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Tales of a Hatless Birder!!!

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Old Sunday 18th February 2007, 15:23   #1
brianfm
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Talking Tales of a Hatless Birder!!!

Tales of a Hatless Birder!!!

Brian without his hat on the north east coast in February, is rather like a beeber being without their ‘ex’. However summer had arrived, Skylarks were singing and buds opening so I decided to ditch my concerns about global warming for the day along with my hat and gloves and simply enjoy the sun on my head and neck. I was bare to the elements so to speak. Now before reading on just close your eyes and imagine me bare to the elements!!! You done that? Then I will begin. Went by Arriva bus today, and this included a drive through Ashington, known locally as the biggest pit village in the world and home town of the famous such as Bobby and Jackie Charlton and Jackie Millburn. No pits now of course and perhaps fewer world class footballers on the streets, but at least there was a couple of Mistle Thrush on the playing filed. Anyway once through Ashington stopping to pick up those doing the weekend shopping we soon reached Cresswell. I found that the bus stops very nicely beside the public conveniences and more importantly within a few yards of the cliffs giving a very good sea view. After popping into the former spent some time at the latter.

The tide was well out and thus the rocky shoreline provided some good views of waders including, Oystercatchers, Curlew, Redshank, Turnstone and Dunlin. The calls of the Oystercatchers, Curlews and Redshanks were loud and clear. The sea looked deceptively calm until one took a good look with the telescope and found that the birds on the water where being thrown up and down behind the waves. There were lots of Eider Ducks about and a mixed selection of Gulls and as we stood there Robins , Wren, Starlings and House Sparrows made an appearance.

Then we walked the mile from the village to Cresswell Pool. As the sun came out I remembered back to last weekend when I was up there in the rain and cold with binoculars steaming up. Yes there is something to be said for fair weather birding. Soon came across pairs of Stonechats and at least five Snipe were disturbed as we past by. Would have missed them had we not been walking. The Stonechats were as pre normal not disturbed to much by our appearance and we had great views of them as they balanced nicely on the grasses and sedges. Two pairs of Reed Buntings too. The males looking splendid in summer plumage. As we had walked along the sands we had seen a large flock of geese in the distant sky and now we recognised them as Pink Footed Geese as they grazed in the field. I estimate at least 200. Before reaching the hide at the pool we stopped for lunch in the sun and watched the smaller pool and fields leading to the reserve. Another pair of Stonechats here too. Coots, Moorhens, Mallard and a few Teal on the small pool. We watched large flocks of Lapwing, Golden Plover and Dunlin lift off several times from around the main pool and wondered if a raptor had disturbed them. They certainly seemed on edge.

When we got to the hide we saw that the Peregrine Falcon had been recorded earlier in the morning and perhaps that explained the edginess of the waders. I got my eye on a juvenile Whooper Swan almost immediately. Mute Swans were about too although took off as we watched. There was alarge flock of Wigeon on the water by far out numbering anything else. Also around were Mallards, Teal, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Little Grebes and large mixed flocks of waders including Oystercatchers, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Dunlin and Redshank. Also a fair number of Greylag Geese. The Peregrine was now no where to be seen and neither was the redhead Smew which I had hope to add to my year list. It appears to have moved to another pool. After some time in the hide we decided to take a walk to the area where I had seen Twite earlier in the year.

The walk was at least a mile I reckon and by this time even more clothing was coming off. I tell you summer is here! This part of the walk brought us Grey Partridge. First time I have seen one in this area although I know that they are around and about. I would have missed this one as well had I not been walking. I initially thought it to be a rabbit scurrying through the grass. It stopped and watched us watching it then disappeared into the dunes. Skylarks were singing all around and we had good sightings of a couple just a few yards away on the ground and close by a couple of Goldfinch. Other birders were around all searching for the Shore Lark which was in fact no where to be seen. I was surprised by the size of the flocks of Starlings that were about, not seen so many for sometime, and there were gatherings of Jackdaws and Rooks all making a din. We did eventually get to the flock of Linnets which still contained the odd Twite. The flock or I really should say flocks were very flighty today and not easy to watch.

We had intended to return to the pool and take the path that dissects the northern end and walk up to the wood and the area where flocks of swans are to be found. However the path was flooded and we were tired so rather than even think out how to get around this we simply made our way back to the hide. On the return walk we looked at the pool near the farm and found more Wigeon, Mallard , Shelduck and three Grey Herons. The pool was quiet on our return but there was now two adult Whooper Swans on the pool. I don’t know why but the Mute Swans definitely have to take a back seat in my eyes when these guys are about. I guess it is the wildness factor and I love the yellow markings on the bills. Then we were off back to the village to catch our bus.

Back in plenty of time we took another look out to sea. Complete change now as the tide was at its highest and very little shore remained dry. Large flocks of Black Headed Gulls were in shore on the water. I got a glimpse of a couple of Great Black Backed Gulls some distance out and the Eiders remained. Then to top off things nicely there were perhaps 20 to 30 Sanderling, some just yards away from our feet, feeding at the tide edge. By those legs do not half move! I was just thinking that an ice cream would go down nicely when the bus arrived. So no ice cream.

Got back to Newcastle for sunset. Looking over the open green space of the town moor, with the sun setting in the west, a still blue to turquoise sky in the north and light purple and light grey cloud over the city centre, St James Park standing out from the smaller buildings, was quite a sight. We were back to the hustle and bustle, but still relaxed. Well in truth almost asleep! 53 species for the day all within easy’ish walking distance of the bus stop! Whooper Swan was star bird and a new one for my year list along with Snipe. My hat remained in my bag! I am sue it will come in handy another day.

Best wishes
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Last edited by brianfm : Sunday 18th February 2007 at 16:01.
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Old Sunday 18th February 2007, 15:38   #2
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Hi Brian,
Wow birding by bus, I have never done that one, very brave I think. A good haul for any birding day, by any standards.
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Old Sunday 18th February 2007, 16:01   #3
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I enjoyed that report immensely Brian, I almost walked it with you! As George has said, a good haul for any birding day!

Sorry but I didn't close my eyes at the beginning, I didn't want the stitch from laughing so I refrained

All the best Brian and thanks for sharing another tale
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Old Sunday 18th February 2007, 16:12   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pam_m
Sorry but I didn't close my eyes at the beginning, I didn't want the stitch from laughing so I refrained
:
I'll do it for you then.
Crouched to....No I won't.

Sounds like you had a good day out. Shame you never missed the bus.
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Old Sunday 18th February 2007, 16:37   #5
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Hi Brian.
Another cracking day. You also provided a lesson for those of us, ( yes, I'm including myself ) who won't go birding unless it's within walking distance, or by car. It had never occurred to me to use public transport, but you've proved its worth. Thanks for sharing your day with us.

All the best; and well done the Magpies in Belgium.
Baz.
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Old Sunday 18th February 2007, 19:06   #6
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Hi Brian,

I am with the others, I'm not trying to imagine ANYTHING (I'm told that I have too vivid an imagination as it is).

Good day's birding that, but sounded a little strenuous, still you young chaps.....

Now you are the third not to list LBBG for their trip (nor Herring now that I think back) so what's going on?

Yes, there's something about Whoopers, especially in flight. I love their 'chat' and somehow they look different to Mutes, probably the proportions.

You've pretty well persueded me that I'll have to go and see the local Skylarks as soon as we get blue skies again; look out George I shall go ahead again as there are other things in that area too (I hope).

Well spotted the Grey Partridge, they can be very tricky.

You really will have to get down to some birdy photography with all the stuff that you get in touching distance. Come on lad, bite the bullet.

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Old Sunday 18th February 2007, 19:26   #7
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Hiya Brian,
You never let us down with your reports, and you certainly managed to see some wonderful birds.
A few in particular stood out for me, firstly the Twite & Linnets. I was interested to read they are Finches. It seems the Twite is in decline although secure at the moment, as it's a Northern bird so I'm unlikely to see one without traveling. I should be able to see a Linnet though, so will look out for that, thanks for the nudge.
I bet you were thrilled to see a Rook, as for the Snipe, that's a big fanfare job when it shows in my area, The Snipe & Water-rail were the star attraction this winter, and not many people saw them. I was lucky enough to see both, but only because I spent hours looking for them.

I cant let the mention of the Peregine pass without sharing my wonderful news with you. I recently found a pair. At first I was watching in awe at one when another swooped down with prey. They both got stuck into a feast.
Honestly Brian, words can't describe how I felt. I took lots of pics & then spent the next few days wondering if I should share my sighting.
I decided not to take the risk, worried the pics may identify their location.
If I get better close ups & crop them, I might re-think.
I'm sharing this now because, (a) It's buried in your thread (b) probably no one reads my long winded answers!! (except you I hope)
Only joking, I would love to share my sighting with all Bird lovers, especially exbeebers.

Thank you for taking the time to share this wonderful report with us Brian.

Hat's off to you! (pun intended)
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Old Monday 19th February 2007, 07:51   #8
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Brian, I had just about recovered from the close your eyes and imagine me bare to the elements!!! when I came upon the even more clothing was coming off

A lovely report, and you certainly saw lots. What a good idea to go by bus as well. Thank you.
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Old Monday 19th February 2007, 09:18   #9
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Hi Brian,
Being another non-driver I too have birded by bus and it's amazing just what you can see isn't it?
We too were stripping off here at the weekend and I even had a spot of sunburn on my face from being out in it for most of the afternoon yesterday!
Well done with all your birds quite a list and I just love Eiders (the subjects of my latest painting funnilly enough! )
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Old Monday 19th February 2007, 12:15   #10
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Another funny report, thanks Brian. I've been considering making use of buses this year as we go on many walks and I hate walking back the same way we went to return to the car, not always possible to do a circular walk is it. Means we could get the bus into the middle of nowhere and walk back!

Jealous of your Whopper Swans there. Still never seen one and Eider Ducks too, do they ever come inland? There was a Scaup around here recently which I think come inland in winter... maybe?!!
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Old Monday 19th February 2007, 12:33   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kezza
There was a Scaup around here recently which I think come inland in winter... maybe?!!
Hi Kezza,
Yes they do as we saw 3 at our local nature reserve on Saturday!!!
1 male and 2 females!
A lovely sight they were too in the spring sunshine!!
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Old Monday 19th February 2007, 12:48   #12
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Hi all

You can all open your eyes now. Come on Pam open them!!!

Kezza.......following taken from The Migration Atlas (BTO) 'Eiders are almost entirely restricted to coastal and marine habitats where they feed mainly on Blue Mussels, but also on other molluscs, crustaceans and echioderma. Prey is obtained principally by diving, but birds may also feed by head dipping or up ending in shallow waters. Thus Eiders require prey at depths that are suitable for diving and avoid coasts with exesive exposure to rain or stong wind. Nesting takes place on islands or other coastal locations where mammalian predators are scarce or absent and where there is both acess to the sea and nesting cover. Females will take young to foraging sites up to 20 km from the nesting area'.

Bill........There were a few, although now you mention it not that many, Herring Gulls about I just didnt' include them. I didn't see any LBBGs. Most gulls were BH, many in summer dress now. I will need to check up on Herring Gulls as I was surprised when Mabel told us how badly they had done in Ireland in recent years. I am reading the New Naturlist 'Galloway and the Border' at present and note that Herring Gull numbers have dropped considerably over the years around the Berwickshire coast. The ones that have moved in land are insignifigant in relation to the drop in numbers. We do still seem to get plenty around this part of the coast, but I will look into how they are doing.

Ruth......Hope we get to see the painting of the Eider.

Pie.......Your wise to take care on identifying Peregrine nesting sites. As I am sure you know these wonderful birds are still persecuted. Hope you can crop the pics and let us see them. Fantastic birds. My cousin used to live a mile or two away from the RSPB reserve at St Bees Cumbria and there were Peregrines in the general area. Not popular with the many pigeon keepers in the area. I have had some great sightings there and elsewhere. Quite a sight when they swop and I have seen them bringing prey back to the nest.

Cheers all
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Old Monday 19th February 2007, 13:11   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brianfm
Hi all

You can all open your eyes now. Come on Pam open them!!!



Cheers all

I swear I haven't had them closed!! Would I fib to you Brian
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Old Monday 19th February 2007, 14:01   #14
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Well.........................Yes I'm sure you would Pam!!!
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Use the talents you possess - for the woods would be a very silent place if no birds sang except for the best.”-- Henry Van Dyke http://killybirder.blogspot.com/
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Old Monday 19th February 2007, 14:52   #15
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Ruth......Hope we get to see the painting of the Eider.
Well you did ask!!
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Old Monday 19th February 2007, 15:02   #16
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Great report Brian! I enjoyed it!

Ruth, those Eiders rock!
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Old Monday 19th February 2007, 15:05   #17
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A wonderful painting Ruth

Are you sure you are not related to Clarice Cliff(e)
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Old Monday 19th February 2007, 15:30   #18
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Well as Mabel says........Those Eiders rock man!!!

Xcellent Ruth. I reckon your pics are ideal for stained glass work. You do realise by you adding paintings in my thread I could save myself a lot of cash, as wot with a photographer in my employ and now an artist wot do i need a digi camera for?

Best wishes
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Old Monday 19th February 2007, 23:43   #19
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A great report of all that you saw thanks Bri; another one boasting about good sightings of Turnstones too - huh! It'll happen for me soon I dearly hope. What a real selection you found and revelled in, I'm really envious, especially with the Whoopers as they've barely had a mention down here.

Talking of barely???? Be careful Bri or by summer you'll be sunburnt in many places!!!!! Always be sure to take your hat to cover exposed bits!

A great report and I thoroughly enjoyed it all.

Luv, Sue.
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Old Tuesday 20th February 2007, 17:40   #20
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Hi Sue
Thanks. Exposed bits? You mean my head of course?

Not long been in and had my tea. No, not birding today but did have time to make a stop and find the Little Owl. Got myself 2 Kestrels, a close up Common Buzzard and split second sighting of a Greenwoodpecker along with lost of other birds. Not bad at all for a non birding day!

Well you may not have Turnstones but you do have others that I get a bit jealous about.

Luv Bri
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Old Wednesday 21st February 2007, 00:01   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brianfm
Exposed bits? You mean my head of course?
There's nowhere else I could mean surely! I'm a lady remember!!


Great going for sure, especially on a NON Birding day, look out on a serious one then, though we're all used to your great numbers then too! You're doing very well with your Green Woodpeckers lately Bri, wonderful. I adore Little Owls and the eyes of a Kestrel are truly fantastic! Take care.

Luv, Sue.
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