Thursday, 24 December 2009
Friday, 18 December 2009
Firstly I would like to say sorry for my lack of updates. My degree at University is going well, and I'm enjoying it, especially the perks, of meeting some really interesting people, gaining knowledge, and borrowing the camera equipment :)
I've just broke up for my 4 week Christmas holiday, so I will expecting to be down at Holywell most days, for now I will leave you with my first 2000 word Ecology Assignment, which is based on the Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus. Hope you enjoy it, and most likely see you whilst I'm knocking about.
Essay on the ecology of a chosen species
The Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
Juvenile Female Sparrowhawk, Accipiter nisus, on Quarry
Copyright, Cain Scrimgeour
In this essay, the ecology of the Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus will be looked at, its distribution, limiting factors, habitat, reproductive strategy, behaviour, the ecosystem it exists in, population ecology, and its current and past threats will be looked at in some detail.
The Sparrowhawk is a small-medium sized bird, it has a great size difference between male and female birds; male birds vary between 27-30cm (from head to tail), weighing at about 150 grams, whereas the females between 35-37cm weighing about 300 grams. This difference is common in most birds of prey and a few other bird species although exaggerated in Sparrowhawks to a great degree. Due to this large size difference each sex has a different ecology in terms of hunting habitats and prey species. The structure of both sexes is similar; the species has a slim body, on long thin legs with long slender toes, short broad wings and a long tail, it is built to negotiate thick woodlands, and catch bird species, mostly songbirds. Their build allows for fast pace flights as well as an amazing degree of manoeuvrability, allowing them to fly through thick areas of woodlands, suburban gardens and other difficult flying habitats. In identifying the species, both sexes are similar although different, apart from the obvious size difference the female can be recognised by a brown/grey upper surface, with a whitish, dark barred under side, in males the upper surface is more of a blue/grey, with a slightly more orange tinge under side, also with dark horizontal barring. The juvenile plumage lasts for the first year and lacks the grey of the adults with a brown upper, and also a buff under side with barring although more like diamonds/hearts marked across the chest to form what appears to be barring. The plumage of all ages can vary significantly from one individual to the next.
The distribution of the Sparrowhawk is vast, as long as there are suitable woodlands the majority of locations are suitable (in the Palearctic region), it can be found throughout Europe, Asia, and into North Africa. In this range certain populations are migratory, mostly in the northern populations, where temperatures drop to extreme lows in the winter, and a food supply cannot survive. The species has not been recorded south of the equator. Throughout this region there are a number of subspecies although similar, ‘What slight variation exists is mostly clinal (gradual) though six subspecies are recognised, including four which are geographically separate in the breeding season’ Newton (1986, p.41) although Sparrowhawks Accipiter nisus, can be found throughout Britain, from cities to the countryside, they are not present in high areas, where nesting habitat is limited.
The only true limiting factors of Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus distribution is the lack of suitable breeding habitat in males; and a good mate for females, the process of nesting habitat is highly selective. Sparrowhawks breed, hunt and roost in woodland (although hunt across a wide range of habitats), preferences for sites have been observed, woodlands which are open so flights paths are clear, but covered to provide security. Therefore there is a period in a wood/forests growth where it is attractive and suitable for Sparrowhawks to nest. They usually prefer large woods, with young tree’s ‘2 to 4 metres apart’ Newton (1987, p.4). Although poorer suitability woods will be used if there is a lack of suitable nesting habitat, through my own observations on the green belt land surrounding Newcastle, it is clear that Sparrowhawks will make use of what woods they can find to provide a nesting habitat. Females are at a greater number to males in any given population, therefore finding a good, reliable mate with an established territory is difficult.
As stated above the Sparrowhawk main habitat is woodland, which is vital for breeding and roosting, although a wide variety of habitats are used for hunting purposes. The Sparrowhawks wing, tail and body structure makes it perfectly adapted to fly through woodland, weaving in between trunks and branches, and allows it to chase down fast flying songbirds within this habitat, but this manoeuvrability also allows to hunt in a variety of other habitats, including town and city gardens, were the agile flight allows the use of fences and houses to gain access to its prey. Sparrowhawks have been observed hunting in many habitats, from reed beds and sand dunes, to farmland and moors where a variety of prey species, almost entirely birds can be hunted.
Sparrowhawks breed when there is a peak in their prey, which occurs due to their breeding cycles, they breed between mid spring and late summer, due to the increase of food which they need to survive e.g. plants and insects, due to the increased amount of light available in the day. This therefore means Sparrowhawks breed between April and August. Sparrowhawks begin building nests between the months of February and April, for the males to keep a female within a territory he has to provide a food supply for her, this will keep her near to the nest site for greater lengths of time, therefore holding the nest site from other females in the area. For the male to provide a substantial food supply his home range and hunting experience must be at a high level, the less time spent hunting the more time which could be donated to the female, continually feeding her at the nest site. At the beginning of the breeding season all the females of an area may overlap a single males territory amongst several others, allowing choice of the best provider, and nesting site within this range. ‘We could thus infer that any inability of the cock to provide food resulted in the hen wandering’ Newton (1986, p. 152). When a female made the choice to stay within a certain male’s territory and nesting site to breed, it then needs to defend the territory, food source, male and nesting site against any other wandering females, which would provide significant competition. Any females coming into contact with the resident female or nesting place are chased out of the area by the female, if the threat comes from above a series of territorial flights will begin. This is normally enough to deter any competition.
Ian Newton has distinguished six phases in behaviour between the pair before eggs are developed. ‘ (1) the attraction of birds to nesting places and potential mates to one another; (2) mutual roosting on the nesting area, mutual calling in the early morning, and aerial displays; (3) the feeding of the hen by the cock; (4) nest site inspections and stick carrying; (5) nest building proper; and (6) copulation’ Newton (1986, p.156). This serious of phases works in a succession with each step being completely necessary before the step after is followed, each individual pair can take varying amounts of time to complete the steps. The food supplied by the male to the female is a vital step, if there is a lack of food then nest building cannot begin or progress, therefore copulation and breeding will not occur. Courtship feeding can be seen in a wide variety of birds, in the Sparrowhawks case the male brings food items, one at a time to the female, either to her perch, or in an aerial pass called a foot pass, which is common amongst birds of prey, the Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus being a prime example. This courtship feeding allows the female to put on sufficient mass for the purpose of egg development, at a point before the eggs are layed the female may become dependant on the male supplying food, this is the beginnings of where a good, experienced mate allows for reproduction, and the fledging of offspring. If the male fails to provide the female may not lay, and breeding attempts may fail for that year.
Nest building begins between January-April, more commonly late March or Early April, as eggs are often laid in May. Both Male and Female birds construct the nest, although main construction and structure is the males job, with the female adding finishing touches, such as the lining, smaller twigs and flakes of bark, but also leaves and needled branches. It is located mid canopy in the woodland, not quite in the canopy but not in the ground, this makes it difficult to be seen, blending in to the leaves above when looking from below, and blending into the ground foliage we looked at from above. The nest may be built on top of old nests from other species such as Woodpigeons Columba palumbus and Carrion Crow Corvus corone corone, or from past Sparrowhawk nests, which haven’t been destroyed by winds. This structure provides a safe place for eggs and young to be incubated and raised. The eggs, once laid, are a brown/red colour with a mottled pattern, which are extremely variable from one pair to the next, ‘ generally consisting of spots and blotches, they may be clustered together at one end in a group or in a solid cap, they may form a zone or they may be scattered more generally over the shell. Quite often one egg in a clutch will be almost unmarked.’ Evans (1972, p. 144). The female will lay between 4-6 eggs, on alternate days with incubation tending to start on the second last egg, allowing for a spread hatch. The female will incubate the eggs for 32-34 days, in this time the male will provide her food, which is eaten on a close to branch, therefore if the male cannot provide, she may have to hunt for herself increasing the chance of predation of the eggs. The male continues to provide once the chicks have hatched, until they are old enough to be left, the prey item will be taken to a plucking post, where the male will remove the feathers, before passing to the female, which will one by one tear small pieces of meat off and feed each individual white downy chick, which have fully developed eyes, and are able to take food from there mother. At this time and throughout the rearing stage the mother will continue to look after the chicks, ‘The young are brooded almost continuously for the first seven or eight days, then progressively less until twelve to fifteen days, thereafter chiefly during rain.’ Newton (1987, p.18), and nest, mostly protecting the chicks from the weather predators, and removing uneaten food/remains. The nest remains clean in terms of faeces due to the innate instinct of the chicks to back up to the edge of the nest, before releasing their waste, this response keeps the nest clean and bacteria free, the mother may still add further lining material to the nest.
Once the female can also provide, the young receive about 8 meals per day, allowing them to grow rapidly. The females gain weight at a greater rate than males, possibly due to their increased size, but the males develop flight feathers earlier, with flight being achieved at 26 days, and females 30 days old. Once young have left the nest completely they stay in the area, and are further fed by the parents for 3-4 weeks, once this period, which will involve flight development has came to an end the young will move out of the area and will have to hunt to prey for themselves.
The Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus, sits near to the top of the ecosystem it exists within, it is a first-degree carnivore preying almost entirely on small-medium sized birds, although small mammals are included within its diet. As an adult, the larger Goshawk Accipiter gentiles, is the only natural predator within Britain, although as eggs, chicks, and fledglings opportunistic predators include, Tawny Owl Strix aluco, Jay Garralus glandarius, Magpie Pica pica, and Pine Marten Martes martes. Humans also persecute the Sparrowhawk, through shooting and the use of pesticides. The use of organochlorine pesticides had a severe effect on Sparrowhawk populations, this effected the Sparrowhawks through there prey, which fed upon contaminated plants, as it is absorb by fat it is passed on from one trophic level to another, with concentrations increasing at each, so carnivorous animals acquire a greater amount of the toxin than that of the primary consumers. Although this pesticide can stay within a ecosystem for a great length of time, causing the thinning of egg shells, it is thought that the Sparrowhawk population has completely recovered.
Ian Newton established an idea of hunting behaviour through observations and radio tracking; the techniques were used in the relevant environment that allowed greatest productivity. ‘Short-stay-perch-hunting’ Newton (1986, p.102) involves the bird flying through a wooded area from one tree to another, scanning the area at each step, this was found to be the commonest method for searching for prey. ‘High soaring’ Newton (1986, p.102) and stooping, this involves a bird soaring to a great height out of site, scanning the area below for suitable prey species, and stooping, closing its wings and dropping down to grasp its prey, this behaviour is usually used on flocking birds, I have witnessed this behaviour many times near my home, mostly at Starlings Sturnus vulagris and Woodpigeon Columba palumbus. ‘Contour-hugging flight’ Newton (1986, p. 102), this behaviour involves the bird making use of the terrain it hunts, mostly seen in housing estates where the bird will make use of hedgerows, fence lines and buildings to catch prey species off guard, the bird may continuously switch sides, these routes can become regular if productive. I also witnessed this hunting behaviour at my home, but also as a falconer I have had the opportunity to fly a female Sparrowhawk at Corvidae, once the bird had seen the quarry and was released it could easily be seen that contour-hugging flights were being established if there was a suitable environment ahead, such as a line of tree’s or a hedge line, this type of flight was very effective whilst flying a captive bird. Other hunting behaviours include, ‘still hunting, low quartering, hunting by sound, and hunting on foot’ Newton (1986, p. 102-103).
Due to the increasing human tolerance of Sparrowhawks Accipiter nisus, its distribution within the UK will increase, due to the large amounts of tree’s which are planted within urban areas, providing more vital nesting areas. Through the decline of farmland birds at present, I believe Sparrowhawks will become more common within urban areas, following their food source, and less in farmland areas, which could effect the overall population, unless conservation efforts are increased to help save farmland birds.
Newton, I. (1986) The Sparrowhawk. The Bath Press, Avon.
Evans, G. (1972) The Observer’s book of Birds’ Eggs. Frederick Warne & Co Ltd, London.
Newton, I. (1987) The Sparrowhawk. Shire Publications Ltd, Buckinghamshire
Monday, 5 October 2009
Monday, 28 September 2009
Saturday, 19 September 2009
19/09/09 10:30 Sunny with light breeze
Today I took the opportunity to drive my Grandad down to the hide, those of you who have met my Grandad will probably remember him bringing me down to Holywell, mostly on Sunday mornings. The shared passion for wildlife kept us going back week after week, becoming regulars in the process, he gave me a great opportunity to learn more about the natural world. I wouldn't be where I am today without him. Due to illness, my Grandad can no longer drive, but that doesn't stop us, as I can :) My little sister also joined us today.
On the water, 6 Teal, 2 Female/Juvenile Ruddy Duck, 3 Female Shoveler, 19 Canada Geese, 9 Wigeon, 8 Mallard, 8 Pink-Footed Geese flew in, and were later joined by another 8, 16 Little Grebe, 1 Female Pochard, 11 Coot, 4 Moorhen + 1 medium young, Black Headed Gull, Herring Gull and a single Lesser Black Backed Gull. Also about were 3 Stock Doves, 2 Migrant Hawker, 3 Grey Heron, 80+ Lapwing, Female Sparrowhawk, and a Common Buzzard.
As me and my Grandad were catching up with what we'd been doing the past week, I told him about visiting Big Waters with Crammy Birder the other day, in search of the Kingfisher. He told me that someone had sent a picture in to NE Weather and they had showed it, the magnificent blues, oranges with the eye catching oily finish caught his attention and imagination as well as mine.
My sister has began drawing birds in a small notebook (as she's the most artistically gifted of the family), labelling with plumage descriptions, and other notes, the Kingfisher talk sparked her own imagination and she promptly got out her bird book, found Kingfisher and began drawing the bird. Just as she had finished the sketch she shouted out, Kingfisher!. Bins up and there it was sitting on the depth post to the right of the hide, it stayed for about ten minutes, fishing from the posts and occasionally flying off and hovering just off the reeds, locating a fish and then diving, not unlike a Kestrel searching for a vole. Another build up of events leading to some great views, providing a great ending to the day.
Wednesday, 16 September 2009
Next was the Dene, I continued along the path along the edge of the tip, coming out closer to the Seghill Pond end of the dene, and the Canyon (the name given to the bike jumps in this area). It was at the canyon where I picked up a Dragonfly, I think it's a Southern Hawker but I could do with some help.
I watched it hawk around in small area between some jumps, patrolling a small territory, taking all the same turns, and now and again landing on the leaves above. It didn't stay long enough and near enough to get a decent photo.
As I was leaving the Canyon, a Wagtail caught my eye, I moved back to get into a better position and found an adult Male Grey Wagtail, in stunning plumage, this bird was immaculate. Just as it began to move off upstream, a small flock, of what at first I thought was just Blue Tits and Great Tits, pasted through, I knew from past experiences to check these flocks for other species such as Blackcaps, Chiff Chaff, Willow Warbler, and other Warbler species. Although none of these species were present I did pick up a lone Coal Tit, which began to bathe in the burn, some Long- Tailed Tits, and 2 Treecreepers which I had missed this year until now. I think it was at this point when a thought 'nature has a way of coming together', if I hadn't been watching the Dragonfly for 5 minutes, I would have possibly missed the Grey Wagtail, which would have in turn not led me to the flock of Tits/Treecreepers which passed through quite rapidly, I've been through situations like this before and they always make me wonder if a trail has already been left in front of us we just need to understand how to follow it.
Riding along the dene, I picked up a Female Sparrowhawk and a Grey Heron, I moved on, to the Pond. 10 Wigeon, 9 Teal, 2 Female/Juv Ruddy Duck, Pair Mute Swan, 13 Little Grebe + 2 small young, 1 Female Shoveler, 4 Moorhen + 2 medium young, 15 Coot + 1 medium young, 20 Tufted, 1 Female Pochard, 18 Mallard, 1 Grey Heron, Large No. Gulls mainly Black Headed with Herring and 2 Common Gull, due to East field being ploughed, also large no. Jackdaws. A Peacock Butterfly seemed to be beginning to hibernate inside the hide behind the central shutter.
15/09/09 10:30 Sunny with NNE wind
Back on the bike, although the plan was to pass the Beehive, then pond, then head through East fields to pick the dene back up at the sluice, check Rocky Island, then head for St Mary's, Briardene and back home. Well that's exactly what happened.
First crossing the carboot I noticed 8 Common Gulls amongst the regular Herirng Gull and Jackdaws. Beehive flash was quite productive, 34 Curlew, 3 Dunlin, Lapwing made up the waders, with a Grey Heron, 4 Mallard, and 20+ Linnet also present. There was a large number of Corvids throughout my travels today, feeding in the cut and ploughed fields.
At the pond I just stopped off at the public hide, and noted 57 Canada Geese, 10 Greylag and 4 Common Gull. Off towards the sluice, I flushed a single Grey Partridge from the footpath, as I approached the dene there was a large flock of Goldfinch and a single Speckled Wood.
Rocky Island was pretty bare, 1 Juvenile Gannet was diving just off shore, along with Eiders, 4 Sandwich tern joined a large group of Oystercatchers on the rocks. The wind was quite strong at this point, the Herring Gulls used the opportunity to hang in the lift given off by the cliffs. As I was leaving Rocky Island a Shrew ran across the path in front of me, which I was pleased to see, as normally only when they are killed you come across them. Due to the odour they give off when attacked, enough to put the predator off them even in death.
Only bird of note at St Mary's was a single Juvenile Stonechat, the Med Gull was yet again not present at the Briardene when I arrived.
I stayed clear of Holywell today as Natural England were due to perform some survey work regarding the aquatic plants on the reserve, will be interesting to see the results, instead I went to look at a job with dad, at Rothbury.
Sunday, 13 September 2009
Blackthorn Prunus spinosa
Cherry stone remains from a Wood Mouse
Saturday, 12 September 2009
Next we headed down to Rocky Island to check for Roseate Terns, we weren't disappointed, there was quite a large number of terns present on the rocks just by the water, counting up there was 14 Roseate, 5 Artic and 11 Sandwich, regarding waders, 4 Sanderling, 3 Knot, 2 Juv Ringed Plover, Curlew, Oystercatcher, and Redshank were feeding on the shoreline amongst the rocks and weed. Also about Great Black Backed Gull, Herring Gull, Eiders off shore with 3 Juv Gannet and Cormorant, Feral pigeon, Rock pipit, Linnet, a lone Wheatear and 20+ Golden Plover overhead. Quite a few Peacock and Painted Lady butterflies were present on the island.
We moved onto Deleval Ices to give Crammy a taste of the best ice cream in the county, if not country, if not world. Beehive Flash was our next stop, 1 Male Eclipse Shoveler, Pair Mute Swans, Moorhen and Mallard were on the water, with 10 Curlew, Redshank and 2 Stock Dove amongst the grass. The water level is still pretty high at the flash, hopefully this warm weather will dry it up a bit, exposing some mud. In the field East of the flash was a large flock of Lapwing, joined by another Stock Dove and a few Starling.
The Briardene car park was checked although the Med Gull was not present.
11/09/09 Sunny with Light Breeze
I had to a walk to Holywell yesterday saying that the weather was nice. Birds of note on my walk to the pond included, a Pair of Red Legged Partridge at the Beehive Dene, and 2 Curlew in the horse/cow field just further along by the backtrack.
There was quite a few butterflies at the bottom end of the car boot field feeding on the thistles, I noted 4 Small Tortoiseshell, 4 Painted Lady and 1 Red Admiral.
Painted Lady Vanessa cardui
Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae
It was 14:00 when I arrived at the hide, on the pond, 17 Coot, 13 Mallard, 4 Shoveler, 7 Teal, 14 Little Grebe, 13 Greylag, 14 Tufted, 2 Female Ruddy Duck, 2 Pochard (male and female), Black Headed Gull, 1 Lesser Black Backed Gull, 1 Great Black Backed Gull, Herring Gull, 1 Common Gull, and 2 Juv Grey Heron. Also present was a small flock of Tits, compromising of Blue Tit, Great Tit, and Long-Tailed Tit, scanning through them didn't produce any further species. A male Kestrel was hunting by the obelisk, the House Sparrow flock by the track has decreased by birds are still present, along with a large number of Hirundines building up on the telephone wires. 2 Red Admiral were also noted.
Walking back via the backtrack I came across a male Bullfinch feeding amongst the Willow Herb, further along a Wall Brown was sunning on the track.
I had the job of walking the dog tonight saying parents are on holiday, I took her out as soon as I got back, and headed straight for the car boot, just as I entered the field a heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker looked up and found it flying overhead into Red House Farm, normally I only find this species at Red House Farm when it begins to get colder, it must move in to make use of the residents feeders. It seemed to have come from Earsdon direction, although I am not familiar with any breeding sites in Earsdon, wouldn't be surprised if there was though.
Today 12/09/09, walking to CW Tents, I past Eccles Hall in Earsdon to find 8 Tree Sparrows on the fence line opposite, possibly some of SP's flock which he found near to the tip.
I'm due to leave for uni a week on Sunday (20th), really really looking forward to it, I will be studying Wildlife and Media for 3 years at the University of Cumbria's Penrith Campus, I will be hoping to get home at weekends although this may not be practical at times, therefore I will keep this blog up and running although the majority will consist of my adventures in Cumbria but will also be updated with sightings from Holywell when I'm home.
Thursday, 20 August 2009
On the 01/08/09 I left Newcastle at 8 heading for Milngnavie, and the start of the West Highland Way. We arrived at lunchtime and began the 95 mile walk. Only birds of interest were a pair of Hooded Crows at Loch Lomond, but there was a large number of Scotch Argus butterflies in most areas along the way, we also had a few sightings and close encounters with Red Deer. The train arrived at Fort William at 11:40 and we got on for the long ride home.
I got home on 07/08/09 at about 7 ish, emptied my bag had a shower and ate a take away and then went to bed. At 10:00 on Saturday the 8th I was travelling up to Scotland again, this time in a car, with the Family heading for the Kyles of Bute. We were staying at Tignabruaich, I kept a list of birds we seen whilst at the chalet and on our travels, it came to a toal of 54 and included, Hooded Crow, Red Breasted Merganser, Shag, Turnstone (summer plumage), Sandwhich Tern, Siskin, Raven, Twite, Manx Shearwater and Rock Dove.
When we arrived a noticed that there was a family of Hooded Crows in the area, at first I seen 1 Adult and 3 Juveniles, but then a noticed the other adult bird was a Carrion Crow. This got me thinking about my A level biology, I knew the birds were known to hybridise, but I didn't know whether if either subspecies had a dominate allele, which allowed the offspring to be either pure corone cornix or frugilegus. After digging around on the Internet the general outline is that the birds prefer breeding with there own subspecies, but they do hybridise in some localities producing hybrid birds.
We got back from Scotland on the 15/08/09, the next time chance I got to visit Holywell was on the Tuesday lunchtime (18/08/09) where I was glad to find that the Black Necked Grebe which was reported earlier was still present adding another species to the list for this year.
Today, 20/08/09, it was results day, I was ecstatic to find that I had managed to get my place to do a degree in Wildlife and Media at Penrith this year :D. After the excitement wore off I checked Bird Guides and headed to Cresswell for the Semipalmated Sandpiper. I arrived at about 11:00 to find a group at the outflow point, although it had just moved. I hung around for about an hour and noted, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, and Sanderling. Joining other birders I took a walk down to the tide line, where after a quick scan the bird was located, a life tick :D.
On the way back I checked the Beehive Flash, and was rewarded with a Bar-Tailed Godwit.
I'm disappearing for a couple of weeks again, leaving for Switzerland on Saturday with the Explorer's, I return on the 06/09/09 which gives me a few days to get down to Holywell until I leave for University on Sunday the 20th, I can't wait!
Friday, 7 August 2009
Sunday, 26 July 2009
Nearby I also spotted this Red Currant.Red Currant Ribes rubrum
As we walked through the forest a Common Buzzard could be heard along with views of a Willow Warbler, and the crys of a few Jays.
As the forest opened up in areas where the timber had been cut there were areas of established meadow which held a large number of Butterflies and other insects. I noted Small Skipper, Green-veined white, Red Admiral, Ringlet, Small White as well as a single Common Darter and a Common Lizard. There also seemed to be a large number of Yellowhammers calling.
Ringlet Aphantopus huperantus
Back into the last part of forest there was a huge amount of Wood Sorrel and quite a few Puff-balls.Wood Sorrell Oxalis acetosella
Puff-balls Lycoperdon perlatum
I really good walk, and a site I will definitely visit again.
Thursday, 23 July 2009
On the pond there was 2 Common Tern, 6 Little Grebe, 2 Mute Swan + 3 Cygnets, 19 Mallard + 2 medium ducklings, 24 Coot, 2 Tufted Duck + 7 ducklings, 4 Moorhen, 5 Grey Heron, 1 Sedge Warbler singing too the right of the hide, Black Headed Gull, House Martain, Swallow, Swift, Sand Martain, Lesser Black Backed Gull.
Also about were Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, and a Flock of Racing Pigeons.
We left the hide and headed for the North Pool, which contained water but was well vegetated around edges preventing a view of the mud, although we did see a Whitethroat at the top of one of the Hawthorns along the way. I was keen to have a walk down the Dene with Brian as his knowledge of other flora and fauna is vast compared to mine, there was a large number of Butterflies about and Brian began showing me the different species. During the day we saw Small Tortoiseshell, Painted Lady, Red Admiral, Comma, Peacock, Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown, Green-veined White, and Small Skipper. My confidence has now significantly increased in the identification of Butterflies thanks to Brian, and am very keen in continuing this newly sparked interest.
Green-veined White Artogeia rapae Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina
Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta
Small Skipper Thymelicus flavus
Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria
During our walk through the Dene and surrounding farmland we also seen Linnet, Yellowhammer, Whiethroat, Skylark, Female Sparrowhawk, 2 Grey Partridge, Woodpigeon, Jackdaw, Rook, Lapwing, and a Harris Hawk on the soar near the obelisk.
At the small dipping pond within the dene 1 Common Darter was seen.
After dropping Brian off I stopped at Backworth flash, well now Backworth lake, for a quick look, and noticed a Juvenile Herring Gull in a bit of a tangle, it had a Morrison's carrier bag attached to its leg which was preventing it from taking off, so I waded in grabbed it and took it back to the gate, where I removed the bag and successfully let it go, it made a bee-line straight back for the tip. Only other bird present was a single Snipe which I flushed during the rescue.
An interesting day, gaining somemore knowledge and experiences.
Tuesday, 21 July 2009
Me and my sister went down to Holywell later on at about 21:30 in the hope of Bats and Owls. Before it began to become dark, a large number of Swifts were seen feeding above the North Wood, and also a large roost group of Jackdaws and Rooks, performing their flight before they enter cover, this is the first time i've seen this roost at Holywell with over 500+ present above The Avenue. I hope this is a winter roost, although I believe it may only be a post breeding roost which will separate into larger winter roosts. A Grasshopper Warbler was heard reeling West of the pond, as the sun began to set 3 Noctule bats began hunting, with the characteristic high, straight flights with a number of twists and turns. As we made it back to the car 2 Pipestrelle bats were flitting about the tree's near the cut. A good night out, although disappointed by the owls.
On the 16th I was down at Holywell to give a hand to the NWT and their volunteers weeding the meadows of docks, thistles, ragwort and hogweed, ready for it to be cut and bailed, and also to be interview with the other wardens by a journalist from the Chronicle (will be out 11th August, see my claim to fame :P). I got down earlier and went down to the hide birds of note included, 1 Lesser Whiethroat, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 3 Sedge Warbler, 2 Common Tern, Tufted Brood of 6, 24 Coot, 1 Chiffchaff, and a Family party of 3 Oystercatcher. A large House Sparrow flock was also present in the hedge line at the back of the houses, along with Swallows on the wires.
On the meadows species noted included, Large Skipper, Small Skipper, Meadow Brown, Red Admiral, Broad Bellied Chaser, and a large amount of Sorrel.
The 17th was the beginning of a 4 day camp at Kielder with the Scout Troup, although I was working throughout the day at the Otterburn show. The trip up there produced a good sighting of a Female Goshawk as we entered Kielder forest, as well as 2 Ravens. Whilst at Otterburn Common Buzzards, and a Pair of peregrine were seen, and at Stonehaugh a Family of kestrels and other pair of Peregrines were present. On Sunday night I made an attempt to see the Ospreys, which was rewarded with the sight of an adult hunting in the distance, throughout the weekend Siskins were seen and heard as well as Tawny Owls, and a few Giant Wood Wasps.
Today 21/07/09 I took a mate and the left over bread from camp down to the Marden Quarry, with highlights of a brood of 3 Tufted Duck and a brood of 3 Greylags.
My Holywell list now stands at 104 and I've missed quite a few good birds including Little Gull, Little Ringed Plover, Whinchat, Cuckoo, Hobby, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Greenshank and today's Crossbills, hoping to get out a bit more with the camera now, until I head off to do the West highland Way on the 1st August.
Sunday, 21 June 2009
Also 2 Stock Dove at the Beehive Flash.
Sunday, 14 June 2009
Tuesday, 9 June 2009
Monday, 8 June 2009
The differences between itself and a Reed Warbler could be seen straight away, the lack of the reddish colour to the lower back and rump, and the different duller olive colour of the overall body, with the light buff breast. I only heard the song briefly, although it alllowed for a positive identification, might have a trip down tomorrow if it's still present to hear its call.
Tuesday, 2 June 2009
I had an evening session at Holywell on Saturday the 30th whilst everyone was watching Britain's Got Talent. First stop was the Beehive Flash, the water levels beginning to drop exposing a nice scrape so I was pleased when I spotted a Ringed Plover, a patch tick, it seemed a while since i've seen this species on the patch. Also about were a pair of Shelduck, 4 Mallard, 2 Redshank, and a lone Moorhen. Next was the Pond.
I arrived at about 20:30, Starling, Collared Dove, House Sparrow and Blackbird were picked up as I locked the car up. Down at the members there was a total of 9 Grey Heron, 6 on the island, I think this is the most Grey Heron I've had at the Pond, with a mixture f adults and imms. 3 Sedge Warbler were singing, along with Reed Bunting, and a Reed Warbler (patch tick) in the NW corner. On the water there was 4 Greylag, both with young, (4+3), 2 Mute Swan, 8 Mallard + 5 ducklings, 4 Tufted, 1 Cormorant, 2 Little Grebe, 1 Lesser Black Backed Gull, Black Headed Gull, Herring Gull, 1 Common Tern and a Pair of Canada plus 5 goslings. Also about were Chiff Chaff, Skylark, Willow Warbler, the usual feeding station crowd, 20+ Swift, House Martain, Swallow, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw and Rook.
North Pool was next, as I was walking along the backtrack to East of the pond, the Gulls began to fly overhead, whilst scanning I picked up a Juv Iceland Gull flying towards the sea. Only a pair of Lapwing and 6 chicks were on the now very dried up North Pool. Walking East a Fox ran from the crop into cover carrying a Rabbit, 2 Grasshopper Warbler were reeling, and there was quite a few large Bats flying overhead, making a high pitched screech, not sure what type there were, but something I plan to find out when I've finished my exams. Finished up at about 22:30.
Yesterday, 01/06/09, after I had my Unit 1 Biology exam I decided to have a revision break and do a bit of birding. I left the house at about 15:30 and headed for the carboot and a nice little patch of reeds in the farmers field towards the Beehive Pub. As it was absolutely scorching hot I had a little sit within the reeds, and was greeted by Reed Bunting, Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat, Blue Tit and Linnet. At some points the Sedge Warbler were coming within half a metre of me, and still belting there song out. I moved on to the Beehive Flash, where again I had a little sit, rather than the brief visits that normally occur. 3 Redshank, 2 Mute Swan, 6 Greylag, a Pair of Shelduck, 2 Lapwing, House Martain, Swallow, Skylark, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Woodpigeon, Swift, and a large number of Damsleflies were made note of.
Instead of walking to the hide I decided to walk along the Southern side of the Dene, there some nice bits of meadow, and stretches of hedgerow. I walked along through to West Holywell, Holywell Grange. There was quite a few pair of Yellowhammer along the hedgerows, at Backworth Pond, Grey Wagtail, Willow Warbler, Chiff Chaff, Whitethroat, Reed Bunting and a Pair of Stonechat (patch tick) were present. Not a bad couple of days.
Here my patch list so far this year, a total of 102 species;
- Little Grebe
- Great Crested Grebe
- Grey Heron
- Mute Swan
- Whooper Swan
- Pink-Footed Goose
- Greylag Goose
- Canada Goose
- Tufted Duck
- Ruddy Duck
- Marsh Harrier
- Common Buzzard
- Red- Legged Partridge
- Grey Partridge
- Water Rail
- Ringed Plover
- Common Sandpiper
- Med Gull
- Black Headed Gull
- Common Gull
- Lesser Black Backed Gull
- Herring Gull
- Iceland Gull
- Great Black Backed Gull
- Common Tern
- Stock Dove
- Collared Dove
- Short Eared Owl
- Great Spotted Woodpecker
- Sand Martain
- House Martain
- Meadow Pipit
- Grey Wagtail
- Pied Wagtail
- Northern Wheatear
- Song Thrush
- Mistle Thrush
- Grasshopper Warbler
- Sedge Warbler
- Reed Warbler
- Lesser Whitethroat
- Chiff Chaff
- Willow Warbler
- Spotted Flycatcher
- Long-Tailed Tit
- Willow Tit
- Coal Tit
- Blue Tit
- Great tit
- Carrion Crow
- House Sparrow
- Reed Bunting
- Feral Pigeon
Sunday, 17 May 2009
Got down at about 18:30 first a pair of Common Terns overhead, patch tick for the year. Also there was a Whitethroat singing in hawthorn opposite Houses with the usual crowd of Starlings, Blackbirds and the House Sparrows. I walked down to the Public Hide first on the off chance of waders, the water level was looking good, and the mud scrape almost perfect these combinations allowed me to be greeted by 3 Common Sandpipers, another tick, there was also a pair of Canada with 4 Goslings, Greylags, Mallard, and 1 Sedge Warbler singing.
There were a lot of hirundines about, with over 25 Swift. Back to the Members Hide, where I noted 3 more Sedge Warbler, 7 Mute Swan, 8 Mallard, ( 1 with at least 3 ducklings, another with 8), Pair Pochard, 1 Little Grebe, 6 Tufted, 1 Great Crested Grebe, Moorhen, Coot, Herring Gull, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Female Sparrowhawk, Chiff Chaff, Willow Warbler, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Great Tit, Blackbird, Robin, Magpie, Wren, Dunnock, Redshank, and a Male Great Spotted Woodpecker.
At 19:04 something caught my eye too the right of the hide, it was flitting about, not staying still for long, put my binoculars and was amazed to find an adult Spotted Flycatcher, this was the first time I had seen this species in this area. Only the second time in the county, (first at Tynemouth in the Autumn). It stayed in the area for as long as I was there, as I left at 19:30 a Common Sandpiper dropped in onto the small amount of mud in front of the hide.
Good hour, glad I went out. My patch list is at 99 so far.
Was up at work at Stonehaugh on Saturday, birds of note, Grasshopper Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Cuckoo along Pennine way, as well as Peregrine.
Tuesday, 5 May 2009
Sunday, 26 April 2009
Also at the Public Hide was a lone Redshank. Biked back to pick my lil sister up at about 15:00.
I really enjoy watching Marsh Harrier's, I enjoy watching that characteristic quartering technique that quite a few Birds of Prey use, but the Marsh Harrier seems to add its own personality to the hunting technique. The boldness of this bird was also interesting, 3 Mallard flew under it and it put a quick stoop in. A couple of years ago I was filling the feeders up and a female Marsh harrier was busy hunting just across the water, it dropped down into the reeds and came back up with a Coot, showing these birds will have a go at anything if they have a fair chance.
Whilst watching the Marsh Harrier, I saw a Common Buzzard being mobbed by a Carrion Crow in the distance, and a female Kestrel hovering to the West.
On the water were, 10 Pochard, 4 Cormorant, 4 Grey Heron, 1 Mute Swan, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 19 Tufted, 2 Black Headed Gull, 1 Lesser Black Backed Gull, 8 Mallard and 3 Little Grebe. Willow Warbler, Chiff Chaff and Blackcap were singing in North Wood. Down at public end a Weasel was running through the rough stuff, 5 Shelduck were sleeping, 2 Stock Dove drinking and a Sedge Warbler singing.
Over the three days I've seen Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, and Small White.
Off the patch to round it up took the dog for a walk along the beach at Cresswell, a Juv Red Throated Diver was just off shore, along with Sandwich Tern and Sanderling on the shoreline.
In all a good weekend with 11 new species seen, bringing my patch list to 95 for the year.