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!