Friday, January 30, 2009

An Art Interlude...

My friend Peter has just done a new website, showcasing his excellent artwork. Please look here and enjoy.( A new link is also in the column on the right).

Peter is very modest about his talents, but I think his work is tremendous and one to look up to.

I particularly like the Northumberland landscapes with the ancient cup and ring marked stones, but there are some great birds and cityscapes in there too, not forgetting some nice characatures of St Mary's Lighthouse...

If you are a local or a visitor to our area I'm sure there is something in here for you...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Its looking cold....

Yesterday on the way home from work a Barn Owl flew over the car just north of Hadston. Later on, at home, a Tawny Owl was hooting near the church. I've not heard one here now for a good few weeks...

I popped along to our new house this afternoon to meet a plumber ( the second one, the first should have been wearing a highwaymans mask and carrying a gun...). While I waited, a Buzzard was mewing and seeming to enjoy being tossed around the grey sky in an increasingly cold wind.

The weather forecast shows that Sunday is to be a day of strong nor'easterlies stretching all the way from Siberia via the Baltic. They look to be freezing too. If this is correct, it might push some birds across from the low countries and the Baltic states to look for some unfrozen ground. Already, Slavonian Grebes are numbering in the high twenties up on the Lindisfarne reserve, maybe they've seen the same forecast? You never know we might even get some more divers, grebes, bitterns or shorelarks on our coasts....

Pity I'll miss out....

Sunday, January 25, 2009

No birding this weekend for me. It went something like this...

Above - Horrid fireplace, circa 1984, in situ ....

Above - Horrid fireplace yesterday in the hands of our friend, Derek...

Nice. You should see it today! No camera, too dusty....

Still, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard added to my new garden list. Is that allowed when I don't even live there yet?

Travelling Gull...

Ian Fisher kindly sent me a Med Gull update for the two birds in Amble Harbour. The two birds are shown above with one the brighter bird ( redder bill etc) wearing the red darvic ring. If you remember I photographed this bird last year, in March, and posted it on here. This is the update of where it has been since then...

26.05.2007. Palić lake,Subotica,Vojvodina(YU78),Serbia 46.04N 019.44E A.Žuljević & O.Sekereš breeding bird

05.10.2007. Amble harbour,Northumberland(GBNL) 55 20N 001 34W K. Walkling 131 1808 312°(NW)

12.02.2008. Amble,Northumberland(GBNL) 55 20N 001 34W Ph. Bone 262 1808 312°(NW)

02.03.2008. Amble harbour,Northumberland(GBNL) 55 20N 001 34W S. Sexton 281 1808 312°(NW)

06.04.2008. Csaj-to,Tömörkény,Csongrád(HG43),Hungary 46 34N 020 05E A. Fodor 316 62 25°(N)

10.10.2008. Amble harbour,Northumberland(GBNL) 55 20N 001 34W E. Crabtree 503 1808 312°(NW)

10.12.2008. Amble,Northumberland(GBNL) 55 20N 001 34W G. Pollinger 566 1808 312°(NW)

23.01.2009. Amble harbour,Northumberland(GBNL) 55 20N 001 34W I. Fisher 610 1808 312°(NW)

Most interesting for me is the way it heads south to breed and north to winter? Unusual that. I see that after I saw it, last spring, one month later and it was in Hungary!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

More Barn Owls today. Well one for me and one for Jane. Jane's was while she took Bunty out this morning flying through the estate behind the local 'Spar' shop. Mine was hunting the roadside near East Chevington when I was on my way to work, the early sun glinting through its translucent wings, lovely.

Only other thing I've seen today was a little blue and orange cock Sparrowhawk hedge hopping through Bedlington. I like Sparrowhawks, these little assassins are so full of life you can just about hear them buzz as they go past...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I managed to escape Homebase for long enough today to help JWR do the WeBs count at Cresswell Pond this morning. There were loads of wildfowl, the best being 466 Wigeon, 86 Teal, 4 Pintail, 3 Red breasted Merganser, 2 Scaup and 122 Pinkfeet. Although there were 5 Goldeneye, I couldn't see enough difference to make a female into a Barrow's ( a possibility indicated earlier this week by someone). Not a claim I would like to make without point blank views despite having seen a some in Iceland a few years back...

On the way back north, a short stop had 2 adult Mediterranean Gulls on Amble Little Shore, behind the harbour. I had left the camera in the car, so this sketch gives an idea what they were like.

Finally, Homebase caught up with me, but not before I stopped at Denwick church to appreciate my first spring flowers of the year. I like Winter Aconites. They really brighten the day...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

I worked a bit late last night and was on my way home at 8pm when a Barn Owl flew over the car right next to the RAF Radar Base at Lesbury. I was pleased with that but only about a hundred yards further on, a second Barn Owl came over and headed off towards the first. Him and her perhaps?

The other night at this very spot, I noticed the gruesome sight of a Brown Rat gnawing away at a roadkill Hare on the road side. Nice...

This mornings Bunty walk was along the cliffs near Howick and Rumbling Kern. It was a bit breezy so there was little of note, but I did have 61 Curlew and 15 Golden Plover in the field near the road and a glance offshore produced my first Gannet, Fulmar and Kittiwakes of 2009...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Goodbye Boulmer Birder...

But not just yet...

Sorry about the lack of postings recently. I haven't been out too much since New Year and it looks as though the next couple of months will be busy too.

We are on the move. A change of house and local patch is in the offing...

This is where we are going -

How good is that!

Our new house needs a bit of work doing so there will be little time for the regular blog postings but I'll add what I can. Once moved, hopefully in March, I think I'll set up a new blog...

Of course Boulmer won't be completely abandoned, just not visited as often as now. There are other places to explore...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

New Link...Whitley Birder.

Just added a new link to the Blog List on the right - Whitley Birder. Jack B is just 13 and takes a canny picture. Two of his recent photos have even won competitions recently...and mores the point, the lad even found a Hen Harrier at St Mary's in November...

Check him out. Unfortunately there is no provision for leaving comments, maybe due to his young age, but good luck anyway Jack, keep up the good work!

No birding today, just a walk with Bunty. I've stumbled across a few Buzzards today with 2 at Howick, Haven, 3 over the Denwick junction of the A1 and 1 at Howick Hall this evening...

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Glaucous winged Gull...

I took a day off work today and headed the 70 miles, or so, south to see if I could catch up with the adult Glaucous-winged Gull in the Saltholme Pools area. ADMc and myself arrived at Saltholme at 10am, knowing that the bird had gone off the the tip to feed sometime earlier. Figuring we had some time to kill before it returned I suggested that it was time to get the flasks out. No sooner had I stepped from the car, the pager sprang to life with the news that the bird was showing at Dormans Pool half a mile along the road...

Above - The scenic splendour of a frozen Dormans Pool on Teesside.

Here we met up with Richard Dunn and we soon had the bird in our sights. It paraded around the ice for the next half hour before flying off back to the tip to feed. I didn't get any good pics this time as it kept dipping behind patches of reed.

We decided to wait for it to return, busying ourselves with an adult Glaucous Gull, below, a nice Short eared Owl and several Pintail

We waited until 3pm before Richard called that the bird had returned. By now we had been accompanied by Brian, Northumbrian Birding, Bullough and Janet Fairclough.
This time the Glaucous- winged Gull sat out in the open for all to see, though this time the low evening light made the primaries look darker than they really were.

Also here was a large juvenile Glaucous Gull.

Above - Right, Glaucous-winged Gull lying out on the ice with a Herring Gull for comparison.

Below - A neater version of my field notes...

Thats that then, a good day all round. The GWG was the second for Britain after one trapped and ringed in Gloucestershire in 2007 and about the 4th for the WP. A nicer bird than I had envisaged...

My British List now -

390. Glaucous-winged Gull.

PS - Richard Dunn shows how to take a picture of the GWG as it flew from the ice this morning - below...

Cheers Richard!

PPS - Remember, these pics aren't mine so please don't take without permission...

Monday, January 05, 2009


First good find of 2009. A Small Tortoiseshell butterfly. Yes, I know its in a pint glass, no I haven't drank the contents first, this butter was doing laps around our living room when I came in from work tonight. We have obviously woken it from its hibernation so it was caught in the glass and put back to bed, this time in the cool of our pantry...

I see I have won the Quicksilver Christmas Challenge Trophy. I'm pleased with that but next year it's ton-up or bust! Have I got to hand the trophy back next Christmas? ;)

But seriously folks, its great to see everyone doing garden lists, park lists, window lists or whatever, its not about winning or quantity, its just about getting stuck in and enjoying whatever you do. I'd recommend it to anyone. Everyone who took part seemed to get something enjoyable out of it and thats what its all about.

Cheers Andrew...

On the way home from work tonight a Barn Owl was on the fence opposite the Radar Base...

Sunday, January 04, 2009

2008 Highlights...

Well thats the back of 2008 and here we are into 2009. What will it bring for us? Will it match up to 2008? No doubt there will be both good days and bad, and I'm looking forward to see what will turn up.

In 2008 my personal good bits included a few good trips away to wildlife hotspots - China in May, Suffolk in June, Cornwall in September and Speyside in December.

In the summer I particularly enjoyed my quests after Dragonflies, something that is quite new to me, but it will be continued in 2009. I think I had 23 species including Norfolk Hawker, Scarce Chaser and White faced Darter. Of the butterflies Purple Hairstreak and Silver studded Blues were firsts for me and I was well pleased to see them, as I was with Grass Snake and Basking Shark too, and not forgetting Ballan Wrasse ( who would?).

I suppose birds have taken a lesser position in the year than normal, though I still had 3 lifers with Lesser Grey Shrike, Great Snipe and Stilt Sandpiper. All great stuff.

On the patch, Boulmer, there were no real rarities, but 146 species were still recorded, not a bad total for a site with no fresh water.

So what will 2009 bring?

Well I usually have some plans on that front but not so much this year. I think I'll continue to stick with my roots and do the naturalist thing rather than just birding. There is so much out there to enjoy and often the hunt for them takes you into pastures new. Speaking of which, we are off to the New Forest in June where I will be looking out for a few dragons and damsels, maybe a butterfly or two and even some of the southern heath wildflowers...

We will be busy in the first quarter house moving too, just a couple of miles up the road, but to a quieter more rural location - I'll update when I get some news myself!

As for the past few years I will continue blogging. I like it. It adds another dimension to my trips out because I'm always on the look out for something to interest you all or to stir up some banter.Thank you to everyone who has left me coments in 2008, they are much appreciated even if I sometimes don't get back to you.

In 2008 I had 48,000 hits, more than double the traffic of 2007. Now 40,000 of that will be random googlers looking for god knows what but to the rest of you, thanks very much and I hope you enjoyed it.

Lets hope 09 will continue in a similar vein.

Cheers all, and don't forget to contact me about anything I post about. Good luck for the coming year...


Glaucous-winged Gull twitchers NOTE!

I see that the MEGA in Teesside has not been seen today. Fear not those dippers out there, there may be a valid reason. The tip is closed at weekends.

I only moot this theory because at Ellington tip gulls are at a peak between Wednesday and Saturday when the bins wagons arrive. The Saturday birds are still at the weeks refuse, but by Sunday there's not much left to eat. On Monday numbers can be low because it takes time to realise that dinner is served again until Tuesday when the birds start to return.

So, what am I blathering on about? I mean that the GWG might just be having a day or two away and might come back when his mates realise that the food supply has been reinstated...

Unless its gone?

Stewarts top tip - dont visit tips on a Sunday, son, there'll be nowt there...

Quicksilver Christmas Challenge...

Between Chrsitmas Day and New Years day a few of us have been keeping a list of birds seen. Over this period most people have other commitments to keep them occupied, me included, so its a good way of just seing what you can get during a week in winter, whether you are all out birding or you are looking from the mother in law's window.

During the time, I counted birds mostly on dog walks, but there was a half day run around and a trip to Scotland for the last 3 days. Here's how it went...

1. Red throated Diver - Only one seen off Boulmer.
2. Little Grebe - seen in a few localities.
3. Cormorant - Boulmer.
4. Grey Heron - seen in a few localities.
5. Mute Swan - Howick pond, QEII lake etc
6. Whooper Swan - between Widdrington Village and Ellington.
7. Pink footed Goose - Many in Cresswell area.
8. White fronted Goose - 3+ near Linton.
9. Greylag - with White fronts.
10. Canada Goose - Bothal Pond.
11. Shelduck - 3 at Boulmer.
12. Wigeon - seen in a few localities.
13. Gadwall - Druridge Budge Fields.
14. Teal - seen in a few localities.
15. Mallard - common.
16. Pochard - Bothal Pond.
17. Tufted Duck - Few localities.
18. Eider - common.
19. Goldeneye - several at Boulmer.
20. Red breasted Merganser - several at Boulmer.
21. Goosander - 2 at QEII Lake.
22. Sparrowhawk - only one seen at Longhoughton.
23. Buzzard - Common.
24. Kestrel - a few localities.
25. Peregrine - Boulmer.
26. Red Grouse - 17 seen Dalwhinnie, Scotland.
27. Grey Partridge - Boulmer.
28. Pheasant - Common.
29. Moorhen - Howick Pond.
30. Coot - a few coastal ponds.
31. Oystercatcher - common.
32. Golden Plover - only one seen at Cresswell Pond.
33. Grey Plover - Boulmer.
34. Lapwing - Boulmer.
35. Knot - a few at Boulmer.
36. Sanderling - a few at Boulmer.
37. Purple Sandpiper - 2 at Seaton Point.
38. Dunlin - Boulmer.
39. Snipe - Widdrington Tip.
40. Bar tailed Godwit - Boulmer.
41. Curlew - common.
42. Redshank - common.
43. Turnstone - common.
44. Mediterranean Gull - 1 adult, Newbiggin.
45. Black headed Gull - common.
46. Common Gull - common.
47. Herring Gull - common.
48. Iceland Gull - 1 2nd winter at Lynemouth flash.
49. Great black backed Gull - common.
50. Stock Dove -only one at Howick woods.
51. Woodpigeon - common.
52. Collared Dove - common.
53. Barn Owl - one seen near Lesbury.
54. Kingfisher - a suprise at Howick Pond.
55. Great spotted Woodpecker - 2 in Howick Woods.
56. Meadow Pipit - one at Boulmer.
57. Rock Pipit - Boulmer.
58. Grey Wagtail - a few locations.
59. Pied Wagtail - a few locations.
60. Waxwing - 6 at Linton roundabout.
61. Dipper - 1 Pauperhaugh bridge, near Rothbury.
62. Wren - common.
63. Dunnock - common.
64. Robin - common.
65. Stonechat - Boulmer.
66. Blackbird - common.
67. Fieldfare - Corby crags, Alnwick.
68. Song Thrush - Boulmer.
69. Redwing - Corby crags, Alnwick.
70. Mistle Thrush - a few locations.
71. Blackcap - female in our yard.
72. Chiffchaff - Druridge Budge Screen.
73. Goldcrest - Howick Woods.
74. Long tailed Tit - Howick Woods.
75. Crested Tit - Insh, Scotland.
76. Coal Tit - common.
77. Blue Tit - common.
78. Great Tit - common.
79. Nuthatch - one at Howick Woods.
80. Treecreeper - Howick Woods and Insh, Scotland.
81. Jay - near Longframlington and over A9 near Pitlochry.
82. Magpie - common.
83. Jackdaw - common.
84. Rook - common.
85. Carrion Crow - common.
86. Hooded Crow - one at Dalwhinnie, Scotland.
87. Starling - common.
88. House Sparrow - common.
89. Tree Sparrow - a few around Boulmer.
90. Chaffinch - common.
91. Greenfinch - common.
92. Goldfinch - common.
93. Linnet - Boulmer and Seaton Point.
94. Twite - 5 at Bells Links, Cresswell.
95. Redpoll - one only Insh, Scotland.
96. Bullfinch - Howick Woods.
97. Yellowhammer - a few localities.
98. Reed Bunting - Boulmer.

Total - 98 Species.

Easiest 'misses' were Ringed Plover, Shag, Common Scoter, Guillemot, Razorbill, Tawny Owl, Skylark, Siskin, Crossbill and Snow Bunting. Slav and Red necked Grebes and Brent Geese are also not difficult if a visit to the North of the county could be made.

The first 7 are usually easy to see in the Boulmer area! Could have had 106+...must do better. I even had 2 Ravens just outside the time barrier on our way home from Scotland...

We used to do a bird race for 24 hours in January some years back. I think the most we got was 102 in a day...

Looking forward to next years challenge Andrew, it was great!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Winter Wonderland...

We have been away for a few days to spend Hogmanay in the Highlands. The whole time we were away the mercury didn't rise above -1.5 degrees, with most days being between -4 and -6.5...

This was our cabin (click here) in the woods at Insh, near Kingussie, Speyside. It was very nice, compact and cosy, ideal for a few days solitude and relaxation. First thing we did was put some food out for the birds and some jam and bread to see if there was any Pine Martens. We didn't see any Martens, but there were 2 Red Squirrels early one morning before the light was good enough for photography and a weasel this morning. The table swarmed with Coal Tits and more unusually...

...this Treecreeper was on the peanuts then feeding on the frost hardened ground. It didn't look too well, but seemed to perk up next day.

The Lochs were all frozen solid, even moving water struggled to remain ice free, but the white tracery of birch twigs looked amazing...

A chap was roasting Chestnuts over these braziers at Rothiemurchus so we gave them a try and the warm mulled cider of course.

Next I had taken a Timed Tetrad for the BTO Atlas at Dalwhinnie, 1500 feet above sea level. Of course there were no birds other than Red Grouse and this Hoodie...

After a couple of days of dull, freezing weather, the sun came out, and what a difference it made! The Cairngorm air was crystal clear and bitterly cold..

This is Loch Morlich at the foot of Cairngorm in the Rothiemurchus forest. A massive area of water frozen into a block all except the outflowing river...

The ground was so cold it made walking uncomfortable for the terrier. She would be out for half an hour then cry to be picked up or put back in the car. All together now...

The railway up Cairngorm is quite controversial to some conservationists but it didn't make the mountain any less beautiful today...

From the car park the view over the forest and frozen loch was wonderful. In the distance you can see the mist lying in the Spey valley, it looks like another loch...

People were all over the frozen Loch, sledging, walking and skating...

When we left the cabin this morning I left a little picture of our favourite bird table visitor in the visitors book ...

A mile along the road from the cabin this view of Ruthven Barracks overlooking Insh Marshes prompted another photo stop...

Oh and I almost forgot, this Crested Tit was with the Coal Tits every day at our feeders, a cracking little bird...

Please click on the pictures for bigger images, particularly the scenery, it was really fantastic.

I'll update the Quicksilver Christmas challenge tomorrow....

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year to all for 2009.... speak soon.