Monday, 22 February 2010

St Bees Head...a hotspot for Cumbria...success!

Bassenthwaite lake looking over to dodd woods, regular nesting site for Osprey

An 11am start on Sunday morning it was, not exactly early going but we would still get a good 6 hours looking for wildlife. It was a nice morning weather wise and I chose to do this over a round of golf which is a tough call for me but wildlife wins it nearly everytime. That is another reason why I love my golf though, because you can play a round while enjoying all the wildlife the course has to offer.

We headed off down the M6 and we still hadent planned out exactly where we were going to go but after coming to an agreement in the car we decided to go to the hide at Bassenthwaite Lake and then move on from their to the west coast at St Bees head.

We parked up at the Swan Hotel then walked down to the hide from their. We had two Buzzards cirling above as we made our way down to the waters front. When we got to the hide there was Goosander, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye and 12 Little Grebe on view. We stayed for about 20 minutes in hope of an otter to show as it is a great place to view them from but it was not happening so we moved on. On the walk back to the car I just happened to say to dad " I still have never seen a Green woodpecker then 2 seconds later its very distinctive call was heard on the other side of the woodland!!...unbelievable...its a funny old world!! Its weird when stuff like that happens like the other day my mate Curt told me I would be no good to go on a sunbed with him as my hair was to ginger! And I was thinking Ginger my hair is not that colour! thats the first time ive been called that before.......Then later that day I went to the Calva bar for my tea when I was on shift and I was wearing my name tag and the lady behind the abr said to me "ahh your Ewan Miles, you have been described to me on a number of occasions" and I said what did they say about me like, George Clooney lookalike? and she said no tall, skinny and Ginger! I was like for crying out loud! called ginger twice in one day what the flaming hell is going on man!

Anyway moving on back to the wildlife! We made it to the west coast after travelling through the ever changing weather on the journey over here, as there was snow, sun and rainny spells it was barmy! My dad decided to do a round route as he would be taking a group out here in the summer. So we went across a public access farm field heading southwards down the coast planning to make our way round and walk back up along the edge of the cliff face back towards the lighthouse.

Once we made our way down to the rocky shoreline nearly slipping on the rocks about 26 times John decided that this route would not not be a good idea for his birding weekend as there is a few elderly people going on it and they would defiantly take a tumble going down the slippy banking. Also we decided the route is defiantly not wheel chair accessable unless you let them go from the top of the hill.

Face in the rock and two Cormoronts

Once we got in view of the ocean and the rocky cliffs we got plenty of birds on show with 200 plus cormoront in and around the crags of the cliff. Over 50 Fulmer on show as well.

Rock Pipit

Got a Rock Pipit as well moving along the cliff face. They are slightly darker plumage to the more common Meadow Pippit and also the enviroment that thay are in is a big give away to the species.

Two Fulmers hiding in the Crevace

Herring Gull


Also got three Shags out to sea which is a good record for the west cumbrian coast.
St Bees Head really has got good potential for a wide range of wildlife as it is also a great viewing point for Cetaceans like Porpoise, Dolphin and Minke whale through the summer months. You also get Grey and Common seal on show all year round as well as possible Baskin Shark, its just a case of looking and having patiance! Their is Peregrine nesting allong the cliff also and I have seen Common Lizard in the heather on the more northern part of the Reserve.

There he is the man himself, Feed the birds first then feed John Milo second..boom! A good number of Herring gull juenille and adults down on Whitehaven harbour.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Super Silloth-on-Solway (and I thought it was just good for golf !)

A day out to Silloth-on-Solway was decided by John Milo and I as the weather was excellent all round for camara work, calm wind calm sea and visibility for viewing the wildlife on show. We took the two poodles Woody and Suzie as well to treat them to a first time visit to the sea side!
We set off at around 11:30 to get a good 5 hours in. We had the option of the old N reg bus or the new Audi A3 estate with cup holders and John chose the flamin bus to go in with no radio signal so we had to listen to his 70s tapes for the trip west.

Silloth Beach (1), Drift wood and Criffel in the distance

After getting a chippy in the town centre the first stop off was Silloth Beach (1) to do a bit of sea watching and give the dogs a debut beach walk. We parked up a the docks and looked over to the other side of the port to find a group of Redshank, Oystercatcher and a solitary Heron. When on the beach front looking over to the scots side we got 15 plus Cormorant and 3 Grey Seal (4) which are always a joy to see.

Whilst heading along Skinburness road on our way to the Solway we spotted a well carmoflaged group of Turnstone (2) on the rocky shoreline. A Solitary Knot was in amoungt them as well.

Turnstone on the Harbour (2)


We got to the main event at the mouth of the estury where it all happens! We parked at Skinburness (3) and headed down on a public route towards oppening of the sea (5) looking out to the mudflats all the way down the track.

The estury with Skiddaw and Helvellyn in the background

Our first action was a huge flock of Pink footed Goose and Barnacle geese feeding together. A huge number of Yellowhammer were calling from over the hedgerow and as I looked over to check them out there must of been a flock of upto 200 I had disturbed and it was quite a sight! especially the stunning in colour male bird. We also got a pair of Reed Bunting as well.

Female Yellowhammer

There was a good number of waders around and the magic weather made it all the more enjoyable to watch. There was 154 Twite counted and also 100 plus Dunlin moving. There was also Distant Shellduck, last time I seen one of those birds a White-tailed Eagle landed on top of it up in Strathbeg, Aberdeenshire! Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Oystercatcher, Lapwing and Curlew on show in good numbers. 55 Pintail came past on the way back to the car as well.

Snow Covered Skiddaw

1. Silloth Beach

2. Skinburness Rocky Shoreline, Turnstone

3. Skinburness

4. Grey Seal

5. Solway Estury

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Cant wait till Spring....

Buzzard, Geltsdale

A quiet couple of weeks on the widlife front with only three proper outing possible just with the time of year and the poor weather. On the first wednesday of the month I had a successful day with a good new friend called Cain that I started following on funnily enough! We met at 10am in Castle Carrock and headed upto Geltsdale from there. We got going at around 10:30 with lovely blue sky on the go so we were hoping to see a good number of birds. We headed up the the cairns at the summit of coal fell to start with as visibility was excellent so we were in for some good views when up there.

We got a few Red Grouse on the way up and a Kestrel but no Short Eared Owl that can be seen hunting on the higher ground.

After admiring the views we moved headed in the direction of Tindale to check out the tarn and the surrounding area.
On the road up towards Foresthead we had 12 plus Bullfinch which was a good sight and as we came into Foresthead we had a good number of Chaffinch and just as Cain asked about Brambling one apeared right in view like magic! We tried it with Golden eagle and the Dodo but it was not happening...just the one wish that day!

When we made it to Tindale Tarn there was no sign of the milf but we got good stuff sitting on the water with the pair of Smew still present and Golden Eye, Tufted Duck and a Black swan on view. it was very cold sitting at the hide so we swiftly moved on to take a different route back towards the real Geltsdale!

I told Cain about Osprey visiting Tindale Tarn in the summer season and that there has been a platform but in place next to the tarn to help encourage the birds to move in. Wouldnt it be simply magic if you got Osprey nesting on the area! thats what dreams are made of!

We found a quarry with owl pelletts just near Foresthead which was a good find. From the small crevis the owl was sitting in we deceided it could of been Barn Owl.

When we got back onto Coal fell we got more Grouse moving around and by the time we made it down to the Birch woodland where we got around 7 Long-Tailed tit and 3-4 Goldcrest in amoungst them.

We made it back to Jockey Shield for lunch then headed back out to make the most of the lovely afternoon. Target bird was Long Eared Owl on a location higher up Geltsdale next to the moorland. I'd been up here a couple of weeks previous and got a superb couple of hours wildlife watching with loads on show! it was magic! you wouldnt of seen this much if you had gone to the zoo. I knew this area was a hotspot and where a lot of different birds came in or passed through to roost. We headed up there for about 3 oclock and after walking a good distance in the morning we thought we would sit and play the waiting game in the afternoon and let the wildlife come to us! Once we were in position perched on the stone wall the first action we got was 3-4 Buzzards circling overhead and a Kestrel hovering patiantly over the moorland. We also got a Sparrowhawk flying past us at pace and two Roe Deer feeding just down from us. Once the light dropped another level we moved on in search for the LEO and as we approached the edge of the connifer woodland I turned my head and noticed a face watching Cain and I from the corner of the woods and as soon as we turned to look it moved further in the plantation. Still a great view of a rare bird! it came out again to the same position as the light dropped again and we admired it for a good 5 minutes. 3 Woodcock and 4 Snipe flew overhead as we were admiring the Owl which added to the excitement.

A great success of a day thanks very much to my new good friend Cain for the great company.

Geltsdale Moorland sunset (click on Image for a large Scale View)

Superb Cloud Colour...

Geltsdale valley with sun on it

A University of Cumbria trip out was on the cards for the first sunday of Feb and we had good crowd attendance of 4 making the journey down to Keswick. I planned the route in advance so we wouldnt get lost so Catbells it was then! The well renowned family walk that runs up the west side of Derwent water.

There is one of my greatest companions Andy Mcgreevy wearing his usual frown and freshly tanned skin! the futures bright the futures orange! we made it onto the route of catbells after an unplanned delay as my built in satnav was broken and we took a detor. My built in Satnav has been broken for bout 22 years so am gonna have to get it fixed sometime.

Not Much on the wildlife front up on Catbells Just a couple of Raven and Carrion Crow hanging about the sandwitch munching view point looking for a few spare crusts to feed on. when we got on lower ground we had a little bit moving on Derwent water with Canada Goose, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck and Coot.

A well positioned picture of Derwent water from Hawesend

Some scenic photos on a sunny day in Glorious Geltsdale....

Last of the snow

Scots pine on the peatlands

European Larch on the peatlands

On coal fell looking over to the National Park