Birding round Durham & Sunderland 2012

Birdwatching in & around Houghton-le-Spring, Sunderland, County Durham.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

What a Week 18-24 April 2017

Been  a decent week so heres a round up of some the highlights

18th April - first Curlew on nest. 100 passage birds on adjacent field
Still a common enough bird in lowland Co.Durham -

18th April - Leo nest in path side hedge at 10'

19th April - 14 species of Waders
with Dunlin & Whimbrel later in week
Common Sand - bonny when seen close up

19th April - first Dippers fledged - others still building

20th April - Houghton - the new Norfolk
Male Marsh Harrier, drake Garganey, Yellow Wagtail

Bittern at dusk

22nd April - Reed Sedge & Groppers in

Vixen close to Lapwing nest at dusk - pair working together to out smart her

23rd April - White Stork

Marsh Harrier another male hunting through nth
vis migs Fieldfare Siskin alba wags Golden Plover Snipe Brambling Buzzard etc

Long-eared Owl nest with 2 !

24th April - male Goshawk
adult male came into view calling !

Lesser Whitethroat - sev obs reporting birds in central areas

male Perg shadowed by 150 hirundines
another Kingfisher nest on patch
Foxes den Otters kill New Badger sett EPOrchids flowering Tawny nest doing well etc etc

A great week - I should blog daily so I can add a bit of detail.
(lots of retrospective stuff to add too).

Dale day out

Drove up, parked up.
Eleven hours mooching about.
Hardly saw a soul

Nodded off here watching & waiting for Siskin to return

Birch woodland with Holly & Hazel understorey

tawny in a barn

large puffball

Tumbling water with Dippers & Grey Wags building

Baby Lamb-chop still in its nest

Massive Sycamore

 big burred Oak

Nice blackbird nest in basal cavity

 Mandarin new nest site in Alder cavity

Bliss in the sun

Friday, 31 March 2017

Dipper Fieldwork in North East Durham.

A few quick notes on 3 interesting bits of  Dipper behaviour this Month and an insight into some of the amateur Studies & Conservation we carry out as Durham Bird Club Members.

Dusk Dipper cutting off 1.8km in overland flight
18th March 2017
Dipper flew 60' above water, rose further over road & farmhouse on a flightline that cut off 1.8km from his waterway route. Using OS maps I have worked out the bird was well in excess of 100' above the waterway as he crossed overland.
High flying & cutting corners appear par for the course , but this seems an extreme shortcut. A close inspection reveals a large railway tunnel - I presume the bird was heading here to roost for the night as there was very little cover on the stretch he left out on his detour.

Dipper dispute - pair chasing 1km from stream, high over fields.
19th March 2017
Bizarre Dipper interaction the following day in a different 10km square.

I was startled by a loud warbling song moving quickly through the garden of The Manor House - the penny dropped Dipper !
The songster was aggressively pursuing a second bird 6 to 8 feet above it.
The pursuer was relentless & matched every twist & turn - it sped up to block the fleeing bird each time it tried to lose height.
The birds continued over open sheep fields over the A1 Motorway !
& field on the north side until they were 1km away from the stream
(at 1Km+ when lost to view) they rose to a tremendous height (100'+)
It was clear the songster was driving the other bird off, it appeared very aggressive.
What was strange was I made my way down to the stream almost immediately - a downhill walk of about 100metres. I could hear a singing Dipper clearly & a pair were sat close together.
I think the population is now so buoyant that birds are possibly struggling to find space for a territory here resulting in such a bizarre chase.

Double Dipper nest: Pair building, with 2 nests 6' apart
29th March 2017
I visited a very well known & regular nest site - mainly to keep out of the rain ! to see a Dipper pair nest building. The birds were building in regular spot in gaps in the brickwork.
It soon became clear that they were taking materials to 2 separate holes & building in both. 
Each bird was not tied to a particular cavity.
Chesterbirder knows this beat & has suggested it may well be a polygamous male, as he has noted 3 birds here.
Certainly one to follow up on.
Two nests being built only 6 feet apart

General Dipper Info
21st March 2017
Our local birds have been breeding about a decade - the status before this is sketchy. The burn has been a black toxic sewer in its time - before the industrial era it may well have bred on the lower stretches - lack of bridges will have limited nesting opportunities....?
Nesting not synchronised at all
First birds now sitting,
others yet to start building.

Nice fresh clutch - birds generally prefer Beech leaves to line nest - this contains Oak & Iris leaves.

A Local nest expert tells me its important to get boxes in situ early during the winter....
We Installed a GreyWag box on 21st April & it had full Dipper clutch 4 wks later
A purpose built Dipper box put up at same time stood empty on the opposite wall !

23rd March 2017
What a great job Northumbrian Water have done. Local waterways very healthy nowadays.
Dipper in picture feeding at their final effluent outfall. (Sedgeletch). The Otter, though only rarely seen, is another species to have come on leaps & bounds locally.

A couple of images of 2015-2016 Dipper nests

An unusual nest in a vertical soil bank - more suited to Kingfisher than Dipper. I walked past this in the beck - the nest was belly height - I was called back on the telephone by the Mrs.... She had clocked it after watching the bird.... This nest fledged 4 young.

Typical open topped box under a bridge - a little too open this one & predated  by Magpies

Dippers now a familiar sight on our Beck.... sorry Burn
Handful of nestboxes enabled them to establish a toe hold & now a healthy  population
This 1 went up 8 year ago & has fledged them each season

Dippers, an interesting bird to watch year round.

The Browney & Deerness have decent Dipper populations too - yet seem seldom visited by birdwatchers....

Please feel free to comment or leave a question on here or Email stevieevans1 AT

Durham Bird Club is a registered charity involved in Studying & Conserving the wild birds in the Watsonian Vice County of Durham (the old County between the Tyne & Tees )

Local Birding bits - 16 March 2017

16 March
5Shoveller 1Avocet 26Wigeon 18Teal 32Lapwing 5Redshank 28Curlew 1Snipe 2Oik

18 March
1WhiteWag  2N Sand Martin  prShoveller  12Snipe  16pr Lapwing  48Yellowhammer feeding & drinking

18 March
drake Gadwall (2nd site record)  1WFGoose  32Teal  8Redshank

19 March
Green Woodpecker (OFFH YR Tick)
pr Gadwall pr Dabchick  Water Rail  Bramblingx3
15+ Chiffchaff singing New Lambton areas, MThrush  LTTit  Blackbird all building
Lapwings sitting but yet to lay.  Dipper incubating. Tawny on 3 eggs.
Gamekeeper pointed out a Roe Buck & 2 does - they crossed beck stopping in water half way across - magic !
12Buzzard up over estate. Good nos of Grey Wag pairs - male displaying , singing & flycatching

21 March
3+ Snipe drumming over rushy pasture

VERY fresh Otter spraint

22 March
6 hour search for new Leo pr revealed.... 1 pellet !
new rushy spring with 1 Jack Snipe & 10Snipe
Another Green Woodpecker yaffling & flying over.
predated Mallard nest.

23 March
1Black tailed Godwit (OFFH YR Tick)
16 Oystercatcher  1Kingfisher  1JackSnipe  12PWagtail  5Mipit 
Mallard nest incomplete clutch of 6 covered while she was away feeding
41 pair of Lapwing on various habo in Rainton - Chilton area.
Redshank pr feeding on ridge & furrow grassland where not present last year
pr Kingfisher Colliery Row on 1m wide drain containing bike frame & assorted debris

25 March
male White Wagtail
Tawny in pole box  WRail still in car park ditch
26 edpoll. single bird in display flight - 3rd loc this spring
GCGrebe displaying

25 March - flat calm
New Long-eared Owl pair confirmed NZ34 - fem calling heard from 240 metres away !

26 March
1Little ripped Pullover
3 drumming GSW
3pr Redshank
19pr Lapwing birds sitting.   6pr Teal  5pr Gadwall.  70Wigeon.  12pr Shelduck.

The Kettle is on.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

White-fronted Goose

This is perhaps the best winter we've had in the County for White-fronts

On the patch most moved on in January, but 1 has lingered at H'ton Gate area.

he tilts his head on the side to have a look up at 3 Buzzards overhead

A drake Gadwall looked a bit out of place here - no emergent vegetation whatsoever - its looking like only the second record.

Bumped into DavidG, & swapped a few bits of info - What you get off a man in the field  bares no resemblance to what he types on the internet.
Having said that, I don't meet many birders when i'm ut as I keep off the beaten track - but the ones I do, don't have much affinity with nor praise for the County Bird Club - which is a crying shame.

Over a Seaton this morning, the only signs of Spring were a White Wagtail & 2 Sand Martins which went through north.
Pairs of Skylarks were prominent, with 18 pr Lapwing - many nest scraping now, a dozen Snipe & I watched a decent flock of 40 Yellowhammer feeding, drinking & bathing.

An easy mornings "drive-by birding session" for a change.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Snow Bunting

winter plumage male Snow Bunting
found 16/03 by GrahamS


Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Proper Jack Snipe images

I have previously blogged about The day Mickys hair fell out !

That day having had the pleasure of the company of one of County Durham's foremost /& respected birdwatchers / fieldworkers, Michael Heron on a 12 hour, 35,000 step half marathon.

THIS post is simply to add a couple of his photographs.

I think you'll appreciate the colour and detail......

Beauty images cheers marra.
You can follow Mick (the man who leaves no bird un-named) on the Twitter  @houghtonbirder

Post Script:
I am hoping given this winters pilot fieldwork, our County Bird Club, DBC can look favourably on the opportunity it has to be the First English bird club to carry out a Countywide survey for this species.
We did it with Long-eared Owls, why not these too....?