Well it's Saturday 8th November, and it only seems like a few days since I signed off and said see you in three weeks. So I'm back. And so as I listen to the fireworks going off around me, just a brief photo-summation of some of the highlights of the last 3 weeks. Well actually only a record of my week and a bit "up't north. Don't suppose you wish to know about the other stuff, Christmas Shopping, laying a carpet, DIY and the likes..... click on an image to enlarge if the mood takes you.
Lets kick off with this holly tree. Those of you with a keen eye will notice this is a) quite big and b) covered in berries. It's in my parents garden and believe it or not, 3 years ago it was cut down to about half of it's size. Every year it crops berries and every Christmas time my parents give away tons of the stuff for friends.
Speaking of my parents garden, they have inherited a partial leucistic Carrion Crow. It arrived a few weeks back and semi-tame, coming to the feeders and so on. I tried to get closer to it and bring it to me, but it wasn't that keen, who can blame it. But whilst watching the crow, this juv Grey Wagtail flew into the garden, presumably it was passing through to a more suitable area.
While up at Boldon, a visit to Boldon Flats NR produced a single Whooper Swan (which a guy at Rainton Meadows didn't bother looking at thinking it was a Mute - timely lesson in never assume, as assume make as ass out of u and me), also 10 Bean Geese amongst the Greylags) Over at the coast, huge numbers of Eider and Gannet flying north, which I phoned in for the Autumnwatch team on the Farnes 90 miles north but the weather prevented any filming.
Although the weather up there was generally more depressing than my jokes, on the bright days, it was "reet canny". And where better to be on a sunny autumnal day, the Lake District.
These two above are sort on near the Eden Valley, near Kirkoswald, but if you look closely at the hills, actually the Pennines, they snow covered. So didn't drive that way.
Ullswater on the left looking super, and because my mother was had been naughty (these 75 year olds are a handfull I tell you!!), made her get the bus home, mind you not a bad view from the bus stop.
Ullswater again from Glenridding side, and the parentals by my new car purchased 2 days before, I think my father wanted to pinch it!!
Sun setting over the hills near Dockwray, which is where my mother was evacuated in 1940, to this very farm, sadly no one at home but at least we found it...... can you believe it, in those days she walked 3 miles over that hill to school in wooden clogs and back again, come snow or rain. Children would get counselling these days for that.
Just a view of Durham Cathedral, as I went to a service there and well it was wonderful. Sadly for this photo, the light was dull and dark so apologies for the white sky. Did meant to photoshop it, but well you know how it is.....
Coming back from Durham, stopped at Rainton Meadows NR, part of the Durham Wildlife Trust Portfolio. by now, it being 2pm, it was almost dark, so this is all I took, a photo of Joe's Pond, the original reserve, started in the 1950's from a Coal Board subsidence pond. Couple of Snipe, some Lapwing and Teal and that was about it of note.
Holy Island - or Lindisfarne if you prefer.
I was sitting watching the rain fall while having breakfast and thought, well there's nothing for it, the weather won't break so just go to Holy Island, pack an overnight bag and just go whatever the weather. So I did and by the time I got to Belford, the sun was out and at Holy Island, not a cloud in the sky. I've been coming here since 6 months old, and it never ever disappoints. Last Tuesday, as I joined the causeway, this flock of what I thought were Brent Geese were flying over the car just long enough for a photo, however while I stood there I thought hang on these are surely Pink Feet as they're flying in a classic V and the noise was deafening. Double checking the photo later, although not exactly clear, they are. A great start to an even better day.
From the vantage point here, I had Bar-Tail Godwit, Grey Plover, Curlew, Redshank, Eider, Oystercatcher, Red Brested Merganser, Brent Geese, to name a few, as well as Grey Seals patrolling the water and hauling out onto some of the far sand bars. Later in the day walking along the Lonnen, I spied 3 Waxwing in a hawthorn. Camera out, they were off before a record shot and flew over 3 "twitchers" with all the gear. I walked up the them and said how long have the Waxwings been here? Not one of my better opening lines as they'be been standing there for half an hour and hadn't seen them, having come to the Island because their pagers had gone off to say they were here. Then they complained I'd not called them out. I felt like pointing out welfare of the birds come first, and maybe if they'd been looking at the berry covered trees behind them it may have been better than across a field. Another classic "assume" as one of the Trio said we saw those bushes were full of birds but thought they'd just be sparrows and Redwing. Never mind eh.
But lets not forget the common birds, is this House Sparrow above not just beautiful? Mind you he was trying to pinch my carrot cake. Also on the Island were Lapland Bunting (apparently!!) and Snow Bunting, which I eventually saw but only from 400 miles away, so could have been sweet wrappers in the wind.
So as the weather was just perfect, I booked myself into the Rose Villa B&B, I'd recommend it, top breakfast, and as the sun set, went for a walk. Above the Castle from the Harbour, and "Shields" or upturned boats used as sheds. Not many left now, but used to be common.
Spiders web in sunshine and of course Eiders (must be British ones, the male is waddling 10 feet behind the female)
Just glorious over to Ross Links and Bamburgh Castle, and with the sea like a mill pond, the sun setting over St Cuthberts Island provided gorgeous reflections.
However I inherited this ES Spaniel, which came up to me, growled, waged it's tail and then proceeded to wade through the water, destroying the mirror like effect..... so I decided to catch his deed on camera. Finally back at the B&B a House Martin flew around for a couple of minutes, very late, and I'd be surprised if it survives it's migration, this late.
Finally, the next day, following a few too many whiskys in The Ship in the evening, and that recommended full English breakfast, another walk along the Lonnen. Sadly the weather was quite frankly awful. But nothing ventured. No sign of the Waxwings today, but a large number of Fieldfare and Redwing, plus 5 maybe 6 Goldcrest.
Anyway I was watching a Reed Bunting when this Short Eared Owl shot past. Someone had said yesterday all 5 species of Owl were on being regularly seen on the Island at the moment which I find astonishing, but one cant beat a shortie, not least as it's daylight (11am to be precise). Cracking views for 15 minutes before hypothermia got the better of me. Sadly though again, as the light was so bad, these were about the best photos. Later flying over the sea, Common Scooter, a Chiffchaff at the Lough, handfull of Stonechats and that was about all really.
But I don't really mind, just being on the Island as the day-trippers leave, and the sea cuts it off from the mainland, is just fabulous. The double whisky chasers helped too.....