Saturday, 24 April 2010

Reeling it in Foghorn style

Had a quiet day today with a nice early start to birding at about 1:45 in the afternoon. I had a nice walk from Great Lumley down to Rainton Meadows nature reserve that is managed by Durham Wildlife Trust. The best birds of the day I saw outside of the reserve.

I started of from the font door of the house and it was fantastic to hear the Swallows that are now back in the housing estate. I headed off over the fields and after about 5 minutes from my house my first Whitethroat of the year gave itself away as well as Dunnock and a few Yellowhammers as well as a few Skylark singing. A female Kestrel put in a brief show near the area where a new pond has just recently been discover by a fellow birding friend of mine.

From here I went straight to Rainton Meadows and arrived at about 2:15. I texted Cut’n a Long Story Short to ask him if he knew any good spots for Grasshopper Warbler (it’s his local path you see). I must have just put my phone in my pocket when the very distinctive call burst out in the distance “Drrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr”. Grasshopper Warbler! I headed straight for the area and was soon standing about 100 yards off. It was playing and taunting me for a while as I turned my back walked a few steps and it would start reeling again but as soon as I turned around it would be silent. After about 30 mins I gave up and was sick of his silly mind games he was playing. I did have some cracking views of Willow Warbler and a Jay whilst waiting to see the Gropper.

I headed down into the nature reserve itself and headed for pool 1 in search of a Sedge Warbler but unfortunately no joy. I then headed for the freezer (the hide) and only had 2 Little Grebe, Coot, Canada Goose, Herring Gull, and I think a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls (can’t remember). A nice surprise was 2 Common Sandpiper that were nearly a year tick for me. From here I headed over to Joe’s Pond (he’s never there) but I had cracking views of 2 male Blackcaps as well as a Chiffchaff singing right above me. I saw some cracking birds and I thought it would be best to go back for one last go for the Gropper (Grasshopper Warbler if anyone is confused). I was walking back and bumped into (not literaly) another friend from Durham Bird Club. After a bit talk she departed and I was back on my way to the Gropper site, however I was stopped again by some people asking if I had seen anything and after about a 5 minute talk I headed for the Gropper site.

I arrived at the Gropper site and silence……………nothing at all. Stood right in front of the vegetation it was calling from and nothing. I walked on a little bit and I heard it only very briefly. I approached the vegetation quietly and cautiously and there wasn’t a sound from the Gropper. I had been texting Cut’n a Long Story Short earlier in the day and he said: and I quote “Roll ur tongue on the roof of ur mouth to make a loud drrrrrrrr sound.” I had been practicing around Rainton Meadows when no one was around to try and perfect this so I could try it when I got back to the site. So when I was staind there and no sound from the Gropper I tried the call and waited and then nearly straight away it burst into song. A bird flittered past and landed on the edge of a dense bush “Drrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr” I quickly got my bins up and got a brief 5-10 second view if that of the Grasshopper Warblers head reeling away. Very stupidly I moved to try and get a better view and it ducked down into cover. I moved closer to the bush when it was still reeling and no sign. I then move further back and stood on the edge of the vegetation and all the crunching and snapping of sticks was quite loud and it went silent. I waited for another 15 minutes or so looking into the single bush it was in but it never made another sound. It might have moved without me knowing though.

I backed off to leave the bird in peace and range Steve Evans (Cut’n A Long Story Short) and told him that what he told me to do worked! He burst into laughter down the phone and said “I was only pulling your leg”. I was so happy to have seen the Gropper as it was my first out of the hand (Only ever seen one being ringed before). So it was really funny that even though Steve was pulling my leg it actually worked. Was it a fluke? I think so but I will try that again some time to see if Groppers actually think my terrible impression is one of them.

Year List Updates:
162 – Whitethroat
163 – Blackcap
164 – Grasshopper Warbler

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Spectacular Speyside

This blog post is about my epic three days of birdwatching in Speyside.

Friday 16th April
The days started off with the long drive north to Speyside to begin our three days of birding. The best birds of the day we had on the way to Speyside! As we were going though Lothian I spotted an Osprey from the bus window and we had quite good views as it flew over the bus and we also had good views of another the headed away in a different direction. We got up to Speyside late in the afternoon and headed straight for the Cairngorm mountains, we scopes them and picked up a single male Ring Ouzel as well as Red Grouse and as we left a Raven. Sadly no Ptarmigan! I wasn’t surprised but was disappointed. From here we had a go for Crested Tits but sadly dipped on these and only got a whole load of Chaffinches and a single Siskin calling.

Saturday 17th April
A nice early start after about 1 hour of sleep and I was up at about 3:30-4:00 in the morning. We headed for the Capercaillie lek at Loch Garten RSPB. As soon as we got into the hide they had already located a male Capercaillie displaying and I had some cracking views (though distant) as he displayed and had a wander about, although brief I did get some cracking views of it as it walked about. Also we had the two Ospreys at Loch Garten. From here we went to try for the Crested Tits at Loch Mallachie and I had good views of 1 Crested Tit as well as fleeting glimpses at other possible Crested Tits. From here we headed for the Cairngorms, we climbed to the summit and we didn’t see a single bird. We headed back down to the top centre and we asked the person where the Ptarmigan where and he said they were quite a distance away and that there were sadly no Ptarmigans. We started heading down the mountain when one of the lads on the tip shouted me and a few others back. We came running back up through the waist deep snow and there was a cracking male Ptarmigan sitting behind a rock. We then found 2 more sitting a little bit further away, however the first one that was found was much closer and we got some cracking views of it. I also spotted what I thought was a plastic bag that had blown away from the ski centre but it was actually a fully white Ptarmigan! So we saw 5 Ptarmigan overall but sadly no Polar Bears. On the way to the next locations we had an adult male Goshawk displaying from the bus window!

We headed on from here and went to go and see the 2 summer plumage Black-throated Divers. What an absolutely stunning bird these were. We also had a summer plumage Red-throated Diver and Common Sandpiper whilst at this location. We also went to Loch Ruthven were I had cracking views of Slavonina Grebes as well as 1 Osprey and 3 Sky dancing Hen Harriers! I missed a Peregrine falcon here but that didn’t really matter. We then headed for the Short-eared Owls and were rewarded with views of the birds really high up wing clapping! Our final stop was for the Black Grouse and we had 1 female briefly. What a cracking day and by far the best days birding I have ever had.

Sunday 18th of April
We got up at about 6:00 and we headed for the Crested Tits and again I had at least 1 Crested Tit, the views were not as good as Saturday but I still saw it. We then headed for the Ospreys at a site were the nest is really close to the path and I had fantastic really close views of the birds. I headed back to the bus after watching them and we were informed a Golden Eagle had just been seen! I had good but distant views of the Golden Eagle as it soared about being mobbed by a Goshawk! We then left Speyside and headed for Musselburgh were we had 1 White Wagtail, a few Velvet Scoter, and 2 Long-tailed Duck. All in all a cracking three days birding.

I hope you enjoy the photos and thanks to everyone who has allowed my to post there photos here on my blog.
(The Lads - I'm 4th from right)

(Osprey - Andrew Kinghorn)

(Crested Tit - Derek Charlton)

(Osprey - Derek Charlton)

(1 of the 5 Ptarmigan - Derek Charlton)

Life List Updates:
235 – Capercaillie – 1 male at Loch Garden RSPB
236 – Crested Tit – at least 3 at Loch Mallachie
237 – Ptarmigan - 5 at the Cairngorm Mountains

Year List Updates (not in order):
152 – Osprey – 2 in Lothian on way to Speyside!
153 – Black-throated Diver – summer plumage but can’t remember name of the location.
154 – Slavonian Grebe – Loch Ruthven RSPB
155 – Long-tailed Duck – Musselburgh in Lothian
156 – Velvet Scoter - Musselburgh in Lothian
157 – Ptarmigan - 5 at the Cairngorm mountains
158 – Capercaillie – 1 male at Loch Garden RSPB
159 – Common Sandpiper – same place as Black-throated Divers.
160 – Crested Tit – at least 3 at Loch Mallachie

Monday, 19 April 2010

Garganey - Rainton Meadows - 19th of April

I got a text from Steve Evans and Derek Charlton today (19thApril) who informed me that down at Rainton Meadows nature reserve that Garganey was present! A bird I have dipped twice already this year. Thankfully I finished college early and my mate took me in his car to see them. At first they were distant but then went to feed in the reeds and disappeared briefly before reappearing and then they flew closer to the hide. Then when I tried to find the birds again for one of my non birdie friends to see they just simply vanished! They must have just flown away! Perhaps to another pool or just flew away all together.

I managed to grab a record shot of both the male and female.
(Female and Male Garganey - Andrew Kinghorn)


Thursday, 15 April 2010

The past week

Saturday 10th of April
I went out with my Mum and Dad on Saturday to Harwood Forest in Northumberland. Sadly I didn’t see the Great Grey Shrike that I wanted to see, on arrival I was informed it caught a big lizard at 9:00am and hadn’t been seen since. I was also informed I had missed 3 displaying Goshawk! I did see a cracking male Crossbill and a Buzzard or two flying around. All in a wonderful day but sadly not so good for birds.

Monday 12th of April
I started the day of early and went to help my friend Stewart on his times tetrad for the BTO. I had a good 2 hour helping him out and I had my first Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers of the year and a Black Redstart. That’s right a Black Redstart, it was a self found bird that I was quite chuffed with myself about finding it. It was a bird that was really far inland for a Black Redstart. It’s only 1 of about 6c in the past year and a half found far inland in Durham. From Stew’s tetrad I headed up to the Northumberland Coast in hope to see the Garganey but sadly we didn’t see them and they weren’t seen at all that day. However we had a cracking fly over from a Marsh Harrier at Druridge Pools which was fantastic to see.

Today (Thursday 15th of April)
I was out down Teesside today with my friends for a days birding. Out first stop was Saltholme for a few hours. We had some good birds though it was quite quiet however a male Yellow Wagtail was fantastic to see. We also had fantastic close quarter views of a European White-fronted Goose.

(White-fronted Goose - Saltholme RSPB - Andrew Kinghorn)

(White-fronted Goose - Saltholme RSPB - Derek Charlton)

From here we headed onto Greatham Creek where I had my first ever 2 White Wagtails. We also had quite a few Avocet as well as 2-4 Little Ringed Plover. We headed along to the migrant bushes at the end of North Gare but apart from 2 meadows pipits there was nothing. Our final stop was Ward Jacksons Park where I had fantastic views of Treecreeper as well as good views of 1 Ring-necked Parakeet perched up and a quick flypast as well. Another good days birding.

(Little Ringed Plover - Derek Charlton)
Year list updates:
144 – Chiffchaff
145 – Willow Warbler
146 – Puffin
147 – Sandwich Tern
148 – Treecreeper
149 – Yellow Wagtail
150 – Little Ringed Plover
151 – Ring-necked Parakeet

I am off to Speyside tomorrow until Sunday night and I am quite excited. You will get to hear all about it on my blog when I get back.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Up the Durham Dales

I have had an interesting first week of college to say the least. Was up the dales on Wednesday and Thursday for some uplands birding. My target birds of the day was Ring Ouzel as I have never had a good view of this species in the field, I have only ever seen 1 and it was toward dusk and it was a female and the views where quite bad.

I had a cracking day on Wednesday and most of the activity happened around Waskerly Reservoir as well as Bollihope Quarry. I started of the day at Waskerly Reservoir were I picked up a Red Kite in the distance which is a nice bird to have out west in Durham. I also headed toward Langdon Beck and had brief but reasonably good views of 1 male Black Grouse. Then we went to Bollihope quarry and sadly we didn’t have what we went for. We arrived and we flushed a Woodcock! I had no idea what it was for the first few seconds but as it flew off its long bill and pot belly were apparent and I was overjoyed to say “Woodcock!”, only my second ever bird. We headed down toward to entrance of the quarry and say quietly and we only had a couple of Wheatears. The other lads headed off toward the entrance to the quarry and I followed. Stew said I had just missed a male Merlin come over the hill and flush 2 Black Grouse! Drat! I turned around to see a bird sitting ontop of a foliage free tree……bins up….RING OUZEL! I had a good idea what it would be as I didn’t expect to see a Blackbird staring back at me at this site. I had fantastic scope views of this bird and it was a real treat to see.

Thursday was raptor watching day and I had 2 very interesting birds but I am afraid for their safety I am not going to mention the species of their location. However I had other raptors and these were: Buzzard, Kestrel, and Sparrowhawk, as well as loads of Meadow Pipits, Grey Wagtail, and Grey Heron. A jet got me very excited into thinking it might be a White-tailed Eagle but then I realised I was just being very hopefully!

Till next time……

Monday, 5 April 2010

Who's the egret here?

The reason for my title is simple: we spent most of the day nearly ankle high in mud! I felt like a Bittern! lol

Was out with my Dad today for a good days birding. We started the day of visiting Druridge Pools in Northumberland. As soon as we arrived we headed straight for the Budge Screen and we were told that the Great White Egret hadn’t been seen since about 8:30ish and was last seen coming to Druridge Pools. I really didn’t think I was going to see it but my Dad suggested we walked to the other hides so we did. I didn’t think we were going to see the bird but as I was walking along the board walk I looked over the mound and there next to the hide right in close was the Great White Egret! A birder had just been in the hide and was coming towards us as were making our way to the hide. He asked if we had seen the egret and I informed him that I had just seen it outside the hide. He came in and saw it with me and Dad. I had a quick look in my bins and it was really close! I let my Dad have the bins whilst I set my scope up. He got some cracking views and as I was setting my scope up it took of and flew off toward the back of the pools and landed. I managed to relocate it in my telescope and got some cracking views for 10-15 minutes as it wandered around. A nice year tick for me.

We then headed up to look for the Common Crane at Eshott but sadly we didn’t see it. It must have been hiding away were I couldn’t see it. Oh well, you win some and you lose some (I may be back for round two).

We then headed over the Hold Island and we had a long walk around the Island and I managed 2-3 Wheatear. Toward the end of the walk near the town I had a single Black Redstart as well as 4 Brent Geese.

All in all a cracking day with some cracking birds.
(Distant record shot of the Great White Egret at Druridge Pools)

Till the next time......BYE! :)

Sunday, 4 April 2010

NO I didn’t see it………..

Sadly I did not see the White-tailed Eagle on Presswick Carr during its brief stay. I was very disappointed I missed it but still thrilled to know there has been one seen in the north east. Last record for Durham was 1915 so we are long overdue.

It headed over Ponty land (Ponteland – I just like saying it that way) and then wasn’t really seen again. It was therefore heading south. Did it come in County Durham? We will never know but my guess is that it actually did! It was seen yesterday at Leeming in North Yorkshire. So did it spent Friday wandering the dales of Durham?

Today it was reported at Flamborough Head in East Yorkshire and it then headed north to Bempton. Lets hope it keeps coming north…………

The past few weeks birding news

(Sigh) yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees.

Had a good few weeks but they have been very busy. Thankfully I have had some spare time this weekend as I am not sort of finished my ICT work and I am having my break. I just discovered these new things called weeeeek ends(?). I was out last Saturday with my friends and we headed up to Kielder Forest so I will start from there:

Saturday 28th of March
The day started of at an undisclosed watch point on Kielder. As soon as we got out the car I was rewarded with views straight away of a female Goshawk and my mate had a male in his scope. I was watching the Goshawk and asking my mate if he had it and he said yes and his instructions of what it was doing was different to my bird. Then it all soon became clear when I asked something like “Have you got two birds together now!?” and he answered yes and it was clear that it must have been his male Goshawk and my female coming together before they quickly disappeared and we never saw them again. As I was about to have some tea from the flask I heard a strange bird call behind me from the pines. I saw something at the top of the tree. I thought it was going to be a cone but I lifted my bins and COMMON CROSSBILL! A bogey bird no more! A cracking male Common Crossbill gave some pretty brief but fantastic views. Only saw it for about 1 minute or so before it flew off. We had loads of buzzards throughout the day as well as 2 Sparrowhawk. We had one last look at a spot where some lads had told us they saw Goshawk in the morning. On arrival we saw it was a good spot and had a look around and then fetched out scopes to have a look for Goshawks. On the way back with out scopes I spotted a Goldcrest and this was a year tick for me. We spent about 1 hour at the watch point and we had a whole load of buzzards and a few possible goshawks but with every one as soon as I got a different angle view I dismissed them all as just buzzards. THEN! Just before we where about to do a large brown raptor came up and I just knew looking at it that it was a goshawk quite structurally different from the buzzards having spent most of the day looking at them. It was way way off just like the buzzards I had been watching so was sure it was a goshawk and I stick by my ID. So three Goshawks was a good number for the day.

Sunday 29th March
Had a look out with one of my mates from Stew’s Crew. We went to look for the Great White Egret but had no luck however plenty of Avocets as well as Black-tailed Godwit which was a nice surprise and a year tick for me.

Saturday 3rd April
Had a look out to Hartlepool Headland and saw the Black-throated Thrush that was present. A cracking male bird and it showed really well on the ground but only very briefly and then it flew into a tree and I got ok views of it sitting in the tree. A Durham first and a county tick for me.

My year list has gone up quite a lot and I got 1 lifer with Common Crossbill. Some cracking birding days but haven’t had time to update my blog that much.

Going out tomorrow so I will update my sightings page on what I see.

(Black-throated Thrush - 3/04/2010 - Teesside - Andrew Kinghorn )