Abbey Meadows

Abbey Meadows

Thursday, 25 December 2008

LEO at West chevington

It's nice to see birds that are not rare but are rarely seen. Last night on my way home from Amble a Long eared owl was sitting on a fence post on the edge of Northsteads plantation near West chevington farm. No photo equipment for night time photography but it just sat on the fence post unperturbed by our presence and it didn't even fly off. It's pose was almost identical to the pic on Newton stringers blog. A nice surprise as I was looking for Barn owl at the time.
Quiet around the meadows with one Fox sighting. Nuthatches and Tawny owls are very vocal at the moment and there are still two Goosanders on the Wansbeck in Morpeth town centre.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Tis the season to be silly

The silly season usually starts here in November with a couple of reports of Rough legged Buzzards but I have never found a one myself until today that is. I arrived at the former Widdrington tip, now an excellent Alder plantation with lots of damp and wet areas as well as some small pine plantations. The first bird I saw was the Buzzard, well actually it was a Meadow pipit but the Buzzard lifted off the ground and looked so heavy in flight that it didn't look like clearing the hedgerow. It then glided with it's wings held in a 'v' and as it banked against the pines I could clearly see a white rump and tail with a black terminal band. The bird landed in a tree and the overall ground colour was white with black scaly markings on the belly and black streaking down it's neck, contrasting with white on the forhead. However, being the cynic I am I couldn't convince myself and by the time I got back to the car I had convinced myself that I had seen a pale bulky looking female Common Buzzard. I cannot get back here until Friday at the earliest but it will be worth looking out for. This is good habitat for Buzzard and they are frequently seen here. I didn't have my scope with me today as there was an opportunity to digiscope the bird as I was close enough.

The target bird here was Jack Snipe and I flushed one next to the flooded pool in the middle of the site. Also here were 8 Snipe, 40 Chaffinch and a few Goldfinches.

The pics above are Widdrington tip and a nice bunch of Oyster mushrooms beside my Auntie's house in Amble.

Thursday, 11 December 2008


Spent late morning and early afternoon at Cresswell today. Started off in the dunes and the beach to give Bennyboy a good run about. We had the whole beach to ourselves. A bit quiet on the bird front here with only a handful of Twite and Goldfinches in the dunes. A small flock of gulls caught my eye off shore feeding on the surface of the sea. When I was watching them a Dolphin leapt out of the water; not sure what species though.

At the pond there were plenty of birds. Good numbers of Redshank, Curlew and Dunlin as well as Lapwing and Golden plover. There were also a nice variety of wildfowl. Species of rapters seen were 2 Merlins; male and female, Peregrine flying north, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. Only the female Merlin came close to taking a Lapwing but the waders were too alert. The Bitterns were showing as usual as well as a Water rail. One of the Bitterns flew into the reeds next to the other one but was soon chased back to where it came from; very territorial these birds are. These birds are not easy to get a decent photo of from the distance they were today but I've posted a couple. The Lapwings looked splendid in the winter sunshine.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Some wintery shots

Following our first significant fall of snow and with the kids being sent home from school at lunchtime I went out with the camera around the meadows. I had no choice but to take them sledging on the abbey hill. The above pics are looking west at Lowford bridge; the same view as the title picture, Lowford bridge, some hardy tups, along the footpath, the kids sledging and Amber with some snowy friends. Quiet on the bird front with Jays and Bullfinches the only birds of note.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Lyne and Wansbeck

My turn on the rota for keeping Ulgham woods and meadows tidy. Nothing much to report here. Looking very sparse at the moment. Plenty of birds in the bushes. Redwings on the berries, Willow tit and 2 Treecreepers in the scrub. Dungaits who own the farmland around here usually leave one or two vegetable fields fallow over the winter. This usually attracts good numbers of Yellowhammers and Linnets but this year the fields have been ploughed right up to the hedges.

On my way to work at lunchtime there were 2 Goosanders on the Wansbeck next to the stepping stones and a Grey wagtail on the gravel island.

The pics above are the stepping stones on the Lyne at Ulgham and a pic I took the other day from the abbey of a fine specimen of Harts toungue fern.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

To tick or not to tick

That is the question. I suppose nobody is really that bothered but I must admit while I may not be the purest of the putists I like my new birds to have a wild origin if it is possible to prove. The bird is of course is the Holywell Snow goose. I only went because I was dropping Heather off in Newcastle and decided to take my gear and call in on the way home. It is the first Snow goose I have seen for many years and although it looks wild enough I will wait and see what other birders have to say but it will stay off my list for now. Despite this it is a nice bird that really stands out among other geese and the dark clouds when in flight. I wasn't able to get any shots but there are some on John Molloys blog; birdingsometimes.
Back to work tomorrow so I am not getting out much plus my first day off for a while I came down with man flu and had to go christmas shopping on the same day! Other birds seen recently is my first Barn owl of the autumn/winter at Chevinton moor on Sunday and a couple of Buzzards at West chevington and Blagdon. On the wansbeck Dipper/ Grey wagtail etc.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Linton Lane

Spent the afternoon at Linton pond. Romped around the north side of the nature reserve. This is an expansive area of open scrub and has the potential to hold some interesting species. The best I got today was a small flock of Goldfinches and a few partridges. The pool held a fine variety of wildfowl including the White fronted geese (2 adults and 3 immatures) as well as the Bean. Along the track was Fieldfares, redwings and a willow Tit. There was also 2 Jays. Hundreds of gulls on the pond but no white winged ones but of note were 3 Lesser black backed gulls. Five Snipe flew around the SW corner of the pond. I was joined in the hide by Trevor Blake and ST.

Above a view of the scrub, some cropped shots of Bean, White fronted geese, Pink footed geese and a preening Goldeneye.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Sunday 16th November

Out early this morning around the local ponds. Nothing unusual at first at Bothal, Longhirst flash and Linton. I saw DM and SH at Linton and we went into the Alder scrub north of Linton pond to view the Geese in the stubble. Nothing unusual there but a flock of about thirty birds were in the scrub which contained 20 Redpolls. They weren't easy to look through but I managed to scope one of the birds. This was pale with cold colouring on the undersides and a pale wing bar but after that the birds became difficult to watch and no more clinching features could be seen. We flushed a Short eared owl and 2 Snipe. A willow tit was along the hedgerow as well as several Redwing and Blackbirds.

No photos from Linton but I went up to Amble later in the morning and I have posted some Eider shots in the harbour. This must be the only place where they interbreed with Mallard.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Druridge bay CP

A nice afternoon I decided to go to Druridge bay country park. Nothing much on the lake except a nice male Red breasted merganser feeding in the middle of the lake. The above pic is a bit distant but worth the effort I thought. Eleven Crossbills were feeding in the pines in the north east corner. The sun was low when I went to scan East chevington. The best here was 119 Whooper swans. Very vocal flying around a lot they were being joined by dozens of Pink footed geese coming in to roost. There was also 400 or so Pink feets at Widdrington.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Scarce birds

Dull and raining on my first day off for a while. There were 34 Waxwings at Morrisons car park in Morpeth this afternoon. I parked the car a few feet from a bright Rowan tree expecting the Waxwings to fly into it to feed. As it was mild they were flying up in the air catching insects. After taking half a dozen shots my battery went dead in my camera. As expected a few minutes later the flock descended onto the Rowan tree. I called into the local ponds and despite the high water levels there was a lot of wildfowl about. At Bothal and Longhirst flash good flocks of Teal and Wigeon. A bit of wife swapping at Bothal with a female Pochard and a male Tufted duck in one corner of the pond and a male Pochard with a female Tufted at the opposite corner.

At Linton pond the gulls from the tip were flying into the main pond to bathe. There were hundreds of Herring and Great black backs and among them was a third winter Iceland gull flew in bathed briefly then flew off. I believe it was a third winter with grey back and scapulars, white tail and wing tips with just a few flecks of brown on the neck and back. Among the hundreds of Canada geese was a Bean Goose (fabalis). Both these birds could have been photographed...dammit! A Grey lag goose had an orange neck ring with the letters AJJ. A canny afternoon's local birding. Above the Morrisons supermarket Waxwings before my camera packed in.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Winter warmers

I have been neglecting the blog lately due to work and training commitments. I have still been out around the meadows with plenty of Thrushes and Jays around. A Merlin flew over the garden, over ADMc'c house towards St. Mary's church. Kingfisher and Dippers have been almost daily sightings at Highford bridge. This morning I went to Ashington to see the Waxwings, the light was poor and the birds wouldn't keep still but they were a delight to see. On the way home I visited the local ponds and although the water levels are high there was a good selection of common wildfowl. At Linton a Kingfisher was flying around the east pond and two Jays were feeding along the old railway line. Above two of my favourite wintering birds Waxwing at Ashington and Wigeon at linton pond.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Last of the flood pics

I promise no more flood pictures after this post following the september 6th deluge. When I wander along the Wansbeck I am still amazed at huge ancient trees lying uprooted along the riverbank. It is not only ancient trees that have been dislodged and deposited further downstream but ancient telephone boxes too!

Friday, 17 October 2008

An Autumn Tale

Reading Boulmer birder's blog the other day and the comment from Newton stringer reminds me of a typical Autumn tale. I don't twitch anymore but I still like to see a rarity or two locally but I love the common stuff as well. In the early nineties in October I remember a fall like I've never seen since. The spectacle was unbeleivable with thousands of chiefly Thrushes dropping out of the sky and filling the fields and bushes of Newbiggin. Falls like this happened every autumn so it rapidly turned out to be the silly season. This particular day was exceptional for a few reasons. The excitement of all these birds made it possible for a rarity or two to be found and also the understatement of the century came from one birder because no-one had found anything decent. This birder came up to us through the mist of thousands of Redwings, Backbirds, robins and Fieldfares plus a variety of common Warblers, Waxwing and a few Long-eared Owls and said 'It's a bit dead isn't it? Unbelievable. He went off to Holy island to hopefully find a first for Britain. The point I am making is that despite these conditions everything doesn't have to be rare.
Today I came across Beefsteak fungus and Spectacular rosegill. Good finds for me but they equate in birding terms to finding a Bullfinch. I have included a pic of two Carrion crows; great birds with loads of character you can see the shadow of my head. However, back to reality and visual migration (I still can't bring myself to use the shortened version) has been good over Morpeth with dozens of redwings, Siskins and today my first Fieldfares. Fabulous birds with the 'Chack chack' piercing the morning cool air is always a delight to hear. Kingfisher and Dippers(2) are back on the river. Maybe it's time for a pint.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Autumn fayre

Spent my days off around the meadows as I haven't had time to go to the coast this week. I have a few days off next week so hope the weather becomes more suitable. The south westerlies have brought some lovely sunny weather but nothing of note flying over. There are still a few Blackcaps around feeding on the berries and lots of Nuthatches but no sign of Autumn migration this week. The woodland floor is very autumnal; I have had a couple of Fox sightings and the usual woodland and river birds but there is plenty of Fungi around the woods. The above pics are Wood blewits, a couple of fingi that I'm not sure what they are exactly but I think they are Common bonnet ( Mycena galericulata) and Clustered toughshank (Collybia confluens), still a few flowers out like this White dead nettle and a pic of the Wansbeck at Borough woods flowing fast where it used to be almost still and the Horses back at Abbey mill after the flood water subsided.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Islands in the stream

Some more pics to bore you with of the damaged weir and some of the tons of gravel and stone deposited at Highford bridge. This has altered the course of the river to a point, leaving plenty of islands to hop over if you want to cross to the other side. Despite damage to many trees some of the fruits such as the resilient Elder appear unaffected. Cottingwood is coming up trumps with the best of the autumn fungi with some fine specimens of Fly agaric.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Up the Wanny

A dawn walk through the Borough woods to see some of the damage the recent floods have done. The force and weight of the flood water has taken out huge trees from the riverbank and deposited thousands of tons of stone and gravel creating islands and large shingle beds. I have posted a few pics from this morning. The Wansbeck looks tame and innocent today but almost a month ago it is hard to believe just how high the water level became. The debris on the trees on one of the pics was about twelve feet above my head. There are numerous 'beaches' along the river and one stretch which used to be deep and slow moving is now running fast and shallow with tons of gravel to step across. This will be great for anglers and I wonder if Common sandpipers will drop by next spring
Around the meadows the last couple of days I have seen several Blackcaps and 180 Pink footed geese flying south. Plenty of fungi about . The above pics are Parasol mushroom (Macrolepiota procera) and Slender parasol (Macrolepiota mastoidea) near Cottingwood.