Tag: Greenfinch

North Pennines Wild Watch

by on May.23, 2012, under Birdwatching, North Pennines

We’ve had the first¬†two bird ID sessions for the North Pennines WildWatch project already, and both have produced some excellent sightings during the ‘in the field’ bit of the course.

The first session, at Eggleston, produced one outstanding bird – at least for those in the group who weren’t impatiently hurrying back for their bread, cheese and soup…as a group of us watched a Song Thrush gathering food, I looked skywards (a good habit to get into, you never know what could be overhead) and there was an Osprey ūüôā Bird of the day/month/year for those who were lucky enough to see it.

One of my favourite species rounded off the first session, and the second session around Muggleswick as well, as we watched Woodcock roding and chasing each other.  The end of the first session produced another exciting bird that was missed by the group that headed straight back to the cars, as a few of us heard, and then saw, a Tawny Owl.

Both sessions concentrated on identifying birds by song and call, with paticipants getting to grips with Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Blackbird, Blackcap, Willow Warbler,¬† and Chiffchaff amongst others, and the third session, at Lambley, will have the same focus.¬† I changed approach between the first two sessions, and I’m busy restructuring the course for the third session based on the teaching/learning experiences gained during the first two.¬† I knew there was a reason¬†we bought¬†a parabolic microphone (there’s a reason for everything, we just don’t always realise it at the time…) ūüėČ

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Here for the weather?

by on Jan.30, 2012, under Birdwatching, Holy Island, Lindisfarne, Northumberland

Just as I arrived¬†at Harkess Rocks to collect Andy and Helen for an afternoon of birdwatching around the Holy Island of Lindisfarne and the North Northumberland coast, the first drops of sleety rain began splattering on the windscreen.¬† We haven’t really had any sort of winter yet, apart from an hour of snow on December 16th, but yesterday afternoon did feel positively chilly.¬† Undaunted by the easterly wind and icy showers we enjoyed the wader and wildfowl spectacle that is the Northumberland coast in the winter.¬† Curlews¬† singing as they flew by must have a joie de vivre that lets them vent that emotional haunting call wherever they may be.¬† Other wading birds entertained as they probed, prodded and buried their bills face-deep in the mud; Grey Plovers, Bar-tailed Godwits, Redshanks and¬†Oystercatchers were all making the most of the exposed mud at low tide.¬† A big flock of Yellowhammers, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Tree Sparrows, House Sparrows and Reed Buntings held our attention for a good while and wildfowl were well represented with Shelduck, Eider, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Goosander and Pintail.¬† As we watched a very obliging Dark-bellied Brent Goose, it was a sobering thought that our wintering birds are generally here because conditions in the areas where they breed are too harsh at this time of the year.¬† Mammals were braving the cold too; 7 Roe Deer, a Brown Hare and 5 Common Seals made a not too shabby mammal list for the afternoon.

I often reflect on my decision to return to Northumberland from Arizona, and as we watched that lone Brent Goose, with¬†the biting wind¬†driving¬†waves of showery rain, were my thoughts of the warmth and sunshine of Tucson?¬† No, what I was thinking was that this is the weather I came home for…and the reason that good outdoor clothing is a necessity ūüėČ

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Feeding time

by on Feb.10, 2011, under Birdwatching, Choppington Woods, Northumberland, Photography

I’ve never been good at sitting in the office and concentrating on one task for any length of time.¬† Having an office window that looks out over the 76ha of mixed woodland of Choppington Woods LNR is a real blessing, allowing me to mix work and birdwatching.¬† When I need to stretch my legs, a quick trip downstairs lets me open the patio door and turns the kitchen into a very comfortable and convenient bird photography hide.

Our garden is currently hosting at least 8 Bramblings, along with Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Bullfinches, Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed Tits, occasional visits from Siskin, Redpoll and Treecreeper and regular fly-throughs by our local Sparrowhawks.

It’s a wonder I ever get any work done ūüôā

European Goldfinch, bird photography, wildlife photography


Chaffinch, bird photography, wildlife photography


Bullfinch, bird photography, wildlife photography


Brambling, bird photography, wildlife photography


Brambling, bird photography, wildlife photography


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Another big freeze

by on Nov.29, 2010, under Birdwatching, Choppington Woods, Family and friends, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Here we go again...

It’s hard to believe that we posted on the blog back in January about the big freeze last winter and here we are again in a similar position already before the end of November (although at least at the moment it isn’t so prolonged).

I went in to Newcastle last Wednesday for a seminar about the IMCORE project, and there was a bit of light snowfall.¬† When I came out of the Ridley Building an hour later the world was white, and it’s just gone on from that point.¬† After Sarah got home from work on Thursday evening the next time we used either of the cars was when we dug her car out of the snow this morning so she could go to work.¬† We’ve made the most of the last few days though; walking the 2 miles there (and 2 miles back) each day to visit a friend who’s now in a residential care home, doing most of the admin in 3 days that we would usually do through the winter (including adding all of our 2011 trips to the website) and finalising a couple of projects that we’ve been working on.

Birdwatching in our little part of southeast Northumberland has been interesting for the last few days.¬† We’ve got an ever-expanding flock of Coal, Great and Blue Tits, Dunnocks and Wrens are now ever present around the feeding station and a very optimistic pair of Collared Doves were mating at the top of the Apple tree earlier this morning.¬† Two pairs of Bullfinches are regular visitors but other finches are in short supply; there’s just a single pair of Chaffinches, we’ve only had one visit from Goldfinches in the last few days and, particularly worrying, we haven’t seen any Greenfinches around the feeders at all.¬† A Sparrowhawk is still regularly patrolling over Choppington Woods and a flock of 50-60 Redwings flies out from the woods each morning.

Now, after a morning of blue skies, it’s just started snowing again.

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All change

by on Mar.02, 2010, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

Over the last few days there has been a distinct change; now, when I open our patio door, I can hear Song Thrush, Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Robin all singing.  Last Saturday, even in the bitter cold and howling gale that was battering the Northumberland coast, our Druridge Bay Safari was enriched with birdsong.

Opportunities to get out and really take it all in have been limited.¬† I spent two full days last week getting my Outdoor First Aid certification.¬† While I was still teaching I had some First Aid training, but that was a picnic compared to an intensive two days where the trainers spend most of their time during casualty scenarios doing everything they can to get inside your head and see how you perform with your stress levels heading heavenwards.¬† It was curiously enjoyable though, and of course my wish is that I don’t need to put any of¬†it into practice before I’m due to renew my certification in three years time.

Another project which has kept me in the house has been choosing and processing the images that will grace the Birdwatching Northumberland stand at the British Bird Fair.¬† Finally we selected seven images of species that typify Northumberland birdwatching; inland, coastal and covering different times of the year.¬† And the species we chose?¬† Well, you’ll just have to come along and see us at Rutland Water between 20th and 22nd August.

Now it’s another stunning Northumberland morning; clear blue skies, a gentle breeze, cold enough to freeze the wotsits off a brass monkey…and I’m heading out for a day of birdwatching with clients.

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Big Garden Birdwatch

by on Feb.01, 2010, under Birdwatching, Surveys

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

Jackdaw 1

Carrion Crow 1

House Sparrow 1

Starling 7

Blue Tit 2

Great Tit 3

Coal Tit 7

Willow Tit 2

Long-tailed Tit 3

Chaffinch 14

Greenfinch 5

Goldfinch 2

Bullfinch 4

Goldcrest 1

Robin 6

Dunnock 2

Blackbird 5

Redwing 4

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.

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Layer upon layer of food glorious food

by on Jan.12, 2010, under Choppington Woods

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 ūüėČ

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 ūüôā

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All is quiet

by on Jan.01, 2010, under Choppington Woods, Photography

The world around¬†us was cloaked in white¬†as we walked home from The Swan early this morning.¬† A Tawny Owl was calling from the woods, but there was little other sound – muffled as it was by the snow.¬† By the time we woke up, there was a lot more snow than there had been when we finally fell into bed.¬† To shake off the lingering after-effects of Old Year’s Night we decided to take a walk around Choppington Woods, wrapped up warm and armed with a camera.¬† Photography, rather than birdwatching was our main aim, and that was fortunate as¬†there were a lot more birds in our garden than we encountered on the walk; Great, Blue, Coal and Willow Tits, Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Bullfinch, Robin, Wren, Dunnock and Blackbird were around the feeders and, bird of the day, a Common Buzzard flying north over our allotment.¬† Snow can make a relatively mundane landscape into a photogenic delight, but exposure calculations can be tricky and we spent a lot of time checking compositions and looking for obvious ‘lead-in’ lines.¬† As we made our way back towards home 350 Pink-footed Geese flew south overhead.¬† Moving ahead of more wintry weather maybe?

The view from our patio 01/01/2010

The view from our patio 01/01/2010

Willowburn Pasture and a frozen flood

Willowburn Pasture and a frozen flood

Following in a Moorhen's footsteps

Following in a Moorhen's footsteps

Choppington Woods pond from the new boardwalk

Choppington Woods pond from the new boardwalk

Sarah scanning the trees

Sarah scanning the trees

Footpath and fence along the Willow Water

Footpath and fence along the Willow Water

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A change in the weather

by on Dec.29, 2009, under Birdwatching, Choppington Woods, Family and friends

The feeders in our garden have been busier in the last couple of days than at any time during this winter.¬† No less than 6 Blackbirds have taken up residence, 3 or 4 Robins are posturing and defending territories, a steady stream of Blue, Great and Coal Tits, along with our¬†2 regular Willow Tits,¬†are emptying the feeders rapidly and a flock of 8 Long-tailed Tits are putting in¬†daily appearances.¬† Chaffinch numbers are way down on previous winters, but Greenfinches are now almost ever-present during daylight hours and three pairs of Bullfinches are never far away.¬† It’s interesting that, even on a very¬†short-distance scale, there’s such a noticeable movement of birds from their ‘normal’ habitat (Choppington Woods) to the gardens around the edge of the woods whenever the weather turns colder.¬† Birdwatching doesn’t get any easier than sitting in the kitchen, glass of port in one hand and a slice of Christmas cake in the other ūüôā

First thing this morning everything was frozen solid again.¬† However, by lunchtime when¬†Martin¬†took Dad to the railway station there was a noticeable thaw – even though the thermometer was showing the temperature having only just crept above freezing.¬† Then it started to rain and most of the remaining patches of ice and snow vanished.¬† The birds were still around in the numbers of recent days though and, if the weather forecasts are anything to go by, we’re in for some more very hard winter weather¬†at the end of this¬†year and the start of the new one.¬† Wrap up warm.

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Waiting room

by on Dec.09, 2009, under Birdwatching, Northumberland

Yesterday started with a bit of a surprise – 12 Greenfinches in the garden.¬† They’ve been scarce so far this autumn/winter and other observers in Northumberland have noticed the same lack of birds.¬† The worry is that many of our¬†local birds may¬†have fallen victim to trichomoniasis, so it was good to see, and hear,¬†this small flock.

Most of the rest of the day was spent in a waiting room at our local hospital.¬† I’m not generally good with hospitals/needles etc so after arriving at my scheduled appointment time (11:30) I had nearly 4 hours to contemplate the forthcoming minor op, before finally being taken to theatre at 3:15pm.¬† There weren’t even any birds visible from the windows of the waiting room so I had to amuse myself reading Fowler and Cohen’s ‘Statistics for Ornithologists’ (see, I thought there might have been a bit of a wait so I went prepared).¬† The hospital were very kind and provided a light lunch.¬† However, given the number of posters about healthy diet etc that plaster the hospital walls you have to wonder about the contents of the lunch; a packet of crisps, a cheese savoury sandwich (note to anyone not from this part of the world – cheese savoury is grated cheese in mayonnaise, you could probably use it to fill cracks in walls) made with sliced white bread and a chocolate cupcake.¬† You couldn’t make it up.

By the time I was discharged it was dark outside so no chance of birdwatching.¬† And today my birding will be mainly from the office window again as I’ve got no less than 5 meetings to attend; 2 as Chair of Governors at our local school, 1 as Chair of the Friends of Choppington Woods and 2 as Secretary of Outdoors Northumberland.¬† Then there were another 2 meetings that I’ve had to give my apologies for.¬† At least tomorrow should be back to ‘normal’…

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