Birding round Durham & Sunderland 2012

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

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Roe Buck, Gropper et al

 A nice Roe Buck - watched him 20 mins mooching about & feeding on the lush fresh grasses & bramble leaves.
 The wind shifted & he could scent me - but I remained concealed....

Eventually he started to move off.
I slowly followed him, but cracked a twig - Unseen he made off barking & stomping his hooves on the parched ground.
 Beautiful colours on the new Larch growth

This is the "reeling" song of the Grasshopper Warbler
Cheeky thing came into the same bush as me - but only game me glimpses this time.

The next 3 pics show a nice Robins nest on a leaf strewn bankside

A surprise was an early fledged family of Grey Wagtails
 Grey Wag fledgling

The rest of the day was pants.... (bloody perverts in the Long-eareds Wood)

3 pair of Lesser Redpoll on territory, masses of Linnets, Wilwobs & Chiffies. Main arrival of warblers still to come, yet all local species are now in. (Garden Warbler last to complete the set).

Carpet of Bluebells

Fresh fruiting bodies & boot-laces of Honey Fungus

 Water Shrew - cached prey item in Tawny Owl nest box

More details & LATEST OWL NEWS on the other Channel, see :-

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Pot Luck Week 18-24 April 2017

Been  a decent week round the doors so heres a round up of some the highlights.
Springtime view of Houghton-Le-Spring - even if its turned into a Blackthorn Spring !

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' - this is the new pair. This is the first year in a decade which we havnt inspected a nest at the egg stage - not only are birds in short supply, but we havnt wanted to risk an (very rare) abandonment

19th April - 14 species of Waders passing through
with Dunlin & Whimbrel later in week.
Perhaps 10 species could breed on the patch....
Common Sand - bonny when seen close up

19th April - first Dippers fledged - others still building

20th April - Houghton became "the new Norfolk" with MH finding
Male Marsh Harrier, drake Garganey (found by The Poacher), Yellow Wagtail (5 locations during week)

A pair or 2 of Yellows still breed each year.
A male circled HoGate in huge arc's contact calling - presumably looking for a mate.

MH Pitching in with another cc Marsh Harrier in the week.

Bittern at dusk was very welcome after looking for one all winter !

22nd April - Reed Sedge & Groppers in

By the weeks end Whitethroat display flights were commonplace.

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

23rd April - White Stork
heading home after a full morning out I scanned the escarpment as usual & got quite the shock !
I rang MH who couldn't get onto it & GS who told me he was at Hamsterley as I watched it fly over his house...

Marsh Harrier another male hunting through nth - this is another bird which we've come to expect - not too many years ago it was barely annual. I believe we've had at least 6 birds through the patch this Spring - GS starting us off with a late March bird.
Good mix of vis migs over the high ground included Fieldfare Siskin alba wags Golden Plover Snipe Brambling Buzzard etc

"Summoned home" earlier than anticipated I took a short cut....
& literally bumped into a Long-eared Owl nest with 2 healthy youngsters ! (id love to say I found this with skill & fieldcraft... but it was pot-luck)

24th April - male Goshawk (another helping of pot luck)
adult male came into view calling ! Circling & allowing a good view through the telescope.
I had no hesitation in posting about this Schedule 1 bird as it breeds nowhere near us... we think...
I read on the DBC website that Norman.U had a bird over his garden 7 or 8 miles away, early evening - having arrived from our direction.... who knows...

Lesser Whitethroat - sev obs reporting birds in central areas today

male Peregrine circling over the main pool at Rainton shadowed by 150 hirundines

another Kingfisher nest on patch

Foxes earth
The Vixen has been sitting overlooking the nature reserve pool - theres Greylag nesting on the bankside - I'm sure shes seen it

Willow Tit nest

If you want a lesson in Willow Tit nest provision then check out Twitter user :-

Otters kill & spraint - tucked away in the reedbed where I was hoping to find WRail nest

New Badger sett Early Purple Orchids flowering,

Tawny nest doing well etc etc

The Crows starting on eggs, Pheasant Mallard & Pigeon often first to go

Crows nest

Numbers of Butterflies picking up with the first Speckled Woods out at the weekend

A great week - Note to self to blog on the day so I can add a bit more 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 )