Tuesday, 27 December 2011


Myself and John went back to the Golf Course this afternoon to see if we could get a few more Tree Sparrows in the net. The weather was a lot milder today, but the Golf Course itself was loads busier so we didnt get near the number of birds we had last time. Still, we managed to Ring another 14 new Tree Sparrows which we were delighted with. Thats 29 individuals in our two visits. It'll be interesting to know how many are in the flock altogether.

Sunday, 18 December 2011


It was absolutely freezing this morning when myself, John and Adrian met up with a friend of ours, Jimmy Wagner, to do a bit of Ringing at one of Jimmy's millions of sites that he roams around, Sharpley Golf Course. As well as the tonnes of nest boxes Jimmy has put up around the Course, he also has a lovely little feeding area that regularly attracts our target species for the day, the Tree Sparrow. Despite the icy conditions we bravely put a net up next to the feeders and waited. And within seconds the net was full!!! The very first bird we took out was a cracking adult Willow Tit, a new Ringing tick for me. Unfortunately all the other birds in the net were also Tits of various species, not the hoped for Sparrows. The Sparrows were around, but they were a bit wary and hadnt ventured out from the hedgerow. In the next visit we had a nice surprise in the shape of an adult Great Spotted Woodpecker, which the cowards gave to me to Ring, but again no Sparrows. Thankfully though, it was third time lucky as the next visit produced the goods. Well, it produced ONE Tree Sparrow! But it was another new tick for me so the lads let me Ring it. Luckily it wasnt to be the only Tree Sparrow of the day, as we eventually had 15 in total. It was an excellent morning overall, and we ended the session at midday having Ringed 66 birds in total, of 11 different species. Its definitely a site we plan to return to a bit more often.

Thursday, 8 December 2011


Tonight I attended a fabulous talk by Mike Tetley on Marine Mammals. Mike is a local lad (from Sunderland originally) but has travelled the world studying these sea creatures. Lucky git! His enthusiasm is magnificent and his passion an absolute joy. I could have listened to him for hours. There are approximately 80 species of Whales and Dolphins around the world, and of those, 20 species have been seen around the UK coast. Thats a quarter of the worlds species, which is an excellent number. And of those 20 UK species, 18 have been seen in the north easts waters. 3 species in particular are considered reasonably common, the Harbour Porpoise, the White Beaked Dolphin and the Bottle Nosed Dolphin. The rest range from fairly common to very scarce. I have seen 5 species off our coast, the 3 mentioned above and Minke Whale and Humpback Whale. So there are still a lot of species for me to catch up with! We also have 2 species of Seal on the north east coast, the Common Seal (above picture) and the Grey Seal. In fact the Farne Islands holds one of worlds largest winter colonies of Grey Seal. Another good place to see Seals is the appropriately named Seal Sands in Teesside. But they can pretty much be seen anywhere up and down our coast. Of all the species mentioned above, the Seals are the easiest to spot. The rest require a bit of looking out at sea, or maybe even going out on a boat, but all are possible with a good bit of luck.

Sunday, 4 December 2011


Today saw the first drops of snow for this season. It wasnt much, and it didnt last, but it was a sure sign that winter is undoubtedly here! At various times we also had rain, hail and icy cold gales, none of which were ideal for the little challenge I had set myself for the day! I decided to try and see 50 species of birds in 5 hours, not an easy task but still very possible. I started the challenge at Roker Pier, but unfortunately the weather was atrocious. I sat in the car for 20 minutes until the rain eased enough for me to get out. All I got were a couple of species of Gulls and a handful of Turnstones, not the greatest of starts. I then went to Whitburn Steel where I was bound to get lots of Waders. Which would have been the case, except that the tide was right in and I saw next to nothing! Off next to Whitburn Coastal Park, and frankly things didnt get much better. The weather was bleak and the birds were missing. I only picked up 4 new species here which is incredibly poor. I'd gotten off to a terrible start, and the next stop didnt change things in any way, as I failed to find the Med Gull that is usually loafing around Marsden car park. A quick look on Marsden Rock produced a couple of Shags and also a Red Throated Diver offshore. The first couple of hours had only produced 22 species, I'd have to work really hard to get anywhere near the 50 mark in the last couple of hours. Thankfully, things started to improve at the next stop. Marine Park got me 7 new birds, including Common Gulls and Pochards, but the highlight was the stunning drake Mandarin Duck (above picture) that has taken up residence in the park. I also had a good old natter with Dougie who had popped in to get a picture of the star bird. Now on 29 species I headed to Marsden Quarry to hopefully pick up number 30. Thankfully the Little Owl was in its usual place, and I got a bonus of a Sparrowhawk flying overhead. I knew the next place would significantly boost my total up, but I didnt expect it to go up quite as much as it did! Boldon Flats was easily the site of the day. The feeders got me off to a good start, with 4 new species, including Tree Sparrows and Yellowhammers. But it was the pond itself that really did the business. There were tonnes of wildfowl, the highlight being the White Fronted Geese that had been there all week. I bumped into Steve and showed him the Greenland White Front through my scope, it was a species he had never seen before so he was delighted. A flock of Stock Dove brought the total of new birds to a fabulous 14 species, meaning I left the Flats on 45 species! I was tantalisingly close, and I only had one more site to visit. And so, I arrived at the Academy Pools needing 5 species to reach the target. I immediately got a Collared Dove in the first tree, a good start. At the ponds I saw a few Coots, and then a Little Grebe. That was 48 species. I was almost there. On the final pond I got a totally unexpected pair of Goldeneye, an excellent find. But alas, that pair of Goldeneye were the last new birds for the day. I had gotten so, so close, but I ended the day on 49 species, just 1 species short. But what a superb day!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011


Had a trip over to Boldon Flats this lunchtime to have a look at the flock of White Fronted Geese that was reported this morning. Thankfully they were still there, and even better they were incredibly close to the road, enabling me to have exceptionally close views. There were about 50 of the European race of this species and 1 lone Greenland race. It was the first Greenland bird I've seen for a few years which was very pleasing. I was quite surprised how much the Greenland bird stood out from its European cousins, the orange bill stood out like a sore thumb! The Flats has been superb for Geese in the last few weeks, and hopefully I'll catch up with a Bean Goose in the near future.

Sunday, 27 November 2011


Well, unfortunately the crappy weather stopped me from playing out this weekend, but at least it gave me the chance to spend some quality time with my lovely wife (she reads this you know!). So seeing as my weekend has been quiet, it gives me the chance to mention the talk I attended on Tuesday night. This weeks subject matter was one of my favourite British creatures, the Hedgehog. I think Hedgehogs are one of the cutest animals we have, so I was absolutely appalled to hear that these little beauties are now one of our most endangered species! This just doesnt seem possible, I mean, Hedgehogs are everywhere arent they? Well apparently not! The species has seen a monumental decline in recent times, from an estimate of 30 million in the 1950's to just 1.5 million individuals now. Some experts even believe that they could be extinct in as little as 15 years. That is just shocking to imagine. There are many reasons for this steep fall in numbers. How we garden is a major factor, from the public being obsessed with neat + tidy gardens to decking and paving large areas, and even to restricting access to our gardens by having everywhere bricked or fenced. Slug pellets are a huge problem, whether the Hedgehogs eat them as they are or eat the slugs that have been affected by the pellets. Other problems include more road traffic, and even the fact that there are more urban foxes around. There are a couple of things that can be done to give them a helping hand, including putting food out (dog + cat food are good but bread gives them the runs!!!) and water, leaving a little gap in fences etc to help them wander from garden to garden, and using wildlife friendly slug pellets. They are just small things, but if everybody did just a small thing it could collectively be a big thing. I for one cant imagine living in a world without these lovely little creatures. It would truly be a tragedy.

Monday, 21 November 2011


It doesnt happen very often, so here's photographic evidence of me doing a little bit of work!

Sunday, 20 November 2011


Well, the week got off to a simply magical start when finally, after over a year of forms, mediation, and bureaucracy, the Coastal Conservation Group were at last given the funds from the National Lottery for the project at the Whitburn Point Nature Reserve. It was a truly joyous feeling when Dougie delivered the good news and also a great sense of relief to finally get the green light on something we've had planned for so long. And now, we have the hard work of turning our plans into reality. This time next year the Nature Reserve will be the home of two brand new wildlife ponds and a fabulous bird feeding station with a lovely stone viewing screen thrown in for good measure. Exciting times ahead!

On Thursday evening I attended an excellent talk by Clare Rawcliffe on British Bats at Souter Lighthouse. They are absolutely fascinating creatures, and the 90 minutes seemed to just fly by. South Tyneside has had 6 different species recorded in the area but unfortunately only 1 of those species is a regular sight, the Common Pipistrelle. We all got the chance to see a Pipistrelle really close up as Clare had brought a young one in with her. They are simply one of the cutest creatures I've ever seen! Clare kindly offered to take the Group out next year to see a few more species in the wild. I cant wait!

This morning myself, John, Andy and Dave did some much needed maintenance work on the Ringing Mound at the Coastal Park. In bad weather the bank leading up to the netting area can get extremely perilous so we decided we would put some concrete steps in to make it easier to get up and down. We dug out 18 grooves and slotted in the concrete before hammering in some pins to keep them in place. It was 3 hours of hard work but come the spring it will be extremely worth it. This pretty much brings the Ringing season to an end on the Mound. We may do the odd couple of hours every once in a while but as a whole we will be concentrating on different things over the Winter.

Sunday, 13 November 2011


Well, yesterday was supposed to be a bit of a bird-free day but hey, things dont always go to plan! I had taken the day off from Ringing because I had to take my car to the garage, amongst other things. When I got home around lunchtime I received a text from John saying that there'd been a cracking little surprise found just down the road from the Ringing hut - a superb NIGHTINGALE. This is a very scarce bird in our County and I missed the last one so I really didnt want to miss another one. I then got a phone call from Steve and he kindly told me exactly where to go for it. So off I went to the Whitburn Lodge car park. On arrival I was greeted by a number of familiar faces and within seconds I was watching the bird. It really wasnt behaving like I would normally expect a Nightingale to behave, it was regularly feeding out in the open and not trying to make it impossible to see like they usually do!!! But it was a gorgeous little bird, and a pleasure to see so close to home.
On the way home I popped into Boldon Flats and got the two Bewicks Swans and a single White Fronted Goose that had arrived on the friday.
And for the record, the car failed its m.o.t.

Sunday, 6 November 2011


There was a notable change in the temperature whilst we were Ringing this weekend, especially this morning. It was absolutely freezing first thing, and when the sun come up it only barely warmed things up! But at least the regular checking of the nets kept us warm. There were over 50 new birds Ringed over the two days, with an obvious movement of Thrushes being noticeable. The majority of these being Blackbirds, but we also had a few Song Thrush and Redwing. There were also a lot of Finches passing through, including flocks of Lesser Redpoll and Siskin - always nice to see. On saturday we had a great surprise when we had no fewer than three absolutely stunning WOODCOCKS in the nets, and another just missing the nets. Neither myself nor John had Ringed one before so thankfully there were enough for us not to fight over who got to do the Ringing! I actually got to Ring another new bird on saturday as well, and this one was an incredible incident. The bird in question was a beautiful young Sparrowhawk, but when Adrian went to get it out of the net he noticed that it had a half eaten Redwing still in its claws!!! It was a bizarre sight. It had obviously just caught the Redwing and started munching away when we disturbed it and it flew straight into the net, still holding onto its lunch. Incredibly the Redwing was one of the birds we had Ringed earlier on that morning.

Away from the netting area, a nice flock of SNOW BUNTINGS were up and down the coast. When I saw them early on the morning there were only four birds but Steve had noted at least eleven later in the day. And adding to the winter theme there were big movements of Geese and Swans flying noisily overhead. A great sight and sound.

SPARROWHAWK (top) SISKIN (second pic) WOODCOCK (third pic) & SNOW BUNTING (bottom)

Sunday, 30 October 2011


The National Trust had their annual End Of Season Guided Walk today. The only problem was, due to unforeseen circumstances they had nobody available to actually take the walk! So rather than cancel the walk and disappoint the members of the public taking part, the Trust asked if the Coastal Conservation Group could possibly step in and take on the guiding duties. Of course we were only too happy to do so. And so myself, John, Steve, Dougie, Andy and Dave greeted the public at 10am and took them on a hugely enjoyable 7mile ramble. The route taken started at Souter Lighthouse, south along the coast to Whitburn Steel, through Whitburn village, inland through Wellands Farm, up to Cleadon Hill, over the golf course to Marsden Old Quarry and back along the coast ending once more at the Lighthouse. The walk took around 3.5 hours to complete and we were treated to some glorious weather along the way. Although it wasnt strictly speaking a wildlife walk, we couldnt help but show the walkers all that was around us, the highlights being a couple of Grey Seals bobbing on the sea and a gorgeous Little Owl sunning itself in Marsden Quarry. The Owl in particular proved very popular, with everyone clamouring for close looks. At the end of the walk we were delighted to hear that everybody had thoroughly enjoyed the walk. The Group members also had a great time, we always find great pleasure in sharing the fantastic wildlife our area has to offer. Its one of the main remits of our Group, bringing the public and nature closer together and days like this are of huge importance. Today was a good day. The people went home happy, the Group went home happy, everybody is happy! And I didnt Ring a single bird!

Saturday, 29 October 2011


John had a much needed lie in this morning, so it was just myself and Adrian at the nets first thing. The weather was cold and breezy and we both had a feeling we'd be in for a quiet morning. This definitely proved to be the case early on, as the birds were barely trickling in. A couple of new Robins and Chaffinches were our scant reward, along with a few retraps including a nice Blackcap. Having crawled out of bed John eventually joined us, and on the next check of the nets I got my first Ringing tick of the day, a female Bullfinch. Apparently a male had just eluded the net while they were getting checked but the female wasnt so lucky. I was delighted to Ring a new species, especially as the day hadnt looked too promising. And even more amazing, it was the first Bullfinch Ringed at the Coastal Park! Shortly afterwards myself and Adrian were coming back from checking the far nets when a big flock of Long Tailed Tits flew over us and into our main mound. Adrian immediately noticed a much smaller bird tagging along with the flock, and said hopefully 'thats got to be a goody!'. So the three of us went up and split up to check the nets. I didnt get anything, so I went to see how John was doing. When I got there I was greeted by the site we were hoping for, the flock of Long Tailed Tits. Myself and John proceeded to get the birds out the net, and then Adrian arrived to get the last couple out. As we were taking all the birds to the hut, John said to Adrian that he had the little bird and he was keeping it till last. So, after doing all of the others, I was told I could Ring the mystery bird. I put my hand in the bag, got the bird in the right grip, and pulled out an absolutely stunning FIRECREST!!! I was ecstatic, these are one of my favourite birds ever, and I had one right in my hand. Once again I owe John and Adrian a big thank you for giving me the bird to Ring, its really good of them. Understandably the rest of the day couldnt top the Firecrest. We did have another couple of Long Tailed Tit flocks but nothing exciting was in amongst them.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


Wow, I didnt realise it had been so long since I updated the blog! There's not even any excuses, I've just been bloody lazy! So what have I been up to lately? Ringing, Ringing and more Ringing. The only thing that stops us is the crappy weather, and then it has to be REALLY crap to stop us even giving it a go! In the last couple of weeks we've had excellent numbers in the nets, giving me the chance to boost my numbers up significantly, and last weekend I got over the 200 mark with a Long Tailed Tit being the 200th individual. I've had 4 new species Ringed, Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, Treecreeper and a fabulous Great Spotted Woodpecker. I was incredibly careful to keep my hands out of the way of the Woodpeckers bill, but there was no way I could avoid its claws as well. I ended up getting clawed to death but it was a brilliant experience. As for other wildlife news, the Moth trap at the Coastal Park has now been switched off for the winter. I might keep my own going for a little while longer but I dont anticipate getting very much now.

Thursday, 13 October 2011


Absolutely typical!!!! We take the whole of last week off to do some serious Ringing and we got nowt. Back at work this week and what happens??? Adrian and Andy were both off today so decided to do a bit of Ringing. Things started off quietly, but then Adrian got a call from Dave Forster who had seen a superb bird next to one of the nets in the area known as the Arc. It was a stunning RED FLANKED BLUETAIL. Adrian literally ran as fast as he could just in time to see the bird go into the net. He quickly got the bird out, bagged it and returned to the Hut. He then handed it over to Andy who had the pleasure of Ringing it. It was almost two years to the day that Adrian trapped and Ringed the Parks only other Bluetail. Andy gave me a call so I raced over and Adrian put the word out to the local birders and also birdguides. Before long an expectant crowd had gathered to get a good look of this very scarce bird. So Adrian brought it out showed off the little beauty to the excited audience. Hundreds of photos were taken and smiles were wide. After 20minutes or so Adrian took the bird back to the area it was caught and let the bird go. Everybody went their merry way with a spring in their step. I stayed for another half hour, Ringed a couple of birds then went back to work.

Thanks to Dougie for the photos.

Saturday, 8 October 2011


I've had a few new species of Moth in the last couple of weeks. Most of them were trapped at Whitburn Coastal Park but one of them (the Sallow) was in my own backgarden trap. I think my favourite new species is the Feathered Thorn ( above). Its a great looking Moth.






When we arrived early this morning we all pretty much agreed that we'd be very lucky to get any birds in the nets today. The weather was a lot better than the gales of the last few days but it still was pretty cack. So imagine our surprise when we had nearly forty birds in total! Mind you, a really large flock of Long Tailed Tits (below) almost made up half of our mornings total. These little beauties are one of my absolute favourite birds in the world, and I never ever tire of seeing them. Another little bird that I simply adore is the Goldcrest (above), and we were blessed with another good tally of these stunning creatures with ten birds ringed in all. The Thrushes are still coming in, we had three Redwings and a single Song Thrush in the nets but a lot more were seen and heard. A lone Blackcap was the only Warbler of the day. The rest of the birds were regular common stuff. But today was a perfect example of an age old saying - you never know whats going to happen!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

100 UP!

We enjoyed an extremely good weekend of Ringing this weekend, probably the best in the time I've been involved. Over 70 birds were caught in the nets in the two days, although admittedly saturday had the majority of the spoils with 50+. On a personal level, the weekend produced two particular highlights for me. Firstly, I Ringed my 100th bird on the saturday. A young Chaffinch had the privilege of being the milestone bird, although I'm not too sure it was aware of the occasion! The other highlight was also on saturday, when I had the privilege of Ringing a quite magnificent Yellow Browed Warbler!! This little bird (above) is simply beautiful, not to mention very scarce, so to get the chance to Ring one was a rare treat. The Yellow Browed was one of four new Ringing species for me, the others being Song Thrush, Redwing & Goldcrest. I've now Ringed 23 different species.

Thursday, 22 September 2011


Last weekend I was back Ringing at Whitburn. The two days were quite a contrast! On the saturday myself and John could only muster 10 birds, the best being a new male Blackcap. Sunday, however was much much better. As it was the Great North Run, John and Andy volunteered to do car park duties for the Coastal Conservation Group leaving myself and Adrian to concentrate on the Ringing. In total we had 31 birds in the nets, 11 different species, including no fewer than 14 Chaffinches. The highlight for me though was a superb young Pied Flycatcher (above) that Adrian kindly allowed me to Ring. This is one of my favourite birds so I was delighted to get the chance get so close. It capped off a really good day. It was the first time I had properly Ringed with Adrian, and although I was a touch nervous at first I soon relaxed and got into the swing of things. This is where my training really begins, but I'm thoroughly looking forward to the challenge and I've got an exciting couple of years ahead of me!


Well, as is now traditional, whenever I go away on holiday a good bird (or two) tends to turn up in our area. Of course this holiday was no exception. While checking through the ever growing flock of Golden Plovers, Ian Mills stumbled on an American Golden Plover. I've seen these birds quite a few times abroad (America, Tobago, Jamaica etc) but I've never seen one in the UK. All I could do was sit by the pool in the scorching heat and hope the bird was a long stayer. When I got back home there had been no sightings for two days but then somebody had picked it up on the wednesday. So on thursday afternoon I wandered over to Whitburn Steel to see what I could find. Thankfully, I didnt have to try very hard, as when I got there another gentleman already had the bird in his scope. How lucky was I!!!


Thankfully I didnt spend the whole of the week confined to the hotel area. On the wednesday I had a full day out in the mountains and plains of the Alentejo. It turned out to be a terrific day! We got off to an interesting start when we crossed the border into Spain to fill the car up with petrol. Apparently its a lot cheaper than in Portugal! Car filled, we headed straight to the mountains. The first thing I noticed was the amount of Short Toed Eagles there were. They were on nearly every post we passed. Later in the morning as the day warmed up the Vultures came out looking for breakfast. At one point we had 5 Griffon Vultures circling above us, and as we were enjoying the spectacle they were joined by another Vulture, a different Vulture. It turned out to be a Black Vulture, which was a new species for me. Unfortunately it was the only one we seen throughout the day but we did get lots more Griffons. A further five species of Raptor were seen, including a few Lesser Kestrels and a great adult male Montagus Harrier. Ravens were quite plentiful, as were Iberian Grey Shrikes. A stop off at a little bridge got us a big flock of Crag Martins, along with a smaller flock of Pallid Swifts. I was also lucky to get another new bird while in the mountains, a terrific male Blue Rock Thrush. It was a very good morning.
Having had a lovely picnic lunch we headed for the grasslands of the Alentejo. Our target bird was the Great Bustard (top picture), and at first this proved very hard to find. We tried three or four well known sites but had no luck. We did however see a couple of another target species, the Black Bellied Sandgrouse (above). At first we just had flyovers but eventually we seen a flock of five birds feeding in a field not far from the car. After over an hour we eventually spotted a small flock of our main target, but unfortunately these Great Bustards were miles away. We decided to have a slow drive around the surrounding area to see if any more Bustards were around and thankfully we did indeed come across a lot more birds, some of them very close to the car. I was amazed at how big they were 'in the flesh' so to speak. Mission accomplished we decided to see what else was around. While doing so I saw my first ever Thekla Larks and also my first Tawny Pipits. The only other standout bird were a couple of Hoopoe, my first of the trip.
As we had a little bit of spare time we decided to head for the marina in Tavira to see if I could pick up one more new bird, a Slender Billed Gull (above). Thankfully we picked up one fairly quickly but it turned out to be the only one there. As the picture above shows this is an absolutely beautiful Gull, easily one of the prettiest I've seen. Another good looking Gull is the Audouins Gull, and there were a handful of these Gulls around as well. On the way back to the hotel we came across one more species that I really love to see, the Stone Curlew. There were four of these birds in a field not too far from my local lagoons. Unfortunately it was the only time I seen them.

Saturday, 17 September 2011


Well I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Portugal. It was extremely quiet and peaceful which was exactly what we were after. Cabanas was a tiny little fishing village, within the boundary of the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve. This proved to be a superb location, as we were right next to some salt pans and lagoons which meant good birding right on our doorstep. The photo below shows our hotel in the background overlooking the lagoons. Great isnt it! The lagoons were absolutely superb for birds. We regularly had a flock of 30+ Greater Flamingo's (above) which were an absolute delight. A smaller flock of Spoonbills were resident as were a pair of Purple Herons. Unsurprisingly, Waders were plentiful. 18 species were seen in total, none of which were out of the ordinary. A couple of days a pair of White Storks dropped in. Surprisingly I only seen one species of Tern the whole time I was there (Little). A single Marsh Harrier that regularly quartered the lagoon area was the only Raptor that I seen locally. Quite a lot of Passerines were in residence as well, including Zitting Cisticola, Yellow Wagtail, Stonechat, Crested Lark, Wheatear and Whinchat.
It wasnt just lagoons that was close by to our hotel, there was also a good area of scrubland and also quite a large orchard. The scrubby area had a resident pair of Woodchat Shrikes and also a regular sighting of Iberian Grey Shrike. Sardinian Warblers were extremely common and there were also a large number of Western Orphean Warblers which were a brand new species for me. The orchard had loads of birds! Alongside lots of common species were Spotted and Pied Flycatchers, and in with the Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs were a good number of Western Bonelli's Warblers (below), another new species for me. One night when coming back from a lovely meal I had the pleasure of seeing a pair of Red Necked Nightjars hunting for insects.
Unfortunately other wildlife was very poor. I was very disappointed with the Butterflies with only 6 species seen. Long Tailed Blue was the only new species. Obviously I didnt take the moth trap with me, but I did see a fantastic new day flying species, Crimson Speckled moth (bottom). This is an absolutely beautiful moth. Another new species of insect for me was the Preying Mantis (below). There were 2 of these fabulous creatures on the walls of the hotel itself. So there was plenty of stuff to keep me occupied when Maria let me out to play!

Friday, 2 September 2011


Well boys and girls I'm off on my holidays tomorrow. Behave yourselves while I'm away!

Sunday, 21 August 2011


Up nice and early at 4.45am for a mornings Ringing session at Whitburn Coastal Park. While we were waiting for John to arrive and open the gate, Phil spotted a young Fox in the allotment field opposite the Park. A very nice start to the day! Ringing was much better today than the last couple of weeks. Fifteen individual birds of nine different species, including a new Ringing tick for me, an adult Garden Warbler. Andy had another go with a Wren, and this time he managed to get a Ring on before it escaped his grip! Bless him. Around 7.30am John got a phone call from Davey Gilmour who was over in Trow Quarry. He had found a very good bird, a Woodchat Shrike (above). So myself and Phil headed over and joined him. As we were pretty much the first people on site we had superb views of the bird perched out in the open and then hopping from shrub to shrub. I then put the message out to everyone and headed back to the Ringing hut. I later found out that as more people turned up the bird became more and more elusive. It was lucky I got there early!
Nick arrived just before 9.00am to check the moth trap and he sprung a surprise on me by asking me to identify all the moths! As I didnt have my book with me I have to admit I struggled to start with but a good few pointers from Nick helped me no ends. As I'm still very new to moths this kind of help is invaluable. In the end there were 17 different species including 2 new ones for me, Mouse Moth and Antler Moth (above).
After a couple of hours break to attend a christening, I headed off to Saltholme to try to catch up with another rare bird that had arrived recently, a White Winged Black Tern (above). I've seen them in Cyprus before but never in the UK so was really looking forward to seeing it. On arrival I checked at the reception and thankfully was told that the bird was still around so off I headed to the Allotment Pool. As I approached I spotted a familiar face, Derek Charlton, so went and joined him. The target bird was very easy to spot as it was flying around right in front of us. It was a gorgeous bird in almost full summer plumage which made things even better. But then we got an added bonus! Another rare bird, a Blue Winged Teal, had been in the area for a week or so but was apparently extremely elusive so I didnt really think I'd get the chance to see it. But as we scanned the reeds on the far side low and behold we found the Teal. Excellent! At first it was sleeping just in front of the reeds but then it was spooked by first a Coot and then a pair of Gadwall forcing it out in the open for a few minutes before heading deep into the reedbed. This was turning out to be a very good day!
On the walk back to the car I walked across a meadow kicking up a few species of Butterfly and also two new Dragonflies for the year, a Ruddy Darter and an Emperor Dragonfly (above). I went home very happy.