Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Birding home and away

Birding home and away
The day got off to a really good start when 9 Grey Partridge appeared in our garden, they ran and jumped about in typical gamebird manner but stayed still long enough for a few photos through the kitchen window. After breakfast we headed off to Stag Rock to look for a Bonepartes Gull reported yesterday, after a scan around the lighthouse we headed off towards Budle Point. Just offshore from the sandy spit were a group of Black Headed Gulls feeding, one bird was smaller and showed an all grey nape and head. On getting the scope onto this bird we realised it was the Bonepartes Gull, a dainty little bird with a black bill, a grey mantle,a dark cheek patch,limited black on the primaries and pale pink legs. What a delicate looking bird to have flown all the way from North America.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Garden visitor

Garden visitor
I was sitting at the computer this morning with a feather in hand looking at a bird book and mulling over emarginations, luckily at this point my attention was drawn to a commotion outside and a thump as a large bird hit the window. As I looked at the powder impression left on the glass I noticed a juvenile Sparrowhawk perched in a tree just outside, it was quite recently fledged and still had a number of white feathers on it's mantle and wings. After a short rest it flew off, later in the morning my attention was drawn to Wrens and a Robins making a real racket down the garden, I was expecting a cat but there on the hedge was the juvenile Sparrowhawk looking very subdued, it must have flown into another window as it remained there some time, long enough for me to get one or two photos before it flew off. Many people would not be pleased to see such a bird in their garden, but as the top avian predator I think it is a privilege and shows a healthy population of small birds.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Foray North of the Border

A rare opportunity to finally catch up with a new species  saw me visiting a wonderful little marshy pool in the Eastern Borders at the invitation of the landowner, where we saw more than twenty Common Snipe and three of their relatives, the elusive Jack Snipe. The latter, smaller and much shorter-billed winter visitors from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, rarely break cover until the very last moment when they fly up silently and quickly take cover again, unlike the Common Snipe (which invariably call as they zigzag wildly into the air). An unexpected and slightly bizarre bonus came in the form of an Arctic Skua circling over the site, a few miles inland from the coast.
     Earlier in the day, I managed to catch up at last with the Sardinian Warbler at the Mire Loch, St Abbs, where it has been entertaining ( or frustrating) visiting birders since the end of September. There were many other migrants passing through including Chiffchaffs, Blackbirds, Redwings, and a goodly number of Blackcaps. In the warm sunshine I enjoyed listening to a Yellow-browed Warbler, which was calling from a particularly dense area of vegetation along the western edge of the loch, but it never broke cover while I was there. Must stray across the Border more often!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Aberlady Bay

NNBC Field Trip to Aberlady Bay

Saturday 5th October 2013

Thirteen members of the NNBC met at Aberlady Bay for a walk on the reserve, hoping to see the large numbers of Pink-footed Geese that arrive in large numbers to winter on the mudflats, we were not disappointed! Just beside the wooden footbridge, a Little Egret was feeding, Wigeon, Teal, Curlew, Shelduck & Redshank were on the mudflats,  a good start to the day!  As we crossed the footbridge, we could hear the constant ‘wink wink’ calls of Pinkfeet flying randomly on the reserve. Apparently a total in the region of 10,000 had been present earlier in the week.  We continued to walk across the reserve; one could notice the Sea-Buckthorn bushes were covered in berries, great feeding for the arrival of the winter thrushes! All of a sudden 3,000 Pinkfeet took to the air. It was a marvellous sight, & sound, perhaps disturbed by an unknown predator.  On arrival at Gullane Point the group had the chance to sea-watch, an Arctic Skua (dark phased.) passed near to the shore, rafts of Common Scoter  & several Velvet Scoter were close in & gave excellent views A Stonechat sang nearby, Eider Ducks (adults & young) rode the surf, in the distance, a flight of Knot wound its way across the rocks in characteristic formation & a Sandwich Tern flew past low over the sea. On our return to Aberlady a Kestrel hovered motionless over the dunes; also seen were a flock of Long-tailed Tits, Linnet, Coal Tit & Reed Bunting.  From the wooden bridge at the car park a further 3 Little Egrets were seen, & in the distance 6 Redwing flew over the mudflats & across the main road a Great -spotted Woodpecker was seen in one of the nearby trees.  After some well earned refreshments in the village, the group visited the HQ of the Scottish Ornithological Club to view an exhibition of paintings by local artists.  It was now about an hour before sunset, time to wait for the arrival of incoming Pinkfeet to roost on the mudflats,  Right on cue, at least 3,000 flew overhead, & joined the main group of 5,000 + an awesome sight!  The sunset was  to say the least spectacular with all the different shades of colour in the decreasing sunlight.  An excellent day out, highly recommended!

Monday, 14 October 2013

A Great Day out on the Coast!

Plans for a spot of birding on Sunday looked glum weather wise but we persevered and started along the shore at Beal whilst waiting for the tide to recede.Large flocks of Curlew were feeding along the water's edge whilst on the low marshy grassland huge flocks of Goldfinch were feeding on seedheads whilst 3 Canada Geese passed overhead.A chilly looking ,but handsome Reed Bunting peered out from a Hawthorn Bush.
The tide still being up,we decided to pop down to Fenham Flats for a better view of the large flocks of Geese,swans and ducks we could just about see through the murky haze with the scope.From the hide there we saw Shelduck,Wigeon,Mute Swan,Eider and Brent Geese near Fenham Mill,and right in front of the hide , Bar Tailed Godwit, Curlew,Redshank,Knot,Dunlin,Ringed Plover ,Grey Plover and Turnstone - a great way to brush up one's waders!The highlight however was the noisy arrival of about  two thousand Light Bellied Brent Geese which after a brief fly past settled just outside the hide- a magnificent sight!
After a brief spell of sunshine ,the visibility deteriorated so we decided to head for the island to see if there was anything interesting about.On the Straight Lonnen,the first sighting was of two Goldcrest
and at least two Chiff Chaff.A couple of seasoned birders alerted us to Yellow Browed Warblers,Great Grey Shrike and Mealy Redpoll so we set off hopes raised!
On the Crooked Lonnen,we spotted a distant and motionless Peregrine on a wall,a flock of Redwing,magnificent in some sudden and unexpected sunshine and finally 4 Mealy Redpoll.
Next it was off to the school in pursuit of Yellow Browed Warbler,but no luck there apart from 4 Swallows overhead.Next it was the Vicarage Garden  where we spotted a female Blackcap,A Great Spotted Woodpecker,more Goldcrests and a small active flock of Chiffchaff.
The Great Grey Shrike and the Yellow Browed Warbler were unfortunately elusive but it otherwise it was a great day out!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Fenham Flats 13th October

Fenham Flats 13th October
Today was my monthly WeBS  at Fenham Flats. The weather wasn't too promising, damp and breezy, but the birds didn't seem to mind. The Wigeon numbers have really started to build up and today's count was 2570; the sight of so many birds taking off at once is awesome and the sound they make made me think of a friend who was born on Holy Island and told me that Islanders called them "Hugh's" as that is the sound they make, their call is a repetitive "Hugh,Hugh,Hugh". Geese numbers were also impressive today, with totals of 723 Pale Bellied Brents and 400 Barnacle Geese. It was also nice to see 3 Little Egrets feeding on the salt marsh and also all the small waders taking to the air when a single Merlin flashed across the Flats. On the way back I came upon a Seal pup with an injury to its mouth. It was also at least 500 metres from the colony, but it did look very well fed and obviously had hauled up at high tide, gone to sleep and been left behind. Fortunately my last view of it was of a Labrador sized slug flopping its way along the beach in the direction of its friends.  

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Holy Island: a lucky strike!

Tuesday 8th - on Holy Island - I was amazed to see a Rough-legged Buzzard fly steadily east over the causeway, being mobbed by Curlews and disturbing a Little Egret & a Greenshank, amongst other species!
 In addition circa 1000 Golden Plover circled overhead, over the lonnins.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Early snowflakes

Early snowflakes
As we headed off around Branton Ponds this morning with the dog the sky was a stunning bright blue and the slight breeze gave the day an autumnal effect. This was enhanced when we caught the distinctive call of Whooper Swans and soon we had 10 perfect white snowflakes banking over our heads and landing on the ponds. We have Mute Swans here all year round but nothing can compare with the sight and sound of true wild Swans which have spent the summer on the Arctic Tundra.
Numbers of other birds also seem to be on the increase, especially Wigeon ,Teal and Goosander which can number up to 100 birds, but alongside all of these winter visitors there were still 30+ Lesser Black Backed Gulls on the west pond today. Maybe with the huge number of Rowan Berries the next thing to look out for is Waxwings, watch this space.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Southeast Northumberland 5th October

Southeast Northumberland 5th October
We set off early on Saturday morning for Druridge Pools, or more specifically a patch of Blackthorn about 200yds to the north. The bird we were looking for was a Subalpine Warbler, a small group of birders had gathered and after a short while the little beauty appeared(rubbish photo attached), it kept us entertained for quite awhile as it flew from bush to bush
All of this before 10 o'clock, we were on a role so we then headed to St Mary's wetland near Whitley Bay where we soon had our second little sprite of the day in the shape of a tiny little Firecrest which flitted endlessly amongst the upper branches of a Willow tree,whilst in another group of Willows we managed to find a Yellow Browed Warbler,other birds included a couple of Stonechats and at least 1500 Golden Plovers(but no American) on rocks north of St Mary's Island.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Budle Point 2nd October

Budle Point 2nd October
We decided to spend the morning at Bamburgh, the weather looked promising with low cloud and a strong southeasterly. After parking at Stag Rock we headed off across the Golf Course, the bushes were full of birds ,mainly Reed Buntings but also a number of Redwings. At this point a small looking Skua flew over our heads, we immediately recognised it as a juvenile Long Tailed Skua.
As we headed further on we came across many Goldfinches and Linnets and the bushes near the old military defences produced a single Brambling. The journey back along the beach was also interesting as we picked up the distinctive trilling call of a flock of 4 Snow Buntings, which finally landed a short distance away( close enough to take some rather poor record shots ). Out to sea large numbers of Gannets were feeding along with a flock of about 100 Eiders, on land we also came across Rock Pipits more Goldfinches and at least 2 Stonechats.