Thursday, December 22, 2011

December 22 2011

That’s work done with till after Christmas. But today was (will be) the only birding of my time off.  There is a beer or two with my name on it “darn sarf”!

I was slightly late for a planned meet up with Roger this morning, probably due to me having to drive the last, last bus, last night. I didn’t finish till one, that’s 01:00.

So, anyway Cresswell was quiet, only a sinensis Cormorant alongside a carbo to brighten the day, so we tried Maiden’s Hall, which was even quieter. So we went to Chevington. Plenty of Gadwall and Pochard and a single Pintail and two Short-eared Owl.

While here, Roger got a call from Mike, who had seen the Iceland Gull at Amble, so that was the next stop.

Our first stop at the harbour gave us plenty of close Common Eider, which were calling constantly. I even went as far as to record them!

Common Eider

And then at the next car park, before we had even stopped the cars, the Iceland Gull is seen in flight.

Iceland GullIceland Gull Iceland Gull

while here, this brute of a Great Black-backed Gull flew past

Great Black-backed Gull

Around the car parks, plenty of Common Starling waiting for someone to throw away their unwanted chips.

vulgaris by name, vulgar by nature, a spitting Starling!

Common Starling

Sunday, December 04, 2011

December 4 2011

First stop today was at Druridge Bay Country Park, where there was no sign at all of the Greater Yellowlegs, or during another four quick stops there through the day. But I did see a second winter Glaucous Gull which flew in from the North heading for Chevington I think, as it didn't land on the pool.

Just down the road, at West Chevington, a huge Northumberland count of Eurasian White-fronted Geese are present, with Greylag,
Greylag Goose 
and Pink-footed Goose.
Pink-footed Goose Pink-footed Goose
White-fronted Goose albifrons
White-fronted Goose White-fronted Goose White-fronted Goose
Most of the flock was distant, but these two on the deck were just off the road.

While having a last look for the yellowlegs at Hauxley, I heard of a Desert Wheatear at Beacon Point, Newbiggin.

So I had to go and have a look!

I think that’s my fifth in Northumberland.
Desert Wheatear Desert WheatearDesert Wheatear Desert Wheatear
At times, the wheatear came as close as five feet. I was on the “cliff” top (it’s about eight feet high!) path and the bird was on the cliff below me. Far too close for pictures.

Also here, five Short-eared Owl and a Snow Bunting. The sun had set when I took this shot, this is at 1/50 sec at  F/5.6. With a little tweak in photoshop, it looks not too bad
Snow Bunting

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

November 22 2011

After a very late finish last night (or very early this morning!), a fairly early morning phone call asking me if I would like a shift today, was answered with a resounding no!

So, after being rudely awoken, I set off to make the most of the day. First stop, Big Waters, where two Bewick’s Swans have taken up residence. Too far for pictures, I was just happy that they had hung around so that I could see them; they have been too scarce in Northumberland lately.

Just up the road, at Prestwick Carr, after a bit of searching, the Great Grey Shrike is seen, way, way off in the distance. In fact so far off, a guy who looked through my scope said it was a Great Spotted Woodpecker!

I stopped at a different view point on the way out, and saw that I was much closer to where it was, but into the light. Trying to get the right side to take pictures, I lost sight of it. I was just about to give up when the bird flew in and hovered about twenty feet in front of me, in perfect light. Sadly, I had far too much lens on and couldn’t focus on the bird!  This time I did give up, as again I had lost the bird, flying off to the north. As I was driving away, the shrike flew over the car from the west carrying a prey item, which looked like a bird. I was sure I had seen the shrike cache the prey, but after it flew off, I was unable to find the larder. It did return and some canny shots were taken.

Great Grey Shrike 

I head to the other end of the Carr and spend an hour with the Short-eared Owls, at least seven today.

Short-eared OwlShort-eared OwlShort-eared Owl 

Also about, the ring-tail Hen Harrier, always too far for a worthwhile picture, six Common Buzzard, a Willow Tit and five Bullfinch

So while at this end, I got talking to some other birders who had been for the shrike, and they mention that they had seen eight Bean Geese! So its back to the other end and there they are just visible, they are in this picture…

Bean Goose

By now I was getting cold and I bid farewell to all who would listen and I headed off. Leaving it late, I had a quick walk up to the hide at Big Waters, and with the last of the light, got some pictures of the Bewick’s Swans…

Bewick's Swan

…and the Whooper Swans

Whooper Swan-8D3E1386

Friday, November 18, 2011

November 18 2011

After hearing about an Eastern Black Redstart phoenicuroides on Holy Island on Wednesday and being at work from dawn till dusk on Thursday, an early finish today gave me the chance to get and see the bird.  And it really was, “widely appreciated”.

Eastern Black Redstart Eastern Black Redstart Eastern Black Redstart

Initially it was distant, but after all of the birders left, leaving just two photographers (me & Chris), the bird came to us. What a stunner!

Holy Island CIMG2056

As the light started to go, we stood at the causeway watching the flocks of Starling coming in to roost, a lot more than the five thousand that were at Chevington on Saturday.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

November 13 2011

All of these shots are hand held, at high ISO. The hide was a bit packed, so I was struggling to get anything from the bird, until it decided to walk past at point blank range
Greater Yellowlegs  Greater Yellowlegs Greater Yellowlegs
This is a poor picture, but it tells a good story!
Greater Yellowlegs
Also present was it’s new best mate, this Grey Phalarope, which followed it closely wherever it went
Greater Yellowlegs
Just out of shot in this picture, the Greater Yellowlegs was swimming across the small bay to the right of the wader hide
Grey Phalarope
On the way back down, we stopped at Cresswell to enjoy the last of the day, and Roger had just found this Bittern. It showed very nicely.
A group of Whooper Swan where on the pond, which had seven immature with them.
And as we walked back to the cars in the near dark, the Bittern could still be seen.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

November 12 2011

Chevington Pools, Northumberland, Greater Yellowlegs;


Not much more I can say…

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

October 25 2011

After a morning of inactivity, a phone call from Alan spurred me on. There was a showy Firecrest at St Mary’s!


It would vanish for long periods, then reappear, calling, then go silent and then vanish again.

The only other migrants seen; singles of  Woodcock and Brambling and a couple of Blackcap.

There must be plenty of pictures of this bird; Tom, Tim, John, Brian, Mike and Vee all took shots. A good old chunter was had.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


some things you just have to share...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

October 13 2010

Not quite the scoter-fest that we had in mind, but we did get three of the four. First up, Common Scoter, easy as there were lots of them. Next up Surf Scoter, adult drake, a bit harder as there was only one and from our view point on the beach, the waves it was behind were about eight feet high. And lastly, Velvet Scoter, two. This was easy as they were in flight over the big waves. I had a nano-second view of a scoter with large yellow bill, before a long sequence of the big waves got in the way and when a clearer view arrived there was no sign of the bird!

There were loads of geese up at Goswick, Pink-feet and Barnacle, an Arctic Skua chasing gulls over the beach, a Black-throated Diver in with the scoter and a single Twite in flight.

So we left here and went onto Holy Island. There was a steady passage of thrushes over the village; Mostly Redwing, with smaller numbers of Fieldfare and Blackbird in with them. Two Brambling were seen and another two heard. The vicars garden was very quiet, only two Willow Warbler and a Goldcrest in there.

Over the village were five Swallow, it’s getting late for them, and an adult was still feeding at least one of them.

We left the island before the tide got too high and went around the Fenham le Moor, but we had left it too late as the tide was too high here, all of the foreshore was covered. A Wheatear was seen and a flock of 60-ish Tree Sparrow.

On the way down to Budle Bay, we had an excellent view of a Merlin, sitting on top of a hedge,  just off the road.

At Budle Bay the tide was all the way up. A Little Egret was flushed by a birder walking north along the bay, as were all the geese and duck roosting up in the corner!

So, for our last stop, we had a first look of the winter at Stag Rocks. For sea duck it was very poor; none. But the Purple Sandpipers are back, at least 40 today. And a couple of Snow Bunting flew in off, heading inland. Canny day!

Monday, October 10, 2011

October 10 2011

I stayed cool with the Lesser Scaup that was at Tynemouth Boating lake, not getting there till late afternoon.
Lesser Scaup Lesser Scaup
I had been out birding all day with Roger, just doing the Druridge bay sites from south to north.
At Cresswell early on it was raining and quiet. The Peregrine was on it’s favoured perch and a single Fieldfare was seen flying past the hide, but very little else was there.
Chevington next, and the goose numbers were down, but the were still two hundred plus Barnacle Geese there (and the Snow Geese). A different Marsh Harrier from the two seen on Friday was on show.
The water is at a nice level on the north pool and a flock of Knot are roosting there, about eighty birds today. A small wader seen in flight took some tracking down but eventually a Little Stint was seen briefly, before it took off and headed north over the horizon and out of sight.
We moved on and went to Hauxley reserve. A small roost of waders, Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Turnstone, Curlew and Redshank was all that the star reserve had on offer.
I was nearly home when I got a text from Alan, saying that the Lesser Scaup had been re-found at Tynemouth. I called in at home, had a cuppa and then some tea, before I set off. I didn’t need it as a county bird so I was cool. As it was I miss judged the light, arriving with not enough daylight left to do justice to the bird.
I’ll just have to try again!

Saturday, October 08, 2011

October 8 2011

Today was a continuation of yesterday when it came to geese. Yesterday Pink-footed and Barnacle were dropping in to Chevington in large numbers and today they were still there! As were eight Whooper Swan, although today’s birds were different to yesterday’s.

Today we had eight species of geese; Pink-footed, Greylag, Barnacle, Brent, Canada, Snow, Ross’s and Bar-headed (the last three being very plastic).

Chevington had some of the above plus a dozen Ruff, 100 ish Knot a single Black-tailed Godwit and two Otter. We missed today’s Marsh Harrier, which apparently was different to the two seen yesterday, which was one of this years youngsters and a wing-tagged bird (yellow left, blue right wing). A Peregrine was seen as was another at Budle Bay and another on a field at Ross.

On the way to Budle we stopped at Boulmer and had plenty of waders; Bar-tailed Godwit and Grey Plover the best.

And then Beadnell, where the  harbour was lifting with Rock Pipits.

Monks House had the Ross’s with Barnacle and eight Black-tailed Godwit.

At Budle Bay the tide was all the way in, so no waders, other than a Redshank that was trying hard to stay just out of reach of a Stoat.

Two Little Egret were on show when we arrived, but they were soon flushed by some walkers, and there was no sign of the Crane.

So while up here I got a text about a Turtle Dove at Big Waters. This caused something of a twitch, as our next stop was at Big Waters. The dove wasn’t immediately on view but it did soon show itself.  I’ve had more Great White Egret in Northumberland than Turtle Dove!

We finished the day at Prestwick Carr, and the first bird I looked at as we got out of the car was the ringtail Hen Harrier that showed well but briefly to the north of the road. No owls at all, probably something to do with the rain…

Monday, October 03, 2011

October 3 2011

A trip to Holy Island was the order of the day. I arrived an hour before the tide was due to go out, so I had a walk to the North of the causeway; two Whimbrel, six Little Egret and two thousand-ish Pink-footed Goose the highlights of that walk.

Once onto the island, I concentrated on the Snook area. Two Yellow-browed Warbler gave me plenty of frustration! The first one took ages to see and was always too far away, this is it…

Yellow-browed Warbler-8D3E0024

…the second one was much closer, but kept vanishing in its chosen bush, and by the time I left it was blowing a gale and the branches of the bush were being blown all over the place making photography almost impossible.

Other things seen; 250 plus Barnacle Geese, 500 plus Brent Geese, two Merlin (or a single seen twice!), two Brambling and a Wheatear.

So I left here and took the coast route back, stopping at Budle Bay, where the Common Crane was showing well, much further away than distantly!

Common Crane-8D3E0052

And then a brief stop at Monks House to pay homage to the Ross’s Geese, this is them.

Ross's Goose-8D3E0054

Sunday, October 02, 2011

October 2 2011

This evening I joined the crowd at Prestwick Carr for the Owl-fest.

At least eleven asio owls were on show, probably all were Short-eared, the few that showed well definitely were.  And a Little Owl heard calling, a canny evening out!

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Communication Breakdown

“That was exciting!!!
From the 1st text, it took me less than ten minutes to be at a view point with good all round visibility.
Two hours later the bird was seen distantly in flight, after a phone call from Ian.
Sent from my HTC”
The bird so casually mentioned in the above text was Sandhill Crane
The above was sent from my phone on Thursday, and it went, my email account tells of  it’s sending, but it did not arrive! Since then I have been fighting a battle with internet connection, and it has been winning.
I’m now on two weeks holiday, so I have plenty of time to find out why I am struggling with the internet…

Sunday, September 04, 2011

September 4 2011

At last, a day out birding. After a month of inactivity, it was nice to be out and about today!

The first stop today was in the far distant reaches of northern Northumberland, at Fenham le Moor. We arrived to a falling tide, with plenty of Grey Seals “bottling” in the water, approximately two hundred over the expanse of the flats.

The birds of note were 48 Brent Geese and then an Osprey perched on one of the poles of the Pilgrims Causeway and then five Little Egrets together in flight. Then the Osprey flew towards us carrying a fish. By this time, the tide had dropped, and waders were starting to fly past, mostly Dunlin, but also a Curlew Sandpiper and three Whimbrel.

We left here and started back south, stopping at Budle Bay. Lots of birds here, mostly gulls, but also 17 Greenshank (that were all Greenshank, not a Greater or Lesser Yellowlegs or Marsh Sandpiper here) and another Little Egret.

Monkshouse was given five minutes, but it was very quiet, so we headed onto Low Newton. Three Ruff on the flooded fields, two Little Stint and a Curlew Sandpiper on the beach were the pick here.

A quick stop a Boulmer gave us two Yellow Wagtail and a distant skua that was probably Arctic.

Foxton had the usual; 2 Goosander and 3 Greenshank (funnily enough, these were Greenshank as well).

Chevington was heaving with birds, lots of geese, including two Pink-feet, loads of Teal, with at least seven Pintail in with them. A Sparrowhawk flew through and flushed the Lapwing flock and when they came back they had 12 Ruff with them, and another seven Ruff were on one of the islands. Nothing of note on the south pool until a Marsh Harrier passed through.

Cresswell is brim full, in fact it might be more than brim full as some of the pond is on the road. Can you remember when they used to take sand from the beach, and the Wildlife Trust bods whinged and whined that they were destroying habitat by removing the sand, so that particular practice was put an end to. Now the its the Wildlife Trusts turn at destroying a habitat; by doing no management at all when it comes to water levels. We all appreciate the fancy  hides and the cut grass and the lovely new fences and all the huge numbers of feral geese we can see at the star reserve, but it’s about time they got their bloody fingers out and pulled the plug that lets the water out; c’mon fix that problem!

A quick look at the sea at Newbiggin gave us a few Mediterranean Gulls and loads of Gannets, but that was about it.

It was good to be out and about

Saturday, September 03, 2011



I have just got this totally unsolicited email today, from my new best friend; I’m rich, I’ll never have to work again!


Dear Friend,

Good Day,

I know that this message will come to you as a surprise. I am Mr. Salifou Sawadogo, "THE CHIEF AUDITOR IN CHARGE OF THE FOREIGN REMITTANCE UNIT here in Ouagadougou Burkina Faso. I hope that you will not expose or betray this trust that I am about to repose on you for the mutual benefit of our both families.
I need your urgent assistance in transferring the sum of (us$14.3m) Fourteen Million Three Hundred Thousand Dollars to your account within 14 banking days. This money has been dormant for years in our bank without claim. I want the bank to release / transfer the money to your account over there as the nearest person to the deceased customer, the owner (the deceased customer) of the account died along with his supposed next of kin in an air crash since 2003.

I don't want the money to go into our bank treasury as an abandoned fund. So this is the reason why I contacted you so that the bank can release / transfer the money to you as the next of kin to the deceased customer.

Please i would like you to keep this proposal as a top secret and delete it if you are not interested. Upon receipt of your reply, I will give you full details on how the business will be executed and also note that you will have 45% of the above mentioned sum if you agree to handle this business with me and 55% will be for me.
I await your urgent communication.

Best regards,

Mr. Salifou Sawadogo.


I’ve crossed out the name so that no one else will get a share of my millions, now to send him my bank account number and all my personal details…

I really do need to go birding!!!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

July 31 2011

Chevington first today; a single Little Gull, that soon flew out to sea with the terns was all that the north pool had to offer. The south pool had a Marsh Harrier.

Onto the beach, and two Arctic Skuas were just chillin’ on the sand, so I did a double quick back to the car for the camera and then back to the beach, only for the skuas to now be out at sea chasing terns!

A small gathering of terns on the beach was mostly Arctic, with a couple of Common, and as I was trying to get close to get pictures, a Roseate flew in. I managed a few shots before they all spooked and flew off.

Roseate Tern Roseate Tern

Further along the beach, a sad sight; a Gannet with a broken wing. As I walked along towards it, it looked fine, until I was getting near and it tried to flap its wings.


Doesn’t look too bad in this picture, but it was finished.

Heading back south, I stop briefly at Druridge pools, and the only thing of note was another Marsh Harrier.

Cresswell had a small flock of roosting Dunlin, a large flock of Lapwing, a single breeding plumage Black-tailed Godwit and an adult Yellow Wagtail, along with all the usual suspects and all of the above were being terrorised by a Peregrine.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

July 26 2011

Today and after work, another sea watch at Newbiggin.

I only did five hours tonight, but my two day old Storm Petrel record count was broken. Eighteen on Sunday, twenty five today. Most of the birds were moving steadily north, a long way out, but occasionally a bird would appear closer in.

The supporting cast included; two Arctic Skua, six Bonxie, six Sooty Shearwater, seven Red-throated Diver,forty-ish Manx Shearwater, forty-ish Common Scoter and a Little Gull

Sunday, July 24, 2011

July 24 2011

With Storm Petrels being seen at all points along the coast, I had to have a go. I waited until the Sun was over the yardarm and would be behind me before I set off. Within thirty minutes of setting up, I had seen three Storm Petrel fly past, and by the time I left six hours later, I had seen eighteen!

To see that many in a day was unprecedented, until today I had only seen seven in Northumberland (and two of them were in the hand).

The supporting cast today included; seven Bonxie, six Sooty Shearwater, about fifty Manx Shearwater, six Little Gull, two Roseate Tern and seven Velvet Scoter.

Bob, David, Alan, Alan, Alan, Jimmy and Roger all turned out, and a good old chunter was had, and the birding was good!

I’m pleased I went! (unless I get Alan's cold...)

And I see that the Marsh Sandpiper is back at Blacktoft Sands, bugger!

July 23 2011

Torrential rain overnight and a cold wind from a northerly origin put an end to any hopes that we would find any late obliging Purple Emperor or White Admiral! We did have a look, but nothing was on the wing, other than a brief Purple Hairstreak.

So with the forecast being poor, we decided to cut short the weekend and head back, at the end of the day. A stop at Cotterstock, eventually gave us a single Red-eyed Damselfly and a couple of Brown Hawker and another Kingfisher, but no new fish!

The next stop was at Barnack Hills & Holes. We were just through the gate when a Holly Blue was found

Holly Blue

this was taken with that well known butterfly lens combination; 500 + 1.4 extender.

Further into the reserve, the target was showing very well, with lots on the wing; Chalkhill Blue

Chalkhill Blue Chalkhill Blue Chalkhill Blue

And after a lot of searching, the final tick of the day, Marbled White

Marbled White

A great trip that will have to be replayed next year, a couple of weeks earlier!