Thursday, February 28, 2008

A nice mild fair day today with some bright spells.

At lunchtime I snipered into ST / Foggy's patch at Castle Island to see if I could get in on some Glaucous action, but it was not to be. I had about 20 minutes of the island viewed from the south side and did a quick scan and a count of what was on offer. There were -

Moorhen 28 ( a good number anywhere)
Mallard 30
Teal and Goldeneye 10 each
Long tailed Duck 1
Tufted Duck 6
Little Grebe 6
Coot 5+
Assorted Gulls numbering about 150, mainly Black headeds and Commons with a few Herrings, 1 Great and 1 Lesser black backed.

Wheatear yesterday in Cornwall, only another 3 weeks before we're in with a shout.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Blog Advantages.

When you have your own blog you soon realise its not a democracy, its a dictatorship. You can say just about what you like and stuff the rest. So here goes -

There has NEVER been c600 Curlew at Boulmer. No, not ever.

There, thats better. Some of you will guess what I'm on about. In peak migration and post breeding times numbers get to about 400-ish and in winter maybe 300-ish but 600, did they count the legs and forget to divide by two?

Cynical. Who? How very dare you.....

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I've got wind.

Kind of blustery up here today. At lunchtime it was difficult to stand upright in the open and on the way home from work a lorry was on its side near Widdrington. A check of the Met Office website showed that Boulmer had recorded gusts of up to 72 mph this afternoon.

As the saying goes, 'its an ill wind that blows no good' or something like that, so lets hope it has topped up the white winged gull population...or maybe it has sent one of those ducks from across the pond.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


After a lean spell at Boulmer, I gave the patch a miss today and took a trip down to Morpeth to look for the Firecrest found wintering in scrub and birch at the Gubeon Plantation.

This bird was found by Tim Watson who was doing an Atlas Tetrad here. Luck must have been smiling on him because this bird was not easy. It took an hour and a half before I heard it calling in some roadside honeysuckle where it was seen for about half a second before flying off out of sight. Once we had 'our ear in' though, we soon refound it as it (he) sang his way through some hawthorn cover. A very bright individual, these are always a pleasure. You can't have too many Firecrests, can you...

My picture above was done at home tonight, from memory, as there were a few people in the field watching the bird. I'm quite self concious about drawing when there are people around, but I'm not sure why? I decided to do the drawing on the back of an old manilla file because of the colour of the background making the bird look very bright, reflecting the type of views I got on site.

Also around here were 6 Bullfinches, 2 Redpolls over, 3 Treecreepers all together on one tree, 2 Jays, 2 Great spotted Woodpeckers and about 25 Redwings.

From here I went to an old stamping ground, Widdrington Tip, to look for Jack Snipe. This is usually a good spot for them but the recent cold spell must have frozen all of the Snipe out because we could only manage to flush 2 Commons.

In the afternoon Jane, Bunty and myself walked from home down to Low Steads and home by the Howick Long Walk seeing just about nothing to raise the bins to. Some massive drifts of Snowdrops in the woods were nice though.

Some of my friends ( yes, you know who you are) seem to think I've 'sold out' by taking pics of flowers and scenery and stuff. They reckon I am being employed by the Tourist Board. Cheeky sods!;)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Back to bleak February weather, thats more like it. Its not right seeing butterflies this early. Today was overcast and very windy from the WNW with gusts up to 60mph.

I managed to get down to Seaton Point with Bunty at about 5pm this evening and found the tides were right up the steps with no beach to walk on at all. I don't recall having seen the sea up that far before.

A few waders were having to stand up in the grass - 58 Oystercatchers, 30 Sanderling, 30 Curlew, 4 Bar tailed Godwits, 2 Grey Plovers and a Purple Sandpiper with one or two Dunlin and 50 Turnstone scattered around. A Kestrel and 2 Stonechats loitered around the caravans but thats about all really.

Weather not looking good for much this weekend...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Still very cold over the last two days though signs are that its getting milder with gales forecast soon. Yesterday was -5 in the freezing fog.

At lunchtime yesterday a short stop at Castle Island to see if the Iceland Gull was there drew a blank but there were about a couple of hundred assorted gulls on the frozen river. In with the Commons and Black headeds were 2 Lesser black backed Gulls, my first of the year. LBBG's are very scarce in the county in winter with only a few remaining to winter. When they do, they are usually at inland spots like tips or country parks and even Cramlington town holds the odd one occasionally. Any inexperienced birders out there checking your gulls double check any LBBG's between November and February. They usually return any time after Valentines day...

Today, I stopped twice, once on the way to work and again on the way home to scan the gulls in the fields at New Moor Tip ( between Ashington and Ellington). Although this will be the source of the Linton Glaucs I didn't see any during a short stop, but there must have been a thousand Herring Gulls, so I didnt really do them justice.

An early finish and I was home in time to walk Bunty around the Boulmer North End. Not much doing , 18 Dunlin, 3 Grey Plovers, 101 Curlew, 1 male Goldeneye, 2 Wigeon, 4 Shelduck and 2 Shags flew N.

I see that there is a Lunar eclipse tonight. Unfortunately the cloud is the thickest its been for a week.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sunny clear and calm but freezing cold, down to -3.

Had a lunch stop at Bothal Pond today for a change. By then it had thawed out in the main areas and plenty of wildfowl were on show. There were 50 Canada Geese, 2 Barnacle Geese, 120 Wigeon, 37 Teal, 10 Pochard, 9 Mallard, 5 Goldeneye, a dozen Tufties, 50 Coot, a Snipe and a Redshank.

All were scanned for Yanks ( Wigeon, Teal and Aythyas) but no joy. I remember a time when we used to get Ring necked Ducks quite regularly. Not so these days, I wonder why?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

And finally...

The view from our garden at 5.45pm...

Fat faced Gargoyle

Witch Hazel Blossom


This afternoon was taken up with a family visit to Howick Hall, only about 3 miles from home, but nice on a day like today. We walked the gardens where the Snowdrops were out in their millions plus there were a few crocuses ( croci?)and hellebores.

A few birds were seen at the feeders outside the 'ye olde tea shoppe' ( where I stuffed my fat face with sarnies and cake) including Nuthatch, Long tailed Tits and the usuals...


A sunny clear and bitterly cold calm day. Lovely.

A day out today. Well half a day down to Cresswell for a chat with the lads. I think its my first visit down there this year. The water level was high in the pond but there were still a lot of birds on show. Best of all was the female Smew that has wintered here for a few years now. Not one I'll get at Boulmer very easily...

Also on the pond were a pair of Scaup, good numbers of common wildfowl such as Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Mallard, Tufted Duck and Goldeneye. 1 Red breasted Merganser, 2 Shoveler, 8+ Little Grebe and a Whooper Swan added to the interest. 2 male Ruffs were with Redshank on the spit.

2000+ Pink footed Geese with a few Canadas and Greylags were on the fields north of the pond. I picked out a White fronted Goose amongst them, a good year tick for the lads until it stood up revealing itself to be just another Pink foot wearing a good white blaze! There were two birds like this making an easy pitfall for the unwary.

As we left, a tight ball of Starlings up the dunes at Bell's indicated the presence of a predator and we briefly picked up a Peregrine gliding to the ground with one hapless victim.

No visit to Boulmer today, I needed a break.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A sunny clear and frosty day, very nice.

Boulmer generally keeping up its recent non-form. 116 Golden Plover were the highlight at Seaton Point.

I see work has started on the Foxton Bends near Alnmouth. The baffle banks to prevent flooding are being removed so hopefully the next time the river is high some small ponds will be left in the fields. Might be good come autumn...

Monday, February 11, 2008

Phew what a scorcher...well not quite.

Above - Howick Bridges.

Another cracking day today, clear and sunny but a bit cooler. Several walks out with Bunty today at Boulmer and Howick.

At Boulmer, a Moorhen was in its usual annual spot though a month early. My third record in three years. At dusk we had a look down the runways for owl activity but there was none. A Buzzard showed well on a telegraph pole between the caravan site and Seaton House.

A walk in the Long Walk at Howick had a few usual woodland species that I dont see enough of at Boulmer. There was a flock of tits feeding between yews and fallen beechmast and a Nuthatch or two. A couple of pairs of Bullfinches were seen and a pair of Siskins, the male in full wheezing song.

Highlight of the day ( apart from the watterhen) was a Peacock butterfly in my garden at lunchtime. No odd spuggies today though...


PS - I've added a new link in the home blogs section on the left - Seaside Observers. Another blog from the goodly folk of Northumberland who like their wildlife...have a look, I bet you're interested once you see what they've seen!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Above - Amble Braid at Sunset...

Probably an even better day than yesterday, weather-wise. Clear and sunny all day and by lunchtime it was quite warm. Warm enough, in fact, to awake my first butterfly of the year from its winter sojourn. A Small Tortoiseshell was sunbathing on the track in the wood at Longhoughton today when I had Bunty out. It flew off strongly over the fields.

I checked the Sparrow flock but no sign of yesterday's oddbod. I looked at Martin and Darrell's comments and both could well be right. It may be just an unusual House Sparrow or it may be able to trace its family tree back to the time when father House Sparrow was the talk of the place by getting a bit over excited ... We've all seen how agitated they get when a group of males is in pursuit of a female. God help the passing Dunnock, it may get more than it bargained for, let alone a similar looking Tree Spug!( Thinking of that behaviour, Mallards do the same. They get all het-up and hound the ducks when they appear from cover, maybe thats how the Amble hybrid came about. Imagine the gang of drake Mallards looking for 'lurve' and the only female around is an Eider!)

I popped down to East Chevington this afternoon for a chat with the chaps. I was pleased to see that even here has been very quiet recently...the only things of note today were a Buzzard mobbed by a Kestrel and at dusk, a Barn Owl came out to hunt the south pool reedbeds.

A couple of brief visits to Boulmer had 8+ Grey Partridges and a flock of 10 Magpies going to roost. Rock and Roll! Oh and I nearly forgot ( how could I?) there were 4 Rock Pipits and a Grey Wagtail at Seaton Point and 150 each of Lapwing and Golden Plovers in the fields nearby.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Iiiiiiits spriiiing.....


What a lovely day, quite warm and sunny with a light mild W breeze.

Boulmer is still just about bird-less but the absolute highlight of the day was when I walked Bunty along the runways of the Old Airfield. The first Skylarks were in full song. At least 8 were towering and twittering away, with goups of 3 or 4 chasing around squabbling, a proper exhaultation! I don't think anything signifies the onset of spring like the Skylarks pouring it out on the first nice day of the year.

Whats this?

Yes I know, its a Spuggy, but what kind? These pics dont really do him justice. I was looking through them as I do each day for a Junco ( still waiting)... Much smaller than the rest, it was easily picked out of 50+ House Sparrows in my garden this morning. At first I though, oh, there's a Tree Sparrow, but a closer look and it seems to be a House Sparrow? His grandad must have been a bit of a lad...

Above - Small bib and blackish ear patch but grey in the crown, yellow at base of the bill...

Above - Top shows oddbod and his brownish rump, compare to the bottom pic of the grey rump on all the other male House Sparrows...

Above - Pale neck collar only on Oddbod...his crown is browner than the other males..

Above - Compare with bog standard House Sparrow male...

Above - Side shot showing collar again and the smaller white wing bar on median coverts compared to the broader bar on House Sparrow males.

The photos arent too good but you can see what I mean. Is it just a retarded fw male House Sparrow or a hybrid? A question that it is impossible to answer 100% but those ear coverts and the collar and the yellow bill base and the smaller size are too much of a coincidence to me.

And I dont really believe in the Hybrid theories as they often seem to be a get out clause for unidentifiable birds. Please leave me a comment if you have any ideas about this 'spuggy'. Cheers.

God, isn't February quiet....

Thursday, February 07, 2008

On the way home from work at dusk this evening, it was fine and very mild. A Woodcock flew over the road just north of the entrance to East Chevington Pools. It flickered along near the car for a second before crossing over ( the road that is, I didnt hit it...)

Twice this week on the way to work I have seen Roe Deer in the fields, 1 near where the Woodcock flew over and two this morning just north of Warkworth.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Who's the Daddy....

New Link on the top of the artists section on the left, in its rightful place for Eric Ennion, the best bird artist of them all. The the section on Drift Migration in the 50's at Monks House...

His pictures bring a tear to my eye...

Sunday, February 03, 2008

I found this comment on my previous post very interesting and thought it deserved to go up front...

'Looking at the photo [ of the Otter], it's hard to tell, but it does look in good condition (although dead, I know what you're going to say :-). As previous comment the recent storms may have damaged it. It's equally likely it may have become detached from the family group and perished through difficult feeding conditions (cubs can not dive well). Also Eurasian otters living in the sea need fresh water to bathe in to maintain their sub coat, thus boyancy and tempurature regulation would have been subdued if it couldn't find any. Sad, but when I studied Northumberland Otters in the mid 1980's estimates were down to 1 male and 2 females across the whole county. Seeing them return is a joy - Border Riever..'

Only 3 Otters county wide in the 80's! In those days Water Voles were every 50 yards in rivers, ditches and streams across the county. Shows how things can have both ups and downs in a short space of time...

I think BR is probably right in his 'post mortem' decision.

Cheers, Stewart....

Above - Boulmer from the north...

Another 'brisk' day to put it politely. The day started off not too badly really but deteriorated by lunch time. It was generally dull with brighter spells and a strong SW 5 increasing 6.

A seawatch from Seaton Point this morning had 6 Gannets N, 11 Wigeon S, 1 Guillemot S and a probable Fulmar but it was too distant and it kept disappearing into troughs in the waves.

40 Linnets, 2 Stonechats and 2 Mistle Thrushes were at Seaton Point House.

A couple of Mute Swans were on the pond with an assortment of Gulls, Crows and Waders but no sign of any white wings...

As the weather was not very good for anything really I took the car along the track to the north of the village and did this painting in my sketch book. You can see how the paper buckled when wet giving the 'striped' impression to the sky. I might 'do it up' at home on proper paper and stick a Peregrine in there somewhere...

73. Guillemot.

Saturday, February 02, 2008


By, it was a bit parky down at Seaton Point this morning. Bright and dry though and the wind has dropped to a W4.

Around the point with Bunty I thought that more birds would have been affected by the cold inland, resulting in more activity here but little had changed since the last visit.

4 Rock Pipits were on the washed up weed, two beginning to look like 'littoralis' types, showing a greyer, cleaner plumage than the olivey 'petrosus' nearby. They were whiter below with a paler supercillium, features not shown by the other two.

In the small bay on the point a nice mix of waders fed, 10 Ringed Plover, the first double figure count for ages, 1 Grey Plover, 3 Bar tailed Godwits, 7 Dunlin and 2 Sanderling. 14 Linnets flew from the seaweed covered rocks and a Sparrowhawk flushed from the tideline.

I stopped in the village to see the ross's gull (!). Needless to say, there was no sign, but I did have 1 Snipe lift from the rocks, probably frozen out of its usual haunt and 14 Red breasted Mergansers were on the sea.

A lady out with her dog stopped me and asked if she needed to report the finding of a dead Otter to anyone. She then took me to see it, about a hundred or two yards north of the village. It was a three quarter grown cub and looked as if it had climbed up the cliff and died under a stunted hawthorn. There were no apparent causes of death. The photo was taken after I moved it into the open.

Such a pity, I haven't seen one here before. This is probably one of the ones seen by TF in the Howick bay in the autumn.

On my way to Alnwick 4 Buzzards disputed territory over the A1 at Denwick.