Saturday, 21 March 2009

Holywell Iceland Gull

Been ill since Tuesday due to my mothers shoddy cooking, couldn't stand being in the house anymore so off I went to Holywell. I went via Earsdon pit to see if the Little Owl was about, unfortunately it wasn't, although a Chiff Chaff was singing from the willows. Saw a couple of Yellowhammers between here and the Pond but not much else.

Quite a few people out walking although no one was in the key hide, opened shutters, checked book, a Iceland Gull and Common Buzzard had been seen at 11:00, this was 14:50, put bins up and there was the Iceland just flying round the pond, a nice Juv and my first for the area. It was gone within minutes. On the water there was 3 Canada Geese, Pair of Great Crested Grebes, 14 mallard, 28 Tufted, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Female Goldeneye, 9 Wigeon, 4 Teal, 6 Pochard, 7 Coot, and 5 Moorhen. A pair of Greylag were in the field. The feeding station was busy with Water Rail, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock, Wren, Pheasant and a cracking Male Reed Bunting.

Also about were Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Woodpigeon, 1 Snipe, 1 Bumble Bee, and 2 Peacock Butterflies.

Sorry no pics this time.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009


Had a couple of frees back to back this morning so borrowed Grandma's car and went down to the Sluice to check for waders and early migrants. Stop at Briardene car park on way but no sign of the Med Gull.

Got down to the water and was pleased to see 8 Redshank, a patch tick for this year, also on the water were a few Black Headed Gulls, and I could see a Song Thrush on the far bank. I walked up to the first bridge and didn't see anything out of the ordinary, but the noise was unreal, the amount of birds singing was amazing, with the Rooks taking central stage, nests are still being added to with a couple of new ones popping up.

On the way back to the car I was joined by a flock of Long-tailed Tits. Due to the lack of time I drove to the car park up the road at Old Hartley, lazy I know, I walkd along the burn hoping for the Kingfisher as my neighbour seen it there the other day. No joys so off back to school.

When my dad got in a biked down to the Pond, the handles missing from the outside of the door, making it difficult to get in. I was hoping that the Little Gull from earlier on had returned, Northumbrian Birder was in the hide, he had no joys and nothing out of the ordinary. Quick scan and decided to bike down to the North Pool and the wagon way, hoping for Yellowhammer and some more waders. Along the track from the Public hide to the wagon way I was stopped by three toads, first for the year.

Picked up 2 Oystercacther, 2 Redshank and a lone Drake Shelduck on the North Pool.

Bike to the avenue but no luck with Yellowhammer, although I did see a Mistle Thrush on the wires. On my way back to the hide I heard some Linnets and then clocked them, there was 10 in total, and behind them was a Yellowhammer, another patch tick for the year.

Back at the hide for a tally up on the water there was 32 Tufted, Pair Great Crested Grebes, 8 Mallard, 5 Pochard, Pair Mute Swan, Pair Canada, 6 Greylag, 4 Coot, 7 Moorhen, and 14 Wigeon. 2 Grey Heron were saw flying South past Obelisk. A Stock Dove flew over the top of the hide, at 18:05 a large No. of Gulls descended onto the pond mostly GBB and Herring with 1 LBB amongst them. Roughly about the same time I saw the Kingfisher fishing from the far post, another patch tick for the year. Other birds around included 1 Song Thrush at gates, House Sparrow flock in hedgerow, Jackdaw, Woodpigeon, 5 Long-Tailed Tits, Blue Tit, Great tit, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock, Wren and Pheasant.

As I reached the Meadow Field next to the Beehive I heard 4 different Grey Partridge calling, 2 in horse field 2 in plough, they were accompanied by 8 Curlew.

73 for the patch list this year.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Urban Ponds and Killingworths SEO

Decided to stay local and visit some of the ponds I haven't been to in a while. First stop was the Village Pond, greeted by 13 Shoveler (9 Drakes and 4 Ducks), 1 Drake Gadwall, 9 Tufted, Pair of Teal, Pair of Canada, Pair of Mute Swan, Coots, Moorhen, Black-headed and Common Gulls, and a Pied Wagtail overhead. Quite productive.

Next was along to the Swallow Pond, mainly to see the Red Deer stag Simon told me about the other day. Parked up at back of Asda and walked along too the hide, met Simon halfway, he told me he'd seen the deer but not much else, quick chat and we went separate ways. On the water there was 9 Pochard, 4 Little Grebe, 2 Canada, 5 Mute Swan (2 Adults, 3 Juvs), 4 Tufted, 1 Cormorant, Mallard, Coot, Moorhen and a mix of Gulls. The stag appeared in the reeds at the far side, its a huge animal and a funny sight at Swallow, I'm used to seeing these big stags up in Mull or Islay, not in Wallsend.

Next was Killingworth, but I thought I'd check on SEO's on the way. 50+ strong Linnet flock still on the pylons in the first field, as I walked down I glimpsed the two birds locking talons then drifting apart. They were providing exceptional views today, landing on tufts of grass, and the pylon, and both hunting for all of the time I was there. Whilst i was walking back up I clocked two pairs of Grey Partridge.

Off to Killingworth Lake, parked up and the Barnacle Goose was grazing on the grass with Mute Swans Canada, and a pair of Greylags, also on the water were 6 Goosesander, Tufted, 1 Great crested Grebe, Goldeney and the usual suspects.
Quick check of Marden Quarry was next few Greylags, Canada, 3 Little Grebe, Tufted, Pochard, Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, and this fellow...

Last time I was down the Quarry there was a pair, but only seemed to be one today, you can't see on the phot very well be it also has a white/yellow forehead. I was thinking along the lines of hybrid, Barnacle X Canada, any ideas?

Last stop was Red House Farm Pond, Pair of Mallards, and a Moorhen were on the pond, with Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Chaffinch round about.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Another Short-Eared Owl, The Sluice and The Pond

Got the car today so thought I would go to the pond, via the Beehive flash. Pulled up at the corner, due to mud and me driving my Grandmas Nissan Micra, I walked round the edge of the farmers field until I could see the flash there was, 15 Teal, 7 Wigeon, Pair Gadwall, Pair Mallard, and 2 Roe Deer, a buck and a doe, just by the wood. As I turned round there was a Carrion Crow chasing a SEO, they were quite high with the Crow above the owl, stooping as they do too most BOP, the SEO was coming from underneath and giving the Crow as good as it got, it gave up after a minute or so and flew along the hedge line running west and landed in the rough grass in front of the Gorse bushes. I had a quick check of the small pond in that direction and it produced a pair of Mallard and 3 Grey heron. Next was off to the sluice in search of Jay and Kingfishers...

The two Rookeries down there were busy with birds bringing bedding material, soft grasses, mosses etc, should be laying soon. Female Sparrowhawk over the burn put most of the Woodies up and made most birds express there grief. Lots of Goldfinch, Great Tits, Blue Tits, Jackdaws and Magpies about, with a couple of Carrion Crow on the sea-marsh bit. Feral Pigeon flock and a Song Thrush on my way back to the car. Quite a lot of Daffodils as well.

Next off to the Pond, got there about 17:30 and was greeted by a Song Thrush at the gates. On the pond there was 31 Wigeon, 3 Little Grebe, 2 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Greylag, 1 Canada, 3 Mute Swan, 19 Tufted, 8 Mallard, Pair Shelduck, 4 Male and 1 Female Pochard, 4 Coot, 1 Common Gull, 3 Great Black Backed Gulls and a Moorhen. Also about Female Sparrowhawk, Reed Bunting, and 30+ Jackdaws moving West at 17:36.

Brings my patch list to 69.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Holywell Pond and the Obelisk Area

Decided to bike down to Holywell after school tonight saying that the wind had died down. Got there about 16:20 and was greeted by quite a few gulls, quick scan produced nothing, then I looked just in front of hide, only a few metres and there was a 2nd Winter Med Gull. After a closer look the bird didn't look to well, making to short flights, with its right leg trailing.

I was joined by Simon and he agreed the bird didn't look right, at 16:36 the Med Gull flew off to the west looking pretty fine other than the trailing leg, I guess it most of just of needed a rest and a drink to sort itself out. I follow Boulmer Birders blog I find his field notes and sketches amazing so I had a go drawing the pattern of black feathering on the head and the beak pattern, I also noticed the amount of the black this gull had on its wings, which I made note of. Here are two poor quality pictures I took, the 2nd to show wing pattern.

Scanning the rest of the gulls I found 2 Lesser Black Backed Gulls, amongst Herring, Common, and Black Headed. On the pond in the way of wildfowl there was 40+ Greylag, 2 Canada, 16 Mallard, 2 Great Crested Grebes performing the reed dance, 1 Little Grebe, 15 Tufted, 21 Wigeon, 6 Pochard, 2 Teal, and 2 Mute Swan, 6 Coot, Moorhen and a Grey heron were also on the pond. The feeding station was relatively quiet with 2 Long-Tailed Tits and a Great Spotted Woodpecker being the highlights. Large Numbers of Goldfinch were in Birch Trees at main gates, and the usual House Sparrow flock in hedgerow leading from estate.

A walk down to the public hide produced 1 Curlew with 3 overhead. i decided to have a walk down to the Obelisk to look for Little Owl and Partridge. When I got down there I picked up 2 Red-Legged Partridge almost straight away they were feeding under a pheasant feeder, also down that way I seen a few Song Thrush, Jackdaw, Rook and a Brown Hare which was new for the area.

I continued down to the path leading to Dene travelling through tall hawthorns, 5 Linnets, Female Sparrowhawk and more Song Thrush were in this area. Quick check of the North Pool produce nothing, then it was off home at 18:30.

Good evening with 45 species, bringing my patch list to 67.

Oh had a Song Thrush on Newsteads Drive on the way to school this morning as well, hopefully they'll breed again.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Holywell Pond

Biked down to hide at 16:30 today, was quite windy but the sun was out. 25 species in total, lower than the usual, normally get around the 30 mark. Most of the ducks and grebes on pond had been pushed into the bay just in front of the key hide, providing good views. 54 Wigeon were the dominant force of the bond, Pair of Great Crested Grebes asleep then doing part of the courtship behaviour, chest to chest with head shaking but no gift or rise, 2 Pair of Shelduck were providing an aerial display as one pair chased the other off the pond, a male Kestrel over by the public hide, Goldeneye numbers seem to be thinning out with only one male seen today, feeding quite quiet, a Song Thrush over the east hedge line, and my first Little Grebes for the year made an appearance right on front of the hide trilling. 63 Species so far.

Great Grey Shrike

On Friday 1st March me and Crammy Birder set off for Black Lough. It's rare to find someone the same age when your a young Birdwatcher, so I was surprise when I met Crammy Birder and found out he was in the same year. We seem to be a rare breed with not many of us about.

I'm sure there must be more younger people with an interest, not a great deal more, whether through life this interest withers away, through school, street cred, girls or probably parents I'm not completely sure, but it must disappear almost completely. Also the way of life has changed, I sit in awe when I hear the stories of my dad going everywhere not a care in the world, doing everything, ALWAYS outside, knowing most species of bird and mammals, building camps, tree houses, camping, making fires, just simply walking any distance, and being out in any weather. There was a passion, which seems to be lacking in young people today.

I see it at my local Scout troup, if you read Robert-Baden Powell's Scouting for Boys its amazing what they did and learnt, the current Scouting authorities do not encourage these sorts of outdoors activities. Encouragement is key to continuing the interest of your surroundings, every kid has that interest, but as we get older it dies away if were not careful. I say stick in to any young person out there who has a passion for the natural world, in any aspect.

Enough of my rant, back to birds...

We made our way up to the Lough over the heather, when we reached the top someone was having a fishing retreat and the bird was nowhere to be seen. Another birder joined us quick scan and we began walking round the lough, scanning the skyline I spotted what looked like the bird, quick look through a scope and it was positive. It was West of the lough quite a way away, walking up it dropped off the horizon, once at other side it couldn't be found until we began walking back to the Lough. Brilliant views of a bird which I had never seen before, it was bigger than I pictured, after about 30 seconds it moved slightly then off into the willows at the back of the lough.

We followed a well worn deer track back to the car, others birds around included Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Common Buzzard, Reed Bunting, Skylark, Song Thrush, and a group of Carrion Crows.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Short-Eared Owl

After seeing Whitley Bay Birder's post about the Short-Eared Owl he saw opposite Simonside Way, Killingworth, I decided to have a bike down. I got there about 15:40 and began walking down the Wagonway towards Holystone. First birds of interest were a large flock 50+ strong of Linnets, Whitley Bay Birder said he seen the SEO at 17-17:30ish at the top field near the road, as I was early I walked further down the field. When a reached the bottom field with a bit of a flash a saw my first glimpse of the SEO, I repositioned to get out of sight, soon as I did this a noticed a dog walker coming up the track, straight past the SEO, which was to busy hunting to care.

The hunting style of the SEO is pleasant to watch, yet effective in providing dinner. The way the bird quaters back and forth, hovers and then suddenly folds its wings backward almost like a Gannet, and hits the deck. I watched the bird for 15 minutes, it had numerous dives but didn't make a kill. There's a track on the opposite side of the field, close to were the SEO was, looked well covered and perfect for a photo opportunity, as I crossed the field a 2nd SEO was put up.

I wonder if these birds have been here all winter...
not as good as Whitley bay Birders, but it will do for now;)

The Roost

After reading 'Crow Country' by Mark Cocker in late 2008 my eyes have been opened to the world of the Rook. It seems the book has sparked a interest deep inside, now every time I see a gathering of Rooks and other Corvidae I'm fixated on there behaviour. The Ultimate spectacle and point of the book is Roosts, this I had not witnessed before in my life until Sunday 1st March.

I volunteer and generally help out at a Falconry business at Stonehaugh,, on my way I drive up the old Military Road. About 1.5 mile up the hill from the Chollerford bridge (going towards Wark), there's a small wood, 2/3 on the left hand side of the road and a 1/3 on the right. Theres a cottage set back in the field to the right with no road access. I have known for a few years that this is the congregation point for all the Rooks and Jackdaws in the area, before they take flight for the roost.

On Sunday I pulled into the layby and watched the happenings of the flock, the noise was unbelievable. Every now and again as a car passed with its headlights on, the whole flock would take flight, sounding like the roar of the waves I'm familiar with down the coast. I wouldn't like to guess the number of birds present, in the hundreds I would think, with a proportionally larger amount of Jackdaws than Rooks, and large numbers of Rooks arriving just as the light fades.

As each group or pair of birds arrive they seem to drop into the congregation like leaves falling from a tree, landing on the outside branches. At 18:15 the whole roost left in one motion, flying over the plantation behind the cottage, here the mystical roost flight process begins, with the whole flock moving as one, swirling and diving in the Sky. Unfortunately at this point the light faded and watching the flock became more difficult. A amazing experience which I think, if you already haven't seen then you most see for yourself.

I would thoroughly recommend reading 'Crow Country' by Mark Cocker.

If anyone knows of a local roost site, or wants more detailed directions please email me at