In Dusk We Trust - Some Owling in Co.Durham, North East England, Great Britain
Leucistic Little Owl image copyright Hilary Chambers, Durham.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

31st Jan 2010 - Bison baiting & Bunting buffet

31 Jan 2010
While some where enjoying a Tawny sitting in a local Kes box, i was working through a list of domestic chores . . . having saved them up all week they were quite a heap.
Our first Coal Tit of the year was in the garden.

Afternoon was better, set off down Bish Midd to collect some grain for our local bunts.

It was a couple of years since id been to Farnless.
Last time was to put a couple of BO boxes up - We remembered it well, i thought it was a set up at the time, as a LO was sitting motionless on a beam in the barn . . . the rest were as surprised as me when it came to life & flew off.

Bagged up, the farmer sporting a fine bandage on his hand, cut to the bone with, in his words - "not the cleanest of knives".

Had a walk round, Jack lapped up the farmyard & the contents of the pens !
We tracked a fox in the snow (funnily enough it headed towards the bunting field) the Sprawk was about but we saw CBs, RBs, Yham,GPart, etc a Woodcock was a surprise in the open farmland landscape.

Headed down to see the Bison, all was well untill the bull recieved his third snowball - all of a sudden the 2 wire fences didnt seem very secure !


We passed a well known TO tree on the way.

Back through home, cleared some snow & tipped a bag out - stored the rest away.

Who knows . . . in time we might get a bit of this

four figure flock !

I see Simple Simon's on there - he was living through this way, at Pit'nton just a couple of year ago . . . told me Corn Bunts had been "written off as a bad job" in NE England

A productive day, but the list still has a Flake sticking out of it.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

30th Jan 2010 - Full moon fever

30 Jan 2010
owls 3 - oystercatcher nil
Current run of good fortune coming to a halt - somehow managed to dip an Oik !
Consolation in the form of the 3 long winged ones.
A Woodcock flew close past mid afternoon, Short hunting against a snowy backdrop, later met with a.n.other & had good views of Long hunting in flight not long after 5pm, with BO not too much later. While owling we had several Snipe up & off & up & in. A Jack Snipe came in, peeling round in a tight arc before landing.

While scanning around we noticed a bright glow over the horizon - to the EAST.
What was this ? You'd think the sun was about to appear.
No, it was his mate the moon, rising up into view.
Ten mins later the biggest (well almost) brightest full moon was fully visible.
I turned the scope to have a look, the previous night we'd been looking at Mars . . .

Unbelievable !! A silhouetted shape was making its ways across the moon !

It was distant, but absolutely distinctive. A Barn Owl ! What an absolute fluke.

Hope the good run is picking back up . . . Oystercatcher over the garden tomorrow morning would do !

Been a good week not only for the patch, but for owl info:-

Latest, Bumped into a bloke from Sherburn who tells me about the breeding Shorties hes been watching in Derwentside . . .

image of his eared Owl

hes been back on the Email again with the exact location & confirms breeding 2008 & 9. . .

And heres me thinking we'd found ALL our breeding Longies !!!

Also a message in from deepest darkest South Whineside re a regular BO hunting ground - no confirmed pair in that loc.

This is on top of the BO/SEO/LO i gleaned from 2 different gadges while rambling this last week.

S.Egglestone - Lapsed DBC Member.

I want to set the record straight regarding this particular ex DBC club member.

It seems he (S.Egglestone) has stated that he has chosen not to re-new his membership this year.

Its allways a shame when we lose members but this comes as a surprise especially when i have made concerted attempts to build bridges with Mr Egglestone, this has been a mutual effort.

There is an unpleasant history of vitreolic & heated electronic exchanges between the two of us . . .

# i have publicly ridiculed him for tresspassing & ignoring on site instructions & climbing over locked gates on the clubs nature reserve.

# i pulled him for crashing about in thorn scrub looking for Long-eared Owls in mid March - a time when they are most suceptible to disturbance at nest selection stage,

# i commented that his postings on the Nurd Forum were a load of "inane waffle".

Thats the sum total of it - the last one was OTT, rude & un-necessary, but hey if you're prepared to bare your soul on the w.w.web then you'd better be a bit thick skinned.
The sticks & stones phrase spring to mind.

If he, as i perceive him, is an inexperienced "townie type birder" then hes gonna make a few school boy errors when he visits the countryside - but if you are publishing your birding exploits on the world wide web then you ought not to be surprised if someone pulls you up from time to time.

Others have had it in the neck from me for when it comes to their poor treatment of wild birds, in the field as well as on screen.

SEgg. & myself have been in contact on several occassions on various topics over the past few months.

Most recently, in fact just last week when i sent him grid refs for my recent sightings of Green Woodpecker & Seos within South Tyneside Borough, as a further gesture of goodwill.

He has assured me there were no hard feelings & he didnt bare any grudes for my previous outbursts against him. (although he chooses not to acknowledge any of my comments in public).

These are some of the topics & suggestions i have discussed with him via electonic means:-
That he joins the DBC committee.
I put him onto a Barn owl i found roosting in a Hawthorn tree in the Boldon area.
Considers starting the ball rolling re setting up a DBC members "Local Group".
Suggested that collection buckets would be a worthwhile initiative on the 1st night of the ECWarbler.
Discussed arranging to erect a BO box in West Boldon area.
Gave him positive feedback on his Rosy Tern article in The LEK.
Couple of general chatty message re owls.
Suggested that we try to get permission for his graveyard nest boxes through the club (as professionals), as he was having problems in gaining consent from the local authority.

His has made a suggestion of holding indoor meetings in Sth Tyneside area. He is claiming it has been overlooked/ignored by DBC. In Fact this was dealt with promptly by a committee member.

So you can see i have tried to make amends with this particular person.

Its a shame that he chosen not to renew his membership.

But if hes willing to wrap in his subscription to a local wild bird charity over dubious concerns over the safety of a one off scarce bird (BNG), then imho hes not worth worrying about.

Plenty more potencial members out there & i recruit & retain my fair share.

As for some of the comments regarding "elitism" - if i am out birding, more often than not it'll be with relativly inexperienced newcomers like Spuggy, Foghorn & Great Bustard.

# NB. # If theres anyone out there whose prepared to come onto the DBC committee & take my position then get in touch with the club Chairman.

The bairns finished his dinner now, so off out for a snowball fight - Yoshi vs Sonic the Hedgehog !

Friday, 29 January 2010

29 Jan 2010 - #98, #99 . . . / Buntings at last !

29 Jan 2010 - A fantastic week of Local Patching.

My OFFH List is now covered in monkeys blood & has a flake sticking out of it.

Taking me up the ice cream & flake combo were the 9 additional species ive managed to catch up over this last week, whilst covering 40+km on foot.

The magnificent 9 being :- CornBunt, YLG, Shelduck, BNG, Knot, Glauc, Bittern, Pintail, Gadwall

Peregrine, Merlin, Green Sand, Brambling, Shoveller, all evading me so far this month.
n 2010

28 Jan 2010
Had a slot between Taxi runs, so popped through to see if TO200 was alive & well - a long list of folks cant seem to see it or are missing it.
200 paces (long legged) & look right, 30' up.

Dropped "a" car in at the menders this morning,
close by saw :- adYLG #98, 10Tspug, 1Lowl, 2pr + 7Gpartridge, 56Feld, 23Redwng, 7Stock.
Best by far was finally finding a half decent flock of buntings.
All through the snow i tried over many km's but the most i managed was a 40odd nr WRainton.
Approx 80Yellowhammer & at least 1Corn #99 trying to keep out of the strengthening cold northerly wind.

Straight off to the nearest buildings & knocked on a couple of doors to get permission to put out some grain for them - a psoitive result in more ways than one.
One of them was from South Shields, hadnt been through here long, he furnished me with Little owl & Barn owl locations in the ST'side area & i will be only to happy furnish him with a box or two later.

An Oik reported back at a local waterbody - hope to get #100 by the end of the weekend.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

27 Jan 2010 - Day off

27 Jan 2010
A rare day off from patching . . . although managed a few mini sessions between errands.

Popped in for the grebe, then a 20 min wander round old D'Park.

2GSW, 3Treecreeper, 1Goldcrest, 1Redwing, 4Goldfinch, 2Pheasant, 2Song Thrush, 2Coal Tit, 10LTTit, prBullfinch, 1Sparrowhawk, tame Grey Wagtail , 2pr Mallard, etc & fresh evidence of both Barn Owl & Tawny Owl activity.

This area coupled with Silky Lakes would make a nice little "odd hour here & there" patch.

Spoke to a guy there, asking if he knew owt about any owls . . . turns out he used to be a DBC member years ago - he gave me a load of gen, i gave him a compliment card - hopefully he'll be rejoining.

Cant remember the last time i was able to watch a GWag without it zipping away.

Called down the Freezer, Col & Jim had nowt, then a white flash . . . no not a barnie, but a fine Stoat in Ermine.

Teal up to 56, 3Gadwall, 4Goldeneye etc

Heron scores with a first Pintail (drk) at Sludgeletch

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

27 Jan 2010 - Nurd Forum

27 Jan 2010
One of my NY's revoloutions was to steer well clear of the "instant expert just add subject types" on the Turd Forum, sorry i'm not allowed to call it that.

It should be addressed by its correct title the Nurd Forum.

Well i havnt managed & have once again fallen foul of these people on the South Whineside thread.

Forget about dummies being spat, this time its Dolly, Golly & Teddy all fleeing well & truly out the pram !

& why are they so upset . . . ?

Its the familiar tale of scarce(ish) bird resulting in all this commotion.

They find a BNG on a concrete bowl suburban "park pond" - want to keep it secret, but in their infinite wisdom post news & pics of it on the Nurd Forum.

I get the news & pass it near & far (only to hear sev folks already are aware & that its been there at least 3 days !)

The Whinesiders are vexed, think they smell a rat & turn on one of their own.

The BNG is tremendous ! Showing itself off at close range, many people visiting & more than happy.
How on earth these people can turn such an excellent & unique birding experience into something so hateful & negative is beyond me.

"They" seem to have very little understanding of the concept of the study & conservation of birds, nor a desire to achieve anything tangible or worthwhile.
They are takers, they take & take, but dont appear to want to give much back for all the pleasure their pursuit gives them

The sad thing is the vast majority aren’t seemingly bothered in the least about the status & key issues regarding local wild birds.

If these doubters were genuinely interested in the welfare of local birds, then they'd forget all the petty bickering & squabbling & join in to help put something back.

Im certainly not gonna lose any sleep over a small number of doubters who continue to pour scorn on & refuse to acknowledge a particular group in the region who are endeavouring to make a difference.

26 Jan 2010 - Chester-le-Spring

Crow at a Sea Trout

Twos company, three gets shoulder charged into the water.

Stopped to take a picture of the mess being issued here, only to find camera batteries dead; as i poped in a couple of spares a Water Rail ran out & flew across the adjoing burn, hiding under Hawthorn trees.

Called at HoGate on way up - a Shelduck pair were local patch year tick #97
10 Buzzard were up together over Lambtons(record count ?), with another pair close by - how they come on over the past 4 or 5 year.
3 or 4 cock Chaffinch singing mid morning, also 2 drumming GSW & a singing Nuthatch.
Checked for Leos in reg spot, but no surprise the cupboard was bare....

Leo was 'ere

Cracking BO out at @16:30
Light till 17:00 or so: Leo pr active from then, 2WRail vocal.

End with a shocker video (if it works) from JT

Monday, 25 January 2010

25 Jan 2010 - Sun'l'nd, Wanderland BNG & KNOT

25th Jan 2010
A purple patch for the south west Sunderland area at the moment.

Did a good old ramble today, @16km, taking in Pensha country park & across to Silky Lakes - some good birding in parts with the added bonus of twitching 2 quality patch birds in one day.

Knot - not shot yet . . .

Redpoll flock containg a Mealy Redpoll, 2 Jay & a Woodcock nr the Coll'y Officials House

A cracking (confidential mind you) Black necked Grebe enjoyed by many visitors today.

Pic by The Finch. (i had to turn down his (& Davy's) offer of a lifts down, in order to retain the integrity of my on foot from home list.
Several folk commenting that its their best views ever. It certainly was for me - at one point it came so close to the bank i coudnt see it.
But what an unlikely location CLICK (as the pic shows)

Keep it to yourself - you never know them morons with a taste for killing the rare might come through from Murton !

Cracking long-winged owl habo in the Doxy / Silky areas

Good bet for breeding Leo round here . . .

Twards the end of the day found a quiet gulley containing Little Owl, Willow tit & a fair total of 10 Woodcock from a couple of clumps of whinnies.

Finished off with 2+1h Littles & a Barnie at his roost hole in the half light

A new species today was a :-

. . .purebreed Pepper Terrier (never heard of it)

Sunday, 24 January 2010

24 Jan 2010 - Elasticated boundary ?

A Knot at Pensha park (where we were yesterday morning in the mud) found by my good mate Steve Egg.
Always great to get a passage wader dropping in, although you dont expect them in January !
No probs with this one, Herrington well & truly within "the patch".

Knot by Steve Egglestone.

we may well have to consult with the Joint Chiefs of The Elasticated Patch Boundary Commission for the BNG at Silksworth . . .

Just like WWWT, both locales are a couple of hundred metres, if that! outside the Boundary.
Suppose i could shave a bit of from a less productive corner & lay claim to Silky Lakes (of Laughing Gull fame)

Little else to report as the 3 Amigoes were down Teesmouth ticking.
Yellow-legged Martian phones me about 5 Shorts & a fem Merlin dashing about.

So thats the patch onto #100 species ( plus 1 (?) subject to the boundary review!)

24 Jan 2010 - Just nipping to T#sco's

Some of these supermarkets get very very busy - but i dont mind volunteering to crash my trolley through the masses.

Grocery shopping takes so long you'd imagine someone had possibly been elsewhere / doing something else, or at the least they'd appear to have taken the long scenic route home . . . .

Zipped round filling a trolley & had a sneaky 45mins at Shorbn hospital

Many happy memories, we practically lived here when we were kids, messing about, nesting & wading the beck.
Here i saw my first Pied Fly, LSW & LEO. Loads more, but annual visits to the Dipper nest, watching & listening to Corn Buntings (still a couple close by) etc all remain vivid.

This afternoon, two male Goldcrest singing & displaying brought back another bit of memory lane, i recall standing tip-toe on the top rail of a fence to look at the tiny eggs in a marvellous little cup of a Goldcrests nest .

The beck's in a small sheltered area, & i allways expect a wintering Chiffchaff, but once again not today. Its a modest affair, so i was surprised to see a Cormorant had managed to touch down. The regular riverine supporting cast were all present & correct with singles of Dipper, Grey & Pied Wagtail, Kingfisher & plenty signs of Otter.

A taster of Spring was in the air with Great tits constantly singing & an unseen GSW drumming. Also seen were pairs of, Partridge, Nuthatch, Willow Tits & Jay.
A regular Tawny cavity was vacant - probably just as well otherwise theres a fair chance the contents of some of those carrier bags would begun to thaw out.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

23 Jan 2010 - In dusk we trust.... a Bittern !


Weekend birding is generally a scarce commodity, but managed a quick scoot round while the bairn was at a kids party.
Met up Spuggy & Jim, we caught up with The Heron & patch year ticked Gadwall !
Plenty of Fieldfare & redpoll about.
Only a few ducks have moved back in, as still load of ice on pools - 4Goldeneye, 2Wigeon, 2Gadwall, 2Tufted.

Waited around for the last of the light, owling was pretty much non-existant, but we were rewarded for standing freezing with a fox hunting & catching / eating a vole, then a fine Bittern coming in to the main pool at dusk.
(some wag asks if its a ghost)

Scores so far:-
garden year list - 39
local patch yearlist - 94 (inland location)
on foot from home - 94

23 Jan 2010 - Feeding the ducks

Nice to see an ice free Country park, though later in the day (much later) RMs was still half iced up.

Decent selection while feeding the ducks, drake Pintail a surprise as reported as absent over past 2 days.

Also 5Pochard, 3Wigeon, 17Redshank, 3Cormorant, 100's of guulls & 2 fine drake Goosanders coming in close at times.

In the wood an empty Tawny roost. Singing Great Tits, with territorial activity from the Baldies.

Sticking the Coot in !

Also saw a Mud Lark.

Jack Soaked after trying the typha for a Jack

23 Jan 2010 - GBH Gull

Another white wing gull at the Biffa site courtesy of The Heron.

A real whopper - looked like it might of been feeding up on Polar bear meat.
What a brute, chasing Crows & seeing off the GBB's.
It even tried to catch a poor little Pied Wag - that might explain the bulge in its throat.

No apols for the picture - forgot to put memory card in, so its a emailed phone photo of the digi cam screen.

Found the camera cable !

CLICK on this one.

Friday, 22 January 2010

22nd Jan 2010 - CornBunt2 - Blk Throated Thrush0

Man with stick strikes with a hatrick today; reporting back with gull duo of the 1st winter Iceland & ad Yellow Leg in the swarm, before going on to also refind the 2Corn Buntings.
But thats where his luck ran out . . . its a pity he couldnt relocate the thrush.

A.N.Other will try again tomorrow, armed with apples.

22nd Jan 2010 - What the LEK is that ! ?

Today sees a bumper 73 pager Rarities edition of the bird club mag arrive.
Excellent packed with featured articles on ECWarbler, Hooded Merg, RFBluetail, Cettis & a Rarest Birds Seen in Durham.
The rank & file members catered for with 3 local patch reports, Gos & Buzzard articles & a pitmans memoirs of twitching a Robin deep under ground on the coal face.
Even the Robin-strokers are happy with this edition - they have their Redbreast on the front cover.

The only downside is that some of the photographs leave a lot to be desired, particularly the 2 of the human clothes-horse

Where'd you leave yer handbag you Perfumed Ponce.

An old poser.
What a tw@t! ( yes its me )

Thursday, 21 January 2010

21st Jan 2010 - Ramble on

A good start with garden yr-ticks of both Woodcock & Bullfinch over at first light, with Redwings & Fieldfares going over north as we walked to breakfast club.

Up the hill overlooking the Biffa site, male Kes setting his stall out very vocal & whizzing back & forth along the escarpment with clipped wing beats.

Convinced myself the Corn Bunts would show if i stood gulling long enough . . . plenty gulls, nowt different, poor, a Stoat on the path brightened things up; came away & crossed The Cut.

On the tops the fields were lifting with thrushes, around 1,500, majority being Fieldfare in 2km along the ridge. The first big groups ive since b4 Xmas.

Most as wary as ever - but a few allowing a closer inspection.

Cold, breezy & damp - no sign of any owls sitting out on the limestone,

& again no sign of the Peregrine having yet returned . . . but the commoner stuff was busy, a cock Chaffinch had a tentative attempt to make it sound like Spring, with Great Tit & Songy-singing & Cushats vocal too, with one in display flight

Couple of coveys, the largest being 14. Small flock of 20 each of Yellowhammer & Tree Spugs at the hilltop stables, with Willow Tit pair n a garden.

Also some evidence of Barns owls (this area is between known breeding territories, but still working on this one ..)

This quiet little clump looked good for a Leo . . .

Looking closer, no birds, but a bit splash . . .

subtle evidence of Barnie having been sat in out of the breeze
a downy feather with white tips & a white one with gold tips caught on bramble

and not so subtle :-

its been splashing down

2 pellets at base of post

Over to one of the earliest sections of the GNForest to have been planted - dont know this area very well - hard to work & limited horizons.
As chance would have it, from the track spotted a bit splash on a Scots Pine within a small shelterbelt. Scoping through, a pellet was easy to see (no understory & had been grazed off)

Beneath the young pines, a couple of bits of brocken pellets but not much splash, obviously hoping for Leo. . .

Moving through the belt & a couple of trees later i found it !
But what was it . . . ? Tawny ? . . . Leo ?
all i could see was a few bits of silhouetted back & legs . .
For 5 mins i tried to get a better view, but he was tucked in right tight.
Didnt know what i had.

Still unsure ( ! ) i looked around closeby & it may as well have left a neon sign.

A (now) obvious Tawny hunting perch.

Loads of signs of vole activity

voles holes

and an insight into their activity under the snow

vole runs

Continued on past the shooting syndicates many Pheasant feeders helping keep some of the farmland birds ticking over - an impressive 40 Tree Spug, 25Yellowhammer, with a pair of Jays cashing in on the free feed too.

Pleased (relieved even)to see a fem Stonechat in a regular spot. Met up with Jimmy & we looked about, 4Shorts, couple of coveys etc.
Davy flagged us down saying he'd just been watching a Barnie up the top road, all we managed was a long range glimpse..

but we did find where one of 'em been holed up out of the wind :-

a shooting butt with 15 or so BO pellets in it ! (only 2 in it a Xmas - so maybe a good bet to watch & wait from Jim & Cols hide ? )

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

19 Jan 2010 - Barn Owls & Snow

A few recent reports of Barn Owls hunting over the snowy western side of Durham . . .

pic by Davy Johnson.

We're waiting for the white stuff to clear up a bit, before we get on with the nextbatch of boxes.

Pic below from Derek The Finch showing a bird with prey

it dived through that deep snow to catch its prize.

A couple of new BO pairs have come to light up there recently, with Mr Gavsterley locating a pair hunting yestday afternoon close to moorland edge @ 250/300 m/asl.
These are faring okay, but what above those further way out west & a lot higher up . . .
We found a Barnie roosting late in 2008 at 460m/asl (the highest elevated county record to date) - it made it through a couple of weeks of snow cover last year - not sure how it will have managed since mid December though . . .


NB: Heres a link to todays article from national Barn Owl expert Colin Shawyer

Monday, 18 January 2010

18th Jan 2010 - Beauty & the Beast

18th Jan
Return of the drake Pintail to Pensha park boating lake


Snow finally departed - lovely to hear a couple of Song Thrush once again belting out their tunes late this afternoon, after the light had gone.

Busy working round home today, managed a garden year tick in the form of 3 Mute Swan, looked like they were heading over in the direction of the Pintail

and the Beast . . .
Pics AR

Sunday, 17 January 2010

17th Jan 2010 (2) Noisy Dog Fox & LEO's

Checked a traditional roost in a mature Spruce shelterbelt & after 15mins found 4 owls together, guided by a cluster of pellets.
Its been several years since the 12's, 14's & 16's we used to get here, but 4 was fine. Set the scope up, Three looked down, bits of them disappearing every now & then as the trees swayed in the breze. The fourth staying very mch asleep. A Woodcock went up in the process, but hardly a passerine here.
Unfortunately, couldnt get a decent image, with movement & poor light - heres one i prepared earlier :-

not looking down on me & not in a Spruce

Heres one ive borrowed off the net which illustrates the roost :-

Species List:
3Lapwing, 56Fieldfare, femStonechat, Sparrowhawk, 1Linnet, 5Goldcrest, 1Wren, 1Song Thrush, 1Blackbird, 1Skylark, 3Chaffinch, nil Snipe, 4 Long-eared Owls roosting in mature Spruce plantation, another territorial pair active at dusk both traditional locations.
Morrow Edge Plantation 4Siskin, 2Reed Bunting, Woodcock, 4Bullfinch, Green Woodpecker, 19Long tailed Tit, 3Goldcrest, 1Wren, 1Song Thrush. 4Roe Deer, 1 dog Fox, 2Hare, Pair of Tawny heard at Morrow Edge after light had gone. Several Skylarks over north after dark.

Woodcock over & almost clipping LV cables, it stalled, dropping its right wing to avoid clipping it.
At the same time, 16:50, male & female Long-eared duetting for 5mins untill a dog Fox came over barking regularly, covering ground quickly & headed into the owls wood.

One of the birds let out a series of whick-whack alarm calls, then all fell quiet, moments later one ghosted out of the trees & set off hunting over rough ground.

The Woodcock came back twice both times travelling slowly in a quiet tight arc, no vocalisations - dont know if all the commotion attracted it back in. Waited another 5mins hoping for roding but not this evening (think my earliest date is 16th).

Plenty of deer around, saw 4, but there were slots everywhere & 2 hare, although a 50 min walk back in the dark through thawed, soaking ground, capped with deep crusty snow & iced tracks was hard work but very worthwhile