Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Strong variable SW 5-6, sunny, cool at first.

Down to Low Steads with Jane and Bunts this morning, had 12 Yellowhammers and a Stock Dove at a sheep trough. Nearby sitting in a field right next to the road, a Buzzard showed well.

In our garden later on I was pleased to find 2 Tree Sparrows with the House Sparrows on the seed feeder. These are the first I've seen in the garden. The female Blackcap was still around too.

This afternoon was mild and sunny with a light W breeze.

At Boulmer, 107+ Eiders were just off the village, many in full display. The calls of the males could be heard from quite a distance as they ooo-ed and arrr-ed like old biddies at a jumble sale! There aren't many ducks ( or birds at all for that matter) smarter than these drakes. They swelled their throat pouches then stretched their necks forward and tossed the head back to give the distinctive call.

A few other wildfowl were scattered around with them, 46 Mallards, 8 Shelducks, 10 Wigeon and 15 Red breasted Mergansers.

Also noted were - 83 Turnstones, 47 Grey Plover, 92 Oystercatchers, 76 Dunlin, 10 Knot, 2 Purple Sandpipers, 26 Bar tailed Godwit and 50 Sanderling. A single Guillemot was offshore and on the farmland, 5 Mistle Thrushes (though one of these may have been a fieldfare but they flew off before I got a decent look).

For the list today -

73. Buzzard
74. Guillemot
75. Mistle Thrush

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Another cracking day, bright and sunny with a light frost. Calm.

What a bird! This female Peregrine flew low over our heads this morning and landed in a field nearby. Double click on a pic and you can see its BTO ring on its right leg. After my efforts at Cresswell on Sunday, I'm pleased with these. I'm not a great raptor fan, as Pete pointed out, but to see one of these like this is tremendous. I like its executioners black hood. It certainly put the fear of god into the waders on the beach as it flew over.

Rob found a nice Great Northern Diver feeding just behind the haven this morning too. It was tricky to catch up with as it spent more time under water than on top. The first I've seen here since 2005 and the first one 'perched' so to speak.
On the beach, 60 + Sanderling.

Dunnock was finally added to the year list.

70. Great Northern Diver
71. Dunnock
72. Peregrine.

Monday, January 29, 2007

What a glorious afternoon. The wind has dropped off and the sun even has some warmth in it.

A couple of trips down Boulmer today had 70 Pinkfeet N, 125 Wigeon on the sea off Seaton Point, 6 Common Scoter N, and 2 Red throated Divers, 1N and 1S. 1 Grey Wagtail and 2 Meadow Pipits were on the seaweed feeding on swarms of black flies brought out by the warming sun. Two patch ticks today, wait for it,

68. Stock Dove
69. Feral Pigeon

Still no Dunnock, Fulmar or Guillemot...mind you, I haven't really put myself out for the Dunnock.

At home, the male and female Blackcap were on the fat balls briefly.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Cresswell Pond

The wind was strong from the West this morning and quite cool, however the cloud soon cleared into a nice sunny day.

I popped down the 'the bay' for a chat with the lads this morning, my first visit here this year. One or two good birds were here even though the wind and water levels conspired against us. Of note - 1 ad female Peregrine watched on three occasions both perched and in flight, once mobbing a Buzzard, 1 daylight hunting Barn Owl, 1 red head Smew, 9+ Shovelers, 4+ Little Grebes and 2 Whooper Swans arrived from the south.

The wildfowl gave a colourful show on the little pond in the morning sunshine, with drake Wigeon, Shoveler and Teal all competing for 'man of the match'. Shovelers just about take it, nudged into the lead by that drake taking a pop at a coot for no apparent reason.

Him'n Her .

At least two Blackcaps were feeding on the sea buckthorn berries next to Alnmouth Monastery this morning. Seems like a good winter for them this year.

Dunstan Steads.

At 3.30pm a nice Barn Owl was hunting near the car. I didnt have my scope so I took a snap through my bins (it should have gone in the bin.) You can just about see what it is. My fourth this week.

Saturday 27th January 2007

This morning was sunny and cool with a light W3.

No new birds on the patch this morning. I walked both north and south with Bunty before lunchtime. There were 6 Shelduck, 30+ Wigeon flew S, 5 Red breasted Mergansers, 18 Golden Plover, 18+ Ringed Plover, 1 Purple Sandpiper, 20+ Sanderling, 17 Bar tailed Godwit, 3+ Rock Pipit and 6 Stonechats, already the males were having territorial disputes.

A short walk at nearby Ratcheugh had 1 Buzzard, 5 Goldfinch, 2+ Tree Sparrow and 4+ Grey Partridges.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Woke this morning to find a cold NW2 and a light dusting of snow, the first this winter.

No birding today, but out on Sunday with JWR and Rob. We did my BTO Low Tide count between Foxton Golf Club and Boulmer village. These low tide surveys are hopeless. At low tide there are at least two or three areas of rocky skeers stretching up to half a mile or more out to sea. This, plus the assistance of two dozen bait diggers and a hatful of sea anglers fishing a competition made counting very difficult if not impossible.

On the Boulmer patches we had -

Oystercatcher 34
Ringed Plover 55
Grey Plover 7
Sanderling 70
Purple Sandpiper 2
Dunlin 101
Bar tailed Godwit 9
Curlew 5
Redshank 59
Turnstone 74
Cormorant 4
Shag 4
Shelduck 3
Mallard 2
Eider 55
Goldeneye 1

Later we did Johns Plover Survey near Eglingham. Although we did not see any of the main target species we had a nice Raven fly over 'cronking' his guts out, 100+ Fieldfare, 6 Redwing, 51 Yellowhammers at a sheep trough, 4 Buzzards, and 30+ Skylarks. In the wood nearby there were 2 Bullfinches, a Lesser Redpoll and a Treecreeper.

In the evening we checked out Boulmer village very briefly and found 80+ Eiders feeding very close to the beach were the wave action disturbed the rotten weed again.

I've just seen Darrens notes for StMary's (see links). His sea watch has me a bit envious...pity I cant get out til the weekend. I fancied that this change to a cool northerly would give us a change in birds. Ah well...

Saturday, January 20, 2007

When a storm is threatening...

3.30pm Boulmer. Took Bunt for a walk this afternoon to the beach. The tide was fully in and very high. It was lapping rotten seaweed and had attracted a thousand birds to feed. Mostly Black headed and Common Gulls, but also 32 Eiders, 15 Mallards, 56+ Redshank and 60+ Turnstones. Checked through the gulls but could find nothing unusual. A Sparrowhawk kept flushing everying into the air making a dramatic picture against the leaden sky.

Very early spring.

A nice display of Winter Aconites and a few Snowdrops in flower in Denwick churchyard certainly brightened up a foul day. Usually the first flowers of the year, I'm always pleased to see them come into bloom.


Another day of gale force westerlies today with some nice sunshine.

I thought I would try to get a photo of the Blackcap on my feeders (I'm not starting again...) today and was very suprised to find that it has changed sex! No sign of last weeks male but this female seems more obliging although it wouldnt come near with the window open so this is through closed double glazing again.

Blackcaps are generally aged by ringers on the shape of the tail feathers. Close inspection of this one shows that they are quite pointed at the tips making it a first winter bird. Adults have broader more rounded tips. There is also some contrast between the olive looking unmoulted juvenile greater coverts and the greyer adult inner greater coverts.

Monday, January 15, 2007

I forgot to mention yesterday that I dipped out on the chap with the rock. I wonder if he returned it?

Rob had an adult Yellow legged Gull at Boulmer today.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Blowing a Hooley.

Top - Boulmer - Looks nice, but isn't.
Next two - Wind shaken Grey Wagtail on the beach.
Bottom two - Missed the Blackcap again.

The weather itself was about the highlight today. I saw that the forecast was for a windy day but I wasn't expacting it to be quite as bad as it was. The wind was a WSW 8-9 gale, making walking quite uncomfortable and it was very difficult to stand steady in the open. The saving grace though was that it was bright an sunny, but cold.

Spent the morning doing my Winter Plover survey in the area. Not many farmland plovers to count so checked through the hoards of pipefish guzzling gulls to see if any scarcer species were present. There weren't.
Of note today were 1 Purple Sandpiper, 50 Sanderling, 34 Ringed Plover, 100 Curlew, 1 female Merlin, 9+ Knot, 1 Greylag flew N, 1 Razorbill flew N ( like a rocket), 4 Red breasted Merganser and 20 Mallard.
Back at home, the Blackcap made an appearance again but vanished as soon as the camera was set up. Typical.

66. Purple Sandpiper
67. Greylag Goose

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Fat Balls, Great Tits and a cock....


Yes, its good to see the 'carry on' spirit lingers.
I was pleased to find this male Blackcap hanging on my fat balls this morning
(Oh stop it missus, please). The photo is exceptionally crap even by my meagre standards because it was taken through a closed window with a steamed up scope. When I opened the window and demisted the scope, the Blackcap decided to play hard to get. Probably because a female Sparrowhawk was loitering around the garden. I might have another go tomorrow when I have more time.

At Boulmer today the weather was dull and drizzly with a strong SW6, resulting in Bunty and me getting a proper soaking.

There wasn't much to see because of the weather, but 6 Whooper Swans flew S and a couple of Coal Tits and a Willow Tit were in the caravan site gorse. 3 Stonechats were on the edge of the beach.

64. Whooper Swan
65. Coal Tit

Above - Now thats what you want on your fat balls - a Middle Spotted Woodpecker! ( Dont panic the photo is from Germany )See for details of photographer etc.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Rock Star

Well, what a performance that was. I tried to change the 'skin' of the blog and ended up losing my links, hit counter and stuff. Never again!

Anyway, on the local BBC news tonight there was a bit about a chap called He yun Chang who picked a rock, about rugby ball sized, from the beach at Boulmer in October and has since carried it on his shoulders right around the British coastline. He is due to put it back on Boulmer beach on Sunday this week. Apparently it has all been done in the name of performance / endurance art.

Three and a half months to carry a boulder around Great Britain eh,thats nothing, I've carried the whole of Boulmer around my neck for 18 months!!!!

Back to more serious matters, the first Song Thrush of the year was singing here on 5th a whole 12 days earlier than last year. Spring is just around the corner...

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Today the weather was fair in the morning, with a cool moderate SW5. 60% cloud cover increasing to overcast and drizzle after lunch.

The morning started with a check of the Seaton Point. Rob had a White Wagtail there yesterday. Although there were 6 Alba wagtails two looked like Pieds ' yarrelli' and 4 were likely candidates for White Wagtail, 'alba'. No two looked alike. Although the four were significantly different in appearance to the male and female Pieds nearby, I think only one could be described as 'probably a White Wagtail'. Far better to wait until April!

We then checked up the north end as far as Low Steads and had 8+ Razorbills, 1 female Common Scoter flew south, 4+ Red breasted Mergansers, 8+ Pied Wagtails, 53 Golden Plover, 3+ Stonechat, the Snow Bunting photographed below, 1 female Long-tailed Duck with 7 Goldeneye in Howdiemont Bay, 1 ad Gannet and 1 Red throated Diver flew N.

54. Razorbill
55. Common Scoter
56. Golden Plover
57. Song Thrush
58. Snow Bunting
59. Long-tailed Duck
60. Linnet
61. Goldfinch
62. Gannet
63. Collared Dove

In the afternoon Jane and myself and Bunty walked through the Howick Long Walk. It was very quiet with only a flock of finches containing 30 each Goldfinch and Greenfinch of note.

Saturday 6th January 2007

Dull, calm, drizzle.

Out dog walking again this morning. I checked the area of gorse near the small caravan site. A Willow Tit was 'buzzing' from cover, only showing itself once. Then, a male Merlin dashed over in hot persuit of a sparrow or greenfinch. Just when I thought that the quarry had 'bought it', it dropped like a stone into a garden leaving the Merlin to overshoot and look elsewhere for its meal. Nice to see a little bit of quality added to the winter birding.

On the list today -

47. Willow Tit
48. Merlin
49. Kestrel
50. Greenfinch
51. Great Tit
52. Lapwing
53. Meadow Pipit

Last night on my way home from a late shift at work, a Barn Owl was on a fence post near the Widdrington Mile Road end, and a Fox was lurking on the verge nearby.

Friday 5th January 2007

Drizzle, dull, overcast, sunny and mild later. S3.

Out with Bunt this morning added the following to the list.
33. House Sparrow
34. Magpie
35. Robin
36. Stonechat
37. Red throated Diver
38. Pink footed Goose 5 flew south
39. Yellowhammer 12+ in stubble
40. Rook
41. Heron
42. Pheasant
43. Tree Sparrow 5+ in stubble
44. Grey Partridge 4
45. Reed Bunting
46. Chaffinch

Also off Seaton Point I male Eider x Mallard hybrid. This bird is usually present in Amble harbour, but I have seen it up here before.

A check of the Quarry produced 150 Tufted Duck, 2 Pochard, 1 Goldeneye, 2 Buzzard, 12+ Blackbirds, 4 Redwing, 3 Coal Tit, 10 Meadow Pipits in one flock. No sign of any Scaup today?

Snow Bunting

This nice male Snow Bunting was feeding along the beach near Longhoughton Steel just north of Boulmer village this morning.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Above - Bar tailed Godwits with Knot and other waders.

This morning at 7.30am Redwings could be heard 'seeping' overhead in the darkness at home and on my way to work a Woodcock flew over the road in the car headlights at Amble. Could these be newly arrived birds or winterers moving around? I know Woodcock are nocturnal feeders but what are Redwings doing high overhead when it is far from daylight?

I think that our most common ideas of migration seasons may be too restrictive. If our regular winter birds find a mild climate without a sea crossing say, in the low countries, what is to stop them just moving through as the food supply over there dwindles or the weather is more suitable to migrate. Will global warming force October into January?

Right thats it, I'm off to get a Pallas's this weekend!

I see another belated first for Britain has been reported today. A couple of weeks ago a Glaucous-winged Gull was present for two days in Gloucestershire at a tip where it was trapped and ringed. Nice record, but a pity it wasn't available to the masses. You know, I bet its still around there somewhere...
See the photos on

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year

Well there goes 2006, so take a deep breath and start again. Here goes...
Only popped to Boulmer for an hour yesterday morning. The weather was bright and sunny with a strong W6 and very cold.

No counts of species today only a list of those present to start the ball rolling.
Cast in order of appearance.
1. Herring Gull
2. Pied Wagtail
3. Sanderling
4. Oystercatcher
5. Dunlin
6. Redshank
7. Grey Plover
8. Bar-tailed Godwit
9. Ringed Plover
10. Jackdaw
11. Carrion Crow
12. Black headed Gull
13. Rock Pipit
14. Wren
15. Blackbird
16. Grey Wagtail
17. Starling
18. Shelduck
19. Blue Tit
20. Sparrowhawk
21. Curlew
22. Mallard
23. Cormorant
24. Red breasted Merganser
25. Teal
26. Eider
27. Knot
28. Great black backed Gull
29. Common Gull
30. Shag
31. Wigeon
32, Woodpigeon

That was a bit boring I suppose but a couple of weekends will thin out the commoner residents. Lists are only interesting to those who watch the same site. As this is the first full blogging year I just fancied doing a running total rather than the list at the year end.

I wonder how 2007 will differ from last year? If there's one thing for sure, it will be different and unpredictable (all years are!). What would I like to see? Well, trying not to be too greedy, I would like just a good bird or two to keep the interest going through the year. A Bluethroat in spring would be nice. ( That's put paid to that one. Everyone knows you never get what you wish for in birding...)

Back to New Years day. We took a walk up the Harthope Valley where the wind was not as strong. The only noteworthy sightings were two Ravens mobbed by a Merlin as they flew along the south ridge,and a nice Red Squirrel next to the car then running along a dry stone wall.

Of interest to any old timers out there who birded Druridge in the 80's I bumped into Frank Hopkin at Back Woodburn, in the Harthope. It was nice to see him and his wife fit and well and still looking for raptors as if the last 20 years had never happened.

Happy New Year and good birding to all in 2007.