A trip up the coast to Ross Back sands on a fresh January morning was one of the highlights of January with divers on the sea being one of the highlights as well as Long-tailed duck, Common Scoter and the ever present Eiders! Eiders have always been one of my favourite Birds and I look forward to getting my hands on the new T & AD Poyser monograph on the Common Eider that is due for publication later this year.
A morning spent in Seahouses Harbour in January helped me to get some Media coursework finished by producing a short time-lapse of the harbour, whilst letting the camera get on with taking the pictures I couldn't resist getting more pictures of these absolutely stunning birds! Who says 'common' birds aren't interesting!
|Drake Eider - Seahouses Harbour|
|Female Eider - Seahouses Harbour|
|Female Eider - Stag Rocks|
|Drake Eider displaying - Seahouses Harbour|
In February I took a bit of a step and bought myself a new lens after a rather long period of saving up! One of the first outings with the my new piece of kit was a trip to WWT Caerlaverock with a group from WWT Washington, the Dumfries and Galloway area is one of my favourite places and a trip to see what the area has to offer in the winter is always a brilliant opportunity, the chance to closely watch Whooper Swans has to be one of the highlights of the winter for me. This winter has been the first in several years that there has not been a wintering Whooper Swan on Killingworth lake, so missing out on my fix locally, except for a few distant sightings at the coast, it made the trip well worth while! I'm just about to complete reading "The Whooper Swan" monograph by Mark Brazil, other Monographs I've read (mostly in brief!) have sometimes come across quite 'dry' but I'm happy to say this one on the other hand was excellently written, maintaining vital information but explaining it in an easily accessible and readable format.
Back to Caerlaverock! The reserve, I have found can be quite intermittent, with points at which the hedgerows and surrounding grassland can be packed with noise and movement only for a minute later the area to seem devoid of any life whatsoever. This trip was no different, views of Yellowhammer were excellent as too was the sighting of my first Little Egret of the year, the Whooper swans and Barnacle geese still, as always stole the show.
The Peter Scott observatory at Caerlaverock has just been rebuilt and still offers great views of the wildfowl on the pond, unfortunately on the day the wind direction and rainfall meant that the large front windows of the Hide became very difficult to see out of due to the large amount of water bouncing off them sometimes near horizontally! However before we left the dull grey skies cleared and gave a narrow window of good light before disappearing and returning back to grey.
|Feed time - Caerlaverock|
|Drake Wigeon - Caerlaverock|
|Whooper Swan - Caerlaverock|
A lot of time spent in February was spent around Killingworth lake to take advantage of good numbers of wintering Pochard, Tufted duck and Goldeneye and in the process try to capture some 'water-level' photographs. The latter species proved to be particularly difficult to get closer enough and low enough to the water to get the photograph I wanted but I did manage to get several shots of Goldeneyes that I am happy with, a challenge for next winter now!
The long staying female Greater Scaup also gave and continued to give fantastic views down to around 20 feet at times until only the past month when it departed.
With good numbers of Goldeneye and Gooseander throughout the winter the only species missing from the winter line up this year was the notable absence of a Whooper Swan, the past several years have always yielded at least a single wintering bird.
Late February brought what is undoubtedly for me the star summer visitor to the lake, Great Crested Grebes.
|Great Crested Grebe|
|Mallard at Dawn - Killingworth lake|
March begun with a long-awaited 'lifer' in the form of 3 Snow Buntings near Blyth Harbour, the flitting movements of the birds, the occasional contact calls and the very confiding nature of the birds made it worth the wait and they defiantly didn't disappoint! Its a species that I have wanted to catch up with for some time now but never been able to catch up with, I'm looking forward to searching around for more next winter. A number of Snow Buntings were also seen when myself and Brian visited East Chevington in mid March.
In April I took up my prize of a wildlife tour with Northern Experience Wildlife Tours, I decided that it I would like to watch another Black grouse lek and try and photograph other Moorland birds and wildlife as it as a habitat that I have only a handful of Images from, reaching the Lek at around 6:30 in the morning and opening the window of the car the first thing to hit us was the sound of the 'Bubbling grouse' below, with over 30 Blackcock lekking on the flattened areas of grass among the rushes it was above all other Lek sites I have visited and watching several Grey hen fly into the lek area was an added bonus as too was the snipe calling very close to the car but sadly out of sight.
Moving into slightly lower ground Martin from Northern Experience Wildlife Tours took myself and Brian to a location which he knew was excellent for photographing and viewing Snipe, it didn't disappoint either with several calling birds on the fence posts and several birds drumming in the air above. A brilliant day out in a brilliant landscape and I'm happy with some of my pictures too which is always a bonus!
|Snipe calling - County Durham|
In April I was also back volunteering with the National Trust for Scotland at their Threave Estate in Dumfries & Galloway, during the week I was mainly fencing (Stock fencing rather than with swords it must be added!) during which time I had countless sightings of Raven and Red kite and I also the opportunity to watch the resident pair of Ospreys mate and also watch the Male come back to the nest and fly past with a large trout which has been freshly caught just down stream.
|Osprey with Brown Trout (Record shot)|
|Hills at Sunset near Kippford|
With April coming to a close the last outing of the month was co-leading an RSPB walk around Hulne Park near Alnwick, the walled deer park owned by Northumberland estates has a lot to offer with Avian, Mammalian and arboricultural interest with a wide variety of Native and non-native trees. With summer migrants well in the country and noisely proclaiming territories and attracting mates it was a brilliant time to focus this walk on bird song and we soon had the group, some of which had no previous experience of I.Ding bird song, actively listening out for Willow warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat and more.
We didn't encounter any of the estates deer apart from 2 Roe Deer however we had several brilliant sightings including a pair of very confiding Dippers which paid little attention to us as they fed along the river bank, the male periodically bursting into Song, always a fascinating one to listen too! Several Grey Wagtails also put on a good show but the highlight of the day came in the form of two Male Redstarts as they flew between hawthorn bushes in an open area of pasture near the ruined abbey that stands within the encircled park. We finished our day with a Tawny owl calling loudly near by, not a bad ending to a very good walk which I hope everyone took something away from, I learnt a lot about Dawn Redwoods from other members of the group so I took that away with me!
I'm trying to keep this report of the past few months fairly brief but I have been out a lot recently and keeping the blog up to date has been a bit of challenge, I also had the great opportunity to help with some pre-season preparation on Coquet Island with the RSPB wardens which needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed, especially in tasks associated with the conservation of Roseate Terns, I also managed to get a few pictures of Seals too! To keep things fairly brief here are a few pictures from recent outings.
|Great Spotted Woodpecker|
|Grey Seal - Coquet Island|
|Red Squirrel - Cragside|
|Great Crested Grebe|
|Beach Trees- Gelt Woods|
|Mute Swan Cygnet - Talkin Tarn|
|Mute Swan Cygnet - Talkin Tarn|
I also spent a few days in the Lammermuir Hills in the Scottish Borders last week which gave some of my best ever views of Golden Plover in Summer plumage with the added bonus of Golden Plover chicks! Grouse chicks, Lapwing Chicks and great photographic opportunities for Brown hare also made it really enjoyable, unfortunately the Mountain Hares weren't quite as obliging as the Brown hares were!
|Cock Red Grouse - Lammermuir Hills|
|Brown Hare -Lammermuir Hills|
Having quite a lot of so far unprocessed images to sift through and post from the past few months expect to see a few instalments of pictures from the past few months that I haven't had the chance to publish yet, thanks for taking the time to read and look through my images!