from Bothal Pond were the highlights of an early afternoon attempt to keep my kids asleep in the car for a little longer.
Saturday, 3 January 2009
Just passing the Cheviot food factory in Amble and I noted the characteristic undulating flight of a Great Spotted Woodpecker flying north into Amble alongside the A1068. Sure enough it crossed in front of me and landed in a mature tree on the left. Urban Amble not high on my list of where to see GSW's, just shows the comments in Birds in Northumbria 2007 "almost any woodland..."
Cheviot and Hedgehope looked invitingly white this morning in the early sunshine, I'll look forward to pictures elsewhere no doubt over the weekend.
Thursday, 1 January 2009
2. Foggo Nigel - Two sightings, first at Longhirst Flash then Morpeth Collingwood Terrace, both with dog.
3.Mclevy Andy - two sightings, unexpectedly arrived in M&S and noted early March at the Gibbet.
4.Gilbertson Alan, associating with A Mclevy at the Gibbet, went off after Peregrine.
5.Anderson Marty, looking a little grey but returned to Bothal Pond in Spring.
6. Barclay Fiona, female, nervous constantly twittering.
7. Whitby Max, small round lacking head feathers, probing habit.
8. Dunford Dave, melanistic, occasional tweets
9. Hirst Andy large umistakeable, inland dweller avoiding coastal habitat.
10. Cromie John, grey moustachial stripes, endemic to Ireland.
11. Morrison Pete frequently found in North Sea, drift migrant in Northern Scotland.
12 Blake Trevor chunky Northern birder, regular on NTBC trips.
13. Thompson Alan, old male, often in company of Black Lab, frequently found around coastal habitat particularly East Chevington. Large Zeiss bins distinctive.
14. Birder (sp) (Dave ?) distinctive greyish white bearded appearance, Scottish accent so may be part of some form of re-introduction programme for Scots in Northumberland. Resident in Felton (?)
15. Steele JG this Scottish endemic wandered South many years back and can be regularly found in the Newbiggin area. With BBRC pedigree this is one birder worth listening to.
16. Holliday Steve uncertain tax-onomy, more frequent in SE Northumberland.
17. Bullough Brian regular in Northumberland, can be found in most areas.
18. Robson Iain unmistakeable in black and white stripes, can be raucous at times after one too many fermented berries.
19. Mcelwee Stef eye rings and round facial appearance make this birder unmistakeable, often mixes in loose flock with JG Steele.
20. Cadwallender Tom, bearded birder regular on surveys and Atlas work.
21. Cadwallender Muriel, female, small often has a bespectacled appearance, again turns up on surveys quite regularly.
22. Hodgson Mike, occasional vagrant more commonly found in Lesbos, Greece.
23. Knox Chris, tends to frequent coastal areas.
24. Kitching Martin, unmistakeable conbination of deep chest and grey sub moustachial area.
25. Barrat Sarah, female, Dunnock-like quiet habits, gingery wash around crown.
26. Mckeown Dee, large adult, greyish nape, poor eyesight relies on it's hearing to locate ticks.
27. Haslam Joe, occasional at coastal waters such as Cresswell Pond.
28. Sheppard Stephen, tall, rakish long legged appearance, faint moustachial markings.
29. Scimgour Cain young, grey hood and eye rings distinctive, one to watch.
30 Allott Phil another frequently found in SE Northumberland, black tousled crest gives a dragged through hedge look.
31. Fisher Ian chunky little bugger these days, often silent in the field, can show a fierce expression at times, look out for the silvery eyelids when perched.
32. Tams Tom spread out from urban areas into the surrounding countryside, often accompanies other species on passage, large robust looking specimen.
33. Jack Alan dark crown, eye rings, mostly plain black plumage, smallish head and thin looking.
34. Giloney Alan rotund apperance with dark stripes to sides of face, lacks crown feathers, perhaps the result of genetic adaption related to carnivourous food habits.
35. Stewart Paul small, often seen in pair with female walking in coastal habitats.
36. Cleeves Tim strange species with distinctive vocal twang, spends much of its time asleep.
37. Forster Roger hollow eyed look and moustachial stripes with ruffled feathers beneath chin combined with tall crane like gait make for a very distinctive appearance to this individual.
38. Bowman Graham used to be confined to a single site at Seaton Burn but quite frequently found elsewhere in recent years, closely related to Bowman Tony although tends to be smaller with a less prominent beak.
39. Robson Les small round headed pale individual with 'hooked nose' appearance, slurred vocal performance.
40. Newsome Mark Co Durham endemic, long legged with distinctive square headed appearance, often darts.
41. Ahmed Ross warm brown tones and greyish ear coverts with grinning habit make for a distinctive appearance. Regularly appears at migration hotspots.
42. Mowbray Mark dark crown with pale sides, stocky character
43. Reeder Keith deep chested, often with ruffled skin like appendages around tarsus, crouches frequently.
Whilst birders up and down the land were running around their chosen patch/route/county ensuring a healthy start to the LIST, I was working on my own list, a stock list as the end of the calendar year heralds the end also of my financial year and my self discipline dictates I should count stock rather than birds.
So my bird list was a meagre rather than magnificient seven, all from the car either en route or on the return. A Blackbird scampered out from under the headlights as I pulled away in the gloom. I didn't notice another bird for eight miles till halfway between Widdrington and Red Row not one but two wheeling Barn Owl broke my morning gloom as they crossed the road above me.
My working day done I retraced my steps, chasing the setting sun. From the road above Alnmouth two Mute Swan were the only birds visible in the estuary in the fading light. Jackdaws and Rooks made a final flight above Warkworth Castle making four and five. Hunched above the weir on the Coquet a solitary Grey Heron cut a forlorn figure, a single Carrion Crow it's only company in the tree behind.
Now the real excitement started, I had seven, the post title became obvious I just had to not see anymore birds between Amble and home. Ten miles with closed eyes, I shouldn't have worried not even a Starling broke the skyline and the bank holiday traffic was light.
Great Northern Diver
Great Crested Grebe
Pale-bellied Brent Goose
Western Marsh Harrier
Common Ringed Plover
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Eurasian Collared Dove
Great Spotted Woodpecker
White throated Dipper
Common Grasshopper Warbler
Great Grey Shrike
Total 183 species.
approx Birding Time 9 days, 14 hours, 40 minutes.
Last New Species : Great Northern Diver
Last Updated: 06 November