Saturday, 30 January 2010

Cold, from Coast to Carr

Wind Blown at Creswell
My initial steps out of doors yesterday, 29th Jan, suggested a drop in temperatures, but I assumed it would warm up as the day went on. I assumed wrongly. A couple of friends from the Local Group and me headed initially to the Rising Sun Country Park. We intended only to lay some seed before heading off to what we thought would be more productive areas. The seed was quickly laid and we were heading for St Mary’s Island but not before have found amongst others, Shoveller, Coot, Moorhen, Great Tit and Blue Tit. We didn’t have time this morning to look for the Redpolls that had been reported.

I suggested a stop at the Brier Dene car park to check for Mediterranean Gull. We found only Black Headed Gulls. I later found that a Mediterranean Gull was reported at the Rising Sun! As the skies darkened over Blyth and the coast, we carried on to St Mary’s Island. A quick look on the wetland brought us Mute Swan, Teal, Wigeon and Gadwall. The dark sky was now above us and a very heavy snow storm began with the winds blowing this into our faces. Undaunted, our female member made for the headland as snow froze on our clothing. I thought, I either follow or look a wimp, so I followed! The snow did eventually stop, leaving clear skies, and the winds at least died down somewhat. The waste bins were being cleared in the car park bringing in the flocks of gulls fighting over tit bits. We soon found a feast of waders including the following, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Knot, Sanderling, Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone, Dunlin, Redshank, Bar-Tailed Godwit and Curlew. The tide had brought many of these flocks close in and numbers were high giving one of the better bird watching experiences that I have had down at the island. I’m not sure how I missed Ringed Plover, but I don’t re-call seeing any. The only other birds I do re-call were gulls, corvids, Starlings, Cormorant and a single Rock Pipit (or could it have been the Water Pipit, seen only briefly). After this feast of waders we decide to head for Cresswell Pond.

On arrival at Cresswell, it appeared to me to be getting colder and windier. Most birdlife was keeping off the water apart from several Goldeneye (the males beginning to display), Great Crested Grebe and Little Grebe, and some of the Shelduck. There were numbers of Wigeon on the small flash seen as you approach the pond, and many more around the edge of the pond along with many more Shelduck, Mallard, Teal, Tufted Duck, Redshank and Curlew. The Lapwing flock were very active flying to and fro from pond edges to field. The wind was hitting the hide at some force and even with the shutters down it was bitter cold. We had a quick lunch here before heading off in the direction of Bells Pond to look for the Twite. A single Greenfinch had flown past the hide. As we approached we found two Grey Partridge near to the farm. We found the flock of Twite very quickly, having stopped exactly level to where they were feeding. These give good scope views and a lifer to one of my friends. The flock took to flight but landed not far from where we had found them. We now decided to head for Prestwick Carr. A single Mistle Thrush was seen on the journey.

Once at the Carr I found I was colder than I had been at any point so far this winter. Presumably because of wind chill. There was more water in the area than I can ever remember seeing on previous visits and the red flags were flying and guns were continually firing so any walk was going to be restricted. The whole area appeared deserted of passerines and our hope for owl sightings were not to be. Walking towards the guard box we did find numbers of Lapwing, Golden Plover and a small number of Fieldfare. It was so cold now were happy enough to walk back to the car. Once in the car a Sparrowhawk flew in front of the windscreen and along the ditch and a small flock of what I think were Goldfinch flew into the top of the trees. A decision was made to make a short stop at the Havana Nature Reserve as none of us had been here before although I had passed the place many times.

My first visit to this reserve gave me the impression that it was a paradise for dog walkers, but I saw few birds. Bird life which did appear, included Mallard, Blackbird, Robin, and a Grey Heron was seen in the fields. We did arrive quite late so I shall have to reserve judgment. There were certainly lots of birch trees!
We were soon off towards home, very cold but unbowed. We had a bird list of 50+ species and I had added eight species to the year list. Once I had warmed up I had a look at Mars and the Moon through my telescope, having been told that both were showing well tonight.

Friday, 29 January 2010

A Mars a Day, Helps.......

After a good days birding today I took the opportunity to look at Mars through the telescope on x60. It's showing extremely well close to the moon. A quite impressive sight if you like lights in the sky! :-) The God of War is showing well. The moon too was impressive and is at its brightest for 2010 over the next couple of nights. Now, shall I go and play my Holst album, write up my blog, or warm up in the bath? I think the bath wins. I'll report on my birding tomorrow.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Mark Cocker @ Centre of Life,

I've just been informed by staff at the Centre of Life, Newcastle, that Mark Cocker is to appear there on 10th March 2010.
Having read Crow Country and delved into Birds Britannica, I shall be there if at all possible. Mark C has of course written on nature related issues for the Times and Guardian and is also author of A Tiger in the Sand. He has a new book in the pipeline, titled Birds and People.
More details here

Sunday, 24 January 2010

South of the Border Down Rainton Meadows Way!

Towards the end of the expedition!

Fungi found on walk. Jews Ear Auricula judae, I'm told (Thank's H B).

Yes I crossed the Tyne yesterday, 23rd Jan, and entered Durham. I was visiting an area that I didn’t know at all so I had some empathy with that guy in Conrad's, Heart of Darkness. I was blessed with luck when an elderly lady in Chester le Street pointed me in the right direction with the comment ‘isn’t it awful when you don’t know where you are?’ I hopped on the correct bus and was soon at my destination. I was rendezvousing with Andrew K (Foghorn) who had promised me during a Durham Bird Club trip that he would show me around his patch. This promise was made twelve months ago, so he having also promised to deliver so much, I was confident he would, he having taken twelve months to plan the expedition! ;-) On finding Andrew, I also found that he had developed a constant twitch, as well as having grown several inches, or had I shrunk I wondered. Anyway I found the change in height was not an optical illusion caused by him standing on the higher part of the pavement as when he moved I still had to look up. Anyway, we were soon off in the general direction of Rainton Meadows, or so I was told, and I soon realised my host’s birding knowledge had also grown over the past year. He must be mixing with the right type! It seemed to take a very long time to get to Rainton Meadows such was the nature of this expedition. Would it deliver the promises I wondered. The area certainly looked promising. I shall try to refer to many of the species found, but as Eric Morecombe might have said ‘they are the correct species, but not necessarily in the correct order!’

We were soon checking out large flocks of Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting in the hedges, and we were to come across many of these species today which was quite different from the small numbers I see on my own patch. Other birds seen in this general area included House Sparrow, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Linnet and Jay. The latter being a year tick for me. Other corvids and Wood Pigeons were ever present of course. Andrew got his eye on a Sparrowhawk which flew low into a hedge and there were numbers of Kestrel in the area.

I was soon realising this area had much to offer in habitat, including wide open spaces of farmland which seemed to include wild areas with ideal habitat for birds. One bird we did spend some time trying to track down was Jack Snipe. This led to some climbing of fences and jumping of streams, none of which I fell into, I’m proud to say. I realised I was going to get some exercise today if nothing else. We never did find Jack Snipe, but we did have several Common Snipe during the day, which gave me another year tick. That re-paid all of my efforts of walking along frozen ‘glassy’ pathways and through the pools of water and mud. Bullfinches appeared, and we found another party of them at the feeding station at Rainton Meadows. A Willow Tit gave out its very distinctive call and we got sightings of it. Another year tick. I remember the calls of Wren and the odd calls of Curlew, but it wasn’t until the end of our walk that we saw a flock of Curlew flying overhead. I got my eye on a flock of Lapwing and realised later that they had been flying over the pond at the reserve. We did find a few Redwing and a flock of seventy Fieldfares.

I was beginning to feel a bit peckish, but we had started out quite early so I was surprised to find it was only around 11.30am when we arrived at the reserve at Rainton Meadows. Andrew was hoping for a rare gull or two here (nowt like wishful thinking is there?), but I seem to re-call only Black Headed, Herring and Greater Black Backed Gulls. Did I miss Common Gull? There were a number of both Canada Geese and Greylag Geese in the area, a single Grey Heron, and on the water Mute Swan, Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Coot and Moorhen. The odd Pheasant was about. Now Andrew tells me the hide here is known as the coldest in Durham. Come on guys, its sheer luxury, although that wind was a bit cool! Anyway Andrew promised me warmth in the reserve centre for our lunch stop. Unfortunately it was closed so we had lunch at Joe’s Pond (I think). Not before having found flocks of Goldfinch and the odd Lesser Redpoll in amongst the alders. The Redpoll being another year tick for me.

It was interesting to find what I took to be Joes Pond still frozen. As we ate Lunch we were joined by Mallards, Dunnock and a friendly Robin looking for tit bits. We were soon off again, initially along more icy pathways, in an unsuccessful hunt for Jack Snipe. Never mind there were other birds to keep us happy. We came across some guys out shooting and they flushed out more Common Snipe and other birds.

Towards the end of the walk when the Curlews flew overhead and we found a few more Fieldfare and a Mistle Thrush, I began to wonder why I was feeling a wee bit tired, then I realised we had been walking six and a half hours with only a couple of short stops. Andrew has long legs relative to my short ones so I reckon I was using up the energy fast! We passed some Durham Bird Club members as we neared the end of the walk and we found Collared Dove. Andrew took a look for Mediterranean Gull as I lent against the bus stop. By this time I was kinda pleased he didn’t find it as I was stiffening up, but I did manage to get back home without falling asleep and I think even my host was beginning to feel tired, although I note he has recovered today and gone to find his Ring-Necked Duck. He’d received a txt about it whilst we were walking and I’m sure he was tempted to send me packing so he could go and tick it, but I’m not shaken off that easily.;-)
It had been a day of birding of the type I enjoy the most. A great day had been delivered! I make the count forty-eight species and that doesn’t include Chaffinch which I’m sure we must have seen, but my minds a blank on that one for some reason, nor does it include Common Gull which I’m not sure we saw to be honest. We had quite a few laughs along the way although I was on good behaviour as I want to go back. Thanks Andrew.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Bird Song

A Blackbird has been singing its heart out out side the front door this afternoon as darkness descended. I've found this year so far, very quiet. I expect the birds have extended their energy more to keeping warm and finding food sources. I have devoted a little time in recent years to taking more notice of song and calls, but I admit not enough time. I've resolved to try and spend more time on this during 2010 and beyond. Happily I can say, like many other people, that when I stop and think about it I do know a little more than I thought I did. I guess that is better than thinking you know more than you do! ;-)

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Caerlaverock and Gretna Starling Roost

Gretna Starlings gathering. (photos courtesy of L G member)

Caerlaverock beginning to thaw!

16th Jan. It was the RSPB Local Group trip to Caerlaverock today. With a forty-nine seat coach booked because of demand, it had been a little disappointing to see almost twenty members drop out (mainly) because of the poor weather. Some had given in almost two weeks ago, which seemed a wee bit pessimistic to me! I was beginning to wonder if they had received information from the heavens of pending doom on the 16th January! Anyway the twenty-four keen birders who did go had plenty of room to stretch out and relax, and in the event, after we had left the heavy rain behind everyone was rewarded with cold, but dry and bright conditions on the Solway, with the sun putting in an appearance from time to time. Signs of the recent conditions were still apparent, with stretches of the pathways on the WWT Reserve holding pools of water which covered treacherous patches of ice. A stark reminder to be careful came with the news that a member of staff was presently in hospital nursing a broken leg having fallen on this ice! Much of the water on the reserve was only just beginning to thaw.

Flocks of Barnacle Geese were seen as we approached the reserve along with large numbers of Oystercatchers and a small flock of Redwing. We found the geese on this occasion to be more dispersed than usual although there were still plenty of them to see. As we entered the reserve there was large flocks of House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Yellowhammer with smaller numbers of Goldfinch, Brambling and Reed Bunting. I don’t think I have ever seen so many Tree Sparrow and Yellowhammer in one flock and they had clearly been drawn to feed laid down on the reserve. I was in no real rush to go and watch the Whooper Swans being fed, so instead stayed behind to watch these flocks of birds. I only ever did get a fleeting glimpse of a Brambling. I then climbed the Tower Hide which gave a different perspective on these birds as well as good views of the returning Teal, Wigeon and Mallard. Many of these birds had been forced to leave frozen pools in the previous weeks and were now slowly returning. Many of our members saw Water Rail from this hide later in the day. This hide also gives a good view over the pond where the Whooper Swans were being fed along with the odd Mute Swan.

I then made the walk to the far hide not passing too much on the way. There were of course more flocks of Barnacle Geese with the odd Pink-Footed Goose amongst them and Curlews were seen from the small hides. The Barnacle Geese were constantly on the move in small parties and Whooper Swans flew overhead from time to time. Little was seen in the hedges except at feeding stations where the majority of birds seen were Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Robin, Dunnock and Reed Bunting. One or two members found Siskin. Roe Deer and Brown Hare were seen from the hides as were the occasional Lapwing, Grey Plover and by some Golden Plover. The fact that the pools were just thawing meant that the reserve was quiet and there were no raptors seen apart from the occasional Common Buzzard and a female Merlin was described by three of our members. Apart from the Barnacle Geese, the most often seen birds were corvids! I'm mindful that 25,000 Barnacle Geese, the entire population of Svalbard over winter on th Solway. In the 1940s this number was down to less than 500!

After having some lunch I retraced my steps and headed for the hide nearest to the Solway coast line. There was a biting sting in the air here although we were well sheltered on the pathways. I found a handful of Fieldfare from the hide here and noted the large numbers of Shelduck along the coast. There was also a very large flock of Knot on the sea edge in the distance. They occasionally lifted and gave a good show. Being some way away I struggled to estimate numbersm but there was certainly many hundred. Grey Heron and the odd Pheasant put in an appearance. I eventually made back to the entrance where the flocks of sparrows, finches and buntings were still around in large numbers. We noticed piles of snail shells at regular distances on all of the paths and I assumed supplementary feeding had been going on during the freeze. I took a look for the Water Rail but it was no where to be seen and I found that this left me no time for a cuppa before we left for Gretna in the hopes of watching the Starling roost.

We reached Gretna in plenty of time. Members seemed to be reluctant to get off the coach. Maybe it was just too comfortable! I got off anyway and left them to decide whether to follow or not. Large skeins of Barnacle Geese were seen in the distance, certainly thousands blackened the sky and this seemed to prise some people from their warm seats. It was quite a sight. I had been told at Caerlaverock that many of the geese had been feeding further away than is usual and I assumed that these were those birds retuning to roost in the Solway. It remained dry and it seemed a little warmer as I went into the services to use the conveniences. When I returned I was told, you’ve missed the Starlings. In fact small numbers were just beginning to fly in. I felt that some members who had not experienced this display before were underestimating just how grand it could be. Many were soon in awe as they watched the numbers of Starlings build up and blacken the sky with what I always compare to a magic carpet! It was not quite as exciting as the display I had watched last year when everything occurred directly overhead, but it was pretty close to equalling it. We watched the twist turns and manoeuvres for approaching thirty minutes before the magic carpet suddenly disappeared into the trees. Some one had commented on the nosie from the Starlings flight and I reminded them of the name of murmuration which is used to describe these flocks of Starling. A Peregrine Falcon had flown into the mass of birds on at least three occasions and Common Buzzard and Kestrel where up there too. It certainly is a magnificent sight. Everyone returned home with a smile on their face, even those asleep on the coach. The bird list came to 60 species. I’m hoping someone will send me some photos of the Starling roost. If they do, and they are any good, I’ll add them later. The fair weather birders will be told what a good day we had.;-)

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Birding Holywell with Holywell Birding.

A Frozen Pond Again!

14th January. Yes the 14th day of the year and I had yet to do some birding off patch so it was pleasing to leave the patch, with its fresh layer of snow behind as Cain drove me down to Holywell. Once we had arrived I found the temperatures to be almost Mediterranean in comparison to what it had been like on our previous visit in December. The layers of clothing may had had some effect on the feel of things. I noted that the pond was even more frozen over than it had been in December. A single Shoveller was there amongst the Mallards. A lone Teal too was there too, and a small flock of Wigeon. Gulls included Black Headed, Common and Herring Gull and of course the usual Coot and Moorhen. On our arrival the feeding station was empty of life, but my hopes of seeing the recent Brambling visitors lifted as several Chaffinch flew in, but it wasn’t to be. Great Tit, BlueTit, Dunnock, Goldfinch and Greenfinch joined the Chaffinches. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was in the trees on the opposite side of the pond. When we moved to the public hide we found that area a desert of ice.

As we followed the path towards the dene, a Redshank was heard. A small flock of Greylag Geese had been seen in the fields. I wondered if the larger flocks of geese might be on the opposite side of the dene and in fact Cain picked up their calls. We commented on the lack of Lapwing just before a small flock flew overhead. A handful of what I am sure where Linnets flew over the fields where it is usual to see a larger flock. Four Red-Legged Partridge were picked up in the fields. As we approached closer to the dene another Great Spotted Woodpecker was picked up, which was followed by several more sightings as we walked through the dene.

The snowy footpath made the dene a bit of an obstacle course, well it did for me anyway and our talk of past falls into rivers and streams was I thought perhaps tempting fate but I managed to survive with dignity intact. The burn was still running deep and fast but had changed colour from the muddy brown of December to a blue grey. Cain got his eye on a Dipper flying down the burn. His hat was in the way so I missed it! So we walked back to the bridge and I picked it up on one of the boulders. Neither of us had seen Dipper in the dene for probably over two years and for me it was the bird of the day. Is it my imagination or are feeding stations popping up everywhere in the dene? They were quite busy with Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Robin and Blackbirds. Neither of us has seen Nuthatch or Treecreeper here for a while.

As I stopped to eat my sandwich Cain sighted a Sparrowhawk which seemed to be sussing out one of the feeding stations, but our presence seemed to ensure that it disappeared into the woodland. I can only assume that it was this excitement which made Cain develop hiccups! ;-) Thankfully this appeared to flush out flocks of Long Tailed Tits and Goldfinch. This remided me of my find of White Headed Duck in Andalucia which was only found when one of the party gave out a very loud sneeze and flushed it from the reeds.
Cain had failed his test of finding me Woodcock, but I had enjoyed the birding and chat so thought it best not to mention this to him. On the journey back to the snows of Killy we found Greater Black Backed Gulls amongst a large flock A great few hours with a species list of forty.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Newcastle RSPB Local Group Seed Dispersal

The recent comments made by Alan T about the plight of birds during the freezing weather got me thinking that the Local Group could and should be proactive here. I had a word with some colleagues and the result is that I have just ordered 25Kg of seed which I hope to put out in the Holywell and maybe Rising Sun area during this week. I'll ensure I find out where it is most appropriately put. I realise there is a thaw now, but I'm sure feed will still be needed and welcomed. This has been funded by members of the group and not by RSPB funds.

I'm pleased to have noted that the needs of birds and other wildlife have been recently highlighted in the local media.

I am nursing a sore 'gob' at the moment after dental treatment, but hope to be out in the above areas this week.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

A New Patch Sighting!

A Redwing Banquet. They are in there somewhere!

Wagon Way

Looking towards Palmerstone

Wagon Way

View form Wagon Way across the City.


As the mini ice age continues and shows no sign of retreat, I thought I would take a walk to the village and a little way beyond after I had watched the classic soap opera Neighbours. I wasn’t expecting much birdlife to be about but thought I might capture some decent snow scenes. Perhaps I had left it a little late for good views of the snow and maybe I need to be up and out early one morning.

One thing the walk did bring me was the Redwings I had missed out on at the weekend. They were feeding on the same berries as were the Blackbirds. The Redwings were my first of the year. I decided to walk along to the wagon way that runs down to the Great Lime Road and I slowly walked down the deeply snow covered track. As expected there were few birds about and I decided to skip walking into the fields through very deep snow. Several ‘off school’ youngsters were sledging down the bank. I resisted the temptation of asking if I could have a go and telling hem that when I was a lad the snow used to come up to your neck. The fields between the wagon way and Palmerstone were an untouched blanket of snow which appeared to lack any sign of life.
As I retraced my steps it began to snow again and this helped give the sky and lowering sun a very good effect. I stopped to take some photos and as I stood there a Woodcock flew low above my head. Great to have a new patch bird for the list so early in the year. I had been a bit envious of other peoples Woodcock sightings. As I watched the sun slip behind cloud another Woodcock, or perhaps the same bird retracing its flight, flew in the opposite direction than my first sighting, this one giving an even better view. The short walk had been well worth the effort. As I walked home I watched and listened to a growing number of Jackdaws and Rooks in the tree tops and as I arrived home I once again cleared the path of snow.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

A Day by the Window

Fire in the sky
3rd Jan. It’s only the 3rd day of the year I know, but I felt I needed a rest so having taken delivery of my BNE calendar (and a very nice one it is too) from postman Alan T, and cleared the front path before the next fall of snow, and it appears that there are going to be several more falls this week, I sat back and watched Leeds beat Man United (I like neither team, but tis good to see the smile wiped off Fergusson’s mug). In between the tackles I kept a watch on the garden birds, more so than I have done for sometime. I was hoping for something a bit different in the garden, but that wasn’t to be and in fact early on the birds seemed reluctant to come down too the feeders, but that soon changed and everything has been cleared now.

The birds I saw from my chair, granted they did not all land in my miniature garden were in no particular order Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Long Tailed Tit (1 passing through), Chaffinch, Robin, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Dunnock, Starling, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Magpie, Rook, Carrion Crow, House Sparrow and Black Headed Gull. When I removed myself to upstairs and looked out of the window I found I had timed my move to perfection just in time to catch a Sparrowhawk overhead being harassed by a crow. The hawk flew off so the garden birds were safe for the time being. Coal Tit and Long Tailed Tit were new for the year so I don’t feel I’ve wasted the day except for watching the football perhaps!
The next snow shower is already beginning to show in the air. When I went to look at the sky I found there had been a wonderful sunset which looked to have set the sky on fire. I managed to catch the end of it from the front door. I’m off to fix my calendar up in prime spot. If this weather keeps up I may be forced to start writing about my resolutions and hopes for 2010!

Saturday, 2 January 2010

The Magnificent Seven

Three of the Magnificent Four await their medal.
Despite earlier doubts my local walk on patch went ahead today and seven magnificent people participated including, I’m happy to say, Brian R. It’s a good job I got out of bed this morning. Conditions were far from ideal, but we made the most of it and despite at times a biting wind cropping up, snow stinging the eyes and bins steaming up, during most of the walk it wasn’t too bad at all.

We started by repeating my walk of yesterday around the frozen lake. Goldeneye (two female and a male) and a single female Goosander which took to the air as we watched were additions to the birds seen yesterday. The other birds were Mute Swan, Canada Geese, Greylag Geese (2), Mallard, Pochard (2), Tufted Duck, Coot, Moorhen, Black Headed Gull, Common Gull and Herring Gull. We spotted a juvenile Mute Swan which appeared to be stuck in the ice, but once we got near it we found that it was simply weak and exhausted. Unsuccessful attempts were being made to break the ice around it to allow it to reach water, but this had proven impossible such was the thickness and strength of the ice. Someone called the RSPCA and I hope the swan was rescued, but in my mind it looked in a real bad way so I’m none too hopeful. You would have to be pretty hard not to find such situations distressing I reckon.

The walk continued passed the snow covered lakes and across the fields to the village area with little in the way of birds to be seen apart from Mistle Thrush. Of course there were numerous flocks of Wood Pigeon and Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook and Carrion Crow were with us throughout the walk. A small number of Redwings were seen in the village. Now how did I miss those? Otherwise it was Blackbird, Robin and Wren. A usually quite productive area to the rear of the village was dead. I adopted my usual approach at this point and began to tell people what I often seen on better days and assume they believe me. We did find the odd Pheasant. There were no winter thrushes in the fields. At this point the magnificent seven became the magnificent four as some participants gave up in the wind and snow shower.

I wasn’t enjoying this wind too much myself, but happily we were soon out of it and the rest of the walk except for a very short spell was completed in rather calm and sheltered conditions. A short diversion down the track brought us nothing of interest. I did mention it was a good area for Bullfinch and thankfully one turned up on que. As we made for the waggonyways a flock of 15 Goosanders flew overhead making up for having seen only one on the lake.

Walking along the waggonway was also non productive and I could only dream of last years sightings of Short Eared Owls here. As we knew the flash would be frozen we retraced our steps and made back towards Killingworth centre. A lack of birds made for some chat and a few laughs and a sudden interest in Wood Pigeons as we remarked on their attractiveness. Collared Doves were seen on a few occasions. The bird list was slowly growing however and there was growing numbers of Great Tit and Blue Tit. Near the farm we found a few Fieldfare in the hedgerow and this time a pair of Bullfinches. A little further on a couple of Song Thrushes were found and growing numbers of tits, Chaffinch and Greenfinch with the odd House Sparrow and Dunnock. In relative terms this was quite a birding hot spot for the day and a good way to bring our walk to a close. I took a photo of three of the magnificent four. I’m behind the camera of course! We ended the day with a list of 35 species and I mustn’t forget the Stoat that ran across out path. I had enjoyed my few hours out and it was so calm now I was able to have a cuppa from the flask. Everyone seemed content as we parted company. Thanks to those who came out in such conditions. Medals are in the post for those who completed the course!

Friday, 1 January 2010

2010 Begins on Patch

A jolly enough, but non communicative snowman

Killingworth Lake

1st Jan 2010. Despite the white out, I managed my annual New Year walk on patch and in fact the newly fallen snow made for an easier trudge. With the snow shoes having been sent to the cobblers I had to make do with my boots! I’m wondering how many people have this first day of 2010 questioned the idea of global warming. My first foot in the garden was a Starling, followed quickly by Robin and Blackbird and once I had left the garden behind I have to say I didn’t see too much birdlife around the village area. I think there were as many snowmen (or should this be snowpersons in this age of sexual equality?) as birds around here. I photographed one particular smart looking snowman who seemed jolly enough, but lacked much in interpersonal skills. As I was admiring this gent a Sparrowhawk flew over the tree line. The only other bird life seen was corvids and Woodpigeons, so I thought it best to make for the lake.

Despite a bit of a thaw having set in, I can’t remember seeing the patch in such snow cover for many years. The smaller lake was a complete whiteout with only a couple of Black Headed Gulls flying over. Much of the larger lake was the same with a layer of snow lying on the ice. The birds had gathered at the far end of the lake where the ice had been broken an judging by the rising flocks were being well fed by passers by. Once I reached that end of the lake I found the mass collection of birds consisted of the following species, Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Canada Geese, Mallard, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Coot, Moorhen, Black Headed Gull, Common Gull and Herring Gull. The occasional Magpie flew overhead. It seems that the Goosanders have been forced to leave. I couldn’t find any Goldeneye either.

As the light started to dim large flocks of Wood Pigeon and smaller flocks of corvid, many of them calling Jackdaws, flew towards the roosting areas in Gosforth Park. It was quite atmospheric as I watched them fly over as several Mute Swans flew back and forth across the frozen lake below them. A Mute Swan left a trail in the snow as it landed and remained as a lonely looking figure on the snow and ice. As I made for home a small flock of Goldfinch appeared, the same flock perhaps that I had seen on the last day of 2009.
Well not many birds to add to my list, but I may add some more tomorrow as I am due to lead a walk around the patch. I wonder if anyone will turn up. Certainly looks like another cold night ahead.