Saturday, 31 August 2013

Swallow Roost

Over the past few nights the Swallows have been putting on an impressive spectacle at the pond as they come into roost, tonight I took my little sister down to see it. We made this little film.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

On the move...

Busy times as I continue to chase my dreams, Holywell has been getting neglected. I was over the moon to have a chance to visit last Friday, and it didn't let me down. This week the movement of waders has been evident with a single Green Sandpiper, 2 Wood Sandpiper, 2 Black-Tailed Godwit, an impressive evening roost of Curlew (135 on Monday) and 2 Little Egret.

A Wood Sandpiper in the fading light, with Curlew roosting behind.

Record shot of the two Little Egrets in the Main Meadow last night.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Nature Watch

This morning I arrived back in the Tyne after a weekend filming with ORCA on DFDS Princess Seaways. Heading straight out, I bumped into SW, and met up with AH at St Mary's to catch up with the Wagtails, we were successful on all accounts, Pied, White, Yellow and Blue-Headed, a sign of good things to come?

After a trip round the Great North Museum this afternoon with my Grandad, I headed out to meet 5 Whitley Bay Explorer Scouts for week two, of a five week 'Nature Watch' program I'm running. Last week went extremely well! We visited Big Waters (thanks for the seed John) and began on the basics, which they took to, and enjoyed.

This week we ventured North to Cresswell pond, on arrival, and the opening of the shutters, species learnt last week were being called out, noted down and checked in ID books, what a start! It wasn't long before unfamiliar species began to be seen, Great Crested Grebe, and Red Brested Merganser being some of the first, it was great to see last weeks excitement heightened by these different looking birds, and the challenge of identification was taken in their stride. The hide may have been slightly noisy, but it was noisy with excitement, debate, discussion, and the call of new sightings.

We were joined by another birder, he picked up a bird in the distance and asked what it was, I took a step back and let the Explorers take over, 'Shoveler' was called by all of them, and thats exactly what it was! 

As the sun began to fade a Yellow Wagtail dropped onto the sandbar, we all got onto to it, one soon into 25+, there was a definite buzz in the hide, especially when we found at least 2 Blue Headed (type) Wagtails amongst them! along with 3 White and 4 Pied.

The evening finished off with Curlews coming in to roost, with one leucistic individual! What a night!

Can't wait to see what next week holds.

Friday, 19 April 2013

The Fox

I've had a long day on Final Cut Pro today, editing the Northumberland National Park by Night film. An evening visit to Holywell was what I needed, especially on a stunning evening like tonight.

It was still, only a slight breeze, the 2 Swallows at the cut had now become 6, and both Chiff Chaff and Willow Warbler were in song. Little Grebes on the pond had doubled in number, and the Shoveler pair had been joined by an extra female.

Heading down to the fields, I picked up a shape in the distance, at first I thought Hare, but then realised, it was a Fox! Relatively in the open I checked the wind, using the blinding low sun to my advantaged I approach it from the cover of a hedge. It was still some distance away.

Stopping at every gap, and looking, it still hadn't moved, but I could now pick out the shape of its ears in the grass, it was asleep! Basking in the warm glow of the setting sun. Reaching the field boundary I crossed into the next, out of sight, and scent, I quickly made up the ground, before reaching the cover of the wood.

It was still, silent, but thankfully Woodpigeon-less. A minefield of leaves, twigs, and sticks lay ahead. The sun was now behind me, casting my shadow towards the Fox, I had to be careful. Moving gently through, I saw a gap, and headed for it, lying on my belly when I got there. Gradually moving my binoculars up, I immediately realised I was quite close, and it was still asleep. Nose to the ground, it lifted its head and yawned, surveying  the field ahead. It got up with a stretch and moved off slowly, as if it had been lying for a while, not eager to leave the warm glow of the sun and its bed.

Following it right, a second Fox ran across my vision, much closer this time, I lay motionless for a while, but didn't see the second animal again.

Repositioning to higher ground I watched the sleepy Fox head across the field, sniffing as it went, now in hunt mode. It stop momentarily to observe a pair of Curlew, who soon flew off, next a Lapwing which seemed to be toying with it, approaching quite close. The Fox dropped like a Collie and tried to make ground, pouncing at the last second, but too slow for the brave Lapwing.

It reached an area of rough ground, disappearing into the long grass. Holywell never fails.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Down at the Pond

I had a trip down to Holywell this afternoon, it was nice, and surprisingly Spring like in the sun, although the wind was still extremely strong!

My first 2 Swallows flew low overhead as I wandered down the cut between the house, great to see and a sign of things to come. Down at the main gate there was still a few Tree Sparrows about, some calling from the Birches near the boxes, hopefully we'll get some pairs breeding, and establish a new colony. A Small Tortoiseshell followed the sun, resting briefly, allowing a couple of snaps.

On the pond, 10 Pochards displayed near the hide, on the water with 1 Cormorant, 2 Mute Swan, a pair of Shoveler, 5 Teal, 14 Canada Geese, 4 Greylags, 6 Coot, 4 Little Grebe, 8 Tufted Duck, 4 Moorhen, 8 Mallard and a Grey Heron.

Greenfinch, Reed Bunting, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chaffinch and Pheasant fed in the feeding station, which had a few Coltsfoot flowering.

6 Sand Martins and a couple of Swallows hawked over the water, the first of the hirundines!

I've recently been reading 'Birdscapes' by Jeremy Mynott, a book about Birds in our imagination and experience, whilst watching the Pochard displaying, and Tufted Ducks sleeping nearby, my mind was taken back to the last chapter which talks about knowing the ins and outs of the common species, extensively. The thought, why do both male and female Tufted Ducks share golden/yellow eyes, yet male Pochards have astonishingly red eyes, and the females that of a darker colour? 

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Long-Tailed Ducks

After an email from MH on Tuesday, I managed to squeeze in an hour at Seahouses Harbour at high tide on Wednesday. Five birds were present, including 2 stunning Drakes !

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Down Holywell...

Heading down to Holywell today, yesterdays flock of 30 strong Golden Plover flew over the road at Earsdon. 3 Fieldfare and 2 Redwing were nice to see flying overhead on my way down to the Pond, the pond itself was relatively quiet, although there was a good number of Pochard (14 male and 4 females) along with 4 Coot, 12 Mallard, 13 Tufted (8 males, 5 females), 6 Moorhen, 2 Herring Gull, and the Mute Swan pair nest building in the northern reeds.

The feeding station at the pond held 5-6 Reed Bunting, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, a female Great Spotted Woodpecker and a single Brown Rat.

The top feeding station still has at least 8 Tree Sparrows knocking about. Down at the public hide a Redshank, and a Snipe fed on the shoreline with 12 Canada Geese around the Island.

The East Pool had the most activity, thawing from the recent freeze it held 4 pairs of Gadwall, 30 Greylag, 20+ Mallard, 2 Coot and 4 Moorhen. It was great to see and hear the Lapwings displaying over their breeding grounds.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013


It's been a bit quiet here recently, hopefully this will change and I'll be back to normal postings in the not too distant future.

For the past few weeks I've been working on an Online Shop for my website, and yesterday it finally went live, featuring my RSPB Troup Head Collection.

I'm currently holding a 10% Offer over on my Facbook Page:

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Swan Catch

Today I was extremely privileged to be invited to take part in the annual swan catch at WWT Caerlaverock. Roughly 180 Mute and Whooper Swans were caught, ringed, measured and released, with a number of birds having bloods and x-rays taken, in order to assess the amount of lead in each individual.

Its was a great experience handling and working with these birds, there's something truly wild in the nature of the Whooper Swans. Stunning animals.

Saturday, 2 February 2013


Its wasn't until late yesterday afternoon I managed to get down to the East Pool to see the reported Eurasian White-Fronted Goose, reported by SP and BD in amongst the Greylags.

In the fading light I grabbed this record shot.

I've been back to back with star stuff for the past couple of days, including a radio appearance with BBC Newcastle, you can listen to the clip HERE (from 50.12)

I had a Barn Owl over the car heading back from Hadrian's Wall this morning, and a Short-Eared Owl flying over Killingworth this afternoon.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Stars

Last night I was blessed with a clear spell, and the forecast of stary skies, although the wind was strong. I headed up to the Simonside Hills to capture a time-lapse, as part of the Northumberland National Park by Night Project. 

I'd setup two cameras and went for a wander, passing through a Conifer plantation, heavily swaying in the wind, I reached a road. All of sudden a shooting star past low over head, very low, it trailed through the sky for at least 10 seconds, before breaking into two pieces and fading out. The best shooting star I've seen yet. I thought no more of it, until I picked up the cameras and found that I had caught it in a frame !

I was privileged to have this shot shown on this evenings BBC Look North.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

A Peregrine and the elusive Pintail

The day started in the vicinity of Gosforth Park, to set a Grey Squirrel trap, as part of a collective effort to protect the Red Squirrels of Newcastle. 30 Fieldfare, 20 Redwing, 1 Mistle Thrush and a few Chaffinch fed in the field before I entered the woods. The ground was littered with tracks, a lot of people movement and dogs, but a good number of Roe Deer and Badger tracks could be seen amongst them.

You can see the Badger's forefoot here, with the hind foot-print on top but slightly behind.

I had a few bits and pieces to do during the day, but ended up heading to Holywell for about 15:00. 120+ Lapwing and about 40 Curlew were feeding around the pool visible from East Grange.

Heading down to the hide I bumped into a local Birdwatcher and was pleased to hear there was a Drake Pintail on the pond. Opened the shutters, no sign of the Pintail, but the birds on the pond were uneasy, 10 Snipe and 2 Dunlin were in the air, along with the entire Lapwing and Curlew flock heading high, the Gulls were voicing their disapproval as were the Teal and Mallard, there was Peregrine about. Out the corner of my eye I caught sight of it, flying low just above the hide, a Tiercel. For a brief few seconds it showed unbelievably before it drifted behind, and out of sight, its presence still causing disturbance for the rest of my time there.

On the pond, 2 Cormorants sat on the posts, 9 Teal, 9 Tufted Duck, 9 Mallard, 8 Gadwall, 6 Coots, and 1 Grey Heron sheltered by the reeds, a lone Shelduck braved the open water and 6 Moorhen fed in the feeding station.

Wandering across the rest of the patch I had a single Woodcock, 60 Fieldfare over the Dene and 2 Red Legged Partridge in the Horse Field.

But the Pintail still eluded me.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Otter !

Me and Ciara had a wander along the river today, a large amount of snow had fallen over night, covering the ground and the trees, giving the Alder and Birch woodland the Narnia vibe. The floor was covered in tracks, from small birds to small mammals, a number of Roe Deer, and at least 3 Otters. 

Approaching a bend in the river, Ciara spotted this brute of a dog Otter in the water, it swam up and dried itself in the snow, before slinking back into the water and vanishing.

Siskin and Lesser Redpoll fed on the Alder catkins, and a few Woodcock fed where streams had thawed the snow. A nice wander out in the snowy Cairngorms.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Snow Buntings

Really cold and windy conditions here in the Cairngorms today, conditions which make you appreciate the hardiness of its residents, especially these Snow Buntings.

Thursday, 17 January 2013


For the next week I'll be exploring the wonders of the Cairngorms, we've had a brilliant couple of days so far, with Ptarmigan, Mountain Hare and Golden Eagle yesterday, and Crested Tit today !

Friday, 11 January 2013


Yesterday I had a text off SP, letting me know that there was a Tundra Bean Goose amongst the Pink-Footed Goose flock at the Obelisk. So this morning I picked up SW at 09:00 and headed along to Holywell, MH had just pulled up as we arrived. We headed down, and thankfully the geese were there, 350+ Pink-Footed Geese. It took us some time to work our way through the flock in the dull conditions, but eventually MS spotted a likely candidate standing asleep, it soon revealed itself to be the Tundra Bean Goose. 

The surrounding Pink-Footed Geese provided a great comparison, as it slept it seemed to stand on longer legs, and as it moved closer the clean orange legs, and narrow tail band could clearly be seen, coupled with the orange subterminal bill band. Mike did his best to get some digi-scoped images, although the light was terrible !

Great find by SP !

Monday, 7 January 2013

Back to Patch

It's been some time since I had a proper visit to Holywell, its been getting a bit neglected, but I managed to get some time to head down there today, and I'm pleased I did! 

Walking down towards the Members Hide I was pleased to find at least 10 Tree Sparrows between the hedgerow and the feeding station, hopefully when we get some more boxes up, last summers success will be repeated and a new colony will be formed.

Opening the shutters in the hide it was great to see an increase in wildfowl, the best its looked for a while now including 21 Tufted Ducks (16 males), a pair of Wigeon, 41 Mallard, 1 Little Grebe, 4 Pochard (3 males), 1 Shelduck, pair of Mute Swan, 3 Coot, 2 Moorhen, 3 Teal (2 males) and a female Scaup, with a supporting cast of Herring, Black Headed, Common Gull, 100+ Lapwing, 20 Starling, 70+ Woodpigeon, 5 Pink-Footed Geese overhead, a single Jay and a couple of cock Pheasants in the min meadow.

A single (presumed female) Short-Eared Owl was hunting in the East Meadow, with 120 Greylag, 23 Curlew and 2 Shelduck between the Eastern Pools and the North Pool. The Common Buzzard put in an appearance being pursued by a male Kestrel over the North Wood.

Heading out to the Cattle Fields in search of anymore Owls the single bird followed me over, and began quartering the area. The flooded potato field by the Obelisk held the majority of the Pink-Footed Goose flock with over 300 birds, joined by good numbers of Lapwing, Black Headed Gull, Woodpigeon and Rooks, also 6 Linnets.

3 Grey Partridge flushed as I headed for the dene, where the feeding station was, as usual, busy, with the regulars, plus 3 stunning Bullfinches feeding on Bramble seed.

A good afternoon wander round the patch.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Late Night Blackbirds

I was struggling to sleep last night, so instead headed out to record the Blackbirds which have been pumping out their songs for the past few weeks now. We can here at least 4 birds from the house in the early hours, last night I found myself hanging around Sainsbury's car park.

Here's my results,

It's great to hear their song towering above the sleeping urban environments, unknown to the majority of its inhabitants.