Thursday, 31 March 2011

Bulldozer, tractor, and.....

The title will make sense later on in the blog post so don't worry so much about it right this moment in time.

I havn't updated my blog for a while now so thought I would let you all know of my most recent semi-day out birding. It was a fiarly nice day on Saturday just gone and therefore thought I would have a look out somewhere in the afternoon and see if I could get anything added to my county year list, though with no signs of anything really interesting anywhere or any recent reports I was struggling of where to go. It was to late for Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, no Stonechats at Waldridge Fell just yet, no Willow Warblers, and I wasn't going to go chase something like the later species anywhere because in a couple of months I will almost certainly see one or fifty. So I checked BirdGuides after my dinner and was thrilled to find out a Crane had been seen at Saltholme RSPB, a quick text to Pablo (the Durham listing champ) and no surprise to find out he was there watching the bird. So I had two choices:
a) Say no to a Crane in Durham
b) Say yes to a Crane in Durham

So after a fuel stop I found myself pulling up along the road that leads toward the Calor Gas Pools, when I got out the car someone to my delight was standing looking at a bird in the distance. A quick lift of the bins revealed the colossal Crane being mobbed by a couple of Black-headed Gulls. Got my telescope out and had about 30 seconds on the bird on deck and then no surprise it started to wander around and get increasingly annoyed at the gulls and then took off. I had never seen a Crane fly before only ever seen a bird wandering around on the deck so this was a semi-tick and something I had wanted to see for a long while. I was not disappointed what a hugely impressive bird! It flew right out towards Billingham and I could still see the bird with the naked eye, it then came back on itself and disappeared behind Cowpen Bewley tip in the distance.My mate pulled up and was quite literally 10 seconds to late!  A quick check of the rest of the reserve gave me another county year tick in the form of Barnacle Goose and Little Ringed Plover.

(Crane (all) - © Ian Forrest

(Crane - © Ian Forrest

We tried to locate the bird by driving along to Greatham Creek car park but failed, however my mate came up trumps by spotting a Short-eared Owl hunting. A nice bonus! So that was the day. Shame my mate dipped the Crane but he had seen the cracking Lamesley bird two years ago so not so bad I guess.

All in all a cracking afternoon, I resisted the urge to go Gull watching. As much as I like standing around the tip at Seaton Common I resisted that day.

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

'Druridge Bay' Curlew

Rumors suggest the Drurdige Bay Curlew is going to be (or has been) kicked of the British List.

(Slender-billed Curlew)

So here's your chance to vote:

Monday, 21 March 2011


The female nasal banded Pintail that was at Rainton Meadows on Friday (18th of March) just gone ? Well John Bridges sent of the details on the bird and here they are:

Anas acuta, white F26
ringing place: A Lanzada, Complexo Intermareal Umia O Grove Nature Reserve, 

Pontevedra Galicia NW Spain 42 30N 08 52 W
metal ring: 6118143 sex: female age: 3
tarsus: 40.1


So she's a Spanish bird and is 3 years old, super! Not so super is the way in which the duck was ringed 
(nasal banding) but I am not here to rant about my views on nasal banding in this blog post.

(Pintail - Rainton Meadows DWT -  © John Bridges)

(Pintail male and female - Andrew Kinghorn)

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Winter still lingers like a vulture around a carcass, but only just

My terrible attempt at a bit of poetry, a nice few days away from work related stuff helped me to get my head together and get some birding done. Friday was the first day which I planned to do some Uni work on, it was lovely sunshine and on the afternoon I decided to go out for a couple of hours. I had planned to go for the Red Kites in Gateshead, however a phone call from local photographer John Bridges had me heading into the direction of Rainton Meadows DWT. The target was a pair of Pintail and a cracking summer plumages Mediterranean Gull.

(Mediterranean Gull - Rainton Meadows DWT - Andrew Kinghorn)

(Pair of Pintail - © John Bridges)

(Pintails - Andrew Kinghorn)

(Red Kite - Andrew Kinghorn)

Those with a very observant eye will notice the female bird is nasal ringed, more to come on that later! Apparently its a very rare type of ring and not many are seen in the UK. The next stop was Gateshead where I saw no fewer than 9 Red Kites!!! Then off home.

Saturday - 19th March
Spent my Saturday out with Derek C, Derek L, and Kieran L. We were at the NTBC field trip to Kielder Forest, special thanks to Derek L for doing the driving. The day started when we picked up a male and female Mandarin Duck sitting on a river on the way to the forest. These birds are truly wild, stop the car and they would have just flown off. Always superb birds to see.

Out first stop was a car park where we met the rest of the NTBC group and then we jumped into the car 30 mins later and headed to our first Goshawk location. Some of the first birds we had were a handfull of Sand Martins going though. Then from here it was nearly straight away a male Goshawk was picked up about 1 1/2 miles away! Then shortly afterwards another bird appeared and flew strongly north and then out of view. Whilst at this spot 4 Ravens kept us entertained as well as a few Crossbills and a few local Buzzards as they flew around declaring their territories. The lack of Sparrowhawks displaying was quite obvious, clearly 40 pairs of Goshawk put them off! One of the group picked up a bird about 50ft to the left of us flying over a close group of trees. Bins and scopes up onto it.....GOSHAWK! It showed superbly well and this is by far the best Goshawk I had ever seen. See Derek Charlton's video below of the bird:
(Goshawk - © Derek Charlton)

WOW! What an experience, probably third best bird of the year for me so far. What a cracking way to start of spring. From here we headed up to the borders where apart from a couple of Buzzards nothing at all in terms of raptors. We then headed toward the forest drive where we went part way along the toll and we had excellent views of the local Buzzards and Crossbills. However whilst we were there a bird came flying in over some trees in the valley and I though "Osprey" when I first saw it, then it showed its black belly contrasting with white underparts, then the large white base to the tail with a dark tail band. It was at this point it became clear this was a Rough-legged Buzzard! Our group had found a Rough-legged Buzzard on a field trip on a days birding. Isn't birding fantastic! What a superb way to end the day.

(Crossbill - Andrew Kinghorn)

Now here's a video Derek Charlton took of me sleeping, the sly little 'so and so'........

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Spring is in the air

I love winter but even I have had enough of it now. Its been great with plenty of Gull watching and a superb unique opportunity's to study Redpolls and get to grip with the identification of these extremely trick birds.

But with winter on its way out but still lingering it can mean only one thing, its time for these bad boys/girls..........

(Goshawk - © Derek Charlton)

Keep tuned and hopefully I will be able to report back with good news................

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Turns out they do exist.......

Yesterday saw me going to Nottinghamshire with a few local lads, 3 of us had never seen our target species before and the other lad had only seen his first 6 days previous. We arrived at our destination of Rufford Abbey Country Park at around 7.15. On getting out the car I picked up a distant Green Woodpecker but it appeared to move closer so we went off for a look. A short walk along a path and a bird flew from a tree in a field in front of us and into he deeper cover of the wood. This was a year tick for me and I always like to see woodpeckers, a real problem if you believe in bird evolution by the way.

After seeing the Green Woodpecker we moved on deeper into the wood to look for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, nearly straight away the Lesser Pecker's diagnostic tell tale drumming could be heard but the bird flew past us and I missed it! Very frustrating, another 20 minutes or so of searching was fruitless. But I decided I would move a bit deeper into the wooded area incase birds had moved to avoid us, sure enough I picked up a small all black bird lying up into a tree. A few nervous seconds and looking and I picked the bird up on a tree and then it flew onto a tree where the top had fallen off exposing the top. I had superb views of my first ever Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. It was a female, whilst watching we noticed it displayed. It spread its wings as if going to take off, strange and a way I didn't know Lesser Peckers displayed. The bird flew off after about a minute, it was at this point when another bird took off with it and they both flew off. Smiles all around! We walked back to the car as we were all hungry, we had a snack and then walked off in a different direction to have another look for the Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers. We went to an area where it appeared the birds went to, one of the lads said one was really close on a silver birch tree trunk. He wasn't wrong as the bird showed itself, as well as a female bird higher up in the trees which also showed well. At one  point we weren't sure whether to watch the male or female bird. I opted mainly for the male and wasn't disappointed. After these superb views and some seed was got from the car I proceeded to feed the locals, clearly a poverty stricken area. Only kidding, by locals I mean the local birds. We had all the expected woodland species such as Jay, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Willow Tit (only kidding Steve, it was Marsh Tit) and a few other fairly common species such as Song Thrush, Great Tit, and such like. As the many local dog walkers and folk descended upon the park like a plague we left.

Special thanks to Steve Dunn for his info regarding Lesser Peckers. Cheers mate!

(Lesser Spotted Woodpecker - © Adam Williams)

(Lesser Spotted Woodpecker - © Adam Williams)

(Jay - © Adam Williams)

(Nuthatch - © Adam Williams)

Our final stop was Idle Valley NR where I had possible flyover Yellow-legged Gull as well as 5 Red-crested Pochards, 3 of which were males. Also had my first singing Chiffchaffs of the year, my earliest ever I believe.
(Red-crested Pochards - © Adam Williams)

I managed a half decent video:

All in all a cracking day with 4 year ticks and 1 British/Life tick.

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Foggy over the Durham Dales

Actually it was a really nice day over the dales, but I was over the Dales yesterday hence the title of the blog post. With my final compulsory assignment for the first year of University looming I had planned to spend the day working on it and getting half of it done. But on Tuesday night I had this urge to go and do some filthy county listing, I am passionate about Durham and the birds the county has had and will have in the future. Therefore I decided I would keep a county life list and sometimes a county year list just to see how well I do or don't do. With news of Rough-legged Buzzard coming on my computer and phone from BirdGuides on a fairly regular basis I had to go up and see them, or should I say try and see them.

So this morning I departed to the dales with two mates of mine DerekC and DerekL, as we started off and got into the dales we pretty much immediately had Red Grouse, a nice year tick and an attractive bird. For those of my readers who live dawn' sauth' a rarity. As expected in the Durham dales we saw quite a few, a Snipe flew across the road and provided a reminder it was only the second bird I had seen in Durham this year. Our first real port of call was the Great Grey Shrike that has been seen for a few days at Hamsterly Forest. We arrived at the car park and after a brisk 30 minute walk we were at the area the bird had been seen. DerekC glanced a bird flying across the path in front of us and it then flew into a stand of young pines, "Great Grey Shrike!" myself and DerekC saw it fly past briefly and it soon became clear why when a Forestry Commission jeep pulled around the corner. No doubt the bird has been flushed unintentionally from a roost and is now flying out to a feeding area for the day. Frustratingly it disappeared so we headed further down the path to where it had been reported the previous day. At first nothing and then I picked up a bird sitting on top of a dead tree. Grey, long tailed, "Great Grey Shrike!!!" I said in a panicked voice. The lads all managed to get onto it and we watched it for about 15 minutes, the first time we lost it we relocated it about 100 yards in front of us sitting on top of a tree! It did its typical Shrike behavior going to ground to catch prey and then fly back to a perch to eat it and look for the next meal. Images and video were taken of the bird before leaving. Success, what a superb bird as well. One of my favorites and was great to see one in proper wintering habitat. The walk back was also productive as I had my first ever county Crossbill, it was pretty much a flyover but at least I saw it.

(Great Grey Shrike - © Derek Charlton)

(Great Grey Shrike (taken yesterday) - © Mark Newsome)

(Not the Crossbills I saw sadly! - © Mark Newsome)

Our next port of call was the Rough-legged Buzzards, on arrival nothing for a few minutes and then myself and DerekL spotted a bird down in the valley. The birds nice white backside showed well as well as the paleness of the wings, we watched the bird for about 30 seconds before it disappeared and we didn't see it again, we tried numerous times throughout the day but failed to see any birds again. Frustratingly it was reported 15 minutes after our last attempt at 3.45 sitting on a dry stone wall.

(Rough-legged Buzzard (taken yesterday, probably not the same bird I saw but could be) - © Mark Newsome)

After our success with the Rough-legs we headed out in the general area where we had some cracking views of Golden Plover in a mix of plumages. But the highlight was 7 Black Grouse, all males and one bird nearly in full breeding plumage. Then we tried for the Rough-legs again, this time from a different position. DerekL and myself again picked up a distant bird that came out of the wood clearly not happy with the Buzzards. Far to large for a Sparrowhawk. So "GOSHAWK!" came from and excited DerekL the bird showed well although distant and it then headed back into the cover of the wood. DerekC said he had a possible Peregrine at the other end of the wood when he was trying to pick out our Goshawk. A couple of Common Buzzards showed well in the area but no more sign of any of the elusive Rough-legs. We headed out looking for Raven but failed, so we headed over Newbiggin and on the way back we had a superb displaying male Black Grouse with his hens in attendance. I had never seen a male Black Grouse displaying before so this was a first for me, superb to see!

On the way home we were stuck behind an articulated vehicle, at one point I said "Oh look at that buzzard", it was eye level back onto us. But it wasn't! It was a Raven! Another county tick, what an excellent end to a superb day in the Durham dales.

Loads of ticks; county, and year. I won't bore you with thoose details. If your interested keep an eye on my Bubo list (see right hand side of blog.)

Special thanks to Mark and Derek as usual for allowing me to use their images/videos on my blog.

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Foggy on Twitter

Hi all,

For those of my readers who have a keen eye will have noticed that if you look down the right hand side of my blog you will see my Twitter widget ------------------------------------------------------------------>

So if your on Twitter why not follow me? 

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Complex and detailed post on the ID of male Green-winged Teal

In this post I am going to do a complex and detailed description of the best way to identify vagrant male Green-winged Teal's that turn in the United Kingdom.

(Green-winged Teal with Eurasian Teal)

They have a horizontal stripe that goes down each side of the body.

This post is of course just a little jokey one, it isn't mean to offend anyone just to poke fun at myself and how I like to comment on some birds: Gulls, Redpolls, etc on a fairly regular basis. On a serious note I do hope you enjoy my serious little bird ID posts. :)

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

1st winter male Coues' Arctic Redpoll - Not so typical

This post will deal with one of the Coues' Arctic Redpolls at Rainton Meadows DWT that isn't so typical in terms of identification. This bird has been aged as presumably a 1st winter and sexed as a male bird. It is definitely a male bird as females never show the pinkish flush to the breast. This post will deal with why this bird has been ID's, sexed, and ages as a 1st winter male Coues' Arctic Redpoll.

(Coues' Arctic Redpoll with Mealy Redpoll - © Mark Newsome)
Note: Ground colour shows up well as being fairly buffy and this is typical of Coues' Arctic Redpoll. The bill also looks small and fairly pushed in, even at this angle! Fairly fat and bull necked appearance, another good feature that often points toward 1st winter Coues' Arctic Redpoll. Also note the pink flush, it isn't a redish or deep red colour. If any of your presumed Arctic Redpolls show this deep red flush forget it! Coues' Arctic Redpolls should only ever show a slight pinkish wash NEVER red.

(Coues' Arctic Redpoll with Mealy Redpoll - © Mark Newsome)
Note again how the ground colour is a nice sandy buff colouration opposed to the cold grey tones of the Mealy to the right. Note also that this bird has a broad, nice white wing bar. Some light buffish tones can be seen on the wingbar but this isn't a problem in Arctic Redpolls. If you also take note of the bill on the Mealy and then look at the Arctic, the Arctic's bill is much more pushed in and generally appears smaller opposed the the larger bill of the Mealy.. It gives the Arctic a 'flew into a wall' bill appearance.

(Coues' Arctic Redpoll with Mealy Redpoll - © Steve Cliffton)
Note the extent of the rump, the rump is white and the mantle braces extend right up onto the back. The rump is not as an extensive white as some Arctic's but its nothing like the Mealy Redpolls hanging around. Although the rump is fairly extent it isn't ideal, some black streaking above the rump enters onto the rump but fades out to nothing leaving an area of pure white rump. Note the pinkish wash to the base of the rump, again this is pinkish rather than red. This isn't a problem with 1st winter Coues' as they can show a pinkish base to the rump.

(Coues' Arctic Redpoll with Mealy Redpoll - © Steve Cliffton)
(Coues' Arctic Redpoll - Andrew Kinghorn)

Although the breast looks red on the top bird this is due to lighting, the birds breast is actually a pinkish wash (see above images). What I added this image for is the undertail coverts, note there is only one think streak on the undertail coverts. Arctic Redpolls should only ever show one fine undertail covert streak OR no streaking at all. This undertail covert streaking on this bird is a' ok'! If any presumed Arctic as several streaks on the UTC's that are fairly thick and obvious forget it, it ain't an Arctic.

Thanks to Gazza for providing this additional information on the undertail covert streaking of Coues' Arctic Redpoll:
- Coues' Arctic Redpolls can show more than 1 UTC streak. Some birds (mainly 1st yr females) show 3 streaks, 1 on the longest UTC with a streak on either side of that.

Flank Streaking
This birds flank streaking is interesting, it only has two fairly large flank streaks otherwise clean white. This isn't such a bad feature as the two dark streaks are not smudged, also some Coues' Arctic Redpolls can show some flank streaking. The more typical birds should show nice faint very thin flank streaks, two of the birds present at Rainton Meadows show this feature but this bird is slightly different. But this birds flank streaking I believe isn't so important when all other features are taking into consideration:
- Buffish tones to the face with no real contrast from ear coverts
- Overall ground colour a nice buffy colour and bird appears pale
- White on rump present, even if a small band of white rump is present. White braces extend right up onto the back on this bird.
- Nice small pushed in bill shows well even at a distance.
- Undertail coverts show only one single dark streak that is quite compact and more like a pencil line rather than an arrowhead like marking(s) that would be expected on Mealy Redpoll.

Want a bird that really messes with our heads? Check THIS BIRD OUT.

Until next time, Foghorn out!