Tag: Wood Warbler

When the north wind blows

by on Aug.16, 2010, under Birdwatching, Northumberland

We had a couple of disappointments at the end of last week, both due to the weather.  First we had to postpone our Farne Deeps Pelagic and then I was booked on a trip to the Dogger Bank, which also fell victim to the strong northerlies.  Both trips have been rescheduled though so, fingers crossed, they will happen eventually.  We’ve got a few places available for the Farne Deeps on September 3rd, although most of our original participants quickly arranged days off work when I gave them the new date, so call us on 01670 827465 to reserve your place on this groundbreaking trip.

With Friday morning clear in my diary I managed a spot of seawatching; that most esoteric form of birdwatching.  Then we had a couple of nights in Whitby, followed by a visit to Chesterfield for a Christening, and then home again late last night.  While we were away there was a missed call on my mobile; Alan Tilmouth wondering if we’d be interested in a trip across to the Longstone if Saturday’s Thrush Nightingale had remained there overnight.  As it was it hadn’t, and we were away anyway.  Then, last night came the news of a Booted/Sykes’s Warbler at Hadston Links.  With a frantic two weeks ahead of us, I had to work hard to convince myself that I had the time to go and see the bird 😉

Booted/Sykes's Warbler, Hadston Links, Northumberland 16/08/2010

 

Booted/Sykes's Warbler, Hadston Links, Northumberland 16/08/2010

Now these two species are a tricky pair to separate and, despite information put out by various bird information services earlier today, I know that the ID isn’t considered to be cut and dried.  For what it’s worth, I’ll stick my neck out and say that, on balance, I’m leaning towards Booted Warbler.  The real problem though is that in some images it looks very much like a Booted Warbler, in some it looks like Sykes’s.  In real life it was just as perplexing, apparently morphing from one to the other.  Is it a Booted Warbler, fluffing itself up against the cold (the opinion I expressed to another local blogger after I saw the bird this morning), or a Sykes’s Warbler that occasionally looks sleeker than expected?

Another remarkable warbler earned a local birder, and occasional Northern Experience Pelagic participant, a major honour this month.  Dougie Holden, the finder of the Trow Quarry Eastern Crowned Warbler, won the Carl Zeiss Award, which is presented for the photograph or set of photographs considered to have been the most instructive during BBRC’s assessment of rarities over the previous year.

As if all these rare warblers weren’t enough to be going on with, I went into the kitchen this morning only to find Sarah staring intently through her binoculars.  Wood Warbler is an extraordinary bird for a southeast Northumberland garden, but there it was.  Neither of us had that down as the next addition to the garden list but, as with most of the really good birds on our list, it’s no surprise that Sarah found it 🙂

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Birdwatching; Northumberland in the rain

by on Jun.08, 2010, under Birdwatching, Cheviot Valleys, Northumberland

I’ve always maintained that, whatever the weather (with the possible exception of a howling gale), it’s always possible to have a really good day birdwatching in Northumberland.  Yesterday’s forecast didn’t promise too much in the way of good weather though and, as it turned out, we had to contend with drizzly rain for the whole day.

I collected Reg and Val from Newcastle and we set off towards the Harthope Valley.  This is one of NEWT’s favourite locations; spectacular scenery, excellent birdwatching and the all important absence of crowds.  A holiday group from another birdwatching company were in the valley as well, though.  Just before we reached the turning for Langleeford, a Brown Hare was sitting in a roadside field.  As we’re in June, and all of the trees are in leaf, a lot of our birding was done by ear.  Grasshopper Warbler was a nice find, Oystercatchers were chasing each other up and down the valley, a Cuckoo flew past, pursued by Meadow Pipits, the shivering trill of a Wood Warbler could be heard over the running water and Grey Wagtail, Common Sandpiper  and Dipper were all along the water’s edge.  Willow Warblers were singing from all around, Siskin and Redpoll were picked up on call and then eventually gave excellent views, Snipe were displaying over a recently planted area on the opposite side of the valley, Curlews were singing their haunting song (so much more appropriate on windswept, remote moorland than on the coast) and then I heard it; a call that is familiar in the winter, but not in the Cheviot valleys in June.  I was still trying to convince myself that I’d misheard the call, when the bird appeared in front of us – unmistakeable really, there was a Twite. I looked, looked away, looked again;  no, I wasn’t imagining it.  It’s a species that’s suspected to breed in tiny numbers in Northumberland, although there seems to be a lack of confirmed records for the breeding season.  Perhaps it was passing through, or maybe, just maybe, there is a breeding site in the Cheviots.

After the excitement of such an unexpected find, we had one major target species left for the day.  Ring Ouzel is another bird that you may find on coastal headlands in the autumn, and there are sporadic wintering records as well, but the place to see them is surely the remote upland valleys where they breed.  As we made our way up a steep-sided valley we had excellent views of a recently fledged Dipper, and I could hear an ouzel singing.  We continued and then the bird appeared overhead, flying from one side of the valley to the other, singing as it crossed.  It dropped out of sight, still singing, before retracing it’s route over the valley again.  This time we knew where it had landed so we crept along a track towards it.  Patience and persistence paid off (as they so often do) and we enjoyed prolonged views of the bird as it sang from a clump of heather on the skyline.  The rain was becoming colder and more persistent so we headed back to the car and then down the A697 back to civilisation.

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Slow, slow

by on May.20, 2010, under Birdwatching, Cheviot Valleys, Northumberland

Yesterday was the first of two days out with the winners of last year’s Birdwatching Northumberland prize draw.  After collecting Andy and Jean from the Bamburgh Castle Inn our destination was the Harthope Valley in the Cheviots.  It’s one of our favourite locations; stunning landscape, interesting geology and, of course, excellent wildlife.  As we reached the start of the valley we stopped to check on a Dipper nest, and there was one of the adults sitting on a rock in the river, so close that we didn’t need binoculars.  Further upstream we watched a pair of Grey Wagtails, eventually locating their nest in the tangled exposed roots of a riverside tree, before setting off in search of Ring Ouzels.  It wasn’t too long before we heard a singing male, but he remained stubbornly out of sight.  As we climbed higher up the valley the song seemed to be coming from somewhere else and careful scanning of the area revealed our quarry, perched on the remnants of a dry stone wall.  A pair of Red Grouse, with at least 7 chicks, were very obliging and a pair of Whinchat were flitting around in the heather.  After lunch we were treated to more Grey Wagtails, including a bird singing and displaying high overhead, and these were a real highlight of the day, a singing Dipper, Tree PipitRedstartCuckoo, a plethora of Willow Warblers and the shivering trill of a Wood Warbler.  Andy was keen to take a photograph of a Green Tiger Beetle and, eventually, one sat still for long enough to allow him to get close to it.

Green Tiger Beetle

The non-bird highlight of the day though came as we walked back to the Land Rover; a pair of Slow Worms locked in a mating embrace.  A remarkable end to an excellent day captured on camera by Andy, who kindly sent me the images to add to our blog.

This embrace can last for up to 10 hours!

That doesn't look comfortable

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