Saturday, 22 February 2014

Spring is icumen in...

The young lambs may be in the field in front of the house, wearing their plastic 'raincoats' to guard against the rain and cold winds, and the winter thrushes are still feeding on the rough pasture, but the waders are surely responding to the lengthening days, impatient to get back to the hills and the river valleys. A few days ago, thirty six Oystercatchers were gathered by the flood-waters at Yearle Mill, and today a flock of sixteen Lapwings were winging over the sheep field.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

The Snook, Holy Island

Seen today at approximately 1 pm, a handsome Male Hen Harrier on the Snook at NU 093 438.
Also seen-18 Snow Buntings in the same area but on the high tide line.

Signs of spring ?

Signs of spring ?
There was a real springlike feel to the air today as I walked around Branton Ponds, this was reinforced by my very first sighting of the day, a very pale looking Adder stretched out on a south facing bank sunning itself, not the earliest I have seen one( about 15 years ago on the 14th) but still surely a sign of things to come. Another interesting sight was a single Lesser Black Backed Gull in amongst a large flock of Black Headed Gulls and Common Gulls, again quite early for the site. There were also plenty of other things about including a single Willow Tit with a small noisy flock of Long Tailed Tits, several Yellowhammers and suddenly lots of paired up Reed Buntings. Another sign of better days is the increased numbers of Song Thrushes singing in the trees, birds which seem to have been totally absent for the past few months, all we need now is a few lambs in the fields and the transformation will be complete.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Fenham Flats 16th February

Apart from a stiff breeze the conditions were perfect for my monthly WeBS count. As I set off from Elwick Hide I could see large numbers of birds on the mud flats including a rather large Peregrine which everything was giving a wide berth. As I headed towards Guile Point the numbers started to add up-650 Pale Bellied Brent Geese, 360 Curlew, 150 Oystercatcher, 409 Bar Tailed Godwit, 46 Grey Plover, 15 Sanderling, 950 Knot, 220 Dunlin and 88 Shelduck. On reaching the point I noted a single Red-throated Diver and 5 Long Tailed Ducks; as I headed back around the point a 1st winter Merlin flew up clutching what looked like a Rock Pipit. It landed about 30 yards away and proceeded to pluck its prey eventually moving off into the dunes. On reaching the area known as the Wideopens I noticed a Snow Bunting on the track only 5 yards in front of me; once I had started to scan it I noticed there were 2 others which then suddenly turned into a flock of 25 which I watched for some time. The day was rounded off with a very clean looking Slavonian Grebe in front of the Hide at Elwick.   

Friday, 14 February 2014

An Unusual Winter Visitor!

A chilly quick walk along the dunes and sands between Cocklawburn and Cheswick ,produced a handsome male Stonechat,5 male Red Breasted Mergansers,4 Common Scoter,5 Sanderling,20 Purple Sandpipers,4 Turnstones and one adult Homo Sapiens Nudus.The latter (male) was in full moult but despite this and despite the cold , seemed to be full of the joys of Spring.
I understand this specimen is an occasional visitor to this part of the beach in the warmer months,but rarely observed in the winter.Lucky me to have spotted it.
The sighting was reported to Northumbria Police.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Bittern on Tweed

Good views of a Bittern this morning as it flew upstream near West Ord and landed in a small area of reeds near Coroner's Meadow (NT960519). It enlivened a morning with limited sightings.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Alnmouth and Warkworth Bay

Whilst the Bay does not  have the numbers and variety of birds that are found further north, regular birding there brings its rewards. Over the last few years the number of purple sandpipers has steadily increased and today there were 21 scurrying along the tideline on Birling Carr. Alongside them were 10 knot, 6 turnstone and 3 redashank. Meanwhile 9 grey plover maintained their motionless pose along with 6 ringed plover hiding in the weathered limestone.
Out to sea were 17 red-throated divers, 5 guillemot, 2 great crested grebe, 2 male common scoter, 2 shag and a red breasted merganser. Past these birds the fishing boats were returning to Amble harbour, accompanied by circling gulls.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Ross Links ,Back Sands and Ross Point

Another beautiful Spring day which could not be wasted!Across the links on the way to the shore 4 Skylarks were soaring and singing.
Sightings on the seaward side included Common Scoter,Red Breasted Merganser,and a flock of Brent Geese flying towards Budle Bay,as well as the expected Oyster Catchers,Redshanks etc.
The highlight was however,on Ross Back sands, hunting low over the Eel Grass,a male Hen Harrier,which I watched for about 20 minutes before it flew towards Fenham Flats.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Berwick area

Dog walk along Cocklawburn beach on Tuesday morning. Counted 34 Red-throated Diver - in groups of 4 or 5 for the most part. A record for me.

Mistle Thrush in car park of Asda at Tweedmouth - singing sweetly.


Sunday, 2 February 2014

Holy Island

With the walking conditions in the hills soggy to say the least,I decided my breath of fresh air this morning was to be coastal.
I parked at the first available pull in on the Snook and followed the North shore  hoping for a glimpse of the Snow Buntings I had last seen there a few weeks ago.I was not disappointed!A flock of 20 were busily foraging on the high tide line,occasionally taking to the air to move to a new feeding place when disturbed.
Assuming that was to be the highlight of the morning,as the only other two birds I had seen were a Reed Bunting and a lone Brent Goose,I decided to head back through the dunes,but first noticed a freshly killed and stripped wader,its breast entirely picked clean and both wings untouched!In the dunes ten minutes later, the likely author of the wader's demise swept past pushed by the wind-Peregrine!
The wind was unpleasantly strong and most self respecting birds were well hunkered down I thought ,but my final thrill was still to come!
The first Short Eared Owl I had seen on the Island this winter!Magic!

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Stag Rocks (yet again)

Stag Rocks (yet again)
After a morning spent doing a bird count within sight of Bamburgh Castle it would have seemed churlish not to have gone to look for the Grey Phalarope yet again!. The conditions looked perfect when we got there, not too much swell, the tide right in and lots of birds feeding close to shore, but no sign of the quarry. This didn't deter us as we were soon having cracking views of 3 Little Gulls feeding very close in, also present were some large flocks of Common Scoter, Eiders, Purple Sandpipers and several Slavonian Grebes out beyond the breakers.At this point Keith noticed a small grey bird in the water 300 yards south of the lighthouse. It could be only one thing, the elusive Grey Phalarope; we spent the next 20 minutes getting excellent views as it moved up and down the tide-line delicately picking food items off the surface. This should have been a great end to a perfect day, however we decided to listen to the Tyne-Wear derby on the way home and the grey clouds descended yet again.