Tag: Great Spotted Woodpecker
Saturday saw a change in our normal Safari routine, and an early afternoon start. I collected Gareth and Ruth from the Red Lion at Alnmouth and we drove south. The hot, sunny weather had brought out hundreds of people to Plessey Woods but we still found a peaceful, undisturbed glade where we could listen to the birds singing and we watched a female Great Spotted Woodpecker; at least we were able to watch her until she realised that we were! Cresswell Pond produced a real avian soap opera as a Mute Swan defended his pond against two interlopers, racing across the pond like the Spanish Armada. A Little Gull was as cute and dimunitive as ever, alongside Black-headed, Common and Herring Gulls. Druridge Pools was hosting some obviously confused geese; amongst the expected flock of Greylags there were single Pink-footed and Barnacle Geese as well. A late finish concluded with a beautiful, ghostly Barn Owl and at least 3 different species of bat along the River Coquet at dusk.
Sunday was a day for doing whatever we felt like. With temperatures still soaring, a day inland, doing survey work for the BTO Bird Atlas, was considered then rejected in favour of a visit to the coast.
Sarah had the excellent idea of taking a boat trip around Coquet Island, which I was really enthusiastic about. When myself and Tom Cadwallender from the Northumberland Coast AONB were designing the backdrop for this year’s Birdwatching Northumberland stand at the Bird Fair we chose eight species that we felt symbolised Northumberland birding; Curlew, Eider, Pale-bellied Brent Goose, Golden Plover, Black Grouse, Roseate Tern, Dipper and Puffin. A mix of everything that’s good about birdwatching in Northumberland; inland, coastal, summer and winter. I had images of seven of those species, but the Roseate Tern is the one that I haven’t photographed during the digital age. Hence, my enthusiasm for a trip around Coquet Island; with 35-40 Rosies already back at their Northumberland colony I was hopeful that photo opportunities would arise. As we sailed across to the island onboard Shokwave, there was a strengthening NNE breeze and the temperature began to decrease rapidly. Once Dennis manouvered the boat into the jetty, we could see Roseates sitting on their nest boxes. They were a bit distant for photography so I waited patiently until I heard the distinctive ‘choo-it’ call and a bird flew by the boat.
Grey Seals popped their heads above the water to look at the boat, Puffins whizzed past at breakneck speed and more Roseates were busy displaying around the boxes.
After a pleasant Sunday morning cruise it was time to return home. En route, we stopped off to check a Little Owl nest site and one of the adult birds sat staring at us from the roof of a derelict building. Finalising the paperwork for a forthcoming project was followed by a wonderful evening sitting on our patio, drinking wine and working on part of our bonsai collection as Blackbirds were singing from our trees and Coal Tits collected food to take to the noisy, and hungry, nestlings that we could hear. Now, that’s my idea of heaven
Monday was the second classroom session of the NHSN Lichens and Bryophytes course. On Sunday, while I was out with Sarah on a walk through three atlas tetrads in Harwood, we found some interesting colonies of Cladonias lichens on the upturned root edges of some windblown Spruce. As the lichens course is currently looking at Heath and Moorland, and specifically at Cladonias, this was a chance to put the classroom practice into a fieldwork context. The two most frequent species were C. macilenta (‘Devils Matches’), and C.sulphurina (‘Greater Sulphur-cup’). Unfortunately, the weather was a bit on the harsh side, so it wasn’t possible to take any photographs of the lichens in the field. Never mind, that’s just a reason to go back and have another look on a brighter day
The atlassing itself was a bit esoteric. During the entire 9 miles through the forest we only came across 6 different species;
Common Buzzard 3
Great Spotted Woodpecker 2
Common Crossbill 103
With temperatures hovering around freezing and 8″ of snow still covering over a mile of the footpaths and tracks, it was no great surprise that there were so few birds. Also unsurprising, throughout those 9 miles of beautiful, windswept, snow-covered Northumberland we didn’t encounter any other walkers. They don’t know what they were missing
We had a leisurely hour of birdwatching yesterday morning. With all of the feeders stocked with top class bird food from Poltross, and a bacon and egg butty and a mug of coffee in hand, we settled down into our respective positions on either side of the kitchen. With commentary on the dismantling of Andy Murray in the background, binoculars were trained on the feeders, the ground, the shrubbery and the Ash tree. After a slow start, things began to gather pace and we finished with 76 birds of 20 species;
Collared Dove 4
Wood Pigeon 2
Carrion Crow 1
House Sparrow 1
Blue Tit 2
Great Tit 3
Coal Tit 7
Willow Tit 2
Long-tailed Tit 3
There were a few absentees as well, all seen regularly in the days leading up to the Big Garden Birdwatch;
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Maybe 25 species in 1hr is a target to aim for in our garden next year.
The last few days have been fairly quiet, although quite varied. On Thursday I was at the North Northumberland Tourism Association AGM at Paxton House. On arrival the car park was close to full, with just a couple of spaces not occupied. I reversed my Mondeo into one of them, thinking that the snow sounded very crunchy, and went into the meeting. For me the highlight of the event was a talk by Laurie Campbell, covering things that he’s photographed in and around North Northumberland. Returning to my car and the inevitable…it wouldn’t move anywhere with the wheels spinning on the snow. Luckily Chris Calvert from Bamburgh Castle was leaving at the same time and, along with Verity from the Grace Darling Museum, he helped to push the car clear of the snow. I wouldn’t have had that problem in the Landrover…
On Friday I chaired a committee meeting of the Southeast Northumberland Tourism Association. As a new project, all of the committee are putting in a lot of effort and our AGM will be in February, the website should be up and running soon and we’re designing a leaflet to highlight the tourist attractions in our area.
On Sunday we carried out our WeBS count (a week late but the Birdwatching Northumberland Press Trip coincided with the scheduled count date). Northeasterly winds at the start of the month have deposited huge volumes of sand a long way up the beach (and along the footpath in Cresswell village) almost to the height of the dunes in some places. The highlight was a loose group of divers on the sea, 15 Red-throated, 2 Great Northern and 1 Black-throated. As we approached the Chibburn mouth, the end of our survey section, Sarah commented on the sheer walls of sand next to the Chibburn as it wound it’s way down the beach. Not surprisingly, Sarah took the sensible approach and walked well away from the edge…at least I earned some brownie points by removing Sarah’s ‘scope and tripod from my shoulder and throwing it clear as the sand gave way beneath my feet.
Now I’ve got a day in the office and it’s gloomy and overcast. Two Jays and a Great Spotted Woodpecker are in the apple tree and Siskins have started visiting the feeders (after merely flirting with the boundary of our garden earlier in the winter). Lesser Redpolls are still around the edge of Choppington Woods. Can we set a new high total for our garden when it’s the Big Garden Birdwatch next weekend?
No, not a post about the culinary delight I conjoured up yesterday for Sarah (butternut squash stuffed with bacon, blue cheese, garlic, creme fraiche and honey) although that was a bit of a milestone in my domestication
No, it’s a post about an unexpected bounty that our garden birds are reaping currently. I usually try to fill all of our bird feeders just as it’s getting dark, that way the birds don’t get disturbed (not that it seems to bother some of them – Coal Tits will often just move to slightly higher branches in the apple tree, Robins seem to have no problem sitting just a few feet away). Inevitably some seed gets spilled. There’s also a reasonable amount of seed on the ground because the Coal Tits will sit on the feeders and discard anything they don’t fancy at the time. With several days of snowfall over the last few weeks this was creating something that I hadn’t realised; layers of food sandwiched between each successive snowfall. Now that the thaw is well under way, although there is still plenty of snow down here on the low ground, these layers of chilled bird seed are being exposed. 30 Chaffinches have been under the tree for most of today, and 8 Greenfinches have been around as well. After a complete absence of sightings in recent weeks, a Great Spotted Woodpecker has returned to the garden. At least one Brambling is still making sporadic appearances and the Blue, Coal and Great Tits are almost too numerous to count. As we’re feeding in parts of Choppington Woods, and some of our neighbours have well-stocked bird feeders we might expect numbers to decrease but we’ve got more birds now than in the depths of the snow and ice last week. Time to refill the feeders and dream of a rare thrush, bunting or accentor
OK, not quite, but since December 31st we’ve had about a foot of snow in total. I cancelled our Otter Safari on Tuesday for safety reasons. That decision proved to be the right one as we had heavy snowfall on Tuesday afternoon, making the roads even more hazardous than they already were. I drove to Wallsend to collect Sarah from work, and the 13 miles took 80 minutes – and that was mainly on 3 of Northumberland’s major roads (A1068, A19 and A1058). Cars were sliding from one lane to the next and I’m amazed that I didn’t witness any collisions. We’ve been using the Landrover for the last couple of weeks so when Sarah wanted her car to drive to work yesterday we had to dig it out of the snow. I can’t recall having to do that in the 17 years that we’ve lived up here.
For the last day and a bit I’ve had a throat infection so I’ve stayed in the house. That hasn’t been a huge burden though as it’s allowed me to spend a lot of time watching (and filming) the birds around our feeding station. For as long as I can remember, birdwatching has been something that’s always been an option when I’m unwell. The Brambling that Sarah found on Sunday is still around, Long-tailed Tits are visiting much more frequently than they ever have before, the Blackbird count has risen to 9, at least 5 Robins are trying to hold dominion over the patio and flocks of Siskin and Lesser Redpoll are patrolling the edge of Choppington Woods and the bottom of our allotment. Yesterday even a Goldcrest joined the chirping masses around the apple tree. With niger seed, peanuts, fat balls, mixed seed and windfall apples our garden is like an all-you-can-eat buffet. The one notable absentee from our usual list of visitors is Great Spotted Woodpecker, although we did see one in the woods on New Year’s Day. Has one of our neighbours set up a more attractive feeding station? We’d better raise our game, just in case.
The only big cosmetic change is the blog. We’ve opted for a contemporary look, and it adds a lot of functionality that we didn’t have access to previously. Embedding images and video clips is just one of those functions, so we’re going to make the most of that whenever the opportunity arises.
Much of the last few weeks has been spent at my desk, writing content for the website and checking links etc whenever Daniel has uploaded a new set of changes.
This means that most of my birdwatching has been focussed on one small section of southeast Northumberland; our back garden with it’s apple and ash trees, tangles of bramble, ‘wild’ allotment and ever-growing selection of bird feeders. Jays, Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Bullfinches, Willow Tits, Redwings and Fieldfares have all visited in the last few days and the cold spell we’re in currently is accelerating the bird visits to the garden. I still keep having this dream about Siberian Accentor…