A bird that was in good supply at Spurn was the Linnet. There were several large flocks around and it was good to get quite close to a few of them. They are a very flighty bird, and usually when they see you coming they are off and far into the distance. The males are stunning looking birds, and for me underrated. Quite often their name is preceded by "Oh it's just a". Not for me though. Fascinating birds to watch.
The rather dull looking female, but actually a nice looking bird.
Catching the morning sunshine at the breakfast table.
While at Spurn last weekend, we visited Kilnsea nature reserve. A great little wetland spot with plenty of scrapes, pools and grassland. For such a good site, it's a shame that there is only one small hide available. There was a queue to get in on both occasions that I visited last weekend. Having said that, the birds are the most important thing and they are still there in good numbers, largely undisturbed.
There were a few Little Egrets knocking around in front of the hide. I always find them fascinating to watch as they make their way through the shallows looking for food.
In front of (and below) the Egrets were a couple of Knot, foraging.
It has been a while since I've been out and about. School holidays and other commitments do get in the way some times, but I try to make the most of the time I have when I can get out with the binoculars and camera. Last weekend was one of those special days, when weather, company and birds all come together in one place to make it memorable.
A 4:30am start saw my friend Phil and I heading to Spurn on the East coast. Arriving just after 7am we found our first good bird within minutes. A Spotted Flycatcher, which was joined briefly by a Redstart in the hedge.
Overhead was a constant stream of hirundines and hundreds of Meadow Pipits. Warblers were in very good supply, with Reed, Willow, Whitethroat, and Sedge in various places.
Some good sea watching turned up a couple for the year list in Black Tern and Red-throated Diver.
A Mediterranean Gull in a field was nice to see and there were plenty of waders on the mud flats. One that got away though was a Wood Sandpiper that was taken by a Peregrine moments before I could get into the hide. With 70 different species seen in the day though, I couldn't really complain, but I did feel a bit gutted about that Wood Sand. :(
This Sedge Warbler was in hand after being ringed and soon after released.
A Small Tortoiseshell butterfly was one of many seen on the day.
Starlings were starting to gather on the power lines. A sure sign that Autumn is just around the corner.
A small party of Northern Wheatear were in this ploughed field at Kilnsea.
A Yellow Wagtail spent a lot of its preening in the sunshine.
The birds are pretty quiet at the moment, so I've decided to take a look back on one of my favourite summer visitors to these shores. The Common Redstart. Some friends and I watched this particular male bird over a couple of years, and it was exciting to see him return, When he did, it was great to watch and spend a lot of time with him, as he looked for a mate and eventually raised young.
A stunning bird.
I found this Ringed Plover in the mud at Titchwell a few months back. Great little birds and I usually see them scurrying around on the beach or at the edges of water pools. It was nice to see one out in the open on the mud. It was busy looking for food, doing what it does best.
I've enjoyed watching the Curlews on my patch this year. I think maybe I've taken them for granted in the past. Walking on past them and thinking 'yep, that's a Curlew'. They've captured my attention for some reason in recent months. Putting on fine displays for me. Some from a distance, as they set up territory and others from a lot closer as they staged deflection tactics to protect their young.
The unmistakable call can be heard for miles, and the bubbling nature makes me instantly scour the landscape to try and spot them.
They'll soon be moving on for another year. I look forward to them returning to Woodford once again.
The birds have gone quiet for the time being, while they moult and re cooperate from the breeding season. It gives me the opportunity to look at other things, like bats (in the evening) and butterflies during the day.
It's a great time for butterflies at the moment. Lots are on the wing, and it's the time of year for the The Big Butterfly Count 2016 The idea is that you spend 15 minutes counting and identifying as many butterflies as you can. Near me, the most common this year seems to be Small White, but one of my favourites is the Red Admiral. Quite often seen on Buddleia, they contrast very well against these light colours.
I've returned to the Arctic Tern once again. While on Inner Farne I spent quite a bit of my time trying to photograph these majestic birds in flight. Not as easy as you may think. It is a small island and there were lots of people there to enjoy these birds too. So finding a quiet spot where I could just get the birds in the shot proved quite a challenge. It didn't stop me trying though.
I chose to pick a spot on the path where a few of the Terns were quite feisty. As people approached, they took to the air and made an assault on their heads. I took this as my opportunity to try and get some shots. It proved quite difficult. As you can see below, lots came out with the bird not fully in the frame. I gave up here and tried another area.
I found a different area on the island where the birds were coming in off the sea, and had a little more success. The light was much better, the birds were more relaxed, and this made it easier to predict their movements. It meant I could follow them and have a pretty good idea where they were heading next and where I should aim my camera. I was happier with these shots.
My best of the lot (in terms of flight shots) were taken when I moved down to the shore line to watch them.
I only saw a few of these birds on my trip to the North East. I thought that I would see lots on the rocky islands and coast lines, but that wasn't the case. Still, the few that I did see were a real pleasure.
In flight they have a very stiff wing beat, and glide quite a lot. They are tubenosed seabirds and related to the Albatross. A quite unusual looking bird, but one I enjoyed seeing fly above my boat.
I love the Kittiwake. I've probably mentioned before that it is one of my favourite gulls. It is a very elegant bird, both in flight and at rest. There is something rather appealing about it's dark eye and yellow bill. Definitely more friendly looking than the Herring and Lesser black-backed gulls. It's also one gull that I can pick out quite easily in amongst other gulls.
I had a great time watching these on the North East coast, where there were many nesting birds. Once again this is yet another of our birds that has been given 'Red Status' and has been struggling in recent years. This time possibly down to a lack of sandeels, their main source of food for the young. Hopefully they will bounce back and increase their numbers.
Hanging those black legs and feet in flight.
Lovely gliding flight and with those unmistakable black wing tips.
Around the majority of coasts of the UK at this time of year you'll have a pretty good chance of coming across a Razorbill on the rocks. They only come to shore in the summer months to breed and raise their young, before spending the winter in the North Atlantic. Part of the Auk family, which includes Guillemots and Puffins, they remind me a little bit of the penguin. A very upright stance and large deep bill. I had a great time watching these around the Northumberland coast recently.
As I mentioned in my previous post, the Roseate Tern was a pretty certain life tick at Coquet, and so it proved. Unfortunately, it wasn't the best day for light and it with the boat moving up and down so much with the swell, it proved quite difficult to get any really good shots, but I was quite happy with what I did get. It at least leaves something to improve upon, as I intend to go back next year.
In summer, the adults underparts have a very nice pink tinge to them.This is where they get their name. That unfortunately is not clearly visible in any of my shots.
It can be seen slightly, if you look very closely at this first one. The two birds in the picture are both Roseate Terns. The bird on the right has a slightly more visible pinkish tinge to it's front. It's certainly not bright white.
Here in flight it is even less visible, but what stunning birds. So sad that there were only around 90 pairs (representing 90% of the UK's nesting population) on Coquet. Fingers crossed they had a productive breeding season.
A trip out to Coquet Island with Puffin Cruises puffincruises to see Roseate Terns was the last item on my weekends agenda. (I can highly recommend the boat trip if you are in Amble, or indeed Northumberland.) A Tern that I had never seen before, and was desperate to add to my life list. Coquet holds 90% of the UK's nesting Roseate Tern population, so it was nailed on that I would get to see them. But before I share my pictures of them, I'll show you what I saw on my journey out to the island.
There were lots of other Terns, Guillemots and Puffins once again, all around. Eider ducks were here too. The sea was a bit choppy, but thankfully I had my sea legs on and stood for most of the trip.
A rare, lesser spotted me on the boat.
Coquet Island and it's lighthouse. The island is closed off to the public and is maintained by the RSPB. A boat cruise is the only way to get up close to it. All good news for the important populations of breeding birds here.
Grey Seals were a common sight from the boat and around the island. They have always been an exciting animal to see. These guys were really inquisitive and at times it felt like we shouldn't be there. Dozens of them popping up to see who we were and what we were doing. They put a smile on my face that's for sure.