Tuesday, 30 April 2013

A Tern up for the books

A Tern up for the books
A quiet evening walk around the ponds at Branton with the dog was changed instantly when I noticed a Tern flying around the east pond hawking for insects.As stupidly I was bin-less I rushed home with the dog and came back suitably equiped.Fortunately the bird was still there,from the light bouncy flight ,limited black on primaries,short blood red bill and long tail streamers,I realised it was an Arctic Tern,a first for the ponds and a long way inland.I stood there with Hugh Tindle for about 30 minutes as it flew about sometimes chased by Black Headed Gulls,I realised the extremes of birding,two weeks ago the ponds produced a real winter visitor in Iceland Gull and this week a real summer visitor in Arctic Tern.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Whiteadder Point 26th

Couple of hours on the Whiteadder (New Mills-Whiteadder Point) between 9:00 and 11:00 (26th April) in cold SW'ly.

First Swifts of the season (2 singles).
Numerous Sand Martin (some of which seemed to be doing a reccy on the sand cliff which is normally used for nesting but which retreated about a good metre in the Winter after collapsing).
Many Swallow in with Sand Martins.
Pair Whinchat (first I have seen at this location).
Flock of 20 Pied Wagtail moving around fields accompanied by 6 Yellow Wagtail, as well as about 10 Meadow Pipits and the odd Chaffinch.
At least 6 Wheatear.
300 or so Wood Pigeon all up together over New Mills Wood (behind the caravans).
Whitethroat in New Mills Wood.
On return home, 3 Siskin on feeders in garden, followed by the unwanted and unloved Brown Rat.


Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Evening stroll

Evening walk with dogs along the Whiteadder at New Mills.

First Whitethroat of the season and close-up views of Sand Martin and Swallow. Best of all was excellent views of Barn Owl.

On way home, three Bullfinch. Beats Coronation Street.


( Almost) Crossing in mid-air!

Incoming migrants arrive: Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Common Sandpiper, Redstart, all 3 sp. hirundines seen in Hulne park, Alnwick, on Sunday 21st;  whilst winter visitors remain: 18 lesser Redpolls, 1 male Brambling today, (reduced from 7 on Apr 16th - mixed gender); and up to 45 Chaffinches & 12 Siskins at feeding station in Yearle garden recently.

7 Cranes, clearly viewed, flying W.N.W. on Monday 22nd April halfway between Eglingham  & Alnwick. (Apparently cranes were also recently reported further south  - ? the same birds).

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Along Ross Sands yesterday morning/early afternoon (20th). Still some winter visitors hanging-on: Slavonian Grebe (now in almost complete breeding plumage); four Red-throated Divers (three of which were well on the way to developing breeding plumage); a dozen Sanderling.

Summer visitors: Blackcap (male and the first of the season for me); numerous Sandwich Terns and odd Gannet well offshore. Also had my best views of Swallow so far this Spring.

On way back to car spotted four big white things with black wing tips. They were quite some distance away and toward the Kyloe area. Ruminated on whether they were Snow Goose (white morphs). Just then text message came in telling me that there were four Snow Goose (white morph) spotted at East Chevington and heading north. That was 2:30 and I received the message at 3:15 just as the geese were disappearing out of sight. So that's about 25 miles (if they flew along the coast) in 45 minutes.

Back home via Bradford Kaims where the reported Pectoral Sandpiper was spotted.



From a field ringing with the calls of Pink Footed Geese last week,and 15 Redwing feeding on the pasture whilst sheltering from the howling gales on Wednesday,Thursday produced one Wheatear also near our house.A walk  up College Valley on Friday was rewarded with House Martin,Swallows,Chiffchaff ,Willow Warbler, a pair of magnificently gaudy Grey Wagtails ,more Wheatear and a Tawny Owl.Driving past Routin  Linn yesterday a female Redstart flew across the road.What will next week bring?

Thursday, 18 April 2013

More signs of Spring

Last Friday there were no hirundines around Branton Ponds ,what a difference a week makes.Today the ever increasing numbers of Sand Martins and Swallows were joined by at least 10 House Martins,Common Sandpipers patrolled the waters edge but even better was whilst scanning a small flock of Meadow Pipits we came across a very dapper looking Yellow Wagtail.
Spring may have been held back by the bad weather of past weeks,but it has now burst onto the scene like a cork removed from a botle of champagne.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Wet Wednesday

An early morning walk in wet conditions around Branton Ponds was enlivened by a sudden influx of Willow Warblers together with 50+ Sand Martins and maybe a dozen Swallows.
The rest of the morning was spent doing a bird survey at Kimmer Lough where Snipe,Woodcock,Skylark and Meadow Pipits were joined by a very smart but early female Pied Flycatcher.    

It's an ill wind...............

Ferocious high winds yesterday brought the unexpected bonus of a large number of birds seeking food and refuge in the garden, including a pair of Blackcaps feeding on the fat block. Back came the bramblings and siskins to be joined by a trio of colourful redpolls.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Tweed and Whiteadder

About 30+ Sand Martin just below Canty's Brig on the Whiteadder on Sunday (13th).
Marsh Tit seen again in New Mills in almost exactly the same place (near cauld in New Mills Wood) as the last sighting but no sign of nest.

On Monday morning on the Tweed below Horncliffe had something of a turn-up for the books: 6 Dunlin and 10 Common Sandpiper. Also single Great Crested Grebe that I think has been along this stretch for some months now.

Had report of male Scaup at West Ord but not seen by me. Same locality had 4 Whooper Swan on Sunday.


Monday, 15 April 2013

Spring at Branton

Saturday evening saw us walking around Branton Ponds with the dog,2 Pochard were on the East pond along with a single Great Crested Grebe.On reaching the West pond we met George Dodds who said he had just seen some hirundines,at that moment we were treated to a fly past by several Sand Martins,2 Swallows and a single House Martin,surely a sign that spring is finally here. On a non ornithilogical note Saturday also produced 7 Adders and 2 Slow-worms.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Spring is here!

Currently in a cottage near Kendal ,Cumbria where our companions are a pair of Barn Owls whose hissing is intermittently heard as they try to discourage intruding Jackdaws.The highlight on a short walk this afternoon once the torrential rain stopped however was -5 Swallows!!

What a surprise - Too Early?

Webs day and nothing outstanding along the lower Coquet or Castles Dyke ( 14 shellduck and some wigeon still here). On to the Alnmouth core count (shared with Tom Cadwallender) and there at 14.45, above Birling Carr and flying along the cliff line.. - a swallow. For the Webs count 14 common scoter, 2 red throated diver and a gannet flying through.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Call of the Wild

A milder morning found me tempted back up the Harthope Valley early in the morning for third time this week in search of a special bird which returns to the rocky gullies and heather slopes around this time of the year. I could already hear the clear call of a Mistle Thrush ringing out from the hillside, Meadow Pipits were indulging in their beautiful little parachute displays (calling as they descend) and the Red Grouse were scolding 'Go back, go back' but these were not the main object of my quest. I headed steadily upwards, climbing further into the hills. After half an hour or so, a new clear call beckoned me ever further up the valley; there he was at last- a beautiful male Ring Ouzel singing his sweet song from the bare branches of a little Rowan Tree. Let Spring begin!

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Iceland Gull

A walk around Branton Ponds at about 5pm saw me checking the large gulls, amongst them there was a very pale bird which on closer inspection, surprisingly, turned out to be an Iceland Gull. From my views it was a 2nd winter, but it didn't stay and flew off to the east in company with Herring & Lesser Black Backed Gulls.


Spring trying to break through around Low Cocklaw. Chiffchaffs now seem well esablished with singing heard every day since last Thursday (4th) - 20 days later than usual.

Big influx of approx 50+ Blackbird on Sunday (7th) with many of them still obvious in nearby New Mills Wood and in hedgerows.

Increased number of Woodcock about.

Similar signs of migration with 3 Red-breasted Merganser on Whiteadder at Cawderstanes.

Yellowhammer singing every day now.

Still getting good numbers of Tree Sparrow in local hedgerows.

Despite all this phenology, it still doesn't seem like we're a third of the way through April.


Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Chiff Chaff Update

Walking around Branton Ponds this morning I was pleased to hear then see my first ChiffChaff of the year. It was in the scrub between the East pond & the river which is always a good area for them, hence the reason I was paying attention. Normally they are on site around the 22nd March. Further along the path I came across 2 more birds, so 3 Chiff Chaff began the day well. Only one question, is it one or two words ?

Friday, 5 April 2013

Desperately Seeking Spring!

Desperate to hear my first Chiff Chaff of 2013 ,on Saturday 30th  March, on a beautiful morning I got up early and headed out to feed the Sheep and the Chickens with great expectations!My first and only notable sighting was 50 Pink Footed Geese noisily coming in to feed on the adjoining field!Presumably they have so far received no clues that it's time they were off  to their breeding grounds!
Sunday ,another fine day,saw me up the Harthope Valley where snow still lay deep in parts making it impossible to use the usual parking spots.Surely there would be some sign of Spring up there?It was not to be- my main sighting being a dozen resplendent Siskin near Langleeford Hope!
Tuesday, and I was off up the new College Valley Path,where I had some wonderful close up sightings of Jays,a party of Long Tailed Tits and again Siskin.A Mistle Thrush was in fine voice from the slopes of the Tors while a Song Thrush vied for the best songster prize from the woodland around the Cuddystone Hall.On the way home near Howtel a Merlin dashed out of the hedge,flew low in front of the car for a short distance before disappearing through the hedge again.
Wednesday- another beautiful morning and it was off again via Kyloe  ,Detchant Park and Holburn Moss.A perfect day and habitat to hear that Chiff Chaff!Not to be !However an excellent view of a Woodcock was not to be taken lightly and the Skylarks were in good voice.The new pond by St Cuthbert's Way was resounding with the sound of Black Headed Gulls preparing to nest on the island while  a miserable looking Heron was gazing into the water .Over at the pond at Holburn Moss ,we saw 2 Grey Lag Geese,Mallard,and more Black Headed Gulls.
Yellow Hammer were in full song on the way back down to Holburn and on returning to the car we saw a Buzzard carrying a large twig in its talons ,heading for Kyloe Woods.
Where are the Chiff Chaffs?

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Alnmouth Bay

This afternoon a walk from Birling Carr to the Aln estuary along the beach and then back through the links produced no wheatear but sadly another three dead puffins.
We saw: 32 common scoters, two kestrels, two shelduck, seven curlew, a pair of stonechat, seventeen mute swans, 39 whooper swans, twenty goldfinch, six linnets, two blackbirds, a robin and two displaying and singing skylark.
No plants in flower.
I have known this stretch of the coast on and off for nearly thirty years and so have seen changes in the nature of the beach but the onshore winds over the last three weeks with spring tides have produced dramatic new features. There has been a lot of dune face erosion but the most interesting effect has been the scouring away of sand revealing large areas of sandstone around Birling Carr. The rectilinear jointing pattern makes the rock platforms seem as if the council had been laying new pavements.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Holy Island

On a walk around the Island today, we sadly saw evidence of the puffin wrecks with two dead birds in Cove Haven. On a more optimistic note two female wheatears were on the wall in The Links area. Other sitings were a pair of meadow pipits chasing each other across the dunes and two singing skylarks. 
No new plant life was showing but the carline thistles looked splendid

Foolish Canadas

A walk around Branton Ponds this a.m. with 50% ice cover saw the waterbirds packed in together. This obviously led to 2 of the Canada Goose flock having a noisy & violent  confrontation. The more submissive participant being loathe to leave the flock used surprising tactics. When attacked it would dive below the water, and fully submerged pop up 10 yards away, much to the consternation of the attacker. Meanwhile the 17 Goldeneye oblivious to the commotion continued their display.