Sunday, 11 November 2012

Here today, Gone Tomorrow.

Looks like I got it right with the waxwings at Blaydon, a report of over 200 yesterday but today they were nowhere to be found, apart from one solitary individual darting out to catch flies from the top of a poplar, as there are now no berries to be found, trees and bushes stripped bare by the voracious visitors from Scandinavia as I feared they might be by now, so I'm well pleased I took the chance on Friday to seek them out.

A poor morning all round as we sat freezing in the far Pasture hide waiting for the otters to appear (they didn't), and a reported long-eared owl roost was a no show too, though we were slightly compensated by a good number of redwings and a single fieldfare at the site.

So the one remaining Blaydon waxwing was our only goodie of the morning, though further reports came from elsewhere in the borough so still time to catch up with a few more yet. Meantime here are some cracking close-ups of the Blaydon mob by Steven 'Ace' Fryer.


Saturday, 10 November 2012

The Blaydon Aces

Waxwing numbers have been growing at Blaydon by the day, our paltry 3 last Sunday had grown to a count of 112 by Friday morning, a number I found too irresistable to miss in case I wasn't going to get out at the weekend or they'd eaten all the berries and moved on by then, so out came the trusty chariot and off I pedalled up the Derwent Walk to seek them out, starting the journey well as 9 crossbills flew over my head as I waited to cross the busy road to the entrance of the park.

I don't like to do things the easy way so when I got to Swalwell instead of  taking my usual route past Shibdon Pond and straight through to the shopping centre and station (5 mins?) I decided to go along the cycle route and check out the Tyne which should bring me out behind the station. Somehow I got lost (twice) and managed to add half an hour onto my journey and as no waxwings were present when I did get there, cycled back and forth along a busy town centre looking very suspicious dressed all in black and sporting binoculars (especially to those peering at me out of MacDonalds).

Getting a bit pee'd off after another half hour had passed without results, looked at my clock and decided to give it another five minutes, and hey presto, the unmistakeable loose bounding formation of 100 + waxwings suddenly appeared in trees 200 yds away (where I had been just minutes earlier)

So I spent the next forty minutes following them around as they fed then rested, fed then rested, getting some glorious view-filling sights as they sped past me to their next roost, jingling sound filling the air, yellow tailbands like rear lights in the gloom. I couldn't get close enough for any decent photos in the poor light but got some group shots from various angles before just taking pleasure in watching them preen, squabble, and eat. Magnificent birds, just can't get enough of them.

I took my leave eventually, and spotted another group of 23 by the entrance to Blaydon cemetery, though the journey home was a bit of a nightmare after that. I haven't been on such a long ride for yonks and my fitness (or lack of it) started to tell on the way back as I was also up against a mostly uphill track and an increasingly strong wind. I took advantage of every stopping point I could think of, got good views of  a grey wagtail and dipper at the damhead, but stepped in some dogs**t (a really massive one as well) as I walked with my bike, then as I stopped to search a finch flock around Kite Hill got into an argument with some dogowners when their four mutts attacked me without even so much as an apology.

Six red kites and a buzzard were viewed from the viaduct, then the final slog home and a nice cup of earl grey as I downloaded my photos to discover 163 waxwings in one frame, and I didn't get all of them so the number must be approaching 200 by now!

About the closest I got, a tad gloomy to say the least

If you can be bothered to count, there are 163 waxwings
in this photo

A nice group shot showing a bit of their handsome plumage

And a bit closer shows crest, face mask, wings and tail colours,
superb birds.

So anyway my estimated two-hour trip eventually took a huge chunk out of my day, but was it worth it? you betcha!   

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Remember, Remember, the 4th of November.

A day that will stick long in the memory I'm sure, with three of my favourite birds seen in a matter of hours.

The most spectacular and most bizarre was a European Bee-eater which had found its way to my home town of Sunderland in early November! today its third in the Seaburn area (a regular drinking haunt of mine in years gone by, ah memories . . .) but I digress, the bird was quickly located and though highly mobile gave excellent views all along its new-found territory, a good 20 minutes at our site as it fended off the attention of local blackbirds, my record shot hardly does justice to its amazing rainbow plumage.

Next, back to Gateshead and with an influx of waxwings and 11 seen at Shibdon Pond yesterday we checked a few of the most regular spots for the species and turned up trumps at the second attempt with 3 in trees along the central reservation on the busy road outside Blaydon Station. Again my record shots don't do this spectacular winter visitor justice but fantastic to see at this early stage of the season.

We next decided to pop back to Shibdon Pond for a while for a celebratory cup of tea/coffee from our respective flasks, and our third highlight was excellent views of a water rail, another of my favourites, as it teased us in and out of the undergrowth along the channel to the left of the hide, eventually making a dash right past in front over the iced over water.

So three cracking birds in one day, best days birding in a long while. And if you want to see how those birds really look, take a gander at some proper photos by Steven 'Ace' Fryer :

      If in any doubt, from the top : Bee-eater in flight, Bee-eater at rest, Waxwing tucking in to berries, Water Rail playing hide and seek.