Sunday, November 29, 2009

Some seawatching...

A bit wild at home today. The wind was a nice force 8 NE gale and it stayed dusk all day, but the heavy rain through the night stayed away all day. Just.

So as I mentioned the other day, I decided to pop down to the coast path and scan seaward. Arriving at 8.30am and staying until 10.30am, it wasn't too bad for the time of year. Now this is no Whitburn or Flamborough but I had a few nice patch birds...

Red throated Diver 1 N 3 S and 1 on the sea.
Black throated Diver 2 N, close in. The rarest of the regular divers in the county.
Great Northern Diver 2 N
Diver sp ( GND or BTD ) 1 N too far out to id.
Fulmar 10 per hour N
Gannet 20 ph N
Shelduck 2 N
Wigeon 1 N
Scaup 4 ( 2 male 2 female) N in one flock.
Eider 12 N 4 S
Common Scoter 46 N 3 S
Velvet Scoter 1 male N
Long tailed Duck 2 nice full tailed males N very close in.
Red breasted Merganser 1 female N
Kittiwake 50 ph N
Auk sp All those specifically id'd were Guillemots, a steady movement N.
Purple Sandpiper 1 N
Turnstone 2 N

No Little Auks or the hoped for Leach's Petrel but any day with three Diver species is good in my book.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A proper artist...

Today was nice and fine but cold with a light northerly breeze.

This morning a short walk with Bunty around by the coast path had 1 Snow Bunting flying over S calling, 1 Red throated Diver S but strangest of all was when I was walking back through the village a Kingfisher flew north over the road, over the houses and on towards the coast. 37 Pink footed Geese flew S and 500 Woodpigeons were in the back field.

The rest of today was spent having a trip north of the border to Aberlady. Not for the long staying Lesser Yellowlegs, but to see an exhibition and demonstration by wildlife artist Darren Woodhead. Darren gave a good hour long demo to a small audience in the comfortable headquarters of the Scottish Ornithologists Club to launch his new book 'Up River'. It was a real inspiration.

Before the talk we popped in to the wooden bridge where the above mentioned Yellowshank had gone awol ( well it would be rude not to). The usual cry of 'it was there on that mud half an hour ago' did nothing to improve matters. An hours wait showed that we had just timed the tides wrongly and the dip was done.

Highlights here were masses of Pink footed Geese flighting over, a Peregrine flushing everything and loads of estuary wildfowl.

All in all a pleasant day out.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Weather Forecast...

With a hint of northerly off a westerly above Scotland I would like to think that a very late seabird or two would be coming to us on Sunday? A Little Auk or two perhaps. Saying that I assume all the northern birds will be further south in the atlantic now. Still, I'll be keeping an eye open, just in case.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

More seabird Mega's

As if Frigatebirds aren't enough a potential first for Britain kicked my pager ( and me) into life on my way to work this morning.

A White or Black bellied Storm Petrel was in the Severn Estuary for at least an hour this morning. Oh my, I would have liked to have seen the observers faces with that one. What with Tufted Puffin, Red billed Tropicbird and Long billed Murrelet, what else is out there. Its mildly irritating when a seawatching spot that gets excited by 10 Gannets and 4 Bonxies gets such a mega as this.....

I'm just jealous, good luck to them!

The Moth Trap has arrived. thats me ready for the 2010 onslaught....

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Friggin Magnificent!

News on the pager tonight is of a juvenile Frigatebird sp flew SW over Huddersfield early this morning...Where has that gone? It might be in SW Yorkshire somewhere...Dean, over to you ;)

Alternatively it could have been in the same category as multiple Eleonoras Falcons ( Hobbyperegrines), Rubythroat ( Bluethroat), Eastern Olivaceous Warbler (Barred Warbler) Oriental Turtle Dove (Turtle Dove) and many more stringy megas this year.

It is getting worse isn't it.

Oh I hear too that a recently found dead Black Guillemot in Scotland has been stuffed and flogged on eBay to one of our local birders, except its not a a black Guille, its a Long billed Murrelet!!! Second record or Hastings part II?

Right - Juv Magnificent Frigatebird over somewhere substantially warmer than Huddersfield. Image from Net...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Not too bad a day though Breezy with a SW5 whipping sand up off the beach.

As it is quite a while since Boulmer Birder has actually been to Boulmer I headed off there this morning for a short walk around Seaton Point. The tide was dropping back as 180 Golden Plover flew south over the rocky skeers. On the shore, 32 Dulnin, 10 Sanderling 1 Bar tailed Godwit and 2 Grey Plovers still showing signs of summer plumage.

On the return, a nice female Merlin was sat on a fence post quite close, until it was flushed by the molecatcher and his dog.

As I was saying about late migration yesterday, I watched 2 Blackbirds come in from high to the east over the sea then the shore before pitching into some bushes on the front. Maybe there's still time for that Siberian Accentor...

Back home a walk along the lane to the pond field had 5 Redpolls, 3 Siskins and 6 Bullfinches still in the Rowans and birches near the main road. The male Bullies looked very nice against the berries...

Moth catching became a case of Trap versus Spar shop and guess which one won!

Moth Trap -

December Moth 2.

Spar shop Light and window -

December moth 1
Angle Shades 1
Mottled Umber 2

I have just put an order in for a new Robinson Trap so I'll be well prepared for the 2010 season...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Not much doing...

..but a pleasant morning all the same. Early on it was cool and hazy but fair. In the garden, Tree Sparrows have increased their number to 5 birds but the Brambling seems to have moved on. Maybe it was a new arrival re fuelling before carrying on south and west?

Two Roe Deer were in the field up towards the Heugh from our drive and a third was flushed by us near the Village Wood. Jay and Redpoll were calling while 6 Bullfinches and a Marsh Tit fed on strangely pale pink ornamental Rowan berries.

Some migration was still occurring with 3 Mistle Thrushes and 2 Fieldfares together heading south followed by 3 Redwings freshly in-off. I sometimes hear Redwings calling in the dark as they come in right up to December.

The weather has deteriorated this evening with some rain and a freshening Sou'Westerly...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Look! No Trap!

Last night was very mild for the time of year. No trap on but I rescued a December Moth from our phone box and this morning 2 Angle Shades were on the Spar shop wall.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Still Mothing!

Yesterday was a nice and pleasant day for the time of year. I see the 15th November as the first day of winter.

I was unable to go too far as I am still finishing off some college work for a course that almost cost me the Eastern Crowned Warbler, but a terrier still needs her walk so I did get some fresh air.

The Brambling was still in the garden, but the highlight came when I was chopping some wood for the fire. A Woodcock flew across the back field towards me and on east over the village. A nice garden tick that one, but to be expected here at this time of year eventually.

As the day was pleasant the Moth trap went on from 4.30pm to 10.30pm last night. I had a reasonable winter catch with -

Winter Moth 1
December Moth 4
November Moth 1 ( these moth names have a theme don't they....)
Silver Y 1 ( even that sounds cold)
Angle Shades 1 on nearby Ivy flowers.

8 moths of 5 species isn't too bad.

This morning over a thousand Pink footed Geese flew over our house in a SE direction. They were very low and looked like they had recently taken off. I wonder if they are birds from Druridge Bay on a feeding trip?

Saturday, November 14, 2009


The Brambling was as elusive as ever today. I have stuck three images together to make more of it but it mainly kept to cover. It can be seen to be a male due to the black feather bases to the head and mantle. Look especially at the forehead and ear coverts. Eventually the grey buff tips to all of the feathers will wear off leaving a nice glossy black headed bird in the spring.

Also at the feeders, 8 Goldfinches, 2 Tree Sparrows, 35+ House Sparrows, 10+ Chaffinches, the odd Blue, Coal and Great Tit, 5 Collared Doves, 2 Woodpigeons, 6+ Jackdaws, 1 Magpie, a few Starlings, Robin and Dunnock. The whole lot vanished for a good while mid morning when the reason became very obvious. A female Sparrowhawk was sitting on the ground under the peanut feeder!

A short visit to the Spar Shop in Longhoughton showed its continued mothing potential as 3 Angle Shades were on the wall near the car park under the outside light. I haven't caught a moth for ages due to the weather.

A pair of Tawny Owls were calling to each other in the Village Wood this evening.

I see that the weather 'down south' is pretty poor today? Its not been too bad up here. Yet.

And why Bramblefinch? When I was a bairn, in the 70's, I knew an old man, a birdcatcher, down the local allotments who always told me tales about birds, particularly finches. He used to catch odd ones to breed from, female Bullfinches and Greenfinches to cross with male Goldfinches ( yep, thats right) but he always referred to Bramblings as 'Bramblefinches'. I can't see one even today and not think about old Geordie...

Oh, there has been a Red rumped Swallow on Holy Island yesterday. I wouldn't have minded seeing that but no show today...This is the last one I saw, in the very same place...

Friday, November 13, 2009


More depressing news Stew the Cresswell Otter got snagged on something yesterday and drowned. Three observers including Eddie Slack could only watch on helplessly as it struggled in the middle of the pond.

Nigel at Abbey Meadows left this comment for me. What an absolute disaster. I'm so pleased I wasn't there, I would have had to wade across...I hope that there is another male to replace him. I think the one at Cresswell was the dog?

On a more pleasant note ,yesterday and today, a nice winter male Brambling has been in the garden at our feeders with the Chaffinches. It is proving quite elusive though, but hopefully I'll manage a picture or two over the weekend.

A short walk with Bunty this morning as far as the pond field and back had 4 female Bullfinches, 4 Siskins, 5 Buzzards, 1 Sparrowhawk and 5 Teal. Not bad in 20 minutes from door to door..

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

No luck for the Fieldfare I'm afraid. It passed away through the night...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Todays road casualty is....

..after Badger, Woodpigeon, Bullfinch and Red Squirrel, Jane came in this morning with a Fieldfare. This one made it across the North Sea as far as our road and thats about I think. Only my third on the coast this autumn, it's now in a box in the outhouse not getting on too well. It looks fantastic. A feather perfect 1st winter bird, probably a female, but it has lost the use of its legs and wont fly.

I am going to give it until tomorrow to see if there is any improvement. If not then I'll do what needs to be done...

( Image courtesy of t'internet images. If you don't want people nicking 'em don't publish in the first place!)

Monday, November 09, 2009

Mists and...

...mellow fruitfulness. Thats how autumn is meant to be, and today was a classic.

Off work on a glorious sunny day, the morning was spent catching up on things at home, then I took a trip inland in the afternoon...

Great spotted Woodpecker, 2 Tree Sparrows and 5 Goldfinches were quite photogenic in the garden today. The good light helped. Also this morning a total of 500 Pink footed Geese flew S at home, flocks of 120, 140 and 240...

So I thought I would see what was going on up on the moors...

An eerie fog filled the valleys but it was crystal clear higher up.

The late afternoon sun was warm, encouraging the last of the midgies to dance around...

Wrens were all over in the heather, gorse and fence lines. The tiny things look lost in such a big landscape...

This Fox came up to me as I leant on a gate. He just turned an casually walked back the way he came...

At dusk, this Goshawk came in to roost with a full crop. It was a big hefty bird. Nice one...

Evening fog still in the valley....

PS edit - I forgot, while up there I also had a nice flock of Redpolls, maybe 30+, and a similar number of Fieldfares going to roost.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Get them where you can....

This week, a stunning montage of images from the wild. I can now confidently declare that this Snow Goose at Budle Bay today is a fully wild bird from the arctic wastes of Canada.


Because I've seen it. And I'm sick to death of pussy footing around them. I've seen about 8 Snow Geese in Northumberland now and not one has been deemed good enough ( by me) to grace my list.

Meanwhile every other birder in the county has Snow Goose on their totals ( some even have Ross's Goose too but we won't go there).

So If I can't beat them ( or even catch them) I might as well join them...

Cough, erm, er....British List 393 Northumberland List 320

Maybe no one will notice....Feel free to click on the images to see them in their finery, in all HD feather detailed perfection.

Right enough of that I'm glad thats off my chest, it was a bit like a confessional.

Back to today.

We started off at Stag Rocks near Bamburgh hoping to see the Black Guillemot that has been here for a while now. I was tempted yesterday by Alan Hall telling me it was relatively close in at digi scopeable distance. Well today it wasn't. Not a sniff in the hour we were there. The sea was calm and viewing good. Later on I see it had returned to loiter with the 2 Slavonian Grebes we had seen earlier. It must have been on the Farnes side when we were there...

Apart from the 2 grebes, 10 Long tailed Duck including 6 drakes were very nice to see plus half a dozen Red throated Divers and hundreds of Shags were off shore. A Porpoise showed briefly as did a lone Grey Seal.

Then it was off to Budle Bay for the Snow Goose. It flew in with about 100 or so Greylags just as we were getting out of the car. Massive numbers of birds here today included 340+ Shelduck and many waders including Grey Plover, Bar tailed Godwits, Knot, Dunlin, Redshank, Curlew and Lapwing. 1 Pale bellied Brent was out on the flats too.

Occasionally the birds were spooked and we knew who would be responsible but it took some time before we located the male Peregrine sitting in a tall tree distantly.

On the way home, a Merlin flew along the links in Seahouses only feet away from some visitors out for a walk.

Above - A more scenic shot of Budle Bay...

This afternoon I walked Bunty down the Long Walk to the Howick Dene and back by the coast. The whole place was very quiet but pleasant in the afternoon sunshine. In the wood Jay, Buzzard and Bullfinch were the only things of note.

I was nearly home on the main road when a flock of 30 or so Linnets lifted from the hay field and I was suprised to hear Twite calling in with them. This is probably the two birds I saw a few weeks ago...

As for last nights mothing, I was rained off by about 8pm. The only captive was a single Chestnut moth but it kicked off my November list. Maybe it will be the last...

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Almost Winter...

In Natural History terms I feel that winter has arrived by about mid November (15th) and will stay with us until Valentines Day. By then frogs will be spawning, the birds will be singing, the snowdrops will be flowering and the days are getting longer.

But back to today. The last week of autumn.

A lovely crisp sunny morning, calm with a touch of frost in the shade. Bunty had me up and out by 7.30am but it was worth it on such a nice day. We walked up the village wood to the hall car park and back. Of note were -

Bullfinch 6+ scattered along the route.
Siskin 10+
Redwing 1
Buzzard 3
Jay 1+
Goldcrest 1
Treecreeper 1
Pink footed Goose 80 S
Greylag approx 50 S

That was about it really until dusk (4.45pm!) when a distant trumpeting put me on alert until 30 Whooper Swans flew low S over our village, viewed from the garden.

I have the moth trap on for the second time in November. The other night it was on was my first blank session, but it was very clear and cool so lets see if I can do better this time...

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


Last night and again tonight I have been impressed by the clear white glow from the full moon.

I have walked Bunty twice each night without the need of a torch. Last night at 11pm a wander down our lane was fantastic. The silver ethereal glow lighting the road and pale leaves, tracing branches in foil. Redwings seeped over head to the sound of Tawny Owls in the woods. I scanned hard with night accustomed eyes for a Barn Owl without luck. Now that would have looked special.

Tonight at 7pm I walked over the hay field to the coast path, again only by moonlight. The moon was still quite low in the eastern sky, leaving a wide silvery shimmering reflection on the high tide. The only incandescent light was from shore anglers lamps on Cullernose and a cargo vessel offshore.The walk home, back to the moon, showed our village in a light that looked like a Dickensian Christmas Card or maybe a Watkins-Pitchford etching (google him).

If you can get out to a place without light polution for a stroll give it a shot, you wont be dissappointed. Now its 11.10pm I'm off with Bunts for another short breather before bed.

Good night all...

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Halloween Moths...

Above - Tawny Pinion.

I had the trap on last night when we went out to my sisters Halloween Party. When I checked it just before midnight I was pleased to find that there had been a good turn out for the time of year.

Red Green Carpet 1
Rosy Rustic 1
Silver Y 11
December Moth 1 female, below, a new species for me and a great chunky little thing.

but best of all

Tawny Pinion 1. Above - Again a first for me but thats because this is only the 4th for Northumberland, and is the first for VC 68 North Northumberland. Its obviously worth trapping well into the late autumn to turn up oddities like this...

Above - December Moth