Saturday, 28 January 2017

"About time too !" i hear you say.

I'm going to start doing a monthly post on Blogger. This isn't the first of them i'm sitting here at 00.52 on Saturday morning, off to bed soon and for some strange reason felt like posting something. The January post will follow in a few days.
I had a bitterly cold session down at North Shields Fish Quay the other day but the place has a special place in my heart as i lived just above the quay for 12 years when i was a young 'un and it was one of my favourite playgrounds. Many hours spent exploring and getting into mischief about the place.
I was the first to discover a "white winger" this winter at the quay as far as i know as i came across the first winter Iceland Gull about two weeks ago pootling about in the gut. As per usual with these things it was about five minutes before i had to get back with the car but rang the better half and was granted an extension of fifteen minutes. I had called by last week in passing for an hour or so and the Iceland was still there but a couple of Glaucous Gulls had joined it. On Thursday i had a few hours so i could take my time, enjoy the smell and feel of the place and watch the gull action. It wasn't just gulls that provided the entertainment ! An ex falconers bird was zipping about looking for lunch but fish was definitely not on its menu but as far as i know it came up short. Turnstones are always a joy to watch, and here the boats seem to provide many tasty morsels for them. A Grey Seal made an appearance just off the quay out on the river. It came up with a flattie on a couple of occasions but i managed to miss the shot both times. The Iceland by far the most stunning of the gulls but the Glaucs with their pirate like activities the most entertaining. It was bitterly cold in a biting breeze coming straight from the west along the river but the sun made a show for a while which eased the pain. While watching the antics of the gulls and seal on the seaward side i saw a potential photographic opportunity and on one of those rare occasions it came to fruition. I was very happy with it.

Iceland gull with the south pier of the Tyne in behind.

Falcon on patrol.

Iceland & Glaucous in flight over the quay.

...and finally a shot i captured early last Saturday when i went down early hoping to capture a nice sunrise over the mouth of the Tyne but when i got home i discovered some dust on the sensor which ruined those images. When i turned to put that camera and lens away to swap for my camera with my 300mm lens on this next view caught my eye. The High & Low lights were part of that early time in my life as was Cliffords Fort .....and the light was superb !


Monday, 17 October 2016

Heavenly.

One of the supporting cast.
Sometimes the birds and light come together and i cannot think of anything more satisfying.
Not so early on Sunday as i went down to Tynemouth to have a wander around and see a first for me in the form of a Dusky Warbler. I know the area well as i'm a regular visitor and having seen a good number of Blackbirds & Robins i then headed to where the Dusky had been reported. Some prolonged views but getting a decent image was another matter and very quickly i decided to just enjoy the bird and if i did come out into the open would then try to capture it. It could be seen without foliage blocking the views occasionally but always fleetingly and combined with the fairly poor conditions i didn't even tried to capture one image. Thoroughly enjoyed my first sighting and a dozen or so of the lads attending made for good craic. The heavens opened and off i sped. A few hours later, having visited my sister in Cullercoats and been fed n watered by her, i resurfaced just north of St Marys Island in Whitley Bay.
By this time the clouds had cleared and we had nice conditions in the main. A Barred Warbler had been spotted briefly a wee bit north from where a few birders and i were anticipating the sight of the Pallas's Leaf Warbler that had been present from the previous day. The Barred was never seen again as far as i am aware but the Pallas's gave brilliant, if slightly distant views for the next couple of hours. As before quite a few birders came and went, or remained, and the craic was more then enjoyable. To add to the enjoyment of my second newbie of the day dozens of Goldcrests were flitting around the mound like little jewels. One of the best birding afternoons that i have spent i reckon. I didn't manage any decent images despite everything in my favour to capture that superb "keeper" but i'm happy enough seeing the birds without taking a pic. Any images are a bonus in my book and not the be all and end all.
I have to say that the Pallas's Leaf Warbler was by far more stunning than i had expected...an absolute beauty of a bird ! ....and the Goldcrests set it off nicely. It verged on birding heaven yesterday.





Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Avocet success and other stuff at Cresswell.

It was great to hear that six of the seven Avocet chicks that hatched at Cresswell Pond were flourishing. I'm not sure if it still is but not long ago it was the most northerly breeding site in England. It's not surprising they do relatively well when the parents are feisty enough to see off even a juvenile Peregrine. Overhead threats come all the same to our Avocets. Even the arrival of a MEGA at Cresswell in the form of a Red Kite didn't stop our belligerent parents going up on an intercept course. That and some attentive corvids meant that the Kite was around for a matter of moments, sadly.
Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Common Sandpiper and Greenshank in recent weeks have made the  birding superb. On another occasion i enjoyed the spectacle of a Stoat appearing from the reeds then have a "daft" ten minutes, something you would be more used to seeing your cat do. It was brilliant. From rolling about on its back and jumping up to grabbing the reeds by wrapping its front legs around them then hurtling off, stopping, turning and returning to do the same again with the same clump of reeds. It did this three times. A Little Egret that was coming into land on the sand bar spotted the action and "buzzed" the Stoat before touching down. The Stoat stopped in its tracks and sat for a second before whizzing over to the bird as it landed and returning the favour by "buzzing" the Egret which lifted briefly out of the mustelids reach. A Water Rail appeared into view before having to race off out of view down one of the "rides" at the back of the pond chased by the mammalian killer which reappeared moments later Rail less. I did take some images but it was out of range for my 300mm lens and i was left thinking that if THE Howdon Blogger had been videoing this that he might have captured some vintage footage.
Another apparent success story in the Druridge area are the number of Little Egrets these days. They have apparently bred in the Bay area for the last three years and i had a nice surprise when i had eight at  Cresswell the other week. I have heard of a report since of 14 !!






Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Dragon surprise.

I decided to call in at Prestwick Carr for around 90 minutes before heading along the road to Banks Pond to do some Dragonhunting. It was a beautiful morning which had started rather chilly after the clear overnight skies. I heard more birds than i saw with a Willow Warbler giving me the only half chance of an image as it fed and called in the treetops. With foliage often restricting views i gave up trying to capture it but the best photographic opportunity was yet to come. Ironically that opportunity came if the form of a Dragonfly !
This Southern Hawker appearing around the side of the hedge line and landed in front of me. "Brilliant" i thought but less than thirty seconds later a second Southern Hawker appeared and landed around 80 centimetres to the right of the first.
Prestwicks Buzzards were very vocal most of the time i was there. A couple of Kestrels seemed to be communicating with each other and Willow Tits made their presence known. Over fifty Barn Swallows were feeding and making plenty of noise just before Mayfair Cottage as i returned to the car.
Banks Pond was a wee bit disappointing to be honest. A distinct lack of Hawkers while i visited but decent numbers of Emerald Damselflies and Common Darters. A few Common Blue & Blue-tailed Damsels and a couple of Black Darters was about it. This mature male Black was the highlight along with a fresh Common as i left.


Friday, 15 July 2016

Avocet update.

Dave E. saw the Avocet adults lead 3 chicks away from Cresswell Pond and into the surrounding fields !!
One of the adults previous to pairing up.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Fingers crossed.

After several days of wondering when, the first Avocet chick was seen when the adults on the rear nest at Cresswell did an early morning change over on Tuesday 12/07/16. Great to see after last years annihilation of the 5 nests on the sand bar of this furthest northern breeding site in England. Following that wipe out it would have been understandable if no Avocets had of tried and it was looking like that for quite a while despite some potential residents. 
I've sat longer than usual in the hide on 3 or 4 occasions in the last week or so hoping to capture the first sighting of the young 'un and was more than happy to have managed it. A true record shot as the image is heavily cropped. Fingers crossed no foxes return like last year as Avocets are feisty birds and will see off most potential predators especially avian ones.
I'm pretty sure the adult in the photo was ringed as a juvenile at Cresswell Pond as one of the first youngsters that created the record i mentioned earlier but i am just waiting for confirmation. It would be nice to think so.