Tuesday, August 18, 2020

All Quite on the August Front

August is a very quiet month for birds - and, for me, this August has been even quieter as I haven't really been out and about.  So I thought I would trawl my archives and see  what this month has brought in the past.  Well, 2019 - nothing.  Not one photograph.

I've gone back to 2018 and a trip to Washington WWT.  There were some good waders on show (so that's two wader blogs in a row...)

A smart Redshank...


Greenshank...

A bit further away - and so not such a clear photograph - a much rarer Green Sandpiper...

On the same main pool, but from a different hide, a Snipe was very confiding...

I remember that I did a complete lap of the site.  At the pools which are designed to attract dragonflies I spotted two Emerald Damselflies, egg laying.  I've read that the male stays attached, above the female, to stop other males encroaching.

Let's hope I can have some new photos before August 2020 is finished - check back to find out!


Monday, August 10, 2020

Wade in the Water

Waders are part of the staple diet of bird-watching in Northumberland.  Our wonderful beaches and several nearby ponds always give us access to these charming little birds.

And one of the joys is, of course, that they do not hide in trees! 

On the other hand, identifying them is not always straightforward.  We mostly see them in winter, in non-breeding plumage, and they can look a bit similar to each other (well..to me anyway!)

A trip to Cresswell Ponds last week brought me a "lifer"... the first time I had seen a Curlew Sandpiper. To avoid disturbing the bird I took my photos at the extreme range of the camera lens - so the pictures were not that sharp.  But hopefully you can see the smoothly curved bill, the long white eye-stripe and 'scaled' look to the back and wings.







It is about the same size as a Dunlin - of which there were several around the pond - and therefore smaller than the Redshank, here seen next to it.







When the Dunlin were sitting on the muddy bank, they were quite difficult to spot...





Here you can see the Dunlin, moving from summer into winter plumage, quite clearly..




The other wader we see regularly is the Sanderling - one of my favourites - as it scampers up and down our pristine sandy beaches...










Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Return to the Reserve


Yesterday I made my first visit to Gosforth Nature Reserve since the 'lockdown' began.  First of all I need to express thanks to the body of NHSN member volunteers who man the gate, so making the re-opening possible.  The arrangements that are in place are easy to understand and follow and so the whole experience felt very safe.
 

I made my way to the Ridley Hide - only 2 people in there, so plenty of room (the maximum is 5).  There was a Grey Heron right beside the hide...



Quite a few photographers have been posting pictures of Kingfishers and I was delighted that I only had to wait a few minutes before he made an appearance.








Before I left the hide I managed to capture the Grey heron in a balletic pose...




From the hide I made a complete circuit of the Reserve.  All was tranquil and it was a pleasure to 'get away from it all'.  I had the company of Small White butterfly for part of the way...


There is no doubt that I'll be back...

Friday, July 31, 2020

An eye on the garden




During my daily perambulation around  the Pont-Black Towers estate I came upon a bee I hadn't spotted before.


After some book research and consultation with Charlotte at the Natural History Society of Northumbria it was identified as a Plasterer Bee (Colletes sp.)






Plasterer bees get their name from their method of smoothing the walls of their nest cells with secretions applied with their mouthparts; these secretions dry into a cellophane-like lining. 

My first thought was that it was an Andrena species (Mining bees) but Charlotte put me right:

"These bees are what I call ‘humbug bees’ because of their stripes like that of humbug sweets - it’s a Colletes, and most likely daviesanus.They look very similar to Andrenas but the strong pale creamy bands on their abdomens and heart-shaped faces help to identify them. They are also a big fan of Ox-eye daisies because they collect pollen almost exclusively from plants of the Daisy family. So if you see a small stripey gingery bee on Ox-eye - it’s very likely a Colletes!"






The Ox-eye Daisies are right next to a few Poppies and a vagrant Sunflower - which has been seeded by the birds that come to feed.  They seem to chuck more seeds on the ground than they eat! The colours were bright and forms of the flowers and seed heads particularly attractive - so I couldn't resist some photos:











Call back on Tuesday for more Forest Hall musings...

Thursday, July 30, 2020

First entry in new blog format! It's warm Oop North now....


When I visited Cresswell Pond on Sunday I was able to take this picture that would have caused quite a stir until very recently.

Avocets did not breed this far north until 2011 - and then not very successfully.  Here there are 4 juveniles on show. Little Egrets were an occasional vagrant but are now regularly seen - in fact 16 were counted at this location this year. I've seen them throughout the North East and photographed this one at RSPB, Saltholme...


Their cousins the Great White Egret are now seen more regularly too.  My best photographic opportunity with one was in India...



A Cattle Egret has been reported at Cresswell too.  I haven't managed to track it down as yet.  This small egret is usually found (believe it or not!) around cattle - as was this one in India...


The Squacco Heron is a much rarer visitor altogether.  But this stunning bird was very common on the Danube Delta when we visited Romania...


Of course our most common bird in this family is the ubiquitous Grey Heron, often seen standing sentinel waiting for lunch to swim by...



And lastly, those Avocets again - this time with a Curlew, the symbol of the Northumberland National Park.



A wide range of my photographs can be found on my website: www.pontartphotos.co.uk


Comments on this new format and ease of finding this blog gratefully received...