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?