Abbey Meadows

Abbey Meadows

Friday, 31 December 2010

Back at the tip

NE corner lagoons..still frozen at the moment

Mobile Finch flock...perhaps there's an Arctic in there!

The only shots I managed

Poorly looking Kestrel

This morning was my first opportunity to visit Widdrington tip since the snowfall. I was down at first light but no 'hoped for' Owl activity but by the time it was light there were plenty of birds about. The best of them were Fieldfare (18), Grey Partridge (6), Woodcock (1) and a flock of over a hundred Finches comprising Siskin, Goldfinch, Lesser Redpoll and at least 8 Mealy Redpoll. A female Kestrel looked unwell sitting in a tree and allowed me to walk straight past it. Three Hares also present.
No ambitious plans for the new year but I'm going to bash the local patch where I grew up for all kinds of wildlife during the year as well as keeping an eye on all things local. I'm sure regular visits could turn up Water Rail and Green Sandpiper at the tip...ambitious eh! Happy new year.

Monday, 27 December 2010

No end in sight

I know we are not the only region to experience snow and sub zero temperatures but after a few weeks it becomes a bit wearing. It may look lovely but the practicalities of work, school and travel becomes a bit of a chore. The most frustrating thing is not getting to my favourtite places but there is a lot more water (or ice) to go under the bridge yet.

Pictured are a few snowy pics of Morpeth.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Arctic Tundra... but some good birds

Widdrington tip was like the Russian tundra with temperatures to match. Usually I see few birds when the 'carr' is frozen but there were plenty today. When I first went into the main Alder plantation I could hear a faint 'toot' of possibly a Northern Bullfinch. I recognise the call as I have seen and heard them before and I thought that it may be closer than it sounds unlike the heavier melancholic peuww of our own species. After five minutes I gave up as it went quiet and another species caught my attention.  Woodcocks began to fly in all directions. I only walked the length of the taller Alders and I counted 16. I took a few blurry shots but for real photos visit Richard Dunn's blog linked from Boulmer birder. There was a flock of 120 Siskin in here with about 15 Goldfinches but the star birds were Mealy Redpolls. 15 Redpolls flew over flying towards Stobswood but they looked like Mealy's in flight but I wasn't sure then I picked up five in the Alder trees and they were soon joined by another two. One of them was so white it looked almost like an albino!
A walk around the foot and mouth plantation produced small flocks of Fieldfare and Yellowhammers as well as 8 Grey Partridges. A Kestrel here was hunting unsuccessfully as time after time it went down it was straight up again with nothing. I can't imagine what any of these birds were feeding on as it was very cold and bleak. Other notables here were 80 Pink footed geese in the distance and 5 Snipe.

I decided to return to the Alder plantation to see if I could see the Redpolls again and try to get a pic but as soon as I walked in I heard the Bullfinch call again and this time I saw the birds responsible. Two male Bullfinches looked a bit disappointing, not by their beauty but they looked and sounded like our usual ones but I could still hear the faint tooting call and they were joined by a female which was a beast compared to the other two. Looking at it from behind the white rump completely merged into the undertail making it very bright and contrasting with dark primaries and a browner back. The views were brief as the birds kept moving and twigs and branches kept getting in the way. In the winter of 1995/6 me, Stewart and John caught a Northern Bully half a mile away in similar habitat, see Stewart's blog 'from the notebook' Nov 22 and Richard Dunn has calls of Northern Bully and our own resident species for comparison. I took notes and even drew them...thank God I don't have a scanner!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The time of the season...

...for Velvet shank. But you have to clear the snow to find it. There is a great Fungi stump in Abbey meadows and Velvet shank is thriving underneath the snow here but most of the stump was covered in Trametes versicolor or 'Turkeytail.' There is still over a foot of snow in the garden and I don't think me summerhoose roof will take anymore weight as there is no sign of the weather improving in the near future. I've included a few pics around the meadows. I don't know what the Bullfinches are feeding on but it looked like they were scraping lichen off the branches. Only notable sighting was a Snipe probing the deep snow.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Some snowy scenes

A few inches of snow had fallen overnight. I had a few things to do but had time to take a few pics around Abbey meadows and Carlisle park this morning.

Monday, 15 November 2010


Dunnock at Redpath

Redpath farm

The Cheviots with a dusting of snow

Conifer mazegill

Back in Harwood today and did an 8 mile trek around some of the forest trails. Lovely day but very cold. Best birds were Crossbills, 60+ scattered around the forest, Goshawk, Brambling, Siskin and Long tailed tit. There were many Jays, Chaffinches and single Buzzard. Notable was 9 Dunnock at Redpath cottage, probably the most I have seen in one place. Conifer mazegill was growing on old pines at Tod knowe, this is a good sighting as it is pretty much a Scottish species.
Yesterday I was at Widdrington tip and there was a large mixed flock of birds in Alders beside the entrance of 9 species including 30 Siskin, 12 Yellowhammer, 9 Lesser Redpoll and 7 Reed Buntings. Along the hedgerows which are still laden with berries were 60 Blackbirds and about 20 Redwings, probably new in. The Snipe were in the foot and mouth plantation (15).

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Morpeth Squacco...some pics

I've managed to squeeze in a couple of sightings this week before work but the weather was poor for photos. With the weekend off I was down by the river this morning and managed a few pics as it fed effortlessly out in the open. It was looking fine on this sunny November morning. It was also good to catch up with some birders I haven't seen for a while. I can't compete with the boys with the big lenses but I'm quite happy with the shots I got.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Not quite a garden tick!

After the bairns left for school this morning I was down to the Low Stanners and was met by Boulmer birder, AT + children, ST and ADMc. A great tale of the riverbank was about to unfold. We drew a blank to begin with as the Heron had not been seen for 15 minutes. Birders began to walk in different directions following the Wansbeck up and down stream but still no sign.
I was on my own not sure where everyone was and I slowly made my way past East mill and up towards the bridge beside the kennels but aware that I had to get home to get ready for work I walked back through Temple's fields and back to the bridge. A birder shouted 'Its in the air' and the Squacco Heron came into view flying upstram but dropped onto the river bank just 50m downstream of the blue bridge then flew a few feet closer before disappearing into the grassy bank. I waited a while but I had to head back home.
A wonderful sighting for the town but unable to get any photos. There were 3 Dippers here and a Tree Sparrow at Temple's farm but on my way home there were 4 Waxwings at Carlisle park opposite the leisure centre. Back tomorrow morning.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Garden ticks

When I went out to feed the Rabbit this morning  a Waxwing flew up from the top of the garden and into next door's Cotoneaster. It then flew into the taller trees and flew off west calling. I'd like to think it roosted in my big hedge overnight. When it was properly light I walked the dog around the estate but couldn't see or hear any Waxwings. When I got back to the garden there was another familiar call and looking up 7 Crossbills were heading east towards the town centre. Two good garden ticks...not that I keep a list.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Widdrington & Ulgham

With work getting in the way of things at the moment I have been out a couple of times over the last week. Last Sunday I was at Druridge bay CP and the dunes to Hauxley point. Despite the promising Northerlies the sea was disappointing and the only birds of note were 6 Whooper swans flying South.
On Thursday it was my turn at Ulgham meadows and woodland LNR to do some tidying up. The river Lyne was full and murky so a Kingfisher beside the road bridge next to the B1337 was a good sighting. At the highest point at Ulgham grange is an area called Tute hill. From here you get nice views towards Druridge bay and the stubble fields along this narrow road is always worth a stop. There was large flocks of Skylark here and smaller numbers of Yellowhammer and Tree Sparrow but there was a nice flock of 40 Linnets...something of a rarity these days. With the close proximity of the coast and the slightly elevated position these fields could pull in something like a Lapland Bunting so I'll have to keep stopping by. I'm sure it was these fields where ADMc saw a Crane earlier this year.

A small part of the Goldfinch flock at Widdrington tip

The foot and mouth plantation

Pink feets heading South

At Ulgham hundreds of insects on Ivy...I'm sure Dean knows what they are!

Yesterday morning I was back at Widdrington tip. Only 2 Snipe but lots of Skylark, Goldfinches 80+ and Redpolls 30+ and Grey Partridges this time (10). The more recently planted woodland where they buried the foot and mouth cattle is looking good and this was full of small flocks of birds. This is the highest point and visual migration can be good from here. There were 143 Pink footed geese flying South.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Harwood Forest...

A couple of pics of Winter's Gibbet, Steng Moss and a couple of views of Cheviot, Hedgehope and Windy Gyle from the Gibbet.

...Again...Another bike around the forest looking for the Shrike but it appears to have gone or it could have found a more sheltered spot. Very cold today with an overnight frost and only 1.5 degrees and all the puddles were iced up along the tracks. More Crossbills in the forest today and numerous Goldfinches and Redpolls. No pics of birds but good light for some scenic shots. Lots of Fieldfares over the forest in flocks of about 40 at a time, there was also a 100 or so in Elsdon. Just outside Elsdon were 2 Peregrines and another Peregrine was soaring with 2 Buzzards near Darden Lough. Back at home there were 5 Buzzards soaring above the garden...the most I've seen together at Morpeth.