Abbey Meadows

Abbey Meadows

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Whooper swans at Longhirst flash

Three of the four Whoopers at Longhirst flash at 5 pm.

Adult Whooper preening

The lighter nights mean that I can get out a bit more through the week when I am on my early shifts. I quickly looked at the ponds to the east of Morpeth starting at Linton but despite 100's of Gulls bathing there was nothing unusual among them. Two Foxes emerged from the thick Gorse on the railway sidings. Bothal was quiet except for a flock of 45 Goldfinches but a handful of wildfowl on Longhirst flash included 4 Whooper swans; 2 adults and 2 immatures. Okay not the numbers that have been seen in Druridge bay but a good year bird for the patch.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Along the Wansbeck

A calm river Wansbeck at Chapel woods.

Back to work tomorrow after a bit of a break. The only problem with time off when you don't go away is that there are always chores to catch up on. I didn't mind doing a bit of gardening but up the ladders cleaning the guttering out is a different story. However, I managed to see a few birds while I was up there; 2 Curlews and a Redshank flying west and circa 90 Pink footed geese flying north are birds I wouldn't have normally seen.

The Wansbeck around Morpeth has seen the best of the wildlife today. The woodland floor is beginning to be carpeted with Ransomes (Wild garlic), Cuckoo pint and Lesser celandine (above). Two Roe deer fed in the paddock at High house oblivious to me and Bennyboy this morning and at Highford bridge a single Dipper fed in the 'rapids.' A Kingfisher flew upstream; a first this year for me and further along at Lowford bridge two Kingfishers noisily chased each other. I'll have to stake these out to get a picture. Finally at Oldgate bridge a nice drake Goosander had joined the resident female but kept it's distance as I tried to get a photo.

Spent some time at Linton sifting through the gulls but Lesser black backed being the only noteworthy one. Quiet at Longhirst flash but plenty of wildfowl at Bothal including the Green winged teal. All the Teal were very vocal and active except the GWT which was sleeping while I was there. 2 Tree sparrows were in the trees here.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Winter aconite

Visited Boulmer birder's new cottage in Howick today. Work in progress but when finished a fine place to live in an enviable location. Excellent area not just for birds but one of the best coastal locations for flowers and other wildlife. We watched three Buzzards from the kitchen door and a singing Mistle thrush on the wing. I don't think either of us have heard a Mistler singing on the wing before. No doubt Stewart will come up with some good sightings and discoveries and rewrite some of the history books for that area.

On the way over I noticed Denwick churchyard awash with yellow and white of the Snowdrop and Winter aconite. Winter aconite is quite scarce south of the Coquet but a fine display at Denwick meant I had to stop for a few shots on the way back.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Back to Bolam

A quick walk into Morpeth via Carlisle park for an overdue haircut. The melted snow has thrown up a couple of surprises in the way of a sudden spurt of growth of Wild garlic which is quickly beginning to cover the woodland floor and my first Lesser celandine flower. There is still quite a few Velvet shank fungi at the Curley kews end where there are more rotten Beech stumps. The swollen river appears to have moved the Goosanders on, probably temporarily.

Back to Bolam lake where the Smew still favoured the middle of the lake and made photographing it almost impossible. Plenty of other wildfowl here including a drake Gadwall. A much nicer day today and on the way a single Tree sparrow at Newton underwood but I couldn't pick out a Brambling among the Meldon Chaffinches. Usual woodland birds at Bolam but the Nuthatches are always a pleasure to watch. On the way back I called in at Angerton but it was fairly quiet. Most of the ice has disappeared from these inland lakes so most of the wildfowl are dispersing as the temperatures rise. Some of the pics above were taken by my daughter who was feeding the swans and geese.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Catching up

A little bit of time on my hands this week (just a little) so time to try and catch up with a couple of ducks in (ish) the patch. Yesterday afternoon caught up with the Green winged Teal at Bothal and a few birders I haven't seen for a while. Chatted to Bob Biggs, Mike Hodgson and I think Blyth birder. The GWT was sleeping on the bank and when the birds were spooked it turned around into an unidentifiable position. The birds were spooked because there was a Peregrine in the air which flew over the pond just as Bob was driving off.

This morning I went to Bolam lake to see the Smew. A bit too far across for a decent photo then the rain started. I might pop back along tomorrow again. On the way home I stopped at Meldon for another rare sight; a stubble field! dozens of Starling, Wood pigeon, Redwings and Fieldfares as well as 400+ Chaffich and several Goldfinches and a Grey partridge feeding in just one corner that I could view.

This afternoon I was in Amble harbour but the only white winged gull was an adult Meditteranean gull on the little shore. Another party of 100+ fieldfares were at Ulgham on the way home. Not a good day for pics the GWT and the Smew were too far away so I've posted a cropped shot of Goldeneye on Bolam.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Velvet shank

The current prolonged cold spell has brought a profusion of Velvet shank to the woods around Morpeth. They are bright, attractive fungi that need cold and frosty weather to stimulate their growth. They survive under several inches of snow and they can withstand being frozen solid for weeks! They are very well named and apparently edible.
I have just finished work and I am on holiday for over a week so I should get out a bit more. The only birds of note this week were three Tawny owls calling at 6am on Thursday morning opposite the house.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Cold snap

The snow that fell on friday night left a few centimetres on Morpeth. An Oystercatcher was feeding on a bit of greenery under a tree opposite the house and still two Goosanders on the Wansbeck in the town centre. The partially melted snow from yesterday froze overnight and at dawn this morning the temperature was -4.5. I started at the frozen wastes of Pegswood moor. The sunken lake was frozen and of note here were 64 meadow pipit and a similar number of Fieldfares.
Next stop Linton and a walk through the north woodland produced little except for two Snipe. Most of the two ponds were frozen but the west pool had plenty of wildfowl including 158 Teal and 6 Shoveler twirling phalarope like; I'm not sure if this is a feeding frenzy or some kind of courtship ritual. A flock of about 700 Wood pigeon flew SE over the pond.
Homeward bound, I chatted briefly to Stef Mac checking the gull flock for the Newbiggin white winged rarity but no joy here and rare visitor who had been watching Tree sparrows at Ulgham. Longhirst flash was totally frozen and birdless and local fields held large numbers of Gulls and Rooks.

Last stop Bothal. Most of the pond frozen with most of the wildfowl on the south east corner. Plenty variety with 144 Wigeon. Highlight were 2 Tree Sparrows that showed interest in the nest boxes in the trees. I took my life in my hands negotiating the steep Bothal bank swathed in black ice on my way home!

Above pics of a snowy Morpeth common and Bennyboy enjoying some ice, Tree sparrow at Bothal and a Wren in my garden.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Scaup at Angerton lake

Just enough time to squeeze an hours birdwatching in before work yesterday. I went a few miles west to Angerton lake. 90 per cent of the lake was frozen but a small area of unfrozen water in the middle held good numbers of wildfowl. Presumably some of these birds may have been frozen out elsewhere. A quick count of Teal 126, Wigeon 28, Canada goose 73, goldeneye 8, Mute swan 10, Little grebe 10, Mallard 12 and 2 Scaup among 29 Tufted ducks. As I am a field away from the lake the cropped shot of the Tufted duck was the best attempt I had at capturing the Scaup.

I drove back by Scots gap and Rothley crags where there was a few inches of snow lying about but not a BBC reporter in sight! At Longwitton 8 Yellowhammer among the Chaffinch flock and a dozen Red legged Partridge. How times have changed since I first started out in the seventies where Yellowhammer flocks were too large to get an accurate count and Red legged partridges didn't exist!