Sunday, 28 February 2010

Sunday highs and lows.

I had a brief sorte up to Druridge Bay this afternoon, heading direct to the Budge fields for disant views of the drake green-winged teal - he was mixed in with a healthy 30+ group of eurasion teal. Four shoveler were also present, and apart from lapwing and curlew there was not much else.

East Chevington held a good number of pink-footed geese, and it transpired later that a single tundra bean was present too. Dip 1. Four redhed smew were on the south pool and the north pool was quite barren.

Heading back down to Cresswell there was (again) no sign of the barn owl. Dip 2. And I failed to pick out the tundra bean goose that was reported later in the fields north of Bell's Farm. Dip 3.

No sign of the waxwing at Ashington (Dip 4), so it was back home via West Hartford. As usual (!) it was the highlight location of the day with twelve oystercatcher (great Feb' record), six eurasion teal, 27 lapwing and a few of bhg, hg, & cg. A single buzzard was noted in the northen fields.

Arriving home late afternoon I decided to pull the bird feeder closer to the house and have positioned a few branches near to the feeders in an attempt to provide some garden bird photography opportunies over the next few days... we'll see how successful it is as the first week of March progresses...

Saturday, 27 February 2010


Not had much of a reason to go out this week, too much in the way of household chores to keep me inside prior to work.

This week wood pigeon have started to display over the house, there are now two robin in alliance in the garden and the dunnock have become very vocal. Is spring on its' way?


As a space filler. here's a stop-gap ring-necked duck from last Sundays' trip to Clevelend. Still pleased to have seen this bird close-up, though it seems to have resumed it's on-off showings at Cowpen Bewley. Northumberland is surely due another, it's been a couple of years since the last.

Perhaps I'll potter out on Sunday... a drake green-winged teal is now at Druridge and a SEO or two may be available.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Ring-necked Duck

An email from Tom Tams on Saturday afternoon contained some very nice images of the seemingly settled drake ring-necked duck at Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park - so that was Sunday sorted then!

I picked up Colin Bradshaw at 10:00 and by 11:00 were were having our fill of this dapper drake. Cold conditions continue in the north-east, so it was little suprise to find that the RNDs chosen pool was 95% frozen. Luckily for us, the remaining un-frozen patch was close to the foot path, so at worst the bird was only 10 meters or so away.

The duck spent a considerable time dozing, so we had to be quick to shoot when he lifted his head! This species has a striking bill, and the orangey~yellow eye really did stand out. Given the birds close proximity plenty of shots were taken and I expect I'll post a couple of more quirky images during the week.

Tom had scored with bright sunny conditions on Saturday - Sunday was dull and it was not long before the snow arrived, forcing an early end to the photography. All was not lost though - Saltholme RSPB is only round the corner and we were soon enjoying views of twite and linnet from the relative luxury of the packed cafe, binoculars in one hand, bacon buttie in the other. Happy days!

Saturday, 20 February 2010

West Hartford till dusk...

Bleak West Hartford: Every Birders Dream Patch...

A quiet day all round - a lazy morning, some photo-processing in the early afternoon then an hour or so at West Hartford till dusk. Weather was very cold, some of last nights snow was still laying, I expect there will be a frost tonight.

Little to report bird-wise, with three grey heron, three common buzzard, two kestrel and one male pheasant in the field. Wood pigeon numbers remain high with as many as 1,500 working the fields either side of the River Blyth. The trip out was saved by two oystercatcher flying over north-east. Oystercatcher normally arrive at West Harford in March, so it was unusual to have two this early in the year. The pond was frozen, so there was no sign of any duck. A very quick intermission break at the Horton Burn produced two moorhen and one grey heron. I haven't seen the kingfisher for a while now...

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Bombycilla club

Here are a few more images of the waxwing at Ashington. Always a delight to view, but I still do not have my dream shot! I'll just have to go and see some more...

This puffed up individual appears to be bending the branch! I was very lucky to connect with these birds on a nice sunny winter day. As I sit here writing this post it's dull and cold outside... Waxwing can look very grey plumages when the sun is not out.

I did get some images of birds calling, but they had the knack to have their heads at just the wrong angle! Maybe next time.

As with previous posts, click the images for a larger, sharper version.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Winter Warmer

I spent a very pleasant couple of hours on the Nursery Park estate in Ashington watching and photographing the 36 strong flock of waxwing.

I arrived not long after two o'clock to find Pete watching the flock in the trees adjacent to the cemetary. During the visit the waxwing remained high up, never coming to an optimum photography level nor feeding on berries (the flock would occassionally fly into the housing estate to feed). However, the light and sky were very nice indeed, so a few shots were rattled off.

Click the image for a larger, sharper version.

More to follow... maybe.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Morning owl, afternoon 'wing

The dark drive to work for early shift was brightened somewhat by a barn owl, perched on a fence post near the Holiday Inn roundabout at 05:30.

After a quick cuppa upon return from work I headed north to Morpeth for a quick look at the waxwing that had been reported earlier. I could only find four of the reported six, all perched on top of a house on Lindisfarne Lane. Frustatingly for me they were feeding very close to the car, but in a front garden - I did not dare get the camera out...

I thought that I might have more success in Ashington (that's not a statement you'd hear very often!), but I failed to locate any - neither on the Nursery Park estate nor nearby at Kestrel Way. I do hope I have more luck with this delightful species before the winter is out.

West Hartford held little, four shelduck were active in territorial dispute, 13 lapwing few over, pheasant numbered three, and 2 kestrel patrolled the fields. Still no SEO for me.

Final stop, Horton Burn - no sign of any kingfisher but two moorhen were noteworthy.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Saturday morning dawned reasonably bright, so Mark and I headed up the coast for a casual potter.

First stop was Newbiggin, where four adult and one 2nd Winter Mediterranean gull were readily available. It was cold and cloudy, so I did not venture onto the beach for any photographs - I'll save that for when the adults are developing their black hoods.

At Woodhorn Flash the goose flock was smaller and distinctly white-frontedless, we later found a larger and Greenland white-fronted inclusive flock (the four birds that have been present a week or so now) just north of Woodhorn Church.

Note in the photograph how much smaller than grey-lag geese the white-fronts are, along with the overall darker plumage, orangey bill and thin white trailing edge to the tail. These first winter birds don’t have much in terms of barring on the belly yet and the "white-front" is restricted. Click the image for a bigger and sharper version!

Druridge held three then four smew, including the 1st winter drake – I think this may be the first I’ve seen in this plumage. All four smew kept to the nothern side of the pool, which is a pity. The pools also held wigeon, mallard, teal, goldenye, red-breasted merganser, while overhead the predominantly pink-footed geese flock passed over a couple of times. It transpired later that the tundra bean geese (3) were also in the area today, so it’s feasible that we could have seen these had we looked!

At Blyth we had no luck with the droopy winged 2nd winter Iceland gull, it was reported later in the afternoon, so I’ll try again some other time.

And that was that, bacon and eggs were calling at Birdingsometimes HQ.

Nice to see Northumberland waxwing reports increasing and taiga & tundra bean geese reported in unusually high numbers today. This is proving to be an interesting time…

Just The Ticket

Finally got round to putting some suitcases back into the loft this afternoon, an exercise I’d been inadvertently putting off for a few weeks. An unexpected bonus was finding a file full of old music memorabilia – including a wad of old concert tickets. That was the end of my afternoon plans for a visit to West Hartford, as I ploughed through the stubs reminiscing! Sharp eyed readers may note the Adam & the Ants programme – this was my first concert in January 1982, going with my Dad and cousin Rob ~ a brilliant, theatrical show!

Rob and I hit the Newcastle City Hall for our first “unaccompanied” concert: The Alarm, and that was the start of many others thereafter… including trips away with Selbys Travel for shows in Birmingham, London and Edinburgh, festivals etc.

I like that the former ace Newcastle venue “The Riverside” used to do hand-written tickets – not something that would be done today with all the ticket scams! Note the David Bowie ticket from there? He did a “club tour” in 1992, amazing!

Amongst the tickets are a few bits from the concert stage – setlists from Radiohead, Tindersticks (you’ll all have their records eh?!), The Cranberries, Cranes, plus chord reminders for Julianne Regan (All About Eve) and autographs of Robert and Simon from The Cure when they played a show at Newcastle Mayfair in 1992…

Click the photo for a larger, clearer view & see how limited my music tastes were / are!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Rescued from the archive

I've spent a lot of time of late in the house processing images from years past rather than getting out birding and taking new photographs. The two images here bring back pleasant memories of warmer times on the Kona coast, Hawaii in January 2009; bristle-thighed curlew above, and pacific golden plover below. The images selected were on a dvd of processed TIFFs (I keep the RAW files seperate) - and during the process of todays' review I managed to corrupt the dvd - luckily the images were salvage using a sandisk rescue program...

PS - click the images to see the larger size / sharp image... the blogger program has a habit of making the images look soft!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

The Goose Chase

Saturday dawned bright and sunny at Birdingsometimes HQ, so I took the decision to head inland for a potter with some wildfowl. First stop was Whittle Dene, where a female smew had been reported recently. Annoyingly thick fog had failed to clear, and I could barely make out four tufted duck on the lower reservoir, never mind a smew! Next up was Grindon Lough – thankfully void of fog, but also void of Greenland white-fronted geese and tundra bean geese too! A couple of hundred Canada geese were the best that was on offer, with forty common gull to boot. The fog was a bit weird here – while the Lough was fog-free, a chance look from the road just north of Steel Rig on the roman wall (a good spot for the Greenland white-fronts when they’re not on the Lough) was worthless, as visibility was less than ten meters…    Driving past Grindon two fox were noted.

Enough was enough, so I headed back east, via Prestwick Carr and West Hartford. Both were pretty much bird-less, so news of bean goose sp. north of Bell’s Pond was enough to keep me moving. En-route I stopped at Woodhorn for a better look at the four Greenland white-fronted geese … I’m still smarting at my failure to look at them properly last week!

At the bean goose spot I bumped into Steve and Phil, and we spent a pleasant half hour or so scanning the goose flock. Steve eventually picked up the bean goose – it transpired that it was a tundra bird - my first of this bean goose form in the county, ;-). Also present: eight barnacle geese, a heap of pink-footed, several grey-lag and Canada… including a weird pale bodied bird. A small flock of twite were feeding opposite. No chance of photographs today, it was a very dark and grey afternoon. MSH arrived and I continued north with him up to the corner at Druridge in an attempt to get a better look at the tundra bean ~ no joy there, but it was good to catch up with tales of birding and travel.

Steve and Phil had already departed south, and a text confirming the presence of two SEO at West Hartford gave me a pit-stop for the journey back home, but all I could manage was a tribe of long-tailed tit.

And that was that.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

White-front revisited

Mike Hodgson got some images of the white-fronted geese at Woodhorn yesterday... the images clearly show that the birds are of the greenland race rather than eurasion. I should have looked more closely on Sunday...