Tuesday, February 20, 2018

In the woods....

On Sunday I met John at Homebase at 7.30am when we headed south to Morpeth before crossing over west via Elsdon and back to Alnwick by Rothbury and Alnwick Moor.

The day was calm and frosty, very pleasant indeed.

First stop was at Abbey Mill where two Marsh Tits were calling and flitting around near the bridge layby. Its not so long ago you could bump into Marsh Tits in any wooded areas such as Howick, Warkworth, Bothal, Morpeth etc but now they are very scarce indeed, meriting almost twitchable status. These are my first for a couple or three years now.

From here, a short walk to the Hornbeam row found a pair of Hawfinches, the male in full song. It seems that there are very few keys left on these particular trees for them to feed on so maybe they've dispersed further.

Hawfinch pair, him on the left.

A quick check of the River Wansbeck near the car park had a brace of Dippers sitting about 2 feet apart, back to back in a territorial border dispute.

A successful start then.

We decided to head inland to Harwood Forest and old stamping ground of mine. I used to come here every Saturday morning walking the dog, for several years back in the day, where Long eared Owl, Hen Harrier, Gos, Great Grey Shrike, Two barred Crossbill and Water Rail [?] were noteworthy.

No such goodies today on offer but we had a good walk for a few miles around the clear felled conifer blocks, seeing only Crossbills really. Maybe 30+?  but this did include a nice family party with well fledged young being fed.

A couple of Red Grouse chased around the moor, but then it was time for a scenic route home.


We had a brief stop to check out a site near Elsdon for a visit in summer for inverts, flowers etc.

Today it looked like this...

It might be in interesting place in June....

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Gold and some Barnacles....

Winter Aconites and Snowdrops at Denwick Curch.

On Sunday morning John and I headed North towards Lindsifarne.

First stop was Stag Rocks to scour the sea for sea duck, grebes, divers etc. We had exactly - nothing. No birds on the sea except one Red breasted Merganser and I missed that. A few smart sum plum Herring Gulls flew N along the rock edges.

Down at Budle Bay, the wintering Spotted Redshank was calling hard as it ran around the nearest creek. A lot of birds were on the bay, with 400+ Brent Geese, 142+ Shelduck, many Wigeon, 6 Shoveler, 18 Ringed Plover, hundreds of Teal and a tightly packed roost of 150+ Redshank .

I fancied a walk so we moved up to Elwick and wandered across a few fields then along the bund on the S edge of Fenham Flats. This is a magnificent, huge , open area with thousands of feeding birds, it was difficult to know where to start.  There were 600+ Barnacle Geese inc 2 white ones, 75+ Pink footed Geese, 600+ Brent Geese, 340+ Shelduck, 84+ Grey Plover, uncountable Wigeon, Mallard and Teal, 1 Little Egret, 6 Meadow Pipit, 1 Buzzard, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Fox, 2 Roe Deer and a Hare.

Prize though must go to the swirling mass of barking Barnacles as they flew over head. Magnificent!

On the way back home, Denwick Church yard Winter Aconites were such a spectacle I just had to turn the car around and stop for a photo or two. I cant resist these every winter, a fore runner of spring unsprung....

The Lindisfarne Elwick Barnacle Geese were superb...

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Going for 'The'.

What does that mean? I think i have used this on here before, so if you are seeing a repeat, please forgive me, its my age...

Well, a lot of birders spend their whole birding time touring around seeing the birds that other people have found. I'm not knocking it, each to their own and indeed it can be quite fun sometimes but more often than not we only tend to 'go for the' when 'the' is a good bird for us, a rarity.

The birders I refer to above go for 'the' Slav Grebe or 'the' Little Stint, or whatever, birds that can be found yourself with a little bit of research and the imagination to check suitable locations. I'm not too bothered about doing that ( but have still done it in the past and will no doubt in the future too, if I happen to be in the area).

In the past I have had people say to me 'Have you been for 'the' Red necked Grebe?' when in actual fact, I am wondering which Red necked Grebe they were on about?

Today we thought we would try and make a change for us, and go for 'the'.

In this case it was 'the' American Wigeon, 'the' Great Grey Shrike and 'the' Hawfinches. All birds that have lingered for a while and have attracted a steady number of visitors over the winter. Mornings like these can mean that very little else is added to the notebook as a lot of time is spent sitting in the car.

First stop this morning was down the far south west of Northumberland to look for Black Grouse. Despite checking a lot of suitable areas on a beautiful frosty morning, they remained elusive. Still, a ringtail Hen Harrier mobbed by a crow as it flew past the car was a nice diversion.

Roadside Red Grouse telling us 'go back' ' go back' were nice as were flocks of early returning Lapwing and Golden Plover in the fields.

Next stop was Grindon Lough for 'the' American Wigeon. Despite hunting through hundreds of Wigeon and Teal, we failed miserably to find our target. A drake Pintail and 20 Goldeneye were the best on offer.

Time to track north where the next stop was to see the returning Great Grey Shrike at Prestwick Carr. If you check my blog for last Feb you will see that I made a similar trip last year. These birds scarcely count as 'the's due to their rarity and are really actually worth twitching.

In the sun it looked lovely sitting atop choice hawthorns in a marshy field. A bit too far away really but some nice views in the scope were had.

Above - Great Grey Shrike at Prestwick Carr.
   All too soon our time was up and we had to call it a day. We never did get 'the' Hawfinches....  maybe next time...