Saturday, 16 April 2016

Northumberland And Cumbria.....Monday 11th April - Thursday 14th April 2016.

A few days away with Trace,staying with my sister Kirsty and her husband Kev in their cottage at Eals in the lovely county of Northumberland,wasn't really planned as a birding or wildlife watching trip,but i sort of expected to see a few bits,i certainly wasn't disappointed!.

Day One.

An early-ish start saw us heading north along the A1 and after our usual stop off at Wetherby services,the obligatory Red Kite and Common Buzzards were encountered along the motorway,before we headed across country from Scotch Corner.
 As we headed into Teesdale,a pre-planned visit to the fantastic High Force,saw us visiting this very impressive waterfall.A few welcome bird and wildlife sightings here included a lovely Dipper along the Tees,a couple of Chiffies and the amazing sight of my first Western conifer Seed Bug found along one of the paths near to the car park,what a great start to the holiday.
 As we carried on the journey we neared some great Black Grouse habitat and it wasn't long before we were enjoying our first ones seen this year,with a bachelor group of 7 males watched feeding on the roadside,not close enough for the camera,but great to see all the same.
 Further on and nearer to our destination,Trace spotted a further 3 males,which thankfully were much closer and i managed a few record shots.What cracking birds they are and it was nice to see some again after last years Yorkshire birds.
 After arriving at the lovely stone cottage we were staying at along with our hosts Kirst and Kev,we unpacked and straight away went to explore the area.
 We walked along the South Tyne Trail up to Lambley Viaduct and back and saw a few nice sightings which included a cracking male Merlin,Willow Warbler,6+ Common Buzzard,2 Grey Heron and the lovely sight and sound of displaying Curlew and Snipe.
 Afterwards we walked along the South Tyne at Featherstone Castle,with some lovely riverine scenery and a few notable sightings in the form of at least 20 Oystercatcher,Sand Martin,a couple of Common Buzzard and on the river,2 Common Toads and a shoal of Minnows.

Day Two

Watching the garden before we all went out for the day today,saw a nice surprise seen in the form of a single Mealie Redpoll found with at least 11 Siskin and 2 Lesser Redpoll visiting the garden feeders along with a female Great-spotted Woodpecker.This little garden proved to be brilliant for birds with at least 21 species being seen in it,incredible stuff and i missed the Nuthatch Kirst saw as well!.
 We visited a few places during the day,with the best sighting being a male Red-breasted Merganser on Ullswater and 75 Fieldfare near Eals in some poor weather conditions today unfortunately.
 Back at the cottage garden,the Mealies had doubled to two now,amazing stuff and 3 Bullfinch also visited.

Day Three

After more of watching the garden birds at breakfast,Trace and myself headed out on our own today,visiting the stunning Ullswater and beautiful Grasmere.The weather was still cloudy,with a few sunny breaks,but we couldn't care less about the weather to be fair,with the scenery being breathtaking,particularly as we drove through the Kirkstone Pass.
 A few nice bird sightings at Grasmere included 25 beautiful Whooper Swan making their way back north to Iceland and they looked stunning as they positively glowed against the surrounding dark mountain scape.On and over Grasmere itself,sightings included my first Common Sandpiper of the year which Trace spotted,200+ Sand Martin and 3 pairs of Goosander.
 At dusk as we returned from a lovely meal out,to see a male Woodcock was roding over the garden,what an amazing place to stay!.

Day Four

Sadly it was time to say our goodbyes to Kirst and Kev and we reluctantly travelled home back to Lincolnshire after a lovely,relaxed few days away.
High Force,Co.Durham.

High Force,Co.Durham.

Western Conifer Seed Bug,High Force.

Black Grouse,Northumberland.

Lambs At Eals,Northumberland.

Male Siskin,in the cottage garden,Eals,Northumberland.

Oystercatcher,Featherstone Castle,Northumberland.

Mealie Redpoll,in the cottage garden,Eals,Northumberland.

Kirkstone Pass,Cumbria.



Mealie Redpoll's,in the cottage garden,Eals,Northumberland.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Tophill Low,A Superb Day Out,Sunday 3rd April 2016.

A full day out planned today,saw myself and Mike meeting up at another 'New' site to add to his list of excellent birding venues,the following account is what we recorded throughout the day.
 As it began to get light properly,i began to get the gear together and when Mike arrived,we started proceedings by heading around the northern half of the reserve first.
 A few niceties around the car park to start,included a Great-spotted Woodpecker and 3 Siskin,the male of this trio of stunning finches trying his best to impress the two females with his wheezy attempts at singing.
 We headed down the side of 'D' Res first and through 'D' Woods quickly adding two nice birds to the day and year list.The first was a female Brambling watched flycatching in the canopy of the trees in the company of a hand full of Chaffinches,views wern't brilliant,but beggars can't be choosers and it was a decent sighting all the same.The second goodie was a male Blackcap,fresh in from Africa and at first fed in a similar fashion to the Brambling,up in the canopy,before dropping lower down and showing nicely through the bins.Blackcap's as Chiffchaff,are more and more a feature of our milder winters in the UK,but still the majority make the long journey south to Africa.
 Also in 'D' Woods,at least 5 Chiffchaff sang and a Doe Roe Deer quickly disappeared as we approached,nice sightings to add to the notebook.
 A look on 'D' Res itself at the northern end,revealed a feeding flock of at least 119 Sand Martin and another 2 firsts for the year in the form of 2 House Martin and 6 Swallow.What a great sight it was to watch this hirundine flock and they showed very well at relatively close range.
 We continued down towards Hempholme Meadow and then the Lock itself,with another highlight added here,with a pair of Red-crested Pochard seen on the river before they flew onto the small pond nearby and on the fields adjacent to the river,having the welcome sight of 5 Brown Hare and another Roe Deer.
 After enjoying the northern part of the site,we made our way back to the car and had a welcome refreshment stop before moving onto the southern part of the reserve.
 A quick look on North Lagoon revealed 36 Teal and a pair of Grey Wagtail and the explosive song of a male Cettis Warbler nearby was great to hear.The male of the pair of Grey Wags was singing and displaying to his mate,perhaps they will settle down and breed.
 We eventually made it round to the hide overlooking Watton Nature Reserve,with not that much here to add to the notebook apart from a single Little Egret,2 Grey Heron and 7 Curlew.
 After leaving the hide and walking back through South Scrub,that lovely,sweet song of a Willow Warbler greeted us.Another new spring arrival,fresh in from Africa and one of my personal favourites,it was also another new bird for Mike to go with his first Blackcap,Red-crested Pochards and Grey impressive day so far for him!.
 South Marsh was the next stop and to be fair it was pretty good with more nice birds,which included 2 displaying male Little-ringed Plover,3 Ruff,9 Redshank,another singing male Cetti's Warbler and for me the birds of the day,a pair of Garganey.
 The Garganey were not particularly close,but it was great to see them all the same and again,another new species for Mike,i think he's beginning to think birding is easy.
 By now it was lunch time and Mike had to leave,so we said our goodbyes and i settled down for a while to have some lunch.
 Mr Tophill was now on his way and i was now looking forward to spending the afternoon with fellow birder and dragon addict Martin Hodges.
 We spent our time looking around the southern half of the reserve,mainly looking for insects and managed some good sightings along the way which included our first Episyrphus balteatus or Marmalade Hoverfly for the year,several species of Bumblebee which included Buff-tailed,Large Red-tailed and Common-carder.We also managed to record a couple of species of Butterfly,with singles of Small Tortoiseshell and the lovely Comma being seen.
 A real bonus for me today,but sort of expected,where at least 6 male Grass Snake,unfortunately not showing for photos due to the not ideal weather conditions,but pleasing to see all the same.
 So what an impressive day today at this superb site,with an impressive 80 species of birds recorded,including several first records for the year and with some great company,what else could you ask for in this great hobby.
Record shot of the Garganey pair on South Marsh.

Comma,near to 'O' Reservoir.