Saturday, 27 December 2008

Glaucoides 2 of 2

Driving back home after a successful trip to North Shields I was pleasantly suprised to find that the large pale gull feeding on the roadside at South Beach (Blyth) was another iceland gull!

This is probably the bird that I dipped a week or so back in the harbour, and I assume its the bird that Brian (Northumbrian Birding) had seen a few days ago. Iceland gulls - they're just like buses eh, none for ages, then 2 on the same trip!

I pulled the car over (shunted up onto the verge) and managed to grab a few record shots hand holding the 500mm - blasting the shutter in the short gaps between the bemused cars that were passing. The gull soon lifted and drifted over the houses, presumably to another verge to feed. A great end to a short trip out.

Glaucoides 1 of 2

Headed to North Shields Fish Quay this morning, a trip that started well with ten waxwing at Blyth - feeding on bushes just east of the railway crossing. Pulled the car over and got the camera out... and they'd gone!

My arrival at NSFQ was rewarded with the immature iceland gull flying straight past the car - great!

I spent the next hour or so watching and photographing this delightful gull, with a short break to enjoy some chips courtesy of Mark. At 13:10 it was time to leave, but not until I blasted out a few shots of the gull which had decided to feed on the water opposite where we were standing!

Friday, 26 December 2008

Garden Hawk

Quiet on the birding front today due to preparation for "forthcoming commitments", but this female sparrowhawk made a brief appearance in the garden late afternoon.
For the camera buffs reading this, image was taken at 1/40th second exposure at ISO 500, using the 500mm lens... hand held through double glazing (! - Image stabilisation, it's the future).

Local pager reports today include an iceland gull showing well at North Shields Fish Quay - I'll try and get there tomorrow, a bittern remains at Cresswell, with taiga bean goose and greenland white-fronted goose at Hauxley. So, potentially a a few bits for the 2009 yearlisters to get their teeth (ticks?) into next week.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Pedal Potter

Another outing on the bike (I'm clearly in holiday mode!). West Hartford was fairly quiet, 48 snipe lifted from the marshy area south of the pool along with one moorhen and a couple of meadow pipits. On the water a single adult great black-backed gull was present (with 2 over, gbbg is actaully quite a good bird at WH, mainly seen through December - January). Two jay were over the back of the pool, towards the wooded valley of the River Blyth. At Crowhall Lane a recently felled area on the roundabout contained six plus great tit, several blue tit, greenfinch, bullfinch and a male siskin. On the Horton Burn a female siskin was at the west end, and near the fire station, a single grey wagtail was on the rather damp flood plain.

Todays image of siskin is another from the archive - this bird was at Big Waters in 2006, another from the 10D days - it was a very nice camera.

Of local interest, waxwing were reported on the pager - apparantly 13 present at the Azure garden centre car park this morning - I'll have to keep an eye out for them...

Monday, 22 December 2008

Hartford Snipe

A quick cycle ride around some of the local hotspots today - first stop was a rather bleak West Hartford. On the main pool were a mix of black-headed, common and herring gull, with three stonechat in the surrounding scrub. For one moment I thought that I heard water rail...

As wellies had been put on I decided to have a tramp into the flooded grass land to the south of the pool (the photo is from this area, looking north, the main pools are just south of the tall trees) - this was rewarded with 2 reed bunting, single meadow pipit, wren, moorhen and at least sixty (60!!) snipe zig zagging away and, more pleasingly, 1 jack snipe (this bird lifted twice). A flock of 15 goldfinch were quartering the fields and to the east of the industrial estate road at least sixty linnet were present.

The Horton Burn supported bullfinch, chaffinch, blue/great/coal and long-tailed tit and a single kingfisher.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Bay Area Birding

Spent an hour or so at Hauxley NR today - located at the top of Druridge Bay - both bean and white-fronted goose had been reported on the 20th. Alas, there was no sign of either - just a large group of grey-lag and a few canada. Red-breasted merganser and goldeneye were about the best I could manage and with rapidly fading light (and a hungary stomach) I headed back home.

One advantage of quiet winter afternoons is the increased time available to browse through some older photographs - so keeping with the theme of the last post, here are a few more from California in May 2006, all were taken using a Canon 10D with a Canon 100-400mm IS lens - from the top down: steller's jay (pacific form - interior west birds have white forehead markings rather than blue, this bird was at Yosemite), western scrub-jay (Golden Gate Park, San Francisco), heermann's gull (a personal favorite!, this bird was at Seaside on Robert's Lake), black phoebe (Golden Gate Park, San Francisco) and finally dark-eyed junco ("oregon" form, this bird was at Presidio, San Francisco).

Friday, 19 December 2008

California Dreaming

It's cold and dull in the north-east of England - time to reminisce to sunnier days... I spent a very pleasant two weeks in California during May 2006. The brandt's cormorant was photographed at Monterey - I love the blue on the throat patch! This bird was one of many nesting on the harbour walls near Tinnery Row. Could not spend too much time there though - they're very smelly!!

The acorn woodpecker was at Yosemite and was very abundant throughout the trip. In Carmel most of the telegraph poles were riddled with stored acorns.

Two hummingbird species were photographed in San Francisco - allen's and anna's. The anna's hummer was photographed at Crissy Field - a wonderful reserve founded upon an old airfield site that was flooded to create a small wetland. Ah, sunshine...

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Snow & Bitter(n)

Spent a couple of hours in the Cresswell area on this dull and cloudy afternoon. The drive from home to the pond was good - I managed to bump into the snow goose (not literally) just north of Linton - now associating with a couple of thousand pink-footed geese. A bit too distant for photographs, so I headed on.
At Cresswell it didn't take too long for a bittern to show, albeit briefly, in the north reeds. Frustrated at last weeks efforts I decided to walk along the road and chance a flight shot. The stonechat above was photographed by the pond outlet. A little over an hour later the bittern did fly - but frustratingly for me, across the pool to the reeds to the west of the hide. Further to the frustration, I could not get the camera to lock focus on the bird... many expletives followed! Meanwhile the pink-footed geese flew over - a great spectacle, enhanced by the presence of the snow goose - picked out as they landed in fields west of Bells' Pond.
Thinking it was all over, I headed back the car. A chance look up and across the pool found me scrambling to put the tripod down and get the camera switched on - the bittern had took flight again... and was heading straight for me! Indeed, the bittern flew straight past and dumped itself into the reeds to the east of the hide. Great viewing despite the very poor light.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Snow but no ice...

A quick trip to Blyth was 50% successful - I could not locate the immature iceland gull that has been frequenting the south harbour, but two snow bunting were readily available - feeding on the small sand dunes just over the wall. Although flighty, the snow bunting provided some delightful photographic oportunities in nice light. Upon arival home the iceland gull was reported again on the pager - so maybe I'll try again...

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Two bitterns and two owls

It was a lovely bright winter day today so I embarked on a trip up to Cresswell after lunch. 1 waxwing over the road at Ellington was a good start but I didn't manage to locate the snow goose south of Druridge (I drove past the area 10 minutes after it had been reported with pink-footed geese).

Pretty much the first bird seen at Cresswell Pond was a bittern! Feeding along the edge of the reeds at the north-eastern edge of the water - too distant for photographs but very good prolonged views. Water rail were squealing frequently and there were healthy numbers of lapwing, golden plover, teal and wigeon. The Druridge pink-feet did a fly-over after a micro-lite had disturbed them, but still no sign of the snow goose.

As the afternoon progressed and the light faded a single barn owl was out hunting over the dunes - Cresswell has a good track record for this species and they're always nice to watch. A quick qlance across to the south east corner of the pool revealed a second bittern - standing out on the reed edge! A quick jump up to the camera provided 4 record shots to be taken, none of which are much good as I'd taken the convertor off earlier and the light was fading rapidly (excuses, excuses) ... oh, and the buff brown toned plumage blends in quite well with phragmites reedbed!!

Heading back to the car I recieved a text from Steve Holliday - he was watching a short-eared owl at West Hartford, and more grippingly for WH regulars - water rail. SH had also had iceland gull and snow bunting at Blyth - so my plans for tomorrow are developing nicely.

After packing up the camera/tripod I decided to drive up to the northern car park to have another quick look at the barn owl - which flew less than 10m past the car - brilliant! With the success of the afternoon in mind I decided to pop into West Hartford, arriving at 16:15 in virtual darkness but just in time to catch glimpse of the SEO - only the second this autumn/winter so far - no sight or sound of the water rail but hopefully it will stick for the winter.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Urban Kingfisher

With a week of nightshift complete and the car stuck in the garage for a service a plod around some of the patch was called for. Starting off in the Bassington Industrial Estate little was seen until I arrived at the old road at Crow Hall Lane, rapidly becoming encroached with bramble and suchlike - first up was Bullfinch, followed by a (more pleasing in this neck of the woods) treecreeper.
Further north at the entrance to West Hartford 6 lesser redpoll were a nice supprise with 3 more bullfinch and a healthy (50ish) mixed flock of fieldfare, redwing, blackbird and lone mistle thrush patrolling the hawthorn hedge leading up to the pool. I didn't flush any snipe sp. in the recently cleared grass area to the west of the road (a new fire station is planned for development in 2009), nor was there any evidence of SEO, so I made tracks to the Horton Burn - tributary to the River Blyth, that convenientley cuts through a housing estate. As with most recent winters, the onset of cold snowy weather has pushed a kingfisher in view of the houses - always nice!
1 bird was seen today, perched near the road bridge at the "existing fire station end" Up to 2 birds have been present in the past, so there is time yet for another. (The photographs in this post were not taken today, they are of a very showy individual that was at Big Waters in 2006 - post would be a bit bland without some images!) 1 grey wagtail was in the vicinity and later in the afternoon a single grey heron was feeding upstream.