Saturday, 13 June 2015

The Farnes

After being delayed we were relieved when the boat company said they were sailing so we headed down to the quay. We were booked onto the all day trip which meant we were landing on Staple in the morning then onto Inner Farne for the afternoon.

The trip over was a little choppy but we were fortunate to be sat on the 'right' side and stayed dry. First stop was a brief look at the grey seals hauled out on the rocks before moving to Staple.

The cliffs around were covered in breeding auks and the sea and skies were full of birds fishing and flying too and fro. The best thing was the views and such a good angle seeing them from the water. On landing on the island it was great to meet up with ex volunteer David and catch up on his recent adventures. Despite the island only being small, there was plenty to.fill the 3 hours we had.

We moved onto Inner Farne for the afternoon and despite being very close to Staple, the feel of the place was very different. Staple was very rocky with virtually no vegetation and doesn't have any breeding terns. Inner Farne is much bigger, but still small, and actually has soil so there is much more vegetation.

Before we even landed there were Arctic terns everywhere we could see the people from the boat before us being hammered by the terns as they walked onto the island.

Ed had said that the roseate terns had been hanging around the quay but one of the rangers said they hadn't been seen that day yet. We had a scan of the roosting terns but no sign.

I had heard that views of the terns were good but I hadn't quite realised they would be nesting by the path and in some cases even on the path! The views were immense and I'm sure I could have picked them up if I wanted to do. Everywhere you walked you had to careful not to step on them.

The birds had no fear of people and at the main viewpoint they were nesting right by the fence completely unconcerned by all the people taking their pictures.

We decided to walk back to the quay too check the terns when we bumped into Ed and Lana coming back from their day off. We were very lucky as they invited us into the tower where they stay and showed us the view over the island from the roof. It was a fantastic view and you really got an idea of the number of nesting terns.

Our time was starting to run out so we headed back to look for any roseate terns. Most of the birds were now facing us roosting but I did manage to pick out an adult bird asleep. It did wake up for a short while before the whole flock flushed and it couldn't be relocated. 5th tern sp of the weekend and a great way to finish.

I would highly recommend a visit if you get the chance.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Bamburgh by beach

Sadly the predicted strong winds did arrive today so it wasn't a complete surprise that the Farnes boats were cancelled.

We rejigged our plans and headed for Bamburgh and a look at the castle. The coast road wasn't that busy so we headed along the verge. It was very windy so birdlife was limited to singing reed buntings and meadow pipits.

Icecream outside the castle and a random half hour watching a croquet match. Really couldn't work out the rules.

We decided not to look round the castle but walk back along the beach. By now the wind was at its strongest and the blowing sand was horrendous but thankfully it was mainly at our backs.

Despite the tides being pretty high there was a surprise in the rock pools. One of the highest ones was freshwater, presumably rainwater, and was full of tadpoles!

Despite having hoods up and everything zipped up tightly, just about everywhere was full of sand!! Invigorating walk though :-)

Friday, 5 June 2015


Headed up to the Northumberland coast today for a trip out onto the Farnes over the weekend. Pretty easy journey up although all the A1 roadworks were a bit slow going. Red kite and a few kestrels were the only birds of note.

Weather was a bit murky on arrival but an increasing breeze cleared things up nicely.

Chilled afternoon of fish & chips followed by a walk around the local area. Great to see lots of eider families, nesting kittiwakes and a few sanderling.

Wind sounds a bit interesting tomorrow so fingers crossed!

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Plastic Fantastic

Could resist the lure of my favourite duck on the reserve today.

I have always loved white faced whistling ducks since I volunteered at Slimbridge many years ago and was lucky to see them in West Africa last year.

It was still slightly surreal to see the bird sleeping on the fresh marsh islands this afternoon. Clearly it was tired after its long flight north.

Didn't hear it whistle but if did briefly wake up for a stretch before bedding down again :-)

Thursday, 28 May 2015

100 up

I'm sure that I didn'tyt dream several years ago a conversation between myself, John Badley and Paul French about our respective garden lists and who would get to 100 bird species recorded. Well Paul moved away leaving John and I to race to the target. We have both been in the high 90's for a while but I have the delight of winning the speedboat prize we agreed on all those years ago. Well I think that's how the story went anyway!

Well I did make it to 100s species before John and the honour went to a calling male cuckoo that was around the estate calling early on Saturday morning.

Having moved into our current house on 2007 we have been steadily improving our garden for birds and wildlife adding a pond and masses of borders and shrubs. A small pond attracts stuff into drink and bathe. Probably the most important aspect to getting a good list is the fact we live in a bungalow meaning that we are not surrounded with other houses and there is lots of sky to watch. This is ideal for watching raptors and scanning through then winter goose flocks flying over.

Ringing in the garden has certainly helped and has added several new species to the list.

So what have been the highlights....

Little egret - flyover in 2009
2 records of both mute and Bewick's swans
Brent goose - 11 over in December 2007
Gadwall - 3 on 2010. The lack of any real water close by means the wildfowl list is only 9 species
Red kite is a regular sighting and probably bred nearby last year
Merlin - 1 in 2008
Pheasant - only 1 record in 2009
Moorhen - 1 in the garden over the last winter
Stone curlew - very lucky to have these breeding nearby and can hear them flying over the house on warm summer nights. Can even hear them from bed!
Green sandpiper - 2 in 2014 Like with wildfowl, very few wader species have been recorded with 7 so far
Turtle dove - 1 in July 2007
Waxwing - several flyover records to date
Ring ouzel - 1 flushed out of the garden in October 2013
Firecrest - singing male for a morning in May 2014
Spotted flycatcher - 2 records, one in 2008, one trapped and ringed in 2014
Marsh tit - 1 ringed in 2011
Nuthatch - 1 in 2010
Tree sparrow - 2 flyovers in February 2011
Crossbill - 1 in 2008

I have also decided to complete the Patchwork Challenge 'competition' this year from the garden with the aim of getting to that magical figure of 100 species. Now that has been achieved the next aim is to get as big a list as possible. Nearly 5 months into the year and the list stands at 54 species.

Not a bad effort really :-)

Pics of spot fly and reed bunting

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Fine phalarope

Like most wetland sites along the east coast we seem to be having a very poor spring for waders. So far we haven't recorded a wood sand this year and currently there hasnt been a ruff in May! Black tailed godwits have been non-existent along with dunlin. Water levels have been perfect for the last month so at least that reason can be ruled out ;-)

With a slight change in the wind direction, this week things have started to pick up with 2 Temminck's stints, a movement of tundra ringed plovers, 2 little stints and 5 little gulls.

Things improved further this morning when a radio message came through of a red necked phalarope on the fresh marsh. Having been too busy to go straight out for the stints (unlike others) I did dash down to check this one. The guy who found it actually saw it fly in from the east and drop down in front of him!
Despite the poor morning light, the bird showed well only 30m from the path but got increasingly mobile and spent most of its time in the middle of the marsh.
The light was very poor but I did manage to get a couple of poor phonescope record shots

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Streaky Shrike

After a very spring-like day which saw an almost constant raptor movement and the arrival of a good number of summer migrants, I decided to stop off in the Choseley area on the way home and check for wheatears on the ploughed fields south of the barn.

The best area is from the bend in the road to the south of the barns were there is a small area when you can park and watch. As i pulled up I noticed a pale bird in the hedge about 100m away. I was very surprised when I got my bins on it that it was a great grey shrike, not what I was expecting!!!!

I managed to get a few record phonescope shots before the bird moved further away along the hedges. At first I though the bird was actively on the move and it kept heading east long the hedges but eventually it stopped about 300m away and spent the next hour dropping down onto the field edges catching insects.

Couldn't quite believe my luck that I had the bird to myself despite putting the news straight out. Cheeky little self-find too