Sunday, November 11, 2007


Above - Top. Little Auks, Longhoughton Steel by Richard Dunn.
Centre - Long tailed Duck, Longhoughton Steel by Richard Dunn.
Bottom - White billed Diver, Boulmer Steel, today. Click for bigger image.

Cold and damp this morning with a strong N6, becoming brighter and clearer later.

Well, where do I start.

This morning the tides were wrong for seawatching at Boulmer, so I thought I would just get out there and do some drawing for a change. My plan was to go to Seaton Point and sit near the beach and see what turned up. At 8am I was passing the main Boulmer car park and decided to pull in to scan the haven for grebes after the recent stormy weather. I climbed from the car and pointed the bins seaward.

What a shock I got. Before I put the bins back down from my eyes, 101 Little Auks had flown through. In about 30 seconds. Looks promising I thought, and headed to the seat north of the village for a 'quick look'. In the next 1.5 hours I had -

Little Auk 3304 N
Great Northern Diver 3 N
Red throated Diver 2 S 4 N
Gannet 6 N
Goldeneye 8 N
Common Scoter 3 N
Velvet Scoter 1 N
Puffin 5 N
Long tailed Duck 1 female N
Purple Sandpiper 4 N
Scaup 2 N
Goosander 3 N

Then things got interesting. As I was counting my three thousandth Little Auk a Diver swam into my view only yards from the rock edges at Boulmer Steel. Nice, a close Great Northern thought I, until as it slipped below the waves, I thought F*** ME thats a WHITE BILLED DIVER! I was now looking at a patch of empty water ( apart from Little Auks whizzing by that is...). Panic. Ring for help. The best way to be branded a stringer is to see a proper rarity alone and then its gone before anyone arrives.

With numb shaky fingers I gave ADMc a call down at Newbiggin and told the tale and gave assurances that a second call would follow if the bird is relocated. I was now doubting myself and expecting to relocate a Great Northern. So, scan with the bins, this bird isn't too far away and heading for a rock pool of sheltered water between a reef offshore and Boulmer Steel.

Sure enough there it was, next to some pot flags and looking the part. Long slim bill uptilted so the tip was crown level, and the tip third was nicely illuminated an ivory cream. Still disbelieveing my luck the call was made to Newbiggin and then to TAC as I figured he could get here sooner. Tom arrived after about ten minutes and I could get him straight on to the bird. Pale mottled head, stonking beak huge size Bingo! my fourth White bill in he county.

Then things got even better. While we were noting the details of the bird, it surfaced near the reef only to be nearly landed on by a GREY PHALAROPE. This is what local patching is all about. Months of slogging around hoping for the big one, but when it arrives its a great feeling. After all, this isn't Newbiggin or Whitburn...

As the tide dropped ( and as people started to head for Boulmer) the Diver took a claustrophobic turn and tried to swim out of its enclosure. This was not possible, so it took to the air and flew off strongly to the north. A good comparison could be had between this birds massive frame and the Great Northerns seen only an hour ago. But the bird was gone for good.

Just as we were talking about the best bird at Boulmer this year, a nice fw Glaucous Gull joined the other gulls briefly before flying south.

I would never have thought it. Posibly my best days birding at Boulmer taking place in November. I reckon that by the time I left for home at 11.30am some 6000+ Little Auks had gone North...What a morning....

Oh, the Farnes had 29,000. Did someone say there might be a chance of a Little Auk this weekend.

144. White billed Diver.
145. Grey Phalarope.


ST said...

Could your bird be the one reported at the borders at 12.30

Kingsdowner said...

Excellent write-up of a great day!
Your days of patch-slogging were certainly rewarded today.

A white-billed diver was also reported of the French coast today at 8.55 French time:

And as for the Little Auks! I was happy to see my first ones today, then see how many you northerners clocked up.

East Ayton Birding said...

Not a day you're liable to forget in a hurry.

Fantastic post.

Martin said...

Rocking. Fantastic pics.

Anonymous said...

I had the White billed Diver flying north quite high over Cullernose Point at around 10.20. Quite a bird!!

Also a 1st year Glauc go north early in the afternoon.

I had a few (thousand) Little Auks too. At least 8000 between 9.15 and 2.00.

A great day. Keep up the good work.

darrell j prest said...

brilliant stuff,all the effort is worth it.

Mark said...

Nice one for the WBD....great birds!! It was interesting to read the similarities between your find and the one at girdle ness on friday....uncanny, even down to the swearing!

great photos, too!


Stewart said...

7 comments in one night thats better than 28,000 LA's!
ST - Yes it could well be the same bird.
SK, EA, M, DP - Cheers
T - I'm pleased it was you who saw it and not...Ta
M - Uncanny, I didn't know your blog existed, great minds think alike eh!

Thanks again all...

Ghost of Stringer said...

Nice one Stewart - top bird !

ST said...

The pics were not on when i dropped by, nice and sharp

DorsetDipper said...

wow. A terrific list and well written up. A just reward for a lot of hard work on your patch.

Alastair said...

Close, on the deck, excellent field notes, now that's how BananaBill should be recorded. Only slightly envious ... ****, ****, ****, ****!

I understand Little Auks were moving in some numbers inland also, up there in the hinerland of Northumberland, absolutely amazing, did you witness that?

Stewart said...

ST - Pics from Richard Dunn and 6 grands worth of kit...

NS / DD - Cheers

Alastair - Diver not so close but scoped, See todays post for Little Auks inland...Cheers all...

Anonymous said...

This is the sort of stuff that makes those exiled from Northumberland yearn to return. Proper birding, just like buses (especially in rural areas) seeing nothing for ages then ..... the rest is in the blog. Reading the blog has become my 'vicarious birding', so thanks for having such a good day!

Delighted that Tom, my childhood birding mentor, saw the wbd.

Cheers, Keith

Mattzappa said...

Great day, stumbled on your site a while back, inspired to get my myself out birding again after a long break ( family taxi duties and bad time management to blame. Interesting stuff. Cheers

Stewart said...

KR - Where are you exiled to?
MZ - Get out there and enjoy it, I'm glad I've inspired someone!

Thanks all.

Mattzappa said...

I'm down in Morpeth but started my renewed interest with a walk from Boulmer to Howick last month, no glass's with me but was pleased to see seven Herons on the edge of a field almost equally placed in a straight line. New glass's and camera just arrived, genuinnly excited.

Stewart said...

Great stuff MZ, once you've started you'll end up like me with OCD and your missus will be a bird-widow...

Might see you around...

Anonymous said...

BB, I am originally from Morpeth, but living and working in Cambridge (too far from the sea and too flat for words). I am however going into real exile in Janaury when we move to Tasmania, so reading your blog will definately help me to keep things real, Cheers