Thursday, 29 April 2010

Wood Warbler

Back into the woods this morning specifically looking to photograph woodland summer visitors such as Redstart, Pied Flycatcher and possibly the most elusive in Northumberland Wood Warbler. Not having kept self-found records before this year my memory is hazy as to whether I've ever actually found one before, I know that I've seen them but perhaps always in the company of others. This male was singing both ways intensely whilst I was in the woodland, occasionally singing in flight between perches.
A Garden Warbler embedded deep within a rotund Hawthorn as I walked back to the car steadfastdly refused to show more than an undertail covert to the camera but was the second self found addition for the morning bringing my self found year list to 136 so far.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010


Currently any thoughts of procuring a moth trap, I'll leave it to those that are free from the destructive forces of les enfants, single or just plain eccentric. Much as I would like to I just wouldn't/couldn't keep up so I am resigned to restricting my activities to those that wander through inviting open doors and windows. My first this year is not one I had last year, as I believe this to be a Water Carpet (on specially prepared emulsion background). Abundant away from the coast it used to count Newton as its only costal record. ID corrections as always are welcomed from the wise.

Water Carpet

Warm Wednesday in the Woods

 A walk the Wansbeck on a warm Wednesday afternoon took us along a stretch of the river not over-used by dog walkers and a little quieter. At least it was until the sound of my two playing Dambusters with the sticklebacks today. As expected birds were fairly quiet in mid-afternoon, a pair of Marsh Tit entertained for a short while and a Common Sandpiper deftly walked around the river edge at one of the big bends as we headed home.

Woodland flowers and subsequently a few butterflies were notable. Lesser Celandine, the first Bluebells and carpets of Wood Anenome brought out my first Orange-Tip of the year and also some Green-veined White. Both species were very active making life difficult as leaving the kids next to the river whilst I chase after a better butterfly image is not yet possible.

Green-veined White

Orange-Tip (female)

The underwing of the female Orange-Tip is perfectly coloured camouflage for its habitat, blending with the fresh green and dappled light of the spring undergrowth. Oh and my twins reliably informed me they had seen some Starlings from the car as we drove home, dipped again!

Talking Heads

With this spring being a good one so far for Yellow Wagtail races across the UK, Birdguides commissioned a short focus on some of the races, combined with some great images from contributors to their Iris service I think it works quite well as a light introduction to some great looking birds. Read it here.
Thanks to Stewart for diverting time away from the Moths for a late night proof read.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Robin & Green Wood

We mixed it up a little today. Instead of the usual post school shopping trip we went looking for woodland birds. Not a huge success with Chiffchaff collecting nesting material and singing Blackcap the only summer visitors noted in our chosen woodland. The car trip home added Great Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch but not the hoped for Redstart. My two and half year old daughter was watching me process the pictures from today and briefly took air from the milk to say "That's a Robin", impressed her mum no end.

News of a Wood Sandpiper at Bothal Pond brought about a minor detour as we headed for Asda, but there was no sign when we arrived or on the way back, though last week's Ruff had been replaced with a Green Sandpiper.

Kids eh, I'm sure that it is stress from having kids that has caused this poor lassie to end up looking like this too. Some days I know just how she must feel.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Big Wheatear Day

A few hours around some local sites this morning was fairly quiet, as can often be the case in April, but there were pockets of quality along the way and certainly enough to keep me interested. My first stop produced a splendid Ruff just within range of the camera, my first of the year and nice to have a spring bird.

At my second destination the harsh sound of young Rooks mingled with Willow Warbler song as I left the car. Three Gadwall flushed from a small flood in the dip of the meadow and a Little Grebe trilled on the nearby lake. Two Grey Partridge lifted ahead of me over the bank in the direction I was heading. Over the lines into a field reverting to scrub, a Wheatear flashed white as it moved away from me, then another, and another and by the time I had finished there were 15 in a 30m stretch at the back of the field. The first of 26 I had this morning with further counts of seven, three and one at other sites. A tidy little arrival.

Northern Wheatear

Two Sandwich Tern viewed distantly on a large post in the Blyth estuary have been a long time coming this year but I guess that is partly due to not spending any time sea-watching.  Four summer-plumaged Black-tailed Godwit at Druridge Pools at the back of the pond were smart but out of reach.
I rounded off the morning with a return to my starting point only to find two fisherman and an almost empty pond. Then from the east three Common Swift dipped down and did three or four circuits before departing high to the south. Were these the same three birds that had appeared on my phone from Killingworth Lake  (via Birdguides) 40 minutes earlier?
As the morning warmed the occasional fluttery thing emerged to add a splash of colour to the day, Peacock, Small White and Small Tortoiseshell all noted today.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Gropper Gripe

What's the world coming to? Look at these images, bloody disgraceful that a Grasshopper Warbler should behave in this way appearing in the open. It just shouldn't be allowed, no good will come of it, it'll just devalue the species and that particular gropper needs to get a grip of itself. Grasshopper Warbler used to know their place, heard but not seen. Time was when you heard one 'reeling' you knew you were in for a couple of hours hide and seek as it flashed a tail or a leg at you from deep within the Hawthorn or bramble it had embedded itself. If this catches on they might as well change their name to Dunnock. I'm sure that once this young upstart settles down and gets a little family responsibility it will quickly learn the value of the traditional ways. Thankfully not all Groppers have forgotten their place in the grand scheme of things, three today in classic scrub, grassy and damp ditch habitat behaved in the appropriate way, allowing me a few brief glimpses and a classic Gropper image.

A 'Traditional' Grasshopper Warbler

Later a Greenshank called from the estuary below and flew across to the muddy edge of the far side, providing a secoind addition for the Self-Found List for the day.

Exclusive: RSPB in Secret Eagle Releases

I've been hearing rumours and rumblings for some time that after the fuss in Norfolk and Suffolk Natural England & RSPB got together and decided the best way to overcome the criticism of the project would be to get some eagles out into England to demonstrate that the pigs/lambs/small dogs/babies (delete as appropriate) of our fine country would be free from danger and not whisked off to a painful death.
After the recent wandering bird in Northumberland/Yorkshire/Lincolnshire/Cumbria that some alleged was radio-controlled and been directed from a secret bunker in Sandy the truth that secret releases have begun appeared in my Inbox this morning.
With a piece of journalism that will unquestionably win awards the Formby Times have blown the lid on the secret location of at least one of the releases with their story that grandmother of six Phyl Jones has not just seen a White-tailed Sea Eagle but had the fecal identification skills to become aware of its presence from deposits on her bird table.
Sadly despite a prolonged negotiation the photographs taken during the bird's hour long stay are yet to surface.
Formby, who would have thought of releasing Eagles there? Those Nat England boffins really are clever.

All Go

Last night's interview with Brazilian researcher Christine Bernardo who has spent the last four years monitoring Red-billed Curassow re-introductions on a reserve in Brazil went well and was incredibly interesting, although it did leave me feeling humbled by the dedication some are willing to give to the conservation of endangered species. Isolated and 6km from the nearest phone with only a bike for transport for four years is some effort in my book.
I stopped off at a couple of locations to listen for reeling Groppers singing Grasshopper Warbler on the way home but with no success. My first bat (sp) flew low over my head at Prestwick Carr but I had little else of note.
A pre-breakfast wander in the scrub belt north of the house sorted out the snatch of Sylvia song from the other morning as Blackcap with both male and female present.
Most bizarre sighting of the morning is two tail-less female Blackbird in the garden, we've had one half bald tail-less female for a week or so but now there is a second bird, again female lacking tail feathers, I haven't read anything yet but surely not moult, breeding stress perhaps?
The finishing touches to a quick, short piece on some topical birds done it has been sent, fingers crossed it gets used. Time to do so some more work on the Essential NewcastleGateshead guide app before another shift mid-afternoon.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Bad Dad Seduced

When it turned up the other day, I was amongst the first to know. At work, I suffered as I posted out the report knowing full well I wasn't going to get there till later in the day. When the time came the 3rd county record of this rare race had, as is often the case, melted away. I passed the site a day later with boisterous children in the knowledge that they and the camouflaged contingent present would be a bad mix.
So five minutes before the school run today when the Black-headed Wagtail reappeared on Birdguides, after having read Mark Newsome's fair but firm assessment of why you should see this bird despite it's lack of 'tickability', drooled over John's pictures and Stewart's impression of Edward Scissorhands (and no you look nothing like Johnny Depp!) bigging up the credentials of this one as genuine and offering alternatives to the hint of a possible genetic imperfection I caved in. Look even Stringer twitched this one so it must be good to come between him and another day on the patch.
So straight from school I headed to Cresswell and abandoned the kids in the car park with the Iphone and a pile of books. Looking less than positive with one south tyneside birder lounging against the rail and a group of four casually heading west over the causeway. I asked the usual question of the lounging birder and got that most dreaded of responses 'it was just here twenty minutes ago'. The northerly gust filled the silence for some seconds after.
With the group of casuals now stopped at the west end of the causeway and looking with apparent intent I lifted the bins to see Black-headed Wagtail strolling in gay abandon with a group of several Yellow Wags. Quick check with the nearby conveniently abandoned scope (Maurice - Ta) and a stroll across the causeway brought further better, if again borrowed, scope views (Tim Cleeves - thanks) of the Black-headed with supporting cast of Blue-headed 'Channel type' Wagtail in the northwest corner feeding on water edge debris.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Taking a Tumble

With eldest son returning to school today it was back to hoping the weather held and enabled us to slip in some outdoor time between chores, food shopping, school runs and swimming lessons. The local Chiffchaff put in what is becoming a daily morning appearance feeding in one of our silver birch. Despite the football match going on in the kitchen I managed to catch him (also sang briefly) this time.

Cool but clear I thought we'd chance our arm so I shoved a picnic together and we headed off up the coast, possibly to catch up with the Blue-headed Wagtail now at Cresswell that ST had thoughtfully texted me about earlier. As the road was almost knee deep in photographers in stealth mode with full camouflage attire I opted to push on to Druridge and brave the 'man-eating mud'. Allowing my kids to mingle with people intent on stealth is not wise, they're current favourite game involves periodically shouting 'Mr Tuuummble' as loud as possible and finding it hilariously funny to the point of falling over with laughter. So we picnicked in the Budge Screen, a single numenius wader was the commonest of the three recorded at Druridge. Fed & watered we paused on the way back near Bell's Farm where a few common birds fed, 4 Wheatear, Twite, Pied Wagtail & Meadow Pipit.

Northern Wheatear

Pied Wagtail

An almost empty Cresswell allowed me to year tick Yellow Wagtail though I could hardly claim them self found. News of a Jack Snipe in front of the Cresswell Hide arrived almost at the same time as we got home, a slight clenching of the jaw for the next hour as I made do with a re-run of Loose Women to cries of 'Mr Tuuuummmble'.....

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Best Laid Plans Go West

It's the unknown isn't it? You can plot and plan to your heart's content but if you just don't hit the right places at exactly the right time it just doesn't happen. It is an integral part of the birding experience, when the plan works and you connect the high can be exhilarating. When it doesn't happen frustration is the order of the day, although sometimes you can be in the right place at the right time for something you didn't expect. Anyway enough bollocks, I went well west today with a plan, wrong plan. On another day with a different set of expectations I would have returned home content.

Sunrise - far fom home.

Lots of small groups of Roe deer as I headed west and Red-legged Partridge. These should really be renamed Kamikaze Partridge given that they have managed to successfully evade the guns you would think they would be slightly less inclined to hurl themselves in front of rapidly moving vehicles. Not today, today was a good day to die, oh they tried wave after wave diving beneath the wheels, to the best of my knowledge they all lived to fight another day.

I stopped short of my final destination and had a little wander in the woods. At a prominent man-made vantage point two Oystercatcher came belting along the river below, one landing on the bank the other, presumably the male carried on and landed high up on the wall of the structure I was stood on and began to call. The call echoed and amplified in the arch below, interesting behaviour.

Another hour on and a long drive along a rough Scottish road and I found myself with a good view over a huge forest and clearfell. Common Buzzard displayed and soared and high in the distance a male Peregrine brought food in to a female guarding a nearby crag nest. The food was duly dropped, collected and both birds lost to view. Crossbill and Siskin were in abundance. Sadly none of the three species in my plan put in an appearance. The long return journey added Green & Great Spotted Woodpecker and under Punkbirder self found rules (see note below) no.128 Mandarin lounging by the riverside.

Note Punkbirder Self found states Some rare breeders (listed here) are extremely sedentary and are almost never seen away from breeding sites. In order to minimise the risk of disturbance, everyone can tick these species as self found even at known sites.

Note 2 For proper scenic sunset shots check out Hugh Harrop's latest from Orkney here.

Friday, 16 April 2010

127 - Green Sandpiper

Druridge Pools, late afternoon, a thorough panning of the flooded field produced no.127 Green Sandpiper distant and with the added bonus of heat haze to further corrupt a bad record shot.

Green Sandpiper, Druridge Pools

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Getting Appy

Slightly off topic for a birding blog but I started working on a new project over the last couple of days working with a US based company to provide the content for a new Iphone and Ipod Touch Application Essential NewcastleGateshead. The aim is to create a superb guide app with local knowledge and insight covering places to go, things to do, restaurant recommendations, bars to help visitors to the area get the most out of the 'Geordie' experience.
I'm looking forward to the research although good birding may prove to be hard to come by.
A photo session in Leazes Park late morning demonstrated just how hard with Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Magpie, Carrion Crow and Feral Pigeon the highlights.....
Although this was unexpected.

Of Interest....

Is news that a Juan Fernadez Petrel has been photographed in the South Atlantic for the first time. The Juan Fernández petrel breeds only on Alejandro Selkirk Island, part of the Juan Fernández Islands, Chile and normally strays no further east than East Australia. The bird was photographed from an Atlantic Odyssey trip off Gough Island.

Ex-pat Yorkshireman Richard Crossley's latest work The Crossley ID Guide:Eastern Birds has been scooped up by Princeton University Press. Crossley who now lives in Cape May has a unique approach to ID and the photographic plates for the guide will feature an interesting technique, the layering of many images of different individuals over a typical natural background setting. The guide won't be published till Feb 2011 but you can preview many of the images at his website

The best place to view the Druridge Garganey seems to be from the middle hide according to reliable reports.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Three Lifers (perhaps)

Warmth, light and kids to entertain so back up the Breamish Valley today. Birds were thin on the ground, some Common Buzzard activity, a single Northern Wheatear atop Brough Law and self found year tick number 126 Common Sandpiper on the Breamish. With three kids to keep dry, upright and gorse-free I was never getting close.

So we concentrated on the small stuff today, plenty bees, the occasional wasp and butterfly and possibly three lifers although i.d remains, lets just say not 100%, so comments on any of the species below and my tentative identifcation would be most grateful.

First up a Carrion Beetle Thanatophilus rugosus these cracking beetles were devouring a dead pheasant with a hole in sandy soil about 18 inches away. A dead Sheep on the other side of the river may have contained hundreds but I wasn't about to check.

Carrion Beetle Thanatophilus rugosus (?)

Next up a Newt. Now I haven't seen a newt for er donkey's years. When I was kid the local ponds used to all hold good numbers of Great Crested Newt, which we would occasionally catch and hold captive overnight in a jarful of pond water before being forced to release them the following day under threat of reduced Jaffa Cake rations.
This newt below, I initially had no idea about though it has now been confirmed as Palmate Newt, I have little knowledge in newt identifcation but after some reading I had suspected it could be as it does have the described dark line running before and after the eye and the size appeared to fit. Habitat wise was also another clue as it was in a very shallow 'puddle' in upland grassland. The clincher apparently is the webbed toes on the hind foot (ta Roger).

 Palmate Newt Triturus helveticus

Hopefully the hat trick will be completed with confirmation that the 'Pond Skater' below is Little Pond Skater Gerris argentatus. Searching for information on Inverts on the web is daunting. This species appears to have been recorded as far north as Prudhoe according to the National Biodiversity Network, though the records on there are likely to be incomplete so this species may be as common as muck in Northumberland.

Little Pond Skater Gerris argentatus

Common, rare whichever, we had good fun finding them, especially the newt as the puddle also contained 'tworogs' (that's two Frogs in English). We couldn't have had a finer day for it either.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Water Ouzel & Rock Blackbird

With another fine day in prospect and work allowing a few hours out this morning I took Iron Maiden's philosophical advice and had a run to the hills. An early start meant roads devoid of cars leaving only the usual irridescent scattered corpses of roadkill, mostly Pheasant, to peer at. This morning a new phenomenon has appeared on the county's major roads, every quarter mile punctuated by large billboards with the bloody awful, dumbed down innovative, inspiring and somewhat ironic election slogan of the blue party "Vote for Change".
Ironic? Well, with less than the width of a Dunnock's tadger between all the politicos you just know nothing is going to change don't you.

Of course all of these signs will have the necessary local authority approval, or perhaps there is an exemption when its political, its ok to make the countryside look bloody awful.

By 06:30 any morning mist had long since departed and it was with clear views I set off on foot from the car. There is something hugely gratifying about looking for a bird in a vast wild area like the Cheviots with its big landscapes, I know it makes the experience somehow more real, something to savour. Sometimes its amazing what sitting down and having a little patience produces.
An easy stroll, broken by frequent stops, along the eastern side of a steep, scree strewn rocky valley with the tumbling burn in an audio duel with the tinnitus ring in my right ear. A Song Thrush sang from somewhere above me and the occasional Wren scolded me from the gorse. I stopped regularly listening and scanning the rocky escarpments on the opposite side of the valley and before long I was rewarded with a singing Ring Ouzel the steady insistent song ringing out from high on the rocks. On the return leg I had at least two males in the sunshine singing.

Further up the burn two Dipper a shorter tailed version of the Ring Ouzel, albeit from a different family, played chase along a rocky section. My mind wandered, wondering why they weren't called 'Water or River Ouzel', a little checking at home suggests that they were indeed referred to as Water Ouzel in early records in the 16th century.
A couple of Roe Deer headed uphill away from me, the regular repetitive notes of Chiffchaff were never far from earshot. I took a minor detour on the way back only to find myself higher than expected in the scree, faced with the bones of an animal far more fleet footed than me I gingerly picked my way back down. A few Primrose brightened the hillside.


The journey back was uneventful,  several Common Buzzard, good numbers of Oystercatcher dotted around along with a group of 10-15 Sand Martin around the Breamish. I did come across a small roadside pool that held the bones and skull of what I think is a Common Snipe but I need to clean it up a little before trying to photograph it. The same pool held a good number of Common Toad including this couple who appear to have been busy, at least he has as he looks pretty exhausted.

A final detour to the local gravel pits produced a third self found addition for the morning with a smart Great Crested Grebe, never close despite me staying in cover the image doesn't do the species justice. The nearby roads offered the occasional photogenic wanderer as I headed home.


Saturday, 10 April 2010

The Sound of Spring

Chiffchaff may get here first but within a few days who doesn't wish for something more than those two notes? It's lookalike later arriving cousin the Willow Warbler always seems to put me in mind of lounging in the garden on a sleepy afternoon and dozing in the warmth serenaded by it's song as I descend along with it to sleep.
So the first one of the year always puts a smile on my face. This one was late morning at Ulgham Lane.

Willow Warbler

I'd started off at Bothal Pond, although NF beat me to it, though it was quiet. I aborted the plan to head for Linton after talking to Nigel as he had had only three Willow Warbler, so instead a good beat around Woodhorn produced a migrant flock of Meadow Pipit about twenty strong feeding in the rough grass. In fact apart from Mipits I had little else this morning, butterflies 2 & 3 for the year produced a brief splash of colour.

Meadow Pipits, Woodhorn & Pegswood

Friday, 9 April 2010

More Self Found

Whilst birding opportunities have been limited with the kids on holiday I have managed to nudge forward to 121 on my personal Self Found Challenge. A walk sans enfants on Wednesday in Scotch Gill Woods produced a singing Blackcap and a confiding Marsh Tit near the car park. Amazingly confiding given the racket my three were making with their mock sword battles a few feet away.
An hour after work tonight produced a little flurry of migrants, a male White Wagtail at the small flash opposite Cooper's Kennels where previously there had been only yarrelli. I stopped in at Warkworth Lane Pond again hoping for migrants but whilst a reasonable selection of duck were present the one I was looking for was absent.
With the flood at the entrance of the Budge screen beginning to abate I trudged through the ankle deep mud to what intially looked another unproductive day. A Sparrowhawk made repeated circuits of the field, curling around the juncus like a WWII fighter pilot in a dogfight. Common Snipe fired out like tracer bullets into the afternoon sky although the Sparrowhawk failed to connect with any of them. To the north of the screen were a family sized group of Shoveler, mostly male and tucked behind them a prominent cream stripe casually loitering near the fence, a drake Garganey. Out of camera reach I resorted to Iphone/Scope to produce another in the regular series of poor record shots for your Friday night amusement.

Garganey, recuperating after the long flight north.

A few minutes later as I was working through the Teal that had been risen from their slumber by the Sparrowhawk's exertions I noticed two waders dropping in from high, two Black-tailed Godwit to compliment the Garganey. I'd love to say they were in fine summer plumage but it wouldn't be true, they looked drab to be honest, nor did they hang around for long before moving off. With fine weather forecast for the weekend there may be better pickings in the day ahead.

NB, I also found Kittiwake omitted from the list self found whilst working in the North Sea 07/03.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

It's All Gone Quiet

More birders than birds this morning down at the coast with all sorts of shenanigans involving clandestine meetings with boxes of moths being driven in from secret inland locations for alleged ID. After having the opportunity of adding Barnacle Goose to the Self  Found snatched by NF almost on my doorstep a day or two ago, Tim Dean whipped another from under my nose this morning.
I'd stopped as I passed the Cresswell Car Park in order to reverse back when a local photographer arrived and we briefly blocked the whole road during the morning rush hour, TD strolled across and delivered the devastating 'Have you seen the LRP?" before I could stop him. Consolation didn't even arrive with good pictures, concious of not flushing it, it was never going to be top drawer. (Tom you can have a print for a fiver, one off never to be repeated discount, just for you)

North of the causeway with as TD highlighted not the brightest eye ring ever to be seen on a Little Ringed Plover, a smart White Wagtail nearby flirted with the local yarrelli.

I forgot to mention the 176 Jackdaws I counted yesterday whilst looking for nominate race individuals, thrilling.

Little Ringed Plover, Cresswell, (possibly engaged in Line Dancing Display)

More Eagle News

An email from Claire Smith at the East Scotland Eagles Project today brought final confirmation that the Linton/Prestwick Carr individual was one of theirs, Claire wrote " The bird you photographed is one of our 2008 released East Scotland white-tailed eagles (it will be two years old next month) released in North Fife. I am trying to get one of my colleagues to radio-track it so we can confirm which individual it is. The colours on the ring show the year and there is an individual number which identifies the bird (very hard to see, but we were not permitted to wing-tag in 2008)."

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Early Arrivals

Sometimes birding raises more questions than answers. Anecdotal records this year appear to suggest that Swallows and to a lesser extent House Martins may be arriving earlier albeit in small-ish numbers. Start thinking about this and you quickly realise that they can't possibly know the weather conditions a couple of thousand miles further north so either some change in their wintering grounds is triggering an early return or they are leaving at the same time and encountering less adverse weather conditions or an increased food supply as they move north encouraging them to continue at a pace faster than they used to.
I headed to The Euring Swallow Project to look for answers but most of research quoted is looking at swallows heading back post-breeding, it is interesting though so worth a glance.
 There is a paper printed in Ecology Letters in 2004 entitled 'Ecological conditions during winter predict arrival date at the breeding quarters in a trans-Saharan migratory bird' this study found that the arrival date of old but not young individuals captured during consecutive breeding seasons was earlier after winters with favourable conditions. Change in arrival date in relation to change in NDVI (normalised difference vegetation index) was similar in the two sexes. Change in arrival date significantly and positively predicted change in breeding date. As a result of increased frequency of second broods determined by earlier arrival, the number of fledged offspring per season was larger after African winters with good in comparison to poor ecological conditions for barn swallows.
So perhaps the answer to our early arrivals this year lies in the weather conditions during Dec-Feb in the wintering areas and maybe we're in for a bumper breeding season, fingers crossed.

Ecological conditions during winter predict arrival date at the breeding quarters in a trans-Saharan migratory bird

Nicola Saino, Tibor Szep, Maria Romano, Diego Rubolini, Fernando Spina, Anders Pape Moller
Ecology Letters (2004)
Volume: 7, Issue: 1, Pages: 21-25

Saturday, 3 April 2010

And on the Sixth Day....

Birds pay the bills for me at the moment whilst our children are pre-school and the costs of childcare of twins prohibitive. When we realised that it was either one of us work full time and the other none at all or both do a little it gave me the opportunity to test the water, to see if I could make things happen doing the thing I enjoy the most.
This whole blogging malarkey is just that, creating something, making something happen, getting noticed so that when the work does come around I might, just might, have got noticed. It also makes me write, about birds and nature, again something I enjoy and one of the many things I am trying to put food on the table. So if all this appears a little egotistical sometimes don't make assumptions, its just me trying to wave my CV a little higher than the competition.

Trevor Blake the NTBC Field Trips Organiser kindly rang me a little after six thirty last night with news that he had found a Great White Egret at Warkworth Lane Ponds. Still as rare as good spelling on a birding blog up here, there have been only 11 records to date. Not needing it for my county list after finding one in 1999 I decided to head for Cambois/Newbiggin this morning in search of self found.
With Black Redstart reaching almost biblical plague proportions at Newton and Holy Island, Cambois and it's industrial wasteland should be overrun went my thinking. After two hours, three Wheatears, three Song Thrush and a singing Chiffchaff later I had drawn the conclusion that I was a day too late.
Song Thrush

I headed out to North Blyth and Alcan and had even less joy with two Linnet and two Rock Pipit the peak of passerine activity.

Rock Pipit

By mid-morning I had given up the ghost and was heading for Newbiggin, a brief stop at the north end of the old power station to look at how flooded the fenced compound was. Stepping from the car and sat waiting on the gatepost a 1st-summer male Black Redstart it flicked away into the compound only slightly less quick than it moved status from measly year tick to Self Found year tick (cue triumphant music). A genuine wild migrant rather than the tame coming to bread individuals that have been charging birders to pose for photos at Newton it remained elusive and distant providing only the ubiquitous crap record shot.

Black Redstart, 1st-Summer male.

Newbiggin as is often the case in early Spring was an unrewarding and wet affair, though the promise of something good is only ever around the next bush. Two pairs of Stonechat back on the moor were welcome, the damp patch at the back of the golf course has like Brigadoon re-appeared as a proper wetland with four Gadwall on it today. I think they may be a Newbiggin Golf Course wetland tick for me. A Kestrel posed briefly and warily as the sun threatened to provide half decent light.

Still Water Pipit-less for the year I headed for Lynemouth and the flooded fields north of Bell's Farm, a Birdguides email placing the Great White Egret at the Budge Hide a mere 500m up the road forced me to abandon self found temporarily and take the tick. ADMc with a fresh GI haircut supplied a walk up view point complete with scope at the roadside and Egret was duly ticked.
Moments after Tom Tams arrived and whipped out the big lens, the Egret obviously spotted it from all of 300m took one look and promptly took to the air and moved south. Using all the riding alongside techniques picked up from watching westerns as a child I motored alongside till it dropped into the field north of Bell's farm and then onto the ponds behind.

Great White Egret