Friday, 31 December 2010

Its been quite a busy year, but I hope 2011 is even busier.

Thanks for reading my blog :)

Happy Birding in 2011

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

An Unbelievable Patch Tick

Ever since I have lived in West Monkseaton, and ever since my mother would let me out her sight, the surrounding areas have been a great resource and influence in the development of both myself and my passion. As I grew, so did the area, one by one, the close to home wild spots, places which I believe, were vital to my love for nature, but also the respect and understanding of nature by other kids in the street, were developed. We used to build fires, dens, catch grasshoppers, climb tree's, play fox and hounds, as all kids of my generation and older generations did.

Eventually our street, once the last line of houses before vast agricultural land, became surrounded, although one area in particular still remained free. This area was the new bungalow development, North of Sainsbury's, which is now Red House Farm. I can remember as a kid, following older kids (without permission from my mother) to catch frogs in its small pond, from then on the small woods of the area became my home, with the pond being at its centre. I knew every tree, every rock, every nook and cranny, and every bit wildlife intimately. Countless hours were spent, in what seemed to be a huge woodland, it was my wood.

As I began to get more involved in Bird Watching it became my first 'Patch' and its threw up some interesting things over the years. One of the earliest I can remember is a Red-Crested Pochard on the pond, if you've ever visited the pond you wouldn't believe this to be possible. In later years a female Kingfisher wintered for a couple of years on and off, and my photograph made Brian's article in the Newcastle RSPB Newsletter. Other birds of the sites interest included a steady increase in Great Spotted Woodpecker sightings, as well as Warbler activity, winter visits from Tawny Owls, and in these recent winters the addition of Woodcocks to the patch.

But today, a species which I had never dreamed of seeing so close to home, as I followed the small footpath along the side of the pond I heard a call, a call which my head told me I shouldn't be hearing, and sure enough my eyes confirmed it, there was at least 8 Tree Sparrows in the Hawthorn. There is nothing better than finding a new species on the patch.

On the pond there was over 30 Mallard, presumably from the frozen Holywell Pond, and also a large number of Woodpigeon were building in the woods, over 200 coming in to roost.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Only a few left...

As part of my degree we have to plan and participate in a expedition, with the aim of film and stills being produced. In April 2011 four of us BA(hons) Wildlife and Media 2nd years are going to Ardnamurchan in the aim of photographing and filming Pine Martens, Otters and Eagles.

As part of the planning progress our group has put together a 2011 Calendar, in order to raise funds for ourselves and help the local Ardnamurchan Community Group.

We are selling the Calendars for £5, if you would like to support us on our expedition please drop me an email at or leave me a comment on this post.

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Sunday, 26 December 2010

Christmas Eve and Boxing Day

Christmas Eve afternoon was spent down at Holywell with SW, a Young Leader at my Scout troop who's just started getting into the birding world, here's his blog, have a look.

Due to an accident over in Cumbria, I'm some what lacking transport, and the Uni is lacking 2-3 metres of hedgerow, so walking was the mode of transport for the afternoon, I'm glad it was.

Before meeting SW I had a quick look at Red House Farm Pond, 20 Mallard, and 1 Grey Heron fed in the ice free water. We headed along the backtrack to Holywell, just before the Dene was reached I picked up the call of Red-Legged Partridge over the embankment, as we edged over a few birds became visible feeding around a game feeder, left by the shoot. At least 8 Red-Legged Partridge were present in the area, joined by 12 Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, a couple of Pheasants, and a lone Robin.

The hedgerow between the Dene and the pond was quiet, with only a few Blackbirds present. We stopped briefly at the public hide to see the pond was 100% frozen, with a small group of Gulls sitting in its centre. As we made our way to the members hide we flushed a Woodcock from the hedgerow.

The feeding station was relatively busy, although ice had created limited views, as the bottom two shutters wouldn't open. 10 Moorhen, 8 Phesants, 1 Female Brambling, 1 Female Great Spotted Woodpecker, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Robin, Wren and Blackbird were showing in the feeding station. A second Woodcock was seen flying the length of the North Wood, and a male Sparrowhawk put in an appearance.

25 Greylag flew overhead, and 20 Gulls rested on the ice, 18 Herring, 2 Great Black Backed.

Santa visited the Scrimgeour household last night, and very generously left me a scope :) so today my Dad and I headed up the coast, firstly to Cresswell Pond.

The pond was complete frozen, with only a few Lapwing and Gulls standing at its centre. The ducks were all tucked into the SW corner, Wigeon, Teal and Mallard. Also Redshank, Curlew and Carrion Crows were in the area, the Barn Owl put in a quick one, hunting over the dunes. A lone, ringed, Whooper Swan landed on the ice, I collected the ring details and we headed off towards the River Blyth.

At the top of the hide track a few birds were feeding in the muddy area left by the sheep. Fieldfare, Skylark, 6 Grey Partridge, Magpie and Starling. The lone Magpie seemed to have the knack of imitating the Partridge calls. As we drove down the coast towards Lynemouth we picked up a Merlin being chased by a Jackdaw and a further 6 Grey Partridge.

15-20 Waxwings were sitting in the tree's just off the spine road, just before the West Sleekburn slip road.

The Blyth was teeming with life, large numbers of Dunlin, Redshank, Curlew, joined by Ringed Plover, Goldeneye, Teal, Goosesander, Coot, 2 Woodcock and a single Bar-Tailed Godwit.

Last but not least we headed down to St Mary's, where I've been missing out on the large numbers of Skylarks and Buntings present. Quick text to TS and we headed into the Northern car park. We pulled up to find a lone Redshank, it was busy so we didn't expect to see much, just as that thought passed through our minds the flock appeared on the horizon, consisting mostly of Skylark, although 4 Snow Buntings were present, along with a single Reed Bunting. A big thank you to the people contributing to feeding these birds. If you haven't yet seen this flock its well worth the trip, don't forget to take some seed with you ;)

Friday, 10 December 2010


A few more.
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Here's a selection of images from my UOC Wildlife Photographer's Trip last weekend. A full update will follow tomorrow. (Taken with Canon 350D 55-200mm kit lens)
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Wednesday, 24 November 2010


A trip up to the Brampton Road campus in Carlisle this afternoon proved to be more than worthwhile. We were primarily there to pick up a video camera and boom mic to do some filming, but as we left the car a flock of 30 plus Waxwings flew over head, heard before seen. As we entered the building 8 or so flew back over and landed in a mature Ash tree opposite the car park. From here the flock were dropping down into the berry bushes in a large private garden. I always get excited when I see this species, so magnificent, today was no different, as they flew over I shouted to my mate 'Waxwings, LOOK, LOOK, LOOK', he just shrugged them off, and as he moved I noticed two lasses sitting in their car showing a look of bewilderment.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Expedition Ardnamurchan

As part of my degree we have to plan and participate in a expedition, with the aim of film and stills being produced. In April 2011 four of us BA(hons) Wildlife and Media 2nd years are going to Ardnamurchan in the aim of photographing and filming Pine Martens, Otters and Eagles.

As part of the planning progress our group has put together a 2011 Calendar, in order to raise funds for ourselves and help the local Ardnamurchan Community Group.

We are selling the Calendars for £5, if you would like to support us on our expedition please drop me an email at or leave me a comment on this post.

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Monday, 18 October 2010

Holywell this morning...

Last night my dad and I had a close encounter with an Otter on the Tyne, but that's another story, today ...

My first visit back to Holywell in a long time. Picked my Grandad up at 10:00 and we headed down to the pond. It was a cool overcast morning, at first the pond looked empty, but on closer inspection its was teeming with wildfowl, particularly in the NW corner. 13 Gadwall, 1 Female Shoveler, 44 Teal, 4 Wigeon, 8 Mallard and 1 Grey Heron were all feeding along the reeds, keeping out of the wind.

67 Greylag, the Mute Swan family, 1 Male Pochard, 4 Coot, 4 Moorhen, 5 Tufted accompanied by 1 Female Scaup, and a single Cormorant were also present on the pond. 6 adult Whoopers had been seen early in the morning, so I wasn't surprised to see 6 Whooper Swans approaching the pond from the East, I was surprised to find that 4 of the birds were 1st winters, the other 2 adults, so I presume this must have been another 6 Whoopers, as usual they didn't stop long, due to the aggressive behaviour of the resident Mute Swans, a great shame.

The mobbing calls of 2 Carrion Crows alerted me to the presence of a immature Female Sparrowhawk over the North wood. Large numbers of Woodpigeon, joined by 2 Stock Dove were also present in the North wood. The feeding station was reasonably busy with 8+ Greenfinch flitting between the ground, feeders and the pond edge to drink, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, 1 cock Pheasant, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Blackbird and a lone Robin.

As we left the gulls began to build up predominantly Black Headed Gulls with Herring Gull and Great Black Backed Gull. 8 Skylark were also heard, then seen flying West over the pond, presumably coming off the coast.

Monday, 11 October 2010


Back at Uni now, settled into a nice little 2 bed cottage in Sockbridge, on the River Eamont. Although I have been back in Whitley Bay for a couple of days. Yesterday was the main aim of my return, the buzz started to build on Friday, easterlies, Saturday I had to be Eastside. Ringing early Sunday at Newton produced good numbers of the more common species, with Pied Fly and 2 Stonechat being the morning highlights.

Arriving home at 13:00 I rammed some breakfast down and headed to St Mary's, hoping to see the Red-flanked Bluetail. Bumped in Brian on the way along, he had seen it in the morning, as we spoke I could see a crowd building in the are the bird was reported. Large numbers of Goldcrest were feeding at close quarters, putting a smile on my face with there inquisitive antics. The Bluetail was showing brilliantly on the fence post near the screen to the wetland, moving between tree's fencepost and the ground, a lifer :)

SP was at the front of the small crowd gathered around the bird, when I made my way to the front we got chatting, he informed me of a Dusky Warbler and a Shorelark down at Tynemouth, so we made our way. We headed straight for the Shorelark at Knott's flats, on arrival, Tom and Tim were busy photographing the bird which was feeding on a small grass verge in front of the flats, down to 2-3 metres ! After 15 minutes or so I headed for the priory and its Dusky Warbler.

Tacking could be heard on approach, putting the bins up to find the Dusky feeding in full view for a second or two be skulking back into the vegetation, tacking as it went.

A brilliant day.

Sunday, 25 July 2010


Quick wander at Holywell, noted, 10 Teal at Public Hide, 6 singing Male Yellowhammer, 4 Linnet, 2 Skylark and a buck Roe Deer.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Geltsdale, Bishop Middleham, then Holywell

On Thursday I had an invite from Ewan, to his patch and home, Geltsdale. Arriving at about 10:30 we had a couple of hours to burn before Gary was due to turn up. Before heading out into the fells Ewan took me for a wander round his neighbours garden, looking for Spotted Flycatchers, unfortunately it wasn't to be. Out on the fells with the dogs we soon picked up two Short Eared Owls quartering the ground. Also about were a number of Kestrels, Meadow Pipit, Curlew, a male Sparrowhawk, Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Roe Deer, Rabbit, and Brown Hare.

When Gary arrived at about 13:30 we headed straight to Longtown in search of Yellow Wagtail, at the location we picked up two birds amongst a number of Pied Wagtail, 8 Goosesanders were also in the area. The rest of the day was spent back on the fell, where more Short Eared Owl, and a Barn Owl were seen. A great day in a beautiful place.

Today I've been to Bishop Middleham with Brian, check his blog for the update, I'll just leave you with some pictures, another good day with a lifer of a Corn Bunting.

Carline Thistle Carlina Vulgaris

Ringlet Aphantopus huperantus
Five-spot burnet Zygaeana trifolii

Fragrant Orchid

Red Helleborines Epipactis atrorubens

To finish the day off I took my sister and a friend down to Holywell, we stopped firstly at the Public Hide, two Green Sandpiper were feeding on the scrape, then we moved on to find the Barn Owl, and it showed giving us some brilliant views.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

The Buzz...

Record shot of the Little Egret (into the sun)

I haven't blogged that much lately, mainly because I haven't been birdwatching lately due to a lack of time. For the past few weeks I've been living in the real world, working solidly as a labourer for my dad. Over the past few weeks my extent of birding has been restricted to a visit south of the Tyne to North Yorkshire, looking for Honey Buzzards with Geltsdale Wildlife Warrior and Rowlands Gill Birder, and a visit to the Durham Dotterel which we dipped on, but the Little Tern Colony is impressive.

This morning I was in the lovely Lakes, Buttermere to be exact. Walking was on the cards for the day, starting with cloudy tops, but clearing to be a glorious afternoon. The morning started great with a close encounter with a Red Squirrel. Raven, Meadow Pipit,Wheatear, and Common Buzzard were seen on the hill. Walking along Buttermere we picked up a flock of mixed Tits, accompanied by 3-4vTreecreeper, a few Chaffinch, and a lone Spotted Flycatcher. Peregrine Falcons could also be heard, but not seen, above.

We arrived home at roughly 18:00, had my tea, walked the dog and arrived at Holywell for 20:30. Heading straight down to the Public Hide for the chance of waders, it was a glorious summers night. 2 Common Sandpipers could be seen on the island, along with 27 Coot, 23 Lapwing were on the shoreline, accompanied by 28 Black Headed Gull and a single Lesser Black Backed Gull, 2 Grey Heron were hunting the shallows, a Cormorant was roosting on the island and a Sedge Warbler sand its song. The Little Egret made an appearance, although the sun was in the wrong direction for any decent photographs.

Making my way to the members hide it was apparent that there was a large number of hirundines in the area. As I walked down the track to the hide, alarm calls filled the air, I ran to get a view and there it was, a Hobby flying West towards Seaton Delaval, at 20:55, a lifer :D

Opening the shutters, it became apparent why the Hobby was here, 100+ hirundines hawking over the pond. Scanning the pond 14 Pochards could be seen, a Grasshopper Warbler could be heard reeling to the left of the hide, and a Reed Warbler in the NW corner. At 21:05 the Barn Owl made it way from the East fields over the pond into the Northern reeds, quartering West, it disappearedout of sight. At 21:06 I noticed a front coming in off the sea, thick sea fret followed, at 21:08 it just reached the water of the pond and a northerly gust proceeded it, the Barn Owl took it chance to cross the pond, flying straight through the feeding station. By 21:09 the sea fret had engulfed the hole pond and hide. I've only witnessed this type of weather change up in the hills, and summits of mountains, never in the lowland regions. The sea fret give the whole area a eery feeling, adding to the endless wonders of the natural world which can spiritually influence.

By 21:30 I was walking back up to the main gates, pipistrelle and noctules bats were hunting above, their clicking could clearly be heard, I stood and admired the view which the sea fret provided me, evidence in itself of the links nature provides us.

Its times like these which really give you a buzz, a buzz which the next generation are missing out on. I've recently been reading 'The Last Child of the Woods' by Richard Louv, an interesting but sad read, well worth reading. I hope I can make a difference and reverse the process for at least some children withing my lifetime, as I won't be the last child of the woods.

Friday, 2 July 2010


Just a quick heads up. If anyone had a quiet, relaxing walk on the cards for tomorrow its advised to avoid Holywell, especially the hides. As mentioned in my last post, I have planned a program to allow my Scout troop to gain their Naturalist Activity Badge. The program started last night, with an introduction to the natural world. Fourteen scouts are participating in the program, and will be experiencing the wonders of Holywell pond and Dene tomorrow, with the main subject being collection of field notes, but also to show them what can be found on their doorstep, and for the majority, what their missing out on.

The weather forecast is promising, and the scouts have the interest, it should turn out to be a great day.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Hello again...

Its been a long, and busy couple of weeks. Just after I left you at my last post I met up with Gary, Rowlands Gill Birder, SH and Phil had found a Marsh Warbler the previous night, a possible life tick for both of us so an early start was in order, 06:45am to be exact. Walking down to the Oddie hide, Sedge Warbler, and Reed Warbler were keeping us sharp, but no Marsh, after scanning the main pool we picked up something different, further investigation and a life tick was found, Marsh Warbler. The song of this bird was fascinating. After appreciation its call we headed off, up to East Chevington, highlights included 4 Little Gull, a female Marsh Harrier and two hunting Barn Owl. Cresswell was visited on the way back, although there wasn't a great amount about. To finish the morning off I took Gary on a tour of the patch, which I think he was impressed by.

Next a camping trip in Cumbria, roughing it for the weekend, although not a birding trip, it produced some good birds and great records.Most impressively a immature female Goshawk.

My sister and I visited Holywell Pond on the 19/06. Species noted included 9 Little Grebe + 2 young, 3 Grey Heron, pair of Gadwall, 7 Coot, Mute Swan, 4 Tufted, 3 Mallard, and a large number of hirundines.

Sunday night I joined Tom Tams, and Tim Sexton Moth Trapping at Holywell, have a look at Tim's blog for the full species list.

Monday and Tuesday I was down at Holywell, both the pond, and roaming the Deleval Estate. A Barn Owl hunting over East fields from the members hide was a treat, I love seeing these birds on patch and successfully breeding. A male Bullfinch was also seen on Sunday morning near to the feeding station at the first bridge. Its was nice to see the Kestrels were also successful in raising a brood.

Later on the same day I headed towards the Village Pond, and Silverlink Park for a wander. Lots of dragonflies about, I'll need to get my finger out and brush up on my identification skills. Some time was spent watching the local House Sparrows agilely hunting flies over the water occasionally missing and taking the plunge. There was a number of Common Blue Butterflies about. I bumped into Davy T at one of the small ponds, he shed some light on the Dragonfly species in the area.

I've eventually managed to begin the training process of bird ringing, something I've wanting to get involved with for a while now, so far I've been out twice and learnt a lot, but the surface has just been scratched, I look forward to learning more.

If you follow Brian, Killy Birders blog, you may have seen his mention on a project I'm running in the near future. The project he's referring to is a scouting program which I have planned with the aim of the Scouts gaining their Scout Naturalist Badge. This will be taking place at Holywell on Saturday 3rd July, the hides will be busy, so if a relaxing day is planned, I would advise avoiding Holywell. Scouts which gain this badge will be some of the first in the district. Oh, there is a twist on the day, an invented bird, the Long-legged Chameleon Finch, a large pigeon sized, flightless bird. Only five in the area, so if you happen to be wandering Holywell on the 3rd, and see a yellow bird shaped object please do not approach, as they are very wary and disturbance may cause a failed breeding attempt. Although they could provide a easy life tick.

Some of you may have noticed a new blog in my list, The Journal of a Wildlife Photographer, by Steven Williams, a colleague and friend from University, its already shaping up to be a great blog, worth a look.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Blackcap today at ringing introduction

Blue Tit in Public Hide

Crammy Birder trying to get shots of Wood Warbler

Posting will come :)

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Warblers, and em Warblers

I thought I would try and get involved with some survey work, so after contacting the necessary people a few tetrads were picked up. One of which is the Universities campus and farmland. So this morning, joined by a friend who's just getting into birding we headed out for a 2 hour timed tetrad.

We started at my block, Blencathra, we headed towards the small Rookery, and House Sparrow hot spots first. Over the day we counted 31 House Sparrows, the Rookery held 6 nests with young. Highlights of the day were a total of 12 Stock Dove, discovery of a Yellowhammer nest with 4 eggs, a Chaffinch nest with 2, a Long-Tailed Tit nest, a Female Blackbird incubating, and a Common Buzzard nest. Through the day there was also a lot of Warbler song and activity, with 11 Willow Warbler singing, 8 Blackcap, a smaller number of Chiff Chaff than expected with only 3 singing birds, same again with Whitethroat with only 1 singing male, but by the far the highlight of the day was 2 singing Garden Warblers.

The rest of the day was spent revising until 18:00 when I needed a breather, so Cliburn Moss seemed like the perfect place to have a wander. As I got out the car I was hit by what sounded like the M6 of Warbler song, walking the circular route I picked up 14 Willow Warbler, 4 male Blackcap, and another 2 Garden Warbler, not a single whisper from a Chiff Chaff. Also about, 2 ducklings in the small pool, although no adults in sight, a Moorhen nest with 4 eggs was also on the pool, Great Spotted Woodpecker, 3 Jay, Pair of Tufted on larger pond, 2 Curlew, Wren, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Blackbird, Robin, Song Thrush, 3 Treecreeper, House Sparrow, Swallow, 2 Red Legged Partridge, and 3 Willow Tit which I was very pleased to find as they are a declining species in the county.
I love this wood.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

A media assignment is lurking just around the corner so I got my finger out and headed down to Old Hartley on Sunday (and Monday) to photograph Fulmars. The light was brilliant and the birds performed, I think the images needed had be gained, although a visit to St Bee's Head is on the cards for tomorrow.

Red House Farm produce another unexpected visitor in the form of two Canada Geese, 2 Chiff Chaff were also present. Walking Ruby to the car boot produced massive numbers of butterflies, 18 Small Tortoiseshell, 15+ Peacock, and a single Comma.

Tonight a drive down to Oddendale Quarry felt like something I needed to do, its the site of a massive Black Headed Gull colony. It didn't disappoint.

Just a few more assignments, a couple of exams, and patch birding can again continue.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

The record shot of the White-Tailed Eagle at Preswick Carr, taken on 01/04/2010.

Yesterday I was down at Holywell at 16:30, the air and water was calm after a rainy day. Firstly I walked around to the North Pool, due to the possibilty of some Barnacle Geese, 160+ Greylag Geese were present, along with 3 Barnacle Geese, 8 Shelduck, 3 Redshank, 8 Curlew and a number of Lapwing.

Back on the pond, the lone female Goosesander was still present, along with 2 male Shoveler, 11 Wigeon, 2 male and 1 female Gadwall, 23 Tufted, 1 male Pochard, 2 Mute Swan, 15 Mallard, 1 Common Gull, 3 Little Grebe, 4 Coot, 2 Moorhen and the feeding station regulars.

This afternoon I had a drive up to Druridge to catch up with Great White Egret in the budge fields, bumped into SL as I was walking along, he told me that he'd just been watching a female Peregrine took into a Teal. It was a nice sunny evening a lovely way to spend it watching the elegant white bird feeding in the pools.

I'm off on Duke of Edinburgh Gold for the next five days, should be fun, will update on return.
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Friday, 2 April 2010

The past few weeks ...

Just a few of my highlights over the past month or so to get blog up to speed and running regularly again.


16 Whooper Swans overhead at Great Mell Fell


Visit Little Salkeld area, really enjoyed it, I will be back. Highlights, 30+ Golden Plover, 35+ Tree Sparrow, and a Red Squirrel.


Tawny Owl calling at 07:15 just outside of campus window.

2 Bullfinch at Gilwilly Pond

200+ Siskin Greystoke Forest


Walked the campus fields, 4 singing Yellowhammers, 2 Pair Grey Partridge, and 2 Brown Hare.


Had a trip to Haweswater with Ewan the Geltsdale Wildlife Warrior, weather was like pea soup. Birds of note, 2 Great Crested Grebe, Dipper, 1 Female Goosesander, 1 Drake Goldeneye.


Female Sparrowhawk flew past campus kitchen window with Blackbird sized prey.


6 singing Yellowhammer at Backworth


9 Lesser Black Backed Gull at Cramlington


Went to Holywell highlight of a Female Goosesander


Walk down Holywell Dene, highlight a pair of Grey Wagtail


Chiff Chaff seen in hedgerow on carboot


6 Yellowhammer singing again at Backworth


8 singing Yellowhammer and 2 Grey partridge at Backworth


1 Singing Chiff Chaff Brierdene


3 Chiff Chaff singing at Stocksfield


Spent a day with Brian the Killy Birder, check his blog for a write up with pictures :). Was a good day.

Also report of WT Eagle got me down to Preswick car but too late missed it.


Met Phil the Crammy Birder at 10:30, first stop Preswick Carr, after 5-10 minutes we picked up WT Eagle over Plantation by Mayfair House being mobbed by Buzzards. It flew overhead at about 30 metres and looked down upon us, it was amazing, such a huge bird. We watched it for 10-15 minutes before it moved off over towards Dobbies. (will get the record shot up tomorrow)

We continued on to pick the Common Crane up at Eshott, opposite Shaw Farm.


This morning I was up at Harwood with my dad and a mate. No sign Great Grey Shrike, but plenty Crossbills.

The blog will be back to normal from now.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Its been a year...

Doesn't feel like it, feels a lot longer but it has been a year since my first post. I started this blog to express my passion for birds, the natural world, and most importantly Holywell. Hopefully I have achieved this. The blog has been an amazing aid to the development of my knowledge, through recording but also through the passionate people I have met through blogging and the opportunities which have presented themselves. Hopefully I've been some use to someone reading this blog :P

The blog began talking about Roosts, after visiting Cowraik Quarry today watching the corvids feeding I thought it was fitting to watch another roost. Although not corvids today, Starlings, the 400+ birds are beginning to thin out at Newton Rigg, but it is still a spectacle in a half. I watch it most nights, it never ceases to amaze me, and its always different.

I've met some amazingly dedicated and passionate people this year and hope to meet many more in the coming years.

Thank You

Cain Scrimgeour

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Great Mell Fell

Spent the morning at Great Mell Fell today, we had quite a bit of snow overnight and the roads to the fell were covered, no tracks, about 4 inches I would guess.
Arrived at the fell to see its summit in the clouds, I decided to stay in the woodland around its base. As I passed the National Trust sign a Common Buzzard flew from the tree above, sounding its disapproval of me intruding. It felt good to see that I was only one who entered this way today, no other footprints, apart from Roe Deer, Fox and Squirrel, which I followed for the rest of the morning.
The Squirrel tracks didn't last long, only a short distance to the base of a old Silver Birch, the Fox tracks strayed away from the fell, so Roe Deer was this mornings track to follow. It ran along the wall for a fair distance, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-Tailed Tit, and Goldcrest could be heard feeding above, a pair of Raven flew overhead, and a Great Spotted Woodpecker showed itself through a spell of drumming. I stopped for some food on a boulder, and left the deer track there, heading up the fell afterwards.
Looping back I found where the lone Roe Deer started its day, no doubt I will be back.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Sunday and Monday at Holywell

Sunday saw me down at Holywell at half 9, it was cold with quite a heavy cloud cover, the pond was 80% frozen.

From the car 60+ Greylag could been seen in the West fields, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Starling and House Sparrow were feeding on the green. On the pond, 2 Mute Swan, 5 Teal, 23 Mallard, 21 Pochard, 6 Tufted, 2 Drake Goldeneye, 2 Grey Heron, 6 Moorhen, 8 Coot, 100+ Black Headed Gull, 20 Common Gull, 50+ Herring Gull and a lone Great Black Backed Gull. Usual suspects in feeding station.

The geese flock was next on my cards, to have a closer look incase of something different lurking amongst them. A quick look in the public hide produced nothing more. I approached the geese slowly and cautiously as they were quite close to the path, the 60+ seen from the car had turned into a 120+ strong flock, although all Greylag. Down the dene there was a pair of Stock Dove.

Monday, arrived at the hide at 17:00, with heavy snow clouds and a setting sun, it was colder -3. A 100+ skein of geese flew overhead as I walked down, joining another 100+ in the East field, again all Greylag. On the pond 2 Mute Swan, 250+ Gulls steadily increasing as I sat, 17 Wigeon, 1 Drake Goldeneye, 21 Pochard, 4 Tufted, 1 Cormorant, 20 Mallard and a lone Grey Heron.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010


Sitting in Library at the moment watching 400+ Starlings come into roost on campus, the most i've seen in a while

Friday, 12 February 2010

Wednesday with the Geltsdale Wildlife Warrior

On Wednesday I met up with Ewan Miles, the Geltsdale Wildlife Warrior, I had brilliant day out, the best day of my Cumbrian adventure so far.

Planned to meet Ewan at 10 at the pub in Castle Carrock, drove up the back road from Penrith, it was a sunny blue sky, beautiful winters day. We headed off from Ewan's at about half 10, towards Tindale Tarn. The most numerous bird we seen on the moors was Red Grouse, at one point showing quite close, providing brilliant views of this dapper bird. We reached the Forest Head road, a flash of Red could seen in in the hedgerow, we stopped and scanned further along to find a flock of at least 12 Bullfinch. In the village of Forest Head a flock of mixed finches was present, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, and a single female Brambling. At Tindale Tarn, the pair of Smew were present, this was the first time I'd seen a drake bird, well worth the wait. Also about were 2 Wigeon, Canada Geese, Tufted Duck, Coot, a Grey Heron and a strange sight of a Black Swan. The wind was bitterly cold across the Tarn towards the hide so we moved on, heading back to Ewan's, via different route, for lunch.

Reaching the Birch woodland we picked up a mixed flock of Long-Tailed Tit and Goldcrest. Back at Ewan's, he showed me his impressive hide, looking over the valley in a room in his house, with a very comfortable bar stool :P Over lunch we had Roe Deer and Common Buzzard from his window, with tales of Black Grouse, Pied Flycatcher, Short Eared Owl, Barn Owl and Hen Harriers being a regular sighting from this amazing vantage point. Over the entire day I was in awe of the amount of species, the beauty, and remoteness of Ewan's patch and home, only a dream which every wildlife loving city lad has, well my dream anyway :)

After lunch Ewan took me to a site, which he told me, should produce sightings of Long-Eared Owl. Once we reached the area we sat against a dry stone wall, 300 metres further down a couple of Roe Deer fed keeping to themselves, not giving us a glancing look. 5 Common Buzzards moved into the area above us, still hunting as the sky became a deep orange and pink, we discussed if it was possible there was a communal roost in the area, as they seemed to come in as a group. Woodpigeon, a lone Raven and a lone Jay moved into the tree's as the sun set. We moved further along, sitting against the drystone wall again, watching a gap in the tree's a single LEO was spotted, it saw us and quickly moved back into cover, we crouched further down for a while, 4 Snipe and 3 Woodcock flew low overhead. As in became darker the LEO reappeared sitting on the edge for 10-15 minutes before moving back into cover. We took this as a chance to leave and headed back in the darkening skies to Ewan's.

A really good day out, I can't wait to go back again, to have another day with another passionate wildlife enthusiast.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Just packing at the moment to come home for weekend, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Robin and 30+ House Sparrow feeding at my make shift feeding station at uni, its a nice sight:)

Monday, 8 February 2010

Wreay Woods

After sorting my house out for next year, I took a trip up to Wreay Woods.

As I entered the woods memories of Plessey Woods seem to spring up, it definitely had a Plessey Woods feeling. Heading West along the small river there wasn't a lot apart from Blue Tits, for the first 1/4 mile, the first thing to catch my attention was two Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming. Jackdaw were seen flying overhead and Siskin heard, there was also a large number of Treecreeper in the area, I counted at least 6 different birds. 1 Grey Heron rested further along at the end of the reserve. The reserve ended but I kept going heading towards M6, there was quite a few dog walkers about, scanning the red sandy river bank a set of Roe Deer tracks were picked up, I followed for a while.

After a while I back tracked, I'm glad I did, 2 Dippers and 2 Common Buzzard, made an appearance on the way back to the car.

The blog has been a bit picture-less lately, starting to be a bit text orientated. My next post will be picture filled, and hopefully it will be well balanced from now on.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Cliburn Moss

Took a friend along to Cliburn Moss today, as we approached 2 Jay were in trees just by main gate. As I was putting my wellies on a Red Squirrel was spotted running across the road.

Just the usual Woodpigeon until we reached the Eastern edge, a single Stock Dove fed in the stubble, a flock of Starlings joined by 4 Fieldfare were in the sheep field and a Mistle Thrush in the distance. We followed the path past the houses, a new route for me, a large number of Chaffinch were present, joined by Great Tit, Blue Tit, Dunnock, House Sparrow, and Robin.

As we left a Red Squirrel made it self present by making a noise up 20ft a Scots Pine, even on this small tree it was difficult to locate, due to its camouflage, that amazing orange.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Brothers Water

After viewing a house today I went down to Brothers Water as the sun was out, and I knew there was a Dipper to be photographed. A week ago I was down at Brothers Water, as I walked the wooded bank I heard a call I was unfamiliar with, scanning the shore I found a Dipper, it allowed me to get within 5 metres sitting on the bank. As I watched it began to fly out, 10-15m into the open water, swim on the surface as would a duck, then dive for 4-6 seconds, it repeated this 4-5 times catching small fish almost every time, returning to shore every now again with a larger fish. It hunted like this for 15 minutes before it moved on, I had never seen this behaviour before.

The plan today was to go and take some pictures of this, but the light wasn't in my favour, neither was the Dippers chosen perch, it was using the northern shore. I continued on my circular route, little showed except for a few Blue Tits, and a lone Raven. Once the eastern side was reached I scanned the water to find 8 Tufted Duck, 1 Little Grebe, 1 Drake Goldeneye, and 1 Drake Goosander .

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Yesterday at Cliburn Moss

This was going to be updated yesterday, but the studentcom internet service in my uni digs decided not to work with my recently purchased Macbook Pro. Fixed now, and I love my Mac, should of got one earlier.

I came back to Penrith early than usual to try and sort my next years accommodation, which isn't going well. After sorting a few bits and pieces out I headed for Cliburn Moss, arriving at 14:30.

As parked up, and put my wellies on a tribe of Long Tailed Tit fed in the silver birch canopy above. I was taken North along the western edge of the reserve, as I entered the mature Scots Pine the need to stop and listen seem apparent, firstly from the silence I picked up the song ofGoldcrests, quite a few, scanning the thick canopy above I found numerous birds feeding. Continuing North a Jay made a brief appearance, flying up off the track. Reaching the Northern-most edge of the reserve again I stopped to listen, I could hear the flack ofWoodpigeons to the North, the sound of Jackdaws and Rooks to the North, as wellCarrion Crow, but the most noise was coming from a presumed flock of Starling, chattering to the North. Naturally I headed north, though the gate off the reserve, up onto the disused railway, with the hawthorn hedgerow. Looking over the field, I could see a winter crop had been left, and large numbers of Woodpigeon, Jackdaw, Rook, and Starling were feeding.Lapwing were also present amongst the Starlings, 4 Fieldfare fed close to the hedgerow and a single Stock Dove fed amongst the Woodpigeon. As I re-entered the reserve a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew overhead.

The track now headed East, it leaves behind the Scots Pines for a small marshy meadow area, with a small pond, 6 Mallard, and 1 Drake Teal were flushed from the pond as I approached. I followed this track it began to head towards the houses, not wanting to walk this way, I went for a bit of wandering, and headed South along the reserve perimeter, which I'm pleased I did. Just as I re-entered the Scots Pine a couple of Woodpigeons flew out of the canopy above, and a scratching noise on the tree in front of me followed. A Red Squirrel was frozen against the orange trunk of a mature Scots Pine, heading downwards. It camouflaged in so well, with that beautiful orange colour it shares with the Scots Pine, if it had not made a sound I may of missed it. Retracing 2 or 3 steps another tree provided me with cover, as I sat down the Squirrel repositioned onto a horizontal branch, it sat, cleaned and scratched for about 5 minutes before it move upwards into the canopy.

Pheasant, Blue Tit, Great Tit, and Common Buzzard were heard throughout my wonder of the reserve.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Holywell and sp Geese

Went down to Holywell this afternoon after helping out with Bird Aid, I was greeted by 16 Fieldfare, 3 Redwing and a Mistle Thrush just by the gate in the East field.

The pond has melted a fair bit now, roughly 70% still frozen though. On the remaining ice, there was 5 Drake Gadwall sleeping, 5 Wigeon (1 Drake), 17 Mallard, 6 Moorhen, 3 Coot, 1 Great Crested Grebe, and 1 female Teal. After scanning the pond for a while I moved towards the left hand side of the hide to check for the Brambling, as I did the Water Rail ran for cover. After sitting quietly for a couple of minutes it reappeared feeding in the open to the left of the hide, no bothered by my presence, it probe in the mud for about 15 minutes, giving me the best views I've ever had of a Water Rail.

The feeding station was busy with the regulars, although lacking Brambling.

As I drove home I noticed some Geese on a newly developed flash (from the thawing snow), to the West of the A192 (between Earsdon and Holywell), I pulled in and made my way up the hedgerow to get a better view, 42 Greylag were present, but as I reached the end of the group I picked up two darker Geese, no smaller than the Greylags, with long necks, they saw me and flushed (heading West), they showed a dark back. I'm not 100% so will not be saying they were definitely Bean Geese, but I can say they were possibly of the fabalis race. Looks like and early start is ahead of me, and possibly a wild goose chase.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

An overdue update

On the 09/01/2010 I received a text from BD saying there were Brambling in the feeding station, sorted a few things out then drove down at about 14:00. At first I thought only one bird was present, and adult winter female bird, but as I watched I caught a glimpse of a dappa adult winter male as well. I had to move on, although I did flush a Woodcock at the gate to the reserve.

Sunday 10/01/10, saw me back down at Holywell to try and get some pictures of the Brambling, and to spread some seed. (Look at my 'Get Involved' post). On the way I passed 60+ Pink-Footed Geese in fields to the East of the Holywell Road, (between Earsdon and Holywell), the snow was beginning to thaw today.

I Arrived at the hide to find it chocker, with a bitter wind, so only the left shutter was open. The majority of people I presume came to see the Brambling, and I was informed by SH, who was present in the hide, that they were still showing. Moving on sharpish to avoid the crowds we walked down to the public hide. Not a lot about so I headed for the East fields and the Obelisk area in search of Buntings.

Just East of the Public hide, a group of 100 Geese were feeding, consisting of 80 Greylag and 20 Pink Foot. From here I headed for the Obelisk, in the cow field I stood and watched a Male Kestrel, hunt, it managed to catch a vole whilst I watched. 4 Woodcock were flushed from the small copse just West of the Obelisk. Following the hedgerow East of the Obelisk before the plantation, I found the Bunting flock, although significantly reduced in number, before the new year I had counted 25+ Yellowhammer, this day I counted 5, and 10 Reed Bunting, making use of the pheasant feeders. After putting some more seed down I moved on back to the car. A Stock Dove flew overhead as I left.

On the 11/01/2010 I didn't get far, only the car boot to walk the dog, where Curlew were making use of the wet grass for probing.

Today, 12/01/2010, my dad woke me up to show me a Fieldfare a couple gardens along, feeding on the Crab Apple tree, a first for the street. I went along to Holywell at about 14:00, the pond is rapidly thawing, although 80% was still frozen. As I opened the left shutter a mature Male Sparrowhawk was hunting in the feeding station, not keeping still, but not bothered by my presence, either due to it being low in condition, or more likely due to it being switched on to hunting mode. No gulls were present on the pond, waterfowl consisted of 8 Moorhen, 5 Mallard, and a single Male Pochard. The Brambling weren't seen, although the feeding station was quiet due to Sparrowhawk activity. Magpie, Carrion Crow, and Woodpigeon were also about.

Again I headed for the Obelisk, 3 Redwing were present in the hedgerow just East, 1 Woodcock and 1 Common Buzzard were in the Obelisk Plantation. The surrounding fields held huge Woodpigeon flocks, feeding on the newly showing greenery. 11 Grey Partridge were flushed near to the Dark Plantation, and a large amount of Jackdaws and Rooks were circling above. The Dene was the next stop to check feeders, 1 Woodcock was flushed as I entered, the feeding stations were busy as expected with all the usual suspects.

On the way back from Sainsbury's tonight I had a flyover by a single Woodcock, another Garden tick.

If you haven't already, please read my 'Get Involved' post for links regarding Bird Aid.

Get Involved

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Moving South

My little sister was off school today due to the snow so we took the dog for a walk through the fields. There was 5+ inches of snow, and at least double that in the drifts, the wind was bitter and cut straight through you. We reached the bottom ditch and flushed a Snipe, we stood watching the snow moving across the ploughed field, like sand at the beach.

The usual Magpies, Carrion Crow, Woodpigoen and Herring Gulls around whilst we played in the snow, I a wagtail caught my eye near to the BeeHive Pub, it turned out to be an adult male Grey Wagtail, a male Chaffinch was also present in the Hedgerow.

On the way back towards home 5 skeins of geese flew overhead, from the Holywell direction heading south. 3 of the 4 skeins were Pink-Footed Geese, with numbers being over 1000 in total, the 4th skein was of 30+ Greylag Geese.

Back at home, at the moment, there's about 8 Common Gulls feeding on the shed roof, the greatest number I can remember, even the greatest in the area.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Started this winters day off with a walk of Red House Farm with my dog, Ruby the Short Haired German Pointer. The highlight of the walk, was when I reached the far ditch surrounding the car boot, 3 Snipe and a single Woodcock were put up, I was particularly pleased with finding the Woodcock as visits from this species are irregular at Red House Farm.

At about 14:00 I arrived at Holywell Pond, the walk down to the hide produced the regular suspects, House Sparrow, Collared Dove and Starling, but also an overhead flight of a Snipe.

SP was in the hide when I arrived, nothing new about, the pond was still mostly frozen, with the three pools now two, although the central pool has increased in size. On the left hand pool Mallard congregated 19 individuals. The larger central pool was dominated with Gulls, although 10 Moorhen and 3 Coots also made use of this larger pool. Around the main pool, and in a small group further NE on the ice 3 Great Black Backed Gull, 30+ Herring Gull, 24 Black Headed Gull and 8 Common Gull, rested, bathed and drank. Before I had left the number of Gulls had increased. Also on the ice were, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, and Magpie.

The feeding station was fairly busy, mostly with Chaffinch, and Greenfinch although, Blue Tit, Great tit, Robin, Wren, Blackbird and a male Great Spotted Woodpecker were also present.

Other birds around included a fly over of a skein of 8 Greylag, Pheasant to the West, a Kestrel on the Obelisk, and 7 Snipe which were flushed from the Public Hide end of the Meadow. They were flushed by 'tourists', I'm all for new people visting the amazing place and reserve which is Holywell, as long as they abide by the same rules as everyone else, and use their common sense, if thats possible, for an example, possibly entering the Public Hide from the footpath, and not the shoreline? to avoid disturbing the wildlife for everyone else. Hopefully they will have realised their mistake on leaving the hide.

Whilst walking back up to the car SP and I scanned a flock of mixed Geese on the close field, it consisted of roughly 80+ birds, with the majority (64) being Greylags, and the rest Pink-Footed.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

First visit to Holywell in the New Year, arrived at 14:30 to find a 90% frozen pond, and BD with ' You've just missed an adult Iceland Gull', no worries. It was calm, although the sky was covered with dark snow clouds awaiting to break there seal.

Walking down there was the regular Starlings, House Sparrows and Collared Doves. The West field held 60+ Pink-footed Geese, about 10 Greylag, and a large number of Gulls. Three small pools of water in front of the members hide held the remaining waterfowl, a pair of Mute Swans, and 30 Mallard, with the ice providing footing for, 11 Moorhen, 3 Coot, 8 Carrion Crow, Magpie, 42 Great Black Backed Gulls, a large number of Herring Gull, Black Headed Gull and a lone Common Gull. The feeding station was resonably busy with, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Great tit, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, a male and female Great Spotted Woodpecker, and a few Reed Buntings.

1 Skylark was picked up by BD flying in front of the hide, then minutes later a large flock of 100+ birds, which landed in the meadow by the public hide. We left the members hide to warm our feet up, as we walked up the path the characteristic whistling of Wigeon was heard behind us, at the pond, after a scan 30+ birds were picked up circling the pond, trying to land on one of the three pools. 13 Common Snipe were present at the public hide.

A walk down to the backtrack produced nothing further of note.

It was good to be back.