Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Lets start 2010 with an 'annual report' of the Boulmer Birders monthly highlights of 2009.


New Year on Speyside in temperatures down to -6 degrees. Birds on New Years day included Crested Tit, Hooded Crow and Red Grouse.

My first lifer of the year came early on 8th with the adult Glaucous winged Gull on Teesside, supported by a fw Glaucous Gull both on the same ice.

On 24th work commenced on improvements to our new house in Howick curtailing many weekends thereafter.


Started with snow and ice. My new garden list also started. A hard weather movement on 12th had birds flocking to our coast and a short walk had 65 Skylarks, 120 Fieldfares,20 Redwings and 7 Snipe on the coast path.

The first Fulmars were flying over the garden on Valentines day.

My first moths of the year paved the way to a more concentrated effort that will continue into 2010 and beyond. 4 Pale brindled Beauty were on the wall of the local Spar shop.

The the first new garden and patch highlight of the year. One Raven on 28th was joined by a second in March and were my first coastal birds in Northumberland.


The Ravens were on the garden list on the 13th and 15th. On 15th the first butterflies were a Small Tortoiseshell and a Peacock in the garden.

On 17th a Yellow horned Moth on the Spar wall was a good north Northumberland record.

Near the month end, 3 Chiffchaffs started off the spring on 29th at Howick.

April ...
No fool on the 1st when 3 Wheatears were near home on the coast path.

On 6th and Early Grey moth was another good Spar shop record.

Sand Martins arrived back at Howick on 7th followed by a pair of Swallows on 11th and Willow Warbler and Blackcap on 12th.

We finally moved house on 17th.

What a moving in present when a male Marsh Harrier showed well from our porch on the 21st!

During the last week of April other migrants at home included Grasshopper Warbler, Wheatear, Yellow Wagtail and House Martin.


My second Marsh Harrier arrived on 3rd when a female flew north over the pond field.

On 5th a Blue headed Wagtail was a stunner in with cattle near the coast path.

The 6th produced both Lesser and Common Whitethroats as well as a few Bird's Nest Orchids in the estate woods.

More spring birds were added with Garden Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Swift and Common Tern. A few Turnstones and Whimbrel trickled through too, with 7 of the latter calling as they flew north over the garden.

The first Wall Brown was seen on 11th.

Some 'weather' on 17th had me off to Holy Island for some migrants. Pied Flycatcher, Marsh Harrier and a day flying Nightjar were the best. None of these were consolation for missing a Turtle Dove at our village duck pond early on.

On 19th a Cuckoo was heard from our garden plus 4 Noctule Bats showed well feeding at dusk over the pond.

My first Northumberland Speckled Wood was in the pond field on 23rd.

Up the Harthope Valley on 24th. Mother Shipton moth was a lifer for me as they are a scarce species in Northumberland. 6+ Redstarts, Tree Pipit and Whinchat also brightened the day.

Back home on Bank Holiday 25th had my first evening seawatch. Manx Shearwater, Arctic Tern, Red throated Diver, Puffin and Razorbill were all added to the patch year list.

At the months end Badgers featured but it was a shame to find a roiad casualty near home.

June -

The Barn Owls near home began a pattern of hunting right outside our kitchen window that continued right until late August.

One of the years ultimate highlights for me was my first ever self found Northumberland Golden Oriole. A first summer male took up residence in Village Wood for several hours on 18th allowing a few keen birders to twitch it from as far as Newcastle. When it stopped singing at midday it melted away into the canopy and was not seen again.

On 20th a family of 4 Bottle nosed Dolphins gave us a private display in the evening on a flat calm sea just in our little cove, jumping clear of the water before swimming further offshore.

15 Caterpillars of Mullein moth were on verbascum on our drive. A great record only the second record for Northumberland. I will try and catch an adult in spring this year...

The last week of the month was spent on holiday in the New Forest chasing the dragon. No, its not 'Trainspotting', Im talking about odonata, dragon and damselflies. I saw plenty including several new species with a southern distribution including Downy Emerald, Southern Damselfly and Beautiful Demoiselle. Butterflies were exciting too with Silver washed Fritilliary, White Admiral and Emperor.

July -

In what can be a slow month up here I was pleased to be told about some Red veined Darters near Newbiggin. I saw 8 on 14th along with Black tailed Skimmer one of few county records.

Roseate Terns showed well from the coast path early in the month.

A couple of parties of Crossbills were seen and Green Sandpiper was on the Hall pond mid month.

My third Marsh Harrier of the year on the home patch was seen flying north offshore on 25th.

From late in July I scrutinised the garden buddleia's form moths at night finding scarce county moths such as Least Yellow Underwing, Shuttle shaped Dart and Common Footman.

August -

A calling Quail heard from our garden was a good start on 7th.

I was suprised and pleased with an early Icterine Warbler, self found at Fenham le Moor on 9th. Roseates continued to show off our point at home with 1 ad and 2 juvs on the same date.

Bulrush Wainscot was found in the village phonebox.

On 19th and excellent county tick turned up at Cresswell when a Semi palmated Sandpiper showed well.

Moth trapping proper started on 20th when Tom Tams loaned me a Skinner Trap. I was well in there on 22nd with a catch of 283+ moths of which 171 were Large Yellow Underwings!

On 24th a mad dash up to the Farnes for a British lifer - Yellow breasted Bunting turned out to be a wild goose chase, but the Ortolan on show was nice all the same.

September -

On 8th an Osprey on a local telegraph pole was a real joy, totally unexpected too.

The seawatching wasn't up to much really but a Sabines adult north at Newbiggin was appreciated.

The wheel came off on 26th with Northumberlands second Glossy Ibis in 100 years at Druridge. A massice twitch ensued but we needn't have panicked. The bird was faithful to Druridge for another month!.

October -

Some good moths this month with Red Underwing, 2 Merveille du Jour, 2 Blair's shoulder Knot and rarest of all a Tawny Pinion.

On the 11th JWR and myself found a Barred Warbler in the hedge behind the Heugh at Craster.

Then the highlight of 2009 came on 22nd when an Eastern Crowned Warbler was found at South Shields in Trow Quarry after being mis -id'd as a Yellow brow! Luckily it was still showing well on 23rd for me. Although I saw a couple in China last year this did not detract from this first UK record only an hour from home.

0n 25th 2 male Firecrests showed well in Howick Dene.

November -

On the 8th I added a stringy Snow Goose to my county list on the b asis that everyone else does so why not me.

On 29th a good seawatch included 2 Black throated Divers, 2 Great Northern Divers and 2 Long tailed Ducks all on the patch.

December -

Came and went with little to show except for the cold spell around Christmas. Lapland Buntings, Jack Snipe, Merlins and Long tailed Ducks were good off patch records and 500 Skylarks in the field behind our house was a good count.

Finally at the months end 2 Ravens returned to my Village, bringing 2009 full circle.

Happy New Year everyone. Keep wildlife watching and dont get too down in the mouth during the quiet spells. Retire, regroup and get back in the saddle there's always something interesting just around the corner.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas all...

-2 through the night but a balmy 2 degrees today has resulted in a minor thaw.

Although we haven't been far today, a couple of dog walks was quite good and produced one or two things of note.

This morning a short walk around the coast path had 42 Fieldfares over the back field with the hundreds of Skylarks and 19 Grey Partridges were near the farm. A flock of about 10 Redpolls were in the alders along the lane and although they were very flighty I glimpsed a white rump on one as it preened briefly showing that it is likely to be a Mealy. Its a shame I couldn't get a better look. A Marsh Tit was in the hedge near the village.

At lunchtime we took a walk to check on the swans at the pond. All three were on the ice with only a bath sized area of water remaining frost free. In the Village Wood we flushed 2 Woodcock from one spot and a male Blackcap was feeding in the ornamental pink rowans before being shown the way by a beligerent Mistle Thrush.

On our return I heard a Raven call to the south. On looking around, a single bird was flying from the farm to the Village wood calling regularly. As we lost sight of it behind the trees, a second flew from the village, from right over our house, and headed off to meet the first. These massive crows flushed all the pigeons from the wood and looked quite sinister on passing. Its great to hear them so close to home...

Merry Christmas to all, and thanks for all your comments.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

An Exaltation...

...of Skylarks. Today the coast around here is absolutely lifting with them. Out in the back field (above, please click on it) were 500+ and another 2 - 300 were between the farm and the teepee. The flock behind us attracted the attention of this Sparrowhawk and one lark ended up as lunch.

In with the larks were a few Meadow Pipits looking very groggy now in the cold. Some scuffling along fence bottoms, dunnock fashion. A Fieldfare arrived from high this afternoon and pitched in to the same field. 5 Golden Plovers and 8 Lapwings were in the hayfield.

This afternoon I flushed another Woodcock when out collecting wood behind the hall.

Tom Cadwallender called me to say he had seen the two Ravens near the farm this morning before they flew off towards the dene. Despite a good walk down that way I had neither sight nor sound of them.

The sea is quiet with only one or two Eiders and 3 Goldeneye to be seen...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

They're back!

At dawn this morning, well still dark but a hint of a glow over the sea was a taste of things to come, the very first bird I heard outside was - a Tawny Owl, closely followed by that distinctive cronking we all know and love - the Raven's have returned!!

Well I could hear one at its roost anyway. My neighbour, Julie saw them both on Saturday not far from here and I've been on the look out since. I hope to actually see them soon...

A walk up to the coast path with Bunty had a few migrants on the go. A nice Woodcock came in-off and carried on west as did 6+ Redwings and a few Blackbirds. Skylarks were calling unseen in the gloaming...

Today was my last day at work until the new year so I hope to get out and about a little bit, if I can find the time!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Winter's Tale...

Through the night the temperature at home was -4 rising to -2 at daybreak, but scarcely moving above zero all day. Yesterday's snow froze into a crunchy hard icing over the landscape. Below is a trip with me on my circular walk of about a mile and a half from home...

Just about the only noteworthy thing on an eerily quiet day was a hard weather movement along the coast, with the following all going south -

Meadow Pipit 90
Skylark 136
Redwing 6
Grey Wagtail 1
Pink footed Goose 90+

On the walk through the Village wood and back by the Heugh were 9 Snipe (3 and 6) dropping into the running streams, 2+ Song Thrush, 1 Bullfinch, 2 Treecreeper, 2 Buzzard, 5 Siskin, 12 Grey Partridge, 1 male Stonechat and 5 Lapwings.

I couldn't even rumour a grey Gyr let alone a white one...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

New Link...

Check out the new link on the right - Bird and Wildlife Illustration. This lad's got real talent, maybe the new Ian Lewington!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Day Dreaming...

Rumours of a big freeze have set me thinking.

Today, in the dark at 7.30am I heard Song Thrush, 2 or 3 Redwings, 1 Skylark over and saw 2 Blackbirds in torchlight near the coast path when I was out with Bunty. Are these just tardy migrants or are they the start of a hard weather movement ahead of the cold front?

Ipin has suggested that the temperature could drop to -15 degrees in the next few days. I think weather forecasters exaggerate a bit with bad weather just to cover their backs. If the forecast is right though, it should move some birds across the north sea from the more north easterly reaches of Europe. More Thrushes and Larks are likely with maybe things like Shorelarks and Lap Buntings, Wildfowl from the Baltic might carry a few Smew and Grebes and there could be Woodcock on the coast.

You never know, 2009 might be the year of another Tengmalms Owl, Hawk Owl, White winged Lark, Dusky Thrush or mainland Pine Grosbeak. The real jackpot would be one of those eastern Accentors that turn up rarely in Scandinavian countries, Siberian or Black throated...

A more likely scenario is that the forecast is about +15 degrees out and we get two days of frozen windscreens...

Oh well...'when I snap my fingers you'll be back in the room'...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

This might be the end of the years Moths. Or maybe not.

This morning as I drove past Longhoughton Spar shop on my way to work, a glance over my shoulder and I could see a 'mark' on the white painted pebble dashing. Worthy of a check. A quick about turn and...The mark was a Pale Brindled Beauty (above) and along side were single Chestnut and Mottled Umber.

No need to fork out big bucks for a moth trap in winter eh!

I've just recieved the moth report for 2009 so far. In my short novice spell of mothing this year I've had 4 firsts, 5 seconds and 3 thirds for VC68! I hope 2010 is as good....

Sunday, December 13, 2009

(Almost) Moth Free Zone...

After some complaints by licence payers saying that Boulmer Birder should now be Boulmer Moth-er I felt that I need to get back to basics. One commentator about this blog said that there are 2500 moths in the uk of which 2300 are brown and look the same. Philestines.( Although I can see his point!)

So this weekend is more 'birdy'...

Lets start with Saturday. It was cold, damp and foggy. For a change Bunty and I took our morning walk at Boulmer covering two stubble fields along the front, just behind the beach.

On the way, a short stop at the Spar shop in Longhoughton produced a single Mottled Umber on the wall.( Sorry I couldn't help it. Thats it honest.).

In the fields and hedgerows were -

12 Skylarks, 15 Meadow Pipits in one flock, 6 Snipe, 7 Grey Partridge and a Brown Hare. A small corner of game crop was quite good with 15+ Reed Buntings, 10+ Yellowhammers and 6+ Tree Sparrows.

On the shore, 2 male and 4 female Red breasted Mergansers flew north, 25+ Dunlin, 2 or 3 Sanderling and 3 + Bar tailed Godwits.

At home only one of the 3 Mute Swan cygnets remains on the pond. I'm not sure if the other two have flown off ? It will be interesting to see what happens to the last one... 2 Buzzards were in the Rectory.


A nice cold calm day with thick cloud at first, clearing gradually later on. A light NW breeze kept things 'sharp'.

I met up with Andy and Rob for a trip up north to Beal, the mainland side of Holy Island causeway. From here we had a long walk north to Goswick sands. Unfortunately the tide stayed quite distant keeping the seabirds well out.

4 juv Dark bellied Brent Geese and 1 Twite were the first birds seen on the saltmarshes. 3 Roe deer trotted through a damp area flushing a dark bird only feet before it took cover again. As we went to investigate, a Common Snipe towered away closely followed by a nice stocky little Jack Snipe that almost flew into Rob!

On the sea - at least 800+ ,and possibly as many as 1200, Common Scoter were the biggest flock I think I have ever seen. Dotted around about were 10+ Long tailed Duck including some nice males, 15+ Red breasted Merganser, 10+ Red throated Diver and 30+ Shag.

Above - If you remember there was a 'wanted' note for me in Birdwatch Magazine the other week? This is one they have returned to me, a timely Lapland Bunting from 1995...

The return journey was via a large stubble field, just behind the car park, near the end of the causeway that demanded further investigation. We spread out as we walked, seeing 30+ Skylarks and the usual flight views of 3 calling Lapland Buntings, a 2 and a 1. Poor views, but a good record nonetheless.

Above - Brents swimming the flooded causeway. Obviously they cant read.

Back at the car, the causeway was now covered by the tide and the wintering Pale bellied Brents were showing well with several hundred on show. A Merlin was overseeing them from a low rock on the marsh. This proved to be the first of three on my way home with two others, one over the A1 at Brownieside and one over the road at Denwick.

A good typical winters birding day in Northumberland...

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Last moth...

The last moth of the year I expect. A male Winter Moth. Lately I've been seeing up to half a dozen in the car headlights near home, but this one came into the kitchen. I'm looking forward to keeping my first proper moth garden yearlist...

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Feed the Bir..iiiirds.....

...let them know it's Christmas time...

Poor gag, I know...

I seem to have developed a chest cold over the past couple of days so today was mostly spent indoors feeling quite rough. The birds coming to my feeders outside the living room window always cheer things up though. Today there were 11 Tree Sparrows and 13 Goldfinches along with 25+ Chaffinches, 30 House Sparrows and odds and ends of various other species. I'm hoping that the Tree Sparrows take up summer residence too in my nest boxes.

My only venture out was a walk in the Village Wood with Bunty where 1 Red Squirrel and 3 Roe Deer where the only things of note.

Last night coming home from Alnwick, near the River Aln on the road to Denwick, a flattened creature had me puzzled. Cat was the first guess, then, no its just a cock Pheasant ( well it was pretty flat). Today I see that the unfortunate victim is an Otter, with tail still in tact. What a shame....

Saturday, December 05, 2009

RFA or Fishguides....

Imagine a rare fish alert system? It might read -

Northumberland. RAY'S BREAM, Ross back Sands for third day.

In fact this one would get mega alerted because they are very rare, but appear in influxes. Not as rare as last years Oarfish, but a good record all the same. I used to read about wrecks of them reported in Angling Times, usually after winter storms, and hoped to find one but never did.

The one above is about 12 -15" long and was found by Mike Hodgson who kindly sent me the pic. I believe they are a fish of deeper colder waters and a recent short google scan found someone who says they are common off Iceland.

Do you think its brought a Harlequin Duck with it? Get looking at Stag Rocks....

This is a photo I took in 2005 on an town river in northern Iceland...

Friday, December 04, 2009


Steve Gale has inspired me.

To look at the literature that set me on a lifelong venture into natural history. Being an avid bibliophile, there have been so many books over the years its difficult to select from them all but a few are so evocative of childhood memories they are worthy of mention here.

It may suprise many who know me ( or not) to see that some of my great influences have not been from birding lore. For example, in Steve's list he included the great Collins Bird Guide. A masterpiece its true, but not one to inspire me I'm afraid. Its just a tool for use in the field and no more. I can't feel the wind or rain or see the moon when I delve into its pages.

No, what I'm on about here are some of the writings that take you to past places no longer with us, with a sense of field craft and quietness.

Saying that, this is what set the ball rolling. Heinzel, Fitter and Parslow was my first proper bird book. I was lucky to have been bought the first edition in 1972 I think, aged 8, from a shop in Seahouses. I remember opening the pages for the first time and seeing coloured plates of bird after bird with wonderful sounding names. I read it from cover to cover. How on earth I managed that I'll never know, the text is very dry indeed!

The Ladybird 'What to Look for in Spring' etc series with paintings by Tunnicliffe was well read. I particularly remember the autumn bonfire scene being looked down on by a Tawny Owl in the darkness...

It was the autumn greyness of Richard Richardsons plates that sold this to me...

Now for the proper stuff....

Ennions tales and drawings from Monks House was, and still is, my favourite. The local and historical aspect gives it a special place on the bookshelf even today.

Many of Denys Watkins-Pitchford's books have been read and re-read over the years. Does anyoneone set the scene better?

These three fishing books are by great writers too, Walmsley, Venables and Forbes let you see the seaweed fronds waving on the flood tide or the mist on a June dawn over a tench pool...

Pre-war poaching tales by the light of the moon. Old timers field craft...

The biography of the first 'famous' wildlife photographer. No digital images in Hosking's day. Includes the photo of the Tawny Owl that took his eye.

These and many others were all read while I was still at school...what an education. Apart from a few exceptions, I think it is the artwork as well as the great writing that made these books so enjoyable...

Birdwatch Magazine...

Can I just say thanks to you all who have contacted me to let me know that I am a wanted man! Apparently Birdwatch magazine have some illustrations to return to me after they have been away for some 10 years +. I have just made contact.

Thanks again....

Notice -


Northumberland & Tyneside Bird Club


Due to facilities at the Falcons Rugby Club not being available on 10th December, the next indoor meeting has had to be re-scheduled to WEDNESDAY 9TH DECEMBER.

The speaker and time for the meeting remain unchanged:



at 7:00pm

Apologies for any inconvenience