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)