Thursday, 31 December 2009

New Year

Its been a mixed year for me with the death of my grandmother, finishing my A levels and starting University.
But what a year on the birding front it has been for me. I thought last year was good but this year has surpassed all expectations.
My three favourite birding experiences this year were seeing the Cirl Buntings in Cornwall, the Nightjar night at Slaley and the Strom Petrel night at Hauxley.
Day trips to Kielder, Blacktoft Sands, Harthope and Saltholme have also been amongst the highlights.
I haven't been to Salthome as much as I would have liked since starting at Teesside but I will try and get down there more often.
The thing I have enjoyed this year the most has been the patch birding and I have finished the year on 113, not bad considering I made myself an optomistic target of 120.

Thank you to everybody that has helped me this year and I hope to see you all in 2010.

Happy new year!

Sunday, 27 December 2009


With not much being reported from Northumberland recently I went to East Chevington this morning with SH to see if we could find anything.
On the way up we stopped at QE2 lake which was half frozen. A channel had been created between the ice and it was full of wildfowl.
Good numbers of Coot, Goldeneye, Mute Swan and a few Gadwall were in the channel. A group of Wigeon were feeding on the grass next to the car park.

In the fields opposite QE2 next to Alcan there were 28 Whooper Swans amongst a flock of Mutes.

We stopped at the fields just past Widdrington as there were a lot of geese spread over two fields.
There were near 300 geese mostly, Greylags but two stood out as they were near the front of the flock by themselves.
One was the Greylag/Canada Goose hybrid which I have seen at Chevington and Hauxley and the other was a Bean Goose.
I was just about to get a better look at it through Steve's scope when the flock took off towards Chevington.

At Chevington the North pool was frozen and only a few birds were on the islands.
Instead of staying at the pools on the off chance something would drop in we went to check the fields around the dunes and the smaller pools near the bottom of the south pool.

As we were going around the corner towards the end of the south pool I saw something flying low down which looked like a Buzzard or a small heron.
On second look I could see it was a Bittern, as I was watching it it disappeared behind the fence line over the south pool.

There wasn't much in the fields near the dunes apart from a flock of Goldfinch and Skylark. Although we did see a total of 7 Stonechat around the reserve.

Our last stop was at North Blyth where 10 Goldeneye were on the river and 13 Grey Heron were roosting in the docks.
A single female Common Scoter was amongst a group of Eider offshore.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009


I gave West Hartford a good thrash at midday today. I checked the still completely frozen pools first, where a few Common Gull had landed.
The ice is still thick on the pools as deer tracks could be seen with no cracks around them.
15 Long Tailed Tits flew from the trees next to the pools and a vocal Fieldfare was sitting at the top of the dead trees.
A Buzzard flew low to the ground over the fields, I was hoping that sunday's Red Kite would be around.

Next I chcked the fields behind the small pool. A group of 10 Fieldfare were flying overhead and seemed to follow me everywhere I went as did a pair of Stonechat.
The sound of wings flapping soon caught my attention as the Woodpigeons which roost in the woods along the river Blyth took to the sky.
All 70+ birds were flying in different directions and diving into the tree tops. Soon the reason why appeared as a raptor came into view.
At first glance I thought it was a Peregrine but as it flew directly overhead it's body didn't look muscular enough and its wings didn't seem as broad.
It's underside was silvery grey and it was slightly bigger than a Kestrel but it just didn't look like a Peregrine.
It ignored the Woodpigeons completely and flew south west quickly.

The addition of niger seed to my bird feeders has been successful as yesterday a Siskin was feeding with a group of 5 Greenfinch and 4 Chaffinch.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Egyptian Dilemma

I am off for the best part of a month now so today I went with SH and DMcK to do the Webs count at Castle Island this morning. At first the count was just as you would expect, cold and tedious with only 14 species recorded, but as we were leaving things started to get interesting.
Dee spotted an Otter swimming up the river, it seemed to have something big in its mouth but it never stopped so we couldn't see what it was.

As we were watching the Otter two dog walkers went past and mentioned something about a Snow Goose.
Last month I was too busy to help with the Webs count so I didn't know that Steve and Dee had been told that further up the river a Snow Goose had been reported.
When they went to check it out they found a strange albino hybrid type bird, which wasn't a Snow Goose and looked more like a Shellduck.
After being told that it was definitely not a Snow Goose the dog walkers then mentioned its Egyptian friend, with this we headed off to investigate.

The area we went to was the stretch of river next to Stakeford Bridge beside the Cambois Rowing Club.
We went to the far left side were the most bird activity was and there on the shore was a single Canada Goose, the hybrid type and an Egyptian Goose.
The Canada and the Hybrid stayed whilst the Egyptian Goose was a lot more wary and moved off further into the water.
After talking to some of the locals we found that the hybrid type had been present for 7 weeks or so whilst the Egyptian had only appeared 3 weeks ago.
Whilst looking at the strange white bird, which we presumed was a hybrid; it became more and more obvious that it was an albino Egyptian Goose.
Steve got some photos of the pair, which I hope to upload soon if they will upload; i've been having problems with that recently.

At first I thought it was all straight forward and that the Egyptian Goose was another county tick but after looking at the evidence I am in two minds.
Is this the wild bird which has been present in the county and over the border in Durham throughtout the year ay Washington, Boldon, Derwent, Grindon and Whittle Dene?
After all it was acting the most wild and seemed to be chasing the albino at times.
Or was it released from captivity with the albino?

Steve text IF who came down to check them out after we went and he mentioned that it was missing its second set of primaries.
I suppose only time will tell if I can add the Egyptian Goose to my county list but for now I am more inclined to keep a clean list.

On the way back we checked a completely frozen WH where a Woodcock flew low over the new fire station building.
We flushed four snipe and two Mallard along the Horton Burn whilst checking for the Kingfisher which appeared briefly.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Starlings, Sparrows and Harris Hawk

I went to West Hartford at dusk yesterday in the hope that some wildfowl had dropped in. At the best of times WH is never lifting with birds but last night it was Suspiciously quiet.
Usually it means that dog walkers, dicks on dirtbikes, hunters or just people in general have scared off the birds but yesterday the set was complete when a Harris Hawk flew from the tree next to the small pool into its owners hands.
FFS, why can't you people just piss off and stay away from my patch.
As excpected there was nothing on the now flooded pools apart from a single Grey Heron.
Also a small holes has appeared next to the small pool which the flood water is running into, so soon I might have no patch to get pissed off about.

I could hear the hawks bells jingling as it flew from lampost to lampost before landing on the new fire station.
When I got back to the car my parents told me that the Harris hawk had landed on the roof and had made scratches with its claws.

When I came back from uni last week I found that my parents where having the drive and part of the garden dug up. Good idea the drive looks shite, only one problem they dug up the plum tree!
This is the plum tree where I saw my first Woodcock, Redwing and many others and is still the main attraction for birds in the garden.
With the work being completed last week I found that some compensation had been given in the form of another bird feeder.
The new feeder combined with the old one seems to be doing the trick as today I watched 40+ Starling invaded the garden and feeders along with 20+ House Sparrow.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Prestwick SEO

Yesterday afternoon I went to Prestwick Carr with SH to look for the Short Eared Owls which have been there for the last month or so.

I always enjoy watching SEOs but I have only seen them at West Hartford and usually I don’t get good views. There was a group of birders scanning a marshy field next to the bumpy track, so we went over. It was getting dark as we waited, 2 Buzzards and 2 Kestrels were flying around the field and 70 Fieldfare went overhead. The occasional Snipe could also be heard going over.

Birds were coming into roost all the time including a good number of Woodpigeon which settled in the tree tops. A flock of 11 Long Tailed Tit passed through the hedges behind followed by a flock of Great Tit then Blue.

Soon after, the first Short Eared appeared at the far side of the field. It was soon joined by another and there pair began hunting over the marsh. As both birds dived down another appeared and it wasn’t long until and aerial battle broke out.
We could hear the owls screeching at each other occasionally before flying towards each other and tussling with their feet.
One of the owls landed in the top of a tree in the field and the other two came gradually closer and began hunting over the area behind the Goat field.

Another of the owl landed on something on the edge of a flood pool in front of us. It had its back to us but through bins we got very close views. It was ripping something to pieces and eating it although we never found out what. It occasionally turned around and stared at us, its yellow eyes looking directly at me at one point. It stayed on the ground foraround 5 minutes before joinging the others hunting over the field. By this time another SEO had joined the three.
As we were leaving one of the birds flew behind where it began hunting on the other side of the bumpy track.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Atlas Comb

Yesterday I went with SH and DMcK to do 2 Atlas Tetrad squares at Kielder Forest. We left crammy at 7:30 and the heavy fog on the road didn’t clear until we arrived at Kielder.
The squares we were heading for were at Comb in Kielder Forest, an area none of us had been to before. I had done some Atlas work around Blyth, Havannah NR and Plessey Woods with LMcD in the summer so I knew that it was more about number of birds than species. It gave me another chance to improve my bird call i.d.
Before we started we guessed how many species we would end up seeing or hearing, I decided on 15.

We decided to do the longer walk first, which proved to be a good decision as the first part of the walk was uphill over an area of felled trees which were still covered in frost. The occasional stream and the boggy ground only added to the fun.
It was worth it once we reached the top as the views were stunning as was the silence. On the way we managed to add Robin, Dunnock, Wren and a flock of 25+ Crossbill to the list.
Meadow Pipit and more Crossbill were going over head as we finished off the 2 hour walk.

We drove further up for the next square which was on the edge of the Forest and had a flat path to walk on, which was just as well as the first walk nearly killed us.
We scanned the felled area in front of us when we heard a Raven calling. Soon two Ravens started calling to each other and it wasn’t long until they flew off as a Buzzard came into view.
The other highlight of the second square was the flock of 15 Bullfinch which flew in front of us before landing in the trees, always good birds to see. In total we had 19 Bullfinch in the second square. Good numbers of Coal Tits and Wrens were also present.

So after the four hours we ended up seeing 14 Species, 1 off my prediction.
The 14 were:
Dunnock, Wren, Coal Tit, Bullfinch, Siskin, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Crossbill, Woodpigeon, Meadow Pipit, Robin, Raven, Buzzard, Goldcrest and... I’ve forgotten.
Helping to do Atlas work always makes me appreciate nature more and it’s nice to work to see the birds rather than just stepping out of the car.

On the way home we made a detour to Ridley Stokeo which was Mandarin-less as the river was very high and Ridley Stokeo itself was completely flooded.

The fog was still visible in the valleys and it seemed to be following the river which would have made for some atmospheric shots, if I’d brought the camera.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Car Park Patch Tick

After coming back from the dentist yesterday afternoon, I was sitting in the car, which was parked in the Sainsbury's car park at Manor Walks shopping centre.
I have always thought that car parks are under watched areas and usually Waxwings are the only birds to be reported from them.
So whilst waiting I scanned through the BH Gull Flock which was on top of the bottle bank and scanned through all the trees and bushes surrounding the car park.
My old bins were on the floor of the car, so once I readjusted my eyes I began looking.
Nothing was in the bushes or amongst the mobile gull flock but I did get some close up views of some Starlings which were feeding next to the car.
I opened the window to see if I could hear anything and it wasn't long until 6 Redwing flew over, Seeping as they went.

Whilst watching the Jackdaws fly above Cramlington Hall I noticed a large duck struggling against the wind as it flew quite low over the treetops.
At first I thought I was watching the outline if a Diver but as it flew closer I could pick out the black wings, heavy white body and dark straight pointed head of a male Goosander, Patch Tick!
Still struggling against the wind it flew over towards Arcot.

I just remembered that back in February I was sitting in almost the same car parking spot when a flock of Pink Footed Geese flew over.
Also many years ago L McD had a Fulmar fly over Manor Walks, I wonder how many other species have been overlooked over the years.

113 - Goosander

Sunday, 15 November 2009

King at last

On Friday I quickly went to West Hartford at Dusk. I thought that with the influx of Short Eared Owls to Prestwick Carr that a few could have turned up at Hartford but there was no sign.
There wasn’t much around apart from 2 scruffy looking Juv Mute Swans on the main pool.

This morning me and my mate, (who is slowly becoming more interested in birding) checked the Horton Burn again for what must be nearly the 20th time over the last two months for the elusive Kingfisher- Patch Tick, but finally today it was there.
It flew from a branch just over the burn wall towards the fire station and landed on a pile of compost where it stayed for a few minutes before flying back towards us, flew over our heads and back down towards the other end of the burn.
As it flew overhead I could hear it making a high pitched whistling call which I heard later on further down the burn whilst watching a Grey Wagtail which was hunting insects.

We also checked the trees behind Cramlington Hall, later on, for Brambling but no sign, nothing else seen during the trip back despite searching the the graveyard for while.
112 – Kingfisher

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Two Black: One Lifer, One County Tick

Back at home this weekend, something which is becoming more regular.
I went up north early yesterday with S.H with Stag Rocks our intended destination. We had a quick and optimistic check of Hulne Park for Hawfinch on the way up but we were soon told to leave as a hunt was taking place at the park.

Before going to Stag we checked Budle Bay where the tide was out. A flock of Pink Footed Geese flew over but no Snow Goose amongst them or in the bay but plenty of Barnacle Geese. A single Goldeneye was swimming in the channel and Dunlin and Golden Plover were amongst the groups of Lapwing.

We checked the sea at Stag Rocks from the lower car park first. 30+ Purple Sandpipers were on the beach 13 Shag were on the rocks. A pair of Slavonian Grebes were very close in and gave excellent views as they dived together.

Although we were seeing some good stuff there was no sign of the Black Guillemot as we scanned every bird on the water between the shore and the Farnes. Bob Dack , also in search of the BG soon arrived and it wasn’t long until Steve found the Guillemot almost as close in as the Slavs.
It was an almost white first winter bird which preened itself and flapped its wings before fishing in front of us. It was so near that we went onto the beach so that Steve could get some record shots. The Purple Sands were also nearly at touching distance as we moved across the rocks. The Black Guillemot was soon joined by the two Slave grebes which made for an impressive sight. I’m glad I got such views of a good county tick, it saves going on a November pelagic to the Farnes one year.

We then moved to the top of the bank next to the golf club and scanned the sea from there. 9 Red Throated Diver were on the sea along with a huge number of Cormorants. A line of 10 Long Tailed Duck were doing some nice synchronized diving but I was surprised to see no Scoter or any Gulls.

After looking in the area around the Red throats BD soon found a Black Throated Diver- Lifer, which I just saw in time as it dived and exposed its large white thigh patch. When it resurfaced it was joined by another Black throat and the pair dived along side each other. A Great Northern Diver was soon spotted near them and I could see the size difference and features between the three species of Diver.

Our luck ran out after leaving Stag Rocks as a check of Monks House Pool provided nothing and there were no Corn Buntings at East Fleetham, which was not surprising.
There was nothing of note at either Arcot or West Hartford but I did get my first look at a Sinensis Cormorant during a Cormorant count at Blyth Harbour.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Sunday's Sab

I have been at home since the middle of last week due to illness. So you can imagine how pissed off I was when I wasn’t well enough to see the Eastern Crowned Warbler despite being offered a lift.
Yesterday I got a call from JM ( ) saying he was going for the Sabine’s Gull at North Shields and that I could come along. Still not 100% well, I was determined to get at least one good bird out of the weekend, and I did.
When we arrived at North Shields the Sabine’s Gull – Lifer, was sitting on the edge of the beach with a few BH Gulls which looked bigger in comparison.
After being flushed by a dog it landed on the water’s edge again and allowed us to get reasonably close, it was close enough for me to even get some record shots. After fifteen minutes it flew off and landed on the sand nearer the Fish Quay, my cameras battery ran out at this point so I got no more photos which is a shame as on the sand the Gull was much closer and there was a clearer back drop.
The Gull seemed to be struggling to keep its balance at times as the waves lapped against its legs.
Once again it flew off a while later and was relocated in the Fish Quay where we watched it fishing with the other gulls above the water showing off its distinctive wing pattern. I’m glad I saw my first Sabine ’s gull in this way rather than ticking a distant shadow of a bird in the rain at Church Point.
Whilst at the Fish Quay 7 Whooper Swans flew north up the Tyne.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Red Rain

On Wednesday at around 8 I was walking from the Library to my room when I added another species to my campus list – Redwing.
It was drizzling lightly and almost pitch black but still I could hear what must have been around 100 calling as they flew overhead in the darkness.
It just made me wonder how many people walk around completely oblivious to this huge annual migration.On Thursday morning I was woken up to the sound of a Grey Wagtail, which was running around the car park outside, another new campus bird.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Fire and Gold

Back at home again this weekend so I went with SH and DMcK to do the WEBS count at Castle Island this morning.
After a fairly quiet count we headed for Newbiggin and the Mound.
Just as we were about to turn into Newbiggin Steve got a call saying that the Radde’s Warbler was at Druridge Pools again.
We thought we would have a go at the Radde’s first so drove straight to Druridge.

We went to the area where the Radde’s had been reported but after a half an hour wait without a sniff of any Warbler we went to the Main Pool Hide.
The Glossy Ibis was tucked into the far left corner bordering the reeds and I got brief views as it waded through the water. Also a pair of Scaup were swimming and diving along the back of the pool.

Instead of going to the Mound we went to St.Mary’s instead where news of three Yellow Browed and a Firecrest was filtering through.
When we got to the north end of the wetland we had just missed the Firecrest by ten minutes and were told that it had gone back into deeper cover.
A Yellow Browed Warbler called nearby but never showed so we walked around to the
other side of the willows to get a better angle.
It soon paid off as a Yellow Browed Warbler moved quickly through the trees and out of sight.
Although I did see a bird move through the trees I cannot comfortably say what it was so it looks like I will have to wait for another day to see a Yellow browed.
Whilst it moved through the willows it flushed out a Firecrest – Lifer.

I always thought the day that I saw a Firecrest I would have a new favourite bird and now I do.
We had brilliant views over a half an hour period as the Firecrest moved through the trees, stretched its wings and even stood still on the branches.
At first I could only see its Greenish back and Lemony wash on its breast but once it turned around the fiery crest and black markings on the face were very clear.At one point we though two were present but it turned out to be a Goldcrest, which was even closer, and probably close enough to photograph unlike the Firecrest which was always diving in front of braches at a photographable opportunity.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Tawny Tick

Last night whilst walking back from the pub I heard the unmistakable sound of a Tawny Owl which called constantly from 10:50 until 10:55.
I could not locate the bird but I presume it was in a row of trees which border the football pitch.
This was my 13th campus bird and one I really never expected to hear or see.
Even when I got back to my room I could still hear it calling.
I was going to try and walk along the tree row tonight but the rain has but me, and probably the owl off.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Back and a Lap

I have been back at home this weekend so this morning I went for a sea watch at Newbiggin with SH.
Since the wind from last night had died down it wasn’t looking good for a sea watch so we only stayed for just over an hour.
A Great Skua just off the rocks at Church Point was the highlight, other than that a few Divers and Auks heading north was about it.
Whilst watching the sea we heard a Bunting type call which was soon identified as a Lapland Bunting- Lifer!
Two Laps flew past church point towards the church and car park calling, I was told by SH to mention that Tim Cleeves was one of the birders at Church Point this morning which and he was able to confirm them as Lapland Buntings.

Once we had left Newbiggin we headed back to the patch. At Arcot Pond there was a good count of Teal at the back of the pond.
A Nuthatch was calling from the southwest corner and a Lesser Redpoll- Patch Tick, flew over three times.
112- Lesser Redpoll

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Around the campus and YSP

Before moving into my new home on campus at Teesside University, I made my self a three year target to try and see 50 species, (including flyovers), on campus.
Already I am on ten. The tenth being 20 Pink Footed Geese which flew over this morning.
A large flock of House Sparrow at Woodland row had a Dunnock amongst them yesterday and the other eight are residents,they are:
BH Gull
Pied Wagtail
Feral Pigeon
Carrion Crow

I have explored most of the site and there is a good number of trees and bushes which I will be checking most days.

Today I went on a trip to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park at Wakefield.
Apart from the dodgy pornographic Rabbit sculptures I enjoyed just wandering around the huge site doing some birding and drawing - does it get any better?
The site is too vast to explore in the time we had so instead I did a quick scan along the main field up to the bridge, before staying at a deserted pond behind an empty building.
Good numbers of Robin and Blackbird were everywhere as were Grey Squirrels, unfortunately.
In total I heard six different Nuthatch but it was difficult to see what was up the lake as access is only available from the country park a mile away.

Whilst drawing at the small abandoned pond I was suprised to see 7 Moorhen climbing around a patch of reeds only about two metres wide.
As well as the Moorhen, 3 Mallard were on the water and 4 Mistle Thrushes were on the egde of the bank.
A Grey Wagtail which had been calling for some time finally landed and spent five minutes hopping from reed to reed before landing on a small reed sculpture where it hunted insects.
It soon moved from the sculpture and instead began hunting from a more modern day sculpture - an empty Fosters can.

All in all I had an enjoyable day at a site I would recommend to anybody who is passing, just for the nature if nothing else.
Also I noticed the amazing Autum colours which have taken hold of the trees dramatically over the last few days, well down here anyway.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Glossy Finish

Once again the birding world proved just how quickly it can chance. On Friday afternoon I was at Druridge Pools with SH.
We weren’t looking for anything in particular so when we checked a nearly bird less Druridge I was happy enough to watch an otter, which was showing off in front of the Oddie hide, without knowing that in less than 24 hours the relatively empty Druridge would be full of birders, including me looking for a bird I have always wanted to see.

When the call came the next morning we were straight out and off to Cresswell were the bird had been reported.
Unsure exactly were the Ibis had been seen we were surprised to find what seemed like every birder in Northumberland watching the small pond next to the car park.
We soon saw the Glossy Ibis- Lifer, in the reeds at the back of the pond. I then came out and began wading through the water before showing its Cormorant like flight as it flew out of the reeds, over our heads and landed in a field left of the pond.
We drove to the field and found it being mobbed by Corvids before dropping into a small patch of marshy ground and reeds out of sight.
The Corvids soon chased it from the reeds and we last saw it fly towards Bell’s Pond.

This may be my last post for a while as I am leaving to go to University at Teesside today. My new term time patch will be Saltholme, Dorman’s ect!
Thanks to everybody who has been on the blog and helped me throughout this year, it really has been a much better birding year than I could have ever imagined.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009


I was out early on Sunday morning with SH and DMcK for the webs count at Castle Island. After a quiet count we went to Cresswell Pond.
A Spotted Redshank was wading through the water just past the sandbar.
2 Greenshank were near the causeway and 8 Tree Sparrow were in the hedge leading to the hide.
At East Chevington there were 302 Canada Geese on the main pool with a Canada Goose/Greylag goose Hybrid amongst them.
A single Great Crested Grebe kept appearing amongst the geese, which were joined by 43 Pink Footed Geese.
A Redpoll flew overhead calling and whilst watching the pool two Stoat bounded through the field towards us. One of the Stoats stopped and popped its head out of the long grass and looked at us before diving into the hedgerow.

With nothing else being reported around the county we headed back to the patch and concentrated around there for a couple of hours.
At West Hartford a single Redshank and 5 Dunlin were on the ever-increasing mud on the main pool.
Three Buzzards were circling the river Blyth and a Jay flew over the pool.

At Arcot Pond 103 Teal were at the back of the pond with a single male Wigeon – Patch tick, amongst them.
5 Dunlin flew across the pond and headed off southwest. Presumably they were the same 5 which were at WH, weren’t they?

111- Wigeon

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Saltholme then home

Yesterday after attending to some business in Middlesbrough we stopped at Saltholme for an hour.
The warden in the visitors centre told me that the Hooded Merganser was on the pool outside the visitors centre but was proving difficult to see.
I was surprised when the first thing that I saw when looking through one of the scopes on display, was the female Hooded Merganser – Lifer, preening itself on the edge of a small island in the water.
It stayed on the edge of the island preening for a further five minutes before disappearing back into the water where it frequently dived and proved why it was so difficult to find.
I also noticed that it was smaller than a Red Breasted Merganser when it swam along side a Tufted Duck, which seemed to be a similar size.
Before it went back into the water I got a good view of its impressive all white stomach and orange bill, which stood out a lot more than photos would suggest.
Normally I would be more sceptical of a bird such as a Hooded Merganser but this bird seems like a genuine rarity to me.

No rings, full wings and not coming to bread are all good enough signs of a genuine bird for me and the fact that it appeared on the night that a hurricane had just finished passing over England from America make it seem all the more possible.
The warden at the visitors centre also said that Washington Wild Fowl Park, (the nearest know keepers of Hooded Merganser) are not missing any birds.
Whilst doing some research on the distribution of Hooded Merganser I was encouraged when I found that the eastern American population can be found from south Canada right down to the Gulf Coast.
It's staying on my list until proven to be an escapee, at least it isn't a Bar Headed Goose I am worrying about.
Also I am sure if somebody was going to keep a Hooded Merganser as a pet then the male would be a much more popular choice.

On the way home I checked Arcot Pond. With nothing on the pond I was about to leave when a Willow Tit- Patch Tick, called twice from the southwest corner of the pond where a Tit flock had just flown towards.

110 – Willow Tit

Friday, 18 September 2009

Last few days

Yesterday I went with Holywell Birder to Big Waters. It was only a short trip but since we are heading to different sides of the country in the coming weeks it will probably be the last time for a while.
It was the first time I had been to the hide at Big Waters and it is the best I’ve ever been in!
Small groups of Wigeon were gathering on the water and good numbers of Tree Sparrows were at the feeding station.
Many of the Sparrows flew in to the reeds in front of the hide, something I’ve never seen them do.
The Kingfisher and Water Rail, which were showing earlier in, the day did not appear.
A single Great Crested Grebe was at the far side of the water, hopefully it will put in an appearance at Arcot soon.

A few small bits of news from around Crammy over the last few days, which kept me happy: Two new garden ticks, the first was a very vocal Redshank, which circled Northburn First School’s field on Tuesday evening and a singing Skylark was over the house this morning as I left.
Also two Grey Herons landed and fished briefly on the Horton Burn the other morning.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

New Link

Spent a couple of hours at Arcot Pond this morning in the hope that the Wigeon I was told about last night had stayed over night. They hadn't.
There wasn't much on the pond which was probably due to the male Sparrowhawk patrolling the area. A female Shoveler and 2 snipe were the best on offer.

I spent a while at Beacon Lane once again listening for Willow Tit and once again coming up with nothing.
Whilst scanning the bushes down the lane I heard a Wagtail call and turned just in time to see a Grey Wagtail- Patch Tick, fly past towards the golf course.

The new link is Another birder from Crammy and still the only person to have Crossbill, Ringed Plover, Kingfisher and Ring Ouzel on the patch this year.

109 - Grey Wagtail

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Shearwaters and Skuas

I was out early with SH this morning for a sea watch at Church point, Newbiggin.
When we got there a line of birders were already set out and already a Balearic Shearwater had been past!

In the two hours we were there a steady stream of Gannets, probably around 100 flew north, usually in groups of 5.
Auks were also heading north in good numbers and a few Guillemots stayed on the water.
Wigeon, Teal and Common Scoter were also heading north in tight groups.
Two Common Scoter were amongst the Eider flock just off the rocks and three Red Throated Diver went north.

A Juvenile Med Gull was flying over our heads and a Wheatear was moving around the rocks.
Apart from the usual passage of wildfowl a female Goosander flew past just over the rocks and a Velvet Scoter went north also quite close.
A Grey Seal was just off the rocks and another further out looked as if it took a swipe at a passing Guillemot.

Once the wind started to pick up a distant Balearic Shearwater went past but I couldn’t see it with just bins.
A Manx Shearwater flew north half way out and a Great Skua- Lifer, went over distantly.
I got better views of another Great Skua later on, we saw 9 Arctic Skuas in total.

In what must be some kind of Newbiggin record the third Balearic Shearwater-Lifer, of the morning flew past and this time it was close enough for me to get a good view.
I watched it skim over the waves until it disappeared past the caravans to the left.

Not long after this Steve got a call saying that a Marsh Harrier was at West Hartford.
Before we left for West Hartford a very distant Sooty Shearwater- Lifer, went past just in time for me to see it turn around in mid air just above the horizon.

By the time we had gotten to West Hartford via accidentally entering a bike race in Newbiggin, the Marsh harrier had moved on.

Friday, 11 September 2009


I had to go to Middlesbrough yesterday so on the way we stopped at Saltholme.
After asking around in the visitor centre if the Purple Heron or Hooded Merganser had been seen I went to the Back Saltholme hide. Neither bird had been reported at the time.

A Greenshank was on the bank opposite the hide and apparently a Little Stint and Ruff were in the long grass with Dunlin. I could see the Dunlin but nothing else amongst them.

We then checked Dorman’s Pool from the hillside. 7 Little Egrets were fishing on the pool and a female Pintail flew over towards the Rec.

A quiet day once again on such a big reserve.

Sunny September

I was out with Holywell Birder on Wednesday where we started at West Hartford. Apart from a Mistle Thrush overhead there was nothing else to write about.
A few Stonechat were on the fence line east of the main pool.

The tide was well out at Seaton Sluice when we arrived. We stayed on the rocks next to the sea-watching hide and scanned through the Tern flock.
I forgot my notebook so I don’t have the exact numbers but there was still a good amount of Roseate terns amongst the Sandwich and Arctic Terns.
Dunlin, Knot and Sanderling were also in good numbers on the rocks.
A Wheatear was on the rocks at the mouth of the sluice as we were leaving.

We quickly checked the Beehive flash but only a Shoveler and a few Moorhen were on the water. Stock Dove and a Lapwing and Curlew flock were in the fields near by.
We also checked the Briar Dene car park for the Med Gull, which has been seen there recently, but it was not amongst the BH Gull flock when we checked.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Ruff Seawatch: Newbiggin

With the wind slightly better today me and SH had a longer seawatch at Church point, Newbiggin.
As soon as we had sat down three very distant Arctic Skua flew south.
The number of Gannets was not as high as yesterday at Blyth, but there was still a good number also heading south.
Fulmar, Kittiwake and 2 Guillemot were close to the shore as was a group of 26 Eider.
The Eider were soon joined by a small group of Common Scoter. Small groups of Common Scoter were flying past every so often as did 18 Wigeon and 63 Teal.

2 Red Throated Diver flew south and a Grey Plover, Snipe, Dunlin, Ruff and Roseate Tern went north.
Wheatear and Meadow Pipit both came in off the sea and a 1st winter Med Gull circled overhead.

We checked West Hartford on the way home, at first nothing much was about until 2 Ruff- Patch Tick flew overhead and landed on the near shore with a Dunlin.
As if this wasn’t good enough 10 Dunlin then flew over. 5 Dunlin landed on the mud at the back of the pool whilst the others carried on.

108 – Ruff

Thursday, 3 September 2009

North Blyth Sea watch

Despite the crap wind today me and SH went to North Blyth for a quick sea watch.
I had never been sea watching before and it was something I would definitely like to do again.
There were Tern Sp. flying past and fishing but most were to quick to identify. Two Roseate terns flew overhead calling, as did a few Sandwich Terns.

Gannet numbers grew as time went on with only a few heading south far off shore but soon they were getting closer and in greater numbers. At one point 38 were fishing as a group.
Most of the Gannets were adults but a few grey young were amongst them. It was good seeing them this close and being able to watch them fish.

No Skuas or Shearwaters came past but a flock of Common Scoter did a good Shearwater impression.
A Red Breasted Merganser flew over and a Rock Pipit was at the bottom of the car park.

At West Hartford tonight the water level was raised again surely putting an end to the run of waders.
Only a few small pockets of mud are still exposed and this was enough to hold the LRP and Dunlin still. Also a female Shoveler was amongst a group of 10 teal at the back of the pool.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Spotted Patch tick

I got word from Steve H this morning that he had 2 Willow Tit at Beacon Lane and a Spotted Flycatcher at Arcot.
At 1 I headed off to see if they were still around. There wasn’t much of note on the walk up.
There was a better chance of hearing the Willow Tits rather than seeing them but despite checking the right area of the lane and walking up and down the rest of it I couldn’t hear or see them on my way there or back.
It started to rain as I got to Arcot so I took cover next to the bushes by the crossroad behind the pond.
As I was checking the trees I saw something small and grey fly from the bottom of a bush to the top, it was a Spotted Flycatcher- Patch Tick.
It sat at the top of the tree for 10 seconds or so before going deeper into the bushes.

I stayed at the pond for around 45 minutes. 44 Greylag Geese were swimming from one side of the pond to the other and the number of Teal on the back island is growing with around 40 there today.
3 Roe Deer skipped through the field behind the pond before stopping and watching me.
I was watching the pond from the fence line on the east shore for a change and it was a good job I did as a Water Rail ran out in front of me and called constantly for 5 minutes from the reeds.
I’m glad I saw the Spotted Flycatcher today as the window of opportunity to see them in crammy is much smaller than that of a Willow Tit.

107- Spotted Flycatcher

Monday, 31 August 2009

WH Dun

Out of the hundreds of Dunlin I must have seen this year the one I saw at West Hartford this morning has been the best.
I was unable to get to West Hartford when the action was happening yesterday. 5 Whinchat, LRP, Golden Plover and Dunlin were all present.

When I got to West Hartford this morning and saw a family out walking their dog I thought there was no chance of any Waders staying but thanks to their dog chasing the Gull flock I managed to see the Dunlin – Patch Tick, fly across the pool and land on the largest island of mud along with the LRP which has been hear for 4 days now.
I checked all of the fence posts and trees around the back of the smaller pool but no sign of any Whinchat, it’s a good job I saw that one at WH back in May.

Yesterday I had a Sparrowhawk over my garden for the first time this year.

106- Dunlin

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Evening at Cresswell

I was out yesterday evening with Steve H for an hour at Creswell Pond from the hide.
I forgot my notebook so I haven’t got the exact numbers but there were roughly 120 Dunlin on the sandbar with 2 Curlew Sandpipers and a Ruff amongst them.

Ringed Plover and Redshank were on the sand bordering the reeds. 2 Moorhen were doing good Spotted Crake impressions just inside the reeds, as was a Water Rail which zig zagged its way across the reed bed.

3 Greenshank were flying around and calling as they landed in various parts of the mud but remained unsettled. The Stoat on the edge of the reeds could have had something to do with this.

On the way back we checked Woodhorn Flash from the roadside. A second year Med Gull landed on the water before taking off again and flying back towards Newbiggin.

Friday, 28 August 2009


I got a call from Steve H this afternoon saying there was a Little Ringed Plover and 2 Green Sandpipers at West Hartford. I have had both on the patch already this year but I went for another look anyway.
There was no sign of the green Sands but an adult LRP was on a small mud island just off the near shore towards the right of the main pool.

No really, there is an LPR in this picture

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Common Patch Tick

I had another early afternoon visit to West Hartford today. At first it looked as if only the Gulls, Lapwings and Pied Wagtails were on the mud.
Two Teal were on the near shoreline before flying to the back of the pool where they joined another four.
By the time I had checked the smaller pool the Teal were flying off along with two Common Sandpipers- Patch Tick, which I heard call before finally spotting them flying off south west.

105- Common Sandpiper

Sunday, 23 August 2009

2 Hartfords 1 Patch Tick

I went to West Hartford early afternoon today to see if anything had dropped onto the pool.
As I was approaching I could see there was a lot more exposed mud than the last time I was there last week.
50+ Gulls, mostly BH and Herring were on the water and 20 Lapwing were on the mud.
I searched through the group of Lapwing but only two Pied Wagtail were amongst them.

As I was heading to the smaller pool I noticed a small wader on top of one of the metal posts sticking out of the mud, it was a Green Sandpiper- Patch Tick.
After seeing me it flew off and circled the pool before heading off high south, calling loudly as it went.

Instead of going home straightaway I went to the marshy field near East Hartford, somewhere I haven’t been since winter.
This sight is better in winter as it is less overgrown and the birds are forced out onto the ice on the small pools.
Apart from two Swallows there was nothing else in or around the field. Then I noticed something strange at the far side of the biggest pool.
All of the reeds in the centre and around the outside of the pool had been cut down and laid around the waters edge.
Also a strange half circle shaped structure has been put up. It was made from three fence posts with wire fencing wrapped around it and the cut reeds woven through the fencing.I think it was a shooting range.

104- Green Sandpiper

Friday, 21 August 2009

A good Morning

I was out with SH and MH this morning. After the variety of waders seen at Castle Island on Sunday we stopped there first.
There weren’t as many on the island this morning, instead all of the action was on the near shore where there were 3 Greenshank and 4 Common Sandpipers.

Instead of heading straight to the coast we made a worthwhile detour to Bothal pond and Longhirst Flash.
At Bothal a Juv Spotted Redshank and Green Sandpiper were in the long grass on the right bank. The Spotted Redshank made a positive run along the bank towards us and my waiting camera but at the last minute decided to fly off across the pond.
A Yellow Wagtail was flying over the horse field behind the pond.

At first it looked as if there was nothing at Longhirst Flash but just after a Green Woodpecker flew over from the woodland, two Juv type Garganey came out of the reeds at the bottom left corner of the flash.

With the Semipalmated Sandpiper on the beach at Cresswell we went to the hide instead.
A single Ruff was on the sandbar and 61 Gadwall landed on the left bank.
11 Black tailed Godwit flew from the causeway over the hide before landing again.
A Water Rail was screeching from the small patch of reeds in front of the hide and it wasn’t long before I could see it head poking out from a pile of cut reeds.
It walked on top of the cut reeds before running into deeper cover.

We decided to have a second look at the Semi P and watched it at close range on the rocks on the beach. It was amongst a group of Sanderling, Dunlin and Knot. A Whimbrel flew past calling and a pale phase Arctic Skua was mobbed by Terns over head.

Spot the Ruff

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Cresswell Semipalmated

Early evening today saw me head out to Cresswell Pond with SH, DMcK and MH in search of the Semipalmated Sandpiper.
When we arrived at the car park next to the causeway we were amazed to see only a handful of birders on the causeway.
This made us think that the bird had flown off and when we got to the causeway we found out that it had but fortunately only to the sandbar in front of the hide.
We went to the hide to get a good view, as it was hard from the causeway in the wind.
It didn’t take much scanning through the Dunlin flock until we found the Semipalmated Sandpiper- Lifer, asleep on the back of the sandbar.
It was a lot smaller in comparison to the Dunlins surrounding it and it was being blown around like a treetop as it tried to sleep on one leg.
All the birds on the sand soon flew off and the Dunlin flock landed north of the causeway again.
As we were leaving the hide a female Sparrowhawk flew from the edge of the hide, this had been the bird, which had scared the waders onto the sandbar in the first place.
When we got back to the causeway we could see the Semipalmated Sandpiper wading through the mud on the shoreline.
As it moved its feet from the mud brief glimpses of the palmation on its feet could be seen, apparently.
Also a Spotted Redshank was on the edge of the spit on the far bank.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Wader Challenge

Whilst out with Steve H and D McK this morning we decided to try and count as many species of waders as we could. The record to beat was 23 in one day.

We started the day at Castle Island doing the WEBS count. Most of the Island was showing and soon we were onto are first wader species:
3 Common Sandpipers, Redshank, 1 Green Sandpiper, Greenshank, 6 Dunlin, 5 Snipe, Lapwing, Oystercatcher and 3 Ruff.

The surprise bird of the day was a stunning summer plumage Grey Plover which was amongst the Lapwing, the second bird we have seen hear this year.
As well as the waders and the other resident Island species, 2 female Goosander were swimming together further up the river.

At Cresswell Pond we thought things were going to get easier as the sand bar in front of the hide was exposed but only 30+ Dunlin, Redshank and Lapwing were on it.

At Hauxley a Greenshank was running along the shore in front of the visitors centre.
The Tern hide held a good number of roosting Turnstone as well as 12 Dunlin.
6 Black Tailed Godwit were on the water but like Monday they flew off after a couple of minutes.
From the Ponteland hide a Greenshank and a group of Dunlin were almost within touching distance.
3 Pied Wagtail and a Grey Wagtail were in the channel to the left of the hide with two Common Sandpipers.

We then went to the Blyth Estuary were we added Whimbrel, Bar Tailed Godwit and Ringed Plover to the wader list as well as a good count of 134 Curlew.
A female Red Breasted Merganser was asleep amongst the Curlew.

With no sign of Curlew Sandpiper or Little Stint at Cresswell or Hauxley we knew that today was not the day for the record to be broken, but it was still fun trying.

Are last stop of the day was at Seaton Sluice. We scanned the rocks to the left of the sea-watching hide and soon found 12 Roseate Terns – Lifer.
At first I couldn’t make out the differences between the Roseate and Arctic but this was mainly because there was a lot more red showing on the bill than I imagined.
I then noticed its other key feature such as its distinctive call, shorter Orangey-Red legs, more white body and longer tail.
5 Knot and a Kittiwake were amongst the Roseates and Sandwich Terns. Young Terns of both types were also on the rocks.
A Gannet was flying around and there were 20+ Common Scoter on the Sea.

At the end of the day the Wader table looked like this:
Common Sandpiper
Green Sandpiper
Grey Plover
Black tailed Godwit
Bar Tailed Godwit
Ringed Plover

Friday, 14 August 2009

Heard but not seen

On Wednesday evening I went with Steve H to Bellasis Bridge to listen for Quail.
We stopped just before a crossroad about a mile north of the bridge, which was surrounded by Wheat fields.
It only took us five minutes before the first and only bird of the evening sang.
It stopped and we waited fifteen minutes more but it didn’t sing again.

We checked Arcot Pond on the way home but there wasn’t much apart from a lone Canada Goose and a noisy Common Tern.
Yesterday I was at the fire station end of the Horton Burn looking for the Kingfisher, which was seen at the weekend. I waited half an hour and walked up and down the burn but there was no sign.
I went to Arcot Pond last night and again it was quiet. Two Roe Deer were wading through the reeds near the southwest corner and four Common Terns were on the dead wood in the middle of the pond.

Monday, 10 August 2009

1 of 2

After seeing that waders were starting to appear on the coast over the weekend, I had the chance to have a look this morning.
We stopped at Hauxley first where I went to the Tern hide, I think? A band of mud was exposed on the island in front of the hide.
7 Dunlin, some still with black patches, were running along the mud. I noticed a Dunlin sized wader to the left of the 7, which had a more orange head. I then noticed the white v shape on its back, it was a Little Stint.
A Juv Arctic Tern was hiding amongst a group of BH Gulls and 3 Snipe were on the bank in front of the hide.
Wading through the water in front of the mud was a Redshank and two Black Tailed Godwit, which flew off and landed again a few times.
As well as the resident Canada and greylag Geese 27 scruffy Mallard and a few Tufted Duck were on the water, most still looked as if they were in the eclipse stage.

After seeing the report that a Curlew Sandpiper was at Cresswell Pond still this morning, that was the next stop.
The causeway at Cresswell has changed since the last time I was there and the first thing I saw was the pointless square of concrete and wood opposite the car park.
Also I can’t remember there being a fence along one side of the causeway. I’m glad it was there today as the cows, which usually stay further up the field, were very inquisitive today; one was trying to put its head through the fence.
There was no sign of the Curlew sand or the Dunlin flock it was amongst.
The little Egret was on the far bank along with a Whimbrel.
As we were driving off I noticed a wader in the channel, which joins onto the beach opposite the pond. It turned out to be a Common Sandpiper.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

LEO at Last

Last night I went with Steve H to an undisclosed site to look for Long Eared Owls. As soon as we started scanning a field for the side of the road we could hear a young LEO calling.
We waited for around fifteen minutes for it to appear but it just kept calling for the same area.
It was getting dark quickly so we went closer to the area where the bird was calling and soon an adult Long Eared Owl- Lifer, appeared.
It was still light enough to see it properly as it flew around us before going overhead a few times.
As it went past I could see its ear tufts, which looked a lot darker in comparison to the rest of the bird.
The young bird was still calling and eventually came into view on the edge of a tree. It was a well-developed bird, which I am sure was capable of flying.
We decided to leave the birds in peace and headed off. As we did so another adult LEO flew across the path in front of us and landed in a tree.
In total we think there were four different birds calling at one point but we only saw the three.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

New Garden Tick

I’ve had quite a bit of activity around my garden over the last few days. Last week I noticed four young Blackbirds on the lawn and they have been around on and off since.
Yesterday I found a leg, handful of light brown feathers and a lot of blood on the patio.
A cat’s footprint was in the centre of the blood and bloody footprints went towards the fence.
The feathers look as if they are from one of the young Blackbirds, every year I find at least one (or part), of a young bird usually taken by a cat.
In the afternoon I noticed one of the two young Magpies, which have also been around for a week or so, on the fence with a young Blackbird in its beak.
When I went up to the window to get a photos it flew off and dropped the blackbird on the grass.
Whilst examined the corpse I found that it had no head and it had both its legs, meaning that two of the young had now been killed.
The two young magpies have been emptying the feeders everyday, but obviously this wasn’t enough.

Today I was watching a pair of Collard Doves on the feeders when I heard an unfamiliar garden sound.
I checked the Plum tree (bird magnet), and saw three young Willow Warblers- garden tick, on the front branches. They were just passing through and after a few minutes were in the willow trees around the pond in the school field.
As they went through the trees they flushed two Long Tailed Tits, the first in the garden since winter.
A young Dunnock has been following an adult around for three days now and is being regularly fed.

Sunday, 2 August 2009


I went to Kielder yesterday with Steve H and D McK. Now that the Osprey chicks have fledged we planned to try different vantage points around Kielder.

On the way we stopped at Ridley Stokoe to look for Mandarins. The river was flowing a lot faster than usual so there wasn’t anything on the water.

We stopped at the raptor viewpoint at Bakethin. We only stayed ten minutes as the trees were blocking most of the view and we were being attacked by insects.
Five Crossbill were around the viewpoint including a male, which showed well in a tree opposite the viewpoint.

Are next stop was the viaduct at Bakethin Reservoir. As well as the Ospreys we were still keeping an eye out for Mandarins but only found Tufted and Mallard.
9 Cormorants were flying around before landing on the water and a Little Grebe was diving.
Willow Warbler and Goldcrest were calling from the trees around the viaduct, as was a Yaffling Green Woodpecker.

We then tried to park at the area where other birders had said to park, but in the last week the car park has been closed for the summer.
Instead we parked at Otterstone Viewpoint car park at Bull Crag, somewhere none of us had been.
After following the access track out of the car park we stopped on the side of a sloping meadow next to some stone benches.
From here a good view of the open water and forest on its banks is given, the perfect place to see an Osprey and other Raptors.

A slight breeze was starting to pick up and the first Buzzards of the day began appearing over the treetops.
I took my eye off the ball for a second and Steve had an Osprey just dropping out of sight behind a clearing in the trees.
Whilst waiting for it to reappear 3 Crossbill and 2 Siskins flew overhead along with a very vocal Lesser Redpoll - Lifer.
A Raven flew east along the treetops and three Buzzards were dropping in and out of view. Not long after this a distant Raptor appeared in the same area. As it turned in the air I could see its body was all white and it hand slightly rounded wings pointing to it being an Osprey.It stayed in the air for a few minutes before disappearing again.

Friday, 31 July 2009

WH Marsh Harrier!

I went to West Hartford again last night between 7 and 8. The Gull numbers had double since the night before but nothing interesting amongst them.
I have noticed that some gulls are also on the small puddles inside the new building site area.

As I was leaving I checked the field, which borders East Hartford near the river. Usually there is nothing to see there but as I looked up a Marsh Harrier- Patch tick, was level with the hedgerow.
The Harrier went down behind the hedgerow and that was the last I saw of it.
I went behind the electricity building to get a better view of the field where I had seen it last but there was no sign.
It was probably heading west to follow the river on the other side of the trees.
I then went to the pool in case it went past but I couldn’t see it.
One major disadvantage of West Hartford is that the uneven ground makes it hard to see anything in flight unless it is going overhead.
Whilst waiting at the pool five Shellduck landed, 3 Juv, 2 adults.

I phoned Steve H who arrived as I was leaving; he told me that LMcD had a Marsh Harrier at Arcot Pond earlier in the afternoon. I got a text from him later saying the Barn Owl and Short Eared Owl were both out.

103- Marsh Harrier

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Unseasonal Owl

I was at West Hartford around 8 this evening to see if anything had settled on the water for the night.
The muddy margins are starting to show once again around both pools despite the showers today.
BH Gulls and a few LBB and Herring Gulls were at the back of the main pool again. After a while the gulls all took off at once and I could see a strange brown bird amongst them.
The gulls flew off south whilst the Brown bird landed on the bent branch of the tree behind the pool. It turned out to be an unseasonal Short Eared Owl, which stayed in the tree looking directly at me for around ten minutes.

I’m not sure what the Short Eared was doing flying amongst the gull group or if it was the reason the gulls flew off. I didn’t even see where it came from, I presume it came out of the long grass to the right of the pool and flew low behind the gulls.
As I was watching the Owl a Roe Deer skulked amongst the long grass in front of the tree.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Blyth High Tide

Yesterday I went with Steve H to the Blyth Estuary for an hour whilst the tide was rising.
The main spit was full of waders with a total of 230 Redshank. Amongst them where some stunning summer plumage Turnstones and Knot.

We scanned all of the banks that the tide was beginning to cover. Three Whimbrel, 1 Black Tailed Godwit, 2 Bar Tailed Godwit and 2 Ringed Plover were at various points.

13 Sandwich Tern and 3 Common Tern were fishing on the water and a gannet flew over the houses opposite.
Bates Filtration Pools were quiet with only 2 Moorhen and a Skylark.

I was going to upload some shots I took on holiday but the heat haze was a big problem and most of them look crap.

Sunday, 26 July 2009


Last night I went with Steve H and D McK to Hauxley to watch Storm Petrels being ringed.
The ringing was organised by Ian Fisher, other birders was also there.
Before last night I had no idea about what a ringing station looked like or even what the net looked like.
We helped set up the nets and waited on the rocks until it was dark enough to play the tape and attract a Petrel.
Also before last night I had never heard the call of a Storm Petrel, but after listening to the tape echoing across the beach for three hours it is a sound I will never forget.
As well as Storm, Leach's and swinhoe's were also played.

I enjoyed just sitting on the beach listening to the other birds that were around during the night. Apart from the Curlew and Oystercatchers Mallard, Grey Heron and Sandwich Tern were calling and flying around the beach.

At around 12:15 the net had its first action of the night when a Storm Petrel- Lifer, was caught.
I knew they were small but not that small! It called a few times as it was being handled but then settled down.
The ring on its foot was so small at first I couldn’t see it. After the bird was ringed we took some photos, unfortunately mine are a bit blurred.

Ian fisher asked me if I would like to release it so we went away from the lights and got closer to the beach to let the Petrels eyes get more adjusted to the dark before flying off.
It stayed in my hand for a minute or so, turning around in circles and flapping its wings before it flew off.
We packed up at half 1 as no others were coming towards the net.

Last night was definitely my favourite birding experience so far.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Beacon Hill and the Bay

I was out this morning with Steve H to try again for Spotted Flycatcher at Beacon Hill.
Initially the woodland was quiet but after about half an hour a family party of Blue and Great Tits appeared.
Whilst watching the Blue Tits that were hanging upside down from the branches, a Marsh Tit landed next to them.
We had great views as it dived onto the ground from the branches and moved around the front of the tree. It was joined by another and the pair flew off deeper into the woods.
A family party of Blackcap and Treecreeper and Nuthatch were also around, but no Spotted Fly.

We then moved on towards East Chevington. Apart from the large number of Greylags and a few Terns, a Goldeneye and Wigeon were on the North Pool.
We checked the short grass field to the left of the reserve on the way out. 6 Whimbrel were amongst a group of Curlew.

On the sea at Druridge Bay there were 85 Common Scoter close to the shore. A few Guillemots were also off shore.

Last stop was a quick check of Cresswell Pond. A Water Rail was calling from the middle of the reeds right of the hide the whole time we were there.
Nothing much on the water, a Greenshank was on the far bank and a Grey Partridge was calling from the field next to the farm.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

East and West

I had a quick trip out this afternoon to East Chevington.
After last weeks rain the South pool was full and waderless.
There was no sign of yesterdays Red Necked Grebe and despite the lack of mud there were still a good number of Terns on the North pool, most of which were now on the central island.

I went to West Hartford this evening, where 44 Bh Gulls were with a few Herring and LBB.
As I was leaving a Common Tern, (probably the same bird which has been around the Horton Burn), flew over, fished over the pool for a few minutes before flying off towards the industrial estate.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Year far

Yesterday I checked if West Hartford had filled up again after the rain, it had, in fact it was flooded.
I checked Arcot Pond this morning and all the exposed mud around the reeds was covered by water and only a small part of the northwest corner island was visible.
The Island held 8 Oystercatchers, 1 Mute Swan, 1 grey Heron and a Little Egret.

The Egret was present all afternoon yesterday and unlike the last Arcot Egret, this one was not intimidated by the Grey Herons.
It fished along the edge of the island before disappearing for a while and reappearing in the reeds.

I have checked West Hartford five times in the last week and due to it either being flooded or dried up, there has been nothing that interesting to report.
A family of three Kestrels have been hunting around the area for the last week.

Below is my patch list for the year so far, which will hopefully be bigger by the end of the year.

Little Grebe
Grey Heron
Little Egret
Mute Swan
Whooper Swan
Greylag Goose
Pink- Footed Goose
Canada Goose
Tufted Duck
Red Kite
Common Buzzard
Peregrine Falcon
Grey Partridge
Water Rail
Little Ringed Plover
Golden Plover
Jack Snipe
Black Tailed Godwit
Black Headed Gull
Common Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black Backed Gull
Great Black Backed Gull
Common Tern
Feral Pigeon
Wood Pigeon
Stock Dove
Collard Dove
Barn Owl
Tawny Owl
Short-Eared Owl
Sand Martin
House Martin
Meadow Pipit
Pied Wagtail
Song Thrush
Mistle Thrush
Willow Warbler
Sedge Warbler
Grasshopper Warbler
Lesser Whitethroat
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Coal Tit
Long Tailed Tit
Carrion Crow
House Sparrow
Tree Sparrow
Reed Bunting


Sunday, 12 July 2009

Sandpipers but no Plover

I was out with Steve H and D McK this morning to do the Webs count at Castle Island. We were hoping to see a Plover on the Island but instead there were 4 Common Sandpipers and a Wood Sandpiper.
A female Goosander was on the left of the island, a Wigeon flew over and a Grasshopper Warbler was reeling on the far bank.

Instead of heading straight to Chevington we checked a few inland sights, Bothal, Longhirst and Linton.
Not much to report from those sights apart from a Tree Sparrow at Bothal and a Green Sandpiper at Linton.

After Just managing to get parked at East Chevington we scanned the North Pool which held 8 Dunlin, 3 Greenshank and 4 Black Tailed Godwit.

From the South Pool only a Dunlin and Ringed Plover were hiding amongst the group of Sandwich and Common Terns.
6 Little Gull were with a group of Black Headed Gulls and Lapwing.

The final stop of the day was a quiet Cresswell Pond. 2 Juvenile Stonechat were in the field next to the car park. Two Sedge Warblers showed well in front of the hide and an Arctic Tern flew across the pond to the left bank where it joined a group of Sandwich Terns.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Leighton Moss

On the way home yesterday we stopped at Leighton Moss for an hour. I only managed to get to two hides. There was nothing of note from the Tim Jackson Hide.
As I was walking up the track to the Griesdale Hide a female Marsh Harrier flew over the hide where it was mobbed by Lapwing.

After only seeing two Red Deer amongst the reeds I was about to leave when the Marsh Harrier flew in front of the hide and hovered in front of the window at the other end of the hide!

It wasn’t hovering like a Kestrel as it was facing the hide with its wings in front of it. This hovering only lasted a few seconds and it then flew the whole length of the hide and over the reeds.
As I watched, the Harrier dived onto the ground and stood there, another action I have never seen this bird do.
I then realised that it was on top of a Lapwing nest and it them picked up the Lapwing chick and ate half of it before flying off with the other half and passing it in mid air over the reeds to another Marsh Harrier, which appeared,Very strange behaviour.
A Little Egret flew over whilst all this was happening.
I checked West Hartford this morning and was pleased to see that the main pool has got water in it again; hopefully it will attract some Waders soon.

Inner Marsh Farm

After leaving Cornwall at the weekend we stayed with family in Wrexham, (North Wales).
On Monday I was dropped off at Inner Marsh Farm RSPB just over the border in Cheshire near the river Dee estuary.
Pool No1. can only be viewed from the main track, so I got distant views of 36 Little Egrets! 2 Egrets flew overhead as I was watching them.

On Pool No2. there were 2 Spotted Redshank amongst a mixed group of Redshank and Lapwing. 13 Black Tailed Godwit were wading around the middle island with three juv birds joining them.

Little Egrets were flying between the pool and there colony in the treetops above. 18 Teal were also on the middle island.

The Egrets stood out a lot more against the black sky behind which later turned into a thunderstorm.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Cirl Bunting!

A few months ago I got in contact with the Cornwall Cirl Bunting release manager, to find out about where a good place to see them was.
After many helpful emails I knew the best place and yesterday we had a look.

After only being at the secret site five minutes 2 Juvenile Cirl Buntings began calling from a hedge row.
It wasn't long until a male Cirl Bunting - Lifer, flew over and landed very obligingly on top of the hedge row, where it stayed not bothered by our presence.
A female was feeding on the ground with some Chaffinches before flying off.
The close views of the male Cirl alllowed me to pick out some fine details on the bird such as the slightly raised crest and row of rust coloured spots on its chest.
It looked like a cross between a Corn, Lapland, Reed bunting and a Yellowhammer, what a bird!

Last night after a heavy thunder storm which lit up the sea, a Tawny Owl began calling in the garden.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Marazion Marsh

I was dropped off at Marazion Marsh RSPB at 10 this morning where I stayed for 6 hours.
The reserve is 70% reeds designed to attract the first breeding Bitterns to Cornwall. I was mainly using my ears around the reserve as there was nothing on the water.
I heard and saw 7 Sedge Warblers and 5 Reed Warblers around the reserve along with 1 Cetti's Warbler - Lifer.

I listened to the Cetti's song on a free CD that came with a paper, last night, so that it was fresh in my head.
After only being in the reserve 10 minutes I heard the explosive call in the south east reeds where I spent a further 3 hours watching and waiting. The Cetti's was singing every five minutes or so in roughly the same area and eventually I saw it burst out of the reeds and into the bottom of a clump of trees next to a small stream.

I couldn't see anything from the Kingfisher Hide as it was too overgrown. The rest of the time I spent chasing shadows on the edge of the reed bed, but still I enjoyed it.

On the sea from the car park overlooking St.Michael's Mount, there were 4 Basking Sharks very close to a man in a boat!
I will upload photos when I get home.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Crammy In Cornwall

I am writing this post on holiday in Cornwall where I have been for the last few days. On the way down we stopped on the edge of a wood for a break. I heard the familiar sound of a Green Woodpecker yaffling in the trees overhead.
Eventually I spotted it crawling up the side of a tree where it fed its young which were hanging out of a hole, I'd never seen a Green Woodpecker nest before this.

We are staying at Porthallow on the south Cornwall coast at the top of a valley. I had an hour long wonder along the cliffs yesterday but I couldn't see anything on the sea.
Two Common Buzzards flew over as did four Ravens which cronked as they moved inland from the sea.
The only sea bird I have seen is a Fulmar which flew along the cliff tops.

Plenty of Swifts are flying around the house and I'm sure the humid weather will result in a thunder storm, hopefully when I have my camera handy.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Plessay Atlas

I went to Plessay Woods this morning with Lindsay McDougall to do another Atlas square.
We tried to do a circular route from the quarry to just past Stannington Railway Bridge, coming back to the car park via the feeding station.

Next to the river there were two Juv Great Spotted Woodpeckers, flitting from tree to tree along with a Juv Nuthatch.

Plenty of Chiffchaff and Song thrushes were around as well as a Male Blackcap and another Juv G S Woodpecker. In total we counted 20+ Wren around the woods in different areas.

There was nothing on the river apart from 4 Mallards and a Jay, which flew over.
When we got to the feeding station there was a family party of Coal Tits and of Treecreeper with four of each.The feeders were empty so we only stayed five minutes as nothing else was about.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

WH Barn owl

I went to West Hartford for an hour last night hoping that the rain had started to fill up the pools again, but it hadn't.
Only two Pied Wagtails were on the mud. As I was scanning the mud/pool I noticed a something white near the Farm buildings and saw that it was a Barn Owl hunting over the road.
It disappeared around the other side of the buildings but soon reappeared and continued hunting over the marsh area the whole time I has there.
Apart from the Owl there wasn't much else to get excited about, 12 Swifts were hawking overhead and 3 Stock Doves flew over.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Cormorant Count

I went to Blyth Harbour last night with Steve H to do a Cormorant count.
Apart from the 36 Cormorants in the Harbour there wasn’t much else. 6 GBB Gulls 3 Sandwich Terns was it. 2 Gannets were off shore past the piers.

At Arcot Pond the Pochard still had all her young, as did the Mute Swans.
1 Stock Dove flew over and 4 teal were at the back of the pond.3 Whitethroat, 2 Grasshopper Warbler and 1 Lesser Whitethroat were all reeling away in the background near Beacon Lane.
2 Common Terns were on the dead wood in the middle of the pond also.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

In Focus

I went to In Focus at Hauxley N.R today to get a new pair of binoculars, ones that could actually pick out detail unlike my old pair.

I tried out a few different pairs outside, which were in my price range. I was looking for the usual things, good long and short distance, not to heavy and comfortable to hold.
Almost straight away I found the right pair, Opticron 8 x 42.
They were slightly lighter than the others I tested as well as having a wider field of vision, (if that’s the right term?)

I tested my new bins around the reserve but there wasn’t much around apart from the usual flocks of geese in the fields and on the water, saying that I didn’t look the whole way around the reserve.

We stopped at East Chevington, where 30+ Common Tern and 15+ Sandwich Tern were sitting on the rocks and mud. A couple of Redshank were in the low water along with 7 Little Gulls.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Blyth Atlas and more

I went out with Lindsay McDougall yesterday to do a Webs count and Atlas for the Blyth Estuary and Blyth Area.
We started at the Kitty Brewster end of the estuary were 2 Common Terns and a hand full of Gull were all that was around.
From the Sleekburn end a family party of five Pied Wagtail were on the grass opposite the factories.
Despite it being low tide there was a lack of waders with only 1 Ringed Plover on the mud, a huge change from the 222 there the other week.

On the Bates Filtration Pools there were Reed Bunting, Linnet, Skylark and Meadow Pipit on the waste land surrounding the pools and 3 LBB Gulls on the main pool also 10 Mallards circled the overhead.

We did the Atlas square around Ridley Park were we relied on sounds rather than sight.
A couple of Kittiwakes and GBB Gulls were all that there was in the harbour.

Next we went to Newsham Pond, a site which could be easily overlooked if you didn’t know it was there. Although the pond is mainly for fishing, Mute Swan. Moorhen with young and Mallard were still on the water.
Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Whitethroat were singing in the trees surrounding the pond, not bad for being in the middle of a housing estate.

We moved on quickly from Laverock Hall Pond, as it was too overgrown to see anything surrounding the pond so we went to Seghill N.R instead.

The reeds were to overgrown to see the water from the hide so we listened for Reed Warbler from the other side of the pond.
Three Reed Warbler were singing in the reeds along with 2 Sedge. 2 Bullfinch were around the back of the pond and a Cormorant landed on the water after circling for a while, probably trying to find the water.
At Arcot Pond nothing new was seen from the night before apart from a female Pochard with four young swimming across the pond.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Yesterday Evening

Went out yesterday evening up the coast with Steve H. We stopped at Snab Point first where a few Auks were on the water.
A female Merganser flew past, as did a Fulmar and a Common Sandpiper was calling from the rocks below.
2 Puffin, 6 Guillemot and 3 Razorbill – Lifer, were on the water in close groups.
There wasn’t much of a breeze so no Shearwaters or Skuas were going past.

The pool from the Oddie Hide at Druridge Pools was dry so we checked the main pool instead, not much there either.

From the pull in at Cresswell Pond there were Singing Reed Warbler, Linnet and Whitethroat.
The long staying male Goosander was on the far bank and a pair of Gadwall with 6 young came out of the reeds briefly.

On the way back we stopped at Arcot Pond were 10 Canada Geese flew over.
The Mute Swan pair were on the near shore with their 6 Cygnets and two separate Mallard broods totalled 17 young.Also Sedge Warbler and 3 Grasshopper Warblers were in the field right of the pond and a Stock Dove flew over.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Saltholme and St.Mary's

We decided to go to Saltholme yesterday but on the way stopped at St.Mary’s as the Marsh Warbler was still in The Gut.
There weren’t as many birders around and many of them were looking in the wrong place.
The Warbler called from the middle of the willows but didn’t show so we headed off to Saltholme.
I had not been to the new centre and pools surrounding it at Saltholme before so over two hours we had a good walk around and look from the hides.
The two things that I was most impressed by were that people were constantly maintaining the site by cutting the grass so that you could see from the hides instead of having to reach out and pull the grass out yourself. Also it is free to enter the site and it only costs to park a car!

From the Saltholme Pools hide there were 70+ Canada Geese most of which had goslings. Greylags were also amongst the Canada flock and on the water.
There presence seemed to scare everything else away so only a hand full of wildfowl, mostly Tufted and Pochard, were on the water along with a pair of Great Crested Grebe and Little grebe. A few Common Tern were fishing in front of the hide.

From the Paddy’s Pool hide the majority of the island was taken up by nesting Common Terns with a few BH Gulls and their chicks.

On the way to the Wildlife Watch point a yellow Wagtail flew overhead.
From the watch point/ hide there was another Yellow Wagtail showing well on the waderless scrapes along with a Stock Dove.
On the way out I searched most of the Pylons but they were all raptor less.

It was then a choice between Dorman’s Pool or another stab at the Marsh Warbler, I chose the Marsh Warbler not realising that the Great White Egret was showing well on Dorman’s.
I still don’t understand this thing about if a bird is at a site for over two weeks it stops getting reported.

I went to the north end of The Gut near to where I had been before, when after five minutes a Whitethroat flush the Marsh Warbler- Lifer, and it began to sing near the edge of the Willows.
I saw it drop further down into the willows before it flew onto the top for all of five seconds before disappearing back into the middle of the willows.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Warbler Twitch

I went out for an hour this afternoon with Steve H when news of a Marsh Warbler at St.Mary’s came through.
We went straight to The Gut where there were plenty of other birders, none of which had seen or heard anything. The wind has quite strong so any birdcall or song would have travelled well.
We wondered around the track through The Gut but there was no sign. Willow Warbler, Whitethroat, Kestrel and Skylark were around and that’s as good as it got.There was no sign of the Iceland Gull on the south Promenade either.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Past Week

Even though I have had more time on my hands this week I haven’t done as much birding as I would have liked, other things have got in the way.

On Wednesday I walked to Plessey Woods via West Hartford. I have been to West Hartford three times this week and there has been very little.
6 oystercatchers yesterday were the only waders that have been there during my visits.
There wasn’t much out of the ordinary at Plessey either.
No sign of Dipper or Grey Wagtail on the river.
The feeding station was quiet and I didn’t see a single Red Squirrel. I did get good views of three different Jays, which seem to be doing well at Plessey.

I went to East Chevington this afternoon and incredibly I managed to open one of the metal boxes without scaring off the group of Terns and Gulls, which were on the water in front.
There was a mixed 30+ group of Common, Arctic and Sandwich Terns. The earlier Little Tern had flown off and there were no Roseates amongst the group.

10 BH Gull, Herring Gull, GBB Gull and 8 Little Gulls were along side the terns.
I had never seen a group of Little Gulls before and at first I overlooked them thinking they were Terns then I realised that their name makes sense.
Steve H told me tonight that he had a message that there had been a White Stork at Arcot Pond briefly this afternoon in the treetops.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Strange Plover

I was out with Steve H this afternoon, first stop was Beacon Hill. Steve had been here a while ago and had both Spotted Flycatcher and Marsh Tit but neither were around today.
We walked up to the cottages from the car, which was parked near the crossroad, but there was no sign of much really, Robin, Blackbird and Garden Warbler was about it.
Steve had an insect County Lifer on the side of the road, a Speckled Wood Butterfly.

A Cuckoo was calling from Longhorsley Moor so we watched from the metal gate and a few minutes later it flew into a group of trees and out of sight.
It flew around the moor again and landed on a fence post were it called again.
Another Cuckoo then started calling on the other side of the moor, which caught the other bird’s interest and stopped it calling.

Next we went to Druridge Pools were we struggled to get parked. From the Oddie Hide a Wood Sandpiper was in the remaining pool of water with 2 Ringed Plovers and a Lapwing.
5 Highland Cattle were in the middle of the pool and the Wood Sand darted between their legs to feed in the mud.
3 otters were on the main pool, 2 of which sat on the tiny island in the middle of the pool.

A quick stop in the hide at Cresswell gave god views of Sedge Warbler and a male Goosander was on the left bank of the pond.

With water levels being so low in the bay we went to Castle Island in search of waders.
The entire Island was visible and on the river surrounding it were 79 Mute Swans and 76 Canada Geese.
After scanning the Island we couldn’t see any waders apart from a Grey Plover, which was a strange inland record.
It wasn’t in its full summer Plumage so for a minute it had a look of an American Golden Plover, but after watching it for about ten minutes, decided it’s bill was to big. It fed on the Island bank before sitting down, not moving from the same area very much.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Nightjar Night

I went with Steve H and Holywell Birder to Acton Fell last night to look for Nightjars.
There were many places which looked good for Nightjars around the Slaley area but Acton Fell also gave us a good chance of seeing Owls as well.

We parked on the roadside overlooking a clearing in the plantation, which bordered onto Moorland.
We had a quick walk into the forest but headed back soon after to try and get a good view of a Nightjar whilst it was still light.
Red Grouse were calling from the moors behind the clearing and 27 Greylags flew over.

BH Gulls and Curlews were constantly flying over and calling which made things more confusing as we were listening for the Churring of the Nightjars.
We were sitting on the edge of the clearing when I saw something out of the corner of my eye, flying towards the forest.
It was a Nightjar – Lifer, we all got good views and it was still light enough to see the bird in colour rather than just a dark shadow.

Soon after we heard a bird churring from the edge of the forest where we had walked past before.
We scanned the trees but it was to well camouflaged and high up in the trees to find. A few minutes later it flew over the clearing before landing.
The Nightjar in flight looks completely different to what I imagined and looks to me like a cross between a tern and an owl.

As well as the Nightjars, a Cuckoo was calling from the forest behind us and a Woodcock was Roading overhead.
Before we left the clearing the Nightjars began churring again and we had brief views of them in between the trees. Another flew a few meters past my head!

We met another group of birders on the way out of the forest who had had similar success to us.
As we were leaving two more Nightjars flew over the car and back into the forest.
We got out to see if they would come back but instead we heard two Tawny Owls calling near the car.
In total we had 5 Nightjars!

Thursday, 28 May 2009


I helped Lindsay McDougall do some Atlas work yesterday morning at Havannah NR.
On the way to Havannah we stopped at the roadside at Dinnington to look for Little Owl but there was no sign.
The rain turned to patchy drizzle as we walked around the site.
Before yesterday I had only heard of Atlas work but wasn’t sure exactly what it was.
Areas like Havannah must be the more exciting areas of the grid as I can imagine some areas can be a bit bleak especially in winter; still it’s a good chance to explore sites you would normally overlook or never even know existed.

We tried to do a circular route of the site starting in the car park, go through the first area of woodland, checking the bordering fields, check the ponds and then check the rest of the woodland leading up to the new plantation near the Sage building.

Despite the drizzle the birds were still in full song with Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler the first birds of the day. 11 Willow Warbler were recorded in total.
Pied Wagtail flew over and Robin, Wren and Blackbird were all over the reserve.

In the fields a pair of Lapwing with three young were tying to camouflage themselves in the mud.
A pair of Yellowhammer were feeding on the ground next to the pond and another was calling from the backfields, as was a Reed Bunting.
A pair of Moorhen with young and 3 Mallards were on the pond.
A Garden Warbler was singing from a tree on the woodland track and now I am starting to notice the differences in Warblers songs such as Garden Warblers and Blackcaps.
2 Blackcaps and three Whitethroats were also singing on the track.
After scanning the farm fields just outside the reserve we headed to Hazelrigg to record the species absent from the reserve such as House Sparrow, Swift and Swallow.

We quickly checked Arcot Pond on the way back but a pair of Common Terns were the only birds of interest.