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

Friday, 23 April 2010

23rd April Groppers at last !

Eventually caught up with Grasshopper Warbler(x2) this evening.
10 days later than our first local one of 2009.

Interestingly there wasnt a sound from them after the light had gone.

Common Sandpiper, LRPlover, pr Long-eared Owl 1 watched hunting from hide at 20:40, 1Curlew, 3 redhead Goosander, pr Gadwall, pr Redshank.
Little Owl perched on top of security light.
8 Mute Swan over Spuggys Flash

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Roll on The Light Nights

Couple of Prowlers have been busy.

GJB, suffering from a bout of owl-somnia, set out at 4am & went on to collect numerous individuals of 4 types including BO in a new area & an unexpected TO out in the open on a moorside fence post.

JS, enjoyed an early evening LEO, active out in the Derwentside sunshine.

Nocturnal my @rse

Rather Green-eyed i managed to get out from 20:15 & straight off had a LEO hunting in good light & a pr LO feeding together from fence posts.

Others included a lucky year tick of 2-3Common Sandpiper.
A pr LRPlover flew in noisily as it was getting dark at 9pm - later heard calling high up heading over farmland nearby.
2pr Oystercatcher, 2 redhead Goosander, pr Gadwall, pr Redshank, 8+ calling Grey Partridge, Golden Plovers heard going over after dark.


Strange one last night was watching as one of a pair of scrapping cock Pheasants was hit by a car & killed stone dead.
The remaining demonic Pheasant jumped back into the road & visciously attacking the corpse, pecking at its head !


All the breeding warblers have been noted locally, other than Garden
Im still Gropper-less, although at the moment these are a joy to listen to :-


Roll on the Light Nights.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Not a Mystery owl photo

Cut & pasted from The Gateshead Birders website :-

where its labelled as a Short-eared Owl . . .

This is the same pic, unaltered other than re-sizing:-

wing shape, colouration & markings on outer parts of upper wing, facial disc colouration, underparts one similar colour

(white trailing edge on upper wing a mis-leading photo effect as same white can also be seen on forewing & rear underside)

Certainly a Long-eared Owl


Brave souls who braved the wind tunnel "Freezer Hide" report No sign of the Garganey today

rare image of Sand Martin checking for BO ;-) courtesy of JBee

Common Whitethroats trickling in today & another Cuckoo

Nice to see plenty of Kestrel pairs active after our winter snow

this male captured via Scud Missile Launcher & appearing to cache prey items at the nest

Monday, 19 April 2010

Mon 19th Apr - More migs

rain & a easterly breeze yesterday/overnight delivering us a couple of fresh visitors

Pride of place going to The Herons pair of Garganey.

Others including:- Tree Pipit, male Ring Ouzel, 4Wheatear, 2Lesser Whitethroat, 1Common Whitethroat.

Wheat heap Cuckoo remains in situ since the 10th Apr, though seldom seen

A good no of Swallows in over last 2 days, with several back at breeding sites today.

bird on a wire

Micks latest offering :-

Sunday, 18 April 2010

18 Apr

young Tony

a busy week, not much birding:-

get set, Go !

5 - slices of cake !

Cut'n job,
over the house, telephone wires, footpath, previously been butchered - lots of rot & vertical false growth etc

git big lump (click)

something nasty inside - it made a mess of the chain at both attempts (rocks & a steel bar are my guess !) so couldnt cut it any smaller . . .

wed 14 apr:
20:00: 8Goldeneye, 7Goosander, 1Water Rail, 3pr Redshank, 1LRPlover, 10+Snipe, prKestrel, pr+3Tawny Owl

thurs 15 apr:
male Swallow round farmyard at Junction House (between Sth Hetton & Easington).
Ad male Kestrel hovering over suburban back gardens at Grindon, S'land.

sun 18 apr:
dusk: 1Goldeneye, 4Goosander, 2Swallow & first decent flock of 80 Sand Martin.
Staking out a likely Water Rail spot for our local 24hr session, resulted in 1 sharming, also producing a hunting Long-ear, 3Common & 1 Jack Snipe lifting just over my shoulder


Ducklings: - only heard of 2 broods so far . . . any more ?


Summer Migs:-

several of the "later" summer migrants having come in close to home,
including :-
Sedge, Reeed, a couple more Cuckoo & today Lesser Whitethroat (mh)

But, "earlier" stuff the like of Wilwobs / Blackcaps & Hirundines, are still not in full no's.

Cuckoos are lovely - untill you find yourself living with one . . .

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Local Prowler strikes gold.

Heres an account from one of our keen local owlers, of a Leo pair at dusk.

Long at last light

"just before sunset I got myself in position where the tree tops were silhouetted against the setting sun.

A short while later a male bird flew from the trees and landed in a bush only to fly away again shortly after.

He returned giving several wing claps and landed on the ground in a clearing.

The female gave a couple of mewing calls and flew into the clearing and the male flew up, back down and mated with her before flying off.

20 minutes later the male flew past wing clapping and landed in the grass about 30 yards from me.

By now it was really dark and I could just make him out, the female flew past and gave some wing claps before landing in a tree silhouetted against the now very dark sky.

The male called several times and she replied before flying past me where she sat out of sight calling.

The male flew up and circled around several times, wing clapping before flying into the trees and out of sight.

I made my exit and headed home"

A superb encounter.

Long perched

Tues 13th April

Perg carrying

A bit Cut'n today
Got soaked, but it came down well

Got done & popped down The Freezer
Not much doing, but The Heron found us a good one

1st summer Ring Billed Gull !
Watched for 10 mins, noted all the features, even hearing it call, before it drifted off East

Monday, 12 April 2010

We parked up to eat our bait. The Laughin' Lad was the first bird we saw.

Spent a while strolling round semi-natural Oak woodlands in the Derwent Res area
Flat calm, sunny & warm - absolute bliss.

Hoped to find an early Pied Fly, but no luck.
Others this afternoon :-
1mRedstart, 1mTree Pipit, 1mGreen Woodpecker, Willow Warbler, prMarsh Tit, 5Nuthatch, 3Treecreeper, 2prBuzzard, prLesser Redpoll, several singing Siskin etc.
40Pink feet, 60Wigeon mostly paired up, 4Goldeneye, 3GCGrebe, 2prBuzzard, 1Raven.

Sunday, 11 April 2010


Lambton Bridge: (in passing)
1Green Sandpiper, 60-70Sand Martin, 6prGreylag, 1Heron, prGrey Wagtail, 1Dipper, mKestrel, 1m5fGoosander, lots of fresh Otter tracks in sand.

Otter prints


Popped into Spuggys Flash

1 of 3 Snipe

Saturday, 10 April 2010

sat prowl / Cuckoo / Egret

Drove down to catch DK & DCJ's Cuckoo
(image on on DCJ's site ------> )

The Heron rang with his reward after a 14 hour session on foot ! :- "Egret going over East" - heading towards home !

Dipped the Cuckoo & in all probability drove underneath that flying Egret !

Prowled around - listening out for Gropper more than anything,
TO family at Rms very entertaining
Young very proficient flyers already !
Mixed results from sev LEO pairs - birds bit late going onto eggs
Had a BO hunting close to male LEO as he displayed but took no notice of Barnie.
Later silhoutted views of BO in nest tree
TO calling from a non breeding farmstead
LO calling from an area where havnt as yet confirmed a breeding pair.


New breeding pair of BO discovered in Derwentside. (JG)

Sat 10th April

cock bird hiding amongst the morning dew

Mute Swan a new one for flash
also pr Teal & Greylag, 1Sandpiper, Willow Warbler

Lamesley areas yestday:
Good views of a passage Tree Pipit, 1House Martin, 1-2Swallow, @60Sand Martin
1Kingfisher, male +1 Green Woodpecker, 3pr Little Plover, 12prTeal
prBuzzard, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk
4m1f Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, prDabchick, 6Redshank
prGrey Wagtail, 2prGreylag Goose, Short tailed Tit, GSW, prStock Dove.

Driving home The Heron picked up female Peregrine over heading SE.
At the Flash:- pr LRP, 1Green Sandpiper, Coal Tit, prCurlew.


Willow Warbler a garden year tick this morning #61 for 2010

Thursday, 8 April 2010

8th April - Avocets, The Re-Match

2House Martin at edge of suburban breeding site at Coaley Lane, Sunniside.
1House Martin over at Burnside yestday evening.

Penshaw Monument:
1Swallow, 1Little Owl, 2Kestrel, 3Sparrowhawk
Scoping down into WWWT :- 20+LBBGull, mShoveller, Shelduck, Teal, Lapwing, Curlew, Heron, etc But once again NO Avocet . . .

Chiffchaff, GSW, Stock Dove, Bullfinch, Long tailed Tit, Skylark, Yellowmmer etc


Ch-le-St Swg Wks:
2m5f Goosander, 2Sand Martin, prBuzzard, 3Grey Wagtail, Dipper, prSparrowhawk, prOystercatcher(poss incubating in compound), sev Alba wagtails, 2Willow Warbler.

Houghton Gate:
prTeal, 2prRedshank, 4prShelduck, 5Curlew, prOystercatcher.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

owls 6th apr

Mild (10 degrees) & calm at 22:00

female Long-eared calling unseen.
She moved closer still calling as she flew. (cant recall seeing a fem calling in flight)

moments later her mate came in, nicely silhouetted against the red glow (courtesy of light pollution to the north).
He moved off with a 180 degree twist, without paying her too much attention. . .

After a few more calls she took off in a brief & clumsy copy-cat attempt.
She let out 6 rough & snapped at claps.
It looked like she may plummet to the ground at any minute !
Landing on the top of a prominant Hawthorn she began calling again, the tempo picking up as the soft muffled tapping of her mate came in again.
As he grew close he dropped out of sight as she left her perch to meet him - presumably for a food pass ?
(WC display from females is seldom noted)

2 Pip bats fluttering about added interest.
Dabchicks called almost constantly, with regular calls from displaying Laps & overflying Oiks.

Watched the adult Tawnys silhouetted on pole tops & coming to the box 3 times in ten mins. The young audible from 80-100 m away.

Headed back "something" was belting through the rough grass towards me - it bounded up the bank & changed direction on seeing me - my heart missed a couple of beats- it was only that free-range black dog again !


The Heron arrived this morning wwith a gripping yarn of just having had his garden Chiffchaff.
I momentarily cursed at the idea of being gripped so early in the day - but a matter of seconds later the familiar Tiff-taffing call rang out.
Result - Garden year tick !

6th April - 3 Kes boxes

Three Kes boxes

Box 1 - Well past its best, but still in working order.
Kes being ousted this winter by TO's & their growing family.

Box # 1

Box 2 - One which The Finch & i installed in an Ash a couple of year back.
Its held Little Owls untill very recently, they have only just been turfed out by Kes.

Box # 2

Box 3 - A new discovery ! - Walked past this a few times & never clocked it till today

Box # 3
Looks like one of those made freom re-cycled plastic.
Cunningly blending in on this telecommunications mast - how have i been missing this !


Other stuff today:-
A handful of warblers in sheltered spots: -4Willow Warbler, male Blackcap, singing in quiet sub song a new addition to the yearlist (2 others reported close by). Rather rudely, already stopped looking at Chiffchaffs !
7Sand Martin, 1Swallow, 1Green Sandpiper, 1GCGrebe, 1White & 12Pied Wagtails, 4pr+2m Teal, 70Meaadow Pipit, 1Water Rail.

Green Sandpaper

Vexxed at fluffing a redstart . . .
Dropped down from a hedge twice - i moved to get a better vantage point & never saw it again despite waiting 30mins. Possibly moved into an industrial compound on the windy side of the hedge . . .

Sunday, 4 April 2010

4th April: Easter Pullovers

First batch of Willa wobs in to local sites this morning - no doubt they woke abruptly due to the sharp icy frost.

Couple of quick sessions today

White Wag

2 species in this picture
Click it & see if you can see 'em . . .

Sat 3rd April - Search & Destroy

A wet afternoon

Couple of pair of wagtails prospecting for nest sites:-

One pair in the scrapyard in amongst a 40' bin full of metal

male Scrap Wag

Another in amongst exposed rocks in a steep wooded valley, 40' above the burn.

Dippers continue to baffle
Couldnt imagine that such a conspicous bird would be so difficult to get to grips with.
A different number of individuals on each visit - sometimes none seen ! ?

Watched an interesting encounter between 2 birds.
Bird #1,(damaged foot) was singing then hopping excitedly & wing flicking amongst rocks.

Dipper #1

Then Bird #2 could be heard contact calling in flight
On hearing this Number #1 flew up away from the waters edge & "hid" behind a steep sided rock, pressed tight up against, motionless, it with his tail cocked up against the stone.

#2 came round the bend singing to splash land close to where #1 had been singing & was clearly looking for the source of the song . . .

Hide & Seek

#1 didnt move a muscle, he hardly even blinked. He was a couple of feet above & @10' away, but completely hidden from the other bird.

They were both now aware of me, as i edged a bit closer.

Dipper II The Thug

#2 bobbed about, looking right round the stretch, then singing, but drawing no responce from The Hider.

After 10 mins of stalemate, #1 having not budged an inch, i slowly moved forward - i had to pass them to continue my journey.

I was very close to the Hider, when he finally deceided to make a dash for it. Rather than fly past me upstream he jumped out & gave a sharp burst of song before diving straight underwater to vanish.

Number 2's reaction was immediate - but not swift enough as his quarry disappeared underwater . . .
#2 got the high ground - the end of a branch over the top of a "log jam" of flotsam & jetsam. (in background on photo)
He sang loudly, with animated bobbing & wing flicking, looking all around but no sign of #1.

I scanned downstream thinking me may be trying a sneak underwater escape, but #2 was on the ball.
He spotted #1 trying to hide in the debris & launched an assault worthy of a Spuggyhawk !
The Hider had been found & was taking a pounding as he laid on his back wings & legs flailing !

They broke off, #2 the aggressor returning to sing & bob from his raised vantage point - his victim returning to his bolt hole to cower in fear !
During the mayhem i edged closer, the birds normally would be well on their way, but these two had other things on their minds.
Again #2 entered the flotsam & jetsom & pinned his victim to the ground - Poor #1 scuttling into cover out of harms way.

I continued to watch from downstream, hoping #1 would flee upstream, but he stayed in his raggy refuge.
In all probability he'd get more of the same, as 600m upstream theres a nesting male.

Thinking about it, its seems strange that The viscious #2 is so aggressive, as he appears to be un-paired.


Moved on to DKs secluded pool still holding 2 sandpipers.
This site will certainly pull something special in time - 4 quick visits have produced Brambling, Shoveler, GreenSand & todays new addition was a nice bright White Wagtail.

Finished at a wetland location with a huge 280 feeding Curlew lifting & arcing round against the setting sun.
10 Goosander came in to roost (1male) others here were a single Wheatear.

As the light faded we got into place & had a Pip bat go past - quite a surprise given there was solid ice on the car roof. Slightly poor end result with 2 females calling, although we had a Fox trot over the path & a Tawny go past at knee height only feet away.
As we waited in silence an unusual whistling sound from above . . . an early Whimbrel heading north.

Friday, 2 April 2010

1 Up my Backside (List)

Late in the day, breezy & raining, but grabbed the chance to get a bit air.

Driving over, a small flash comes & goes close to the A1 at Leamside & had a few bits & bobs
pr Oystercatcher, 42 Curlew, 12 Lapwing, pr Stock Dove - not quite as impressive as the large marshy wetland (Priors Close) that was here before the motorway went through.

Pulled in at Finkle to look for hirundines in the Wear valley.
Steep & well wooded, providing excellent feeding for them in poor weather.
This afternon 100+Sand Martin with 5+Swallow with them.
Not far off a Little Owl sat on the first branch up in his Ash.

Onto a couple of old flooded claypits.
Recently Dubbed "Backside" due to poor performances.

Been visiting on & off for 30 year - But still always a sense of expectancy here
There was a time when this was my daily haunt - even when it involved a 6km walk to get there.
Later when a car made life easier, i could sometimes do 3 visits a day.

As such my list here for a inland deep, steep sided clay pit (& surrounds) doesnt have too many obvious gaps:-

5 Grebes
2 Divers
5 Owls (in 24 hours)
Fudge Duck
Long tailed Duck
Common Scoter
Red Breasted Merganser
Glaucous Gull
Iceland Gull
Yellow Legged Gull
Med Gull
Little Gull
Red Crested Pochard
Ruddy Shelduck
Bean Goose
Bewicks Swan
Black tailed Godwit
Jack Snipe
Wood Sandpiper
Little Stint
Red Kite
Honey Buzzard
Arctic Redpoll
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
Blue Headed Wagtail
Ring Necked Parakeet
Turtle Dove

and seen by others :-
Night Heron, Marsh Harrier, Arctic Tern & close by Subalpine Warbler

A decent list - could i add to it in a "one off" visit this evening . . ?
Not likely . . .

10 Swallow, 25 Sand Martin, 4 Chiffchaff, 26 Cormorant, 24 Mute Swan, 4 GCGrebe, 5 Goldeneye, 5pr+Dabchick, 5redhead Goosander came in late pm for their overnight roost.
A fem Green Woodpecker & Little Owl, both scoped in regular spots from pool side path.
Treecreeper singing inspecting likely nest site, Nuthatch, 45+Goldfinch, 2alba Wagtail over, fem Sparrowhawk.

Onto an owl site close by.
First thing i looked at was on a rooftop of a disused munitions &
it was a Little Owl.
It looked a bit long &belly low to the ground . . .

Through the scope it transformed into a surprise Un-block !

Red legged Partridge!!! feeding on the rooftop.

This ones been evading me here for a good while.
Great to get a new bird on the list.
The last one i added here was a passage Nighjar 3 year ago.

2 more Little Owl, 2 calling Tawny, 1roding Woodcock over.
Finished off with a Barn Owl hunting in the drizzle from 19:40, after 10 mins it landed on a round bale & was still there when i left 20:15 - the light all but gone.