Monday, October 29, 2007

Seconds out....

Alan Gilbertson sent me this Norwegian Link ( no, I've no idea how he found it ?). Its well worth seeing but a bit disturbing for birders. It shows a 'conflict' between a Capercaillie and , er, something else....Check it out.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Above - Top - View from Eglingham towards Cheviots.
Second - Branton GP.
Third - Hepburn Woods.
Bottom - Jane and Bunty, Hepburn Woods.

Very mild today, with a light SW 1 increasing to W5 and dropping off again. Dull and cloudy this morning but bright and sunny by mid morning.

Started off the day by wandering the front fields and hedges at Boulmer. A couple of hours turned up one or two interesting birds but they were all fly-by's. At sea, 1 Red throated Diver and a pair of Red breasted Mergansers were in the haven, while 3 Lessr black backed Gulls flew south, but otherwise the sea was very quiet.

Siskins, again, were noteworthy with 9, 1 and 38 all south with many more heard but unseen, 3 Twite flew north, 8 Skylarks and 2 Meadow Pipits flew S as did 88 Pink footed Geese. In the fileds and hedges, 5 Stonechats, 7 Grey Partridges, 10+ Blackbirds, 6 Redwings, 3 Song Thrushes, 19 Tree Sparrows and a Snow Bunting was flushed from the now defunct bean field.

As the sun was now shining I decided to head off inland for a change and visit Branton Gravel Pits, near Powburn. They were alive with birds, 600+ Greylags, 100+ Canada Geese, 31 Goosander, 53 Tufted Duck, 3 Pochard, 6+ Goldeneye, 30+ Teal, 30+ Wigeon, 1 Shoveler and 1 Gadwall. Siskins and Redpolls were heard calling and 30 Fieldfares and 1 Redwing were in the hedges. A Buzzard soared overhead and a male Sparrowhawk hunted the pond edges.

A late Red Admiral was near the car.

Off home for lunch to be met by ST in my garden after he had delivered a garden centre full of plants for my garden! (Ooh my back)...

After this Jane, Bunts and I went to Hepburn Woods for a wander. The autumn scenery was spectacular. We had 8 Crossbills, hundreds of Siskins, a Green Woodpecker calling and several Buzzards. A nice bright fresh Comma butterfly was good but too active to photograph.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

This morning, I walked Bunty around Boulmer. The weather was dull and overcast but mild and calm.

After my first Siskins of the year here flew north last Friday, today, there was a good passage of them moving steadily south. Flocks of 6, 23, 15, 8 and 1 plus several flocks heard but unseen high overhead were a good record here. 12 Skylarks flew south and a couple of Song Thrushes arrived off the sea.

In the village, two Stoats were road casualties together outside Bowmere. Shame, they might have helped thin the rat population a bit..

Last night, while out with Bunty at Seaton Point, 6+ Redwings were new in.

I could do with a Woodcock?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Water Piggies.

Above - Two Water Rails at Newton Pool. I like the picture third from the top the best. The bird was the drabbest of the two but gave a good show bathing in front of the rushes. Click for a bigger image.

Cool, dull at first brighter later with a moderate SSE 5 breeze.

Met up with JWR and checked out a few sites up the coast for migrants. All areas were quiet. The Newton Pool Water Rails were easily the days best, performing like stars in front of the hide. The bird I assume to be an adult male was very blue grey and easily told from the browner female type. The dull one has some white on the throat.

Elsewhere, a male Merlin flew over our house in that dart shaped flight the books call 'thrush flight'. To me, it looks like a Bee-eater. At Craster a Willow Tit was as good as it got.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Today was cool and misty and a bit dull but still autumnally pleasant.

I ventured south off the patch today to meet up with ST, ADMc, ID, DE in the Druridge area.

But first ( and foremost) out with Bunty at Boulmer this morning we walked from Seaton Point along the front. It was quiet but for one or two thrushes still coming in. There were 14 Blackbirds, 4 Redwings, 1 Fieldfare and 2 Song Thrushes while a Grey Wagtail flew south.

I met up with ST at Linton Pond. Although there were a lot of birds on the water, there was nothing much of note. I suppose the highlight was a Jay collecting acorns along the railway line and a Roe Deer that sprung off over the back of the pond.

Next stop, Warkworth Lane. I haven't been here for ages. I see the caravan site has expanded and seems quite overcrowded now. Again, the pond was lifting with wildfowl, but there was nothing unexpected. The best was a party of 14 Shoveler. At the caravan site a Brambling flew off S.

Onwards to Cresswell where we met up with Andy. A few suprises here even though the water level was very high ( nice to see some reserve management from the Wildlife Trust...). On here were 1 redhead Smew, very early back for the winter and possibly the same bird that has wintered here for the past three years, 4+ Scaup, 1 female Long tailed Duck and 3 Whooper Swans. 2 Ruff flew around with the Golden Plover. A Kingfisher was seen briefly as it flew by the hide carrying a fish.

After some lunch it was off the Druridge Pools. This was my old local patch and its a place I still have a soft spot for. It was here that I discovered that there were more than seagulls at the coast over 22 years ago.

Not many birds here today but what we lacked in quantity we made up for in quality. On the sea, 15+ Red throated Divers, 50+ Common Scoter, 1 Great crested Grebe.

On the main pool two Otters gave an excellent performance being on display for about two hours solid. I can't get my head around being able to see them so readily in Northumberland. When I first came here this would have been unheard of. Also here 1 Greenshank, 10+ Gadwall and a nice Kingfisher in front of the hide.

I think this was my first for the pools.

Keep an eye on the weather you east coast patch watchers, there's a breeze coming...


Above - Again at Druridge Pool this Kingfisher was a nice diversion when watching the Otter...


Above - Otters at Druridge Pool. Poor light and distant equals crap photos....

Above - Otter up a drain pipe. I like this one. It vanished up the pipe on two occasions, once it came out like a champagne cork!

Above - A Mallard and Gadwall line up showing some concern at the visitor in their midst...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Low Newton by the Sea.

Above - Some ringing photos, Gary with a Bullfinch, and Bullfinch and Goldfinch just before release.

Today I decided to go poaching on Stringy Newton's patch. The first half hour or so was spent with Gary doing some ringing before heading down to the village and pool. The weather was nice and sunny with a sharp, cool tang to the breeze.

Going around Gary's nets we saw, but failed to catch, 1 Brambling and several Redwings. A single Fieldfare flew west.

Down at the village, two male Great spotted Woodpeckers were in conflict in the garden next to the square, and could well be of a continental origin.

The pool was well stocked with wildfowl compared to other summer visits. There were 4 Scaup, 1 Goldeneye, 10+ Wigeon, 6+ Tufted Duck, 20+ Teal, 1 Shoveler and 2 Gadwall. Moorhens were all over, I counted at least 34 and I'm sure many more were clucking from cover, there were 5 Snipe and 2 Ruff but best of all were the two Water Rails parading right in from of the hide in the sunshine. A bit like the 'KitKat' advert ( you know, the one with the bloke trying to snap the Pandas in the zoo), as soon as one decided to stay in the open for a good five minutes or more, my camera batteries dried up. Great.

A male Snow Bunting announced its arrival by calling before it circled the pool and briefly tried to land before heading away north.

I wonder what I missed at Boulmer? I'm on holiday now for two days so more posts will follow...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Above - Goldcrest. A drawing from some years back...

A nice day. Calm, quite mild and fine.

Walked Bunty around by the caravan site and Seaton Point. The calm, anti-cyclonic conditions meant that calling birds could be heard from quite a distance overhead, showing that some visible migration was taking place.

12 Blackbirds, 2 Redwings and a Song Thrush flew W from the caravan site while Skylarks could be heard unseen as they passed over. 2 Siskins flew N here, the first this year, and Tree Sparrows were buzzing about, mostly unseen, though several parties totalling 40+ were at Seaton Point.

Near Seaton Point House, 2 Twite flew S, another patch tick and 30+ Linnets were in the bean field. 7 Yellowhammers and a few Reed Buntings were feeding along the weedy edges as were 2 Stonechats. The latter were being chased around by one of those grey 'continental' Robins. At Sea, 1 Goldeneye and 9 Common Scoter flew N and 20 Wigeon flew S.

A Weasel showed well at Seaton Point House on a stone wall. It looked quite groggy as if it had just woken up and was even yawning in the morning sun. Great little things.

This afternoon we all took a walk through Thrunton Woods. The autumn colours were fantastic up here, pity I left the camera at home! We saw 1 Jay, 30+ Siskins, 1 Great spotted Woodpecker, 5+ Redpolls ( including one calling overhead in a very deep, crossbill like tone that was very probably a Mealy) plus plenty of Coal Tits and Goldcrests.

141. Siskin.
142. Twite.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Above -Boulmer sunrise by mobile phone...

This week has been settled and fine but cool with the first white frosts of autumn. As a consequence of the high pressure the birding has been, er, not as it could have been.

On Wednesday a House Martin was possibly my last hirundine of the year over our garden.

Today, an early Boulmer drive-by had 3 Fieldfares and a Blackbird in off. This evening a walk with Bunty around Seaton Point had 1 Red throated Diver N, 1 female Goosander S and 3 Grey Plovers on the shore.

I bumped into Mike from Kent. Once a 'passage migrant' at Boulmer, now a near 'resident'. He'd had 3 Velvet Scoter N. Nice one...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Amble Harbour.

Above - Amble Harbour and the resident drake Eider x Mallard hybrid.

A look at Amble Harbour Market at lunchtime. The usual Eider x Mallard showed well feeding on chips with its half brethren. Click for a bigger image and check out the bill to feather profile...

Wet Wheat.

Above - A Goldfinch sketched in the field on burdocks.

Above - Wheatear, wet after a rock pool bath.

A nice calm bright day in the north.

A few hours from Boulmer to Low Steads this morning. Odd migrants around, 1 Chiffchaff singing, 1 House Martin, 10 Blackbirds, 2 Fieldfares in-off, 2 Lesser Redpolls, one showed well in the allotment, the other was overhead flying west, 2 Wheatears on the shore at the north end. A large flock of finches were feeding in the mugwort and burdock at Low Steads, 250+ Linnets and 30+ Goldfinches. 3 Snipe flew around, 38 Dunlin, 132 Lapwing, 7 Bar tailed Godwit and 1 Knot were on the shore, 16 Shags flew south in one flock, 1 Red throated Diver was on the sea.

A single Red Admiral flew west.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Above - Conkers! Is there anything as tactile, smooth and 'woody' as these Horse Chestnuts. Cool and silky smooth as a Blackbirds egg... I sometimes feel the need to push my face into the dish!

Above - This purple field at Ratcheugh often glows in the evening sunshine. Today though, the drab sky makes it look dull. The plant is called Phacelia Phacelia tanacetifolia. I have no idea what it is used for. A green fertiliser maybe?

Two visits to Boulmer today. It was humid, mild and calm but dull.

This mornings trip was very brief. I was 'flushed' by masses of dog walkers ( yes I know, that's rich!), bait diggers, fishermen, winkle pickers, kite flyers, kyakers, walkers etc. Judging by these crowds you would think someone is publicising the place... EVERYONE GO HOME ITS MINE!

This afternoon things quietened a little bit. We had 350+ Golden Plovers, 2 Wheatear, 2 Stonechat, 25 Common Scoter and a couple of Red breasted Mergansers.

At home this morning a few thrushes arrived and 171 Pink footed Geese flew north ( why?). The other night at least 4 Tawny Owls were calling around, all heard from my garden.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

After the rain yesterday, today dawned nice and clear with a very light northerly.

Out with Bunty down from Longhoughton to the Low Steads Farm a few thrushes were arriving from the east. 30 Redwings, 7 Fieldfares and a few Blackbirds and Song Thrushes gave a hint of migration promise. I took a drive around Boulmer on my way to work. The Yellow browed Warblers seem to have gone but a few Blackbirds and 2 Fieldfares came in from the sea, 9 Skylarks flew south and a pair of Stonechats were agitated around the golf course bends. A bit of day dreaming had me away up to Holy Island for a Radde's but I soon snapped out of it and went to work.

ADMc texted me this evening to say that Holy Island was very quiet apart from a small thrush arrival. He obviously had similar thoughts to me this morning...

Monday, October 08, 2007


I am now reeling at the comment left by Tariq saying that he'd had 4 Otters on the shore not far from here. That means this is nearly a 'proper' birding place. All the best sites have them, Cresswell, Druridge, Chevington, Big Waters etc. I must check it out soon. Tariq if you read this please leave a grid ref. Cheers.

A very quick check at Bowmere on my way to work had one Yellow browed Warbler still. The second may have been there too but I didn't get out of the car! Here's a good thing though. It might warrant a note to BB...

Pishing. Birds can do it too.
You know that funny squeaky lispy noise a group of pheasants can make? Today that noise in the turnip field next to Bowmere 'pished' the YBW out of cover. As soon as the noise started, YBW dropped out of a cotoneaster to the base of a willow so it could get a better look. After a few seconds of investigation it made its way back up into the cover and eventually flew off to its usual garden.

Cheers Pheasant. It saved me time...

Also here about 6 Chaffinches seemed newly arrived. Northern birds? 1 Redwing.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


A proper October day today. Drizzly rain until 10am with a very light N1 and overcast.

Spent the morning giving Boulmer a thorough going over, getting soaked in the process. No Siberian Blue Robins or similar megas as suggested previously ( well what did you expect?) but one or two migrants around including a couple of patch year ticks.

After trudging farmland hedges and snipering illegally around caravan sites, being harassed by bullocks and almost hung up on barbed wire I felt I deserved the Yellow browed Warblers, yes thats right, plural, that were in the small housing estate, Bowmere, just before time for lunch.

I parked the car at the entrance to the estate and strolled in, not expecting much. The four trees on the edge had nothing so I wasn't hopeful. As I rounded the corner into the cul de sac, that familiar 'tsssweee' call rang out quite loudly from an isolated small Poplar in the front garden of one of the bungalows. I positioned myself not to be staring in through a living room window and was ready in case the bird flew, it began going ballistic, calling about 20 times in as many seconds. I figured that it had either found a mate or it had found a long eared owl. Just then a movement caught my eye in the foliage and a tiny stumpy warbler flew out, over the roof opposite and dropped. Being suspicious I waited a few more minutes at the Poplar. Sure enough, a Yellow brow was still there, and showing well. Keeping an eye on it I quickly checked the rear of the bungalows opposite and was pleased to find the second, brighter, bird in an apple tree, also seen well.

Cracking little birds, all the way from the siberian taiga. Or are they? Their numbers along the east coast in autumn now are so strong that they might just be living a bit closer. Scandinavia maybe?

Also today, 11 Redwings, 1 very late Willow Warbler, 1 Blackcap, 3 Goldcrests, 1 Brambling heard in the drizzle but unseen, 10+ Robins, 4 Song Thrushes, a dozen or more Blackbirds, 6 Reed Buntings, 1 Snipe flew W, 1 Sparrowhawk. 33 Dunlin were on the beach but there was very little at sea, other than 2 juv Common Terns still lingering ( and I had two Arctics midweek).

139. Redwing.
140. Yellow-browed Warbler.

Friday, October 05, 2007

A few short trips to Boulmer since the last post, mostly out with Bunty. Not much going on but the highlights have been 1 juv Peregrine over Seaton Point, 1 Greenshank over Seaton Point, 1 Chiffchaff in the golfcourse roadside bushes, 1 Redwing and 1 Fieldfare flew W near Longhoughton and a few small coveys of Grey Partridges.

I see the Brown Flycatcher has gone. Great. That puts a stop to my twitching and increasing my carbon footprint tomorrow and it will mean I get an extra trip on to the patch. It doesn't suprise me because at 3am this morning the sky was clear and there was a 'leaper's moon'. What with the Rubythroat on Foula thats 3 mega alerts this week out of reach for me. Who knows, I might just find the next one under a bush on Seaton Point...( pffff) Nice to see that I was of assistance to Darrell (Green Withens) in getting his most recent lifer ;-)

Oh and 27 Collared Doves at home this morning.

Keeping it real.


Wednesday, October 03, 2007


When you have work commitments the last thing you need is a message about a first for Britain, less that 200 miles from home. Today, a Brown Flycatcher was found at Flamborough Head. Had this been the weekend I would have been by now...

But it sets you thinking. The Brown Flycatcher is not yet on the British List, though the Flamborough bird is not the first. We have had our own in Northumberland...

On Holy Island, 9th September 1956, a bird believed to be this species was found by several good birders of the day including Mssrs Little, Blackett et al. Just think about it, 1956, no good field guides with eastern birds let alone the internet. This bird was accepted by the County Records Committee at the time ( though they'll not have known any better either) but rejected by the British Birds Rarities Committee because of possible confusion with a few other similar asian species of flycatcher.

I wonder if they were right...

I like historical records like this. I mean, just ponder Harry Witherby on Holy Island, September 1912 when he shot a Blyth's Reed Warbler ( one of them there today too..).

When I wander around the island in a cool easterly with some drizzle I can almost feel the ghosts of birders past...

Monday, October 01, 2007

Red Phalarope - Not.

A glorious day, clear blue skies and calm.

A few hours spent at Boulmer this morning was curtailed when a mega alert was recieved telling how a juvenile Sharp tailed Sandpiper was only 40 miles away in the borders near St Abbs head. Although once considered to be an eastern race of Pectoral Sandpiper, this bird rightly deserves its 'mega' status and is worthy of a drop it all dash to see it. So thats how it started. A call to Andy to see if he fancied it and the twitch was arranged. I had the trip mentally organised. Half an hour for Andy to get to Alnwick where I would pick him up, then an hour to the north and 'bob's your uncle' my third lifer this year ticked!

But things are never that easy are they. While waiting for Andy to arrive a second message came through to say that the bird was believed by some to be a curlew sandpiper hybrid. Now I've never seen a calidris wader hybrid, so I reckoned surely not, its more likely to be a sharpy. This element of doubt is a worse case scenario because it leaves two choices. A. Dismiss the bird as complete 'string' and go home, or, B. The finders are being too cautious and its a Sharpy after all, so go for it. Option A risks later finding out that the bird was indeed the rarity and you should have gone, while B could end up in a hundred mile round trip for a curlew sandpiper.

The decision was made for us. Message three stated that the bird was indeed a curlew sandpiper. Bugger. Thats the problem nowadays. Everyone has rarity fever and a mobile phone so the genie is out of the bottle before common sense can kick in. Oh well c'est la vie...

At Boulmer today the highlight was an extremely elusive Yellow browed Warbler calling in the wood behind the caravan site on three occasions but it remained hidden despite and hour and a half search. Over head 648 Pink footed Geese flew S, there was 1 Buzzard, 2 Snipe, 53+ Skylarks, 9 Meadow Pipits, 15 Grey Partridge, 1 Wheatear, 1 Swallow ( 6 were still at home) and 1 Willow Tit.

In the afternoon Jane, Bunty and myself took a trip down to Cresswell Pond to see the Grey Phalarope. Although it was flushed to the back of the pond by blackberry picking dudes, some amphibious tactics resulted in excellent views. I've now seen all three phalarope species on this pond in recent years...Also here, 1 Ruff and 1 Greenshank.

Above - Grey Phalarope, first winter, Cresswell Pond.