Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Red & White tales...

Had a late start today, after a tiring earlyshift. Took the easy option and headed to the coast to take a look at the two reported black redstart at Whitley Bay Cemetary. I had no issues picking them up, with a female appearing first on top of a grave stone in the south-east corner, quickley replaced by a spanking male! Camera assembled I rattled off one test shot to check exposure etc, looked ok but not the best angle... so waited for the  bird to turn around. Instead he flew west into the graveyard. And that was it!                                                 

Not a sniff of either again!! So the onlt shot taken is the one here in this post - so near but so far!

I took a few wanders around the graveyard to no further avail, and as 17:45 passed my mobile rang. A certain large raptor that had disappeared earlier  had been picked up again on the east of Prestwick Carr... White-tailed eagle... it was time to leave!

Twenty minutes later or so I pulled up to the east of the Carr to find a few happy and a few sad birders - the bird had drifted north. Turn-around time! As I passed the few remaining news broke that it was passing Bellasis Bridge... so that's where I headed and found that the road had been closed for flooding just short of the bridge. More annoyingly, the WTE had been seen to drift north at 18:15, presumably off for good.

There was some good banter with the lads, and the sucessful few headed off not long later. At 18:40 a large group of wood pigeon lifted to the north-west (see google map streetview below) and in the middle ... a huge thick-winged raptor drifting south west. !!!! This bird was massive! Granted it was a very poor view, but for the 30 seconds or so that it was showing it was surreal!

I guess there is a real chance that this bird will be around again tomorrow...

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Black Redstart

Couple of record images of the camera shy black redstart at the entrance to Druridge Pools. Pity it was not as confiding as 1st winter birds tend to be! Still at least three wheatear present at the same site.

Had the Eshott common crane again on the route home, initally very distant then flew north reasonably close...

Crane Attack!!

More record shots of the common crane being "attended to" by some territorial lapwing.
Excuse for bad quality images -  all images are taken late afternoon, in shade at ISO1000 with 500mm & 2.0 extender!!

Getting too close...

Get off my land!!!

The pair join forces...

A great end to the day for me, but not for the crane!

Whooper +

A few more images of the confiding whooper swan herd at Druridge Bay Country Park. As the whoopers' prepare to head north, sand martins fresh from the south dart overhead... Click the images for a sharper view.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Whooper, Black Redstart & Crane. A Quiet Northumberland P.M!

I headed up the coast this afternoon – taking advantage of another week of nightshifts coming to an end.

First stop was QEII park north of Ashington – here two sand martin were my first of the year, while the lake itself was quiet, holding Canada goose, mute swan, coot, mallard, goldeneye and a mix of c/bh gulls.

Druridge Bay Country Park took the sand martin count to eight for the day, with six hawking the west corner. Nine whooper swan were unexpected and very photogenic – expect a couple of more images when the pace settles.

After a check of Hadston beach, I headed back south to Druridge Pools, where a beautiful male black redstart was available, though not photographable. The black-red was feeding in the dunes just south of the reserve entrance, and had a minimum of three wheatear for support, two of which were bright males.

Again no owl action at Cresswell, so I headed home via Eshott. The common crane had last been reported near Warkworth on Monday 22nd, so it was a great surprise to find that this mighty “grus” was still present. A bonus for me today is that the crane was much more mobile – feeding in roadside fields both south and north of Eshott.

The cranes’ presence was not accepted by the soon-to-be-breeding lapwing ~ dive bombing ensued, causing the crane to become very vocal! A record shot is below…

Saturday, 20 March 2010


After a morning of moderate exercise I opted to take the short drive north to the Eshott area north of Morpeth for what would sure to be great views of an adult common crane. Alas no! This fine bird was very, very distant!!

Initially observed from the grid reference supplied on the pager (see above "very distant from here" marker), I soon headed east for a better vantage point. The crane could be seen with obstructed view as I approached Eshott (on the road heading north to the village), but closer, resticted views were obtained from the road a few hundred yards south of "South Farm" - see above. From here the crane was maybe 800 yards away, but as it kept to the east of the chosen field it was often out of sight, under the brow of the field in front. Even from here I had to stand on the top of a gate to see the bird, so no pictures today then! A link to the multimap featured above is here.

While in the area two great spotted woodpecker were noted, along with common buzzard, grey-lag geese, teal, dunnock, lapwing (displaying) and several singing skylark.

Heading back I called into West Hartford, flushing a woodcock as I got out of the car - a great start, but what ended up being the only highlight of the stop. Oystercatcher and lapwing sat on the pool edge, six teal were roosting on the small pool to the west of the brick building and there were a couple of grey heron kicking about.

Back at Birdingsometimes HQ it appears we have a blackbird nesting in our overgrown conifer tree.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010


Had an enjoyable evening with Editors at the Newcastle O2 on Monday 15th...

Saturday, 13 March 2010


Took the pretty much standard Saturday route up the coast with Mark this morning, calling in at Cresswell, Druridge and East Chevington prior to the main purpose of the trip north – pie, chips and curry sauce at Amble. The latter was probably the highlight today!

Mark had started the day earlier than I, picking up bewick’s swan and two green sandpiper at Whittle Dene.

Our joined effort was rewarded with a nice male stonechat, tree sparrow and peregrine at Cresswell, seven pale-bellied brent geese in fields between Cresswell and Druridge, fourteen grey heron at Druridge and not too much else. The route back included a stop at High Hauxley to check for any puffin activity on Coquet Island (none) and there was no apparent sign of the iceland gull at Blyth South Harbour.

This evening I spent a cold thirty minutes at West Hartford as dusk descended. Nothing really of note there today, with a minimum eleven oystercatcher and uncountable numbers of teal / mallard, hidden in the marsh area to the south of the main pool. One buzzard over and a couple of kestrel too.


I’ve added a couple of more blog links to the "other voices" section – posts from Western Australia and Japan are sure to be interesting reading and viewing…

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Hanging Out With Crossbill

I've seen some great images of Crossbill at Harwood Forest recently - Richard Dunn, Tom Tams and Colin Bradshaw have all got some smashing images of male and females' on or near the Gibbet.

So thats where I headed this afternoon. It's a nice drive up there, with a couple of nice straight roads with sharp dips and rises to add to the excitement.

At the forest there must have been some sort of quad bike do as there were a load of folk thrashing about.

It did not take long for the crossbill to appear - a pair on top of the gibbet, so I made my way over to a suitable vantage point with the camera and waited. And waited. While hunched on the cold wet ground I had further great views, this time of a pair sitting proud in the conifers above my parked car!

Alas, luck was not with me today, so the image to the right is a reminder why I made the effort in the first place - arn't crossbill a cracking species?! This image was taken at Druridge Bay Country Park in February 2006 when a small party over wintered. Camera body was the trusty 10D...

Below is the vista north of the Gibbet view-point, arted-up in photoshop - cold and bleak!

Monday, 8 March 2010

Dusk Visit

I spent a decent but cold half hour at West Hartford this evening.

The main pool held a pair of shelduck and the recently formed melt water pool (just west of the small brick building near the farm) contained a vocal drake mallard and four teal. As darkness encroached the relative action began, with a peregrine heading east (in the near dark at 18:17!), flying steadily over the fields just north of the A192, it skimmed over the top of the new fire station and continued in the diection of East Hartford.

A single short-eared owl  hunted along the fenceline (18:20) and two canada geese dropped into the main pool with the very lastlight (18:25). Along with sub-song from skylark, oystercatcher and pheasant calling and snipe flying about, it was a by West Hartford standards, a quality thirty minutes or so!

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Oh dear, a non-birding weekend!

Despite really nice weather (blue skies and relatively mild), I never got out at all! The garden is becoming a hive of activity – one poor female dunnock is being chased relentlessly by two males, and I hope to photograph some of the display (wing flicking etc) over the next few days – but they’re fast!

The drive home from work on Friday morning was enlightened by a fly-over woodcock, and lesser black backed gull have started to reappear after their winter break from the region.

Saturday was spent (partially) at the cinema - Alice in Wonderland in 3D - Great!

Sunday saw the tick-mobile get a well deserved wash - it was hacky... salted roads are no good for a dark coloured car. Even the inside had a clean out. It really was that birdless a weekend!

A week of early shift beckons… maybe I’ll get out this week sometime?