Saturday, 31 July 2010

Gateshead Egrets & Cleveland Whiskered Tern

As expected,  I pointed the car south today, picking up Mark prior to a quick stop-off at Cousin Robs' former patch to see the four little egret that had arrived earlier in the week.

Part of a mini-invasion to the region these four represent the first record for Shibton Pond and birds 2 - 5 for the Gateshead area (a colour ringed bird on the River Derwent has also been recorded recently - it was a juv from Norfolk that had been recorded at Bishop Middleham previously).

So a good start, albeit if the birds were un co-operative photograph wise, choosing to roost on the island throughout our visit. A lone barnacle goose looked thoroughly out of place with the canada goose flock.

Teesside was the next destination, and in true form I've continued my inability to photograph whiskered tern in the UK... This was my 4th encounter but my first juvenile, having seen adults at Pennington Flash (Greater Manchester), Lound (Notts) and three at Swillington Ings (Dipping collared pratincole, North Yorks).

Got out the car at the reclaimation pond, climbed the bank and promptly had the bird fly low over our heads off to to Saltholme. At Saltholme the bird was roosting distantly on the west pond, so we took opportunity for a cooked breakfast at the visitor centre.

Upon our return we discovered that the tern was back on the reclaimation pool, so that's where we headed. Good but distant views continued as the tern fed over the water (in company with a 1s little gull), and eventually the bird came in close - one unsatisfactory soft focus shot on approach (above) then I was completely unable to achieve focus lock on the camera as it drifted slowly over our heads again.... grrr!!!, much cursing followed.

The tern then settled distantly onto Dormans Pool - and with that we moved on - this was not going to be a good day for rarity images!

Saltholme was quiet - one little egret, a few black-tailed godwit,  a yellow wagatil and not much else of note. Greatham Creek was both spotted redshank and avocetless... and with that we headed back to Northumberland.

Friday, 30 July 2010

_going home time_

At 06:00 this morning my working week was complete - a catalogue of errors and challenges* (* opportunities) had been gracefully handed over to the other equally-tired-but-just-as-enthusiastic replacement shift equivalent... and I was off... for two weeks annual leave.

Prior to some disturbed recovery sleep I called at West Hartford, and was rewarded with a nice view of one of the barn owls while being serenaded by greenfinch and willow warbler. A Pheasant chuckled from within the field and a few black-headed gulls were socialising on the shallow flash - it's still looking good for waders.

Back home a relative garden rarity was encountered - two chiffchaff. You may mock, but that's a good record for the 'Sometimes garden!

So, in terms of annual leave and available birding time: the pager battery has been refreshed and a new notebook has been acquired - let's hope both are put to good use. Saturday is looking good for a trip out to the south of the region, the juv whiskered tern in Cleveland would be a bonus if it lingers (as would as visit to the cafe at Saltholme!), then after that I'll be birding sometimes elsewhere.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Common Tern

This is one of the two common tern that was fishing Arcot Pond on Saturday, inbetween having a pop at the hobby! Common tern do not breed at Arcot, but presumably commute from Big Waters.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Arcot Hobby

Here are a couple more images of the 1s hobby at Arcot Pond on Saturday 24th July. When I first arrived the hobby was perched distantly in the dead trees at the west end of the pond. The image is posted more for "bird in habitat" than that of stunning portrait!

The flight shot (below) was taken as the bird swept in low over the pool chasing insects. The hobby had just managed to shake off an angry common tern! As previously mentioned, the speed at which the hobby would hunt was staggering - this is one quick mover!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Hobby: touring the patch.

I checked out West Hartford this morning and much to my surprise one of the first birds to be picked up was the 1s hobby (11.25) - distantly feeding on insects above the River Blyth. As with the first appearance of this Cramlington mega, it did not hang round long - it sped off east along the course of the river, towards Bebside. A great start! I dispatched a text to STH, who replied pretty quickly with news of a shoveler at Arcot (Cramlingtons other well watched spot).

Not too much was going on over at the flash - the hobby sighting was complimented with a soaring buzzard and a couple of kestrel.

Checking the pager there was news that a hobby, possibly this bird, had been at nearby Wallsend Swallow Pond at 11.00.

Then the mobile rang - it was STH, with an enthusiastic "Hobbys' at Arcot!!!"... so it was back to the car and off to Arcot for me!

Sure enough the 1s hobby was still present, in fact it was showing very nicely, perched in the stand of dead trees that are in the south west corner of the pool (these trees once held a 1s osprey in the early 2000's!).

With not much further a do, it fed for the next forty minutes or so, freaking out the barn swallows and common terns on the pool, gorging on the plentiful insects. Often the hobby would soar very high then without any notice, stoop incredibly fast to the pool and zoom over the water. Needless to say it was very very tricky to photograph - the image in this post is hot off the card... I think I have a better shot or two to play with later.

As if the hobby wasn't good enough, another Cramlington scarcity appeared over the back of the pool. With the presence of hobby freash in our minds, my first call of "hobbys' back" was quickly sense checked - it was a cuckoo!... mmm, oops! To put the cuckoo sighting  in perspective, it's probably the first I've seen in the town since approx 1992!!

Also at Arcot this morning: grey heron, great spotted woodpecker, common tern, sedge warbler, buzzard, kestrel, sparrowhawk, mallard, moorhen and canada goose.

So a great morning. The hobby drifted south-east (to Holywell / Wallsend Swallow Pond?) just after 12.30. Hope we get another visit.

Barn On Brick

I've managed several late evening visits to West Hartford this week, taking advantage of the last set of lateshifts prior to our annual summer break. On most evenings there have been two barn owls hunting, often providing great viewing in the orange toned light from the setting sun.

On Friday night I had my camera gear in the boot of the car, and it was pleasing to arrive and promptly have one of the owls' already out hunting.

Frustratingly the owl was too efficinent, and very soon after checking me out from the top of the brick building that is located in the field west of the flash, the owl dropped into the grass and lifted with an unfortunate rodent.

Time was not on my side this evening, I had to leave before the owl returned (and there was a nice bottle of red waiting...). Hopfully I'll get some more owl photo opportunities this weekend.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

boo, bo bo

No sign of the 1s hobby this morning at West Hartford, it had been photographed during a prolonged stay on Tuesday. The flash is filling nicely with all the recent rain though - should be good for waders! A second visit this evening was better, with two barn owl hunting.

Monday, 19 July 2010


in to West Hartford between petrol filling and work, no sign ofthe  hobby but barn owl hunting. lots of swift this morning...

Sunday, 18 July 2010

& again...

Great views of the 1s hobby this afternoon ~ this time spending prolonged periods perched in the tall dead trees that split the two flash pools at West Hartford. Fantastic through the scope, too far for the camera.

A later visit was less successful, maybe next time...

Friday, 16 July 2010


It was a sunny evening tonight, so I took the opportunity to spend an hour or so at West Hartford pre-beer / pre-earlyish night / pre-overtime shift on Saturday!

The visit started off at quite a slow pace, with reed bunting, meadow pipit, linnet and goldfinch being the only sightings.

At 19:10 the barn owl appeared, hunting over the fields behind the diminished pool. So, with camera at the ready I was set to wait. And wait. typically the barn owl remained distant for most of it's appearance, only coming within range once, but at the wrong angle (flying away!)... so no images were obtained. How come visits without a camera yield fantastic close views??!!

As the barn owl headed back over to the fields near to the River Blyth a few barn swallow flew overhead, alarm calling. I didn't think much of this as a kestrel had been loafing around the old brick building, and conceivably their distress could have been in reaction to the barn owl.

As I scanned for the barn owl I picked up some more distant barn swallow, and remarkably they were being pursued by a hobby. ......HOBBY!!!! My first in Cramlington (though not the first recorded from the West Hartford area). Amazing how a split second can turn a quiet patch visit into a blinder!! The bird almost caught a barn swallow, but very quickly moved through. Texts were issued to the mobile-carrying Cramlington birders, and a wave of degrading responses were sent back. (Thanks lads!!)

So no barn owl pics, but a patch tick. That'll do nicely.

Sun setting at WH...

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Morning Pic(us)

A jay was a nice bonus en-route to West Hartford a couple of evenings ago - with a single bird on the A192 central reservation near Crowhall Lane. I normally only see birds flitting around trees aligning the River Blyth. Maybe they're spreading out? West Hartford was extremely quiet!

The drive to work at 05:25 this morning produced a more significant (in Cramlington terms) sighting - on the central reservation opposite Shaw garden centre was a juv green woodpecker. I've only ever seen green woodpecker once in Cramlington before (it shared a tree with a great grey shrike - see the image below!). Normally I've just heard them "yaffling"- and they have all been at Arcot.

Left - the incredible Cramlington pairing, April 2005!

Could this be the first confirmed breeding in the town? or maybe its a juv from nearby Blagdon / Plessey?

Monday, 12 July 2010

A little more

Little Tern, Crimdon Dene

Another image from yesterdays' enjoyable trip south. In the rush to upload images before the world cup final the photoshop processing of the little tern was not really up to scratch, so here is an alternative. In hindsight I should have taken more (and used a tripod)... the self inflicted dark cloud of a "dotterel dip" had distracted me somewhat from what of would been great photo opportunities as birds returned to the cordoned off nesting area. 

Sunday, 11 July 2010


I spent a pleasant day with STH, ADMc and Phil south of the region today. First stop was Wykeham, North Yorkshire where we had very prompt views of honey buzzard - albeit distant, but prolonged and some amazing butterfly-clapping display. A good start! A further hour produced no more hb sightings, but tree pipit, bullfinch etc added to the day tally.

Further east we took the long walk to Filey Brigg, where reasonable views were had of the 1st summer king eider. Loafing with a female norther eider, the bird had been closer prior to our arrival, but given that it was a sunny day, there was a lot of disturbance from beach-trippers. Not to worry, its a rather grotty bird anyway!

Our journey home was paused with a brief look at the beach at Crimdon Dene -no sign of the colourful female dotterel that two of the party had seen the day previously, but there were plenty of little terns...

Right... time for the world cup final!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

July 2005...

...was a very good month for terns, with trips to Cemlyn Bay (Anglesey) for the sooty tern, Leighton Moss (Lancashire) for caspian tern, and more locally, Whitley Bay (Northumberland) for roseate tern and black tern. If I remember correct, Norfolk had lesser crested tern in July 2005 too! All photographs presented here were taken with the trusty Canon 10D ~ wouldn't mind another pop at a UK sooty with the 1D...

Sooty Tern - great bird seen on a very hot July afternoon - heat haze was a real problem! Twitched with Tom, who had dipped the previous day!

Caspian Tern - seen one week after the Cemlyn sooty... twitched after an overtime shift at work, so arrived in the afternoon when the light was unfavourable. Pre-Mull Bryan was there too!

Adult Roseate Tern - St Mary's (Whitley Bay) enjoyed a few years of good mid summer roseate tern gatherings, numbers have since dropped off.

Fluke photo of immature black tern and immature roseate tern.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Still here!

Working lots. Birding little.

Dipped the East Chevington bridled tern along with everyone else inbetween shifts at work.
Short trip up the coast this morning looking at pools without green sandpiper: Cresswell (quiet) Hauxley (quiet) Amble (chips).

Birding pace should pick up in a few weeks...