Sunday, 20 April 2014

Spring....

...... is well and truly here !!

I've been working away all week and have managed to miss a couple of nice patch birds during that time including an avocet, black tailed godwits and the first yellow wagtail of the year on the scrapes..... could be worse I suppose.

This morning I headed out early to avoid all of the bleedin tourists which are now crawling all over the place like bank holiday ants. In just 5 days things have moved on swiftly with lesser whitethroat, grasshopper warblers and sedge warbler all now singing down at the pool, it feels like spring has properly arrived. 

The 'car park scrub' gropper doing its thing...
No sign of yesterdays avocet on the scrapes but I was pleased to see the 2 ruff still present, they must find it to their liking !

I was away home by 9am to avoid bank holiday tourist hell, but on my way home I checked the Tin Church horse field, there was a single female wheatear. This last week I've been working on the west coast and seeing large numbers of wheatears and even a whinchat, I was hoping for a bit more wheatear action over this side tbh.
 
Through this morning texts came winging in from the hardcore (thanks Chris & Stewart !) to let me know that a female marsh harrier had appeared down at the pool and a yellow wag was on the scrapes too.... gripped !

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Patch Tick Re-visited.....

After a few drinks with a mate last night I arrived at Low Newton this morning to try and clear my head. 

First off I looked out over the scrapes and thought I was either seeing things or still pissed !!..... There, sat with a couple of shelducks was a gaudy looking Egyptian goose !! Makes up for that very brief flyby patch tick a few weeks ago I suppose.

I was soon joined by Stewart who happened to be walking down the track to the pool. He seems to making a habit of poaching on my patch recently, I hope I'm not going to be in for another Tilmouth/bluethroat experience this year. Shortly after, Jimmy also arrived to take a look..... a Low Newton twitch no less !

Anyway, we all dismissed it as a horrible plastic thing (as all good birders should), then each managed to secretly grab a few photos and admire it when the others weren't looking (as all good birders should !). Even Jimmy, who was taking the piss out of us for even looking at it, soon had his camera out for some pics.....

Category Z rubbish or extremely rare patch MEGA ?...
 
Nice to see the 2 ruff still present on the scrapes this morning too....

Gypo and ruff meet.....
Not a lot else to report this morning in what was a fairly brief visit. Sand martins continue to slowly build in number (10+ here yesterday) and swallows are trickling in with 1 today and 3 yesterday. Today a male blackcap was in the same area where I have been seeing a female all week, the chiffs continue to sing and there are at least a couple of willow warblers now too.

Finally, a single fieldfare was in trees at High Newton yesterday.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Dibbling.....

Ever since the scrapes were created I have been asking Natural England to protect the small outflow sluice (essentially a right angle pipe with collars on it) from livestock. Some simple management is required to prevent inquisitive cattle from nosing or kicking the collars off and draining all of the water out.

After 4 years of asking to get it sorted and 3 incidents where cattle knocked the collars off and emptied the place overnight, I've had enough and taken the matter into my own hands !

A bit of guerrilla management !!........ Well not really...... I'd like to think I was being a bit of a rebel but the truth is the land agent told me that we can do what we like in that field if it helps him deliver the HLS agreement.

Today I met up with Kevin, we found some old fence posts and barbed wire and did a DIY job. Not as neat as a fencing contractor but if it does the job and prevents this place from drying up again I don't care how it looks !


Here's me wrestling with some barbed wire....

....and Kevin, a man who had the common sense to bring some gloves !

It's not pretty but it's functional. The final job is to nail a cross of wooden beams over the top to prevent the cattle from leaning in or pushing the posts together......
Just need to sort out the inflow sluice debacle now ! More about that another time....

The scrapes are looking perfect for a few passage waders and yellow wagtails now....

Mmmmm..... muddy !
The most remarkable event of the day was hearing an unusual call overhead while putting the fence posts in. We looked up to see 2 ruff dropping out of the sky and landing on the scrapes nearby ! I don't think I've ever heard a ruff before, and unusual chatter a bit like a little grebe....... but not.....


Fresh in, 2 ruff.....
A few willow warblers were singing at the pool today and I had my first swallow of the year..... Which was nice !


Life.....

....... can be hectic sometimes !

I seem to have spent the last 10 days really busy with a lot of time sat in front of the computer. Another day another report, but I've just looked out of the window to see a couple of sandwich terns floating by, so that was nice.

Elsewhere I have been out birding but with not much to report I haven't bothered ! A trickle if migrants is slowly filtering through now including willow warblers and a blackcap joining all of those singing chiffs down at Newton Pool, a few sand martins there too......


I've been hoping for something a bit scarcer but no joy. A ring ouzel was visiting my mates garden at High Newton earlier this week but I didn't get to see it unfortunately, not a bad garden bird tho eh !

I've been doing a bit of dibbling down at the scrapes this week too, but more about that later.....

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Distraction.....

I have been working on producing maps for reports all day....... 

Just as I was getting tired of staring at the screen I glanced out of the window and had a pleasant distraction in the form of a wheatear.......

Wheatear in the fog, sat on the rocks just outside our place..... SPRING IS HERE !

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Arrival of Migrants !!

I've spent the last 3 days looking out of the window at the easterlies and murk...... Each day I've been out to a few likely spots looking for black redstarts, but no joy.....

In the week it was fairly quiet with a chiffchaff out at Newton Point my only obvious migrant. Today things changed a little and Newton Point yielded 2 wheatears, a robin and a chiff all in the compound......... All good migrants and this spurred me on to walk a little further and check out a few other spots.

2 more robins and single chiff were noted along the coast between Newton Point and the shit pit, quite a good haul I thought ! Still no black redstart tho.......

A proper migrant !! Wheater on the compound fence.
Another migrant... Chiff on a stone wall at Newton Point.
Migrant robin on the compound fence.
Three of the coastal bird crops were checked for lap and snow bunts but there were none.

Interestingly still a good number of yellowhammers (50+), reed bunts (30+) and tree sparrows (14) using these crops. The crops are looking pretty depleted now, so it just goes to show how important they can be at providing late winter seed to keep birds going through the 'hungry gap'.  

On my way back to Low Newton I walked inland and checked High Newton quarry and various horse paddocks for black redstart or perhaps an early ring ouzel......... again no joy......

Down on the beach at Low Newton there was still at least one littoralis pipit alongside 10+ grubby looking rockers.

Finally a quick check of Newton Pool where 2 chiffs were singing and a goldcrest was flitting about the place, why couldn't it have been a firecrest eh.....

Nice to see these returning to the dunes after those hard winters. This little beauty was singing at Low Newton boat yard.
This tame woodpigeon was in gardens at Low Newton.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Whoopers & Crows.....

I had 19 whooper swans flying north just offshore past our place on Monday, slowly moving back to their breeding grounds no doubt.

I've also noticed quite a few carrion crows flying north today. I guess the next month or so is a prime time to be looking out for a migrant hooded crow....

More to the point with the current easterlies and forecast rain for the next few days there is a chance of some early migrants I reckon. White-spotted bluethroat may be a little bit ambitious (although the habitat down at the pool looks superb for one), a more realistic target might be a black redstart or firecrest.

To be honest I'd be very happy with a wheatear or white wag right now.....

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Pipits Again.....

Another Sunday and time to team up with Chris again for a bash at the rockers....... 

Around 20 odd birds on the seaweed today and although there were certainly a few cleaner and greyer looking individuals, the more obvious bright birds from last week seem to have moved on. 

I am pleased to report that there were no whoosh net malfunctions today and 5 birds were trapped and ringed. Of the birds ringed only one was considered a likely littoralis, appearing greyer toned above with less streaking on the underparts and a rather subtle peachy flush. The other four appeared generally petrosus like. Wing lengths suggested all birds today were probably females.

Presumed littoralis (left) showing greyer upperpart tones and a subtle peachy wash to the underparts.
To be honest the more I look at these birds the more confused I become !

The brightest bird today (above) had the dullest tail, with sandy brown outer tail feathers. The other birds all had brown/grey outer tail feathers with slightly whiter tips. Not really what we expected.....

Tails of the two birds above, note the sandy brown wash to the outertail of the left hand bird.


This standard olivey looking rock pipit showed whitish tips to T5 and T6 too.....



I don't really know what to make of this. I have a (completely unproven) theory that many of the rock pipits we see at this time of year are more northern birds moving through. It's easy to stamp the bright water pipit like birds as littoralis, but what about the others ?

We seem to get a mix of the bog standard looking olivey/yellow washed birds, the brighter pink flushed birds and then everything in between ! Today there were a reasonable number of greyer looking birds with cleaner underparts which I suspect are littoralis.

Whitish tips to the outertail feathers is often touted as a good littoralis feature, but I don't know if this is factual or just based on anecdotal evidence ? If petrosus really do lack whiter tips then that would suggest that many of the birds we get at this time of year are indeed littoralis, even tho some look olivey and petrosus like.

While we are on with crazy theories...... I also have another theory that those brighter birds from last week might be males that have departed ahead of the females to set up territories.

Of course this could all be utter bollox, but who really knows ?!!!

Anyway, here's some more pics......

Rock pipit doing that 'thrush' pose......
Meadow pipit creeping about on the seaweed....

A few chiffs in now, this one was at Newton Pool....

Friday, 21 March 2014

A CRASH........

....Is what I very nearly had when this flew across my car's bonnet this afternoon !!

A cracking Iceland gull !!
So there I was driving down the road minding my own business.....

I'd not got far out of Beadnell when this beauty just appeared over a roadside stone wall in front of me. It then proceeded to fly low over the road so close to the car that I had to slow down to avoid hitting it.

An emergency stop was made, I grabbed my camera and leapt out of the car to take this 'record shot' as it flew away over the field and off towards the Long Nanny.

Meanwhile my mum (sat in the passenger seat) was NOT impressed with my erratic driving !

What can you do, it was a bloody Iceland gull ! Some birds are worth scaring your dear old mum for.....a nice 'brucie bonus' on a routine trip to drop my mum at the railway station.

I checked the Long Nanny on the way home, hundreds of large gulls still about there but no sign of the Iceland.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Obsessed.....

Another day - another pipit !!....... I was back on the beach at Low Newton this afternoon.

Today I went and sat in amongst the seaweed on the rising tide to try and photograph rock pipits. Sitting quietly and having patience paid off and I was soon surrounded by birds.

At least 5 littoralis pipits were present amongst 20+ olivey looking birds......


 



Various littoralis....
One of the many bog standard olivey looking things....
Mipit - a much underrated bird I reckon !