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

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

31st March - Up-cet

15Km anti-clockwise ramble.

walk in the park

The master-plan was one which i had forgotten to implement last year . . .
to "tick" the Washington Avocets scoping down from the top of Pensha Hill.

1mCorn Bunting, 8Tree Sparrow, 1Little Owl, 2prStock Dove, prGrey Partridge, 2Kestrel.

Ive seen Pintail with ducklings in Co.Durham, but have never seen a displaying drake.

Dont mess

The Pintail was paired with fem Mallard & aggressively seeing off all other suitors.
He was flicking up his head, giving out a wigeon-esque call with a shake of the tail.

Keep away

He followed her in, when she came to check out the broadcasted grain, but he stayed alert & at the back of the pack.

Rang Jimmy to check Water Rail location & managed one of his 2 or 3 ?

single Tawny Owl in his roost

all by myself

mGoosander came in, 5prLapwing settling with 1 female sitting, prOystercatcher, 8Redshank, GSW drumming, 2Chiffchaff both singing, fSparrowhawk, 1Snipe, 1Jay in Foxcover - a busy spot for it
pen Mute Swan on nest, 1 of the Little Owls in reg spot.

So onwards & upwards, past the NT guys scrub cutting - hard lines LTTits . . .

As soon as i get to the top of the hill, the weather comes in from the NW.
Sheltered behind a pillar & scoped down expectantly . . .
Wader Lake was 1 Mile away, but could clearly see Teal, Redshank, LBBGulls, Tufted, Lapwing, loads of Shelduck & Heron colony in full swing - BUT - NO AVOCETS !

Gave it 15 mins to see if they moved into view, all the while the weather closing in.

A quick check of the old tatty 1:25,000 O/S Pathfinder & off downhill into unknown territory - confident that i could scope into WWWWWT & get an eyefull of Avocet from the opposite bank !

Got down there, the Wearside Golf Course area, plenty of birds & could see onto the gravel island - BUT AGAIN - NO AVOCETS !


prGrey Wagtail, 28Heron, 26Shelduck, prGoosander, 2Treecreeper, 7Lesser Redpoll.

I will be back !

Moved off upriver through Cox Green area:
2m1f Tawny Owl calling early pm, 2prGrey Wagtail, 5mCoal Tit, 3Chiffchaff, Nuthatch, GSW, Treecreeper.

Mount Pleasant:
6Sand Martin, Kingfisher, prGrey Wagtail, prMute Swan, 8Tufted Duck, 3Cormorant, Heron, 2Chiffchaff, 10Siskin.

A bit shelter at the edge of Lord Lambtons, Biddick Woods:
2Nuthatch, 1GSW, 2Treecreeper, 6Coal Tit, singles of Jay, Chiffchaff, Willow Tit & Goldcrest (my first crest this week)

Getting damp now, but onto the final furlong. New Lambton / Sedgeletch:
Walked the railway & stopped to look at a dead Newt

Newt topside

Newt underside ( this is how i found it )
havnt got a clue with newts - belly seemed quite brightly coloured - ID appreciated.

- a few moments & photos later & a single howeet from a clump of Hawthorns, down the sheltered east side of the embankment.
Probably seen/heard a dozen Chiffy today & after being out over 8 hours, wasnt gonna bother, but it burst into song !

A Willow Warbler !

Got straight onto him & watched him feeding, occassionally flycatching & singing.
My first pre-April record (though MH has had them in March in this area previously)

Switched off for the rest of the final leg, but saw 5Greylag Goose, 10Lapwing, prTeal, 10+Moorhen etc.

Close to home a cock Reed Bunting sang in the school wildlife garden/pond - its not far from
home at all - & would be a "garden tick" if only i can get this from the attic window ! ! !

73 species noted today (82 this week)

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

30th March - Drauked

Tried for Black Redstart, Water Pipit, Willow Warbler & Garganey . . . .

No such luck - they cant wait for another day.

THe new addition today was a very welcome wader in the form of a Green Sandpiper.
(#117 all bar 4 OFFH. )
The only year ive been here where we havnt had overwintering birds.
Todays was on a private pool tucked away under overhanging thorns out of the worst of the rain - unlike myself who was soaked through by that point.

The Gate was average-ish
2m Shoveller steamed about & spun in circles, half a dozen or so Wigeon, 10 loafing Shelduck, 2pr Teal, 100Curlew, pr Oiks, couple of Lapwings sitting, a dozen Snipe and half a dozen Redshank with a fly by of 24 others - strangely they didnt come down.


Continued down to see how the Dippers were getting on.
Watched one collecting to add to the nest - including leaves (recently mentioned by HC on DBC forum)
Dome now complete, they are working on the inside.

short Dipper VIDEO

GSW also working on his home untill a dog emptier deceided to linger

Lots of Chiffchaffs now, although no hirundines for me today

Waded back over the fields, decent population of Lapwings,
10pr in one cereal field - females very difficult to see as autumn sown stuff is getting up.

on eggs

Tree & House Spugs together, pr of Kes with fem sheltering in box, Curlew displaying in the rain.

Popped into the freezer to wring my dut & gloves out.
not much doing - 2prGoldeneye, mShoveller, +8prTeal about a dozen or so Snipe probing as the rain teamed down.

Very little on the way back - 2 Mistle singing 100 yards apart & a 3 pair of Oiks. Pair on the marsh, pair flying onto factory roof & 3rd pair on the cricket field.

Turned down a lift to keep that sandpiper OFFH !

71 species noted

Monday, 29 March 2010

Ramble over looking for Wait Heres

Weather not as poor as forecast, so up along the tops again hoping for my first local Wheatear.

Along the escarpment
3Woodcock up off pathsides, obviously migrants as were 3Chiffchaff.
2Sand Martin back at the colony, with 4Little Owl in & around the sand hole, where 5+pr Stock Dove contested nooks & crannies with 15pair of wheeling Jackdaws.
3pr of Grey Partridge came up, a single Willow Tit perhaps bewildered at the recent large scale thorn & gorse removal.

Very prominant all day were Long-tailed Tit with 6+pr along this first section.
A handful of Lapwing pairs on the autumn sown ground; 1 female incubating - lots of Magpies & Carrion Crows around, the males will have to be on their toes.
Unlike last year, Kestrel the only falcon settling to breed.

Hill top stables provides full board accomodation for finches & buntings year round.
A decent colony of Tree Spugs here, with 30+ today.
Could hear their racket a good way off, vaguely reminiscent of zebra finches! Wondered where they all nest as there arent too many mature trees . . .
the answer was down the back of the fence !

Tree Spug City
20 or so nest boxes hidden between the wooden boundary & a thorn hedge.

After a look at a regular Tawny Owl in Pines, i back tracked to try out a new area.

Looked promising, masses of mature thorn scrub, rough grassland & a boggy pool.

Even more surprisingly a signpost read "W.L Nature Reserve".
Finches & buntings well represented with 2Willow Tit, several more pairs of Long tailed Tit.
1Woodcock close to the pond which held pr Coot & Mallard with Redshank over.
A superb little area - out of sight from my usual route & well worth closer inspection - especially at dusk, habo exact for Leo.

Close by a "tick tocking" Snipe was an exciting find - only 1 other place on the patch where they are regular breeders.
The general area held pr Teal, 1Heron, 1Redshank, pr Curlew, 7Reed Bunting, 3Chiffchaff, loads of Toads but no Frogs.
A small wood close edged with a clump of mature Scots Pine looked just right for asio otus too . . .
A couple of bits of pellets were inconclusive although two others were huge -
Theres one big Tawny in there somewhere . . .

Found a dead thing:-

seen better days - fox ?

Two GSWpkr drummed within 100m of one another with 2 singing Chiffs, 1Jay & 4Stock Dove for good measure.

Onto a long abondoned wagonway through an area of arable & small woods into an area with several wildfowlers flighting pools.

No Garganey today
1Heron, pr Oystercatcher, pr Redshank, prGadwall, prWigeon, 20+Greylag Goose, prMute Swan, 2pr of disputing Dabchick, 2alba wagtail, 1(stake out)Long-eared Ow in a thorn thicket, hopefully his mate will be there too

Thorn scrub - full of birdlife

10+Tree Sparrow, pr Jay, 4Stock Dove, Lapwing, 12Tufted Duck, 2pr Grey Partridge, 2Chiffchaff.

Out into an open landscape of many acres "out of production". This had been topped down & has been popular with owls & the odd Hen Harrier over recent years.
A couple of pools here holding very little of note:- 5Dabchick, prMute Swan, 10Tufted Duck, pr Teal.
4mReed Bunting seen including 1 on bird feeder.

feeding on fat balls

Had just about given up on the White arses
But, 5 hours in & up out of the grass came one after the other - 7male & 3fem's. Strange watching them work back South (!) as they fed into the wind.
A couple went up onto the wires, others aroused interest from a fem Stonechat.

At last !
A Wait here

Thrushes were not particularly prominant today with only 1 group of 17Fieldfare seen.
The rough grass ideal for many species with numerous Skylarks & Mipits, nesting Lapwing & 2pr Grey Partridge.
A barn door was open & it drew me in like a magnet.
A top coat warmer inside, whitewash showed were Kestrel had been holed up out of the wind.

barn roost

Outside, on the ground below the apex was a sprinkling of BO pellets

Heading back now, weather beginning to deteriorate.
Went via a wet woodland:- Here 3mTreecreeper singing, 2Moorhen, pr Mallard, 1Jay, 1Buzzard, 2Kestrel, 3pr Long tailed Tit, another Woodcock (must go back to check this for roding birds) Mistle Thrush singing.

Mechanically damaged Birch showing advantaugous roots

A few spots of rain now, 1GSWpkr & 2 Chiffchaff - 1 at the wood edge & another in a gulley.
As the rain came on i picked up the pace with 2Snipe coming up from a promising rushy area.

New Windmills
Passed close by the new windmills - 1 in particular having a squeak on it - not being too disimilar to juv Leos ! - that should prove interesting, & perhaps somewhat frustrating come June.

Tally of 66 species

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Short-eared Prowl

Amazing video from Galapogos - unique strategy from SEO

Disappearing Ducks

nice of someone to leave a light on

Managed a couple of hours yesterday evening
A bit too much wind, but a big bright moon cast strong shadows as she got up

Loads on the main pool as last of light faded

Site record of 12 Goosander (loada flood water in the rivers) with much chasing & display

Also plenty others on with 3Goldeneye, prGadwall, prWigeon, 1GCGrebe, 11Snipe, 4Oystercatcher, 6Curlew, 1LRPlover, prRedshank mating.

Pleased with the plover having had another negative visit to The Gate yestday !

Record shot of Sawbill record

Called back mid morning to find the place just about devoid of waterfowl

The Black Dog no-doubt the culprit .
It was running wild as i was leaving at 20:00 last night

From the car park watched the TOs getting buffeted about in their box
Hope it holds out - loose timber hanging off the back ! The eldest youngster eyeing up the gulls going by -
my moneys on him falling out & being "rescued" into someones kitchen/shed etc

Last night the male TO was using the spare poles to hunt from - ignoring the Magpies protests at dusk.
bit Bigger

On way home called in to check up.
Very pleasing to report The Flushers seem to have eventually got the message -

the birds now being allowed to settle in a new spot.
He was well tucked in, but she was dozing in the sun out of the wind

Should be on eggs this time next week
click to make it a bit Fatter

Superb selection of owl images on DCJ site (see links --> )
Have a look at the recent uploads.



Saturday, 27 March 2010

Three dips

Tried The Gate again for a LRP, but no luck

They pop in & out on a regular but frustratingly sporadic basis - commuting between this pool & the breeding site (almost certainly their last year as its in the process of being reclaimed)

Moved down at the end of the day hoping to get a look at an Otter
Water running high, covering the bankside so not much chance
Dipper pair watched bobbing on a large Crack Willow limb, torn down horizontally & lurching violently in the chocolate swell.
Listened to the male singing loudly over the roar of the river & moved off to get in place for the last of the light.

Pulled up to hear 2 LO calling, one of them sat in enterance to Kes box
Shortly after BO lazily patrolling up the headlands, making a couple of dives before being lost to view.


Friday, 26 March 2010

Up the hill & Down at the Farm

Pleasant ramble up the escarpment & round through the farms.

Wind assisted alba wagtails & Mipits moving through.
4 singing Chiffchaff 2 of them in non breeding areas.
The only other migrants being 2 Woodcock in rough grass - no sign of Wheateaters or Ouzels along the top of the escarpment.
Despite the blowy conditions decent showing from Little Owls, half a dozen seen including a pair in the quarry.

We may have lost some of our numbers of farmland birds, but managed to see the full complement this morning with 12+Stock Dove, male Corn Bunting, 10+Tree Sparrow, Yellowhammers & Linnets at nest sites, 5pr Grey Partridge, Skylarks etc etc

Still a few small groups of Skylarks & buntings hanging around were theyve wintered.

Watched Willow Tit singing & Long tailed Tit carrying in a sheltered thorny hollow.

An excavotor was busy in the old churchyard digging out old hidden gravestones from the base of the crags - close, but hopefully no closer to one of BO roosts.

Couple of hours work this aftnoon - then i'll try for the Little Plover again - hope it comes easier than last year !


40martin & a Swallow at Ch-le-St


Thursday, 25 March 2010

Springing northwards

Straggling line of 26 Hoops went over while looking (dipping) Lurps at The Gate.

Decent selection:-
32Snipe, 9Redshank, 6Oystercatcher, 74Lapwing, 68Golden Plover, 280+Curlew, 1Heron, 4Mallard, 4Teal, 1Shoveller, 12Shelduck, 2Greylag, 22Mipit.

A pleasant warm afternoon with gulls taking flying insects (it was uncomfortably hot and muggy as the sun first broke through) & i waited an hour for Jimmys LRP to return . . .

No luck, but more than happy with my earliest Swallow (114) which circled before moving on north with 2Sand Martin.

Tried this different camera on macro setting through the scope -

Will keep trying. Had just got the knack of the old one before it packed in !

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

more new homes


a few more new homes up, as part of the DBAP Barn Owl Action Plan.

a draughty old ruin, not much cover for him in here

hope he'll move 50 yards into this one in this Oak


poorly plover
looks like its hit the fence - tried to nab it but was still strong & too quick for us.




Dull day, but had to cover a bit of ground on foot to reach isolated trees, the resultant silver lining being that we managed some birds:-

In the AM; 1,200 Fieldfare with some singing in the rain, 1,000+Starling, 4mReed Bunting on territory, 1mWheatear, 1hTawny Owl, 1mBlack Grouse, 4mYellowhammer, 1Little Owl, 1Barn Owl in draughty roost, 1Jack Snipe was a surprise, room for 1,000's of em up there i suppose, prStock Dove, 1GSW.

In th PM; 1,200+Golden Plover, 1Buzzard, 1,000+Fieldfare, 600+Starling, 3mReed Bunting, 1Short-eared Owl, prStock Dove, Meadow Pipits & Snipe displaying.

Back again soon i hope.


Tuesday, 23 March 2010

23 March - Not on foot from home

Tawny with 2

Chock full of birds again . . .

Kes pellets

not drab at all

Moved on in search of a LRP . . .

Oiks & plovers

Stopped off on way back for check up

Fat Cat

Asio Evans - allways hiding !

Encouraged him to leave his hiding place
as is the local custom, with a half brick & a length of 2"x4"

pics with new dig camera - havnt got the hang of it yet . . .



knjb;iln;l v


Monday, 22 March 2010

On foot from home 22 March

Dipper at work (scoped from range)

Steady walkabout netting 77 species.

Damn !
When we agreed to the release of Beavers into our area, we didnt expect that they'd all come with ASBOs for littering !

Good Mipit passage today, with a single roving feeding flock of 300

Passage wader in the form of a


Some Spring arrivals with 5 singing Chiff & 18 Sand Martin

Smartin in the wind & rain -
they cant be that smart . . . i mean why dont they wait till its nice & warm !

A loose group of @80 Skylark got up into the wind, as i crossed their field in the rain - amazing sight & sound as a good percentage of them errupted into song

A short video clip of pair of Dipper watched building.

This is their second attempt - footbridge close by fell through for them.

Loads of Reeed Bunts on territory & singing, (1 contact calling in an odd floating display like flight ) but 30 odd still in winter bunting flock.

groups of Redwings singing at 2 spots
watched a pr of GSW interacting then the male working on a fresh nest hole excavation.
Good to see pairs of Grey Wags on territory & a couple of Kingfishers, though Wrens do seem to be down in no's after the winter.
Great tit & Willow Tit in a strange duet - they were within 15m of each other & seemed to be taking turns, never once singing over the top of the other.

Some more of todays birds :-
Water Rail, Little Owl, Nuthatch, Buzzard, Goosander, Dabchick, Tawny Owl, Golden Plover, Siskin, Snipe, Treecreeper, Shoveller, Jay.

OFFH List = 111


Sunday, 21 March 2010

Toads loads - Frogs nil

Took the bairn to have a look for some frogs & toads later on this morning, after it had warmed up.
A pair of Grey Wags undulated by as we watched a fly fisher up to his chest in the Wear, & a Moorhen with a fully built, but empty nest here.

Moving on towards the frog ponds & out of the breeze, the warm sun was a delight, as was a steady & instantly pleasurable "Tiff-taffing".
Saw my first 2 Chiffchaffs of the year as they sang away on a scrubby woodland edge.

Last one i saw was in early November, & cant remember the last time i didnt see local overwintering birds.

Strange co-incidence, just listened to Small Faces "Lazy Sunday" - never paid much attention to the bird song at the end of the track, but lo & behold Chiffchaffs there.

Disturbed a pair of Magpies from a big old Hawthron, jogging my memory of the 50+ we put up from a thorn copse last night.

no idea where you're hiding . . .

Frog-spotting in a crystal clear pool


Half time

Final Score:- Brazil(me) 4 - Sun'land (them) 10

No dusk this evening
Consolation in the form of watchig a Little Owl from the back door.
He sat calling his curlew like "whaup" for a good ten mins without reply - right between known territories. Our first visual from home this year.