Saturday, March 28, 2015

Brief Encounter.

I do like a chance encounter with wildlife. We were looking from our kitchen window this afternoon when this Brown Hare gambolled past. I popped out, camera in hand, but I was too slow, more like a tortoise, and the hare had made a sharp exit.

Half an hour later, there he is again, cantering around, stopping to snack on grass, so I headed him off by peeping over our garden wall. Our meeting lasted all of 2 minutes as he trotted towards me, then carried along on his way.

It may have been brief, but very nice all the same.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Spuggy fight!

House Sparrow usurps Tree Sparrow...

Two Tree Sparrows move on two House Sparrows...

No where to land...

House feels Tree has had enough...

'Bugger off, I've just got a seat!'


A day off today and the sun is shining. A loiter around the garden had a nice Red legged Partridge singing from the back field. I saw it as it ran off over the rise. This is a garden tick for me taking that list to 121 species in almost 6 years. Not bad.

While out, the local Goldfinches were very active today with males singing and swaying side to side for females nearby.I think they look territorial so there might be a breeding attempt in the garden this year?

Female Goldfinch.

Male Goldfinch singing...

Male swinging and swaying his fanned tail...

While the camera was out a Starling looked to good to ignore...

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


...or the Digital Darkroom. This is the correct term for Photoshopping your photos.

To the uninitiated this is when people can take a subject and place it somewhere it has never been in the first place, or, like when celebs are made to look like gods and goddesses when really they are just like Joe public.

This isn't the method I'm talking about. There is nothing unreal or fraudulent about the images here, they are just tweaked a bit to make brighter and sharper or closer looking.

To the old school, this is frowned upon as cheating but for me its a real asset!

 It makes my best shots even better that I would imagine. So, imagine what some of my photos would be like straight off the camera....its not pretty I can assure you. If you check though the blogs, ALL of the best ones 'enhance' their images in some way. Caution is needed though, too much 'enhancing' makes the pictures look artificial and hard on the eye - 'noisy' as it is known.

What is the point of this you ask, well, this morning, patch year tick 103 arrived in the garden and was visible from a misted up kitchen window. Wanting to get a record shot, with little time to mess around two or three shots were taken that looked like this -

Male Blackcap, straight from the camera via our kitchen window.
After a few minutes mucking around the result is a bit more pleasing. Its never going to be magazine quality but it will do for the blog. The 'cropping' removes a lot of the clutter, the light balance adjustment removes the fog and the sharpen and unsharp mask, well, make it sharper.

A photoshopped male Blackcap.
103. Blackcap

Monday, March 23, 2015

Winter is leaving....

On my way to work this morning as I crossed a bridge known as the Dry Arch, a bird flushed from the roadside and flew towards the car. All I saw was a broad pale band on the end of the tail and knew instantly what it was. I screeched into a worn laybye and looked back, with no bins or camera, to find a lone Waxwing hopping about on the verge. What on earth it was doing there fails me, but, in headless chicken mode I thought, get home for the camera. I drove back through the arch to the Howick Hall main entrance then thought better of it, I would be massively late for work, so I turned around again but this time the bird was no where to be seen? Maybe on Wednesday when I'm off...

In a winter when they have reverted back to normality after a good few years of influx, I never thought I would get one on the patch, but this one was inside the boundary by about 10 metres!

A recycled Waxwing photo from a few years ago, its been on here before, but no camera this morning.
On the return from work journey at 6pm I passed a field at Warkworth containing 120 Whooper Swans where yesterday there were only 23, so I fancied they might be on the move. Nearer home I got my eye on a flock heading north, containing about 60 birds, just outside my patch. I put my foot down hoping to get them looking back from home, but I was too late.

Inspired, I set off with Bunty in the dusk over the back field. Nothing was seen other than 2 Goldcrests in the hedge but no 'whooping' swans. We headed back. Just as we approached home, there was the distinctive bugling coming from the east. Manoeuvring into a better position I waited until 90-100 Whooper Swans flew north along the coast and out of sight at Craster. Lovely.

Not a bad non birding day then :)

101. Waxwing
102. Whooper Swan

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spring Buntings...

Sunday morning down at the Coquet Estuary at Warkworth is never a bad thing, but its even better when there are unexpected blue skies and sunshine.

We followed the usual route via the estuary viewpoints. The only migrants noted were Chiffchaffs with one in the top car park and 3+ singing near the river in the village. A female Eider looked quite incongruous against a wooded back ground feeding well up stream near the road bridge. A few Snipe and and 5 Gadwall were seen.

There seemed to be more passerine activity this week with several pairs of Reed Bunting, Stonechat, Meadow Pipits etc all in fine fettle singing and chasing around potential nesting sites. Although we didn't see any Short-eared Owls, a Barn Owl did a brief lap of the car park hill.

Stoat coming out of Ermine waited near a small reed bed before vanishing out of sight.


Reed Buntings
A real highlight was a nice flock of buntings at a pheasant feeder near Birling Carrs. There were 15+ each Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting with Tree Sparrow, Grey Partridge and a male Sparrowhawk for company. Nearby a field held 23 Whooper Swans, a Stock Dove while Buzzards soared over distant woodland.

Stock Dove

Friday, March 20, 2015

Seconds please...

I suppose that there will be more photos of this morning's solar eclipse than there are of wheatears on the blogosphere today. Not to be out done, here is another. We got up to clear blue skies this morning though a few clouds soon began to show, making us a bit anxious that we would never see the partial eclipse. We need not have worried and the morning remained very pleasant with 75% clear skies with some thin, steadily moving clouds.

This is my second eclipse after the one in 1999 and I cant wait for my next in 2026. I heard on the BBC today that there have only been 8 solar eclipses visible in the UK in the last 500 years, so to have been fortunate enough to be around for two of them is a privilege indeed.

How it started seen through reversed binoculars on the back door. 

And later when there was cloud cover I managed a proper direct photo.

 While waiting for the 09.35 Armageddon, a check of last nights moth trap catch was a nice surprise - 24 moths of 9 species including the second garden ( and 12th Northumberland ) record of Acleris cristana, though this one was of the form cristalana.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Keep waiting...

Grey Wagtail at Howick burn mouth.

Despite the weather being overcast, misty and generally a dreary sort of day, I still managed two walks around the patch. Nothing new was added and the chiffchaffs from the other day seemed to have moved on. Around home, a Golden Plover was flushed from the heugh by a passing Peregrine and 3 Goldcrests flitted around the back field.

I scoured the Craster end for Black Redstart but it was just a repeat of Sunday with singing Willow Tits, Bullfinches etc. A lone Purple Sandpiper was out on the rocks and a few more Goldcrests hinted at migration.

At the Howick burn mouth I just sat on the bridge base for an hour and waited to see what would appear. A Roe doe sneaked up on me and continued feeding until she just calmly wandered off and a Grey Wagtail fed on the stream. The sea was just about lifeless, or seemed so due to the big swell and low visibility.

In another month or so, the spring arrivals will be here in force. I hope.

Goldcrest, Craster.