Tag Archives: Marsh Harrier

Sunshine returns

18 Jun

Oddly… I had booked a day off for today and there was a large fiery thing in the sky and all there seemed to be holes in the grey bits of sky with blue showing through. Surely an unusual day was afoot.

I headed out up to Druridge bay for a bit of a wander. Druridge Pools was pretty dead… the budge pools had just a grey heron, a pair of tufties and a greylag goose and a pheasant watching from the sidelines.

On to East Chevington and there were better signs. Within 30 seconds of arrival I had a female marsh harrier hunting over the reed beds. From the hide the north pool was very quiet – a handful of terns and gulls at the south end and the odd reed bunting scooting past and a common sandpiper circling the pool.

Around the dunes at least four little gulls were bouncing around on the breeze amongst the black headed gulls and the sandwich terns.

The bushes around the track were alive with linnets, willow warblers, chiffchaffs, dunnocks and stonechat.

The real highlight though was as I returned to the car and suddenly flashing past was a cuckoo with a meadow pipit in hot pursuit. I reckon the last cuckoo I actually *saw* was about 15 years ago in Surrey, so nice to see one and grab an action shot as it evaded its diminuitive pursuer.

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Harriers, Owls at last and a Liverbird(er)

30 Oct

Taking advantage of the unseasonably fine and warm conditions I decided to have an afternoon out rather than staying at home and tending my flu-struck wife and risking infection myself. With her doped up on all the painkillers she could lay her hands on and a plentiful supply of fuids, I headed for West Hartford. Heading down Hartford Bank I was delighted to see only my second northumberland red squirrel (well 2nd that hasn’t been plastered to the tarmac by traffic) so I figured it might be a good afternoon.

On arrival at West Hartford I was greeted by a buzzard hovering over the scrubby grass, keeping its eye on something down below – my first thoughts were “marsh harrier” but closer inspection revealed a buteo not a circus. Checking the main pool, hundreds of lapwings were joined by assorted gulls of the black-headed, common, herring and lesser-black backed variety and a couple of pied wagtails were flitting around and a pair of grey heron were wading by the waters edge. In one of the large trees overlooking the pool my first three fieldfares of the winter were a welcome sight.

Off in the distance a couple of buzzards circled around and then my eye was caught by a kestrel seeing off another raptor – a little too distant to be sure but it looked like a female type marsh harrier.

A little later I met a dog walker who inquired as to whether I’d seen the marsh harrier that was around earlier. Based on where he’d seen the harrier a short while previously this seems consistent with what I’d seen a short while earlier.

After some conversation I definitely started to pick up a slight scouse twang, and the dog looked like one I’d seen somewhere and suddenly 2+2 made 4 and I realised that I was talking to none other than local birding celebrity The Liverbirder. He very kindly gave me an outline of the patch and mentioned that there was also a hen harrier that had been visiting the patch in late afternoons and may be worth watching out for.

With that we went our separate ways and I spent a little time scanning the grasslands for any further sign of the bird I’d seen earlier. I was set to head back for the car when I noted a couple of crows mobbing something and when my bins were in place the unmistakeable white rump of a female type hen harrier told me that I had hit the jackpot. I watched for a while before the crows drove it to ground and then I lost it in the grass.

Northumberlandia taking shape


With the sun still shining I decided to make the short hop to Prestwick Carr in a bid to finally get to see one of the short eared owls. Although it was still fairly early in the day I figured it was worth having a look. As usual, buzzards were in evidence but little else. I got to the stand of the trees that the owls favour and had a chat with a birder surveying the scene. He thought I was too early for owls but we got chatting and he very kindly gave me some good pointers for sites in the area as well as comparing notes on our experiences in the oil industry and the middle east which we had in common.

We watched the skies and had several buzzards  but aside from a great spotted woodpecker and a few magpies there was nothing much moving, perhaps put off by the incessant racket of two lads trying out a scrambling motorbike nearby. As I eventually took my leave, up flew one of the elusive short eared owls just feet from where we were stood and I finally got a good albeit short view of only my second owl species of the year.

Overall a most satisfying afternoon – red squirrels, harriers, owls and informative chats with local birders. Now I’m back in the flu zone.

East Chevington and Washington WWT

21 May

Had an early jaunt to East Chevington this morning in the hope that the spoonbills reported were still there (presumably the four that had been at Coatham Marsh, Cleveland yesterday) and to have a quick look and failing that to see if anything else was kicking around.

No sign of the spoonbills (I gather they had moved on to Druridge Pools which I almost made a flying visit to check just in case but elected not to – D’oh!) but I did get good views of a male marsh harrier over the reeds around the southern pool. Lots of grey herons around along with greylags, mute swans, tufties and coot. Scanning the main lake had the usual suspects including common and arctic terns, and the scrubby hawthorn and gorse had common whitethroat, skylark, meadow pipit several sedge warblers perching prominently, reed bunting and a smart pair of stonechats.

Meadow Pipit

Skylark

On the way home drove along the coast road via Cresswell and checked the beach briefly – the only thing of note was a lesser black backed gull tentatively pulling away at what appeared to be a freshly deceased grey seal pup.

A family visit to Washington WWT so that Hannah could feed the ducks. I won’t list the species we saw there because I’m pretty sure some of them weren’t wild!

Down at the wader lake for some real birds though the four avocets were in fine form with their chicks, chasing away anything and everything that got within 30 yards. Particularly entertaining watching the fracas between one avocet and a lapwing who also had chicks.

Avocet

The amphibian pond was replete with tadpoles (including an incredibly dense ball of the chaps – don’t recall ever seeing anything quite like this before) and newts.

Tadpoles

Birds seen : (East Chevington) Marsh Harrier, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Arctic Tern, Black-Headed Gull, Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat, Skylark, Meadow-Pipit, Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Grey Heron, Cormorant, Lesser back-backed gull, Stonechat, Linnet, Reed Bunting. (Washington WWT) Avocet, Bullfinch, Goldfinch, Pheasant, Magpie, Lapwing, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Moorhen