Friday, October 31, 2008

Hallowe'en 2.

Despite the weather, or should I say because of the weather, a few visits were made to Boulmer today. The wind was a strong NNE7 with some awful hail and rain squalls. This morning I wandered the two stubble fields on the sea front, 1pm -3.45pm was spent seawatching and not seeing White billed Divers that were seen both sides of me!

Above - This Pale bellied Brent was grazing in with the sheep opposite the pub.

The walk around the two fields had Buzzard, Merlin, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel, 21 Grey Partridges and quite a few seed eaters on the weedy edges - 7+ Yellowhammer, 12 Reed Bunting, 11 Tree Sparrow, 15+ Greenfinch and 30+ Linnet.

Seawatching totals -

Pale bellied Brent Geese 1 in the field, 7, 5 and 2
Velvet Scoter 3, 1 and 1 ( female landed on sea very close in)
Wigeon 214
Shelduck 1
Teal 10
Common Scoter 51
Scaup 1
Long tailed Duck 5
Red breasted Merganser 3
Eider 151
Red throated Diver 2
Pomarine Skua 1 juv flew N close in.

All birds moving N.

I reckon I missed a WBD when I had to go and 'assist' ( rescue is a better word, but we have to be humble...) a chap with two small children that had been cut off by the rising tide.

They had been wandering the rocky skeers with absolutely no regard to the tides or weather conditions. I watched them for a while assuming that 'dad' was in control. They moved out of sight under the cliff so I thought they had seen sense and gone on to the beach. I nearly had a panic attack when I saw them all walking back over the rocks out to sea even though only a narrow channel for escape was left. 'Dad' was about to paddle the kids to a watery grave into the deep flooding channel until I stopped him! By the time I shouted directions to the safest route this too was flooded, they were on an island. 'Dad' managed to carry the children over, getting himself soaked up to the thighs in the process. A close shave there...

No doubt tomorrow their holiday excursion will see them in the tower hut on Holy Island causeway while the car drifts off...

139. Scaup.
140. Pomarine Skua.


"North Northumberland's turbulent and bloody history has produced decades of haunting activity.

Each Hallowe'en a tragic phantom woman that gazes forlornly out into the crashing grey North Sea is said to leap from the edge to her peril near Cliff House at Amble. Her ghostly figure disappears before entering the water ( Maybe she has been seawatching at Boulmer?).

Another mournful Grey Lady walks through the front door and up the stairs into the drawing room at Craster Tower. Other spectres clash swords outside the building and the crunch of the wheels of an invisible ghostly carriage are said to roll up the driveway.

Warkworth Castle and the Hermitage are haunted by a knight, believed to be visitations from Sir Bertram, who killed his future wife in a tragic accident while Sir Guy the Seeker wanders Dunstanburgh.

The Deugar – or Brown Man – is said to inhabit the Simonside Hills protecting the local wildlife and nature ( he needs to do more work with Harriers...) while a black cat prowls under Rothbury bridge and a monk with no hands or face haunts the moors near Alwinton.

The gibbet up on the hills above Elsdon is haunted by the eerie presence of the murderer William Winter and spectral monks and a white dog are reckoned to be present on Holy Island.

In the 1960s a car's engine died without warning near the Otterburn battle site and the passengers found themselves surrounded by phantom soldiers that faded as they came towards the motor..."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

At last...

a seawatch.

This morning started cold and frosty with a light N3, sunny. Later the wind increased to N5 with some stinging squalls.

Before work this morning, as I fed the garden birds, I clearly heard the trill of a Waxwing. Stopping to look around, I heard it call a second time, but despite looking for the next ten minutes, no further sound nor sight was had. Pity that.

I decided to start work late this morning and fit in an hours seawatch from 0850 at Newbiggin. Had the tide been in I might have stayed at Boulmer but at low tide Newbiggin was the only choice ( especially as I work nearby).

It was quite good -

First bird seen very distantly and high up out to see was an asio owl gliding and flapping alternately having to avoid the attentions of Great black backed Gulls. It was too far out to see if it was Long or Short eared Owl, but I watched it for maybe ten minutes hoping it would come ashore. It didn't, instead choosingto carry on its flight south out to sea. Why do they do that when land is clearly in sight?

Goldeneye 2
Red breasted Merganser 2 females
Red throated Diver 3
Common Scoter 7
Mediterranean Gull 1fw
Pale bellied Brent Geese 2
Wigeon 5
Great Northern Diver 1 still in summer plumage.
Bonxie 1
Manx Shearwater 2
Arctic Skua 2
Little Auk 1 only feet from the rock edge flew out of the bay and landed right in front of me, before vanishing in the waves.

All birds moving north.

Now that I'd had a taste of a good day, I went to work and did my appointments before finishing early so I could get back to the sea. While I was away, Andy Mc had a Grey Phalarope go north. I got back to the point at 2.45pm and stayed until 4.30pm.

This time sharing the watch were Andy, Jimmy Steele and Graeme Bowman. We had -

Bonxie 2
Dark bellied Brent Geese 3
Gadwall 2 males, unusual here on a seawatch.
Manx Shearwater 6
Wigeon 14
Mediterranean Gull 1ad
Velvet Scoter 3
Arctic Skua 5
Pomarine Skua 2
Long tailed Duck 5m 1f
Eider 100
Guillemot 6+
Razorbill 1
Red throated Diver 3
Shelduck 1
Common Scoter 9
Mallard 1.

All good stuff made better now that I'm off for the weekend. Lets hope there are some birds to see....

Monday, October 27, 2008

Now, I hear you ask, whats he going to be blogging about tonight, its been dark since 5 o'clock?

The truth is not much really but I've just had Bunty on a torchlight walk at Boulmer, south from the lifeboat hut ( now thats local patchwork, walking it in the dark). As we returned to the car a Barn Owl was hunting along the strand line towards the village. Only my second sighting here.

I wondered what it was hunting but I suppose mice will venture from the grass onto the sand and I once found a Water Shrew on Hauxley beach in a Fabric Conditioner bottle. It must have been feeding on sand hoppers and taken refuge in the bottle and been trapped. It was released back to more suitable habitat nearby.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

No proper birding after a late night last night, only a look around Seaton Point with Bunts. A tractor was busy ploughing one of the stubbles in flushing some birds over into one remaining field - 15 each Greenfinch and Linnets, 6+ Goldfinches, 5 Skylarks, 5 Reed Buntings and 12 Grey Partridges were seen.

Weather looks canny for later in the week. Northerlies or maybe North Easterlies. Hopefully there will be some seawatching ( Little Auks, Wildfowl? Poms?) and possibly even a passerine or two...I hope so, this is the Last chance Saloon for this autumn...

5.10pm Dark.

PS - I detect a tone of depression and gloom running through my fellow bloggers posts recently. Withens has even thrown the towel in. Come on chaps get a grip, enjoy the fresh air, wind in your face, leaves in the wind and one day something will turn up. Soon.

Remember where you heard it first...

Freddie, now a national celeb!


I'm sure we all have our 'heros', people who we look up to and respect for whatever reason. I'm not talking Ghandi or Martin Luther King type heros( though I'm sure they fit the bill) but those people who we can admire for setting the pace, ground laying that encourage us through our hobbies and interests on a daily basis.

Saturday was a good day for them. For me anyway. It was the 50th Anniversary get together for the Northumberland and Tyneside Bird Club at Newcastle Civic Centre. As well as modern day birding experts on a National level, older hands, founder members and ex pats all got together in one place.
We had a great day.

Above - David Parkin ex BOU Chairman and a founder member of the NTBC gives his talk. A professor in Genetics, David assited in the identification of the first Swinhoes Petrels in Europe through DNA from the Tyneside birds in the 90's.

Above - Mick Marquiss ( left) and John Ginnever. John was a former chairman of the NTBC from way back and Mick joined the bird club shortly after its inception in 1958 aged 13! Mick is a scientist now based in Scotland involved in studies into the ecology of raptors, ducks and finches.

Above - Mick again, Eric Meek and Brian Etheridge getting stuck into the quiz. Eric is one of the big names from Northumberland, starting the Northumberland Ringing Group and being a founder of the NTBC now the RSPB warden for Orkney.

Above - Mike Natrass from the left, Alan Janes in the foreground, Roger Norman and Mike Hodgson. Mike Natrass was a great inspiration when I was training as a ringer. His calm, mild attitude at Hauxley Ringing Station was excellent for passing on his knowledge and Mike Hodgson was County Recorder when I joined NTBC in the 80s. Atlas organiser extraordinaire a good speaker in public and one to look up to. Both the Mikes have been members of NTBC for 45 years!

Above - Graeme Bell, Mr North Northumberland Bird Club. There at the very beginning and still going strong...

Above - Ian Fisher and Alan Curry. Following in the tradition of great county birders, Ian was an excellent county recorder for years in the early 2000's and 90's.

Above - Our table. From the left - Michael Holmes, Roger Forster, Peter Francis, Trevor Blake, Andy McLevy, Alan Hart, Iain Robson and Janet Fairclough. Good friends all.

Above - The rare men table. From left Jimmy Steele ( ex BBRC and still and advisor) Colin Bradshaw ( ex BBRC Chairman for donkeys years ) and Ken Shaw ( ex BBRC member and rarity finder second to none).

Just some of the great birders and field naturalists Northumberland has produced over the last 50 years. All worthy of hero status, if we mere mortals are half as good we are doing well. RESPECT!

I'll end with a tip from the top for beginners and not so beginners everywhere.

David Parkin ( I think) recounted a tale of himself as a teenager seawatching at Seaton Sluice. On producing a brand new copy of the Peterson Field Guide, Mike Bell told him to put it away and never take it into the field again. When asked why, Mike went on to explain that if he saw a bird he didnt know he must take notes then compare at home. Spend time watching the bird not watching a picture in a book. ' Once youve taken notes on 25 Dunnocks you know what a Dunnock looks like...'

See, what a hero!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The wind was a cold SW3 when I walked Bunty around Seaton Point this evening.

As the light faded a good skein of about 120 Pinkfeet flew north overhead. On the muddier areas of shore, 7 Bar tailed Godwits, 4 Grey Plovers and over 40 Wigeon were feeding ahead of a rising tide.

I was suprised when a Rock Pipit flew from my path, calling. I assumed that small birds would have gone to roost by now.

As we got back to the car Curlews were flighting into the stubbles to spend the night...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Thats a turn up for the books. The Red footed Falcon that spent 32 days at Tophill Low has been re-identified as an AMUR FALCON! Needless to say the bird has gone...

The coming two weeks are officially 'Pallas's Warbler Fortnight'. I bet they are thin on the ground this year, unless the weather takes a dramatic turn around...Lets hope after that 'Dusky Warbler Fortnight' turns up the goods, because after that its hibernation time...


Inspired by the two-wheel birding antics of ADMc ( so far in 2008 his bike list is about 195 ), I thought I would give it a go. My bike has stood in the outhouse for years, untouched gathering cobwebs so I decided the other day to wash and oil it ready to go.

Forgetting how critically unfit I am, a 200 yard jaunt around to the shop and back left me teetering about like Bambi. Who says you never forget how to ride a bike!

So, filled with trepidation, today seemed as good as any to cover my patch on the cycle. The weather was not as bad as forecast as I left home at 8am looking as steady as a newly hatched Peewit, but after a mile or two I seemed to get it all together.

Off I went down to Low Steads and onto the links. This party of Goldfinches were drinking from the stream near the footbridge. From here the route went off road around Longhoughton Steel and in to Boulmer Village...

This is where the wheel came off ( nearly). The chain slipped and trapped between two large cogs. A bout of verbal abuse followed by a physical kicking and my trusty steed was back the right way up...Then off around Seaton Point...

where this Fieldfare was my only new migrant today and my first of the autumn. It looked very tired, probably only just arrived.

Then I circled around the runways back to the village and off home. A few Yellowhammers were in the stubbles.

Todays notebook showed -

Grey Partridge Coveys of 8, 6, 7, 3 and 5.
Goldfinch 51
Grey Wagtail 2
Twite 3 flew S
Golden Plover 75, 300, 17, 50, 20 and 11 flew S
Rock Pipit 4
Oystercatcher 30
Grey Plover 3
Bar tailed Godwit 5
Shag 3
Stonechat 6+
Pink footed Goose 14 flew N
Lapwing 50+
Redshank 51
Tree Sparrow 11 at Seaton Point
Wigeon 8
Reed Bunting 5
Song Thrush 2
Skylark 4
Meadow Pipit 9 flew S
Greenfinch 22+ at Seaton Point
Linnet 52
Yellowhammer 3+
Fieldfare 1
Heron 4
Red breasted Merganser 2 females N.

A great way to cover the patch more thoroughly than by car, I'll definately try it again, weather (and arse) permitting....I must get one of those gel seats.

138. Twite. ( I've recounted and noticed I had missed a few like Curlew Sand, Barnacle Goose and Grey Wagtail etc...)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Above - Simonside Hills in autumn colour. Pity the sun wasn't shining.

Above - The moors here are not as idyllic as they seem. Nice sign....

Above - My favourites, don't they look fantastic...

The pics above are todays, but first, Friday.

I was working lates yesterday so I had a couple of walks at Boulmer with the l'il G in the morning. ( She's been a bit under the weather lately but seems to be perking up now. Barking, running, nipping, ragging her toys all seem to be in order...)
A couple of Blackbirds arrived high from the east. I was interested in Newton Stringer's Mistle Thrush arrival because there was one near the shore with Starlings this morning and they are not too common here.
3 Buzzards soared over the plantation, 4 Common Scoter were on the sea and a juv male Ruff flew NW from the beach.

In the warm sunshine a Red Admiral was gliding around the shore.

Back to today.

We took a drive over to Otterburn this afternoon. Didn't see very much other than 3 Redwings move W. We collected a good bag of Conkers on Rothbury main street, though they are not for stringing , Jane uses them on her ornamental wreaths. There are few things more evocative of autumn than these smoothly red nuts of the Horse Chestnut...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Moon Rise...

over Boulmer....

Bunty's walk. Nothing noted. It was dark.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Plenty of 'string' on the pager today. Just as well its 600 miles away on Scilly. They didn't have - Hudsonian Whimbrel ( twas a Whimbrel), Blue winged Teal ( Garganey) and, best of all, Bearded Seal ( Grey Seal), get a grip! Is Red eyed Vireo, Blackpoll and Sociable Plover not good enough.

Anyway, back to basics....

4 Redwings arrived over our yard first thing this morning. Later, at work, a Jay flew over Bedlington carrying its 'shopping' to bury for winter.

This evening in the twilight I walked Bunty around Seaton Point. Another 3 Redwings flushed and flew off west, a Goldcrest was settling down to roost in a hawthorn and on the beach 3 pale bellied Brent Geese fed only a few yards away on the falling tide.

Better pager news, a drake American Wigeon is at Fenham Flats ( sounds like it should be near the Regents Centre, its at Lindisfarne). If you catch the tide just right and search through several thousand Wigeon you might be lucky. Its not as bad as it sounds really, the tower hide gives great views of the area, but try and catch a rising tide, about half way in...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Now that the nights are drawing in, on week days I will only be posting about what I've seen at work and maybe some gossip. As a result, there won't be much to read about...

Todays news. At home, 1 House Martin still trilling overhead and at Bedlington this morning 4 Redwings flew over west. No Fieldfares yet. I wonder if we will get any more easterlies before the end of the month?

Its a long winter...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I was at Cresswell by 7.45 this morning hoping to get a view of the Bittern that has been here over the last week or two. Although I waited until 11.45 there was no sign. During my sit and watch session a few noteworthy sightings were made -

Pink footed Goose 500+ in the fields behind the pond
Barnacle Goose 40+
Greylag 13 over
Little Grebe 10
Pintail 4 females
Scaup 1 female
Tufted Duck 8+
Goldeneye 4
Teal 147+
Wigeon 100+
Red breasted Merganser 1
Spotted Redshank 2
Snipe 4
Lapwing 150+
Golden Plover 50+
Barn Owl 1 above.
Kingfisher 1
Redpoll 4
Buzzard 1
Sparrowhawk 1
Kestrel 1

A Migrant Hawker patrolled the reed edges and a few Sea Aster were in flower.

At Ashington 2 House Martins were over ASDA.

This evening on the road to Howick, 2 Tawny Owls were hooting and 2 Pipistrelles were still on the wing...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Grim Reaper...

This was the sight that greeted me as I looked out of our kitchen window first thing this morning. The tense, staring golden eye of a young female Sparrowhawk breakfasting on one of our Collared Doves. She sat there for half an hour or more before flying off. A plucked Collared Dove makes quite a mess of the yard. It looked like a burst duvet when I went out...

Down at Boulmer 20 Skylarks flew S at the south end near the golf course bends.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Problem solved...

Ian Fisher quoted -

'Hi Stew, Its just a Bittern, some can show those features. Have a look at Frank Goldings pic on Surfbirds scarce page! Ian'

Well I suppose I knew all along that my optimism would be too good to be true. But, a bit of gossip is always good to plump up a flagging October...

I see Cornwall is doing well now, what with firsts for Britain 'n that. You know my photo below of those cottages at the Lizard and the Hobby and the nice Hotel? You could probably see a Nighthawk from there right now...Bugger.

A report today of a White's Thrush in-off at Hartlepool had me leaping for the flexi leave chart. I was ready for the off should the phrase 'showing well' appear on the pager, however, it was not to be.

Monday, October 06, 2008

This morning was fine fair and cool with no wind to speak of. A party of 7 Crossbills flew south over the Low Steads road and a Sparrowhawk dashed by. Tonight at Boulmer North End, there were easy 400+ Golden Plovers and 150 Lapwing swirling around like swarm of bees and 18 Grey Partridges crept through the stubble.

Sunday 5th October

A 'Mere' puddle now...

The bridge over to the Low Steads...

Some of the Golden Plovers in flight and on the rocks...

Sunny, breezy with a Mod W5. Cold in the morning warmer after lunchtime.

On a generally quiet day, I spent the morning at Boulmer, covering both the Low Steads end and the Foxton Golfcourse roadside scrub.

At sea, a good number of Gannets moved north distantly as did 2 Shag, 1 Red throated Diver, 2 Razorbill and 2 Grebe sp. The grebes were frustrating due to the distance (on the edge of science) involved but if I had to guess, I'd suggest Slavonians. Best forgotten.

A few geese were on the move south - a flock of 100 Pinkfeet and 10 Barnacles plus another 60 Pinkfeet then 20 Greylags.

Waders on the rocks at Longhoughton Steel included 212+ Golden Plover with as many on the fields behind, 8 Knot, 3 Ringed Plover, 48 Dunlin, 6 Bar tailed Godwits and a Grey Plover. The now almost dry Mere, soon to be a five a side pitch again, still had 53 Redshank, 3 Black tailed Godwit and a Ruff. Probably my last Swallow on the patch still hawked around over the soggy field.

An unusual record of 8 Long tailed Tits were seen several times in the village with a Chiffchaff in tow, while a Treecreeper in the plantation was a less than annual record here, 2 Buzzards mewed and soared overhead. 2 Grey and 6 Pied Wagtails, 3 Stonechats and a Rock Pipit were on the shore.

Of the 'not birds', 2 Red Admirals, a Weasel, the Red Arrows (4 of them) and a Hercules type troop carrier all made an appearance...

Sunday, October 05, 2008


No time for the usual Sunday Post ( no not the one featuring 'Oor Wullie' and the 'Broons' ). It'll be on tomorrow. Just a short word though. ADMc sid that one or two people are discussing the Cresswell Bittern pic on Northumbrian Birding.

Yep it sure does look like an American in that shot! Brown cap, Chestnut throat streaks... please be a trick of the light....please....after all there are some good black streaks on the back. Aren't there?

Brian, any chance of some more photos...

Friday, October 03, 2008

One or two bits and pieces to report. Firstly, yesterday morning, 6 House Martins were still over our house and a Redwing flew west, newly arrived. At work in Ashington this morning a male Crossbill flew south overhead, calling, glinting red in the morning sun and a Song Thrush dropped out of the sky from high up.

In the evening I walked Bunty around the Boulmer north end. 13 Canada Geese were accompanied by a single Pink Footed Goose as the flew south low overhead and 2 Sandwich Terns were still on the rocks at high tide.

Late this afternoon I got home in time to catch a short half hour seawatch from Boulmer seat. After the winds and rain from the NW last night I thought there might have been more action, but it wasn't too bad. There were -

Velvet Scoter 4
Sooty Shearwater 2
Manx Shearwater 1
Common Scoter 1
Wigeon 12

all N, and

Sandwich Tern 3 S

100 Pink footed Geese flew S and a male Sparrowhawk hunted around Seaton Point.

132. Sooty Shearwater

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Now that the dark evenings are here blog posts will become more of a weekend feature ( unless I can get out at lunchtime at work for a while) but tonight at dusk I walked Bunty along the north end of Boulmer where 30 Pink footed and 50 Barnacle Geese flew north, yes thats the wrong way, but no doubt they'll re-orientate soon.

A good record on the pager today of 20,000 Barnacle Geese just up the coast at Budle Bay this afternoon. They sometimes do that before moving west towards Caerlaverock. The Bittern was seen twice this afternoon at Cresswell Pond.

We are looking after a friends cat at a small cottage nearby while they are away for a few days. To get to their house you have to drive over a cow meadow through a couple of five bar gates. On the return journey last night a nice Tawny Owl flew up from the track side and over towards the wood. Tonight one was hooting in the same area...

131. Barnacle Goose.