Friday, 27 February 2009

Big Gig

Arrived back from the NME Big Gig at the London O2 today... what a great show!

Watch out for the White lies - a young band with great potential. Glum rock... I like it.

Don't waste any time with Crystal Castles - reminded me of the Newton ring ouzels' preferred feeding area... a heap.

Franz ferdinand were very entertaining and talented, but were, as expected, blown away by the cure (although I would say that...). Almost 2 hour set from RS & Co (was only mean't to be 90 minutes), with a selection of songs spanning the bands 30 years. Managed to meet up with my cousin Rob who was also dressed as smart as I, with our matching fave cure t-shirts from 1989! Managed to get to the front, opposite guitar legend, Porl Thompson (complete with high heals and a distinctly girlie dress). Much beer was drunk, so a good night all round.

For thise who may be interested, or not... here's the cure setlist: underneath the stars, from the edge of the deep green sea, the perfect boy, the end of the world, sleep when i'm dead, a forest, three imaginary boys, shake dog shake, maybe someday, the only one, inbetween days, just like heaven, primary, want, the hungry ghost, disintegration, one hundred years, it's over,

Encore: boys don't cry, jumping someone else's train, grinding halt, 10:15 saturday night, killing an arab.

Right, indulgence over, time for a spot of birding me thinks.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Aix Delight

A busy few days has seen me processing a lot of the recent holiday images, so it was nice to find an excuse to pop out this morning for quick look at the drake mandarin that was found at Killingworth Lake yesterday. My timing was near perfection, with this dapper duck swimming close to the shore - what a stunning species! Other observers reported that the mandarin had been in the south-east corner of the large pool for approximately twenty minutes prior to my arrival, and no sooner had I rattled off some photographs when bird headed back out to feed with the small group of goosander that are wintering on the lake.

Mandarin is a feral breeder in the UK, and occurrences in Northumberland are probably best treated with precaution. However, this timid bird was still a delight. Also present with the regular coot, canada geese and mute swan were goldeneye, tufted duck and a single drake scaup.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

One Ring, No Wing

Headed up to stringer territory late morning, and after a half hour or so had fleeting views of the apparently wintering male ring ouzel - my first encounter with this species in the winter. A nice bonus bird for the non existent year list, a species always good to see. The RO flew in from over the back of the farm buildings, perhaps it is feeding in the fields too. I could not locate any of the white-fronted geese at Low Newton so headed to more familiar territory in the southern part of the county, with stop offs at Amble - no adult iceland gull, and Cresswell - no barn owl or bittern seen during a brief stop, but thousands of pink-footed geese in the fields surrounding the pool. Final stop was Bothal Pond where the green-winged teal wasn't on show. It's almost a pity I saw the RO, could have had a clean sweep!

Much milder today, I see that a great spotted cuckoo was found in County Cork today. It must be spring!

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Early Doors

An early morning birding with Mark began at Blyth South Harbour, where the two immature iceland gull were readily available, standing (almost) together on the harbour buildings next to the gated pier. After a quick cuppa we headed off to St Mary's, where the long staying water pipit was soon located on the beach, along with several rock and one meadow pipit, plus some purple sandpiper, ringed plover,oyc etc. One red-throated diver headed north, while the wetland held gadwall, teal, mallard and wigeon.

Northumberland reports on the pager and blogs today include green-winged teal at Bothal Pond, adult iceland gull at Amble Harbour, smew at Bolam Lake... so a bit more stuff in the county to get me out the house tomorrow... ?

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Bohemian Blizzard

I arrived home from work after a slow journey in heavy snow. My mood was lightened somewhat when I stepped out of the car to hear the familiar trilling of (bohemian)waxwing. It's been a good winter for this species, with large flocks in most areas of the UK. Northumberland has fared less well than usual, including the Horton Burn area of Cramlington, where this species has been regular over the last few years.

As it turned out there were 26 of the pretty things perched in a tree behind my cul-de-sac, so in a moment of (madness?) eagerness, I kicked off my work shoes, donned boots and water-proof trousers and headed straight out into the increasingly heavy snowfall to try and get some photographs. It would be really easy...

I learnt a couple of important points during the following half hour or so.... remember to take gloves when it's snowing - it was absolutely freezing - I managed to loose all feeling in my hands, which didn't help when the flock landed in a small tree next to where I was standing, I could barely press the camera shutter!

Secondly, wait for the blizzard to pass - ! - Snow on camera equipment isn't that good, particularly when it melts on the view finder, and of all the images taken only two photographs didn't have snow in front of the waxwings' face! And the heavy snowfall meant that they sky was dull; waxwing tend to look very grey in dull conditions.

To compound matters, I then wasted a lot of time trying to salvage some images on the PC (with the waxwing flock flying past the house window on a couple of occasions to rub salt in my wounds), the best of a very bad bunch is featured here.

I shouldn't complain really - waxwings a smashing birds, I just selfishly hope that the flock will stick for a few days to enable a second chance in better light. Here's hoping...

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Blyth White Wings

It was another bright winter afternoon so I headed down to Blyth South Harbour where two iceland gull have recently been frequenting. Initial scanning of the harbour did not produce much, only a few herring, great black back and black-headed gull, long with a single red-breasted merganser and up to twenty eider. Feeling a bit despondent I started to work my way back from the harbour master building and quickly picked up an apparent immature iceland gull in flight - great! Moving closer to the area where the bird was I was surprised to find BB... photographing it on the water (initial reaction was that this was a glauc, bill was very two-tone... see Northumbrian birding blog to see why its' an iceland, a great advert for digital photography in use while birding) Not much later a second bird arrive, both lingered, allowing several photographs to be taken, although the light soon became tricky as the sun began to set. One bird was distinctly browner toned than the other, I expect this is down to individual wear, tear and bleaching through the birds life-cycle.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Barn Owl & Bittern

I finished work by two this afternoon, so after a quick cup of coffee and a change of clothes I headed north to Druridge Bay.

Druridge Pool was quiet, although I did bump into a chap who had just seen a bittern fly south along the ditch near the budge screen. Cresswell Pond was more productive, with three whooper swan in fields to the north of the pool, a barn owl hunting over the dunes, water rail on the pool edge and a quick view of bittern dropping into the reeds near to the hide at dusk (how many bittern are in the bay this winter?). Coupled with some chat with AC (essential travel tips) and BB, a very nice afternoon was had.
For the photo-buffs out there, all images of the barn owl were taken at dusk with a Canon 1DIII & 500mm IS, handheld @ ISO1000... Still lovin' that camera...!

Saturday, 7 February 2009


It's been a week of nightshift - so little birding (if any at all) over the past few days. The cold weather has not done much for my garden birds - only the hardy collard dove, robin and blackbird have been visiting the feeder. All the House Sparrows have disappeared.

In the time between getting up in the afternoon and heading off to work for the night I've spent some time working on bird photographs from the recent Hawaii trip - I fear it'll take a while to complete this selection. I've also been planning future trips for 2009 - April will see me heading off to Thailand and probably Iona for corncrake, with August still to be confirmed.

I've also taken delivery of this cracker - an epiphone thunderbird IV bass!!! I'll apologise in advance to my neighbours... maybe.

This morning twenty waxwing flew over the house, so maybe things are looking better. I must get out more...