Saturday, 30 January 2010

Prestwick Carr

Just north of Newcastle, near the airport, Prestwick Carr is somewhere I'd heard about as a good place to go to see birds of prey particularly owls, so I thought I would it pay a visit today.  I hadn’t planned on getting any good photo opportunities but took may camera along anyway.  After having a bit of a lie in, I got up and looked out out of the window only to see a blanket of snow – not forecasted!  I wondered to take advantage of this and go elsewhere to get some snowy pictures, but decided to stick with the original plan.

The area around Prestwick Carr is a mixture of lowland raised mire, farmland, hedges, woodland and grassland with the main centre being split by a rough track.  On the one side is most of the wetland area and on the other is largely grassland and woods, the latter of which is owned by the Ministry of Defence, which on this particular day, had a red flag was waving, warning that the nearby firing range was in use, soon to be evident by the gunfire I could hear.  With that in mind, I proceeded up the track, though couldn’t help but wonder what were the chances of a stray bullet coming this way.


It wasn’t long until I spotted my first bird of prey, in the far distant in the woods, what looked like quite a large bird but I couldn’t identify it so took a picture in the hope of enlarging the image on the computer to find out what it was.  Surprisingly it seemed to be a Kestrel.  At the time it looked too big to be this.


A bit further down in the same woods was a Roe deer feeding, again too distant to get any kind of a decent image.


Other sightings followed but all in the distant and too far to really identify though one at least I thought was an owl.  At the end of the wood I finally saw the unmistakable site of a Buzzard soaring over the tops of the trees with another perched on a branch below.


At the end of the track I came across some Highland Cattle in a field who seemed quite at home in their long shaggy coats in the sub zero temperatures experienced on this particular day.


As I made my way back down the track, I spotted a quite large bird on a pole, as usual, it was in the far distant.  This main image was taken with a 400mm lens + 1x4 converter and still it was small in the frame, but clearly it was another Buzzard.  It was perching on a pole waiting, looking around then flying along a few poles further down then waiting then doing the same, slowly making its way along the fence, occasionally diving into the field obviously looking for rodents.  Later it was joined by a Kestrel.


I watched the Buzzard for another twenty or so minutes then continued to make my way back, spotting another Kestrel, again in the distance, hovering above the field but too far away to take a worth while picture.

From a photographic point of view the day wasn’t a success.  All the sighting were in the distance and normally these images I took wouldn’t have even made it off my card onto the computer, but then that’s one of the reasons for starting a blog, to show all those times I am unsuccessful but am still able to see a bit of nature.  My first blog was titled 1 in 10 – this was one of the 9.  To be honest, I didn’t really expect much as - to see the owls at least, dawn or dusk would have been a better time.  I think many of the birds of prey normally sighted here were also probably conserving energy as were their prey so conditions were also at a disadvantage.   However, having seen as much as I did do and visiting blogs such as I do think it will be somewhere I will regularly visit, hopefully with better photographic success.

A  video from the Wildlife Trust about Prestwick Carr.


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