Saturday, 6 November 2010

Gone a Waxwing-ing

A cold but beautiful sunny day so I'm about to pop out for an hour to try and find some Waxwing. They appear to be arriving on a daily basis now, into Durham, as well as the rest of northern England so surely there's some on some berries in a street near here.
It has been a bit lighter during the week so I've managed to look at the berry trees I pass on my way to work in the morning but no joy yet. Still my luck may still be in having found a migrant Long-eared Owl, in a Common Lime tree at Backhouse Park in Sunderland a couple of days ago. It spent the morning there but the number of small birds it attracted got up to about 50 and 3 Mistle Thrushes certainly let it know it wasn't welcome and it had moved on my 12:15.
Last night was the last night of the year for the garden moth scheme and like the other night I caught nothing. I'll put it out occasionally during the winter to catch a few of the winter species but things will be very quiet now until March.

I checked many of the berry-laden trees between Waldridge and the Riverside for Waxwings but I was out of luck. Pity as it was a lovely day, cold but bright, no wind and no rain, it was really nice to be out. The bird of the day was a Common Buzzard that flew over the cricket ground. Mobbed by a few gulls, this adult bird called several times before it drifted out of sight heading south. Most of the gulls took no notice and were happy to continue to roost on the adjacent playing field. I counted 187 Black-headed Gull and a single first winter Common Gull.

1 of 187 Black-headed Gulls
The river was very high and very fast and this probably accounted for the lack of 'exotic' waterfowl. No Whooper or Pink-footed Goose, no Scaup or Mandarin. In fact only a few Mallard were on the water, the rest were on the far bank or on the golf course together with a few Tufted Duck and Moorhen.

However the river being in spate as it was, is ideal for the Goosanders. 13 of them were just below the weir feeding very successfully. Several visitors to the park were watching as they caught fish being swept downstream. It must have taken quite a bit of energy swimming against the flow to remain in one place under the weir. Every now and then they presumably would stop swimming, let the river take them downstream and then they would fly back again.

 Three young Cormorants were perched up roosting on a large dead branch opposite and had also enjoyed a good fishing session. 

Upstream from the weir the river from there to the bend by the nature reserve was much calmer, but very high up the banks. Some of the riverbank is already looking quite bad with erosion.  The local Kingfisher did it's usual fly past obviously preferring the calmer waters here but it was too high for a Grey Wagtail that was content to feed on the main riverside path. No Dippers here either.

Grey Wagtail
The little nature reserve here had a few birds, 5 Redwing, 4 Siskin, 2 Bullfinch and 6 Long-tailed Tit but no Waxwing. With this I decided I would have to wait another day and headed home.


  1. Not a place we'd expect to see a Long-eared !
    Xlent find.

  2. Steve, the caretakers at the University have occasionally reported whats sounds like an Asio in the autumn in previous years but apart from an Asio I had fly through a few years ago, this is my first here. Tawnies are very regular here with the odd Little Owl record too. This poor bird was obvious with a large flock of small passerines giving it hell. Still it was nice to show some students it who were virtually under the tree smoking their ciggies.