Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Hardcastle craggs

A cloudy Day spent at Hardcastle Craggs. To be honest, there was nothing happening in the woods, or on the river. But on one of the mill ponds, the top one there was a dipper hunting and swimming in the pond, It didn't seem too phased by my presence and so I was able to photograph it and watch it.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

One Windy Afternoon On Soil Hell

After a session of prolonged revision, I decided that ti would be necessary to get out of the house for a walk. As it so happened, there were a large number of snow buntings (9) reported on soil hill. I am normally dissuaded from going to soil hill due to the atrocious weather conditions, and today was no exception, except I had more of a drive. However, once on top I began to realise why I avoided this place with the speed making walking forward difficult.
Once on top, I began to wonder where the birds were, and where to start looking. However, circumstances took over very quickly. It started because I spotted a cloud that looked quite interesting, so I decided to take a photo of it. I took the photo, but when I checked it I saw those wretched words-NO CARD! There are no words to describe the emotions you get from seeing those words when you've spent 20mins walking up here. But then, as I was screaming out in annoyance and frustration, I spotted some small movement about 2m away, and saw that there were a pair of snow buntings right in front of me. There is a sense of despair that falls on you in this kind of circumstance, no camera, but the bird right in front of you. I spent 5mins admiring them, before I decided to go and get my card. However, there was now an issue with time, as the sun was going down, so light would be a problem.
So I began running as fast as I could go, in order to save time. I made it home in 7mins, which was pretty impressive, grabbed the card and headed back up. However, running down the hill is far easier than running back up it. After the first stage I was bent over, and the continued walk was painfully slow.
However I made it back up to the top, calmed down since from my departure. I went over to where I had seen the buntings but they were no longer there. I walked round the top and again found no buntings,
I gave up then, because the light was getting worse, and I had seen them, so it was all good really. But as I rejoined the main track the same pair flew out in front of me. It was an incredible relief, and began to watch and take photos.
After 5mins of watching the pair, they flew off a few meters away and I saw that they had joined a group of other males, bringing the total of birds up to 5, a reasonable percentage of the 9.

-Snow Buntings

So there are happy endings in birdwatching after all, and after such a disastrous start to the trip, I managed to view the birds and take photos. My second snow buntings of the year, and the first time this year I have seen more than one together. Its great, because they are such nice birds.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011


Spotted a pair of goosanders on the canal as we drove through hebden bridge today.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Bolton Abbey

A family day out at bolton abbey. The weather was pleasant but not very warm. we walked up the river to the cafe and then back again.

-Grey Heron
Fishing on a bend in the river, it was still there when we walked back down


This male was fishing on the river near to the actually abbey

This dipper was also hunting near to the goosander


On the way back this kestrel was hunting in the feild near the cafe. It was quite close and not particularly shy


Most of the small birds were in one area, There were blue tits, great tits, coal tits, a couple of nuthatches and a treecreeper


So overall it was a very interesting with plenty of birds

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Northumberland long weekend Day 2

Our final day in Northumberland, and the weather remained unchanged, grey and chilly. As is normal when we go to this region we decided to go to Seahouses. Last time here we had plenty of turnstones and eiders. The difference being that we were later in the year, and that it wasn't horizontal rain this time.
As we were driving along the coast road, I was disappointed to see that the tide was out, and so I imagine that the turnstones would be out as well. As I arrived in the harbour I looked over the sea wall to see if my suspicions were correct. They were to some degree, but one turnstone had hung around nearish the wall. It was about half way between the sea wall and the sea, although my photo was pretty poor.

This turnstone was unfazed by my being there. It started having a wash in a rock pool, between two gulls.
I walked down the pier/breakwater to see what there was. I spotted at the end a bird in the water, so I went up to see if it was a diver or rare sea duck, or an eider. However I was pleasantly surprise to see that it was a shag when I arrived. If I recall, this is my first this year, which is quite late all things considered.

Moving back up up the pier I looked at the gulls along the side, for potential iceland or glaucus gull. However the most unusual that I managed to find was a greater black backed gull.

-Greater Black backed Gull
On the other, harbour pier I was delighted to finally find some eiders, a handsome flock with a nice mixture of males and females. I got a great view of the eiders, and they even approached me despite being a few meters above them. Then I saw that the eiders moved away from me, towards a young family feeding them on the slipway opposite. They then started feeding them bread, so I decided to go over there, to be at eye level with them. I did and enjoyed listening to them "Awooo" comically, and also take some great photos of them. Unfortunately they all started moving away as soon as they realised I had no bread.
After about 15mins of doing my best to entertain the eiders, I decided to try and find my family to get some real bread. After about 15mins looking for them in seahouses I eventually managed it and got hold of some bread, AKA my lunch. I returned to the eiders and again enjoyed photographing them and feeding them, great views of such great birds. Here is a compilation of the eider photos I took.

I returned to my family and walked around the harbour with them to see what was around. At the turnstone area, I spotted a herring gull flying with some seaweed dangling out of its mouth, then, as it landed nearby, it became clear that it was not a piece of seaweed, it was a giant butterfish. It started bashing it against the sea wall, but was rudely interrupted by a mob of black headed gulls. I only managed one photo, sadly though it has it back to me.

-Herring Gull
Moving on, We walked onto an area of mud and beach on the southern side of the harbour which was far more natural. There were plenty of birds around here, oystercatchers, redshanks, grey heron and a handful of ringed plovers on the harbour mud which was nice, the first I've seen this holiday.

-Ringed Plover
We moved back to the car for lunch, and moved it from its current parking spot into an area where we had a great view of the harbour and the sea. As we were eating lunch we attracted a great deal of attention from a variety of gulls, herring and black-headed, who feasted on the scraps that I threw for them.

-Black Headed gull
the gulls left for a few mins to feed on somebody Else's lunch, and in that time, a very handsome winter plumage starling turned up and started picking up the scraps. The gulls started drifting back, but seemed reluctant to start feeding again. It was odd to see the gulls being reluctant to feed on some food being fed on by a starling.

-Starling, seemingly hording the food
After lunch we headed down towards Newcastle to see some family Friends, but first we would be going to big waters to see if there were any birds or otters. When we arrived we spotted a marsh harrier soaring above us. Besides that there were a few things to see, but they were all distance, there were shoveler, teal, whooper swans and cormorants.

-Marsh Harrier

so ends our long weekend on the Northumberland coast.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Northumberland long weekend day 1

As my brother and I had an extra two days added onto our weekend due to teacher training days, we decided it would be an idea to go up north to see some Friends. Initally we wanted to go up for the whole weekend. However, something else came up (FC Halifax vs Charlton Athletic) I requested that we go up after the match for the two days. so we drove up on Sunday evening. It was a long journey, tinged with defeat, but eventually we arrived at the holiday cottage of some friends that we were using in Wooler.
The first morning was cloudy and gloomy, but the tide was right, so we decided to go to Lindisfarne for the day because we hadn't been for a while, a while being a few years. As we drove over the mudflat you could see that it was there was going to be a lot of wildlife to see. we parked the car and headed into the small town so that we could reach the dunes and hopefully see some seals.
As we joined the path we could see a pond, as no sooner had we arrived did a flock of brent geese fly in. Its the first time in at least 5 years since i have seen these, so it was great to see them and get a record shot. Unfortunately they were quite a way out, so I didn't get a great view I would like.

-Brent geese
However, looking at the geese I had overlooked a group of about 6 curlews right in front of me feeding in a sheep field. They were really close, so I was able to get some great views of them.


As we walked down the hedgerow lined we were joined on either side by feildfares and blackbirds feasting on the hawthorn berries. unfortunately they were too flighty for a me to get a photo, so I have no record of them.

in a field opposite us I spotted a flock of starlings, with a few curlews in with them. Sadly they all took flight as we arrived so we didn't really get a great view.

-Curlews and starlings
Shortly after that we arrived at the dunes. If I was honest, I was disappointed with the lack of birds we saw whilst crossing the dunes, but we did see some spectacular lichen formations and also a caterpillar of some description, which did seem rather late.

so after a short walk across the dunes, we arrived at the beach where my dad said there would be a seal. How naive we were, there wasn't a single seal anywhere. However, for me at least, there was quite a few interesting birds on the sea to make up for it. There were large groups of cormorants roosting on rocks slightly further out. but there was also a mixed flock of goldeneye and eider on the shore. We were viewing this from the cliff top, hence the dodgy camera angle. I looked at every bird to make sure i wasn't missing any king eiders or long-tailed ducks, but I wasn't in luck.

However one of the eiders didn't quite seem to be behaving properly, and no wonder, as when i actually checked it out, it was the bobbing head of a grey seal, so there was a seal in the end anyway.

-Eiders and Goldeneyes
We decided to walk back the long way, along the coast to the bird hide. I said that I would walk on the beach, while the rest of my family walked across the dunes. Good thing I did too, because I spotted a small group of waders on the shoreline that I didn't immediately recognise. I took a photo and then had a look, and saw that they were bar-tailed godwit, a bird I haven't seen since i knew what to look for. before then, any godwit was casually considered one or the other without proper I.D. But since i learned what I was looking for they have all been black tailed, so it was nice to associate with the other godwit, probably for the first time.

-Bar Tailed Godwit

I followed them up the beach, as they kept moving away from me, as birds generally do, until I lost them onto a natural rock breakwater. Then I spotted my family walking along the beach too so I went up to them. My dad said that my brother had seen a pair of short-eared owls in the dunes, so I went with my brother in an attempt to try and track them down. we walked round the dunes for some time. We tried to use the height to get a vantage point, and on top of one of the dunes, we found a rather nice common frog.

-Common Frog
We continued to look for the owls, but it looked increasingly unlikely as we headed deeper into the dunes. However, just when i was at the point of giving up we found them, and up they went. Only this time I would be able to see where they went. However, it wasn't as simple as that as they continued to fly even without being spooked, until I just decided to try and get them in mid air. The photos don't represent how close we were to the birds, but they are a reasonable effort at a record shot.

-Short eared owl
In case you hadn't guessed, we did manage to find both birds, but sadly we also lost them, and decided to leave them to it. As we headed over the bird hide we spooked a small mammal, mice or vole or summit, so there was clearly plenty of food for the owls.

At the hide we had lunch. However most of the birdlife was on the other side of the pond. That included shoveler and teal, those being the main attraction. However, as we neared the end of lunch a pair of teal appeared in the small pool in front of us, so I was able to get some shots of the encounter. it was also good because it let us appreciate these beautiful birds, at such close quarters.

-Common Teal

After lunch, we left the hide and walked along the coast towards the holy island castle. At a point where there was a small dip and shorter grass along the seafront, I flushed a small passerine. my first though was that it was a linnet, but the white bars on the wings made me realise my mistake almost immediately. I then had an excitement attack, as i realised that it was a snow bunting, only the second time I have ever seen one.

While these thoughts were going around my head, the bird moved a few meters further up the path, which I was relieved about, as I didn't want to not a get a view of it. I crept up, eating the distance between me and the bird, but there was no real reason for stealth, as the bird was seriously bold. But I didn't know that, so I spent five minuets creeping up. Only when I was less than 1m away did I realise that maybe the bird didn't care. It did, however, allow me to get some great record shots that I wanted. sadly the overcast Sky's meant that I had to alter most camera settings, leaving me with some shots that were not as good as I wanted. Even so, it was still a great thing to see, and for only my second ever...Not bad.

-snow bunting

I eventually left the bird, although rater reluctantly due to the fact that I might be pushed for time, and that my parents had never stopped, but carried on walking on a different path.

As I walked towards the car park I passed the pools where that morning there had been a flock of brent geese. Just before i reached the pool, a pair of brent geese flew right over me, sadly too close and quick to get the photos I wanted, but I managed to get a close record shot.

-Brent Goose

As I mentioned before, I was about to pass the pool, where sadly there were no brent geese, but there was a grey heron fishing in a small drainage ditch, and also a few other wildfowl species that were unrecognisable for this distance, and with no bins...

-Grey Heron
I caught up with my parents, and we started to make our way across the causeway. it was almost high tide, so most of the shoreline birds were being pushed up towards the road, so we got some great views of birds. No sooner had we left the island than we saw a flock of brent geese, feeding offshore.

-Brent geese

furthur on the causeway where we would be nearer to where most shorebirds would have been feeding we found the wave edge dotted with hundereds of wading birds, dunlins, redshank, godwits and curlews. It was quite cool to see, although we knew we diddnt have long to savour the experience.


-Wading Birds


-wading birds

Nearer the mainland we spotted a group of four red-breasted mergansers fishing nearer the shore

-Red-Breasted mergansers

-Wading Birds