Sunday, 28 June 2009

4birders tour Northumberland

The 27th June was a very damp and grey day - not ideal for an intense day of birding. Way back at the start of the year I'd agreed to be part of a team of birders doing a big day - the original date in May was post poned twice through illness and injury, so the next available day was yesterday - possibly the worst weekend of the year - most birds have stopped singing, migrant numbers will have slowed up and I'll have been on nightshift, so my body clock is somewhat messed up.

Two members of the team were not strictly local - John B was part of my childhood birding crew and now resides in Yorkshire, while Iain lives and works in Norfolk, an old pal of Johns' from his RSPB wardening days at Minsmere.

Needless to say, John B and Iain were the keenest members of the team, and when Mark and I met them in a wet and misty Harthope Valley at 11:00, they had already been birding for just over 6 hours! They had already had 60+ species including black grouse in the South-west of the county, kingfisher and green woodpecker - alas their trip to Kielder was unsuccessful osprey-wise as the mist was too thick to see the nest which is rather distant from the viewpoint (~ 2 miles or so!!)

Harthope produced cuckoo, lesser redpoll, siskin, dipper, spotted flycatcher and redstart, but pied flycatcher and whinchat evaded us. Budle Bay held two little egret, pintail and wigeon while Stag Rocks offered or first puffin, common scoter, fulmar etc.

Fish and chips were nice at Seahouses and soon after we were enjoying little tern feeding at Beadnell along with common, sandwich and arctic tern. Mark was staying in the north of the county this weekend, so with large cucumber* in hand, he headed back to his digs. (*alleged purchase for evening meal)

Amble was med gull-less and the view to Coquet Island produced roseate tern. Hauxley NR added grey-lag goose and tree sparrow to the list and at East Chevington we were treated to a smashing summer plumaged spotted redshank on the south pool. One 1s little gull was on the north pool and an otter appeared briefly. Off the dunes at Druridge a single arctic skua harassed the terns and when we arrived at Cresswell at 18:00 it was found to be spoonbill-less.

Cresswell was my point of departure from John and Iain, I headed home for Glastonbury festival highlights on TV (lets' rock!) while they headed inland to try for nightingale.

So, despite the weather and the late date we had a smashing day - John and Iain ended up with respectable 112 species, although nightingale evaded them.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Some birders wander by mistake

Doesn't 17 years pass quickly?... 27th June 2009 will mark the 17th anniversary of a favorite concert I attended... The Sisters of Mercy at Birmingham NEC - Yeah!!. The only concert (so far) where I've seen a bride (in full wedding dress, veil, bouquet...) in the audience. Glum Rock. Rocks.

On the 27th June 2009... I'll be out birding in Northumberland

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Nightingale... tick!

A second attempt for the singing nightingale was more successful this afternoon - news was released on the pager just as I awoke from my nightshift slumber, and by 14:30 I was listening then briefly seeing my first Northumberland nightingale. Splendid!

See the previous post comment for more details off Dave Britton for viewing/listening. (Thanks Dave!)

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Nightingale... dip

Woke up early afternoon (I'm on nightshift, so thats reasonable I guess) to read not one, but two messages about a singing nightingale near Howlett Hall - and given it was a lovely sunny day I made my way there straight away.

So was the nightingale still singing? No.. Not a sniff!

Unlike when the morning visitors had been... (see PC Wanderings ) - at least I know that I was in the correct location!... never mind, a female redstart was nice to see and there was plenty of buzzards kicking about.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

East Chevington

A potter up the coast on Monday 22nd was relativley quiet, albeit for East Chevington, where the north pool is finally exposing some mud. 21 1st summer little gull dominated the proceedings, with a single adult roseate tern among the sandwich, common and arctic tern resting below the south hide. Nine grey heron patrolled the south pool, while offshore a large raft of common scoter were beyond the burn mouth and small parties of puffin steamed to and from Coquet Island.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Florida Selection

Great Blue Heron

Reddish Egret

Wilsons Plover

Bald Eagle

Northern Cardinal
The trip to Florida in anuary 2006 was so good that I had to go back!
This selection of photographs is from January 2007, all taken with a Canon 10D and Canon 500mm lens. The 10D was a very good camera indeed, although the fact that the birds out in Florida are so obliging did help! The immature great blue heron was on the beach outside our hotel in Naples and was very bold - I have a picture somewhere with it standing next to me - almost my height!

The reddish egret was also at Naples, I love the way that this species "dances" with it's wings spread while hunting - I assume the open wings create shadows on the water so that the fish are attracted.
Wilsons plover is a great species - a colossal bill! This bird was photographed at Tigertail beach. The shore also held piping plover, tri-coloured heron and western sandpiper.
The mighty bald eagle was at the aptly named eagle lakes south of Naples, and was one of several in the area - along with many anhingha, osprey, blue-winged teal, mottled duck etc.
The northern cardinal was photographed at the feeding station at Corkscrew Swamp, where painted bunting, northern waterthrush, american goldfinch and red-winged blackbird were also easily photographed.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Feeling a little blue...

I'm really struggling to get out ... so here's a stop gap picture. This little blue heron was photographed in January 2006 at Corkscrew Swamp, Florida - a wonderful reserve near Naples.

The reserve features a variety of habitat, with pine upland, wetland prairie, cypress forest and marsh - all viewable from a well maintained boardwalk, some 2.25 miles in circumference. Easy for photography, with many species comfortable with the observers presence. Bird species include wood stork, anhinga, painted bunting, red-shouldered hawk and a variety of warblers. In addition, alligator are also very likely to be observed!

Monday, 8 June 2009

Brown-headed Cowbird, Northumberland

For those who may not be aware, photographs of the brown-headed cowbird that was belatedly reported from Belford, Northumberland in May 2009 are now posted on the Northumberland & Tyneside Bird Club website.

Two visits to St Mary's

Late Sunday afternoon news of a singing marsh warbler had me heading to SMI after tea, and sure enough after a 45 minute wait or so the marsh warbler began to sing. Then stop. Then nothing for a bit. Then sing again, maybe a bit to the left from last time. And that was about it, one brief "flick" between bushes and that was our lot. Not much mimicry, a brief burst of blue tit and a few "chacks". Not the best.

So, after an early shift and news that the bird was still present, Monday afternoon was spent looking into the same bushes and willows. No luck today, although others present had had heard and seen the bird earlier...

A pair of whitethroat (female featured here) were actively feeding young, the occasional willow warbler sang and and a sedge warbler chipped in for a short while too. Not much else though!

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Pratincole Profiles

Reminded me of long-tailed skua...

Reminded me of a barn swallow...

Back into skua mode!

A few more images of the pratincole... the "nearlies but not quite"

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Pratincole on the list...

It was an early start today - departed at 04:20 and by 08:20 was pulling up to a windswept field in north-west Norfolk... just as the pager confirmed that the target bird was present.... black-winged pratincole.


I'd sweated for a week (again working nightshift) hoping that this would stick... and it did. Always a relief when the journey is a bit longer than normal.

I've experienced bad dips before - the red-necked stint at in Cambridgshire stands out; as negative news was posted as we pulled into the car park - the journey back was painful... especially as pallas's grasshopper warbler was evidently available on Blakeney Point when we reached Doncaster! Anyhoo... I'd not seen BWP before, so it constitutes my second new UK bird of 2009.

The initial views of the bird were below average - the bird was distant and not doing much, pretty much just sitting on the ground, and the weather was dull, cold and windy. Chat was good with fellow birders - meeting old acquaintances met previously on Scilly, and more familiar faces from the North-east.

By 11:00 hunger had set in, so a trip to Titchwell RSPB was called for. A Cheese and ham toastie showed much better than the pratincole, although it did not linger... On the reserve itself a bittern was booming, 3+ marsh harrier patrolled the reedbeds, avocet and black-tailed godwit were plentiful and there were tonnes of swift!

Refreshed(ish) I headed in the direction of home (not holme!), with another stop at the pratincole site. The first person I saw was Adrian Allen, another Northumberland birder... who more sensibly was taking in the pratincole as part of a holiday in East Anglia rather than a day trip from Northumberland!

By now the sun was shining - and what a difference this made to the bird - now more active, running short lengths across the ploughed field, stopping and standing "to attention", bobbing it's head frantically, and better still - flying! What a cracking family pratincoles are - like over sized swallows! We were treated to one very close fly-over, with the pratincole calling to make sure we knew it was there! Many photographs were taken, one of which is presented here...

The journey back was tedious - part of the A1 was closed south of Retford - 2 hours were spent in a traffic jam - boo!

The downside of twitching - journey back + traffic jam...