Tuesday, 26 February 2013

North Shields Fish Quay 26th February

A trip to the dentists at Cramlington provided us with an opportunity to visit North Shields Fish Quay to get our teeth into some winter gulls and more specifically a widely reported Glaucous Gull seen in the area over the last few days.Once we arrived it didn't take long to pick out a  pale gull on the shed roofs, its white wing tips,dark tipped bill and bulky shape proved to be the target of our trip, a very smart looking juvenile Glaucous Gull. Also of note were a number of Turnstones on the shed roofs and a Cormorant of the type "sinensis"
Ian and Keith

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Branton Ponds 23rd February

A cold grey day at Branton but at least no large deposits of snow.The west pond at Branton was very quiet but the east pond held good numbers of ducks including 5 Goldeneye,1 Gadwall,50+ Wigeon and 20+ Teal.The Kingfishers were also present ,1 in a bay near the hide and a second bird at the east end of the pond.The walk was rounded off when a strident nasal call brought to my attention a very smart Willow Tit.
Ian and Keith.

Sightings from the Coquet estuary and about

Having just joined the group this is a retrospective blog of recent activity.
After a quiet winter in Alnmouth Bay, on  Thursday 14th Feb there were 11 red-throated divers -one of the highest numbers I have seen in 5 winters. There is now regularly a small flock of purple sandpipers at Birling Carr rocks with 4 on the 14th.
Common  scoters have only been in small numbers this winter (compared with 1000 + in 2011) but again on the 14th there was a raft of 80 + birds off Bamburgh.
Last Sunday, out for a walk with family along Warkworth beach, we saw 180+ wigeon just off-shore. These birds will almost certainly have been disturbed in the Coquet estuary -their usual wintering area.
Walking through the Pond Meadow at Howick Hall on Monday 18th Feb I disturbed 10 grey herons that had been standing amongst the rushes. They rose and circled above the Scots Pines lining the pond. These pines are used for nesting.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Branton Ponds 19th February

Almost 95% ice coverage of the ponds gave the ideal opportunity to do a count of the various birds on the ponds, the list is as follows-Mallard(48),Teal(45),Shelduck(5),Coot(19),Wigeon(56),Tufted Duck(37),Oystercatcher(24),Goldeneye(11),Goosander(3),Mute Swan(2),Cormorant(3),Moorhen(3),Snipe(4),Black Headed Gull(81),Common Gull(5).
Also of note were 6 Redwings and a Stoat in full ermine.
Ian and Keith

Monday, 18 February 2013

Bittern-sweet at Cresswell Pond 18th February

Half term and a few hours to spare gave me the chance to stake out Cresswell Pond for the Bittern which we missed by five minutes on Sunday. A full hide looked promising, however after two hours of waiting I was left by myself and still no sign of the bird,I decided to have one more sweep with the scope then head off to pastures new.Whilst scanning the reeds something black and shiny caught my attention,it was an eye,this soon became a long dagger like bill and there it was a Bittern in it's incredibly cryptic plumage.It was half hidden by foliage ,a typical view, however not for long as for the next ten minutes it stepped out and skulked up and down the edge of the reedbed,Luckily two birders from Manchester came in and it held us all enthralled until like a ghost it merged back into the reeds.
 A gloriously calm & sunny day saw a huge flock c 3500  Pinkfeet (at 3.0p.m.) enjoying this fine weather - grazing, resting & drinking from puddles  - in a pasture field immediately adjacent to Doddington. Using the car as a hide, (parked in an unofficial lay-by on the Wooler side of the speed restriction signs), wonderfully close views could be obtained. However,  geese are notoriously wary & sadly their sojourn was disturbed by 4 walkers who, whilst also admiring them, came far too close & up went the geese. They flew towards Nesbit and Fenton still in view but very much more distant, here they joined even more smaller groups of geese. The total estimate was nearer 4000 geese! If trying to view these magnificent birds then caution is the word, there are very sensitive and need peace to feed up for their return migration.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Langleeford Hope

Tempted out by the spring-like warmth and glorious sunshine today, Alison and I ventured up the Harthope Valley as far as the 'Hope', the twin peaks of Hedghope and Cheviot providing a magnificent snow-capped backdrop. A few coal tits, great tits, and blue tits were calling in the woods, and a couple of robins  sang their  melancholy little song, but generally the valley was still quiet- the birds are not so daft when it comes to telling the difference between a fine day and the arrival of Spring! One exception we did encounter, a couple of hardy Mistle Thrushes, possibly already holding territory- they are one of our earliest nesters.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

A delayed report of sightings (from Tues.12th Feb) but if anyone in the north of the county wishes to try their luck these birds are likely still to be there: Hirsel Lake: 22 Goldeneye, 32 Goosander (1 Kingfisher) amongst others. South bank of the River Tweed, between Cornhill & Wark: a herd of c150 Whooper Swans.


A brief drop in to Druridge Countryside Park yesterday looking for Smew turned up three beautiful Waxwings instead, sitting in a young Alder tree growing along the little stream which feeds into the western end of the lake. Stunning in the afternoon light.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Over the Garden Wall

A cacophony of sound greeted me as I opened the door this morning-Pink Footed Geese ,just over the garden wall settling in for a good feed on the adjacent pasture.Binocs,Scope,camera at the ready I crouched behind the wall to count them-between  1800 and 2000!Suddenly our farmer neighbour on his quad bike arrived to feed the sheep and in a moment they were gone again,protesting their way towards the Milfield Plain in search of a more peaceful location.
At almost the same time a pair of Grey Partridge exploded from behind the wall where they had been feeding out of my view.
Later,on the feeders,8 Long Tailed Tits were feasting on the fat,probably some of the 16 spotted earlier in our woodland.They were soon seen off by 3 Tree Sparrows ,hopefully their return  signalling their intention of nesting in our boxes once again !

Thursday, 7 February 2013

'Spring is just around the corner!'

7th February 2013

As the countryside paths were so wet under foot we decided to have a walk along Berwick Pier, the Little Beach & along the walls.  The weather was fine, with very little wind,  the sea state was very rough.  As we set off along the pier we had good views of Redshanks, Turnstones & Oystercatchers frantically feeding on the tide line, a Goosander flew in to the estuary, several Eiders & Cormorants  were feeding in the heavy seas, on reaching the end of the pier, a Shag could be seen showing its crest as it ‘Surfed the waves’ beside a Grey Seal.  We did not stay long as the surf was beginning to crash over the pier.
Along the Little Beach, Sanderlings scurried along the tide line in their typical ‘clockwork motion’,  3 Purple Sandpipers were beside numerous Turnstones, Rock Pipits & Pied Wagtails on the seaweed.  Strangely, no Ringed Plovers were present,  what was surprising was the large numbers of Rock Pipits along the whole length of the Little Beach.  We continued our walk along the Berwick Walls, several Black-headed Gulls in full breeding plumage were seen,  the spring song of the Great Tit was heard from nearby bushes as well as a flock of Goldfinches. On the River Tweed  were several ‘Rafts’ of Goldeneye,  mostly males outnumbering the females by about 5 to 1! Several males were beginning to display by nodding their heads & flapping their wings. As we approached the road bridge, swimming with the Goldeneye were 3 Long-tailed Ducks, 2 females & a magnificent male.   On the river bank on the Tweedmouth side beside the resident Mute Swans was a Canada Goose.
It was a pleasant leisurely walk, & we were pleasantly surprised with our bird list which is as follows:

Dunlin, Blue Tit, Turnstone, Shag, Sanderling, Cormorant, Rock Pipits,
Long-tailed Duck, Purple Sandpipers, Goldeneye, Redshank, Mallard Oystercatcher, Gooseander, Black-headed Gull, Kestrel, House Sparrow, Mute Swan, Great Tit. Feral Pigeon, Robin, Wood Pigeon, Blackbird, Canada Goose, Starling, Herring Gull,  Goldfinch. Great-.black Backed Gull, Carrion Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, Grey Heron, & Pied Wagtail

Submitted by ‘Lowick Linnet’ & ‘Eyemouth Eagle’

A record for our garden!

Today: attracted by Niger seed  - spilt on ground from feeder -  7 Bramblings, increased from 3.                   Also, 2 Redpolls, 17 Goldfinches & 8 Siskins joined them. On fat block were 3 Tree Sparrows. All male birds showing resplendent breeding plumage!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Branton Ponds 6th February

Even though the wind was strong and cold ,Branton Ponds held a good number of birds today,the most numerous were Wigeon but there were also smaller numbers of Teal and Mallard.
On the East Pond 3 male Goldeneye displayed to any female willing to watch and a small mixed group of 12 Goosander floated by watched from the island by a group of 3 Cormorants one
of them showing the distinctive white head pattern of the continental race "sinensis".
Ian and Keith

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Holy Island and environs

Today, with visiting Teesmouth Bird Club (26 pairs of eyes & ears), we marvelled at a hunting Barn Owl devouring prey; 2 far off Short-eared Owls quartering the northern dunes;  c150 Teal dabbling in & around the Rocket Pool; 80-100 Curlew enjoying feeding in nearby very wet ground;  small parties of Brent Geese moved over the same puddled pastures at whim. 3 Long-tailed duck flew out of sight over the sea whilst yesterday's drake remained in the causeway channel. Other waders included Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Lapwing, & Redshank. Moving on, we sighted  c200 Barnacle Geese grazing in a far off field from Harpers Heugh. At Budle Bay c1.500 Pinkfeet were seen flying over the north shore, c200 Knot were present on the mud flats in addition to a variety of usual duck, gulls and usual other waders. At Stag (Harkess) Rocks, it is worth reporting there were no Purple Sandpipers - their usual stronghold! However, from there small groups of Common Scoter, numbering 16 in total, could be seen. Also 2 Harbour Porpoises were ID'd.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

A visit to Holy Island

On our way to Holy Island, Alison and I passed by the field near Doddington where thirteen Whooper Swans (including two immature birds) have taken up residence. A walk along the cycle path on the far side of Doddington Bridge took us past some little flocks of buntings, predominantly Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers, towards the unmistakable sound of the Pink-footed Geese. What a spectacle, what a sound, as more and more whiffle down from the sky to join the others, massed in their thousands at their traditional wintering grounds in Glendale.
Holy Island, with its promise of an ‘elusive’ Cattle Egret, lived up to that promise- i.e. it eluded us on arrival and departure, having also managed to elude several other hopeful birders we met on our visit. There are plenty of hiding places in the ditch and other ‘blind’ areas for this unmistakable beauty to disappear around its temporary home along the Crooked Lonnen.  Luckily there were plenty other birds to lighten up our day, including four Slavonian Grebes, a couple of Red-throated Divers, and a Short-eared Owl hunting along the sheltered southern side of the Heugh, trying like us to avoid the bitter northerly wind. Twenty-one Pale-bellied Brent Geese were gathered together in a tidal pool east of the Castle, and Lapwings, Curlews and Teal were showing to advantage in the Rocket Pool, catching the winter sunshine. Two more Short-eared Owls were encountered on our drive back from the village, and a close view of a Long-tailed Duck in the Causeway Channel was a final bonus.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Birds in Our Garden

Don't all rush to see them but today we had 21 Siskins, 5 Bramblings, 1 Lesser Redpoll, 15 Goldfinches all  around our Niger Seed feeder  in addition to other more general garden birds. Is more cold weather coming?!