Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Coquet Estuary....

Amble Harbour

Eider displaying.
The day dawned calmish and quite bright but soon became dull, making these photos very grainy and drab. We covered the Coquet estuary from Amble Harbour up to Birling Carrs, adding a couple of new species to JWR's patch list.

On arrival a huge number of Rooks and Jackdaws were leaving their roost, numbering several thousand birds. The sky was full of them, the air ringing with their calls.

The estuary was full of birds with up to 700 Golden Plover, 300 Lapwing, Dunlins and Redshank. A lone Grey Plover and a few Knot added interest. Up at the harbour, an adult Mediterranean Gull loafed, but it wasn't the usual bird carrying a red darvic. This one only had a metal ring on one leg.

8+ Red breasted Merganser were spread right up the river, one or two pairs were in full display mode and a female Goosander was up near the road bridge.

2 Purple Sandpipers were on the pier, 2 Grey Partridges were along the braid with another 5 at Birling. 5 Roe Deer showed well near the river.

Small stuff around the Braid car park included a female Bullfinch, several Long tailed Tits and a host of Goldfinches.

Mediterranean Gull at the Little Shore.  

Starling singing from lobster pots.

Female Bullfinch.
Long tailed Tit

Back home, a short look along the shore added othing to the Howick list, but 5 Grey Plovers were extra noteworthy, not being annual here, 2 Harbour Porpoises off shore near 2 Red throated Divers.

A cold spell forecast for mid week might shuffle the pack a bit...

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Bright as a Bully.

A longish walk around the wooded areas of Howick this morning was very pleasant. It was bright with  light westerly breeze. Around the arboretum, lots of small birds were active, the most obvious being several groups of Bullfinches. One party in particular, contained 7 birds, a couple of which allowed quite a close approach for the photos above. An interesting bit of plumage seen in the images is the white margins to the primary feathers, a feature often mooted as being indicative of Northern birds. In  this case, these were bog standard British type Bullies in every other respect, including the call.

Only one year tick, revealed itself by calling sharply from the back of the pond -  a Kingfisher. It sat for a while, quite distantly, perched in the sunshine.

Further around, a Red Squirrel was too quick for photos as it dashed across the path, 2 Roe Deer and 2 Brown Hares flushed from the wood.

A bit more distant than the Bullfinches...
   77. Kingfisher

Monday, January 19, 2015

Black necked Grebes.

Over recent weeks two Black-necked Grebes have been living in Seahouses harbour, so today I thought I would meet up with Gary for a chat and maybe get a chance of a photo or two of them. One of the birds legged it out of the harbour pretty much as soon as I arrived, but the other continued to feed between the walls and boats. It led us a merry dance though, often over on the opposite side to where we were, but after some 'Benny Hill' style chasing around between lobster pots and rope piles, we managed some pleasing pics.

What a great little bird, it was even heard calling to its buddy who was making itself scarce on the open sea.It was scared when a large bull Grey Seal popped its head up next to it right inside the inner harbour.

Black-necked Grebes used to be a good breeding bird in Northumberland, with one inland water holding up to 16 pairs plus non breeders. The sight of 40 Black-necked Grebes in breeding plumage swimming between the flowers of amphibious bistort and water lillies was a annual spring highlight up here. One year when I went, there was a summer plumaged Slavonian Grebe in with the Black-neckeds! What a picture that would have made...    


Back at home, a flock of 200 Pink footed Geese and 30+ Greylags flew south, while the birds feeding in the coast path pasture continues to increase - 100+ Redwings, 3 Fieldfares, 12+ Mistle Thrushes, 50+ Golden Plovers and 40+ Lapwings.

76. Greylag Goose.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

White winged Gulls and Grebes...

Despite efforts, we didn't see any of those. I suppose this post could have been called Pallas's Sandgrouse  for that matter, but hang on.

The morning was spent hunting around Amble Harbour and the Coquet Estuary in mixed weather conditions looking for those said title species. As the wind has swung to the north for a bit, maybe there will be a northern gull next week? We'll see. Actually we did see some grebes, several Little and one Great crested, but thats not what I meant here at this time of year.

John added six common species to his patch list and for me the highlights were a fleeting view of a Kingfisher dashing across the harbour and out of sight, and a Little Egret flying from Warkworth Gut up towards Alnmouth.

After lunch, the wind increased to a blustery NW, so I popped along to Craster for a half hour seawatch to see if I could add to my patch tally. The seawatching was dire ( as usual at this time of year, but you never know) but some salvation was had by a Woodcock flying out of the scrub at the Arnold Reserve, over the road in front of my car, and off up the heughs. A nice unexpected addition.

With a flexi day off tomorrow and the weather improving, I might get out again to see if the squalls have stirred anything up.

75. Woodcock

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Nice light on a Dunnock.
A couple of walks around the patch today. First of all we walked north towards Craster. This was very quiet, with only a handful of Feral Pigeons being added to the list at Cullernose Point. 85 Pink footed Geese flew south in two skeins. Back towards the village there seemed to be some bird activity in a sheep pasture that had been dug up by a multitude of moles ( that should be their collective noun in the late winter). 30+ Lapwings, 30+ Redwings, 20+ Mistle Thrushes, 2 Song Thrushes and a Fieldfare had been joined by 60+ Golden Plover.

At lunchtime a stroll down to the pond added Mallard to the PWC2015 list, while a few Siskins were singing in the trees nearby.

At dusk this afternoon another walk around the coast path was, again very slow. A female Stonechat was perhaps noteworthy, but the sea was flat and devoid of anything moving.

In the garden, the usual crowd were at the feeders...

Tree Sparrows, a dull shot taken through the kitchen window.
72. Feral Pigeon
73. Golden Plover
74. Mallard

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Night night Atropos...

The sad news today is that Atropos, our resident Death's Head Hawk-Moth has passed away to the great beehives in the sky.

Tomorrow would have been his 13th week as an adult, a very good innings I think, and he may be the oldest known to science ( unless you know different?).

It has been a great pleasure to watch him over the last months, feeding and flying around, and it may be something that I never see again. Atropos, in case you have been held hostage or on the moon since autumn, was reared from a wild caterpillar found creeping along a track in Northants back in September.

If you would like to see him again, just search the labels on the right or scroll through the posts since 17th Sept last year.

As Atropos has starred on small screen, I think some acknowledgements are appropriate.We would like to thank Victoria for finding him in the first place and to his fan club from all over the UK for following his progress, without whom none of this would have been possible. (sniff).

Thank you and goodnight. (sob)


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

First snows of winter...

Sick of sitting in the office this week, at lunchtime, I decided to pop down to Cambois to visit the wintering Snow Buntings. A flock of 12 were quite flighty in the stiff breeze, so I just sat in the car near where some kind person has placed seed out for them, and waited. After about 10 minutes they came twinkling back in, their calls like wind chimes in the breeze. Today must have seemed positively summery to these most northerly breeding passerines.

While waiting, 40 Pink feet flew north over the sea, and on the return to work a Stoat in half ermine ran over the track near the bus stop.

That was quite a productive lunchtime I think....