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'sarticle 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or leave me a comment on this post.
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 ;)