Monday, 20 July 2015

Dusk At Arcot - 19th July

Yesterday evening I spent a still and relaxed couple of hours at Arcot Pond from sunset and into the ambiguity of twilight. 
The air was thick with Swifts, a sight I savoured knowing full well that they'll be heading back down to Africa soon enough. The last rays of sunlight lit them up as they fed on the masses of flying insects which gathered in thick clouds above the waters surface. 
A Grasshopper Warbler reeled in the distance, five Roe Deer fed around the pond perimeter, two of which were fawns, Common Tern darted across the water and the Shelduck family looked very well indeed. Moorhen searched for supper on the exposed mud bars around the pond, a pair of Oystercatcher fed up to waist height in the water on the northern edge and a lone Grey Heron preened itself underneath the ominous dead trees.

A beautiful evening for some down time on my patch.

Nature North East

Sunday, 19 July 2015

A Small Flash Of Blue

On Friday morning I was taken by surprise as I stood by the harbour wall of Seaton Sluice.
Something caught my attention as I peered down below, it zipped past the moored fishing boats of low tide and onto one of the mooring ropes.
It was a Kingfisher in all its bright, petite glory, unfortunately I wasn't ready for such a treat and neither was the SLR, the settings were off but I seized the opportunity and snapped a few photos before it flew across to the other side of the harbour and out of sight.
Next time you're at Seaton Sluice, have a look for that small flash of blue.

Nature North East

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Waders On Top

One of my favourite sights when up in a moorland habitat is that of wading birds perched proud atop a fence post or stood boldly on a dry stone wall. These are usually located by the side of a quiet winding road or gravel ridden lane.
The likes of Oystercatcher (as pictured), Common Snipe, Redshank & Curlew can usually be spotted taking advantage of a high point on the moors.
Providing us snap happy folk a chance to grab the cam and click away!

Nature North East

Friday, 17 July 2015

Arcot - Back In Bloom

It feels good to be back in the North East and to finally return to my patch; Arcot Pond & Grasslands. One of the soon to be 'few' wild areas of green space left in Cramlington, to cut a long story short there is proposed development in the majority of other wild areas. This is really grinding my gears at the moment so I'm trying my best not to think about the implications on local flora and fauna.
Just the whole notion of building on every available scrap of land sickens me and reminds me of the introduction of the TV show, The Animals Of Farthing Wood, in which a huge cement mixer pours concrete down upon the wood! 
Enjoy it whilst you can folks it won't be long before Cramlington's wildlife corridors are no more!
After an absence of a good couple of months I returned to Arcot and what a change.
Readers of my blog will be well aware how annoyed I was that several horses of suspect origin were dumped onto my patch earlier in the year.
Well thankfully they are but a memory and after a few months of not going to my patch, I was very surprised to return to a thriving wildflower meadow! I was concerned that the massive overgrazing would destroy the growth of Dyer's Greenweed, a locally uncommon plant species which grows in abundance at Arcot. Amazingly, it's returned this year in force along with multiple Orchids and other wildflower species!
The water level of the pond was very low, so low in fact that in certain spots Swan Mussels could be seen sticking out of the water. Lapwing and Oystercatcher were present, along with the Shelduck and Mallard families. The solitary Common Tern chick was noticeable on the far side with the adults being very attentive and regularly fishing and diving at any large Gull that was bathing or getting too close for comfort.

Sedge Warbler were more often seen, rather then heard around the margins of the pond and both Blue-Tailed and Common Blue Damselfly were seen, sadly no larger dragonflies were noted. I know of a few local dragon hotspots which I intend to investigate.

Its good to be back!

Nature North East

Buff-Tailed Bumble Bee?
Volucella Pellucens; Doing its best impression of Linda Blair from the Exorcist!
Common Spotted Orchid
Common Blue Damselfly

Blue-Tailed Damselfly
Common Tern about to dive!

Monday, 13 July 2015

Life In Macro

There's a whole world beneath your feet, so remember that as you tread through a wildflower meadow looking at the larger life which has struck your gaze, whether its a Kestrel hovering overhead, a Stoat zipping about in the distance or a Skylark singing in the morning sun, remember that there is 100 x more wildlife right at your feet.
Life that generally goes unnoticed and unchecked because it's so small and has numerous legs, and sometimes no legs at all.
Its a world creeping and crawling with alien life and must be given the same adoration that's given to our larger more friendlier looking British wildlife.

Nature North East

Sunday, 12 July 2015

In The Company Of Brer Rabbit

Recently I've had the opportunity to photograph Brown Hare on rough grassland in an area of very quiet farmland.
They're fascinating mammals with a somewhat majestic and mystical quality. Its no wonder they hold such a prominent place in folklore across the world, from the american tales of the trickster Brer Rabbit to appearing in one of Aesop's Fables. Brown Hare make for very compelling viewing, unfortunately I left it to late in the game this year to get any photographs of them boxing during the spring months.
The photographs on this blog are a small selection of my favourites taken out in the field.

I wonder if many wildlife photographers ever stop to think about where the subject of their capture is at present.
A living wildlife subject that has been immortalised and preserved forever within the confines of a digital photograph may have been predated moments after that final shutter click or may very well still be thriving out there in the wild and perhaps in somebody else's viewfinder right now.

Nature North East

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

The Phenomenal Farnes! - Part One

After an eleven year absence I finally managed to make a long overdue return to the Farne Islands on the eve of my 27th birthday. 
The Farnes are a definite right of passage for birders, naturalists, photographers and outdoor enthusiasts from the North East alike.  They provide one of those rare opportunities to get within literal touching distant of multiple species of wild seabird.
It's a full frontal, tour de force experience and yet another reason why the North East triumphs as a wildlife watching destination.

The day was a beautiful and warm one, long overdue as the summer of 2015 has been a shabby one up until recently.  We set sail not long past midday and headed out into the shallows of the calm North Sea.
As you leave Seahouses harbour and head out to the the island's you notice that slowly more and more birds appear in sight.  It began with a solitary Shag in flight and then a few Guillemot on the surface of the water, minutes later there are Guillemot, Puffin, Shag, Razorbill, Gannet and Gulls galore as we approach the dolomite stacks and prehistoric rocks erupting from the sparkling depths.

Guillemot & Kittiwake adorned the dolomite stacks like flies on shi......well, you get the idea. 
.....and the smell, oh wow, the smell! That fishy diet certainly has an aromatic downside!
After spending a good amount of time around the dolomite stacks we made our way over towards the seals near Longstone Lighthouse. Unfortunately our trip had coincided with the tide being in and in turn washing the Seals from the exposed rocks. we did still get an opportunity to see multiple bobbing heads in the water checking us out. I often forget how large a bull Grey Seal can be.

After another cruise around the other islands we made for land on Inner Farne and upon docking, headed up on foot from the stone dock towards the island.
First up - Arctic Terns; these relatively small sea birds have a beautiful black cap, red bull and stunning white on the underside plumage with very light grey feathers adorning the upper wing feathers.
The natural maternal instinct for the Arctic Tern to protect their eggs and young is so powerful that they allow you to get ridiculously close, and remember these are wild birds with a wealth of flying miles under their belts they've seen it all, so to get this close is a really rare treat.
Unfortunately for us human invaders this natural parenting instinct also drives them to become beautiful nightmares! 

Picture, if you will that now infamous seen from Hitchcock's 'The Birds' (1965) in which the school children and Tippi Hedren are running from the savage onslaught of a murder of crows!
Now, picture that, only swap the school children for smiling tourists of all ages and instead of corvids, imagine small Arctic Terns with white pointed wings and a much pointier beak!
If you've been you know how treacherous that boardwalk is from the boat and up to the chapel! If you haven't been but plan on doing so in the breeding season....good luck!

Upon avoiding 'World War Tern' and 'The Boardwalk of Doom' the battle for Inner Farne continued across the island's plateau where the avian onslaught gradually dies down and the atmosphere becomes a touch less frenzied, if that's possible on the Farnes.
It was on this part of the island that Puffin could be seen bringing in beaks full of sand eel and proceeding to take them down into their burrows for the young dwelling down in the dark.
Unfortunately the hard work of the puffins would at times be for naught as upon landing most were bullied by groups of Black Headed Gull and robbed of their fishy catch. 
This at times looked brutish and mean but at the end of the day it meant that the Gull chicks were fed, but because they're larger and not as cute we take an instant dislike to the gulls. 
Survival of the fittest remember, nature is cruel and we forget that living in our modern abodes with the joy of running water, WIFI and easily accessible food of our own. 

Coming up in The Phenomenal Farnes! - Part Two...
Close encounters with Razorbill, Shag and the unexpected appearance of a familiar cetacean.

Nature North East