Monday, 29 July 2013

A week on Speyside

It seems strange when you say it was almost too hot in Scotland but it was, this seemed to have an effect on the wildlife as some species were in short supply, however the birds that did appear were all quality and a side effect was the almost total absence of midges.
We visited a number of sites,Loch Garten produced Ospreys, Crossbills(could they be Scottish?) and
Crested Tits. A visit to Lochindorb was not without incident,we spotted a pair of Red Throated Divers very close to shore, I managed one distant record shot and moved closer, when only about 30 yards away they began their territorial snake dance and rose right out of the water,it was at this point the camera battery decided to expire and the spare was back at the cottage. Whilst there we also noted their bigger cousins , a pair of Black Throated Divers and for good measure a hunting Osprey flew over.
The Northern Corries and in particular the Coire-an-t- Sneachda produced the next photographic disaster, I had just finished taking shots of a female Ptarmigan with some very small chicks and we sat down for lunch when a juvenile Snow Bunting landed at our feet and proceeded to check out our rucksacks in the panin we for got about the camera and by the time we remembered it had flown down the mountainside.
Our last main trip was up the Findhorn Valley looking for raptors, as with other sites they were lacking in numbers, but we did manage brief views of a Golden Eagle before it flapped it's wings and headed off across the moor.
All in all a great trip and a one which never disappoints.
Ian and Keith

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Spotted Sandpiper

I joined the gaggle of birders and scopes perched high above the Foxton Bends of the River Aln near Alnmouth this afternoon to see a rare vagrant from the other side of the Atlantic- a Spotted Sandpiper- only the third record of this species for the county.(It's similar in size and behaviour to our Common Sandpiper.) Travelling further down the coast to East Chevington, there were many more interesting waders gathered on the exposed mud (following the recent hot dry spell.) In front of the hide, there were least three Knots and a Curlew Sandpiper still sporting much of their summer breeding colours. Many Dunlins were also probing in the soft mud; they still had their distinctive black belly patches.Over to the right, a Wood Sandpiper periodically came out from the edge of the reeds; a solitary Green Sandpiper over to the left rarely left the comparative safety of the reedy shore.Did I mention the Little Tern.......... or the Little Egret.........or the low flying Sea-King Helicopter which spooked everything up into the air? The waders were undoubtedly the stars today!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Spot Flies

  The garden has fallen strangely silent today as our pair of Spotted Flycatchers led their newly fledged youngsters away to the edge of the wood as they usually do. How we'll miss their scolding 'sweee-chh-chh' warning calls whenever we venture into the garden. Like many migrants this year, they arrived later than usual because of the cold Spring and didn't settle down to nest in the creeper on the south side of the house until at least the middle of June. During the recent sunny weather they have continuously perched on the roof of the birdhouse.....or the back of a garden chair.... or indeed any other vantage point from where they can sally forth to gather insects for their brood. They have nested in the garden every summer for the last twenty years or so, except last year, when the cold wet summer seemed to defeat them.
Click the following link to watch a short video (48 seconds)of the Spot Flies          Meanwhile our even later broods of House Martins are filling their mud nests to breaking point, and the recently fledged Swallows still come back to roost next to the nest in the porch above the front door each night. Must be summer.

Three Highlights:
*Yesterday, 17th July 2013, 2 Red Kites flew lazily northward and slightly inland of the coast at Beadnell Bay, ( this relatively rare sighting of Red Kites in Northumberland will be reported to Friends of Red Kites who monitor sightings after a release of this species in the N.E. some 8 yrs ago).
*This evening, c 30 Swifts, screaming in delight at the perfect weather to display their antics at full speed over the rooftops, where several are know to breed annually, but flying too fast for an accurate count.
*Farne Islands' birds: huge numbers of Puffins ( c55,000), record numbers of Razor Bills, together with Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Shags and a fine selection of Tern & Gull species are currently fledging thousands of juveniles as their breeding season has passed half-way, but it is not too late to visit in these perfect weather conditions.
Oh, and the visiting Bridled Tern is back there again.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Sunset sighting!

A chance encounter leads us to report a steady, seemingly endless, stream of approx 1,500 Corvids, many being Jackdaws, heading for their night roost at the 'Plantation', near Wooler, at 20.45hrs this evening. A Sparrowhawk was also present, keeping an eye out for a weary bird at the edge of the flock!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Newton Point 11th July

Newton Point 11th July
An evening visit to Newton Point for a spot of seawatching was worthwhile as we watched a steady stream of Gannets heading north, they totalled well over 200 birds .Also tagging along were 23 Manx Shearwaters some of them gliding in very close to the shore, a single Arctic Skua harried the many Arctic and Common Terns fishing just offshore. Our visit ended with a walk along to Low Newton where we noted 3 Whimbrel on the rocks. 

Noisy Youngsters

Noisy Youngsters
Our next door neighbour kept telling us that she thought an Owl was roosting on her roof, this was confirmed when it floated down on silent wings onto her lawn and showed itself to be a Tawny Owl.
We were sitting watching t.v when we noticed an Owl hunting in the garden, as dusk fell the air was filled with a squeaky call which sounded like PSEE-ep, we recognised it as the begging call of a young Tawny Owl, on going outside we could see the culprits, as 2 young Tawny's sat on the ridge tiles begging for food. This went on for some time even after we had gone to bed, it was great lying there listening to them knowing the were calling from just outside our windows. 

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

A Tern up for the books

A Tern up for the books
The scene - the bird news channels show that a rare Bridled Tern had turned up on Inner Farne and we were too late for the boat, however a boat was being organised for the following morning, so we booked up.
The next morning saw us with about 40 others from as far away as London by the harbour wall at Seahouses ready to board our 6.00 am boat to paradise. Word had come from the island that it was still there, the tension mounted as the 20 minute crossing seemed to take hours. On our arrival we were greeted by head warden David Steele, who informed us that the bird was showing well next to the jetty,cue a mass exodus from the boat which began to list at an alarming angle. For the next 15 minutes all of the stress was worth while as we enjoyed great views of this supremely elegant dark grey and white bird, after a while it disappeared further over the island, at this point we got onto the boat and headed back happy to the mainland and were home for 8.30 am, just in time for breakfast,then out with the dog around Branton Ponds where you've guessed it a Tern was flying over the water, but due to the poor views we would have to put it down as a "comic" Tern , just proves that the early bird really does catch the worm.