Saturday, 30 May 2015

Black Winged Pratincole

We were just starting a walk around Branton Ponds on Friday when I received a phone call from a friend to say a Black Winged Pratincole had been discovered at Bothal Pond in Southeast Northumberland, a jog back to the house for optics and camera saw us on our way and on site within 45 minutes. There was already a large crowd assembled of local birders and we soon picked up the bird at the far side of the pond preening, ok views but not brilliant, this was all about to change as it took off and started hawking for insects with a group of Swifts, this elegant wader flew around almost Tern-like and at one stage appeared to call again very like a tern, views were had from as close as 40 yards and enjoyed by all, it was still there today and well worth the trip.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Buston Links

It is weeks since I walked from Kilacrankie north along Buston Links and thought that today's fine weather was an opportunity to put that right. No more waders on Birling Carr but Herring gulls, Greater black backs, Oystercatchers and Eiders on the rocks. Walking through the caravan site Whitethroat, Sedge warbler and Linnets were calling. Walking up the slope to the top of the dunes I stopped to look over the field with new scrapes on Northfield farm and was surprised to see a Short-eared owl quartering the field. With terns calling time to look out to sea. There were twelve Sandwich terns fishing alongside twenty two Gannets - must be a good supply of sand eels. Perched in the scrub was a stonechat.
The dunes were ablaze with colour : cowslips, early purple orchids, crosswort, speedwells, bloody cranesbill, bluebells both English and Spanish, campion, violets, milkwort, mouse-ear hawkweed.
No decent bird photos but some colourful flowers.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Black-throated Divers

Our annual pilgrimage to the Long Nanny Tern Colony walking from Low Newton took us round Football Hole, where we were excited to see a pair of Black-throated Divers in full breeding plumage close to shore. Never on the surface for more than ten-to-fifteen seconds at a time, they crossed the little bay back and forth several times as we watched them for the next ten minutes. Fabulous! As always, we enjoyed the frenetic activity of  the 2500 Arctic Terns and 20 pairs of Little Terns at Long Nanny, and a Barn Owl hunting in broad daylight was an unexpected bonus on our return across the dunes.

College Valley

A very enjoyable circuit on the "new" path in far better weather than predicted. A cuckoo was calling for much of the time and birds seen were : common sandpiper, dipper, pied wagtail, raven, buzzard, pair of oystercatcher with calling willow warblers far out numbering chiffchaffs. Chaffinches were pretending to be flycatchers and swallows and martins were swooping around.
The valley is still golden with gorse but now is added the yellow of the broom. The cooler weather has meant that there are still banks of primroses and plenty of wood sorrel and violets. Tormentil is now out along with germander and thyme leaved speedwell, creeping corydalis, common milkwort (pale blue) and lady smock.
There warmer, sunny weather had brought out orange tips, small and green veined whites.
Overhead planes brought up gliders from Millfield but there were few thermals today.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Coquet Valley Today

After visiting Hazelton Rigg to see the bluebells with a friend and after a sandwich at Barrowburn we made our way slowly down the valley and had good sightings of a buzzard, forty sandmartins, a pair each of dippers, grey wagtail, pied wagtail and common sandpiper.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

NNBC on Tour in Yorkshire!

Yorkshire Highlights 15th-18th May 2015

A few months ago I decided it would be good to re-visit old birding haunts in Yorkshire where I had spent many a happy day with my teenage son, an avid birder ,and thought it may be fun to see if anyone else from NNBC would like to go along too!
So it was that 9 of us descended on Yorkshire and Humberside to try our luck with species rarely seen 'Up North'

First stop was Bempton Cliffs where we were delighted by the sounds (and smell!) of thousands of Gannet,Kittiwakes ,Razorbills and even a few Puffin to name but a few. Bempton is a fantastic reserve which has just had a makeover and definitely worth a visit at this time of the year- a bit like St Abbs on Steroids!

The following day we had a date at Blacktoft  Sands where we were made most welcome by the duty warden who was expecting us and who filled us in with latest news.Unfortunately news of the Montagu's Harriers presence on the Reserve had spread and the hides were busy but this did not detract from the magnificent views we had of this fabulous bird !Marsh Harriers were also a  common sight and no less of a thrill to watch their frequent fly pasts!Avocet, Temminck's Stint (a first for me!),Cetti's Warbler(another first!),and Yellow Wagtail were a few amongst many others!

The afternoon(very windy and dusty) spent at the reclaimed sand gravel extraction quarries of North Cave Wetlands ,was also productive ,Gadwall,Wood Sandpiper and Avocet being of note.

Sunday morning at 6.45am found four of us across the Ouse at Faxfleet where a short walk along and below the dyke gave us great views of Barn Owl,Marsh Harrier,Yellow Wagtail and certainly more Reed Bunting  among the Phragmites than I have ever seen in one place!

The rest of the day was spent at Potteric Carr,an unlikely spot for a Reserve next to the thundering M18!A magnificent 61 species was the total after a hard day's birding by the whole group in this enormous but fantastic reserve-so huge that we did not manage to meet up with the other part of the group  in the entire day!Highlights for me were frequently booming Bittern,and Cetti's Warbler-both heard but not seen!

Monday 18th May saw us all go our separate ways or (for three lucky Club Members!)the rest of the week to explore even further!Our party of three headed home via Tophill Lowe,near Great Driffield for a final couple of hours.This is owned by Yorkshire Water and is more of a reserve for serious birders as opposed to a family day out.Time was short but a quick visit to a couple of hides allowed us to add Common Tern to our list in addition to great views of a posing Kingfisher.

Fuller details about this weekend and the species seen, will appear in the Newsletter and on the Website in due course courtesy of Richard Poyer.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Spring Waders

Spring Waders
We decided on an early visit to Low Newton scrape to check out the reported waders. On our arrival a Greenshank flew off with another, smaller wader, when we checked the scrape a bird with a small group of summer plumaged Dunlin turned out to be the Pectoral Sandpiper. At that moment the Greenshank came back in with its smaller companion, this soon revealed itself to be the Lesser Yellowlegs, as we scanned further along we came across another small wader, this proved to be a Wood Sandpiper which had just flown in. The high point was to have Lesser Yellowlegs, Pectoral Sandpiper and Wood Sandpiper all together in the same scope view. Whilst there we could hear Reed Warbler calling in the reedbeds, Wheatears ran about in the wet meadow, two Yellow Wagtails were having a scrap and a Little Tern flew past on the tideline.

Monday, 11 May 2015

American Visitors

News of two visitors to the scrape at Low Newton tempted me down to the coast this afternoon; when I arrived the fierce gusty westerlies and the strong sunlight from the same westerly direction reflecting off the water made viewing difficult. No sign of them- no sign of any waders!
                       But after ten minutes or so an elegant wader picked its way along the nearside edge of the scrape- the Lesser Yellowlegs. Following closely behind was a smaller darker wader with an abruptly marked cut-off point between its streaked breast and white belly- the attractive Pectoral Sandpiper. Both breed in North America but winter in South America; they are quite regularly carried across the Atlantic to our shores when wind conditions disrupt their migration. 

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Far from the Madding Crowd-

Being a fine  Bank Holiday Monday,the Harthope Valley was never going to be peaceful but leaving the car on the roadside I headed up  Cockshaw Sike,and within minutes the crowds in the Valley were invisible!First sound was my first Cuckoo of 2015 ,calling from the woods above Langleeford Farm and next, a male Whinchat showing well.
Further up the hill,a male Stonechat  and the usual multiplicity of Meadow Pipits whilst above a Skylark was singing.
Heading onwards, I stopped as usual to pan the large extent of moorland over to Broadstruther and beyond and towards the twin Iron Age Settlements on top of Yeavering Bell,thinking ,as always, how good it would be to spot a pair of Hen Harriers quartering the ground-one day hopefully!
Eventually a peaceful lunch stop at the top of the Hawsen Burn still,alone apart from flitting Whinchat and Meadow Pipits.
Another stop to listen for Ring Ouzel, soon heard and also spotted, sitting in one of the trees!Further down the path ,two more Singing males ,also in trees!A Buzzard flew over lazily and shortly afterwards a Kestrel appeared briefly over the hill before disappearing again.
Again in the Valley,the Cuckoo was still calling but it was time to head back through the picnickers,walkers and traffic,just proving that a just short way off the beaten track one can soon have the hills to oneself!