Friday, March 30, 2007

Above - male Wheatear. Not todays bird, too dull and too fast to get a photo! This is from last April on Boulmer beach.

Working lates today so that gave me a chance to have a look around the patch with Bunts this morning. A cold NE breeze was blowing and it's hazy and overcast.

Walking from the lifeboat hut, north, around Longhoughton Steel and back produced very little, except my first Wheatear of spring. As usual it was a male, flushed from the track across the sheep grazing and onto the shore. The first one is always a spirit lifter at this time of year. No doubt Sandwich Tern or Sand Martin will be next. Hope I'm proved wrong and a Crane or White Stork drops in!

A seawatch for 15 minutes had 110 Gannet, 150 Auks, 2 Puffins, 20 Kittiwake, 5 Fulmar. On the beach were 29 Knot and 10 Shelduck.

91. Wheatear.
92. Puffin.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

New Link.

I've had a comment from Dave 'Stroppyjock' Slater below. He is in the forces in Iraq and has a blog showing his birding experiences. Have a look on my links and give him some support...Just remember, when things are quiet, would you rather be with him looking at Graceful Prinias or staring at your local patch? I know where I would rather be...

All the best Dave...

Monday, March 26, 2007

Blast from the Past.

I thought I would do a 'golden oldies' section about once a month (when I remember) to show a few drawings and to remind us what can turn up in the month ahead. This is just a scanned page from an old diary, so nothing fancy, just a pen and pencil drawing. It shows the male White spotted race of Bluethroat that was found at St Mary's Island, Whitley Bay, on the beach. This was a bird I wanted to see from childhood and can still remember an old picture in a book I once had. Although just like the commoner ( though now rare enough) Red spotted Bluethroat, this race was the first I had heard of as a kid, so I was very keen to see this individual.

On the few occasions this race arrives in Britain, it is usually about a month or more earlier than its Scandinavian relative and its still the only one I've had. I hope it doesn't annoy some more recent St Mary's patch watchers! Anyway, they turn up about once every twenty years at St Mary's..., the last county record before this was one there in 1981!

Click for a bigger image...

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Back to work...

Oh well thats the hols over. Back to work tomorrow. Great....


Above - Top/Second - Daffs in flower at the end of the 'Long Walk' Howick.
Third - The view south towards Sugar Sands and Howdiemont Bay. Thats Boulmer in the distance.
Fourth - Jane and Bunty on coast path, Howick.
Fifth - Interpretation Board near archeological excavations.
Bottom - The beginning of a Long tailed Tit's nest next to the path. See the lichens and cobwebs.

A lovely day, sunny with a cool light E3 and a hint of haze at sea.

Combed Boulmer this morning for migrants but failed. The wind this morning first thing was a light NE, possibly blocking any northerly passerine passage.
A seawatch for an hour from Seaton Point had 18 Fulmars, 32 Kittiwakes, 22 Gannets, 2 Red throated Divers, 4 Shags, 2 Common Scoter, 3 Red breasted Mergansers, 2 Razorbills and 1 Guillemot all going north. On the rocks/ shore were 24 Grey Plovers, 8 Purple Sandpipers, 10 Bar tailed Godwits and a good count of 27 Knot.

There were no new small birds but I checked the caravan sites and fields, ever optimistic. The best were 1+ Willow Tit and 2 pairs of Tree Sparrows at nest boxes.

At the Quarry, still 1 male Scaup, 3 Chiffchaffs singing and a Buzzard overhead.

This afternoon we had a walk along the coast from home up to Howick. The daffodils at the Howick Stream were fantastic, a photo can't do them justice. We went up past the reconstructed mesolithic teepee ( as seen on 'Time Team' and 'Coast' on TV) although it has now collapsed into a pile of birch and turf. On the way, a Long tailed Tit was nest building next to the track in some tall gorse. The nest, although only half built, on its way up, unlike the teepee, was already built to perfection. Before completion how may cobwebs and scraps of lichen will be woven to make the little elastic structure, and where on earth its going to find a lining of white feathers I can't imagine. I once saw a picture of a LTT on a dead pigeon on the road pulling out feathers to line its nest. I should drop it a carcass nearby...

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Sunny and mild this morning, calm. This afternoon, overcast with a light N3. Pleasant.

Two walks at Boulmer today with Little G, ( she's a little get:-). We walked from the village north to Longhoughton Steel this morning and we did Seaton Point this afternoon, hoping for a Wheatear. The spring -like feel 'smelled right' for one but we dipped. While I'm on about what we didn't see, there were no Stonechats either, very strange. They are definitely on the decline. A couple of years back there were about 8 pairs on the stretch we walked today. More positive for Bunty, she managed to find, and eat, her first dead, dried Snake Pipefish for several weeks!

Of note - 123 Sanderling, 1 female Merlin seen twice, 6 Goldeneye and an imm Mute Swan flew S along the shore. A lot of birds singing this morning at the north end - 2 Robins, 1 Linnet, 2+ Meadow Pipits and 3+ Skylarks at least.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Above - Male Lapland Bunting, Bells Links, Druridge - 22nd March 2007.

See photos below and compare. I haven't done much drawing recently, I think I'll get back into it...

Boulmer today, sunny, light NE2, pleasant.
Still very little in the way of new birds. 80+ Wigeon flew into Seaton Point from the south and 15 Ringed Plovers were on the beach. Thats it.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Poor effort...

Above - Lapland Bunting. No its not a mystery bird photo. If you squint and use your imagination...

A drizzly, misty, cold breezy day. Not a lot going for it.

I took a trip down to Cresswell Pond to meet up with NF and ADMc this morning and to have a look for the male Lapland Bunting that has taken up residence in the Shorelark field.

Arriving from the north at Cresswell was an ordeal in itself. I've seen the water levels high enough to flood the road many times in the past, but not like this. As I attempted to drive through, the car made a funny gurgling sound that gave me flashbacks of the time me and JWR were nearly washed off Holy Island causeway in a Mini Metro...but thats another story. Back to the present, I made it across without even getting my wellies wet! We had a laugh though when a jogger tried to negotiate the waves and, midway across, a fuel tanker ploughed through, the resulting wake almost washed him up the dunes.

With there being very little on the pond, a Peregrine fly by was the best here so off we went to the links to look for the Lap ( we drove the long way via Ellington!).

The birds in the field were found easily from the road but remained flighty and often elusive. The Lapland Bunting was first seen bathing in a muddy puddle with 30+ Twite before being flushed by a speeding car on the road. As I was setting up the camera, NF managed to get the Lap and the Shorelark in the same view, though both flew off before I got this priveledge.

I rattled off a single shot before the bunting took flight, the results leave a lot to be desired. You'd think I had dropped the camera and it had gone off...remember those images of the Loch Ness monster?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Top - View towards Cheviot ( on the right) and Hedgehope ( on the left).
Centre - View towards Holy Island, Lindisfarne.
Bottom - Roe Buck.
Click for bigger images.

What a day. Sunny crystal clear with a cold NE 2. A light covering of snow soon melted during the day.

Down to Boulmer first thing and my first summer visitor on the patch ( honest). A Chiffchaff was in bushes along the edge of the golfcourse for five minutes before moving on west. Along the runways, 10+ Meadow Pipits, 2 Reed Bunting, 2 Grey Partridges and a few singing Skylarks.

Late morning I ventured off to the north of the county to look for a displaying Goshawk. All I could manage in the time available was 4+ Buzzards and 2 displaying Sparrowhawks. On the way home I stopped at Denwick where I bumped into 4 Roe Deer resting in the wood. There were two bucks, one in velvet, one clean, and two does. The photo above is through my binoculars hand held hence the quality. I tried to get a better image by fetching my scope from the car, but on my return they had moved off.

A brief seawatch at Boulmer at high tide this afternoon had 190 Kittiwakes North per hour, 250 Gannets Nph, 50 Fulmar Nph and 3 Common Scoter. 170 Curlew were in the fields.

90. Chiffchaff.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Pied Wagtail

An adult female White Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba yarrellii with more Pieds. See Svensson 1992 for details of splitting the two races of 'Pied' Wagtail. Edited 2021

Pied Wagtail

One of ten on the beach with the 'tree pipit'...Male Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba yarrelli

A Cautionary tale to all Birders...

Weather even worse today with northerly gales , hail and snow showers. The sea was mountainous.

This morning I took Bunts around Seaton Point. On the shore I had a strange pipit with a load of wagtails and Rock Pipits. I thought it looked quite unlike a Meadow Pipit, being creamy buff below and quite 'contrasty'. I pondered Tree Pipit then remembered the snow showers and promptly decided to leave well alone. Of course it was a Meadow Pipit...

After doing some chores and having a trip to Morpeth I got home at about 1pm. There was a message on the pager saying that the Shorelark and Lap Bunting were still at Cresswell and, in brackets, there was a Tree Pipit! That was enough for me. I knew that bird this morning was different, so I gave RBA a call and reported my Tree Pipit too!

No sooner had I done this I thought that no one was ever going to believe a TP as early as this with these weather conditions so I set off to get a photo. Sure enough, the birds were still there and, yes, so was the pipit doing its thing, tail pumping an all. Scope was set up and the target focussed, all I had to do was take the snap. Until I realised that this bird was indeed the commoner relative, all be it a neat and tidy one.

Oh no, thats the reputation in tatters. What to do now? Easy. Use the two bird theory and say that the Tree Pipit had gone and there was only a Meadow Pipit there, after all, no one would know. Send the record in and Bobs your proverbial.

How many times do people actually do that I wonder? Well, not me that's for sure, so the next message to come out gave the news, 'The reported tree pipit at Seaton Point is a Meadow Pipit' Oh the shame of it all.

Excuses, er, none. Except that my bird did look different, I think it was one of these western type mipits, showing a very buff tone below. Does the race whistleri really exist?

After all that I decided to have a seawatch from the point. There was less movement than yesterday with Gannets only at about 60 per hour north, and a couple of Fulmars. Then, at only 50yds out, a juvenile Iceland Gull slowly drifted out of a snow squall and carried on north. This is my first here and will do very nicely after the Xmas Glaucous Gull. The problem with seawatching is that you have no chance of a photo so I knocked this sketch up so you get the gist of it.

89. Iceland Gull

Monday, March 19, 2007

Make over.

I like this new blogger. You can shove pictures where you like (?) and I didn't even lose my links.

Today the wind is a strong, bitterly cold N7. Its mostly bright and sunny with some flurries of snow and hail.

After a while getting my head around blogger changes, I went for a seawatch to Boulmer. This isn't the best time of year for this activity, but you never know what might turn up. Except in this case you could probably hazard a guess...

The only birds moving at sea were Gannets at a rate of about 150 per hour north and a party of 13 Dark bellied Brent Geese. Today is quite a big tide so the waves were lapping right up to the village. Sheltering from the weather were 142 Eiders, 5 Red breasted Mergansers, 35 Knot, 9 Bar tailed Godwit and a couple of Purple Sandpipers.

After this I took Bunty for a more sheltered excursion to Howick Woods. In here were Nuthatch singing, 2 male Bullfinches an 1+ Marsh Tit.

I have just been jumping about on blog links and have had a good laugh at this blog - "Raised by Chaffinches" -

88. Brent Goose.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Above - Top three Shelduck pair, bottom, Redshanks.

Today was bright and sunny but a non starter thanks to the gale force 8 NW wind. And it was very cold too.

I walked the north end of Boulmer around Longhoughton Steel to Low Steads and back with little to show for it other than 30+ Linnets, 14 Rock Pipits inc 1 littoralis , 11 Yellowhammers, 1 Goldeneye and a good number of Turnstone and Redshank feeding near the rotten weed.

The bottom of the cliff was the only sheltered spot, so I waited for the tide to push these Shelducks and Redshanks within range. As there was no chance of any spring migrants I called it a day after only a couple of hours out.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

New Blog.

Mmmm... I'm pondering a new look to my blog. Or even a new blog. With a new name and everything. But I'm not sure.

I have just upgraded this blog to the new blogger and on its templates you can customise them to look like what ever you like, but I'm not sure how easy that is in practice.

Any ideas?

Oh yes back to the job in hand.

At Boulmer today the weather began quite benign and spring like, but by late afternoon there was a bitterly cold SW6 blowing. The doldrums continue regarding bird sightings. Hopefully when I'm on holiday this week I might get something of interest.

The best today was 127 Turnstones, 78 Redshanks, and 7 Purple Sandpipers on the tideline infront of the seawatch seat. I think I'll give it a good search tomorrow morning depending on the weather...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Red Deer

Remember those Red Deer I photographed a couple of weeks back? Kevin O'Hara from Northumberland Wildlife Trust comments as follows -

"Hi Stewart, thanks for the photo. As far as I am aware this is the first confirmed record of this particular batch of red deer in the county. Their origin is slightly contentious. They are allegedly releases deliberate or other from the duke of Northumberlands Hulne park estate in Alnwick. As far as I am aware these are the only other red deer at large in the county at present. What their impact will be and whether they survive is another matter but we will have to wait and see if they proliferate. They are indeed an indigenous spp. to the north east but have been absent for many years due to hunting and sheep farming. Without any natural predators they can have very damaging effects on young trees and heather moorland as in parts of Scotland where their numbers are at unsustainable levels. I think we are a long way from that but if they were released on purpose it may prove to be a very irresponsible act given the already low level of tree cover in this county and the poor state of the uplands. Nice photo though did you notice if they were all the same sex. I suspect they may be as hinds and stags tend to stay apart, but there may be some male youngsters in amongst them."

Kevin then comments - "Ignore the last sentence a closer look at the photo reveals some antlers in the right hand corner. So there we have it a possible breeding population. Listen out for roaring stags this September."

Very interesting. I'll be looking for them next time I'm over that way...

There's Good News! and there's Bad News...

Well, when I checked on the little yellow fellow this morning I was very suprised to see him up on a perch, looking around and calling "tzick" every few seconds. He looked very perky and, to be honest, I was relieved that he was alive at all. Most small casualties like this aren't strong enough to stand any trauma.

So, at 7.30, I packed him complete with budgie cage into the car and headed off to where I found him. Although he still looked fine, I didn't see him flying around as I would have expected. Anyway, I took the cage to the edge of a set a side field and lifted the wire top from the base, hoping he would fly off into the hedge. Instead, he made a dash for it, flopping into the grass and running away down the track, calling as he went.

I think he either has wing strain or possibly some brain damage, but he was quite fast enough to make off through the hedge and into the field. I decided not to cause any more stress by chasing after him ( a few more days in convalescence might have helped), and let him get on with it. Hopefully he'll sort things out today and get his flight back or else I fear his days are numbered. Its a jungle out there!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


This poor Yellowhammer was squatting in the roadside near home this afternoon. It has obviously had a near miss from a car. It was undamaged and was able to grip with its feet, so, as I write this, it is in an old budgie cage in our shower room where its warm and quiet for the evening. If it survives the night I may be able to release it where I found it in the morning. Fingers crossed.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Top - Howick Pond.
Centre /Bottom - Common Toads in mating groups scattered around the pond edge.

Above - Little Grebe feeding on Howick Pond. There are usually a couple of pairs here. This one was filling up on Sticklebacks.

Top - Lungwort Pulmonaria officinalis, a naturalised plant.
Centre - Primrose.
Bottom - Lesser Periwinkle .

In flower in Howick Woods.
A better day today with some bright, warm sunshine though the cool breeze remains.

Down at Boulmer first bird of the day was a patch tick. A Moorhen was creeping around the field next to the tiny pines pond. Only my second here, the first was in the same spot at the same time last year.

A Pink footed Goose was in the rape field with the Mute Swans, but it was otherwise quiet.

I had two pairs of Buzzards on territory today only within a mile or two of home. One male was doing some tremendous display flights with heavy deep flapping wings like a Short eared Owl before being joined by a large Peregrine. Both soared a while before the falcon moved on. Later I saw three Buzzards together disputing their territorial boundaries.

In Howick Woods the first Chiffchaff of the year was singing well, nearby were Marsh Tit and Treecreeper while on the pond Little Grebes were trilling and 5 Herons were nest building. The pond margins had plenty of Toads in mating frenzies and a Bumblebee bumbled around some early Primroses.

Very pleasant.

87. Moorhen.

Sunday 11th March 2007

Above - Up the Harthope Valley at Langleeford with views up to Cheviot.

Today was windy with a strong S6 to W6 later.

JWR and myself checked out Eglingham Great Wood early on then up to the Harthope Valley via a short stop at Ros Castle.

At Eglingham we had 1 Red Squirrel and 6 Roe Deer plus another Red Squirrel later on the way home ran across the road then hid in a hole in a stone wall. When we stopped it peered out at us before moving to more suitable habitat in the woods. One of these days one will hang around long enough for me to get a picture.

Also here were 2 + Lesser Redpolls and 3+ Siskins feeding in Larches, 1 Barn Owl flushed out of a pine wood!, 3 Buzzards, 1 Redwing and 50+ Linnets.

At the Harthope Valley winter still had a good grip of things, all we noted were 6+ Mistle Thrush, 3+ Grey Wagtail, 1 Dipper and 4 Buzzards. It won't belong before the hills and woods here alive with the songs of Redstarts, Ring Ouzels and Tree Pipits. I'll be back...

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Beach

Above - Seaton Point beach on Saturday afternoon. As you can see, not a place for the crowds! Plenty of room for a rough terrier to get sand blasted while harassing Oystercatchers...
( Click on image for a larger version)

All quiet

Above - Male Blackcap and a Chaffinch, both in the garden. Photo's taken through a closed window...

Windy this afternoon with a strong S6, but it is quite sunny.

Two visits to Boulmer today with just about nothing to note. Knot had increased to 11 but other than that everything is keeping a low profile, probably due to a combination of the weather and the windsurfers in the haven. For me this is one of the worst times of the year for birding. A lot of winterers have moved on and its another month before the summer visitors arrive.

In the garden the male Blackcap has returned, and I've cut the grass for the first time this year.

This date is traditionally when I start looking for a singing Chiffchaff. Up here our spring migrants are always much later than those in the south. We usually get a Sand Martin or Wheatear around about the 18th, but our main spring arrival doesnt really start until the second week of April. I'm looking forward to it.

Friday, March 09, 2007

On late shift today, so walked Bunty along from Boulmer to Longhoughton Steel and back. On route we bumped into this young Grey Seal lying at the high tide mark. Before he noticed us he seemed quite happy scratching and sunning himself, so I took one photo and left him to wait for the tide.

The weather is much better than expected today with lovely sunshine, but a cool , strong westerly breeze. Along the shore were 14 Shelducks, 12+ Rock Pipits including two Scandinavian littoralis birds. From now they become identifiable as they come into breeding pumage, in the winter they are just like the British race petrosus. A group of 7 Knot were on the beach and 6 Yellowhammers and 5 Pied Wagtails were in the blackthorn nearby.

Popped to Alnwick to stock up on wild bird seed and on the way a Stoat slinked across the road. Great little animals, but this one needs his wits as they aren't too popular in this area with the local keepers.

Above - Longhoughton Quarry.

On the way back a quick check of the Quarry had the 3 Scaup still, now in adult male plumage, but only 26 Tufted Duck and 1 Pochard. The rest are probably off to find breeding territories.