Saturday, 25 April 2015

American Wigeon, Hollywell Pond 24/04/2015

Payed the American a visit yesterday afternoon, the yank in question being a drake American Wigeon which has recently settled at Hollywell Pond. 

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Burdon Moor 21st April 2015

After completion of yet another working day, I drove South to Burdon Moor for an afternoon/ evening of chilled birding in the sun.  The weather conditions were great, still and warm, and I began my wander around the wild upland that is Burdon Moor.
Yellowhammer was the first species I clocked onto as I left the car park, followed swiftly by Willow Tit, Chiffchaff, Blue Tit and Great Tit. I noticed a distant pair of Roe Deer grazing near a break in the wood to the South, seconds later they were disturbed by a cyclist heading my way. It wasn't long before they turned and disappeared off into the conifer wood.
I managed to see my first Newts of 2015, in the form of three Smooth Newts with two males and a female in a pond near the red brick wall.
My attention was drawn from the pond to a nearby post where a Chit Lark was perched, ever observant. An older folk name, the Chit Lark is of course a Meadow Pipit or 'Mippit' as I've noticed most birders seem to call them.

I finally nabbed my first Wheater's of 2015, three females and a male were hanging around an area of scrub. This migrant quartet were not too confiding, keeping their distance and eventually disappearing into a field over to the West.

A good number of Golden Plover flew overhead, great to see them in their stunning breeding plumage, despite how distant the flock flew and every now and again a Lapwing would zip overhead emitting that most extraordinary of calls.
The rest of my time at Burdon was spent looking for Owls, after a decent wait I was treated to a hunting Long-Eared Owl near the entrance car park until it headed off in the direction of the moor. Unfortunately all my photos were subpar at very best!
Stunning to always.

Nature North East / The Northern Owl Project 

Sunday, 19 April 2015

A Little Abnormality: The Curious Case Of A Local Little Owl

I was observing a pair of Little Owl today when I noticed something rather intriguing about one of the birds.
As you can see from the cropped image below, one of the owls has a deformity to the upper and lower parts of the beak, with both being unusually extended and curved.
As readers to this blog and those who know me personally will know, the petite bundle of feathers with an angry scowl that is the Little Owl is my favourite British bird. Which made the deformity even more of a surprise and a first for me.
I had heard about and seen photographs of other birds, such as Blue Tits and Parrots, with abnormal bill defects but never an Owl.
The deformity aside, this individual seemed to me to be in good health and this defect clearly isn't a life or death hindrance to the birds survival given how long it has clearly lasted with it.
It survived as a fledgling, successfully reached maturity and subsequently found a mate. This is one tough cookie and I have fingers and toes crossed that this pair will breed this year.
Watch this space....

David Dinsley
Nature North East / The Northern Owl Project

Monday, 13 April 2015

Greenery, Greenshank & A Garganey

Sunday became a rather dull day swiftly after 9am. The heavens opened and the rain came down hard and heavy, long overdue I suppose after a great week weather wise.
It's a pleasure to see greenery beginning to finally take back a colourful hold over the landscape of the North East.
As much as I relish the bleak look that Winter brings with it, the return of Spring is always welcome and this year its return has felt long overdue.

I had just finished writing up my latest blog, 'Amphibious Amplexus', and the sun had resumed its place in the now clearing sky when I received a text from Gordon, saying there was a Greenshank at West Hartford, Cramlington.
I decided to head over for a look whilst the sun was still out.
Sure enough when I arrived it was wading around the margins of the larger pool, joined by a Redshank and after a few minutes an Oystercatcher pair. A good number of Lesser Black-Backed Gulls were present around the pool and in the Eastern distance, high up in the sky two Buzzards were circling in the deep blue sky.

Unfortunately my lens struggled to capture any decent photographs of the distant Greenshank, hence the above image being heavily cropped. Next stop larger lens!
I watched the birds milling about the pool, the Skylarks which sang in the air above me and a Kestrel hunting over the rough grassland of West Hartford.

Then a text from Gordon.............Drake Garganey @ Arcot

Upon arrival Gordon pointed out the drake, my first ever. Arcot has played a blinder for me recently, now if only I could find the elusive Green Woodpecker!
The Pond had the Garganey, a single Greylag and Canada Goose and the usual suspects. Over the pond hunted 20+ Sand Martin, cracking considering there was a single bird on friday. Amongst them a few Swallows zipped over the fields and waters surface.
The usual 'primary feather missing' Buzzard was again present and a Kestrel made a few appearances whilst I was there.
Not a bad afternoon.
Nature North East / The Northern Owl Project

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Amphibious Amplexus

Love, or should I say 'mating instinct' was in the air at Bollihope Quarry last weekend. There were masses of Common Toads in and around the quarry pools and, unfortunately, masses of people around the vicinity as well.
There were morons chucking stones into the water, teenagers picking up Toads and one idiot even start plodging through the water.
The lack of respect some people have for nature is infuriating!
Now for those unaware the amplexus, in the title, refers to the mating hold which the male Toad uses to clasp the female during the mating process. Its derived from the latin, meaning embrace.

Nature North East / The Northern Owl Project
Notonecta glauca, I believe.

Lastly, here's a shot of one of only a small number of 'Alive' Toads I've seen on my local patch this spring. It seems the local Corvid's have been taking the opportunity of easy pickings.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Patch Platinum: Arcot Pond Osprey

Upon finishing work on Wednesday afternoon, 8th April 2015, I headed across to my patch (Arcot Pond & Grasslands) and was greeted with my first Swallow and Sand Martin of the year. I had a scan of the pond from the southern field and was pleased to see the drake Pintail was still present on the Northern side of the pond. The newly arrived Chiffchaffs provided a none stop soundtrack of 'Chiff-Chaffing' to the patch and a few Toads were noticeable as they marched through the grass in search of a good time.
I took a slow walk to the Eastern edge of the pond and sat in the reed bed for almost an hour and a half, completely chilled and watching life at Arcot go on around me.
I was just turning to leave and head back to the car when suddenly all the birds took to the sky. I presumed the local Buzzard was just passing through as it is usually does, that was until I looked up to see an OSPREY!! WOW!! My first ever osprey and on my patch as well, this was amazing and so unexpected. I suppose that's the thing about wildlife watching you just never know what is going to turn up and in that lies the thrill.
The Osprey proceeded to fish the waters in front of me, at times drifting thirty feet or so overhead. It was incredibly unphased by my presence flying much closer than even the Arcot Buzzard would ever do.
After a handful of fishing attempts, incredible to watch, and ten minutes of relentless mobbing by crows and gulls it swiftly headed North.

What an experience. What a Bird. What a patch treat! Wow!
(Shame about how overcast it was for photography)

Nature North East / The Northern Owl Project

Just to prove the Osprey was at Arcot ;)