Birding round Durham & Sunderland 2012

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

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Sweet Sixteen

I'm currently absolutely fixated !
I'm waking up & the first thing I think of is a pair of yellow stripes

Thought of a good place to try........
After Three Hours it was all over

Sixteen Jack Snipe found, with 5 photographed on ground

A great visit, also saw a Water Shrew, first Frogspawn of the year, 2Hares chasing, Kestrel displaying with 1 male luring 2 females into his nest tree at same time.

Mutant frogspawn....

  JACK SNIPE TALLY WINTER 2016/17 = 71 birds at 20 locations.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Two Jacks !

School Half Term gave us the perfect opportunity to get the " Two Jacks in One Photo " that we were hoping for.


There, Jack & Jack Snipe - Two 'Jacks' in one picture ;-)

Half Marathon - Jack Snipe Alopecia

Despite living only a street apart, Mick @houghtonbirder & I @stevie_evans1
don't team up as often as we ought.

🚢🏻When we do, we rarely fail.

We decided on a spot of Birdwatching or "Bird-Walking" as it is known round these parts.🚢

We had a decent start, within a mile :-
2 Kingfisher, 3-4 Green Sandpiper, f Goosander, f Brambling

We popped into 'The Freezer' at Rainton Meadows, where the sun shone on a displaying pair of GCGrebes, the light was so clean & bright - one of those mornings that you really appreciate every bird you look at - be it the red-eye Coot or the flick-winged Dunnock
We could have very easily spent the remainder of the morning there, but moved on before we became too comfortable.

Wetlands & woodlands with singing Chaffinch & Reed Bunt made way for farmland & the Larks sang above as we added some miles.
A sheltered country stile nestled between Gorse and thorn showed little signs of use, although it was easy to picture a Barn Owl post hunting there, after seeing its pellet & splash.

It just so happened that our route skirted by a likely spot for a Snipe or two.....
Well it would be rude not to have a look....
We managed a right eyeful of a Jack Snipe

Initial views after 2 of its mates had fliggied off

Needle in a Haystack....

There it's

Micks camera - the bird showed superbly against dark vegetation.

To be fair, had we ( well had I ) been more careful we probably could have had 3 sitting together....
One for another day.... anyways Jacks weren't the target today.
We had a Spring in our step after that encounter & strode on as Grey Partridge pairs called and chased & a Water Rail announced its presence, but remained unseen in a ditch.

It was Buntings we were after - a welcome sight was a flock of 60Reed & 70Yellow - a good look through them failed to reveal their larger cousin though the field is now past its best.

A rough area at the bottom of the field looked interesting & we hit on lucky with a cautious approach &  Jack Snipe

Bit of a shit picture...

Its not clear at which point Michael suffered his Jack Snipe Alopecia - but the evidence is plain to see.

A careful scan revealed a second bird 10' away, our SIXTH of the day we must walk past hundreds of these....

By now a pattern was developing & all birds without long beaks were ignored.

I took the opportunity to knock on at a large country house to ask permission to walk another marsh for Jack Snipe.  Consent was granted although we failed to turn up the goods, though some small consolation in 2 invites to quote for tree-work at the property.

With so much time wasted on Jacks the day was beginning to slip away.

There was no clear route home planned - the general view is go bird-walking & after it gets dark then make a return journey.

This was an easy stroll - after all there were NO hills.... except the large one through a ploughed field.
After losing & finding the path a few times we made it to a quiet little spot, a Buzzard slipped away from us,  just as the farmer & his noisy topper was knocking off for the day.

The light was fading & there was a very good chance of Little Owl, which we added.
I was watching a male Kestrel roosting, when hawk eye put me onto a Barn Owl flying by a close range ! Wow decent light & a nice surprise, only to have a Tawny Owl appear silhouetted in the tree tops. Three owls without moving a foot.

A great way to end our day - well apart from walking back cross country 6mile in the dark.
Torches helped at times on the return & we were full of craic after such a good day out.

A Moorhen went over giving its territorial flight call & Mick spotted a Pipistrelle Bat in zero visibility, which then fluttered right past my face. No further owls on what turned into a damp dull evening

So there you have it , our inaugural Jack Snipe Tour  :-
12 hours
a half marathon
35,000 steps
75 species of birds including 6 Jack Snipe, 3 on the deck.

A Great day out.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Struck Down Snipe

The weekends Jack Snipe Tour will have to be blogged retrospectively - when I sort through all the pics !

Last Night.
A rush into position at dusk for Long-eareds saw me just about trip over what I thought was a fluttering Jack Snipe.
After a chase I caught the feisty & obviously injured Common Snipe.

A wound on its wing was very fresh & although I never ever attend to injured birds, I decided to try to help this one out as he was so full of life.

I popped him in my pocket & went to watch the male Long-eared floating about in his wing clapping display & a couple of Woodcock out but still no display....

Back at the van, I popped him inside my hat, enclosed that with another hat & nestled it in an old work jacket in the passenger foot-well.

After 5 minutes I got the surprise of my life as he'd wriggled out & jumped up onto the dashboard !

An emergency stop & a scramble saw him take evasive action into the door pocket, where I gathered him back up !

Safely home & into a large box, we asked about & there was a mixed consensus of opinion, I opted to contact the vet online & they said bring him in the morning.

Jack carried the box up (he was sure the bird had got out cos it was so light) & we were hopefull of a mend, as the injury appeared simply to be a broken wing & the bird appeared otherwise healthy..

The Vets were great, but sadly the bird was too small & the break too great.
On a lighter note I did say it was pretty feisty, before the vets opened the box... it was more like a Jack at that point !!

it sprang up out of the box & over the vets shoulder as soon as she opened it !

very carefully checking the bird over.

I thought about taking it back to let nature take its course, but putting it to sleep was the agreed option.

Such a pity, a fine marked bird.
I presume the barred outer tail feathers are the ones which make the drumming sound ??

This was my 3rd visit to visit area since December, & ive also had a seemingly unmarked freshly dead bird.
A set of wires (LV electric) runs close by - I'm pretty sure these Snipe are clipping this on the way in / out... Will have to get onto the L.Authority about this - hopefully get some of those orange-warning balls put on the wires?

Friday, 17 February 2017

Back On the Jacks

By the time our chores, errands & banking were completed, the morning had turned into a real beauty.
Clear blue, 12 degrees & warm sun
So off we went
Spring-like conditions had good numbers of cock Chaffinches back in breeding haunts & singing steadily.
A handful of Larks were up too, with 2 singles also singing on their way north.
A cheeky GSWpkr clung to the Kestrels pole, while the falcon sat on his nest box there !
A lone cock Scribbly sang whilst soaking up the sun (sadly its looking like this is gonna be the next local bird to start to pack his bags & disappear), with 3 or 4 Willow Tits happy to sing from cover.
Reed Bunting also added to the chorus today - only a couple but one gave a pleasant soundtrack as I searched for a small area for a Jack Snipe.....

(NB: all images here are either from mobile phone or mobile phone hand held to binoculars)

initial view - bird vis in dark central shadow


A short clip here demonstrates the "digi-binning" process - torture in the wind though !


It appears I wasn't to only one to having been mooching about...
Fresh Fox scat just a couple of metres away
Fresh Fox scat at base of pic - the JS was just out of shot

Lots of bones in this Fox scat - only a few metres from bird....

Sitting tight

 It was nice to get another on the ground without it lifting - ideal conditions for carefully "scan-reading" the vegetation before each small cautious step....
This pic of the cheapy Samsung phone edited slightly - looking forward to getting back to an iPhone shortly
Post Script: Back out tonight - different site hoping for roding Woodcock - still no roding yet, but 2 Jacks whipped up close past as they flew out to feed - 1 landing in a damp autumn sown cereal.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Jacked right up


"It's been a long time since I rock and rolled,
It's been a long time since I did the Stroll."

So here goes...

Today saw perfect conditions to try to find Jack Snipe 'on the deck' & i had a great couple of hours with 4 found.

Jack Snipe

I'll come back to my winter Jack Snipe surveying in a further posting.

Some of todays pic's (old Samsung phone hand-held to battered Nikon fieldscope / Leica bins)

Initial views are often limited... X8 Leicas
X30 Scope View
Habitat Views - needle in a haystack ?

rear view facing away

Obscured side on view X8

Obscured side on view X30
part hidden

a half step left improves the view

viewpoint as above - phone image, no magnification


getting closer

there it's....
one step beyond...

phone image 16" above bird
Rear view to finish off - leaving bird on ground 

I reckon i could have picked him up