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

Monday, 29 November 2010

The Day The Bitterns invaded Houghton

One was good, very good.
but Two in that tiny reedbed...... unreal !

theres always some joker who has to mess around on the side lines, poking his head in to spoil a good photo

A second Bittern confirmed by JB & GC

Bittern #2
Note the white feather -
possibly the beginning of a new moult-strategy to help the Bittern blend in with our winter conditions.

snake-like in the snow

Pictures by kind permission of John Bridges & his giant flask - more at :-

Feeling intimidated by these 2 strange creatures (not the ones in the hide !), the Heron gave them a fishing lesson:-

one went to roost at 16:15, in the same spot as yesterday - climbing up into the tops of the phragmite reeds

a Little owl tonight, several Woodcock & Snipe dashing about as the light went

1,2....... but wait on.........Three !
Three Bitterns on the Patch in one day - the mind boggles


Short of ideas for a stocking filler for your Primary School aged offspring .....?

Well N#ntendo have sparked an outcry with a new game, where a 10 yr old boy runs the streets of Glasgow, smashing cars, stabbing folk & robbing houses......

about to be bitten ?

Out in the shops now, its called Wii Bastard..



Working people frequently ask retired people what They do to make their days interesting.

Well, an old couple in our street relayed this to me :-

The other day, Mary my wife and I went through the town for a bit shopping.
We were only in the first shop for about 5 minutes. When we came out there was a Polis writing out a parking ticket.
We went up to him and I said, 'Ha'way man, how about giving an old aged pensioner a break?'

He ignored us and continued writing the ticket. I called him a f#ck wit !
He glared at me and started writing another ticket for having baldy tyres.

So Mary called him a shit head. He finished the second ticket and put it on the windshield with the first.

Then he started writing a third ticket.

This went on for about 20 minutes,

The more we abused him, the more tickets he wrote.

Just then our bus arrived, and we got on it and went home.

We try to have a little fun each day now that we're retired. It's important at our age.

Important announcement re English Weather

English weather

In deference to the Archbishop of Canterbury and The Royal Commission for Political Correctness, it was announced today that the local climate in the UK should no longer be referred to as .....''English Weather.'

Rather than offend a sizeable portion of the population, it will now be referred to as

'Muslim Weather.'

Partly Sunni, but mostly Shi'ite

Sunday, 28 November 2010

White $hite

A young Arab asks his father:

What is this weird hat that we are wearing ?

It's a "chechia" because in the desert it protects our heads from the sun !
And what is this type of clothing that we are wearing ?

It's a "djbellah" because in the desert it is very hot and it protects your body !

And what are these ugly shoes that we have on our feet ?

These are "babouches", which keep us from burning our feet when in the desert
Tell me, papa...
Yes, my son ?

Why are we living in Birmingham and still wearing all this shit ?


Rainton Bittern sunning itself early afternoon providing good photo opp for DA et al.
Bittern pic

I managed to get there for the last 30 mins of light & DM kindly back tracked through the 10" of snow, where i enjoyed brief scope views of it as a certain small person enjoyed throwing snow in my ear & face.

you can just make out his face, high up in the reeds, left of middle

only just.....
Looks like it was maybe going to roost there - high up out of harms way

harsh conditions for November.....

Despite my snowball launching imp, we had superb views of a Woodcock feeding in the snow amongst the trees, with Jack Snipe, Snipe & Woodcock all seen with ease as the light went around the pool 3/4 area.

red sky at night, snowball in your ear

A small wader, rushing about on the tiny ice free areas remained unidentified in the half light - hopefully a Sanderling, but perhaps just a Dunlin ?
If it stops over, GC will be on hand to mop it up in the morning

late Sunday night, & the skys just been lit up with a hellish crack of Lightening & the longest loudest rumble of thunder i can remember


Fun in the snow

Fun in the Snow Friday

Fun in the Snow - Sunday -getting on for a level foot of the stuff

Fun in the Snow - Sunday

Fun in the Snow - Saturday

Fun in the Snow - Saturday

Friday, 26 November 2010

Single Black Female

no sign of [B]Bittern[/B] from the hide at Rainton, untill just after 16:00

the front edge of the phragmite reedbed having 'collapsed' with the weight of snow.

2 [B]Water Rail[/B] were feeding close together near the car park Willows

the pools had  @10% thin ice

several [B]Snipe[/B] & [B]Woodcock[/B] were visible flying in/out to feed as the light went, with a [B]Jack Snipe[/B] flying in to pool4.

Unusually 2 [B]Jack Snipe[/B] were flying together, the leader being pursued closely, with the following bird shadowing ever twist & turn, under tree branches, undulating up & down over rush & sedge.

They eventually dropped in together on the channel between III & IV.

A Long-eared was post hunting at II as i came away @17:00, hunting off up the bank, showing up superbly against the snow.


a nice warm inviting sunderland sunbed shop


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Wednesday, 24 November 2010


A fifteen year old Amish boy and his father were in a shopping mall. They were amazed by almost everything they saw, but especially by two shiny, silver walls that could move apart and then slide back together again.

The boy asked, 'What is this Father?'
The father (never having seen an elevator) responded, 'Son, I have never seen anything like this in my life,

I don't know what it is.'

While the boy and his father were watching with amazement,

a fat old lady in a wheel chair moved up to the moving walls and pressed a button.

The walls opened
and the lady rolled between them into a small room.

The walls closed, and the boy and his father watched the small numbers above the walls light up sequentially. They continued to watch until it reached the last number, and then the numbers began to light in the reverse order.

Finally the walls opened up again and a gorgeous 24-year-old blond stepped out.

The father, not taking his eyes off the young woman, said quietly to his son.

'Go get your Mother.'


I was expecting a delivery at home @ noon, so a toddle round the patch was just the ticket to while away a couple of hours.

The first dusting of snow & a cold, damp northerly blow werent realy condusive to bird finding.

first snow cover on the Limestone escarpment at the edge of town
After a short spell i was warmed up & managed 10 Waxwing & 160 Pinks over at Ch.Moor.

Heading onto the reserve i spoke to a DWT staff member & let on about a couple of rails which had been removed to enable quad bikes to enter the reserve -  a short chat about birds & i mentioned i was hoping to see if the Bittern had returned to overwinter . . .

5 mins later i was in The Freezer (The bird hide) & low & behold the first thing i see is the Bittern right on the reed edge !

In view for 40 mins untill a Grey Heron flew in & the Bittern climbed up the Typha out of the way.
Here he indulged in a spot of neck stretching- its 'bitterning' posture, as if looking for the Heron, before creeping back into the cover of the small Phragmite bed.

No sign for rest of day, untill later on when it was on view for 'Foghorn Leghorn' & 'Mick The Heron' for at least half an hour  from 3:15

The Bittern - digiscoped by one of our very few keen young local birders - Andrew Kinghorn.

There was a nice selection on the main pool, with the juv Whooper looking as content as ever, 5Pochard, several hundreds of large gulls in after a hard shift of sifting through the rubbish on the landfill.
The recent work to install the sluices has resulted in a very low winter water level, this attracting  several dabbling ducks with drake Shoveller, 20+Wigeon, 10Gadwall, 25Teal.


had a drive out through the late night shop, to see how our little car copes in the snow
sadly it handles like a settee being pulled through a paddyfield by a three legged ox,
although on the plus side, the heater is very warm

Winter is here

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Load of Bull

A man and his wife went to the Perth Royal show and one of the first exhibits was the breeding bulls.

They went up to the first pen and there was a sign attached that said,


The wife playfully nudged him in the ribs .....smiled and said, 'He mated 50 times last year, that's almost once a week.'
They walked to the second pen which had a sign attached that said,


Wife gave a hefty jab and said, 'WOW~~That's nearly three times a week! ..........You could learn a lot from him.'

The third pen had a sign attached that said, in capital letters,


The wife was so excited that her elbow nearly broke her husband’s ribs, and said,
'That's once a day ..You could REALLY learn something from this one !.'

He looked at her, smiled and said, 'Go over and ask if it was with the same old cow.'

His condition has been upgraded from critical to stable and he should eventually make a full recovery.


Couple of quick checks in the last hour light after work producing hunting Barn & Little Owl yesterday in a line of Poplars were i havnt noticed him before.
Keeping tabs on a couple of small  Long-eared roosts - although the trampled rough grass tells an all too familiar tale - i hope they are still intact when we lead our guided walks for the Wildlife Trust . . .

As the light fades, breeze drops, air cools & ground hardens.....
A brief period with heightened senses - the familiar sights & sounds of a winters eveing come into play
Squealing Rail, Snipe out overheard, distant Tawny & Little announce the end of the day, a couple of Woodcock follow one another into the dyke back, as a Long-eared silently floats out to hunt as the night takes over.


meanwhile on the patch what appears to be our first overwintering Little Egret......
Herons Egret - no it isnt a white plastic bag.

Worked the weekend, a glorious Monday morning, perfect conditions resulting in a 15 miler round the patch. A real mixed bag, with 82 species noted.

Little Egret, Heron, Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Kingfisher, Snipe, Curlew, Redshank, Woodcock, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Water Rail(h), Moorhen, Coot, Mallard, Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal, Mandarin(f), Goosander, Tufted Duck, Scaup, Whooper Swan, Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Pink footed Goose, Cormorant, Dabchick, Med Gull, BHGull, CGull, HGull, GBBGull, Willow Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, LTTit, Nuthatch, GSW, Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Chiffchaff,  Siskin, Redpoll, Buzzard, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Little Owl, Tawny Owl(h), Long-eared Owl, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Chaffinch, Goldfinch Greenfinch, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Waxwing, Tree Sparrow, House Sparrow, Starling, Crow, Jackdaw, Rook, Magpie, Jay, Pheasant, Grey Partridge, Wood Pigeon, Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Stock Dove.

More from the realms of iPhone-digiscoping land . . . . . . . . .

 Scaup starting to colour up a bit

 1 of 7 loafing at Chester-le-Street

 Quite happy with this pic - he was constantly on the move & harrassed by the gulls

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Irish Ghost Story


This happened a while ago in Dublin , and even though it sounds like an Alfred Hitchcock story, it's true.
John Bradford, a Dublin University student, was on the side of the road hitchhiking on a very dark night and in the midst of a storm.
No cars were travelling that night. The storm was so strong he could hardly see a few feet ahead of him.
Suddenly, he saw a car slowly coming towards him and stop. John, desperate for shelter and without thinking about it, got into the car and closed the door.... only to realize there was nobody behind the wheel and the engine wasn't on!!

The car started moving slowly. John looked at the road ahead and saw a curve approaching. Scared, he started to pray, begging for his life.
Then just before the car hit the curve, a hand appeared through the window and turned the wheel. John, paralyzed with terror, watched as the hand repeatedly came through the window, but never touched or harmed him.
Shortly thereafter John saw the lights of a pub appear down the road. So, gathering strength, he jumped out of the car and ran to the pub.

Wet and out of breath, he rushed inside and started telling everybody about the horrible experience he had just had.
A silence enveloped the pub when everybody realized he was crying and....wasn't drunk.
Suddenly the door opened and two other people walked in from the stormy night. They, like John, were also soaked and out of breath.
Looking around, and seeing John Bradford sobbing at the bar, one said to the other....
'Look Paddy...there's that freakin' idiot who got in the car while we were pushin' it.

Long-eared Owl in typical lowland roost. Bird in sheltered Elder behind Hawthorn.
Wing tips visible in bottom of image.

the gusty wind allowed me to get a close up view from behind the bird without it being aware of my presence

how many of these must we walk past . . . .

10 Nov 2010 - The End of a Winters Day - Leo pic

couple of hours on the patch after work

nice selection - lots of thrushes dashing about obviously fresh in, as were 2 Woodcock in open areas,

5 Jay together were a good local count.

Redwings enjoyed the late afternoon sunshine with a couple singing from the tops of the Hawthorns.

A small skein of Pinks went over as a Little Owl began to call in the distance.

As the sun dipped, so did the temperature - though mitts & dut & winter coat all very effective.

A Long-eared came to the edge of the roost @ 16:20 & was out shortly afterwards.

After trying for a few thrushes it set out, following the hedgelines, continuing on drifting to & fro, before ghosting away out of sight.

We seem to have accumulated a couple of new followers, despite not having posted for a good while ( had a spell when i couldnt manage to upload due to a pc issue )

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Box work - 28 Sept 2010

Met some nice folk today

An invitation to help assist with a Barnie box as part of piece being filmed for BBC Countryfile

Later we continued with aour local Dipper box project
Note the makeshift bridge.....