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.