Sunday, April 29, 2007


Above -
Top two - Grasshopper Warbler reeling , Newton Pool.
Dunlin in summer plumage, Boulmer.
Swallow investigating an old shed, Boulmer.

The north easterly breeze contines today making the coast quite dull and cool.

This morning met up with ST to catch up on donkey's years worth of chat. We grew up as neighbours in Pegswood and lost touch some years back. Good to see him doing well.

ST was absolutely dazzled by the avian delights on offer at Boulmer today (?). The patch was absolutely still with very little to raise a binocular to. Good enough to make an appearance in the notebook were 1 Wheatear, 1 Moorhen, 2 Whimbrel on Seaton Point beach and 4 Red breasted Merganser flew north.

From here we gave Newton Pool a check then on to the Long Nanny bay to see if any Little Terns had arrived. They hadn't. At the pond 3+ Sedge Warblers and a couple of Grasshopper Warblers were singing well. The Gropper, above, showed quite well out in the open for a while.

Onwards to Monks house where the Garganey from last night was hiding with the Nanny Little Terns and all the stuff from Boulmer ( thats right, we dipped). A few Shovelers were active chasing around in a mating frenzy. 1 Wheatear was in the dunes and a Yellow Wagtail called once but remained unseen.

This afternoon Jane, Bunty and I had a drive west along the River Aln past Whittingham. I was on a small road that was totally new to me at Eslington. 4+ male Redstarts sang and showed over about a mile stretch of old roadside trees. Tremendous birds, I'll definately try on a brighter day for a photo.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Late Daffs

Above - Pheasant's Eye or Poet's Narcissus Narcissus poeticus ( or majalis ).

This is a very scarce naturalised species. It flowers much later than most Daffodils, these ones have only just opened this week. This colony (?) is in Denwick Quarry near Alnwick.

A quick sea watch today at Boulmer had only common species in good numbers. The best of the bunch were 3 Arctic Terns and 2 Red throated Divers N.

This morning I had a Whitethroat singing near the caravan site but the constant buzzing by the RAF Helicopters kept it hidden from view. Also around were 2 Tree Sparrows, 1 House Martin and a Lesser Whitethroat.

108. Whitethroat
109. Arctic Tern

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Last evening on Boulmer beach in front of the FBI, 5 White Wagtails and a male Wheatear were noteworthy. Quite a large flock of Ringed Plover and Dunlins flew off before I could get a number, 9 Knot were still here.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Newton Pool.

Top- Pink footed Geese
Second - Moorhen
Third /Fourth - Mallard
Fifth - Low Newton by the Sea

Despite the BBC forecast, this morning was bright and sunny with a light SW2. Later cloud came over from the West with showers ( BBC was right).

At Boulmer this morning, 6 Wheatears, 3 Whimbrel flew S calling as usual. I wonder how many we would record if these birds stayed silent?, 1 Sedge Warbler singing, 3 Grey Plover, 4 pairs of Grey Partridge.

I took a trip up to Newton Pool, my nearest bit of proper wetland. Its no East Chevington but it has a history of attracting good birds. Small but perfectly formed I say! On the pool were 20 late Pink footed Geese all huddled up avoiding the local Mute Swans and Greylags, 1 Little Grebe and 1 Goldeneye. In the dune scrub were 1+ Grasshopper Warbler, 5+ Willow Warblers, 1 Blackcap, 2 Sedge Warblers, 5+ Reed Buntings and a few Linnets, one watched nest building in the dead bracken. Not a bad show of migrants.

106. Whimbrel.
107. Sedge Warbler.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Chevvy Chat.

Above - Male Whinchat, East Chevington Pools. He's a nice 'un

Out early again today. Rain was quite steady from 06.10 - 08.00. Overcast, mild with a SW3.

I started the morning off at Boulmer, seawatching from the lifeboat car park trying to stay dry. 16 Black tailed Godwits flew north about half a mile offshore. Although distant, they were very welcome as they are barely annual here.
7 Knot were on the beach, one coming into breeding plumage, sporting a brick red face and some blackish scapulars making it look like a giant red necked stint.

A Lesser Whitethroat was rattling its song from the tiny bramble thicket in the car park. After some manoeuvring it showed quite well. A check of other spots in the village, caravan site and golf course roadside scrub produced a small fall of spring migrants consisting of another 2 Lesser Whitethroats and 9+ Willow Warblers.

I thought today would be a good day to pop down to East Chevington for a chat with the lads and to see what this rain has dropped in. The rest of the morning was spent looking around the pools and scrub and it appeared that several new birds had arrived overnight. There were -
3 Lesser Whitethroats ( seems like a good arrival of these birds), 15 Wheatears, 4 Sedge Warblers, 3+ Grasshopper Warblers, 1 male Yellow Wagtail flew over, the worlds brightest male Whinchat was flycatching from a wire fence, 2 drake Garganey were fighting over the small south pools, 1 female Ruddy Duck ( not yet shot), 2 Little Grebe, 3 Great crested Grebe, hundreds of hirundines over the north pool with numbers very difficult to assess, maybe 200+ Sand Martins with a few Swallows and House Martins, 4 Whooper Swan flew N, 45+ Black tailed Godwits of the icelandic form, 2 Goldeneye and 13 Red throated Divers on the sea.

And for the Boulmer list today -
104. Black tailed Godwit.
105. Lesser Whitethroat.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Above - BH Wagtail notes.

Mild with a light SW breeze. Overcast and dull.

Plenty of summer migrants around now. Yesterday morning 4 Sandwich and 3 Common Terns were off Longhoughton Steel, where 5 Common Scoter, 2 Red throated Divers and 1 Goldeneye all flew N. A single male Wheatear was on the beach.

Today 2 Willow Warblers were singing in the golfcourse roadside scrub. I heard a Lesser Whitethroat sub-singing in here too but just couldn't clinch it. 5 male and 1 female Wheatears were on the runways, at least two of the males being Greenland birds.
Up at the village, a belting male Blue headed Wagtail was my first 'yellow' wag of the year, feeding on the tideline. Its call was subtely different from our own Yellow Wagtails in that it was more buzzy, wader like. 4 House Martins, 2 Sand Martins and several Swallows were around the cottages, 3 Red throated Divers were on the sea and a group of waders consisted of 40 Ringed Plover, 35+ Redshank and 22+ Dunlin, many of which were in black bellied summer plumage.

Later on a quick check of Alnmouth wetland and river had 1 male Goosander, 3 Willow Warblers, 3 Blackcaps, 2 Chiffchaff, a pair of Bullfinches and a few Mallard, Teal and Coot.

I didn't get around to taking any photos today,but I might have a go for the Blue headed Wagtail early on tomorrow if it is still there.

99. Sandwich Tern
100. Common Tern
101. Willow Warbler
102. Yellow Wagtail ( Blue headed race)
103. House Martin

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Stork on...

White Stork on the nest in Eastern Slovakia taken May 2006. I've seen loads abroad but they elude me over here...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Stork Dipping

Today first thing was cool and overcast with a hint of drizzle in odd spots. I headed off to work early to call in at Linton to see if the White Stork was still there. I reckoned that it wasn't going anywhere until the air warmed up to a nice 'soaring' level.
I met up with Trev Blake who was also looking for it. Although he had called in at 6.10am the bird was no where to be seen. We then got a pager message to say that it had still been roosting on the pylon at 6.05! We checked the likely looking froggy hunting spots without luck.
At work at 9.30, a message came through to tell me that the Stork was back on a distant pylon. I knew it hadn't gone far, although it could be back in Europe for all the good it was to me now. Later on, near lunchtime, it was seen flying south over the Tyne at Newburn for the last time... This is a bit of a habit now for me. I might call this new sport Stork Dipping. I have now missed 3 or 4 White Storks and 2 Black Storks in recent years.

Back at home this evening two House Martins were hawking insects overhead, the first I've seen this year. We walked around Seaton Point but there was no trace of yesterdays Black Redstart and still no Sandwich Terns.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Morning up the Harthope Valley.

Top to Bottom -
View up the Hawsen Burn.
Willow Warbler singing.
Red legged Partridge 'singing'.
Bottom three Ring Ouzels, female and male.

This morning dawned thick with fog on the coast. I was at Boulmer at 6.30 and couldn't see the sea so I cut my losses and headed inland.
At the Harthope Valley it was hot sunny and clear more like July than April.

I walked the Carey and Hawsen Burns and checked the woods at the cattle grid for migrants. I had 20+ Willow Warblers, 6+ Chiffchaffs, 3+ Dipper, 2 Grey Wagtail, 2 Buzzard, a pair of Peregrines, perched and in flight, 6 Red Grouse, 3 male Wheatears, 1 Raven over and 5 Ring Ouzel. A pair were up Carey Burn and two males were squabbling over a female at Hawsen Burn.

A lot of the time was spent checking for Adders without luck though I did get a tiny Common Lizard that was way too quick to photograph. Good numbers of Tiger Beetles were hunting the paths but they too flew off far too fast for me.

This afternoon we walked Bunty around Seaton Point. Of note there were 99 Turnstones and 4 Purple Sandpipers. MH texted me with news of a Black Redstart on the haybales at the farm but I passed by without seeing it.

In the evening I heard the news that Dave Dack had found a White Stork at Linton Pond. This was an unringed bird and looks good for a genuine wild vagrant. I have cleared two White Storks off my list as they were complete with leg irons and may well be free flying captive birds. I made a rule for myself that before I counted one on my list I would need to see it well enough to notice that no rings were present. Hopefully this one will still be there in the morning...

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The rest...

Of todays snaps.

Top - Goldfinch in full display mode to a female that has just flown off.
Bottom - Another one of my specialities. A crap shot of a deer, this time a Roe Doe doing a runner.

In the garden.

Our front garden not looking too bad now that a few flowers are out in the warm sun to brighten things up. The Grape Hyacinths are tremendous. And the Blackbird serenaded me while I cut the grass...


Male Wheatear, Boulmer.

One of four present in one flock, 3 males and a female. Poor pics due to thick coastal fog first thing.

Spring Wild Flowers.

Some more wild flowers -
Top - Alkanet, Denwick Quarry.
Second - Ivy leaved Toadflax on our outhouse wall.
Third - Dog Violets, Denwick Wood..
Bottom - Moschatel or 'Town Hall Clock', Black Plantation, Shilbottle.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Flexi day. The weather forecast had appeared reasonable for the arrival of a few migrants, but this morning wasn't quite right. Thick fog made viewing very difficult and the wind was more SSE than SE, but I gave it a go anyway.

Just about the whole of Boulmer was combed in search of a Ring Ouzel or similar ( Well, I did get similar if you count Blackbirds but thats not what I meant).
I walked Bunty from the village north to Low Steads and back then later did Seaton Point, the golf course scrub and the caravan site. My total migrants for the day were 2 Swallows, 1 Chiffchaff on the point, 1 Goldcrest and a Fieldfare, possibly the same bird seen in the village the other day..

I always work on the theory that time spent in the field = good birds found. If thats true then I'm owed something very good indeed! Nice to see that the St Mary's chaps have had a few birds. See the link left.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

This morning dawned quite foggy in north Northumberland, but this was soon dispersed by the sun.

On my way to work my first Swallow of the year was on wires near the Coach Inn, Lesbury. I wonder if it was the grocer's?

This evening we have just taken Bunty on her walk along the old airfield at Boulmer. Three Roe Deer strolled off into a golden haze over the fields long before we got anywhere near. They casually hopped over a wire fence, from a standing start, with effortless ease.

On the return walk a flock of 5 Swallows and a Sand Martin came from nowhere and moved steadily south east, plainly having just arrived from warmer climes.

It looks as if spring proper has finally arrived...

Im off work tomorrow so I'll be out to see if any other migrants have arrived.

97. Sand Martin.
98. Swallow.

Monday, April 09, 2007

A quiet Bank Holiday.

Above - Another busy Bank Holiday in the Cheviots...

Sunday was cool but dry and sunny with a moderate SW5.

I had a dawn start at Boulmer today, arriving at 6am just at first light. At the north seat, 4 Blackbirds on the verge were residents but they were accompanied by a Fieldfare, my first of the year. 2 Purple Sandpipers were on the beach and 2 Golden Plovers were on the sheep grazing near Longhoughton Steel. Despite gazing seaward for a while, there were still no Sandwich Terns.

All areas were given a glance, but no more migrants were found. 5 Roe Deer were in the stubble field.

A quick visit to Foxton Bends, near Alnmouth had my first Sand Martins of the year with 3 birds hawking above the river. A Chiffchaff sang nearby and 2 drake Goosanders were together on the river.

I picked up JWR from home at 8 and we headed up towards Branton and Hedgely Gravel Pits. This is a new complex created by gravel extraction from the river bed and have yet to reach potential. This may never happen however as a chat with a local confirmed the suspicion that these would go the way of many other sites and be turned into put and take trout fisheries. This has already happened at Caistron near Rothbury and the constant disturbance to the water has disrupted the local wildlife.
Quite a lot of bird activity in the area mainly caused by a colony of Black headed Gulls on the island, but a closer look around revealed 3 Barnacle Geese with the Canadas and Greylags, 3 Can-lags ( hybrids between the two) 10+ Sand Martins, 1 Dipper, 2 Ringed Plover, 3 Redshank and 3 Lapwings incubating eggs. 2 Little Grebes and 24 Tufted Duck were on the pools.

From here we detoured via Threestoneburn and on to the Harthope Valley. Here the wind was cold and birds were keeping low. Nothing much to note except 2 female Goosanders at nestholes, 1 Buzzard, 2 Dippers and 2 Grey Wagtails. Ring Ouzels etc will have to wait until the weather is better.

The valleys were sporadically dotted with alpha male, Ray Mears wannabees who normally spend the day on the settee watching the footie before popping to the bookies or the pub or both, and their families. We saw three good family parties, the first had a fire going and a months shopping from Asda strewn around them, then came two blokes in camo gear up a tree, while girlfriends watched impressed, then came the family man complete with Rambo survival knife showing his kids how to survive Easter Sunday in the Cheviots, while his missus sheltered between a striped windbreak and an Isuzu Trooper. Oh how we laughed...

96. Fieldfare.

Saturday, April 07, 2007


Above - Green Woodpecker notes.

A sunny clear warm day with a light NW2 changing to SE2 in the afternoon.

At 8am I took Bunty for a walk out on the old runways at Boulmer. Later on the beach and coast path will be quite busy with holiday makers so I thought I would avoid them. The fields here were full of singing Meadow Pipits and Skylarks with a few Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers as backing. On our way a female Sparrowhawk slowly flew over followed by a Lesser Redpoll over head, 'chit-chitting' its way south.

On the return journey( its a 'there and back' route from this end) I noticed a bird fly from the grass and head away from me. Although quite distant and in silhouette, I knew this was a woodpecker and, for a second, I thought it was a Great Spot from one of the telegraph poles. Then I realised that this was a bigger bird. Given a closer look through the bins, the first feature I saw was a lime /yellow rump. It was a Green Woodpecker! This is the first record for the site and quite an unlikely addition given the scarcity of the species in the county.

Not a rarity, but rarer than most. My 184th Boulmer species, and 202 for the total ( Still no Coot..).

94. Lesser Redpoll
95. Green Woodpecker.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday

Above - The Kittiwake colony at Cullernose Point is in full swing now with pairs displaying everywhere. I am pleased with the third picture as this is hand held through my bins!
There was a big swell on the sea today even though the weather was calm on shore. There must have been a storm or a low pressure a long way out to make it this rough. The waves could be heard pounding from well inland. The reason for a short visit here was to look for a plant - Spring Squill, that is usually found on northern and western areas. No trace today, but I'll check again in two or three weeks...

On the way here there was a freshly dead Red Squirrel on the road. I nearly took a photo to put on here but it was a bit depressing, such a lovely animal wasted.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Grey Start.

Above - Black Redstart that is neither black nor red...

Cold NE4, clear bright and sunny.

Not a lot of birding today as we were taking Bunty to training classes. That lasted from 10.00 until 4.30 this afternoon and was hard work! Since then Bunts has been sound asleep on her bed...

Before we went, we had a quick check of the village at Boulmer and had a female type Black Redstart. It only showed briefly on the beach behind the pub before flying over the top towards the allotment. I called back later this afternoon and managed a few shots though the bird was flighty. I followed it 4 or 5oo metres north then left it, but on return there was another ( or the same) back on the beach next to the pub? 1+?

30 Knot were on the beach and hoards of Gannets were moving north. A Sparrowhawk was displaying over the plantation.

Last night I had a white winged gull about 3/4 mile offshore that landed on the sea. I grabbed the scope from the boot but couldn't refind the bird. It was either a 2nd winter Glaucous, Iceland or leucistic Herring Gull. I'll keep looking this week.

93. Black Redstart.

Saturday 31st March 2007

Top- Larch flowers. Tiny but quite impressive and easily overlooked.
Centre - Aquaduct, Alnwick Moor.
Bottom - Naturalised Daffodils in Lemmington Wood. These look more like the wild variety than the ones at Howick.

Moderate N5, cool, overcast but quite bright.

A seawatch from the north seat at Boulmer this morning had 354 Gannets ph, 1 Red throated Diver, 1 Puffin, 60 Kittiwakes ph, 20 Fulmar ph all north.

Checked out Lemmington Woods, just west of Alnwick. I walked the old railway line towards the moor past the old aquaduct. Had 4 Buzzards in the air together in territorial dispute, 4+ Red legged Partridge, 5+ Chiffchaff, 1 Siskin over and 1 Redpoll heard.

I found some plants just emerging that appear to be Arum italicum or Large Cuckoo Pint, a very scarce plant in this area. I'll get some photos in a week or two when it's in flower.

This afternoon I wandered Bunty around the river at Alnmouth. No migrants, but 3 Goldeneye and a Little Grebe on the river west of Foxton bends. Stranger, was a bloke in his fifties, standing on a raised bund near the village waving his trousers around his head! Looks as if he had took an unplanned dip...