Sunday, 26 April 2009

A Weekends Worth of Holywell

Sorry for the lack of updates recently the Outdoors is starting to take a backseat and revision taking over, I need to get three C's to get into the Wildlife and Media degree at Penrith so I'm really starting to hammer the revision.
Friday the 24th April finished school at half 12, so I took the afternoon off for an hour at Holywell. Got down there at about 14:00 and it was warm and sunny. There was another local birder already in the hide, the usual question 'Much about?' and a reply of 'Yes, a Goosesander' sure enough there was a female Goosesander floating around the island, adding another patch tick for the year. I hadn't taken my camera but thankfully I was sent some pictures.
Also on the water was, 1 Great Crested Grebe, Pair of Wigeon, 2 Cormorant, 14 Tufted, 8 Greylag, the Canada X Greylag, 3 Grey Heron, 2 Canada, 2 Little Grebe, and 3 Mute Swan. 2 Stock Dove flew over the pond, a Male Kestrel was hunting to the east, 6 House Martain and 2 Swallow were skimming the surface of the water, 2 Chiff chaffs and 1 Willow Warbler, were heard singing in the North Wood. A group of retired women entered the hide so we fled to the Public Hide, this was a good choice as the first bird picked up was a Drake Garganey just to the right of the hide, again I was kindly sent some photographs.

Also at the Public Hide was a lone Redshank. Biked back to pick my lil sister up at about 15:00.

Saturday 25th April, been to help dad at work in the morning so another lunch time visit, before I left I heard my first Willow Warbler form the house. Got to the Hide at about 13:00, again another regular was in. On the water, 8 Mallard, 15 Tufted, 7 Pochard, 2 Pair of Shoveler, 5 Cormorant, 2 Mute Swan, 4 Grey Heron, 2 Lesser Black Backed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black Backed Gull, Black Headed Gull, Coot, and Moorhen. 2 Willow Warbler, 3 Chiff Chaff and 1 Blackcap (patch tick) were singing in North Wood. 1 Sedge Warbler (tick)was singing to right of members hide, first of the year. A female Kestrel and a Female Sparrowhawk were seen up in the thermals to the NE. Also seen, 2 Long Tailed Tits, Reed Bunting, Feral Pigeon, Pheasant and a male Great Spotted Woodpecker. At the Public Hide another Sedge Warbler was singing, the lone Redshank still, and the Canada X Greylag with 9 Greylag.
From the Public hide I went into the East fields 5 Wheatear (tick) were in the cow field just East of Pond, 1 Whitethroat (tick) in gorse on backtrack, a Lesser Whitethroat (tick) in Scrub land heading towards West Hartley Farm, another Male Wheatear in field by the farm and a pair of Grey Partridge (tick) in the field by Obelisk.
On the way back home I picked up 2 Linnets and a Grey Heron in Red House Farm by the Pond.

Today, 26th, Warm and sunny, got a puncture last night so I walked to Holywell this morning, left at about 10:00, went through the fields to see what I could find. First a Skylark was heard just off the car boot, I continuously heard this species right up to the hide which I was quite pleased about. 1 Whitethroat was heard just before I crossed the Beehive Road, and a Female Sparrowhawk overhead once I got to the other side. There was a couple of small flocks of Linnets, and a single Yellowhammer until I entered the boundary of my Holywell Patch.
Following the hedgerow I picked up 4 Whitethroats, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, Pair of Yellowhammer, 2 Grey Partridge, Reed Bunting, Goldfinch and 1 Meadow Pipit (tick).
I got to the members hide at 11:00 opened the shutters and was welcomed by a female Ruddy Duck (tick), I noted 8 Greylag, 2 Canada, 1 Curlew and then I heard the whirring of a Grasshopper Warbler (tick) to the right of the hide. A pair of Shelduck landed on the pond and then a Female Marsh Harrier appeared to the left of the hide (11:15) in quartered the ground for 21 minutes, occasionally being mobbed by a local Corvid, it landed 3 times for no longer than 3o seconds, and it also began mobbing a cormorant which was fishing around the posts in the water. It landed for the fourth time just out of clear view from the hide at 11:36, it was not seen again. I got some pretty poor photos as it was still a long way off for my 200mm lens.

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.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Sponsored Tyne Bridge Zip Line

On the 17th of June this year I will be taking part in a sponsored zip line off the Tyne Bridge, for the Percy Hedley Foundation. The foundation was established in 1953 as a charitable school for children with cerebral palsy, its purpose to promote the rights, needs and aspirations people through specialist and quality services. It now meets the needs of disabled people with cerebral palsy, communication impairments, sensory impairments, and complex learning, social care and therapeutic needs. (

The money raised from this event will be used to raise £1.2 million for a hydrotherapy pool with a multi sensory environment for disabled children and adults all over the North East. This is a really good cause, and will improve the facilities for many people throughout the North East. I would be very grateful if you could sponsor me.

Here is the link to my online sponsor form

Thank You, Cain

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Holywell Pond

Visibility was poor today but still went down to the hide for an hour at 10:30, the House Sparrow flock were in the usual hedgerow along the back of the houses, some seeking nesting sites. When I opened the shutters I could hardly see to the other side although I could make out, Pair of Mute Swan, 8 Canada Geese, 20+ Sand Martains, 4 + Swallow, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Drake Shoveler, 2 Cormorant, 6 Pochard, 16 Tufted, 4 Coot, 3 Moorhen, 1 Drake Teal, 9 Mallard, 1 Grey Heron, Great Black Backed Gull and Herring Gull.

2 Willow Warblers and 1 Chiff Chaff were singing in North Wood, Skylark over West fields and Lapwing were displaying in fields backing houses. Feeding station was fairly quiet with the regulars, Dunnock, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Woodpigeon, Pheasant, Long Tailed Tit, and Goldfinch.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Short Eared Owl Backworth Flash 19:30

Red House Farm

Had a wander round Red House Farm at 16:00 today no Chiff Chaffs or Willow Warblers heard singing yet but there still plenty of time, last year was the first year I recorded them singing in the area. Plenty of the usual suspects singing, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Wren, Dunnock, Goldfinch and Woodpigeon. A pair of Bullfinch were seen in the hawthorns near the top field, hopefully they may nest this year.

Down towards the pond the flock of Long Tailed Tits were moving through, and a Song Thrush in the leaf litter. There was a couple of Mallards on the pond with the resident Moorhen and a few Jackdaw overhead. I put a box up in February and was happy to see that a pair of Blue Tits were putting it in use.

Back at home the Starlings are using the top box and a pair of Blue Tits are pecking the front of the camera box and slowly adding material, unfortunately no House Sparrows have been seen entering the colony box.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Washington Wetlands

Me, my dad and my lil sis went along to Washington Wetlands today to try and see the Avocets. After a walk around feeding the birds we went down to Wader lake, we could see 3 Avocets but not the fourth, I got some pretty pathetic pictures but they'll have to do.

The Heronry there was in full swing with chicks visible in the nest, there was also a large number of Shelduck, also on the water were Greylag, Canada, Teal, Mallard (one female with 8 ducklings), Coot, Moorhen, Shoveler, and 4 Grey Wagtails. We walked round to the feeding station which was busy, most impressively with the number of Bullfinch.

A good day.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Holywell Today

Firstly this morning went down to the hide at 10:00, on the way down I clocked a House Martain flying low over the field backing the houses, also a Great Spotted Woodpecker overhead.

On the water there was a group of 11+ Greylag Geese in amongst them was a hybrid possibly Canada X Greylag, it was the size of a Greylag but colouration of Canada with an orange beak with a black tip and orange legs with Canada markings on its face, strange looking bird. At 10:20 a Drake Garganey showed itself in the reeds to the right of the hide, this was my first for the year. Also on the water were 7 Canada, Pair of Teal, Pair Mute Swan, 19 Tufted, 2 Little Grebe, 3 Grey Heron, 8 Lapwing, 6 Coot, 4 Moorhen, 1 Shelduck, and 1 Male Shoveler. I was joined by Tom Tams a bit later on, a Willow Warbler was heard in NE corner. Around the pond was 5 Reed Buntings, 1 Swallow, Feral Pigeon, 1 Common Buzzard soaring above wood opposite hide, the feeding station was fairly quiet with Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Wren, Robin, Blackbird, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Skylark and 1 Small Tortoiseshell.

Tom's pager beeped with 37 Waxwings at Shiremoor metro so though I'd stop in on way home, they were feeding as I got there in the bushes just at entry, my Grandad just lives round the corner so I thought I'd pick him up for a look. We watched them for a while, before the flock moved off over the road.

Next was kayaking on the Wansbeck a few Chiff Chaff about but not much else.

I went back along the Holywell at 16:30 a female Sparrowhawk was on the soar over obelisk, and a Snipe was just to the right of the hide. Something put the Teal up out of the reeds which were quickly scanned and the Drake Garganey was spotted, it landed on the water and swam in the reeds exposing the female Garganey, they proceded to emerge from the reeds giving brilliant views. I took a walk down past the obelisk and back up the dene, the area around the obelisk produced a female Kestrel and the usual suspects were down the dene counting 9 singing Chiff Chaffs and 2 singing Willow Warblers, the resident nesting Kestrels were calling and copulating at there usual site. Good day in all, Washingtons Avocets tomorrow.