Friday, December 31, 2010

The Last Post...

of 2010.

So, this morning I headed 'off patch' and up the coast (yes, for a change...).

At Seahouses, 70+ Pale bellied Brent Geese flew south over the harbour, but there were very few gulls let alone a white winger. Nowadays most boats from here are pot fishing so there is little to discard to attract the gulls. The days of Ivory Gull here are behind us I think.

Onwards then to Stag Rocks, Bamburgh.

I arrived here at about 9.30am. The weather was very dull and overcast but calm and the sea was flat with a high tide, just right to look for the seafowl that winter off here. I was so engrossed that I stayed for 2 hours, and did very well. Some species only coming into view after an hour and a half showing what I would have missed on a hit and run visit.

Lindisfarne Castle from Stag Rocks

In the 2 hours viewing from the car while drinking tea ( and eating mince pies) I had -

Eider 50+
Common Scoter 56+
Velvet Scoter 5 males together.
Long tailed Duck 4 inc 2 males.
Goldeneye 2
Shag 160+
Red throated Diver 9+
Great Northern Diver 1
Slavonian Grebe 8+
Black necked Grebe 1 rare here in winter these days but nice to compare with the other grebes nearby.
Red necked Grebe 1
Purple Sandpiper 99 roosting on shore with
Knot 71.

The grebes especially were a highlight with some quite close in allowing good views.

2 Porpoises and a bull Grey Seal added to the variety too.

Grebe notes done on the spot without reference. They are not to scale. The Black necked was much smaller and dumpier than the Slav and Red neck...The Black necked seemed too light to get any depth under water. It was like sinking a bottle cork, whereas the other two had no such problems.  

From here I popped down to Budle Bay where there were thousands of birds but the high tide was making them very distant. A Greenshank close in was nice and as a wildfowl sample I counted the Mallard at identifiable range - 220+. There were even more wigeon and shelduck and waders including Grey Plover, Bar tailed Godwits and Dunlins but too far out. Still, a nice morning, just the job to round off a great 12 months...

Thursday, December 30, 2010

FTN Hootenanny!

Except without Jools Holland. Most are doing 2010 summaries so why should I be different -

2010 - That was the year that was....

22nd May....


Began snowed in up on Speyside. Temperatures down to -17 degrees and a metre of snow didn't do much for the tourists. 

First highlight of the year at home was the Ravens return on the 3rd. The pair roosted nightly in the Village Wood, a situation that seems not to be repeated this year. The coldest winter for 30 years ensured that Woodcocks were aplenty, and hard weather movements were the order of the day.

Up to 17 Wrens roosted communally in our shed, and on 17th 2 Shorelarks were all too brief at Longhoughton Steel, just down the coast.

My first local Water Rail turned up on 9th and 10th.

Only one moth trapping evening on 17th had 3 December and 1 Chestnut Moths.

On a sad note, Marsh Tit on 7th was to be the last one recorded here. They were a common bird here years back.


Finished off some atlas tetrads in this, the quietest, month. On 16th my only local Shoveler of the year was on the pond.


The Garden Moth Survey started on 5th with a blank session. On 8th a Green Woodpecker was a nice garden tick. The first Pipistrelles and Toads appeared on 13th. My first reasonable moth catch came on 17th with 47 moths of 8 species caught.

The first spring migrants arrived on 20th when 2 Chiffchaffs were singing in Village Wood.

A male Snow Bunting was quite late on 21st at Howdiemont Sands. 

On 27th a 2nd Summer Mediterranean Gull was in the back field. Garden tick. 


After being pipped to 2 Black Redstarts at Cullernose in the morning of the 2nd, I was more pleased with one on our drive and roof in the afternoon. Good Friday indeed.

Another Med Gull was present on 3rd this time a fw on the shore.

Wheatear and Blackcap arrived on 4th, though it was the 10th that brought the first proper sunny summery day. Bee-fly, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies were on the wing. It took until the 11th for my first hirundines of the year with 3 Sand Martins at their Boulmer nest colony. Sandwich Terns and Swallows arrived on 12th and 16th respectively, with Common Sandpipers on 19th..

Red Squirrel was present along our lane on 25th.


Started off quite cold with a  NE wind on 3rd, Bank Holiday Monday. This didnt deter my first Orange Tip on the year in the garden.

The first of several patch rare species proper turned up on 16th with a Quail singing in the back field. 

Garden moth trapping was now in full swing with some nice catches and species. On 19th a cracking female Emperor was the best.

What must be the absolute highlight of 2010 arrived at 9am on Saturday 22nd May. A singing Common Rosefinch toured the village before ending up in my garden on a niger feeder!


The early part of June was spent in Scotland near the Ardnamurchan peninsula seeing Golden and Sea Eagles, Pine Marten, Chequered Skipper and various moths new to me.

Most of my time was now spent catching identifying and photographing moths. Away from the trap though in Village Wood it was nice to see 3 male Gold Swifts 'lekking'.

On 22nd June, an evening gardening was made much better when an adult Hobby flew low over the garden.  


The busiest time of the year for moth trapping. Catches consistently over 200 moths take time to sort out, but the peak date was 24th when 688 moths of 95 species were caught, all in one Robinson Trap!

On 22nd a Roseate Tern was fishing offshore.

On 24th July 11 spikes of Broad leaved Helleborine were in flower in Village Wood.


Started off with a bang when an Osprey flew low over our garden in the evening of the 3rd.

Seawatching began too on 8th when Arctic Skua, Bonxie, Sooty Shearwater and another Roseate Tern were seen. On the same date the first Merlin of autumn flew south along the coast path.

Moths began to take on an autumn flavour now with Sallow, Frosted Orange and Brown spot Pinion all being taken on 22nd.

More seawatching on 30th, Bank Holiday Monday, found a winter or imm Black Guillemot flying north at dawn, closely followed by a Little Egret. A strange combination.


Traditionally a well anticipated month for migrating birds....

A fall on 7th added 3 Spotted Flycatcher, male Redstart and 2 Whinchat to the list. A seawatch on 25th was busy with 735 Barnacle Geese going north.

Another fall on 28th was better with 2 Yellow browed Warblers, one nearly in the garden, 2 Pied Flycatchers and more Redstarts. Bramblings and Redwings hinted of darker days to follow. On the 29th further arrivals included a stunning Hawfinch flushed from the back hedge. 

An unwanted arrival was at the lane end on the same date -  a Grey Squirrel, a county first for me. Also on an eventful day, a tiny plant new to me was growing on our drive, Sweet William Catchfly.

New moths included Heath Rustic, and 2 Butterbur.


Began well with a Barred Warbler lumbering around the sloe berries on the coast path on 2nd. A Lapland Bunting flew north on 5th. Red Squirrels made an appearance too with a dead road casualty on 2nd followed by a live on at the same spot on 5th.

More falls of migrants occurred on 8th - 11th. Highlights on the patch during these few days were 4 Ring Ouzels in the back hedge, and a Raddes Warbler along at Craster.

A good seawatch on 16th had Pomarine and Long tailed Skuas, Black throated Diver and more Sooties all north.

A massive early Waxwing invasion began for me when I bumped into 40 of them at Asda in Ashington on 24th... 

The month ended as it began with another Barred Warbler on 29th, this time in the garden, feeding on elder berries. Possibly the same bird as before?

November ....

More Waxwings at various locations but none on the home patch...

A quiet month was enlivened by a male Northern Bullfinch in the Long Walk on 21st. Maybe he was a harbinger of bad weather to come, because on 24th the first snows came and stayed around until the year end.

On 26th our village was largely snow bound. At last 7 Waxwings flew around the Village, adding to the OFFH list.

Woodcock, Water Rail and Bramblings all arrived locally on 28th.


Thanks to the hard weather, early December was full of birds. On 2nd 2 Twite, a Kingfisher and 2 Woodcock were a starter for the birds on 3rd...

Bitterly cold weather and deep snow resulted in an excellent hard weather movement - 355 Skylarks, 2 Lapland Buntings, 1 Twite, 2 Brambling, 525 Pink footed Geese, 5 Barnacle Geese, 1 adult Ross's Goose, 1 male Hen Harrier, 17 Woodcock, 400 Dunlin all in an hour at our road ends.

After this bird numbers dwindled as they moved out, leaving 2 Water Rails on 12th and 2 Peregrines on 21st along with odd Woodcock to add interest..

Species totals - 

On foot from home, in reality means Howick south to Boulmer pub, and North to Craster, but mostly the 1km sq around Howick Village.

Birds - 161
Mammals - 15
Amphibians - 2 and no frog!
Butterflies - 12
Moths - 12, 161 of 332 species
Plants - Didnt really count them!

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Still thawing....

Temperature up to 4 degrees today (phew, what a scorcher). A nice fine day with some light mist. Calm.

The view is still mostly white though....

Our walk to the coast path this morning had a few birds taking advantage of the growing green patches of field now showing - 2 Fieldfares, 3 Mistle Thrush and 4 Lapwings were joined by 2 Redshanks. On the shore 2 Rock Pipits chased each other about and 3 nice drake Goldeneyes were feeding just behind the breakers.
A Woodcock flew from the copse next to the garden and dropped into the back hedge.

This afternoon we took a wander down to the pond. On the way, a Water Rail flew from the roadside ditch, across the road, at head height, and into Village Wood where it started squealing for a while. The pond is still wholly frozen so there is nothing to see there, but two 'smooth legged' Buzzards flew over, calling...

Best of the day though, at dusk, I popped out to give the local Robins a supper snack and was very pleased when I got one to finally feed from my hand! Its true I'm turning into a Robin stroker.....

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


No photos today, and very little birding....

A short walk to the coast path first thing had 2 Fulmars investigating the cliff ledges for the first time in months. A subtle hint of spring to come....Offshore 2 Shelducks flew south, also the first for ages, since their return from the heligoland moulting grounds...

The snow is thawing hard today but our landscape is still very white. Tomorrow is supposed to be even milder so maybe we'll see the back of the white stuff. We haven't had a 'green' landscape around here since 24th November and the Dickensian scene is now wearing very thin indeed.

I'm now planning for the New Year....

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas ....

Today was bitterly cold and never above freezing. It was clear and sunny with an icy NW4 blowing. Until this afternoon, that is, when the un-forecast snow began to come down again and by 3.30pm it was a blizzard.

I needed to pop down to Amble this morning for  few bits and pieces so took the chance to check out the wildfowl on the Coquet estuary between Warkworth and Amble. There are lots of birds here at the moment being frozen out of their normal freshwater habitats...

R.Coquet below Warkworth Castle.

Wigeon were the most numerous with 340+ present, closely followed by Teal with 200+. In lesser numbers were 3 Goosander, 4 Goldeneye, 10 Mallard, 2 Shoveler, 1 Little Grebe, 2 Coot, 1 Moorhen, 1 Heron, 5 Snipe, 20 Dunlin and 3 Redwing on the bankside.


Back home, Jane and Heather were cooking stuff for tomorrow. Heather had made us a Christmas wreath, with a slightly different take on it, because the Blackbirds had already eaten the berries and apples from the one Jane made earlier in the week...

Bird Wreath! I'm not sure where she got the Robin from mind you ;)

Then the weather took a turn for the worse...

 Our Village Hall this afternoon...

And they say it wont be a 'white Christmas'...I beg to differ....

Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Catch up time...

The last two days have seen me 'net-less, mainly thanks to BT/ Yahoo!. Back in October this server became obsolete but I just persevered with it regardless. The other day it finally gave up the ghost leaving me as stranded as an Alnwick Christmas shopper. Its funny, but BT didnt make my bill obsolete...

Anyway, after days of tampering I'm now using Google Chrome as a browser. Its much quicker than the one I had.

So, back to the blogging.

As the snow has continued to fall and temperatures have stayed in the negative, I have stretched my Christmas holidays and am now off until 4th Jan.

Yesterday when I left the house to take Bunty for her morning walk I heard the distinctive call of a Peregrine.

Looking around there was no sign of the hunter so I pressed on to the coast road. As all of the landscape is pristine white I knew I had a canny chance of locating the Peregrine, but not as easily as I did. 

In the centre of our back field there she was, in a drift of pigeon feathers having breakfast. As I got to the coast path more calling, but this time quite agitated so I assumed a crow was trying to get his share of the kill. At the next convenient view point I was well pleased to see not the expected corvid, but two Peregrines sitting next to the food! After some debate as to who was the rightful owner, one bird flew up onto a fence post to watch while the other finished off.

I managed to get three of our non birding neighbours on to the birds, and they seemed quite pleased to get Peregrines on the doorstep...

An Omen...

(Note due to internet issues this was from Tuesday...)

Something is about to befall us...

Today is Winter Solstice, with a full moon AND a total lunar eclipse. If I were a druid I'd be running for cover now. We're doomed....

I tried to take some photos this morning but they were poor. Probably due to being tired (6.50am), bloody freezing (-10) and inept. So heres one I took earlier...

Near totality, a red glow, March 2007

John Malloy has some real pics on his blog of this mornings show...

Speaking of Omens, I was coming home from work after lunch today when, just north of Widdrington, a tiny Bat flew over the snow and ice covered road in broad daylight. The temp was -2.5. I couldnt be sure but it looked like a Long eared Bat with ears curled back, but my view was very brief.

It could be a warning...   

Monday, December 20, 2010

Same old, same old....

Off work again due to snow. This will mean another series of late shifts to make the time back up...

So as it was down to somewhere below -6 and it didnt get any warmer than -3 it was time to get out for a wander.

It was a lovely crisp sunny day, but face numbingly cold.

The coast road looking at Seahouses Farm, Howick.

The main road looking west. As you can see, its well gritted.

Howick Burn Mouth. The south end of my patch. Snow on the shore...

I walked down the Long Walk and back via the coast path...

Woodcock were much in evidence again today with at least 14 flushed. I managed to see three or four on the ground before they moved on...This one was at the base of a Yew and allowed two 'walk byes' to get a photo...

Crouching Woodcock...

Also of note were 38 Grey Partridge, 600 Woodpigeon in one field and some viz migging on the walk back-

Skylark 239 S
Brambling 3 S

3+ Snipe and 2 Redshank were on the small Howick Burn near the frozen pond, 3 Yellowhammers were in the Village and 4 Goldeneye were off shore...

When I went to feed the birds in the garden first thing, a Woodcock flushed from near the log pile. 2 Tree Sparrows and 2 Brambling were at the seed.

I wonder if I get to work tomorrow...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Big Bruiser Bully update...

Remember the Northern Bullfinch we had at Howick the other week, just before the snow came? John has managed to salvage these photos from his phone. As can be expected the digi-scoping qualities of a blackberry are debateable but it shows our bird.

Note the large appearance even though alone, against the rowan berry clumps, the silvery / blue grey mantle, clean and unsullied, bright rose pink breast / cheeks etc, 'wrap around' rump / undertail. In the middle photo you can just about make out the large bill. The clean broad white wing bar looks nice too.

All of these features are difficult to describe to show how different this bully was from his Howick companions. You'll get through a lot of local Bullfinches before you get one as nice as this though thats for sure.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Waxwing Relegation....

Thank god for that. RBA Pager services have dropped the Waxwing to just local status. No more trawling through every single solitary half arsed Waxwing in the UK. I like some reports though - ie Gloucs 300+ Waxwings.....Derbys 121 Waxwings....Worcs 35 waxwings  etc etc until, 95 messages later, Cornwall. Waxwing 1 adult female. Showing well.

It shows how scarce they are down there by the amount of detail a single specimen recieves. But for Scotland and everywhere north of Watford they have been prolific this year. I had real worries that after scrolling through 50 Waxwing messages I might just miss the -  Lothian, Siberian Accentor 1 adult female, showing well...

So, whilst I do still like our crested creatures of the north, I dont want to know that theres an adult female in Truro. I'm just not interested. It costs me batteries....


Sunday, December 12, 2010

WeBs Count...

I know that next week is the official date but I cant do it then so this week will have to do...

What looked like a grim drizzly day turned out not so bad really. It was a summery 8 degrees and fair with a moderate NW4 breeze. On the coast the snow has all but gone, but it is still white inland.

As last month we parked JWR's car at Boulmer and walked north back to my house for my car then back to Boulmer.

First bird of the day was a Peregrine flying steadily north over Boulmer Hall farm. I saw a Peregrine later on in the afternoon near Ratcheugh that may be the same one.

We had caught the tide just right, and it was just beginning to fall back when we started, making the waders feed at reasonably close range.

Oystercatcher 65
Lapwing 4
Ringed Plover 4
Grey Plover 18
Dunlin 160
Purple Sandpiper 3
Knot 4
Sanderling 78
Bar tailed Godwit 55 an excellent count and possibly a record for me at this site. The norm here is somewhere between 14 and 28 birds.
Curlew 7 an opposite to the Godwits. There are usually 200 - 300 here.
Redshank 23 again low numbers.
Turnstone 42

Only a few wildfowl  -

Mute Swan 2 flew in and landed on the sea.
Wigeon 22
Mallard 2
Eider 16
Goldeneye 6
Red breasted Merganser 1

Some of the Bar tailed Godwit flock...

From the Howick Burn we walked back via the Long Walk up the dene. In here we had 3 Treecreepers, 2 Nuthatch, 2 Goldcrests, 2 Woodcock, 1 Sparrowhawk and 3 Buzzards.

Near home 2 Water Rails were still squealing in the Vilage Wood. Unseen.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

All of my Brambling photo's are dull and grainy, because I take them through a small window pane looking onto the lawn. I must try and get one outside in good light. Today's bird is a nice bright first winter male, a much nicer specimen than the female I photgraphed last time. There have been two going around, but just the one today.

While feeding the birds yesterday 2 Waxwings were flying around the village. Again they looked like they would drop onto a neighbours apple tree, but I didnt see them again. Maybe they were intimidated by the 20 odd Blackbirds finishing off the still hanging fruit?

Bunty's walk this morning was along the coast path towards Cullernose Point. There wasn't a great deal to see, now that 90% of the coastal snow has gone, but a drake Goldeneye in with the Eiders made a change and a distant Great Northern Diver on the sea proved its identity when it ran along the surface, took off and did a couple of laps before going south.  

I'm pleased to be still adding to the OFFH list even at this late stage. Possibilities are thinning out now but I could still add Long tailed Duck and Little Auk, or a white winged gull. Weather permitting...

OFFH List 161.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Northumberland List update...

I've just had an email update from Alan Jack, who tells me his list is 344. He could well be in second place in the 'league' being just one behind Tom Tams on 345 who may or may not be the title holder.

WeBs recorder, Steve Holliday, once talked about getting people to submit lists, so here is another call to all Northumberland birders who keep a county list. If you are a keen Northumberland lister go on get your totals on Bubo for all to see. Its no good it just being a rumour...

If you do take this on, the site asks for dates and sites for your rare species. I did the same for the scarceties up here ie Turtle Dove, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker etc so I think this would be a good idea to enable a free and open comparison.

And remember, its not serious its just a light weight go at adding some interest and competition into your listing!

Mmmmmm, I wonder what 23 species seperate me from the gold medal?  And how many people are between me and the top place? More than 23 I'll bet...

Monday, December 06, 2010

Day 12...

...of the freeze. Some snow yesterday and this evening means that Saturday is still the only day without some form of snowfall. This week looks like a cold one but may be just freezing rather than 2ft deep...

I have added a box in the right hand column from 'Bubo Listing' showing my Northumberland List. Although I'm not too obsessive, I do like a list or two especially my British and County lists. I've only done the county list on Bubo as it requires dates and places of rare bird sightings. It would take a good while to do my British List by checking my notes etc, but the Northumberland one was more straight forward.

323 species in Northumberland so far. All of them are records accepted by the county records committee and, if necessary, BBRC. There are no dodgy lone 'fly overs' on there.  To tell if thats any good we really need a benchmark to go on. I'm not really sure who has the record Northumberland List but I think it will be in the region of 345 - 350 species. Birders like Andy McLevy, Tom Tams, Alan Jack, Graeme Bowman and Mike Hodgson must be in with a good shout. A lot of Northumberland birders will surpass the 320 mark. As of the end of 2008 the Northumberland List was 401.

So how could I have improved things? My most glaring ommissions include -

Woodlark   - Farnes last week...
Nightingale - A few I could have had. Not interested in the impossible to see singer west of Morpeth last year, I'm more huffed at one on Holy Island running around a dry stone wall...
Ring billed and Laughing Gull - A famous pair spent a winter in Newcastle City Centre in the 80's...
Ross's Gull - I went for one once only 7 minutes from home. It was milling around the area for a good while. I should have put more time in...
Fea's Petrel - 7 County records and I do put in a bit of seawatching...
Red throated Pipit - Not a sniff...
Black Stork - A speck 2 miles away in flight wasnt good enough for me...
White Stork - I must see an unringed bird...
Alpine Swift - We need a twitchable one...
Cetti's Warbler -  I hope the one at East Chevington survives...
Corncrake - As numbers seem to be slowly increasing in Scotland, maybe my chances will too...
Bee-eater - On our wires next summer...

But I wont complain,  there have been some good county successes -

Arctic Redpoll - 2. The last ones in the county. 1996.
Pied billed Grebe - Druridge 1992?
Bridled Tern - 1988 and 1989
Black faced Bunting - A proper autumn juvvy 1999.
Red necked Stint - Wansbeck Estuary 1995
Isabelline Shrike 2
Woodchat Shrike 1
Lesser Grey Shrike 1
Pied Wheatear 2
Desert Wheatear 4
Great Reed Warbler 1
Roller 1
Bonapartes Gull 2
Franklins Gull 1
Slender billed Curlew just the 1 Druridge 1998
Hooded Merganser 1 a genuine one and accepted by all.
Squacco Heron 2
Surf Scoter 3
King Eider 2
River Warbler 1 singing male down to 10 yards 1996
Iberian Chiffchaff 1 2004
Pine Bunting 2 1989 and 1992 Big Waters and Cresswell
Rustic Bunting 1990 Newbiggin
Terek Sandpiper 2
Broad billed Sandpiper 1
Glossy Ibis 1
Black winged Stilt 1 1993 Druridge
Blyths Reed Warbler 1 in the hand Hauxley.
Olive backed Pipit 1 Woodhorn 1990
Citrine Wagtail 2
Pacific Golden Plover 1, the first one...

etc etc many other highlights too....

 I wonder what 2011's highlight will be? A twitchable Red footed Falcon or Cattle Egret wouldnt be too much to ask, but I would really like a snowy Ivory Gull...

If you enjoy keeping any lists have a look at Bubo Listing its free and quite a good way to keep your totals in order....

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Day 11...

A very minor hint of a thaw here today, then freezing then a heavy snow shower. But mainly clear and sunny...

Met up with JWR at Alnmouth and checked the river and shore next to the golf course.

Plenty of wildfowl and waders on the unfrozen estuary mud -

300 Dunlin,  7 Snipe, 5 Woodcock, 200 Teal, 110 Wigeon, 35 Mallard and a drake Gadwall. Only one drake Goldeneye with a Little Grebe made a change from the dabblers. A female Sparrowhawk did some butterfly flapping around a wet piece of marsh looking for crouching snipe.

A few birds were feeding in a strip of game crop - 6+ Tree Sparrow, 50+ Skylarks, 20+ Reed Bunting and 9 Whooper Swans. Down on the beach a small clump of sea buckthorn held a few Song Thrushes and 3 nice Fieldfares plus the now obligatory Woodcocks. Three skeins of Pinkfeet flew south totalling about 300 birds. Two male Stonechats were on the frozen golf course, with one showing particularly well around the car park.

At dusk back home three or four Woodcock were flying around the Village heading out to feeding spots.

A good sighting late on last night, 11.45pm, on my way back after taking Bunty for her bedtime stroll our neighbours outside light came on and lit up a nice Barn Owl sat on our garden fence! It flew off over to the back field. I wonder if it has been looking for mice on my bird feed?

Even tidal waters have been frozen then smashed as the water receded...

Alnmouth Golf Course. The only things on the tee boxes today were Skylarks...

Song Thrush getting some sustenance from the sea buckthorns next to the beach. 

Saturday, December 04, 2010

No snow...

Day 10 of our freeze and this is the first day it hasn't snowed. It was cold and frosty with a nice clear blue sky.

A lethargic, lonely looking Larky....

Keen to see if the hard weather movement was continuing I took Bunty up to the coast path, walked south to the Bathing House and back via Howick Lane. We were out from 8.40 - 9.35am...

First up, while I was feeding the garden birds, a Waxwing, alone for a change, was up in a tall tree in the copse calling like mad, seemingly looking for its colleagues. It soon departed to the south.

Viz miggers up near the coast path were -

Woodpigeon 223 S and 21 N I am always unsure whether these are locals looking for new feeding spots or are they really moving off to milder climes? Those moving south were quite high and steady in their flight so I feel they weren't just going down the road...
Curlew 9 S
Skylark 4 S thats all with about a dozen in the fields. A sharp drop off from yesterday.
Brambling 4 S
Pinkfooted Geese 57 S
Tree Sparrow 1 S high along the shore.
Goldfinch 25 S in single figure parties.
Siskin 2 S
Greenfinch 1 S

Other than those appearing to migrate were -

Peregrine 1 adult male S later seen going N at 4pm presumably back to roost.
Woodcock 11 including 4 in one gorse bush.
Snipe 1 or 2 in the back field.

A Grey Seal was 'bottling' close in while 3 Roe Deer were in the open looking for food. See accidental shot of one below. You can clearly see its a buck...

Friday, December 03, 2010

A Woodcock Winter...

My morning began in -5 degrees out with Bunty. We only walked from home up to the coast path.  Woodcock seemed to spring from every sheltered patch and 5 were seen within 15 minutes, with another 3 later. Then I noticed this poor creature that had hit a sheep fence. It flopped along the verge trying to take off without success.

I kept it in a box in the house until this afternoon. Although I could see there was no fixing this one ( the right wing was shattered) I didnt have the bottle to 'do the right thing', so I realeased it onto a wet sheltered patch nearby to let nature take its course. It was quite a perky character. What a shame...

At lunchtime I saw that a flock of geese had settled in the coast path field, so wandered up with the scope to check them out. There were exactly 200 Pink footed Geese, but more interestingly there was a good movement of birds south along the coast so I did a bit of 'viz migging' from the road end.

No sooner had I counted the geese, when I saw a thrush on the far fence. Peering through the scope, it was one of a party of 4 Mistle Thrushes, but as I looked a movement behind caught my attention...HEN HARRIER! And not just a hen harrier, a stonking adult male looking all silvery and uplit, tipped with black. Still watching I scrabbled for the camera but not only was it distant, it was too quick for me and was out of sight, south, within a minute or so...

Right then, back to the counts, I thought, when I heard the calls of more Pinkfeet heading my way. Looking up, they came right over head and one was white! The Newton Pool Ross's Goose, no less, accompanied by 5 Barnacle Geese and 40 Pinkfeet. They whiffled in to the flock in the field for a feed and a preen, and ten minutes later they were off again heading south... 

Ross's Goose with Barnacles and Pinkfeet...

The original flock...

An hour later (watched 12 - 1pm) with numb feet I had counted -

Whooper Swan 8 S ( 7 ad and 1 juv)
Pink footed Goose 525 S
Barnacle Goose 5 S
Ross's Goose 1 S
Hen Harrier 1 S
Golden Plover 11 S
Snipe 8 S and N around the fields
Curlew 5 N
Dunlin 53 N and S around fields some were attached to Skylark flocks.
Lapwing 16 S
Woodpigeon 76 S
Skylark 355 S a constant stream of birds low over the fields.
Mistle Thrush 9 S
Fieldfare 4 N
Brambling 2 S
Linnet 67 S
Twite 1 S
Goldfinch 1 S
Reed Bunting 3 S with Skylarks
Lapland Bunting 2 S with Skylarks.

To warm my feet I had a walk north along the coast path to Cullernose Point and back. The 11 Whooper Swans were still in the field near the lay bye, 32 Grey Partridges were easily seen against the snow in small coveys (8, 2, 9, 7, 6), 1 female Sparrowhawk looked like a male Gos in flight, briefly, until seen perched, a pitfall for the unwary, 2 Buzzard, 16 Oystercatcher, 1 Purple Sandpiper and 3 Woodcock.

Fake Gos...

At dusk I watched 5 Woodcock flighting out of the hedges and woods to the coast to feed, joined by a lone Snipe...This brings the days Woodcock tally to 16.

OFFH List - 160. ( Ross's Goose included, but not on my 'real' list...)

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Peachy faced Twite...

Day 8. Still snowing. I took a walk down the coast to the Howick Burn mouth and back via the coast path today.

Cold, snowy conditions usually mean that there will be something of interest to see. It might not be 'rare', but sometimes good numbers or an unusually scarce bird out in the open for example.

Todays walk produced such a selection. Firstly, the waders in the wet field have increased, with a massive 400 Dunlin there, alongside 30 Golden Plover, 100 Lapwing, 40 Redshank, 5 Snipe and a few Oystercatchers and Curlew.

Further down the track and a Kingfisher flew over the frozen field heading towards the very cold and blustery rock pools. A large manure heap here concentrated 22 Grey Partridges, 50 Skylarks, 10 Linnets and 2 lovely peachy faced Twite. An uncommon bird around here, these two showed very well.

On the return journey, 2 Woodcocks flushed from the field edge near the shore ( I had a flock of 3 together this afternoon at Longhoughton, flying from the roadside at dusk). More small parties of Skylarks, Partridges and Reed Buntings punctuated the closing leg.

A nice wander out thanks to the snow!

 As I said, peachy faced creatures, these Twite...

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Spring... a little bit nearer when I noticed a Chiffchaff feeding in the frozen typha stems at the pond this afternoon. It looked just like one of our own collybita so maybe it is just staying here over the winter, rather than being blown here recently on these NE winds.

 The pond itself is solid but I heard some mallard and teal in the wooded bit out of sight. The only other noteable sighting was a Woodcock that lifted from the roadside on our way back home.

I'm about fed up already of driving to and from work in the ice and snow, so I've taken the rest of the week as holiday. I just hope next week is a bit easier on the commute...

Now that the Capital is starting to feel the pinch, poor Cardiff isn't even getting a mention on the BBC....

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wild Swans..

When I got home from work this afternoon (early again) a party of 11 Swans were circling the back field and landing out of sight.

I rounded up the trusty terrier and off we went to see if they might be Bewick's...

I was suprised to find the the two fields next to the coast were almost clear of snow now and immediatly the grassed flooded areas were utilised by waders - 110 Lapwing, 25 Curlew, 20 Redshank, 2 Snipe, 2 Dunlin and 4 Golden Plovers. Nice. No doubt they'll stay until it freezes in sub zero on Friday.

Up the track, the swans were settled on a rape field next to the road. Whoopers, 10 adult and 1 juv. Its not often we get grounded Whoopers here, they are more readily seen as they move north or south on migration... 

Only half a mile inland and the snow persists. It seems as though the heavy snow we had over the past week is moving to pastures new. It will still take a good long while before the current covering has gone though...

This morning the garden birds had been joined by a male Yellowhammer, the first one for a while.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Winter Birding...

More dry, drifting snow last night, left the roads earily quiet this morning. This morning was spent just wandering around the village seeing what was about.

One of the first birds of the day was a nice Woodcock that lifted silently from the nettles next to our drive, and off into more suitable wooded cover. A male Sparrowhawk was up early too harassing our feeders, where the local Chaffinches had been joined by a couple of Bramblings. 


In the Village wood, at least one Water Rail was squealing in the wet area under some dogwood. I waited for a while but couldn't see it (them, sounded like more than one bird calling). This is the same spot one turned up during hard weather in January.

After lunch we had a walk around by the coast path. The sea was rough without many birds other than 3 Dunlin and 5 Redshanks N, while further on a 1 male Brambling was on the manure heap, 9 Grey Partridges were in the field and a calling Lapland Bunting N over head but unseen.

Cullernose Point and Dunstanburgh Castle.

The path to the Bathing House was heavy going with drifted snow.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Lets have a quiet thought....

...for those poor souls mentioned on BBC Breakfast news this morning. Cardiff, god bless'em, had a hard frost last night. Truro had some snow, but the reporter had to drive around to find it. While she was on, cars were whizzing past at 40. I wonder why, when according to their own report, Scotland and Northumberland were hardest hit, they went to reporters in the South West?

Just watch, when the home counties get some it'll suddenly become the next ice age...

Back home, this morning another 5" had dropped on the coast, and Alnwick is now buried. We braved the elements and nutters in 4x4's, to get some bird seed in the town. We visited my brother who lives not far from Sainsbury's, where the quantity of snow had to be seen to be believed. His garden was an easy 15" thick. Thats inches, not centimetres. Cars were abandoned in drifts from Alnwick Garden right through the town.  

And we are forecast another good fall tonight. Lets hope they're wrong.

When I went out with Bunty this morning, a hard weather movement was beginning.

In half an hour 248 Skylarks flew south in parties up to 40 strong, accompanied by a few Meadow Pipits and Linnets. 20 or 30 Woodpigeons appeared to arrive from the sea, and a single Redshank flew off high west....

I'll have more time tomorrow moring to have a better look around.

Friday, November 26, 2010


Despite the news saying that last night wasn't as bad as they thought it would be, we awoke this morning to be snowed in with a minimum 5" of snow on level ground.

 Our village was very picturesque, providing you didnt need to get anywhere. Luckily I was on a flexi day, but Jane was just plain stranded. We made an attempt to get to Alnwick, but after only 2 miles, traffic stuck on a bank forced us to turn back...

Above and below - With all of the schools closed, 'snowball imps' could be found hiding behind trees etc...

Our garden birds were out in force too eager for anything going. Highlights in the village today were 7 Waxwings over head, a new one for the OFFH list, 1 Brambling, 1 Snow Bunting N calling, 35 Golden Plover N and 70 Pink Footed Geese S.

Up at the main road things were even worse....

Regular 'blizzards' kept us entertained during the day.... 

And the sun shone at dusk for a short while, this view from our porch...

We relocated 6 of the 7 Waxwings in the pond field later on...

So when you see on the news that today was an improvement on yesterday etc. No it wasn't. They are talking about Newcastle.

Monday, November 22, 2010

An oldie....

Some for Nigel at Abbey Meadows....This female Northen Bullfinch was caught by Nigel, JWR and me at Felton Lane near Widdrington in Feb 1996. It was easily located by its tooting trumpet call. Back in 1996 I dont think this call had been fully recognised? See my notes at the top. Excuse the photo quality, they are scanned in...

I've had these on the blog before, but as Nige mentioned it in the previous comments...

The bird was coming to our feeding station...but, in the same year me and John found Arctic Redpolls at Alnmouth Dunes on 11th Feb and Druridge Bay Country Park on 17th March. Still the only ones I've seen...