Sunday, October 29, 2006

Good numbers of Red Admirals around today, basking and feeding on rotten fruit.

Top two - Fly Agaric
Third - unknown
Bottom - Puffball sp

A Fungi Foray.

Top - Brown Roll-Rim
Centre - Shallow pored Boletus
Bottom - Coconut-scented Milkcap

Loads of Fungi in the woods. I am a total dude when it comes to the I.D of these things so please let me know if my pictures are incorrectly labelled.

If you go down to the woods today...

A walk through Thrunton Woods this afternoon, the weather was excellent.
Above - Jane and Bunty, Me and Bunty and some Autunm woodland scenes.

Isabelline Shrike.

Well, I might as well get the Boulmer info over with, because the birds there have been well and truly eclipsed by the Cresswell Shrike.

Yesterday the day was fine with a light SW breeze. Some early cloud moved off to leave a pleasant afternoon.

A short walk around the North End with Rob and the dogs had a pair of Goosander N, 1 Little Auk on the sea briefly before flying south and a male Velvet Scoter N.

The highlight though came as we rounded the top and an unfamiliar trilling call could be heard. Vaguely reminiscent of a waxwing I assumed that it came from the two turnstones chasing around nearby. I was very suprised to scan with the bins and find two imm male Kingfishers facing up each other on the rock edges.(155) A proper patch tick here for me and completely out of the blue ( no pun intended). They sat with bills pointing away in a stiff pose seemingly mirroring each other before flying off, chasing each other along the shore to the north.

Above - FW Isabelline Shrike, of the race 'isabellinus' or Daurian Shrike.

Originally found last Sunday, this Isabelline Shrike was identified as a Red backed Shrike. I can only assume that the finders were unfamiliar with both, as this bird is very different to Red backed. This is the third record for Northumberland and the second this year. Fortunately this one was accessible and performing very well to the masses in the dunes opposite the Cresswell Pond car park. Even I managed some good shots, so the SLR lads must have some belters.

It spent its time eating Red Admirals, wasps and large caterpillars, though I hear that it caught and ate a linnet that was mobbing it today!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday 27th October 2006

Calm today, nice and fair early on turning to rain.

Didn't I just know it would happen. The 'pond' has gone. Drained, dried or drunk by sheep, either way, it is no more. The briefest wetland in history. One day the farmer might take up Countyside Stewardship or something and get paid to leave the field wet. One day.

Of note, 1 adult Mediterranean Gull off the village, 80+ Lapwings, 200+ Golden Plovers, 2 Stonechats and a few Gannets still offshore.

Thursday 26th October 2006

Above - Don't panic, this is last years Bairds Sandpiper.

What strange weather this is. Last night had E5 with heavy rain changing to SSE6 and fair by morning. By eveing this had gone to a W8 gale.

For the first time in over a year, a tiny puddle has formed on the field near the pub. The last time it was here a Bairds Sandpiper was on it. I wish the field drain would collapse or something, to make this a more regular feature. (above)

At sea today, 1 Little Auk flew S very close in (154), 1 Arctic Skua N, 3 Goldeneye N and 2 S, 5 Red breasted Mergansers and a Merlin was on the beach. The 'pond' ( yes I know, its against the trades descriptions act, but it takes very little to excite in these parts)had 59 Redshanks on it.

In our garden at Longhoughton a record count of 100+ House Sparrows was good. The first time the total has gone into three figures.

Wednesday 25th October 2006

Quite mild, with a light S2, 50% cloud, but reasonably bright.

A couple of days Flexi leave to catch up with some things at home, but still just managed to check out Boulmer briefly.

At 8.30 this morning a walk up to the North End,and a visit to Seaton Point in the afternoon had 1 female Wheatear, 2 Stonechat, 1 Blackbird that looked like a tired migrant on the point, 3 Goldcrests, 1 female Merlin, 10+ Robins, 1 Redwing on the beach, 700+ Golden Plover, 400+ Starlings, 17 Knot and 40 Mallard. 5 Yellowhammers and 6 Reed Buntings were at Seaton Point Farm.

We have been looking after Jane's sisters dogs at Christon Bank this week. Today on walking duty I had, 1 Jay ( could do with that at Boulmer) and a flock of 20 Redwings and 4 Fieldfares. A Stoat showed well on the roadside on the way up there.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

This weekend has stayed westerly with some heavy showers and warmer sunny spells.

On Saturday two short trips to Boulmer at the north end as far as Low Steads produced some visible migration ( viz migging). 9 Redpolls flew S as did 1 Siskin, 80 Pink footed Geese and 12 Greylags. 4 Stonechats were right up on the patch boundary . Along the shore were 185 Curlew, 200+ Golden Plover, 100+ Lapwing, 100+ Turnstone and up to 100 Redshank. 39+ Eiders loafed just offshore.

Today the weather was more variable after lasts nights torrential rain storm. Arrived at Boulmer at 8.30am and met up with Rob and John. Again the north end was well looked at. Some more visible movement was evident with 91+ Skylarks S, 2 Red breasted Mergansers S, 618 Pink feet S, 7 Whooper Swans S and 1 N, the first of the autumn, and a lone Barnacle Goose flew N. At sea 2 each of Bonxies and Red throated Divers flew N, but there was no sign of the little auks reported from the Durham headlands. On the ground were 8+ Rock Pipits, 20+ Goldfinch, 28 Grey Partridges, 380+ Golden Plover, 6 Knot, 61 Dunlin and a female Sparrowhawk.

Earlier Rob had a male Wheatear in front of the pub, possibly last weeks bird still here.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Now that its almost dark by the time I get home from work, birding midweek is coming to a standstill. Today had E4 with some heavy rain, brightening up by late afternoon, the wind swinging S.

I just managed a dusk walk to Seaton Point with Bunty and had 1 adult Mediterranean Gull ( maybe same bird as the other day but I only had my bins so finer detail couldn't be seen), 1 Chiffchaff and a Goldcrest right in the last hawthorn on the beach edge.

Winter seems just around the corner...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Since I have recieved some favourable comments on our Yellow-legged Gull i.d from my peers, it'd better be added to the year list. I have just counted up and I seemed to have missed one off so the michahellis stands at 153.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Some Gulls...

Whilst doing one of the Winter Plover Survey tetrads at Boulmer ( a week late ) Rob and myself found an adult winter Mediterranean Gull and an adult Yellow legged Gull, well, it was a gull with yellow legs anyway. I got some shots of primary details etc to aid identification and emailed birders more knoweledgable than myself for advice.
Yellow legged Gulls are rare birds in Northumberland. I've had more Radde's Warblers in the county than YLG's!
Also here at the North End were 1 male Wheatear, 1 Chiffchaff, 20 Goldfinches, 2 Dark bellied Brents, 150+ Wigeon and a juvenile Red throated Diver.

Adult Med Gull above.

Yellow legged Gull ( michahellis) above.

Sunday 15th October 2006 Holy Island

With the weather mild and overcast with a light SE breeze, we got on to Holy Island at 07.45 before the tide covered the causeway. As it happens, I dont think it was ever covered as the tides were very small. Anyway, the tide predictions seemed to keep most visitors away for a while, leaving all the goodies to just a few birders.

Of note were -

Barred Warbler 1 juv showed well in a sycamore behind the school.
Red breasted Flycatcher 1 juv perched on wires behind the Captains Garden.
Yellow browed Warbler 2 flickering around the willows and sycamores along the main road to the village.
Chiffchaff 2+
Brambling 6+
Reed Bunting Huge numbers, maybe 150+, could be more scattered around. The largest concentrations being at the Chare Ends.
Hen Harrier 1 female hunting dunes.
Jack Snipe 1 flushed from pathside near excavations.
Lapland Bunting 1 calling over head at the end of the Straight Lonnen.
Blackcap 1 male on the Straight Lonnen.
Great Grey Shrike 1 fw seen briefly at the Snook, perched on top of a small bush.
Ring Ouzel 1 at the Snook.
Merlin 1
Peregrine 1.
Swallow 1
Redwing several thousand arriving with Song Thrushes and Blackbirds.

On the way off the island we stopped for seconds of the Roller still in the same hawthorns as last week. When standing here chatting to Richard, a message came on the pager to say that an American Golden Plover was on the flats off the Chare Ends with 800 Golden Plover. We did a quick about turn and joined about 20 birders gazing at the Golden Plover flock. The bird was soon relocated but just before the Merlin put everything up. It was a smaller greyer bird but the closer features could not be seen before the whole lot zoomed off towards the horizon.

So, an excellent day all round and Holy Island in classic form. I dont recall seeing as many birders here at one time. What would I give to see some of that lot at Boulmer.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Today I managed two visits, spending a total of 3.5 hrs on the patch. It was dull and overcast with a light SE breeze.

Although Holy Island was sinking under the weight of scarce migrants and their visiting birders, Boulmer remained mostly underwhelming. I had 2 Chiffchaffs, 4+ Song Thrush, 12 + Redwing and 12+ Blackbirds arrived from the east, 19 Robins, 1 Goldcrest, 8+ Reed Buntings, 4 Yellowhammers, 10 Tree Sparrows, 35 Goldfinches, 2 Snipe, 2 Grey wagtails 1 Sparrowhawk, 45+ Dunlin and 1 Short eared Owl also arrived from high east to be escorted west by a squadron of Jackdaws.

A nice Fox was oblivious to our presence near Seaton Point Farm at 3.30pm.

Wednesday 11th October 2006. Nearly there...

But not quite fall conditions.
Still, the fog, drizzle and light SE breeze are a vast improvement.

As I left for work this morning, thrushes could be heard 'seeping' overhead, the first Redwings of the autumn. A very short stop at Boulmer produced several more Redwings arriving into the fog and the first Brambling here (150). Later on, on my way home from work a walk with the dog around Seaton Point added 50+ Song Thrushes and 15 Barnacle Geese N (151). 1 Chiffchaff and a Sparrowhawk were at Bowmere.

Monday, October 09, 2006


Fine and sunny today, light sw breeze. Very pleasant.

Although there was no new gen on the Roller at Beal, last night had been raining and overcast so I couldn't see the bird going anywhere. Rob and myself had a drive up and were pleased to see that a few people already had the bird 'staked out' on some twisted hawthorns along a stubble field edge.

It showed well but distantly for the two hours I was there, flying from its chosen perch to the ground to eat some unseen morsel then back up again. In flight it was a much brighter bird than when perched. In the flight photo some brownish coverts can be seen on the upper wing, I wonder if that makes it a first winter and not an adult as reported?

On checking Northumbrian Birds by Ian Kerr there have been 16 records in the county. The most recent are Kirknewton September 1901, Tarset June 1935, Arcot Hall October 1950 and Bamburgh September 1958. This one is my third in Britain.

Quite a trickle of appreciative birders arrived through the morning.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

One of those days...

The day started off fine and bright with little sw wind. The sunrise was quite spectacular over Boulmer.
I headed off down the road to do some of my BTO Winter Plover Survey. Although the survey square didn't have much, one or two birds were noted in the area. 9 Long tailed Tits were in the garden near the Lifeboat Hut, 38 Tree Sparrows in set a side, 1+ Goldcrest, 1 Stock Dove, 1 female Sparrowhawk, 1 Buzzard. 282+ Pink footed Geese flew south, 2 juv Swallows were around the village, 1 Song Thrush, 26 Linnets, 1 'commic' Tern flew south ( I hate that term but this one was into the light) , 1 Wigeon S, 18 Bar tailed Godwits, 15 Knot.

Andy Mould found a Roller on the Snook at Holy Island this morning but other commitments prevented me getting to it. Hopefully it will be around tomorrow.

At 6pm I had a call saying that a corncrake had been at the north end of the patch this evening, at Low Steads. I hunted with Andy Mould ( as if he hasn't had a good enough day already!) but there was no sign.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Tension Mounts...

Thats the first week of October gone and still not a sign of any 'good' weather. This has been the worst year I've had for seawatching and the passerines have fared little better. The met office forecast until Monday still has strong westerlies. I still reckon that we will get a spell of bird producing weather before the month is out so here's hoping...

On the patch yesterday and today, next to nothing of note, just the usual wintering waders. Today, a party of 6 Long-tailed Tits moved along the hedge next to Bowmere, only the second Boulmer record. In October on an east coast headland, how desperate is that! And I almost forgot, 14 Redpolls flew around over the wryneck bushes yesterday morning.

I'll try to be more positive over the weekend.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Word today of an Isabelline Shrike on an unaccessible inland farm site in Northumberland. Two friends of mine, who were available, were invited to confirm the record and were treated to good views down to 20 yards. This is only the second county record and just a pity it wasn't in a more public location.
Out with Jane and Bunty this evening, a walk along the north end was generally quiet but I dipped-in on a patch tick. A tight flock of waders flying around consisted of 5 Golden Plovers, 5 Dunlin and a Little Stint(149).
On Sunday 1st October, a SSE 4 with some rain and overcast is a little bit better than what we have had lately.
Out from 7.15am until 11am. A sea watch from the north seat this morning had 1 Arctic Skua N, 4 Bonxies N, 16 Shag S, 11 Arctic Terns S, 1 adult and 1 juv Red throated Diver just offshore, the juvvy begging from the adult. I dont think I've seen that down here before. 11 Common Scoter and 3 male Velvet Scoter N.

Migrants were few and far between with 3 Greenland Wheatears, 1 Swallow S, 1 probable Richards Pipit flushed from weedy stubble called once briefly before flying two fields away. Rob and me followed it to the area last seen but could not flush it a second time. It was as large as a skylark with a long broad tail. It called 'churrup' like a sparrow and towered away. If only I could have had a second flush...

Also of note were 13 Robins, 1 Rock Pipit, 4 Pink footed Geese S, 75+ Skylarks, 1 Mistle Thrush, 25+ Grey Partridge, 14+ Reed Bunting, 6+ Yellowhammer, 30+ Linnet, 40+ Goldfinch, 10+ Greenfinch, 24+ Tree Sparrows and 1+ Sparrowhawk.