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

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Prowl 29 June 2010

"a ya not out owlin" phone call was just the prompt i needed -

i had become comfortable on the recliner as 'she' was not due in till Dark o'clock, but fortunately returned early.

So, up, off, out.
Had 90 mins light, but by the time i got back it was almost Light o'clock.

Found another Fox earth (5 this season) - 2 good size cubs close to home

Owling session last night in northern section of  NZ34:

Houghton: 1Barn Owl, 2ad1juv Little Owl, pr+2juv Long-eared Owl, 2Fox

Low Haining: 3ad2juv Little Owl

Warden Law: 2pr Tawny owl + young, 3 reeling Grasshopper Warbler, juv Long-eared Owl(new site).

Sharpley: 2pr Tawny owl + young, 1Quail, 3 reeling Grasshopper Warbler.

Carr House Fm: 1Little Owl, ad + juv Tawny owl.

Seaton Pond area: 1 roadside Barn owl, 4 reeling Grasshopper Warbler, 1Little owl, 1Tawny owl, juv Long-eared owl.

Seaton Bank Top: 1Tawny owl, 2 reeling Grasshopper Warbler.

Owling session last night in north east corner of NZ24

Brasside: 2pr each of Tawny & Little with young, 2juv Long-eared owl, 1roding Woodcock, 2 reeling Grasshopper Warbler.

Pity Me: single adult Tawny & Little owl

Hartside: Barn owl heard, 1ad Tawny owl

Edmondsley: 1Tawny, 2ad,1juv Little owl

Waldridge area: 2juv Long-eared Owl, roding Woodcock, 2reeling Grasshopper Warbler, 2pr Tawny owl with young

Plawsworth: ad Little owl & juvs, 2pr Tawny owl with young

Cocken: ad Little Owl, 1Whimbrel, juv Tawny owl, juv Long-eared owl (new site)

Saw all 4 owl species,
but majority of registrations (obviously) being on call only due to late-ish start.


11 Locations with Little owl  (4pr with young)

15 Locations with Tawny owl  (10pr with young)

3 Locations with Barn owl  (1pr with young)

4 Locations with  Long-eared owl  (4pr with young)

Quail, Whimbrel,
roding Woodcock,
a reasonable 18 reeling Grasshopper Warbler, but several regular spots vacant
also 2 Fox, 1Hare, barking Roe Buck.

at least half a dozen regular Leo locations with no calling young
although 2 of the 4 sites with calling young were "new" sites in relatively well covered areas . . . .


Folk regularly ask where can go to find some owls . . . .

There's nothing particularly special about the area covered last night - mixed farmland & scattered wood -  similar habitat exists over much of the county

This is my favourite method at this time of year:-

a drive round in the dark, on a flat calm night - pin point what it is you're interested in
 - then go back the next evening & enjoy them before the light goes.

Hardest part is not falling alseep on the final furlong.

Otherwise, speculative checks from 19:30 onwards on a mild, calm evenings should pay off.


I would be interested to hear from anyone :-

watching Barn owls utilising Limestone cavities

& any information on any owls close to the moorland edge in England

or any Durham breeding Leos, especially so from west of the County.

mob 079 79 60 1231

Living dangerously

Hobbies / Castle Lake DBC nature reserve

In Durham terms a remarkable afternoon for Hobbies
1 - 3 birds on view pretty much constantly from noon till 4pm

mostly in area to the South East of Castle Lake
one raptor enthusiast had 3 birds together from the comfort of the DBC hide ! - another of our dreams seemingly slowly becomming a reality !

Close views of birds coming in low repeatedly taking insects at Allans Pool

I watched one catch a large blue dragonfly, before it swing round eating its catch right in front of me.

Close by at Fishburn Lake,  the excitement continued when a sub adult bird performed its aerobatics around the pool for an hour.

both these pool had very large nos of damselflys in todays warm conditions.

After a good crop of sightings over the years, especially so this year, will hopefully lead to this location being one where local birders can watch these superb flyers on a regular basis.
( There was another which was likely to have been a Hobby, at long range over the ridge at Garmondsway NZ3433 )


Simply stunning birds.


Fox den

Dab & chick

Wader Bay - DBC Castle Lake reserve
roll on Spotted Crake . . .


Or kids

Hobby food
(pleased with this one phone-scoped)

Sythe slicing up the sky

Monday, 28 June 2010

Light side of the moon / Barnie

a Big Moon

Barn owl catching items every few mins in an area of natural regen on the woodland edge
obvious & eyecatching here, white on green . . .

not quiet so obvious . . .
plumage merges perfectly against the Limestone

even with white facial disc on show, the bird still blends in with its surroundings.

Limestone caves, cliffs & craggs being one of the species natural homes before man began building barns !

Short Vid showing nervous adult leaving the nest chamber . . .
3 fox cubs below had all 4 pairs of Little Owls up in arms, making a right racket

Young growing well, adults making the most of the good weather, bringing in prey items every few mins.

It didnt get dark, the sun was replaced by a big bright moon, casting my shadow - it felt someone else was walking alongside.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Evening nursery session

4 cubs at S.North Pond

very entertaining with supporting cast of Leo, Lo & a brief appearance by Bo

Gropper came out to reel at very close range & Whitethroats everywhere

several full grown Leverets

moved off to check a quarry site closer to home, but terriers in the pit spoilt a good night

couple of pair of Littles with young & sev young Tawnies later

a big moon meant it was good and light till late on

drive by of sev Leo sites after 23:00, although a strong breeze picked up & hindered efforts to listen
certainly a mixed bag this season - some with 4 up & out, far more than usual negative returns.

seems like everything else is making the most of the fine weather & having a good season

took the clothes in that had been out overnight & had 3 of those on black garments

Thursday, 24 June 2010


ice cream after sports day

greedy little . . .

spent an age trying to get Beth onto some Butterflies etc,
but few would settle in the breeze - in fact we renamed them F%%% off flies

we made do with orchid pics & sat down for a bite & damselfly joined us  (i nearly had it !)

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

sum babby owls

had a good look & listen around some local 10km squares

mixed results

pic of 2 of 4 pathside young Long-eareds (phone held up to bins)

they look like right evil scruffy lil noisy beggars at this stage

Craggsys Crags / Great Western Shrike Hike

Way Out West with Gav

a valley in Western Durham

Kestrel with two young, families of wheatear,
 male Peregrine, spotted fly’s, Siskin’s inc singing male,
dabchick with young on elevated locations: including a pair on a waterbody with no emergent waterside vegetation,
all the usual breeding waders,
c40 pr Black headed Gull with many young, tailed young swimming about looking very odd

Last but not least 11 Common Gull including up to 4 breeding pr. (apparently one of Durhams rarest breeding birds)

Meadow Pipits with 5 eggs found by Gav along a dyke back.

Went on a hike looking for Stewies Sunday evening Woodchat Shrike, but the farmer was already busy close to when we got there.
Spent a few hours looking, but another that frustratingly got away.

A Common Gull

what a beautiful bird it is in Summer

Long range digi shot of an incubating bird. ( a first for the both of us )

One of the few times when common is rare.



Barn & Long-eared found raising families within 15m of one another.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

car park nest

A humble ornamental shrub at the side of a car park

Let's have a look

whats this then ?


Bish Midd evening visit

The Lake (yestday 20:00-23:00)
2Redshank, 10adult BHGull, 2Curlew, 1Green Sandpiper, 2Little Ringed Plover
12Swan, 51Gadwall, 3Mallard broods, 2ad2juvHeron,
91+adultCoot, 3prDabchick, 5GCGrebe, prPochard, mShoveller,
mTeal, 12Swift, prGrey Partridge
5Yellow Wagtail, mCorn Bunting, 3Tree Sparrow,

Fox family of 5 (7 cubs here, signs of some waterbirds being had, inc Oystercatcher) - , but no sign of Badgers which were a target

prShoveller, 2+pr Dabchick, Oystercatcher
1Little Owl, 1Yellow Wagtail, 5m Corn Bunting, prGrey Partridge
2Hare, 1Fox

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

An evenings Peace & quiet - The World Cups GR8 !

For some unknown reason many "Birders" seen to switch off come June.

How come ?

They obviously dont realise Its by far THE best month to be out & about.

Having the World (football) Cup on the TV on an evening is an added Godsend

Makes an evenings birding sheer bliss.

Hardly a sole to be seen nor a noise to be heard,
no scum, no moto-X-ers, no bounding dogs, no guns.

Tommy Noddy - hes gorra grit big heed & little body


Watch football on TV on a flat calm June evening - no thanks

Support England in the World - i was intending to . . .

We had a Union Flag in the front winda - but ive took it down & wiped my @rse on it.

Theyre like the rest of the Country - Style & Hype over Substance & Effort - a f@ckin laughing stock.

IF you are priveledged enough to be playing for your Country & you cannot even be arsed to sing your National Anthem then f@ck you & f@ck off.


Highlights of a tour of the local patch last night revealed :-

Barn, Little, Tawny & Long-eared Owls

Quail, Cuckoo, Green Woodpecker

Woodcock, Red legged Partridge, Grasshopper Warbler

Roe Buck, Hare, Fox, Noctule Bats

and Peace & Quiet.

set up to watch Little Owls,
only to find the Barnies have moved to a new nest hole this year.
In & out with prey every 5 mins.

The Littles bill clacking when he landed too close, & going beserk when a Fox ran up what appeared to be a vertical rock wall.

i Wonder what score it is . . . ?

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

monday meander

the week began in fine style with a morning scan resulting in a Hobby chasing House Martin over centre of Town !!
( thats it on the garden list in 2 consecutive years. )

a sure sign of a good day to come
so off out along the Burn.
Difficult at times,

in the open with a cool N'ly breeze - Swallows & House Martins fed in a frenzy, the Swallows especialy sweeping along the path just past our feet.

out of the breeze, with a bit of sun & what a difference.

A fair old selection as expected, but no real surprise ( suppose id already used my quota of luck for the day ) other than a Green Sand - i allways wonder which way June Green Sands are headed, North or South ? are they late or failed breeders or even none breeders who aint travelling any further ? who knows.

Banded Demoiselles were a feature of the day
Previously id only seen a single last year, at The Floaters with Spuggy.
although today there were more than a dozen at 3 spots along the burn, with the first being 5 or 6 at Sedgeletch.

I-phone - binned (should have been binned full stop.)

Now i would have thought these were Dragonflies -
But, a quick check with everyones favourite Roker-based gull watcher & he put me right.
Obvious when you know:-
When Dragonflies rest they hold their wings open
When Damselflies rest they hold them closed over the top of their body.

Thanks again Martin.

Reg Kes perch

A selection of those seen includes:-

The Burn:
Sparrowhawk, Dabchick, Mute Swan, (h)Water Rail, 6+GSWoodpecker, 10+Treecreeper, Coal Tit, 1Dipper, 2Spotted Flycatcher, 2Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Bullfinch, 1Jay, etc

The Gate:
7Shelduck, 48Swift, 1Buzzard, 1Redshank, prCurlew, 36+ loafing Lapwing + sev other breeding pairs.

66Lapwing mostly fledged young, 1Little Owl, Tree Sparrow pr with fledged young, 35House Martin sev collecting mud, 2prShelduck, 1Curlew, 1Redshank, 1Green Sandpiper, 120Starling, 2prStock Dove, juvChiffchaff.

Rainton M's:
2pr Willow Tit with young, 3m Lesser Whiethroat singing, prStock Dove, 1Little Owl, prBullfinch attending nest with young, mTeal, 1Common Tern, 1mLittle Ringed Plover.

Interesting today were the Lapwings,
A couple of post breeding flocks with decent nos of fledged young.
Also found a nest with 4 eggs right at the pathside in a field which had incubating birds right at the start of the season (late March).

Peewits only 8' from path; never got so close to one, she only came off at last moment.

we've been attempting to "persuade" Tree Sparrows into the reserve area at Rainton & are seemingly a little closer, with a family party only a few hundred metres away from a cluster of boxes - maybe they'll move house for the next brood ? ;-)

only had one fledged Kingfisher (& 1adult), i stopped to look at a brood of Mallard only to see it frozen beneath me only yards away

- after a good look i continued - it flew giving a strange yaffle-raptor like call as it went upstream.

I-phone - binned

Lots of grass getting cut as the day dried out - giving good short term hunting opportunities for our long-winged owls - with Herring Gull, Meadow Pipit, Curlew & Oystercatcher all coming in as soon as the field was cut.

along one of the final stretches a noisy Crow irritated me.
He had come up off the track & was in the tree top waiting for me to move & me waiting for him to shut up so i could listen for Quail.
Round the corner, all became clear - a half eaten meal of Partridge eggs.
Along the next 300m or so, i counted 18 brocken shells of either Pheas or Partridge.

RMs was excellent for passerines, considering the time of day, Willow Tits stil doing well here, Bullfinch went to a nest with noisy young, 3 male Lesser Whitethroat sang regularly.
On a less positive note we have lost several breeding species over this year or two, namely:- Redshank, Common Tern, Short-eared Owl, Cuckoo, Ruddy Duck, Barn Owl.
Heres hoping the drake Teal thats hung on has a mate tucked away close by.

Smashed anothor digi-camera - thats 4 ive gone through in 2 year
I reckon i can manage with the fone-camers ok, if i get some practice in . . .


Sunday aftnoon wander with the apprentice

Poor weather meant it was pleasantly quiet, only 1 car parked - in fact so quiet we had a Woodcock come up from the side of the main path.

Lots of birds, 3 family parties of Marsh Tit were a delight to watch.
Nuthatch, GSW & Treecreeper all with young.

adult Green Woodpecker at The Meadow, where Jack continued his count of slugs & snails & "spittle bugs"

As we kneeled to take a closer look we realised the meadow was alive with tiny young Grasshoppers & tried to catch 1 or 2.

Jack managed easily,

one on his small hand

just before it jumped up his nostril !

We bumped into Den.B's pin up:-

the "bird-lady" of The Dene
met a guy i hadnt seen for 20 year

Shame to see the scum have been camping in the meadow again, large scorched area & litter & brocken glass.

Other bits included Peregrine south offshore, Lesser Whitethroat carrying food, a couple of soggy Kestrels, Bullfinch & Stock Dove singing.

Decieded to go back again on a nicer day & have a picnic with a few of the wild strawberries.

almost a bird, ear of wheat
picked this & pondered how this turns into his breakfast

Saturday, 12 June 2010

DBC's Castle Lake

10:30 - 13:00 yestday

Castle Lake:

very wide selection - all these seen from the hide :-

Peregrine Buzzard Kestrel Sparrowhawk Heron Lapwing Oystercatcher Little ringed Plover Yellow Wagtail Pied Wagtail Common Tern LBBGull HGull CGull BHGull Pochard Wigeon Shoveller Gadwall Mallard Moorhen Coot Dabchick GCGrebe Tree Sparrow Linnet Skylark Meadow Pipit Reed Bunting Corn Bunting Starling Stock Dove Wood Pigeon etc
(SE / JO)

male Peregrine with prey at Stoneybeck

Tree spugling - sev pairs in & around reserve area

Good nos of Yella wags nesting in area
the closest part of 1 wheat field had 2 female but only a single male returning to nests - the male was visiting both - landing with bill fulls of insects & leaving with faecal sacs

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Durham Heritage Coast / Fox cubs

Had a look around The Noses Point area (where the "beach" was made famous in the Alien 3 film ) then moved down Hawthorn Hive.

a male Red Backed Shrike was up the coast at Hendon & i hoped the drizzle & Easterly breeze may have dropped a passage migrant or two . . .

Not long after getting through there, i bumped into The Finch - he mentioned a dead Fulmar & that the chances that it had been shot . . .

on the way back i scoped the slope - the evidence speaks for itself:-

dead Fulmar
a collection of lager cans can be seen close to where the bird laid dead

On a more positive note, i noticed a dozen or so Kittiwakes on the south side of the point itself -

half a dozen were on nests - ive never noticed them here before

After catching up with DC, we went our seperate ways - we'd just been mentioning Stonechat
& how they seem to have been pegged back somewhat by the winter snows
. . . the very next bird i saw was a cock Stonechat perched prominantly on tall weeds.
his mate quickly appeared & they made repeat visits to drop into a particular spot.

incredibly smart cock Stonechat

There was an excellent density of species nesting in the big rough field here
Its largely been left well alone & has began to regenerate naturally
i found the Stonechats, Reed Buntings, Linnet, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Whitethroat, Grasshopper Warbler etc

Reed Bunt



all very busy in the rank grass, tall herbs & saplings.

Wild Strawbs

Further along a male Yellow Wag was at one of the pools, before it moved off into the cereal crop.

A Orchard

a decent selection @ 70 species noted:-

pr Stonechat, male Yellow Wagtail, 8+Tree Sparrow, Swift, male Lesser Redpoll, male & 1 juvvy Green Woodpecker, males of Grasshopper Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat & Sedge Warbler, sev Little Owls, Swallow, 1Manx Shearwater, Marsh Tit, Treecreeper & Nuthatch familys, 20+Common Scoter, Common Tern, Sandwich Tern, Fox with cubs, walked into a Roe Buck, nesting Kittiwakes, 80+Guillemot ots, 1Puffin ots, 10Razorbill ots, steady movement of Gannets mostly N, 10+Fulmar (1dead), 1Red Throated Diver, 1calling Red legged Partridge, 8+m Reed Bunting, male Sparrowhawk, nil Grey Partridge, 2pr Stock Dove, 1 probable Serin was one that got away - although checking call on net, it sounds right, sev Kestrel, very high nos of breeding Meadow Pipits & Skylarks.

Watched the Vixen hunting for a while, she carried the rabbit back with it three quarters swallowed
Thinking about this, i presume it makes it easier to carry rather than holding it by the scruff of its neck & it dangling around all over in front of her.
She upset a Little Owl on the cliffs & he scolded her untill the Fox was out of his territory. Sadly too far & too wet for a pic.


short fox clip

Monday, 7 June 2010

DBC's Castle Lake

Went down Bishop Middleham
hoping to find a stint or maybe a sandpiper after yestdays rain . . .

a few bits & bobs on the roadside pool
Shelduck pr with 11 young, couple of male Corn Buntings, Yellow Wags, Tree Spugs etc

parked up & had fleeting glimpse of a Spotted Flycatcher, he continued singing unseen - one which we presumed to breed closeby but never proven.

Here Hare Here
nice to see loads of these down there - dogged to death round our way.

View from hide
last years "channel" cut an arc across the grassand & is helping keep that area much wetter.
further pools & channels are planned - the landowner is a top bloke - says "aye" to almost everything.


Little Ringed

Hobby food

Hobby (honest ;-)

Hadnt been in hide long when, when all the Starlings massed, the Swifts moved away & the Swallows alarmed . . . didnt see "it" whatever it was . . .

5 mins later "it" was back & no doubt about it !
A stunning adult Hobby cruised right past at eye-level, as it passed the hide i shot out the door to find J.Olley watching it move off southwards

The next thing to fly past were the 1 & a half hours taking us to 12:15 !

This was when it re-appeared, again an adult Hobby, picked up by Raptorman-Olley cruising high over Moto-X track.
It came in towards the lake at great speed, slowing to circle taking insects, it drifted slowly overhead - we opened the hide door to watch it taking further items over our heads, transfering them from talons to mouth.
It moved back over the lake, at times dropping at tremendous pace to take prey, without so much as a flick of its wings.
For the next 15 mins we watched it cruise & hunt about the surrounding area - at one point trying for a small bird, but concentrating mostly on small prey items.
We lost sight of it near Hardwick.

Seconds later we had the male Kestrel taking prey to a box, he deliverd it (long legged bird of sorts) only for the female to leave the nest & take the item to the ground for herself.

The next bird was a Buzzzard (John reckoned it was a male on size) being harrassed by a pr of Crows.

round over lake

Around 1 oclock it was back
Again it came close past the hide from left to right taking insects
Stalling it spyed a juvvy Starling & was on it in a shot
Just when it looked like a ready-meal the Starling clattered into the fence beneath us - the Hobby pulled up just in time allowing further superb close range views

moving off slowly over the lake, circling taking items, the Swifts staying behind it ! as it moved off over the A1 Flashes.

Certainly my best ever encounter with a Durham Hobby - a species doing well in England, but only positively confirmed as succesfully breeding as recently as last year. (thanks to The Raptorman).

Castle Lake Nature Reserve is privately owned farmland, managed by the farmers & volunteers from the County bird club- Durham Bird Club.