Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Tea Ticks

Sunday was one of those nice cool spring mornings, met up with Stewart at Warkworth. 
However, His arrival into the car park was one of crunching gravel and skidding tyres.. he had been tracking a male Marsh Harrier from somewhere just south of Alnmouth, I managed to get on the bird and we watched it for a few seconds as it disappeared south over Coquet Estuary.

We exchanged our proper good mornings and headed off towards the north side. Old Water Pools, dunes and the main track to the North Pier and back through the dunes. 

It turned out a really good morning for catching up with early common migrants, male Blackcap in the Picnic Site scrub, four fabulous Black Tailed Godwits flew up towards the Old Water as we headed to the estuary, a couple of Sandwich Terns were sat out on the sand bank opposite Amble Harbour and 6+ Sand Martins were buzzing around the pier.

As well as the arrivals noted, two Twite were still 'wintering' on the saltmarsh, tame and easily photographed feeding on the high tide debris..


Sandwich Terns

We left Warkworth quite satisfied with a nice collection of migrants and pulled up on the track by Birling poured some tea and just stood around a bit. The thing is, at this time of year even just standing outside can be good, a few small flocks of Pink Footed Geese drifted north, a Greenshank flew overhead calling, the fields around the Birling area and the Golf Course have quite a few shallow pools at the moment and this bird may have lifted from one of those. Chiff Chaff and Goldcrest were obviously moving, following the ditch that runs from the sea and inland along the track hedgerow, it seemed that way anyway, perhaps not.. 

Friday, 8 April 2016


Computer problems stopping posts at the moment, not that I'm prolific at the best of times, new PC on its way so there could be no more posts after this knowing my IT nous.

So.. March has given way to April, summer birds are starting to pass through and arrive in small numbers, it never seems to be very dramatic in north Northumberland just a slow and gradual process. Keeps you looking hard at the patch or wherever you find yourself.
I got to thinking about one early spring species, Chiff Chaff, so much excitement for a week or so and then they just tend to get forgotten about for thew rest of the year, reports here and there of the earliest singing birds and then they are pushed aside by its sweeter more melodic stable mate the Willow Warbler, Sand Martin and coastal Wheatears as spring gathers pace.

A wander down the River Coquet at Warkworth on one of the last days of March we caught up with and enjoyed a singing Chiff Chaff, this one was easy to watch in the leafless branches.

Goldcrest also singing but difficult to photograph

A week or so later, first Sunday or April I didn't make it out first thing but met up with Stewart at Howick and decided to check out part of his patch for a change, Craster. 
Late in the morning so kicking about a bit, feeling like we were just having an hour or so, we parked up and wandered down to the harbour, it was a nice enough morning.

Just as we rounded the nearest moored up fishing boat Stewart shouted a Black Redstart, fabulous..

Its the time of year for these birds to turn up but they aren't common and always nice to see. I went mad a bit with photographs.



Other species were feeding in the small harbour area. Robin, Pied Wagtail, Wren, Jackdaw, Rook, Turnstone and Purple Sandpiper.

Loved this Rook, drinking fresh water from a clifftop puddle


Purple Sandpiper
Anyway, back on my patch, I've just had my first Wheatear,,, 

Monday, 21 March 2016

Lap Laps

Back on the patch this morning after what seems like ages away, Old Water and down to the north side of the estuary first, all very quiet but really nice and spring like, Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Stonechat pairs all confirming its late March already.

A good stroll and back to the car for tea. We then decided to take a look at the field on the coastal edge of Birling to see if the Arctic Redpoll was still present, this field is now absolutely full of birds, Good numbers of Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer, Tree Sparrow, Skylark, Linnet and Redpoll. No sign of the Arctic though, little winter star has obviously left us.
There were four or so Brown Hare, Gray Partridge and Pheasant.

Anyway, never mind all of that, half way up the field, heading north on our first transect we, at first, got our eye on and then heard the distinctive call that put us on Lapland Bunting alert.
What followed was what seemed like dozens of laps and wanderings through this field, legs getting heavier with each chase. Heading to where the bird seemed to go down, having brief views on the ground then following the bird in flight to the next secluded tuft, stalk or bare patch only for it to flush meters away from where we were certain it would be.. a frustrating and challenging exercise.
The bird did land on a bramble hedgerow for a while allowing the photographs I'm posting here to be taken.. dark ear spot, rusty nape, two or three dark secondary coverts and nice rusty wing patch, a large, 'long' bird in flight with a distinctive look and feel, easy to pick out.. 

I have never really had very good views of Lapland Bunting, still haven't really but nice to find one and observe it in flight, calling and sat up a bit..  absolutely whacked and ready for more tea when we got back to the car.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Black Redstart

Black Redstart at Seahouses Harbour. Seemed quite settled feeding around the warmed sunlit harbour walls and among all the boat men that were busy with winter maintenance work.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Abbey Tip Off

Met up with Stewart at Coquet Estuary, Braid Car Park, we had decided to check out an area not really known to me but which had, last week, an interesting flock of Redpoll courtesy of our good friend Nigel. So after quickly checking the Gulls in Amble Harbour off we headed.. south..

Widdrington Tip, former landfill site flanked by a former industrial site, doesn't sound good but these areas can be some of the best in our countryside. Its no 'nature reserve' as we'd more comfortably expect but a small area where wildlife can thrive.

Superb habitat, Birch, Alder, reeds, small ponds and ditches. I tried to take some photographs to show the habitat.

We did catch up with the Redpoll flock, or part of it anyway, or actually, some Redpolls. Mostly Lesser Redpolls with at least a couple of Mealy Redpoll present, really nice birds to watch, very active, sometimes sat up in low bushes and sometimes disappearing to ground either feeding or drinking. We also saw Woodcock, Snipe and Long Tailed Tit flocks moving around the area.

Track of the day; fringing the good habitat on one side and our green and pleasant and lifeless habitat on the other
Looking in from the Widdrington Village road

Track in from the north end
Spot the Peregrine, winner gets a slice of cake
Off we headed back north, checking out various other ponds on reclaimed open cast areas, good birds to be had. Our last stop was Druridge Bay Country Park, photographing the male Goosander, not that successfully as it happens.

and a Mute..
It really lifted my spirits this visit to Widdrington Tip, yes we may have to share these habitats and areas with air gun enthusiasts and countryside users that may not quite be on the same side of the barbed wire fence as we are but do you know, I think the wildlife is safer and better off..

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Med Mad

I have taken loads of photographs of the Med Gull at Amble Little Shore, its always there and its a lovely photogenic bird.
I recall the days when you just didn't see this species in Northumberland at all, I guess that's why I just cant help myself. Anyway, here are a few pics that give an idea of how nice this Gull is.

On Poll position for the start of the year..

It has felt like a slow start to the year, the weather has been mostly mild, wet and windy. This has left me feeling a little sluggish I think.
Nothing changes out there though and there have been some good walks out, mainly around the patch, Coquet Estuary and Warkworth, this will be the second full year recording properly on this patch and trying to watch it as often as I can right through all of the seasons.
Last year was a good year, I didn't do the review of the year I had meant to do, and as many others have done excellently but the total species seen was around or exactly 140.

First visit this year was on the 3rd, I really didn't have much time and it was late morning when I arrived. I headed for the estuary and Amble Harbour, recording like crazy.
The Coquet, as you approach Warkworth from Amble is a good place to see Sawbills, particularly above the weir. Sure enough Red Breasted Merganser and Goldeneye were seen, sort of expected I guess but they were still the highlight of my visit as I headed up into Warkworth. 
Along by The Butts a Grey Wagtail was feeding along the kerb on the roadside, I actually whispered 'yes' to myself, again an expected species but one that can be tricky and one that is always nice to see. 

So, I headed out of Warkworth thinking I really need to get home, I thought I'd try a short seawatch from Birling to add a few species to the list. I parked in the usual spot at the end of the rough track that leads to the Caravan Site on the cliff top overlooking Birling Carr.
As I was pulling my coat on I noticed a good flock of small birds in a field that had been a game crop for most of the year, many of the plants were seeding and it had a good rough look of a place that might feed birds through the winter.
I decided I'd wander down the edge towards Warkworth Golf Club, Lapland Bunting perhaps, I was thinking, you can never tell and the area is really under watched so why not. 
A little group of birds lifted as I entered the field, I lifted my Binoculars before I heard a call 'Twite' I thought then the birds began calling, Redpoll, very nice and unexpected, there seemed approximately 15 or so. 
I continued along the eastern edge of the field and this flock kept circling, flying to the bottom of the field and dropping into cover. I decided to sit still a bit and wait, it really was time I had to be getting home. As I sat and just before I left I had a couple of decent views of this flock. Many, it seemed to me, of the birds were good pale, large looking Mealy Redpolls, a few Lesser including one superb male with fabulous scarlet upper breast. There was one bird in this flock though that was white, grey, pale with a pure white rump. 

I had to go, I would need to see if I could get back and check this flock out properly, I may have an Arctic Redpoll in there, I was thinking not though, for some reason. Its a funny thing, trying to tell yourself you have seen what you have seen or have you seen what, perhaps, you want to see. 

It wasn't until the following Sunday that I managed to get back to the flock, Stewart was with me, it was a dull wet and windy day but we really did start to get excited and I managed to get some rough photographs before putting the news out that , at least, we had a very pale Mealy Redpoll.

This bird is, in my opinion an Arctic Redpoll, I have an opinion regarding race etc but I'll not share. Others will discuss and decide. The bird is still present at the time of writing this I think, mid Feb, and has been photographed and observed by many.

A wonderful start to the year and I'll be lucky to upstage this little starlet on the patch in 2016.