Monday, 23 June 2014

Northumberland Day 2 - Inner Farne

 Me on right under attack on the toilet run
 Arctic Tern
  Arctic Tern
  Arctic Tern
  Arctic Tern
 Arctic Tern
Sandwich Tern
 Sandwich Tern
You shall not pass
 Arctic Tern
Close up Sea Clown
Digiscoped feeding time
Bridled Tern
Bridled Tern
Bridled Tern in flight
 The Bridled Tern excitement became to much
Seahouses at the close of play
Farne Island location

The journey from Staple Island to Inner Farne took about thirty minutes with landing. Brian Stretch kindly text me that the Bridled Tern had been relocated during the morning but there had been no sign for a number of hours. I scanned both sides of the landing jetty without luck so we made our way on to the boardwalk which was about 1/2 mile in length. Within yards you were under attack from the Arctic Terns who had young or eggs centimetres from the walkway. You would be very brave not to wear a hat as these demons of the sky certainly made their presence felt with noise and actions. 

The walk to the toilet block is particularly high risk due to the high density of nesting birds. As you can see from my top photograph once you avoid a tern nip there is another waiting for you. It was a real life experience for sure. 

As you headed up hill the Arctics were reduced in numbers giving way to a colony of Sandwich Terns and more Puffins. Black-Headed Gulls did try and mob the Puffins that returned with food but the Puffins dived into their burrows frustrating the Gulls. At the top of the island you could have chill out from being dived bombed and we had our lunch looking out over the Puffins and sea where there was a constant flow of Gannets flying along the shore line. 

The National Trust wardens were doing a great job welcoming and guiding all the visitors. They did have their work cut out as there was a couple of misinformed photographers clearly antagonising some the Arctic Terns for photographic purposes. There were plenty of  terns to be photographed.

In terms of numbers of breeding pairs on Inner Farne, the 2010 survey indicated 280 Shag, 313 Eider, 1,278 Kittiwakes, 761 Sandwich Tern, 110 Common Tern, 1,110 Arctic Tern, 9,813 Puffins, 128 Razorbills.

I then headed back down to the jetty area on the hope the Bridled Tern may have returned. There was about 4/5 of us having a serious look for the bird and among the scanned birds I found a single Roseate Tern which was pleasing. Just when I was going to take a digiscoped image another birder shouted "Bridled Tern" and I switched camera to grab an image of the bird flying away from us. The bird then landed when I managed to get some digiscoped images and some video. This rare tern has made it's way from the Caribibean so is a genuine MEGA. It's thought it is the same bird that visited the island last year, it is thought it's only the 25th record for Britain. 

Northumberland Day 2 - Staple Island

The Islands ready for our visit
Guillemots (Bridled Guillemot centre)
Kittiwake with chicks
Seal Colony
Ready for take off
In flight
Family of Shags

A leisurely breakfast prepared us well for our day out on the Islands. We had booked the all day trip with Billy Shields MBE which involved a tour of the islands and a two hour visit to both Staple Island and Inner Farne. 

The Farnes are 2-3 miles off Seahouses and are made up of 15-20 islands pending on the tide and is home to the most exciting sea bird colony in England. The tour cost was £28 per person which I thought was great value however if you are not a member of the National Trust you would be subject to a landing fee on each island of £6.80. 

Staple Island is one of only two islands where visitors are allowed to visit. The Guillemots  were first to catch the eye as they sat crowded on top of a group of rocks called the Pinnacles. Kittiwake nests sat precariously on ledges with young chicks. The Shags and Razorbills seemed to prefer the more rugged surfaces. The noise (and smell at first) took some getting used to, at times there was an increased cacophony when a bird landed or moved in the wrong place.

The Puffins paid no interest at all to the visitors, they just went about their daily business. The birds were flying over your head during the whole time and many had there beaks full of fish and eeals. Be warned if you are going there are no toilets on the island.

The nesting survey in 2010 recorded there was 10,672 pairs of Puffins, 11,279 Guillemots, 42 Razorbills and 1,160 Kittiwakes

Northumberland Day 1 - Amble

 Coquet Island
Eider Ducks in the Harbour

A visit to the Farne Islands has been on my bucket list for very long time so with research done and accommodation booked we set out for a long weekend to Northumberland. The journey took around four hours from the Midlands and bar a few miles of road works the journey was very smooth.

We opted to stop at Amble mid morning to break the journey up and stretch the legs. On a walk around the harbour we located a good number of Eider ducks with young. Eiders were the most common ducks throughout the stay, very different to the our own region. A Common Seal was hanging around the returning fishing boats hoping for an easy snack. 

Further around the headland the scope allowed great views of Coquet Island. There were thousands of birds in flight at sea and on the island. You were able to see the boxes of Britains rarest breeding sea bird the Roseate Tern. It's estimated there are over 100 pairs in company of Common, Arctic and Sandwich Terns as well as Puffins, Black-Headed Gulls, Eiders and Guillemots.

Northumberland Day 1 - Low Newton / Beadnell

Returning home

Dunstanburgh Castle

 Barefoot Birding
 Tern Colony
Tern Colony 
Mute Swans
St Cuthbert's website

With stomachs rumbling we drove slighting further north to Low Newton by the Sea to have lunch at the famous Ship Inn. This local boozer serves fresh Kippers (which were duly eaten) and has its own brewery. With glorious weather the pub was very busy however the service and quality of food was fantastic. As we tucked in to our Kippers Little and Arctic Terns treated us to fly pasts.

Along the beach at Low Newton Sand Martins were nesting and feeding.  I did try and get an image but they were far to quick for my ageing camera. Sandwich and Little Terns were diving for food right along the shore line. Behind the beach there was a pool that had a Black-Tailed Godwit on, looks like Autumn migration was starting !

We then drove up to Beadnell where it was shoes off for some barefoot birding with an ice cream in hand. We headed south to an area called the Long Nanny. This site is home to a spectacular colony of Arctic Terns and around 30 pairs of Little Tern plus Ringed Plover.The National Trust operates a round the clock watch and there is a small observation platform. 

As I set my scope up a Cuckoo flew through the colony putting every bird into the sky, a true spectacle. The photos don't really do justice to what we observed. Along the dunes there were also Stonechat, Sky Larks and Linnets.

We did make one final stop along a beautiful weir where a number of Mute Swans were in the presence of 6 Goosander, Grey Herons, Common Tern and a Sea Trout. It was great to reach our fantastic luxury accommodation at St Cuthbert's in Seahouses. St Cuthbert's had won the Gold Medal in the Visit England National Awards for best Bed & Breakfast for England. A very warm welcome awaited us by Jeff and Jill who made our stay throughly memorable. I'd urge anyone heading the Farne Islands to look up this converted church as you won't be disappointed. 

Monday, 16 June 2014

Howzat Hoopoe on after work twitch

With the cricket season in full flow opportunities have been limited to go birding but the reported Hoopoe in the Cotswold Water Park after work was a temptation to big. The M5 roadworks which had been in place for months had disappeared except one section so the journey only took an hour.

The bird was at Ashton Keynes Cricket Club, rather apt for me. So once parked and onto the boundary it didn't take long to locate the pinky brown exotic looking Hoopoe. A first for myself in the UK. The bird was feeding under the trees on the far side and wasn't put off by a few locals who passed on the footpath the other side of the ground. No doubt this bird had over shot northern europe when migrating. It will be interesting how long he hangs around for. Top bird, and most definitely the best bird I've seen on a cricket pitch.

Nightjar is star of the forest

Forest of Dean
Common Tern
 Mute Swans
 Common Terns
 Oystercatcher (top right)

After doing some research I headed to the Forest of Dean on Saturday to hopefully catch up with the elusive Nightjar. I had never seen one before so I arrived hopeful rather than confident.

As I headed up hill towards the clearing there was a rustle in the heathland followed by a grunt and then further movement and I could see my first Wild Boar. Five minutes further up the path I then came across a group of eight other Boars including young. The Wild Boar certainly divide local people looking at local websites due to the damage they can cause. The Forestry Commission are currently using thermal imaging to assess the local population. Estimates suggest numbers could have increased to 800. These beasts looked seriously mean and I was most happy when they headed off in the opposite direction.

When reaching the clearing the first Woodcock passed over calling which signalled the start of a costant flow for the rest of my walk. After setting up my scope two separate Nightjar started to churn. After about five minutes one took off and I must say it was a fantastic sight. When the birds stop churring, they are often in flight and two other sounds are frequently heard. The first is a rather soft 'coohwick' given as a single note and thought to be a contact call. The second is a slapping or hand-clapping sound caused as the birds clap their wings in flight. I managed to get this sound recording when the bird was perched in a tree above me. I did try and get some images but the light was to poor. 

As I headed back to the car a single Nightjar landed on the right of the path and whilst it was difficult you could see the mottled plumage. The bird seemed to fly and then return to the same spot and I wondered if the stones on the path were being eaten. 

There were good numbers of Tawny Owl around the Forest including young. Tawny Owls seem to have done really well this year in terms of breeding. 

After a late night I opted not to head out early but to call in at Grimley as I needed to undertake cricket taxi duties at near by Ombersley. First observation was the amount of young Gadwell that were on the Pits. There was at least seven broods with good numbers of chicks. Other notable breeding birds including Oystercatchers, Lapwing, Little Ringed Plover and Redshanks whilst there were large numbers of Mute Swans who seem to have taken a liking to sitting on the causeway.