Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Hoverfly identification

With a bit of weekend sunshine it brought out a late bloomimg of a Rock Rose which we have had in the garden for years. Normally it is one of the first summer bloomers but if you cut it back it quickly regenerates and has another go at flowering if the weather is ok.
Just about every single flower housed one of these Hoverfly.

Whilst trying to identify it, which I believe to be, Eupeodes Latifasciatus,(don't mind being corrected) I found out how to establish that it is indeed a Hoverfly and not a Bee-Fly or Thick Headed Fly. One of the methods is to identify that it has a particular vein which peters out in the wing, rather than ending at another vein or edge as identified with arrow.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Razorbill Saga - Final Chapter

We had completed the cleaning operations and the Razorbill continued to feed so I decided it was time to return it to the sea, having had it for about five days.
I had decided upon an area at the North end of Roker beach which had a lagoon at low tide and was near to where I had found it.
So it was up early,it was work morning, and I wanted the release done by 7.30am. It was one of those grey mornings, wind from the North, quite strong, but flat water in the lagoon, and the tide was out.
Parked the car at the top of the beach, and took the Razorbill from its box in the boot and with my wellies, business suit, and a bird on my arm marched down to the waters edge.
I released the bird into the water not being quite certain what to expect next, but it paddled quite briskly away - good I thought.
It approached a small rock and I thought its going to get out and prepare itself for greater things, but then I began to think something was not quite right.
The bird simply came to rest against the rock, almost like a boat would alongside a jetty. But then it was off again paddling away from me, it looked ok.
It was about 75-80 yards away from me when events took a really dark turn.
The Black-backed Gulls were flying overhead and starting to show interest. The first three or four swooped down low over the Razorbill and they were obviously checking out their target. Then they got more determined and one of them made a strike at the bird.Then another, and another. Watching helplessly I found myself shouting at each gull attack, which were becoming more frequent until they reached a point when on one occasion the Razorbill was lifted clear of the water by its bill before the gull let go.
As I continued to shout to try to scare the gulls which had limited success I realised that the Razorbill was actually now facing the beach and doing its best to paddle away from the danger, and at the same time the gulls lost interest.
I then realised that I was standing there in my wellies in a foot of water repeatedly encouraging the bird to "come on". Amazingly the Razorbill was doing just that, and got closer and closer. It was about 20-30 yards away from me when it sank below the water, but using its wings pushed itself back onto the surface and kept coming.
Although I still can't believe that this happened, the bird paddled right up to me, so that I was able to bend down and pick it up out of the water.
I tucked its wings in, placed it under my arm and marched back up the beach determined to aid its recovery further.
However as I walked up the beach, I noticed that its head was starting to fall over to one side. Within a few seconds and just as I reached the car I realised that the last element of life had expired from the Razorbill.
I was distraught.
When I got to work, and related the tale, so was everyone else.
On getting home that evening I laid the Razorbill to rest in the garden under the forsythia bush, facing east, alongside the budgie and rabbit. I never went down to the coast for months.

........and that's about it, other than to say I have always held regrets at not having sought knowledgeable advice on assisting the bird and even though this story is thirty years old I still cannot comprehend what made the bird struggle back to me on that cold, grey morning. I know that anyone reading this will think that there has been some exaggeration but I have told it as it happened
No-one will ever convince me that birds do not have a mind. Might not be the same as ours, might me better, but they have something.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Razorbill saga - chapter 2 of 3

Woke the next morning. To be accurate I was awoken by a strange squawking. The bird had obviously survived the night.
So having got frozen mackerel in the freezer I thought I'd defrost it, cut it into slivers and see if the Razorbill would dine. Yes it did.
But I had to go to work so the bird was to spend the day in the fireside box till I returned. I was working for NEI Projects at the time on the Rihand Power Station Project. So those nearby in the office had the story so far related in detail.
Back home in the evening we had another cleaning operation and were encouraged by the success in removing more oil. I was surprised that the bird never went into attack mode with that substantial bill, and for that we were grateful, more mackerel finished that evening off.
With another day at work done and the updating of the tale told I was ready for another cleaning session which we felt was going well. After another feed the question came into my head, " do seabirds drink water?".
Then a flash of brilliance - I know we'll fill the bath, put the bird in, and if it wants a drink, it can have as much as it wants. There were no objections to the plan.
So upstairs with the bird, and placed it in a pretty full bath.
Well we just stood in amazement as the bird swam back and forward and then as it settled started its normal washing procedure. There was water everywhere.
After about twenty minutes the washing procedure stopped, the bird went to one end of the bath, turned around and attempted a take off down the bath. Fortunately unsuccessful, so I made a grab for it.
Without its natural oils due to the cleaning procedures the feathers were soaking wet and it looked a bit of a sorry sight so we sought out a hair dryer.
I kid you not, the bird just relaxed, and allowed us to get it dried out before placing it back in its box for the night.
Having seen the first attempt at escape I started to think about how do I release the bird back into the wild. I did not know whether it would be able to take off from a water surface, and the only other method of a cliff top release just could not be contemplated. I decided that after another couple of days, as long as the bird continued to feed, I would take it down to the sea.
To be cont'd...

Monday, 21 September 2009

Razorbill saga - chapter 1 of 3

Once upon a time, or so it goes, I used to do a lot of sea angling, and was a member of South Shields Angling Club.
Well, one stormy dark winter evening I was fishing Jacky's Beach,Whitburn with a wall of foam right in front of me. Anyone who knows this beach is familiar with the steep pebble beach which is unusual for our coastline, which allows you to fish close to the breakers.
However, to get to the point I noticed something in the foam and on investigating found it was a badly oiled Razorbill. The fishing had been rubbish so I thought pack up, take the bird home, and clean it then release it. So put it into a plastic carrier with its head out of the bag and into the haversack.
Little did I know what I was starting.
Got home about midnight and the better half was still up."Catch anything?" came the usual welcome. "Yes - well no, well....."
By this time I was joined in the kitchen just as I was taking the plastic bag out of the rucksack. Now you know how things look a different size when they are out of their normal surroundings - well this bird is Big! - in a kitchen.
"I'm going to clean it" was my reply to the question you know was asked.
"Then I'll release it" was my answer to the second.
So we got cracking with soap and water, without knowing if that was the correct procedure, but it had a significant effect both on the bird and our kitchen particularly when it did a bit of flapping. To be truthful there was a lot of flapping and a lot of oil spots.
After an hour or so we thought best leave it at that and see how things are in the morning. We had open coal fires at that time so after sorting a box with some mesh,installing the bird and placing it near the fire we went off to bed.
I expected the bird to depart this world overnight.
to be cont'd......

Friday, 18 September 2009

Black-tailed Godwit

There always seemed to be at least a couple of Black-tailed Godwits whenever I got down to the shoreline in the Berwick area. However these were difficult to get close enough to get a decent pic, as they seemed to be one of the first to give an alarm call and off. This pair were quite amusing since they would run quickly from one end of the stretch of beach to the other and back again and were busy feeding as they went.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

New lake in Northumberland

Was visiting Kikharle earlier in the week and was intrigued by a digger working in an adjacent low lying field. Tried to get a closer look on the way out and it is apparent that a lake is being dug out. Kikharle is the birthplace of Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, arguably Britain's most famous landscape architect and the lake is part of a regeneration project based upon his ideas.

Might be worth watching.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Sunbathing Spuggies

About 7am one morning recently I came upon a group of about twenty Sparrow perched close together in a sheltered spot soaking up the early heat of the sun after a chilly night. They were not the least bit bothered about my presence.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Our recent visit to Berwick coincided with the end of a bit of easterly blow which resulted in kelp and weed stacked up to three feet high on the Little Beach next to Berwick Pier along with good numbers of Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Redshank, Oystercather with a few Sanderling and Black-tailed Godwit.
It is an open beach so getting close to get some decent pics was going to be tricky.
However, I found that if I could slowly get myself parked up beside the only sizable rock on the beach, then particularly the Dunlin and Ringed Plover would come within 15-20 feet, and so that was the strategy for the times I was there.

I have found both here and elsewhere that the order in which they will take flight if disturbed will be - first Redshank then Ringed Plover, Dunlin, then almost always last will be the Turnstone.
I wonder if this is a confidence thing they have on how quickly they can scarper.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Red-throated Diver

Have just had a few days at Berwick. I think it was last Tuesday when it was blowing a westerly gale when we visited Cocklawburn Beach. We had just left the Pot-a-Doodle Do cafe, near Scremerston, with its holiday home wigwams and made our way to the beach. Did the wimpy thing of scoping from inside the car but quickly spotted something that said 'Diver', then it was gone. A few minutes later a Cormorant appeared - drat, but kept looking. Then the Diver reappeared and I convinced myself it was a Red-throated Diver. There was definite red to the throat markings. A first for me.
So out with the digi-scoping gear and despite the wind and choppy sea got enough of an image to confirm the sighting - unless someone can convince me otherwise.

At the same time I was convinced that I had spotted another diver at least a couple of hundred yards further South, strangely amongst some Scoter, but could not get a good enough image to decide, but there is certainly a pointy bill amongst this lot -

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Ringed Plover at St Mary's

During our brief visit to St Mary's on Friday the Ringed Plover was most numerous with groups of 10-12 dotted around the rock ends and a few on the sandy beach.
It was surprising how close they will come if you just stand still for a while

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Kirkharle feeding

I've probably said this before but the best ham, mozzarella, and sundried tomato panini I've ever had is at the cafe in Kirharle visitor centre. If I have, then ditto for Saturday.
On the way out there were dozens of Swallow hunting over the stream and surprisingly to me were still feeding young which were perched on the fence waiting.

The road down to Kirkharle -