Wednesday, 29 September 2010
Now where's that guitar....
Tuesday, 28 September 2010
The Punks have become 'Pants', albeit temporarily, and the mantra 'We're all still learning' is being chanted in hides across the land. So not one to miss a bandwagon I thought I would clear up a couple of oldies that have been lurking like mouldy cheese in the fridge.
First up my 1989 Alpine Swift, with hindsight maybe I got it wrong and a rejection was appropriate. Fresh back from watching them from the nudist beach in Crete, perhaps it was a case of having barely enough knowledge to be dangerous.
Then there was that incident with the
The 2000 Newbiggin Honey Buzzard, (sorry you didn't see it Stewart, I tried) was a Honey Buzzard and zeitgeist or not it's on my list and staying put regardless of water torture, reviews or intervention by minor deities.
So there, I'm out and it feels great and I never mentioned the Black-faced Bunting episode once, oops.
Wednesday, 22 September 2010
- Eagle friendly Eggs
- viewing platform with scopes for Eaglewatch
- T-shirts 'I survived the Eagle' with a natty chicken design
- Eagle souvenirs
One would think that the RSPB would also have noted that they have a FARM SHOP, why not get some eagle-related RSPB product shifted through the shop, demonstrate the potential VALUE these birds have? This would probably go a long way to both compensating the Samson's for their losses and changing their view about the whole White-tailed Eagle Re-intro project.
If we want farmers to deliver biodiversity, we have to recognise that most will also want to see the implications on the bottom line. Ignore these opportunities and we will not achieve half what we would like to achieve when it comes to restoration and longevity of many of our species.
A late afternoon collection of the kids hire suits for the weekend's family wedding saw me heading to North Shields. A third of the way there I seized the opportunity and joined the back of the queue south through the Tyne Tunnel accompanied by Joel.
Horrendous traffic resulted in us arriving at the small car park south of Greatham about 1 hour ten later. By this time many of the cars that whizzed by as we walked north to the Tidal Pool had dipped lights on such was the poor light.
With our target at the back of the Tidal Pool, views were distant, pictures impossible and what should have been a great bird a bit of an anti-climax as a result.
In fact the only redeeming feature was two Little Egret coming into roost in the small roadside wood adjacent to the car park as we stumbled back along the verge to the car as I think they provide a 'Self-stumbled' year tick.
To top the night off I now have pizza induced insomnia, hence the silly o clock blog post, I'll regret it in the morning no doubt.
Tuesday, 21 September 2010
The speculation, as that is what it is, is that these 'migratory' birds pass on the anti-biotic resistance to other bacteria that might infect the weak and vulnerable (Daily Mail readers presumably?)
I'm not altogether sure that they don't mean michahellis as they would be the much more obvious study choice in Portugal, in which case whilst the rest of the country can panic the North East is at least safe as we only get two per annum. The Mail, bless their cotton socks, are at least calling it Yellow-legged Gull, but apparently they aren't just ordinary bacteria, no since I started writing this post they've evolved into superbugs.
How long before the first call for a cull goes out? DEFRA are allegedly studying the report with interest, I sense a risk assessment.
Monday, 20 September 2010
I came across some interesting claims on the website of the Hare Preservation Trust about the way the game industry in Scotland impacts upon the Hare population there. The HPT claim that:
There is increasing concern about the status of the mountain hare with reports of it being virtually extinct in some parts of Scotland where it was previously abundant. In some areas excessive grazing by deer, sheep and cattle have depleted the heather so that less food and cover is available for the hares. However, they have also declined on moorland devoid of deer and sheep, leading to the conclusion that human interference is responsible for the decline in hares.
While the mountain hare is persecuted directly for sport it is also snared and shot in large numbers because it allegedly carries a tick borne virus which kills grouse chicks and is therefore seen as a threat to the grouse shooting industry. The Habitats Directive requires member states to ensure exploitation of Annex 5 species is: "compatible with their being maintained at a favourable conservation status." Since there are no official records of the number of hares being killed it is difficult to see how this requirement can be met. But anecdotal evidence of culling levels strongly suggests that EC wildlife law is being broken in Scotland.
I read claims like this and I see an industry and a group of people who seem to be able to operate in any way they see fit in order to protect their profits. You have to wonder how much more of this small island's natural heritage is to be sacrificed on the altar of profit (or in the name of sport).
I'm not quite sure how Jos Straford does it but his latest 'expedition' makes for inspirational reading. A month in Iran would be daunting for many folk, quite a few would probably not even consider Iran as a possible destination due to politics and the media view that gets touted about. However fresh back from a month long trip, Jos is writing, I can't call it a trip report as it wouldn't do it justice, an epic account of his adventures on his website.
Not for Jos an 'organised' group trip, nor a Ewan Mcgregor-style back up team; out in Iran on his own, often camping in the desert and hitchhiking his way around a country many westerners would consider hostile. You have to admire his style and his stamina to do it in late summer. His well-written, occasionally humorous account, packed with the fine detail that brings his journey and Iran to life is a must read adventure for any birder. Not only are the birds fantastic, I can't wait till he adds his pictures, but his experiences of and with the Iranian people will make you look at the country in a new light. Jos has put Iran firmly on my 'must do' list, go and read his account here and he might do the same for you.
Sunday, 19 September 2010
Offshore 17 Pale-bellied Brent Goose moved north, again my first of the Autumn; two Sandwich Tern south; good numbers of Kittiwake and Gannet moved north , most at distance.
I settled down to try and photograph the Turnstone, Dunlin and Sanderling that were mixing it on the seaweed with the pipits and the odd Wheatear. As usual it didn't take long before a dog appeared and checked me out, barking as it left, thankfully it didn't piss on me which they have a habit of doing. Another birder adopted some interesting field-craft, walking directly above me along the low bank on the skyline with predictable results.
Four 1st-winter Mediterranean Gulls were spread amongst a few Black-headed as I walked back along the beach. One of the Meds was colour ringed, (white LDE); this would appear to be a juvenile ringed at De Kreuper Island, Holland on 24/06 and previously spotted at Newbiggin on 22/08 (per STH). This was to be one of two colour-ringed birds this morning with a Kittiwake on the south beach also displaying a fine set of five rings, details are awaited. A further eight Mediterranean Gulls were at the north end of the south beach.
A brief few minutes at Woodhorn produced little except a few Chiffchaff, including a particularly scruffy looking individual; a Wren posed well for me amongst the autumn hips.
Friday, 17 September 2010
Thursday, 16 September 2010
I had an hour spare after lunch at my parents before the first of 4 days work kicked in so I headed off to one of my childhood haunts at Blyth Links Cemetery. I spent many an hour wandering the area surrounding the cemetery as a kid from about the age of 11 and birds often figured in those adventures. Whether it be the nests of numerous Blackbirds and Song Thrush in the Ivy covered wall that borders the northern boundary or flocks of Redwing and Fieldfare in winter pillaging berries or the spring displays of the Lapwing wheeling in the adjacent fields this place held some of my formative birding experiences.
There are other connections hiding there too; my great grandfather in the southwest corner along with several other family members; my grandfather's brother whose blackberry surrounded, pigeon cree dominated, allotment was often a destination for childhood walks. I remember the pigeon's eggs, white and the musty smell of the cree as I was allowed to gently hold and release one of his prize pigeons.
Today as I expected there was little of note however, 12 Mistle Thrush moved from berries to bathe as I wandered around, a single Goldfinch the only other sighting. 11 Grey Partridge kept to the field edge on the south side as I left.
A final stop at Woodhorn South Pool produced two Wheatears in the field, 35 Coot and two Mediterranean Gull on the pool. Migrant Hawkers dived and dodged behind the sheltered hedge with at least six present and probably more.
Wednesday, 15 September 2010
The signs this week though point to the Cats selling out their cult status and heading down the road of commercialism like so many before them. Whilst it is perfectly understandable that the owner(s) of such an authentic, original and cult brand (because that's what it is) would seek to cash in on their status whilst the going's good I can't help being left feeling that the purity has been lost.
I could forgive them the T-shirts, just a way of letting birders and bloggers 'join the club' so to speak but this week's blatant soft advertising post 'sponsored' by RBA sees the Cats leap into the murky commercial pond of advertorial writing. It may have been loosely concealed behind mocking the lack of quality on Scilly but the commercial message 'bigging up' RBA pagers was strikingly obvious.
No doubt the conspiracy theorists will point to the possibility that the Cats were been blackmailed by dastardly Dick Filby, who having found out their true identities has forced our heroes into promoting a flagging technology. The truth is much simpler, the hard hitting Cats are beginning to enjoy the cream.
We can no doubt look forward to more product sponsored posts and a gradual watering down of the Cats style as they aim to appeal to an ever wider audience, a book launch and obscure 'At Home With the Cats' TV show is sure to follow and by the time Max Clifford gets involved we may even see a Stig-style restraining order as Mr White's identity is almost revealed to the world. Naturally that will be an anti-climax as some ex-Cambridge geek scientist from Thetford with too much time on his hands now the Atlas has finished is revealed as Cats creator.
Sadly though I tried to contact both Tom Logan and Arthur Balsam for some comment on the Cats commercial sell out neither was available, probably for the best.
Tuesday, 14 September 2010
With a strong westerly blowing this morning I thought I'd try something different, grasses. We don't pay enough attention to the grasses do we? It almost worked if it hadn't been for the pesky birds getting in the way. First up a general shot of the golf course rough ruined by a couple of Bar-tailed Godwits strutting around just as I lined up the shot.
Further up the coast path it gets a bit weedy and you get a great mix of grasses. I found a good spot and began to plan a few shots when this annoying Lapland Bunting kept darting into view everytime I took a shot, luckily I kept my focus firmly on the grasses ensuring that the LB didn't get its best side shown.
A stroll along the Ash Lagoon bank produced little of note with much of the grass long and discoloured, a Garden Warbler made a brief attempt to attract my attention by diving into cover but I was focussed.
Re-tracing my steps I went back to the coast path where I'd earlier seen some great weeds swaying in the wind that I thought would make a fabulous subject. Yet again I was foiled, this time by an upstart Wheatear parading itself and getting arsey. I gave up and went home.
Oh and just in case any of you are thinking that I've contrived this whole post to hide my obvious lack of photographic talent and frankly abysmal shots of Lapland Bunting you couldn't be further from the truth I wouldn't dream of doing anything so obvious.
Monday, 13 September 2010
The Ash Lagoon banks contained a further three Spotted Flycatchers and two 1st-winter Pied Flycatchers, Garden Warbler and Willow Warblers were also obvious. A single Redstart remained in the burnt gorse.
Back at the mound I moved off piste into the trees and another Pied Flycatcher flicked onto a dappled perch to check me out. As it moved back into the greeny shades of the Sycamore I noticed another smaller, greenish bird flit across the leaves, forty minutes later I had had one clear view and a couple of dozen snatched movements from a Greenish Warbler presumably the one JGS found the day previously.
Thursday night NTBC had an excellent talk delivered by Alan Davies & Ruth Miller from The Biggest Twitch, about their world record setting exploits during 2008. I had invited Alan & Ruth out the following day to do some birding whilst in the North East so I joined themn for breakfast around 06:30 on Friday (I offered them the option of a lie in but they declined preferring to make the most of the time to go birding).
First stop was East Chevington NWT, which was poor, a couple of Great Crested Grebes probably the pick of the birds here. Next up was Newton Scrapes as Tim Dean had been 'biggin them up' the night before, again much to our frustration we managed to pick probably the only morning in god knows how long that there hasn't been any waders. AD picked out a couple of overflying Ruff as we left.
Ruth picked out a Pied Flycatcher in the sycamores at Chare End, the Straight Lonnen held others as well as further numbers of Spotted Flycatcher, Redstart, Chiffchaff, and Garden Warbler. A Barn Owl moved off towards the Crooked Lonnen just yards away.
A passing birder had indicated a secondhand report of Firecrest in the Willows at the end of the Straight Lonnen, but several Redstart later a flushed Lapland Bunting was the best we could manage. More Redstart and Whitethroat occasionally appeared from isolated Hawthorns as we passed the Kilns back to the car.
A short look at the waders picked out good numbers of Grey Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit, single Knot and an AD found adult Mediterranean Gull.
I worked Friday and Saturday in the thick of Autumn reporting, envious of the newly found Isabelline Shrike of the 'Daurian' race L i isabellinus in Hampshire and happy we got it out as a possible ahead of confirmation after pictures, rather than the slightly more cynical alternative of Red-backed Shrike that the competition ran with without any evidence.
Sunday, 12 September 2010
1. 10000birds - said it before but it's worth repeating, the benchmark in bird blogging. Kings of content, conservation champions and clever writers, 10k never lets me down.
2. Martin Garner - right now MG's new blog is essential reading, good images and insightful, useful ID comment from a knowledgable UK birder. If you want to find birds this is one to follow.
3. Jos Stratford - I find myself dipping in to Jos's archives regularly right now, great images from Lithuania, an endless supply of trip reports from great locations and an enthusiastic interest in butterflies and dragonflies, what more could you want.
4. Reservoir Cats - funny, edgy, dangerous, subversive, don't take yourself too seriously or Mr White will take you to town.
5. Laura Kammermeier - my favourite female blogger, birder and avid social media commentator, LK writes with intelligence and insight into two of my favourite subjects, occasionally takes a mean photo too.
6. Chris Gibbins - I couldn't not include a gull blogger and Chris is about as good as they get; if you like lots of gull eye candy to drool over this is the blog for you
7. Wanstead Birder - banker turned birder 'Jono' Lethbridge has a dry style that won't be everyone's cup of tea, but I empathise with his circumstances and I want his column in Birdwatch.
8. Not Quite Scilly - Gavin Haig has been on a bit of a hiatus recently but he's back and lost none of his wit and self-deprecating humour, he's a patch birder so he has the moral high ground.
9. Stuck in a Rutt - ex-Birdguides teaboy, has now been deported to Scotland; Steve's posts are crafted rather than written and you can sense there's a bright light shining behind the balding brow
10. Birding Mongolia - love the pictures and every time I go here, I want to go there, there can't be many birders in Mongolia so drop by and keep Axel company
Saturday, 11 September 2010
Wednesday, 8 September 2010
My first site north of Newbiggin proved entirely fruitless apart from a couple of Meadow Pipit, so I headed for the golf course, accessing from the north and began to check the bushes at the north end of the dunes figuring most people concentrate on the south end. Two Common Redstart and a couple of Common Whitethroat later I moved down toward the Ash Lagoon Banks, more Redstart including a couple of males, Spotted Flycatcher and several Willow Warbler. Two Wheatear out on the golf course to the north and the sun was dropping.
I headed south to Woodhorn and managed a 1st-winter Pied Flycatcher along the railway line but again in poor light things were quiet. A quick look along the Spital Burn road turned up a little surprise with three Common Swift hawking over the allotments with a few Swallows. These are probably my latest ever Common Swift in Northumberland and possibly my first in September.
Friday, 3 September 2010
It would appear that separation, even in the hand, is a little tricky, very little in the biometrics. However in my opinion once you take some of the circumstantial and behavioural evidence into account it's patently obvious this current wave of Lap Bunt is of North American origin. European Lapland Buntings come over and melt away into the background, happy to settle in a stubble field they are unobtrusive and this behaviour helps them blend in with the locals. These latest invaders have turned up in their hordes and are really showy, obvious and in your face, some might say typically American. Take the four that went through Newton early this morning without stopping, classic American behaviour, visit Edin-bro and then straight down south for a little shopping, theatre and the White Cliffs of Dover.
Obviously without ringing recoveries my theory will remain just that. Despite positioning myself and the kids due south of Newton this morning, as we walked the classic Craster to Dunstanburgh path, we managed to hit on virtually the only Lapland Bunting free stretch of coastline in Britain. Every overflying Linnet was scrutinised for signs of Yank Lap potential but the peak of our combined bird finding abilities was a male White Wagtail about 500m south of the castle; subsequently flushed by two of my foam sword wielding offspring. Arnold's Reserve at Craster and the old quarry car park was awash with calling Chiffchaff but the kids were more interested in the profusion of unpicked Blackberries, a large quantity of which are now residing in our kitchen.
The kids asleep I'm left to ponder what we might try not seeing tomorrow.
Wednesday, 1 September 2010
Eventually I remembered it was September and given the various non-birding commitments involving weddings etc coming late in the month I decided to go for it.
First stop for some unknown reason was the car park at QE2, I'm not sure what the hell I thought I was going to find and after a quick tot up of the car park Pied Wags (19) I moved on to Woodhorn. Remnants of last night's warbler frenzy clung on if a little sluggishly with the temperature at 10c, 3 Whitethroat, 3 Blackcap and a Chiffchaff. I'd had a brief chat with Uncle Jim last night whilst I was out and he had suggested that the Ash Lagoon banks were always a good bet in the morning, not that I really needed anything to add to the huge sense of hope that always builds up whenever I pick my way through the recently dumped children's toys/hoovers/carpets/mattresses (delete as applicable) that greet the casual visitor east of Newbiggin Mound as you access the Golf Course.
By the time I'd left the first bank-side scrub with the dizzy heights of Meadow Pipit and five Linnets the sum total of 15 minutes staring at the bushes, the hope was beginning to dissipate. I rounded the first gorse patch and flushed two Common Whitethroat from the recently burnt branches around the bend.
The first ten minutes were bird free and my thoughts drifted to the sea, I could see a procession of close in Gannets passing a short distance away over the golf course. I turned back to see a Whitethroat, a second and then a third began to zip around the bramble, before long I'd counted six. With a little action my focus was back on the scrub and a movement had me looking at this..
Pale grey and obviously chunkier than the Whitethroat, pinky base to the bill, it kept itself to itself and remained stubbornly difficult to get good clear views of, at least for half an hour. It did eventually reveal itself completely, though the views in the first three or four minutes were enough to pin it down as a juvenile Barred Warbler, a rather nice addition to my Self-Found List and a fine bird to get September started.
News out promptly to give others the opportunity, I had what I thought was an acrocephalus shoot across from behind me into the scrub. Tail in the air revealing streaked undertail left me puzzled for a short while, it popped back out again (see below) to reveal itself as a Grasshopper Warbler.
Out of time I had a cursory glance at the mound, a couple of Common Darter and two Speckled Wood were sunning themselves in the shady glades. A Chiffchaff through the garden as I cooked tea tonight rounded the day off nicely.