Had a bit of a raptor fest this morning! I headed south to Commondale on the Cleveland/North Yorkshire border in the hope of seeing a ROUGH LEGGED BUZZARD. There had been reports of maybe upto four of these stunning birds of prey in the area so my chances looked good. When I arrived, a couple of local birders put me onto a total bonus bird - a Great Grey Shrike! I had no idea it was in the area and it was at times giving great close views. But I had been there literally minutes when the shout came up of 'Buzzard'. We all focused on the bird that had floated over the horizon and immediately knew it was a Rough Leg. Even from a fair distance you could see how pale the bird was, and also the long wings were very noticeable. This was the first one I had seen since the one up Whitley Bay way in 2004 so it was a bit overdue. The individual today was very quickly joined by a clearly annoyed Peregrine. The Falcon buzzed and harassed the Buzzard for the full 15 minutes that it was in the air, and probably followed it even when it went out of our view! Not long after, a second Rough Leg arrived from our right. This lingered around for more than half an hour, giving everybody wonderful views. Other raptors seen were a couple of Common Buzzards and a lone Sparrowhawk, which also faced the wrath of the angry Peregrine!
Sunday, 24 October 2010
Had a lovely hour or so at one of Foghorns local patches this morning, Chester-Le-Street park. As usual the river was full of various wildfowl, mainly Mallards and Mute Swans, but today with a couple of extra bonuses. First off a stunning Whooper Swan in amongst the Mutes, and this was joined by a Pink Footed Goose. Three Goosanders were swimming on the far bank, alongside a couple of feeding Cormorants. Then, in amongst the Mallards an immature Scaup was feeding on the bread from the many locals, my first Scaup of the year. And finally, an absolutely glorious adult male Mandarin Duck. Obviously the origin will always be questioned but frankly I couldnt care less, I'm more than happy to see such a beautiful bird brightening up an otherwise dull, grey, miserable, cold autumn morning.
A few of us from the Conservation Trust spent a couple of hours at Boldon Flats this morning. During the week an area next to the roadside was levelled off with a digger to give people better views of the pond as it had become wildly overrun of late. Unfortunately the digger had dug up a load of glass and enamel and it all had to be cleared before any of the farmers cattle (or any birds for that matter!) damaged themselves. We ended up with 10 buckets full of stuff that was taken away! I must admit it was a hard, back breaking two hours in horrible weather but its a great feeling knowing I've done my little bit to make things better for the local wildlife. I'm extremely proud of being part of this group.
Thursday, 21 October 2010
I havent posted for a couple of weeks, mainly due to my new job taking up a lot of my spare time. But the one day out I did manage, I seen two of the cutest birds you could wish to see - RED BREASTED FLYCATCHER & RED FLANKED BLUETAIL. I defy anyone not to fall in love with these two stunners! The Flycatcher was at Whitburn Coastal Park and the Bluetail at Newbiggin.
Sunday, 3 October 2010
Had a trip up north with Foghorn today to Holy Island. The main target was Great Grey Shrike which would have been a lifer for Foggy, and the first one I had seen in six years. When we got there though things werent looking promising. It hadnt been seen since early morning, and having searched for more than 2 hours we were losing all hope. In fact the island was pretty much devoid of any birds, the highlights being a Wheatear and a Redstart. But, just as we were about to call it a day a lady waved at us from the dunes area and we wandered over just in time to see the Shrike perched on a fence post. It quickly flew to another post where at stayed long enough for us to get very good views. Needless to say Andrew was ecstatic!
Had a little trip over to the Whitburn Coastal Park this morning to watch John Brown doing some ringing. He had trapped quite a few common birds including Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Wren, Chaffinch etc before bringing in a lovely Barred Warbler. Its amazing to get the opportunity to see so many birds so close up, and I hope to pay John a visit a lot more regularly.
Steve alerted me to the presence of one of these gorgeous birds in the Trow area this afternoon. When I arrived Dougie was already there with his camera, hiding behind the Mango Pub waiting for the bird to show well enough for a good picture. We didnt wait long, as the bird came out from the dunes and started to feed along the side of the road. It wasnt particularly shy and we watched it for quite a while before a passing cyclist had it heading back to the beach. This was the first time I'd seen one locally, as I'd only previously seen them in Norfolk and up at Cresswell. Not long after we were joined by Steve and Dave Gilmour, just in time for the Lark to return and start to feed in the car park right in front of us.
Had a nice trip down to Hartlepool today to see the Woodchat Shrike that had arrived yesterday. It was showing very well in the bowling green to the group of birders who had arrived to see it. And also to the curious locals who were interested in what everyone was looking at!
The chance of another brand new bird had me racing down to Teesside as soon as I had finished work. A very rare SHARP TAILED SANDPIPER had turned up at Greatham Creek and I really didnt want to miss it. The problem was, lately it had started to get dark a lot earlier (a sure sign that winters approaching!) and as I was driving down the A19 the sun was already starting to fade. I pulled up at the car park at about 6.45pm and it was indeed getting dark so I practically ran the whole way to where the bird was. En-route a couple of birders reassured me that the bird was still there, but it was walking further away up the creek by the minute. This put an extra bolt in my stride. Thankfully, when I arrived at the group of birders already there, one of them kindly allowed me to see the bird through his scope. I breathed a sigh of relief, then put my scope on it and enjoyed it for about 20 minutes before both the darkness then the bird going out of sight led me to call it a day. This was bird number 292 for the UK, and number 833 for the World.
I was really looking forward to this trip as I'd never done a full days boat trip before. Two years ago I did a 3hour evening trip and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I couldnt wait to try the full day one. I got picked up at the Mill Dam at about 9.20 and soon we were heading out to the open sea. It soon became apparent that this was going to be a ROUGH trip, as the water was exceptionally choppy. Martin (Kitching, the trip organiser) said that it was very unusual for it to be this bad, and a couple of people were really struggling. But over the course of the day it did die down, but also the birds more than made up for it! As expected all the common species were seen well. Gulls included Great Black Back, Lesser Black Back, Herring, Common and Black Headed, and of course Kittiwakes. The only Tern seen was Common Tern. Auks were Razorbill, Guillemot and one or two Puffins. Other species seen were Red Throated Diver, Fulmar, Cormorant, Grey Plover and of course hundreds and hundreds of Gannets! This is one of the specialties of these pelagic trips, seeing these gorgeous birds feeding so close to the boat. All the photographers were getting outstanding pictures. And so to the really special birds. Two or three Manx Shearwaters were seen, but they were fairly distant as they very rarely come close to the boat. Its larger cousin though, Sooty Shearwater, was the exact opposite. We got absolutely unbelievable close views of this species, as they regularly sat just yards away from us and also flew really close. We probably seen close to double figures in all. Topping this, we were lucky to see three species of Skua - Arctic, Great and Pomarine. About four Greats were seen flying strongly past, a single Pom and a couple of Arctics. As I have done hardly any sea watching this year, most of these were nice year ticks for me. The only slight downside (if there was one) was that we didnt see any cetaceans. But that didnt distract from a truly great day.
As a footnote, the picture of the boat underneath the headline is the actual boat I was on, and not just that I am actually standing at the back of the boat in the picture!!! Steve (Seggs) just happened to be in the harbour taking photos of a few birds when he seen the boat coming in, and he knew I was on it so decided to take a quick pic! Talk about good timing!
Another text off Steve while at work alerted me to yet another great bird on the Leas! Apparently Ian Mac had found a small flock of Lapland Buntings in the long grass just north of the mound, but they were very flighty and difficult to track down. So, as soon as I had finished work I was away up the road and at the Leas in minutes. While walking towards the area where they had been reported I noticed another birder was already there, and it was lovely to see that it was Sir Dougie! And then within seconds we were joined by Mick, and then Steve himself and so we all grouped together to look for our target bird. It didnt take too long before 2 birds flew up and they were quickly identified as the Lapland Buntings. As we kept walking a few more birds were flushed, and in total we reckoned there was between 8 and 10 birds altogether. Now that we knew where they were, we tried to get some good views of them. This was a lot harder than we expected! I had never realised how skulking these birds were. They reminded me of mini Quails. In fact they moved and crept in the long grass like little mice or voles!!! But, every once in a while they came into view or popped their head out and gave us the chance of a good look and some of the lads to get a few photos.