Monday, December 31, 2007

Dull, mild, calm

Out with Bunty this morning past the Bowmere Turnips ( Boulmer Ice Hockey Team?) we had the finch flock today harassed by a nice female Merlin, the first around here for ages. It even perched up to allow a distant scope view.

On to Seaton Point we scored 11 Golden Plover, 1 Stonechat, 1 Sparrowhawk, 14 Linnet, 8 Blackbirds, 2 Song Thrushes. On the sea were 2 drake Goldeneye and 2 drake Red breasted Mergansers.

Year list at Boulmer ended on 147, 11 down on last year. Suprising ommissions this year were the distinct lack of any passerine migrants in autumn, no Redstart, Pied Fly, Garden Warbler etc no GS Woodpecker or Short eared Owl. Only one each of Med Gull, Curlew Sand and Little Stint. On the plus side great seawatching and the year ended with a pond!

Start again tomorrow...

The blog has done well. In January I got, on average, 230 hits per week. This has increased to over 600 per week in December (maximum in one week 893 in November). The total hits for 2007 is 22,000!
Thanks to every one who has dropped by and especially to those who have left comments.

A Happy New Year and All the very best for 2008 to everyone out there...Cheers, Stewart.

With all those Tree Sparrows you would think I could manage more than one in shot at a time! Crap dull pics due to crap dull light...

Sunday 30th December 2007.

Cold, 90% overcast, light W2, Dull.

Down to Boulmer this morning to see how the weather would pan out before committing to an Atlas square. Watching from the lifeboat hut I had 65 Pink footed Geese S, 59 Sanderling, 7 Dunlin and 7 Bar tailed Godwit on the shore, 5 Shags in the haven and the Dark bellied Brent on the sea.

I spent the next hour trying, with questionable success, to count through the finch flock in the turnips at Bowmere. Eventually the best I could do was 79+ Linnets, 81+ Tree Sparrows (an excellent count), 13 Goldfiches, 8+ Reed Buntings and 6+ Greenfiches. All were harassed by a Sparrowhawk until it took one and left. Also here were two coveys of Grey Partridges, 7 and 8 birds and 2 Song Thrushes.

On to Denwick to do a tetrad, NU21 - B. In the two hours I recorded 40 species including 2 Dippers, 3 Buzzards, 1 Sparrowhawk, Treecreeper, Redpoll sp, 2 Goosanders and 19 Yellowhammers.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Popped back to the plantation this afternoon with Bunty. It's a bleak, cold, dark place. If it had been Lord of the Rings, Orcs would live there. Its a god awful hole and as fitting for such a place there were no birds. Not even a call note. I might try when the sun is out or it is a bit calmer.

More descriptions written today for submission to the County Records Committee. On what seems to be a quiet year at Boulmer the best birds were 2 Balearic Shearwaters, 2 Sabine's Gulls, 1 Grey Phalarope and the White billed Diver plus other good patch birds such as 2 Yellow browed Warblers, 2 Glaucous Gulls, 1 Iceland Gull, 1 Lapland Bunting, 1 Green Woodpecker, 3 Long tailed Skuas, several Poms and 1 Storm Petrel. I'm pleased with that lot. I wonder what I've missed without Rob popping down all the time like last year?

The comment left on my first post today is a bit of a worry. Blyth Birder suggests that if visitors to Boulmer are increasing, then the fault could lie a bit closer to home than I would like! Surely blogging about an area can't increase its visitor profile too much? I might start writing about Cobalt Business Park ( no, I've no idea where it is )to see if I can chase my crowds elsewhere...

Seriously though, I may attract one or two birders to call in to see whats about (nowt) but most visiters are walkers, bait diggers, caravanners and the like. I see very few birdwatchers, though I did see a bloke this morning with bins. I wonder if he'd had anything?
Walked around Seaton Point at 8.30 this morning. The sun was just rising and the tide was beginning to fall. Lately this, once quiet, spot has been getting a few visitors in all weathers. At one time you could almost guarantee some solitude here, but even this morning I was first there but on the way back, my car was in a line of six others.

A good few waders on show this morning pushed up by the tide included 40 Turnstone, 21 Grey Plover, 5 Bar tailed Godwits, 8 Knot, 20 Oystercatcher, 20 Dunlin and 2 Sanderling. There was a large flock of mixed waders circling around in addition to this lot, numbering maybe 50 birds, probably Dunlin, Turnstone etc but too distant get get a look at. 35 Eiders and a Red breasted Merganser were on the sea and a couple of Rock Pipits were on the tide line.

No sign of the Brent on the flash this morning.

I pondered how there seems to have been quite a few Bullfinches around the lowlands lately. I might check the Boulmer plantation later on just in case, as I dont think there are any records for the patch ( well, I haven't seen any). If the weather holds. Its looking like rain now...

Friday, December 28, 2007

Thrum Mill

Out and about with JWR yesterday. The weather was hopeless, windy and dull all day so most of the day was spent in the car drinking tea and catching up.

First stop was a drive around the forest tracks at Harwood Forest. As usual birds thin on the ground at this time of year but we had about 8 Crossbills fly over plus lots more heard but not seen, a single cock Siskin and 4 Buzzards.

Nothing of note was seen up the Simonsides road past Lordenshaws, though I nearly stopped to 'blog' some 5000 yr old cup and ring marked stones but I was put off by about 30 cars in the car park.

Down to Thrum Mill at Rothbury that provided today's highlights. 3 Dippers showed well, with 2 males singing and scrapping in the streams while a female watched on. I remember a couple of years back when ADMc watched two males fighting at Morpeth and one was killed by the other. These territorial disputes can be quite serious.

Also here a Kingfisher flushed by the Dippers flew downstream, a Heron looked for spawning fish and a cock Bullfinch was near the car.

Hopefully the weather will brighten a bit in days to come...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A dogs eye view again...

Bunty's Christmas was hilarious...

I luv this moose, I bet I can have its head off...

Does my bum look big in this?

Enough of the fashion show let's get down to business with these toys...

My mam and dad luv to hear me singing along to this squeaky bone. We all joined in, it was like Eastenders...

Monday, December 24, 2007

Half an hour at Boulmer with Bunty in the gloomy afternoon.

The pond had loads on it because the tide was full. There were 111+ Curlew, a dozen Mallard with a single drake Teal, the DB Brent, 2 Snipe, 3 Dunlin and a good mix of Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Starlings, Turnstones and Gulls. A quick scan with the bins over the sea revealed just about nothing ( a few Eiders).

I've taken advantage of the dark, poor weather to catch up on some paperwork. The notes are now done for the Whie billed Diver. Just a few county notes to do now like the 2 Balearic Shearwaters and the 2 Sabines Gulls.

Merry Christmas to all...

It's a doddle...

See, its not so bad...

At Morrison's, Alnwick, at 07.45, in the house at 08.45, no problem. At this time, the car park was about quarter full. No sign of the hell-hole endured by my colleagues. Shopping put away, presents wrapped, now for the housework...Do you remember when I used to go birding?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

No birding whatsoever today, just some more robotic-like-following-the-sheep-in-a-Christmassy-type-mode.

Tonight I have just gone through everyones blogs and had a good old chuckle. Blyth Birder tells it like it is around his local supermarket ( the comments are good too), Withens has been out and about and ST is just a bit too smug for my liking. At Whitby, Alastair mentions a farmland birds conference, up here that would last all of ten minutes. On St Mary's I may have even caused a minor tantrum by insinuating ( quite incorrectly I may add) that Boulmer is THE best birding place on the planet. Any one who knows me, in the field, rather than on line, will know that I do like a bit of a wind up. Don't people take things seriously...:)

Last night our 'do' with the Cadwallenders was excellent. Great hosts these two, feeding us with fantastic fare, too much vino and even giving out pressies. If Carlsberg did Chrsitmas do's, they'd be like this...many thanks and John and Neil who missed out, missed a treat.

I was a bit seedy this morning.

Anyway, tomorrow I'm looking forward to going to do the Christmas food shopping, always good for a laugh that one, and I have a list of chores. Roll on Christmas Day.

Never mind, the nights are getting shorter from now on...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Still bitterly cold this afternoon.

This time we walked the north end to Longhoughton Steel.

The tide had pushed the Brent Goose onto the frozn pond to be company for two juvenile Mute Swans. A good number of Lapwings were on here too.

Along the shore at the north end were 7 Purple Sandpiper, 13 Knot, 18 Dunlin, 6 Red breasted Mergansers, 49 Wigeon, 48 Mallard, 5 Teal and 4 Goldeneye, a good count of wildfowl obviously shifted off nearby frozen waters inland. the only passerine was a female Stonechat.


Nippy today, -1.5 on way to Boulmer with Bunts. We walked around Seaton Point.

Loads of Thrushes here today, 300+ Fieldfares next to the Seaton Point lay bye, with a few Redwings and Blackbirds more scattered along the hedges and verges. The hedge I mentioned the other day has been totally stripped of berries in only a few days. Still some Golden Plovers in the fields too, 50 maybe, with 8 Grey Partridges.

The turnip field next to Bowmere has a large finch flock but they head for the horizon if you so much as slow the car down on the way past. I managed to get about 18 Tree Sparrows, 50 Linnets and 10 Greenfinches, but there were many more than that. A Dark bellied Brent was on the Haven beach from the lifeboat hut.

Out to sea plenty of gulls heading south. Closer perusal might have turned something up but I didn't have the time. A scattering of mergansers were the only things of note.

Pond still there and quite a good size but frozen solid.

Looking forward to an altogether more enjoyable soiree tonight than yesterdays debacle...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Thats it!

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.......

I have just come home from our works Christmas 'do'. Lunch was at Morpeth, the venue will remain anonymous as I would get into trouble by saying that the food was hopeless. 'Garlic King Prawns on Ciabatta' it said for starters. Some feeble frozen efforts on half a bread bun. The 'Brocolli and Stilton tart' oh dear, thats all I can say about that. Then trifle. Ok, but you won't see Ramsay doing it like this at Claridges...

Next off down the town for a bit of socialising ( only one pint for me, I'm driving). I think too much time spent in solitary on the quiet coast here has made me a tad claustrophobic. The pubs were packed out with other works parties with every one tanked up and shouting. Now, I'm not the quietest of people and can't be accused of hiding my light under a bushel, I have even been known to be, er, slightly under the influence, but this is just savage amusement. Thank goodness I'm out of it and back home. Our Druridge correspondant would have been in his element ( he likes a snifter does Iain...)

Today's highlight? Oh yes, 17 whole days until I go back to work. GET IN!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Busy busy busy...

Sorry for the delay ( though you aren't missing much). This time of year is quite busy isn't it? Christmas ( I don't like using 'xmas',its lazy and it's just not right) shopping, birthdays, visits etc etc curtailed birding this weekend, but here I am, still blethering away about nothing in particular.

Its been cold this weekend. Not quite 'freeze your nuts off' cold, but getting there. On my way home from a late day at work on Friday the temp gauge on my car was reading -4 in the freezing fog between Ashington and Widdrington. It coated everything in the brittle hoary rind thats so scarce nowadays and makes a good replacement for our now none existant snow fall. I do hope the high pressure lingers for the next couple of weeks.

On Saturday and Sunday, still non birding mind you, I detected the hints of a hard weather movement on the bird front, possibly our final migrations until spring. Thrushes were particularly in evidence all over, making their getaway from the near continent that is even colder than here. Blackbirds filled every available hawthorn and even today groups are scattered about grassy areas below trees. One small stretch of haw laden hedge en-route to Boulmer held 20+ Blackies taking advantage of a more arboreal food supply now that the ground is like iron. At Howick over a hundred Redwings were in the Yews and on the roadside at Hadston a fine mix of these two, with a lot of Fieldfares, scoffed like their lives depended on it ( which it probably did). Throughout, odd Mistle Thrushes held sentinel over individual bushes defending it against all comers and Song Thrushes were thinly spread along the coast.

At Seaton Point, Golden Plovers and Lapwings replaced the thrushes found just inland, feeding in the coastal fields.

While walking Bunty at Howick, 6 Bullfinches looked well against the frost and a couple of Marsh Tits fed nearby.

Thats about it really. Oh and this -

I suppose he has more to do than me at the minute...not many schools get this kind of visit from Santa. The helicopter landed on the school field about a hundred metres behind our yard on Friday...

Sunday, December 09, 2007


As an experiment I have added a link to the left, at the top, to a new blog. I was wondering how to add a few things such as maps etc without losing them with each subsequent post. This blog will only be updated as required.

Above - Top two, Linnets, third, Tree Sparrows and Bottom, the Sea King that flushed them all.

Today dawned cold but calm after last nights storm. The sun came up bathing the scene in a lovely yellow glow.

I checked the area around the village at Boulmer today.

27 Siskins flew south overhead. The pond is still there. This is just the farmer showing his sadistic streak, it'll all be gone before the spring passage thats a certainty. Meanwhile you never know, I might just be able to add Coot to my list. On here were 8 Mallard, 150 Lapwing and 20+ Redshank with the usual assortment of Gulls.

Up the road at Bowmere, the weedy turnip field held a good flock of seed eaters including 60+ Linnets, 28+ Tree Sparrows, 7+ Goldfinches and a single Redpoll that flushed before I could get specific. This isn't exactly Redpoll habitat, so I would like to see this bird on the deck.

A quick view from the North Seat had a few Yellowhammers and Tree Sparrows, another 35 Linnets plus odds and sods like Reed Bunting, Song Thrush, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, 3 Robins and several Blackbirds.

Nothing noteworthy seaward, other than a single distant Red throated Diver.

I did an atlas square about three miles away at a non descript farmlnd area called the Hocket. 27 species were recorded in the hour, best being 3 Buzzards, Grey Wagtail, 6 Tree Sparrows and a Redpoll.


Above - The Pond. You can see the drain in the centre of the water.

Above - The Village viewed from the pond.

Above - The Haven, viewed from the pond. Nice sunrise today.

Above - The Seawatch Seat. Good light showing White billed Diver habitat in the background!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Cold and frosty this morning, had to defrost the car. Clear, light W3 at first, by lunchtime this had increased to a strong SE7.

Two walks with Bunty this morning before the weather took a turn for the worse.

9.00am Boulmer Old Airfield. Still some Siskins on the move south with two groups of 12 and 34, 1 female Snow Bunting was a suprise scurrying along the track side, 20 Lapwings, 4 Grey Partridge, Heron.

The pond is still there ( shhh, say nowt, I hope the drain has totally collapsed...) but was quiet, probably with the tide being out.

12.30pm Seaton Point. Blowing a hooly and now the tide is well up the sea is very rough and chopped up. A flock of waders were taking shelter in a field of winter wheat, 160 Golden and 3 Grey Plovers with a few Lapwings, Curlew and Oystercatchers. 15+ Linnets were here too. Along the shore I checked the gulls hunting the surf over the rocks for something different but nothing new. 4 Red breasted Mergansers flew south and 3 Rock Pipits were on the tide line.

The pond in the village now had some birds, 7 Mallard, 59 Redshank and a hatful of gulls. One Herring Gull had a very heavily streaked dark head like that 'Atlantic' Yellow legged Gull in Ireland last year. I gave it a good 20 seconds before losing the will to live and moved on.

A Grey Wagtail flushed from the pond edge.

A quick view from the car at the north seat was generally a non starter until a Kingfisher flew from out in front of the pub and headed north over the mountainous breakers, little auk fashion. A nice record and a year tick here.

147. Kingfisher.

Friday, December 07, 2007

These dark nights must be good for summat...I know, how about some debate. Have a look a Green Withens at his chat about Bird Clubs, Mags etc and the comments.

I think I am tempted to agree with him to some extent, though it grieves me to admit it. East Ayton adds to the pot too ( as well as yours truly) by noting that birding is now often done in 'real time'. He is definately right.

I remember the dark days of 1987 as a fresh faced laddie doing my weekly visits by bus to Druridge Pools. No reserve then, no hides, screens or anything. The alders along the road were yet to be planted. The pool could be viewed without obstruction from the road. I was there on the 4th, 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th May wearing a donkey jacket, NCB wellies and a mullet, carrying my Prinz 10 x 50s round my neck and loads of hope and optimism in my pockets. It was great. I had Black necked Grebe, Garganeys, Greenshank, Whimbrel and Wheatears. In those days, Whinchats still bred and there were plenty of Cuckoos. I didn't know many people who went birding then and there was no grapevine, let alone mobile phones, computers and pagers. Of the birders I knew, they couldn't help because I didn't even have a home phone in my flat. Bird info came from the new 'Bird Watching' magazine, two months later or the annual report 18 months later!

Imagine my horror at reading July's edition of BW magazine to find out about a Temminck's Stint at Dru on 9th - 11th and a female Bluethroat there on 26th. Both lifers, nay, mega's at the time.

To put things in context in 1987 I saw no rare birds at all ( might have been due to the Prinz...). Imagine that. None. Best of the year was Black Redstart, Smews, Lap Buntings ( plenty) and the birds above. Today's new birders would have packed in by March. Nowadays I could beat my 87 year list by March. At Boulmer!

Those were the days eh.

Now, where was that Great Blue Heron...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

December Migrants

Last night Redwings were 'seeping' overhead in the darkness when I had Bunty in the garden. What with December Short toed Lark, Desert Wheatear, Water Pipit, Waxwings etc only just arriving, I think thats evidence enough that 'autumn' doesn't stop in October...

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Above - 2 adult and 1 juv Great Northern Divers off Seaton Point today.

Although the forecast was for rain, today was one of the best days for a while here. It was calmish with only a light SW2 with some cloud.

After yesterdays count at the north of the Boulmer patch, today, I didn't fancy another count ( it can stop the birding and is quite intensive)so I had a stroll around the south end from Seaton Point to the Haven and back.

The tide was full and the sea calmed as I rounded the point along the beach. I was pleased to find not one, but a flock of three Great Northern Divers feeding only a couple of hundred yards offshore on pipefish. Two adults showing traces of summer plumage and a juvenile showed really well for an hour or so before casually swimming off to the north. I saw the juvenile off the village later. Maybe it was yesterdays bird and todays were different?

I know this is not unprecedented in Northumberland, Newton Stringer had three yesterday, but these are scarce birds in the county. Its the most I've seen at one time thats for sure.

I did some sketches in the field and tidied them into this drawing at home later.

While drawing them the tide slowly dropped back. On the exposed rocks were 48 Grey Plover, 23 Golden Plover, 100 Dunlin plus smaller counts of Knot, Turnstone, Purple Sandpiper, Redshank and Oystercatcher. 6+ Red breasted Mergansers were fishing with the divers and two Red throated Divers flew N while 5 Common Scoters moved S. More unexpected were the 25 Siskins that flew south over the point and out over Foxton Bay. 2 Redpolls came in off then circled and flew N over the beach. When compared to the Reed Bunting flying alongside, they were probably Mealies.

On route back to the car, 40 Tree Sparrows, 6 Yellowhammers and 3 Reed Buntings were in the caravan site.

Not a bad morning at all.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Above - NU21 Tetrad S.

A sunny but cool day with a moderate W4. 60% cloud.

As the weather wasn't too bad this morning I thought I would do an atlas tetrad at Boulmer. The tetrad is the one above. I parked at the lifeboat hut where it says PC at the bottom of the map, walked north along the shoreline as far as Howdiemont Sands at the top. Here I moved up onto the landward side and followed the bridlepath back south to the car. This took 2 hours.

In that time I counted the 48 species below -

Wigeon 9
Mallard 30
Eider 25
Goldeneye 4
Red breasted Merganser 3
Grey Partridge 4
Red throated Diver 3
Great Northern Diver 1 a belter watched eating pipefish close in to the village.
Cormorant 1
Shag 2
Grey Heron 3
Kestrel 1
Oystercatcher 60
Ringed Plover 2
Golden Plover 6
Grey Plover 8
Lapwing 315
Knot 9
Purple Sandpiper 1
Dunlin 2
Curlew 40
Redshank 104
Turnstone 48
Black headed Gull 107
Common Gull 19
Herring Gull 209
Great Black Backed Gull 20
Razorbill 2
Woodpigeon 32
Collared Dove 14
Skylark 1
Rock Pipit 6
Pied Wagtail 4
Wren 5
Dunnock 6
Robin 4
Stonechat 3
Blackbird 1
Mistle Thrush 1
Magpie 1
Jackdaw 6
Rook 8
Carrion Crow 11
Starling 206
House Sparrow 27
Goldfinch 12
Snow Bunting 3 One was in the cattle feed at the north end, the other two were down to 4 yards on the main bridlepath just south of the footbridge.
Reed Bunting 2

A good list especially as there were none of the usually common species such as Linnet, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Song Thrush, Blue Tit etc that would be expected here on any other day.