Saturday, December 31, 2011

The final curtain...

2011 Highlights...

Mmm. Now then.

On the patch 154 species. Down on last year but still not too bad with nearly the lot self found ( or maybe even the whole lot). The list included -  Great Northern Diver, Water Rail, Mealy Redpoll, Waxwing, Lapland Bunting, Roseate Tern, Quail, Storm PetrelBalearic Shearwater, Mediterranean Gull, Tree Pipit, Black Tern, PintailShoveler, Scaup, Velvet Scoter, Snow Bunting, Black Redstart, Short eared Owl, Twite and White fronted Goose.

Those in red are firsts for the site.

55 new moths for the garden too, the best being Mullein, Great Brocade and Fen Wainscot..

Plus several new birds for me - Black Scoter, White throated Robin, Sandhill Crane, Greater Yellowlegs and not forgetting the Eastern Black Redstart ( though not a 'tick' cos its just a race). This is the most I've added to the list for several years, quite surprising considering the lack of easterly winds and twitches.

Marsh Fritillary and Northern Brown Argus. Great butterflies and great crack with my companions.

Two Minke Whales in Scotland...

2011 Lowlights...

The weather. A cold wet summer and a westerly autumn resulted in very little migration or seawatching on the patch.

2012 Targets...

1. I must update this blog more. I am almost a hundred posts down on other recent years. I would like to say that its quality over quantity but not so I'm afraid. Must do better.

2. I will keep up with the whole genaralist naturalist thing. Its much better than just constant birding, you should try it. You do? Oh ok... 

3. Look for High Brown Fritillary, Mountain Ringlet, Small Blue and maybe Scotch Argus. I've seen the latter two but not for years. Natterjack Toad may be combined with the Cumbrian butterflies.

4. Finally do some mothing off-piste...

5. Do some garden alteration. Remove some knackered old shrubs and replace with something better. Increase the flowering season and quantity to help the insects.

5. Stay healthy. I have not taken a day on the sick since 2003 and have only had two days off in the 4 years before that. Long may it reign.

6. Try to be less miserable, drink more water, get more sleep, eat less of everything particularly chocolate. I'm getting the blame now for increasing the weight of other birders in the county...
 Here's wishing you all health, wealth and prosperity in 2012.  A Happy New Year to you, where's that bottle....

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Out early...

This morning our terrier had me up and out at the first crack of dawn. It was calm and mild, Tawny Owls were hooting, and Robins ticking with a cacophony of Pheasants in the gloaming. The local Barn Owl was quartering the back field before heading off to roost. Three Meadow Pipits and 5 Redwings flew around flushed by the owl.

Later on a couple of walks around the village and coast path turned up 3 Reed Buntings in the back hedge, 3 Nuthatches together near the gatehouse, 12 Eiders close in on the sea, 35 Curlews in the coast field, one or two Jays making a racket, a female Sparrowhawk and a Buzzard were in the pond field.

 This afternoon I have finally got around to putting up another few Tree Sparrow nest boxes that John made, plus a couple of smaller ones donated by kids in the village ( thanks Evan and Ailsa!). Hopefully there will be an improvement on my one pair from this year...and speaking of which, 20 Tree Spugs were at our feeders today, so it all bodes well.

And thats about it. Christmas over and work beckons...

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Merry Christmas all.

What a difference it is today compared to Christmas past. Its about 14 degrees warmer today, and much easier to get around.

I notice that Warren ( Pitswood Birds) has commented on the lack of birds down there if the weather stays mild. Last year and the year before, we had Waxwings and Woodcocks aplenty, Water rails in Village wood and showy Ravens and Raptors, but there were zero passerines away from the bird table, all either dead or moved out ahead of the cold front. This year I think it will be very quiet for those first species, but we still have pipits, wagtails, buntings and waders, and maybe our Barn Owls will survive?. Keep it above freezing I say...

Well, after a rib-lifting dinner and watching more pixar animation any sane person can take, its time for more champagne in front of Downton Abbey!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Only a couple of things around about today, 1 male Siskin on our feeders was the first since the spring, 15 Redwings were in the village copse and a good flock of 5 Purple Sandpipers were on the Rumbling Kern.

I had no sign of Ian Douglas's Hooded Crow at the Haven, but it might still be around so I'll keep checking. Wednesday's elusive caller remained in hiding, so we'll just let that one drop, and assume it was a Coal Tit...

So, here's wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas 2011.


Friday, December 23, 2011

..And the fire is so delightful...

Here are a few pics from last weekends childrens Christmas Party in our village hall. It looked really nice after we had decorated it with tree and lights, but the centre piece was the fire place that we loaded with holly and various evergreenery...Needless to say FC did not arrive via the chimney...( and before you ask, no it isn't!)

Since last weekend the weather has been very mild for the time of year. I have had the moth trap on for the past two nights and caught -  7 December Moths, 1 Chestnut and 1 very late Blair's Shoulder Knot, the latest county record by over a month.

Not much birding really, but on my day off on Wednesday, I heard a tantalising call from the village gardens that repeated several times before the vocalist just vanished. I wont be saying any more on the matter unless I actually find the thing this weekend then you will hear all about it!

Easier to find were a party of 4 Bullfinches and 10 Redwings just along from our garden.

Less welcome is our garden Mole. It has a dozen heaps so far, and luckily, for him, not in the lawn.  Although I do like them and won't harm him, I'll be trying deterrent methods as the weeks progress. There are acres of grass just yards away that I am sure will be more suitable...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

When the weather outside is frightful...

Out at 8.30am with JWR over the moors to do a WeBs count at Branton Pits near Powburn. How different the weather is only a few miles west of home! 4 inches of snow covered everything and open water was all frozen. So, before leaving the car...

...time to fit in a winter warmer.

Very little wildfowl to count on the ponds with 8 Russian Whitefronts being the highlight.

So, we headed back up to an arctic Corby Crags where the air was filled by an exuberant male Crossbill, warbling a canary-like song high in a larch. Another 4+ were feeding with him on the small cones. Maybe the sun had opened them slightly to assist those crossed mandibles. On the moor, 2 Red Grouse stood out against the white.

...and thats about it really, home again for lunchtime.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

We've got wind.

As I write this, it a tad breezy outside.

When I say 'breezy' I mean its a  'we'll be lucky to have chimneys in the morning' type of wind.

I have just had to wedge the telephone box door closed with a short railway sleeper as it was smashing open against a stone wall, rocking the whole box. Outside I can hear a neighbours shed rattling and banging. Its one of those metal constructions and it  sounds like a drum beat in the wind. I hope the damage doesn't cost too much....LATE UPDATE - 9.30pm - Just been outside and the neighbours shed is totalled. Its flat and half way up a tree! Not bad for an 8 x 12 ft building. According to the Met Office observations at RAF Boulmer, winds here are gusting 75 mph and blowing a constant 50 mph. Worrying thing is that the pressure is still falling? Does that mean its getting worse?

Off work today, on leave, to get some shopping done. Out with Bunty along the coast path, a lone Purple Sandpiper was with three Oystercatchers, and one of our Tree Sparrows stunned itself on the window trying to evade Sparrowhawk capture. After a passport photo, it flew off strongly none the worse for wear...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

S'no show for snow!

Its all gone. This morning was very mild and calm, much better than the cold stuff from yesterday. Didn't do much birding today though, time spent shopping and xmas decorating etc...

A dog walk had 69 Curlews in the stubble behind the Old Rectory, 1 Lapwing S, 1 Buzzard in the heronry and a good few Mistle Thrushes around the village. Odd Yellowhammers and Bullfinch added to the interest.

I haven't even bothered my arse to pay a visit to the Newbiggin Desert Wheatear even though its been there a week now. As I've seen 4 in the county I am hoping one will skip along the rocks here...

Only 5 weeks until the Winter Aconites show, 6 weeks until Snowdrops, 8 weeks until Toads head for the pond and 10 weeks until Blackbirds start singing.....roll on.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


What a shock this morning to get up and find this -

The views above are the front and back from our house. Snow was falling quite steadily and was wholly un-forecast. Last night was a cold -2 with a clear full moon.

The usual Saturday morning walk around the coast path was mostly quiet but a few birds were moving south over head - 56 Golden Plover, 4 Lapwing, 27 Skylark, 1 Greylag and 16 Cormorants. A Red throated Diver was close in on a heavy swell.

In the garden, birds flocked to be fed, with Tree Sparrow numbers increasing to 19+ birds now. Here are a couple of feeder shots. I make no apologies for another Tree Sparrow pic. Great little birds. Both male and female Great spotted Woodpeckers visited the peanuts too.

Tree Sparrows - a bit of Meerkat about them?

As busy as the Metro Centre...

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

A short interlude...on behalf of the Natural History Society of Northumbria.

Time for an advert.

I see that the Natural History Society for Northumbria are doing some courses over the winter. Please check out HERE for further information. I believe that the society is in the process of reinventing itself, not a bad idea as its been pretty much unchanged for 200 years!

The society is now doing all sorts of interesting things, like trying to get Natural History into local schools as a core part of the curriculum, trying to open up the Hancock collection (which is full of good stuff, including 4 Slender-billed Curlews and a Great Auk) for research and more.

So, it may be worth getting involved!

And now, to the weather....

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Barns and Trees.

A cold but fine day with only a light NW breeze. Quite nice for the time of year.

Around about the village today. First off, a dog walk north to Cullernose Point found a nice fw Mediterranean Gull with other gulls and pigeons feeding in stubble. A flock of 12 grey geese came right over head and looked very like Beans but I can't be sure. Pity that, that's a good bird for the patch.

Back home, Tree Sparrows are now up to 14 and are second only to House Sparrow for most abundant garden bird. A Sparrowhawk did its best to reduce their numbers, but it nearly became lunch itself when a neighbours cat lunged at it, flushing the whole garden.

The Barn Owls looked nice catching some rays while they still can.

Further up just past the Hall a very dark Red Squirrel complete with black tail was caching food right on the roadside. Whats the betting it gets flattened this week. I hope it goes back into the woods...

At dusk we walked down to the pond where things have gone quiet since being shot last weekend, but a Goldeneye skulked along the edge and 2 Woodcocks flushed in Village Wood.


Saturday, December 03, 2011

Patch List 2011

I thought my list ( see right column) was a bit light. I have double checked and find that I have missed off a whopping - 17 species! They are -

Canada Goose
Tufted Duck
Manx Shearwater
Ringed Plover
Golden Plover
Common Sandpiper
Feral Pigeon
Sedge Warbler

Taking the list up to a respectable 154 ( 2010 - 161, 2009 - 147). some very common species there that have been overlooked.

Note to self, must do better with record keeping in 2012. I've been concentrating on the moths too much!

Friday, December 02, 2011

In the spotlight...

Headlights really. On the way home from work tonight I was pleased I took the decision to use the A1 rather than the coastal route. As I came off the small sliproad roundabout at Stannington, I noticed a very nice Long eared Owl perched on top of a verge-side bush, nicely lit by overhead lights and car headlights.

The long 'ear' feathers were blown forward by the breeze giving it a very distinctive outline.

A brief but great view of a lovely bird...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Eastern Black Redstart...

Help. Why is the Holy Island bird 'phoenicuroides' and not 'semirufus' ?

I'm trying to sort out the diff....

EDIT - Just checked Svensson ( I forgot about him) and find that he mentions the greyer upperparts of phoenicuroides rather than the blackish of semirufus. Also cheers to M for his comment below.

I like to get these things clear in my head....

Case closed.

No birding this weekend but...

Yesterday at 1.10pm 80+ Eurasian White fronted Geese flew SE over our garden. It was interesting to hear them calling. A bit like Pink feet but more squeaky and nasal...84+ Curlew and 3 Skylarks were in the stubble field next to the Old Rectory...

Today, a walk down to the pond in fabulous spring-like weather had a nice finch flock in a couple of roadside Alders, comprising of 6+ Lesser Redpoll with a single Mealy Redpoll, 10+ Siskin and 4 + Goldfinches. At the pond, 5 Teal were with Mallards, 6 Crossbills flew over calling, 22 Redwings came into the trees and 30+ Fieldfares flew south.

Tonight at dusk a Snipe lifted, giving its scraping call, from the back field behind us and a nice Barn Owl came down the Village road and over the village hall car park.

Not bad for a non bird watching weekend....

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Yesterday, I felt too guilty to go to work after not paying respects to the eastern traveller on Lindisfarne, I risked dismissal and a life of abject poverty to show my appreciation.

Although the tide table said I would not get on to the island until 10am, I found a dry causeway at 8.55am so headed straight across. Not only did I miss work and illegally jump the tide, I recklessly paid no heed to the village signs and parked at the Vicars Garden where hopefully a short stroll to the shore would see the target 'bagged'.

The best laid plans, and all that found a birdless beach and me trudging the boulder and mud shore for a few hundred yards until I bumped into Johnny Mac on his way back. The bird was another hundred yards north. I should have parked at the Chare Ends, it would have been nearer and legal.

Arriving at the spot another Tees birder stood alone,  and having seen the bird, said, 'Its on the tide line but its not in view at the minute'....I need not have worried as the little male Eastern Black Redstart soon hopped up onto some strand line weed and behaved impeccably.  This male, of the race phoenicuroides is a first for Northumberland and may be only the fifth for Britain. Another has been in Kent for the past week or so.

Not even a list addition, this gem is still one of the years highlights up here...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

F...F Frigging Phoenicoroides...

Some smashing photos of the Eastern Black Redstart on Holy Island today were only slightly marred by the comment that ' Considering this hopefully will be the fifth UK record accepted it was rather strange to be in the company of only a few others. Having made it all the way from Southern Russia it should really be more widely appreciated'.

Yes Yes Yes I would certainly have appreciated it half to death but, although the economy is in tatters and unemployment is through the roof,  as unlikely as it may seem, some of us are still required at WORK!

Gggrrrrrr, bloody week day south easterlies....sodding dark nights....buggering shitting Holy Island all the way up there....and did I mention WORK!


( Maybe not as 'humph' as the chap from Chester who came to Hauxley for the yellowlegs and then hurried off on his way to Kent for that Eastern Black Redstart down there...)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A blog first...

Check out this very short, but quality, vid taken by Mike Hodgson yesterday when we were goosing....

Cheers Mike.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A wild goose chase.

A day spent around about home, turned up a few good birds.

This morning we walked to the coast path where a pair of Peregrines were casually soaring not too high over the laybye before gliding off north to settle on a stone wall. A few minutes later on the walk back, a female Merlin came close by, behind a flock of Starlings, looking for an opportunity.

Back home, a male Blackcap was calling and flitting about the drive while on the feeders were 10 Tree Sparrows, 7 Goldfinches and a Great spotted Woodpecker.

A few of the 10 Tree Sparrows in the garden today.
At lunchtime Gary Woodburn rang to say he has seen a large flock of geese land in a field at Dunstan Hill just NW  of Craster. There were two white birds in the flock that looked to be Ross's geese. As this is only 2 miles up the road for me, I was there in 10 mins to join Gary and Mike Hodgson scoping the birds in stubble next to the road.

What a superb mixed flock too. All too often we check goose flocks to find nothing but Pinks or Greylags, but this group consisted of 6 species!

Ross's Geese 2 adult
Tundra Bean Geese 2 ( though Mike did wonder if they were Taiga's, but I didnt think so?)
Eurasian White fronted Geese 5 ( 4 ad and 1 juv)
Barnacle Geese 53+
Greylag Goose 1
Pink footed Geese 600+

After an hour or so they were flushed by farm workers but seemed to drop down slightly further west.

Also here 100+ Fieldfare, 1500+ Woodpigeons and a Buzzard.

Part of the goose flock with the Ross's in the foreground. One Bean Goose is at the top of the geese at the far left hand edge of the photo.  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Great Legs!

What a difference a day makes. This morning I was at Bondi Pool for first light in drizzly dull SE conditions. No sign of the goal. Then, news came through that it was just one hide along so, five minutes later and Andrew Kinghorn is kindly showing me the GREATER YELLOWLEGS in his scope only seconds before it strode off around the back of an island and out of sight. Although I had seen the tall shape and bright yellow legs I hadn't even seen the bill so I was hoping for better.

After about 15 minutes, I got a call saying the bird was showing well in front of the Wader Hide on the other side of the reserve so off I went. The place was getting busy with long distance twitchers now so I got a move on but not before a scan from the banks of the far side. No view of the 'legs but the Grey Phalarope gave a nice fly past.

By the time I got to the rapidly filling hide, the bird was nicely on show, often in the same view as the Grey Phalarope ( I wonder if they travel together!). What a cracker too, at this range Lesser Yellowlegs was never a contender, see notes above. Tonight I see some nice pics show the bird was lightly speckled on the mantle but this feature didnt show at all in the gloomy daylight.

As the place was packed out and we are no lovers of twitching hoards JWR and me headed off to Warkworth Gut, where some newly flooded scrapes were the focus of our visit. Before we left Hauxley a final glance gave us a brief Kingfisher perched near the hide, for a few seconds before vanishing back to thicker and quieter cover.

Warkworth Gut was excellent with Little Egret, Spotted Redshank and Greenshank on the scrapes with 20+ Snipe and 50+ Teal. Along the track a very confiding Snow Bunting allowed views down to 10 feet and some dog walkers told us that there was a small flock on the beach but they had been flushed by a Sparrowhawk.

What a great mornings birding then with the Yellowlegs being my 401st British bird and my 326th Northumberland species. Result!

Back home, I was out with Bunts at 3pm when a calling Raven demanded attention. It came from the west and slowly flew down to land in a dead tree in the copse right next to our garden. I thought it might even drop in! I must stake a dead sheep to the lawn sometime...Its calling drew in a second bird from the same direction, and both flew North to Cullernose Point where they could be seen gliding about the coast path and cliffs from our drive.

A fitting end to a great day...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A day of two halves...

First half, this morning went quite well.

Out with a  recovering terrier ( she was spayed on Thursday) first thing, a Lapland Bunting flew south over the village calling, then, better still for me, 3 White fronted Geese flew low right over our house, a great one for the garden list. Seen only with the naked eye they were low enough to see the full blaze on the lead bird and the thick black belly bars on them all as they passed right overhead.

This isn't the WF Geese from this morning, but the view was exactly like this. These birds were near Boulmer a while back... 
A male Blackcap was on the last remaining elderberries in the garden a bit later on...


Late morning...

A message came through that ADMc had turned up a Greater Yellowlegs at East Chevington.Putting this in context, I have seen about 4 Lesser YLs in the county but must be the only Northumberland birder who failed to make the relatively short trip to Rockliffe for one of the last twitchable records of this species about 20 years ago. Why, I cannot remember...

So, a lifer and a county addition, 20 mins from home had me twitching like an epileptic at the oscars. the problem being, I had to take Bunty for a vets check up at 11.40 and would not be 'daan saaf' before 1pm.

I duly arrived at a queue of cars at Chev at 1 o'clock to find 50 birders gazing at water, the bird having gone north 20 mins earlier towards Hauxley. Off I went...

Bondi Pool -  Redshank 4 nothing else.

Hauxley main pool from the Tern Hide - Lots of birds but not a sniff of yellowshank. Worse still, I'm on me todd, not another birder in sight to help look.

Striding back towards the car a small podgy wader flew from my right only 20 yards away, low over the dunes and out of sight on to the shore - Grey Phalarope! No, must be a roosting Sanderling heading back to the shore and off I traipsed never giving the 'sanderling' a second glance. I had bigger fish to fry.

Amble Braid - Checked the Coquet estuary very briefly as Alan Jack had beaten me to it and still no mega yank to be had.

Out of time, I was gutted and limped off home to lick my wounds.

4.10pm RBA annouces - GREATER YELLOWLEGS, Bondi Pool ( it stayed til dusk) and...GREY PHAL on the beach.


Guess where me and most of the birding community ofr 300 miles will be in the morning....


Sunday, November 06, 2011

Winter Postponed....

The run of sunny clear days continues. The weather during October and November is better than July and August lately! As the day was so nice, I took a good few pics of varying quality, but they show our coast off at its best.

Most of the day was spent wandering the south end of the patch where a few things of note were seen. A first light (above) a seawatch was less than profitable, but 3 Snow Buntings flew around the rock edges here and later at Rumbling Kern. Through the morning 800+ Pinkfeet flew S in flocks of assorted sizes...

 At the pond, the local Mutes did a lap before returning to the family. However the highlight on here was a fine drake Pintail with the Mallards. I've not seen one on the pond before and it may well be a first.

While watching the pond,a Chiffchaff was calling nearby, an unusual bi-syllabic call. On investigation it turned out to be a Scandinavian Chiffchaff of the race abietinus. It was a washed out buff and peachy toned bird and very whitish underneath. The top pic is blurred but you can see how pale the bird was...   

The view North to our village...

Above - Howick Burn Mouth. A few Goldeneye were here with a Goosander and an adult Mediterranean Gull. 

Above -  The bridge over the Howick Burn mouth.

A walk inland a short way from the bridge up the burn takes in a  completely new habitat. Crossbills were heard up here but only a single male was seen.

Above -  This Common Darter and a Red Admiral helped to delay the onset of winter just a bit longer...

Above - The Rumbling Kern. The Snow Buntings were climbing the cliff faces here, different to their usual beach habitats....

And all this with only a few walkers to disturb the peace. Click on the pics for a larger image ( the landscapes in particular...)

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Bonfire Night...

A nice calm, fair, day today with a very light NW1 keeping things a touch cooler than lately.

9am Along the coast path, 7 Twite flew S as did 6+ Skylark, 6+ Meadow Pipit and a Brambling. 45 Curlew were in the field. Back home 800 - 900 Pink footed Geese and 12 Whooper Swans flew S over the garden and 6 Tree Sparrows were on our feeders.

At lunchtime a walk north beyond Cullernose Point had a Great northern Diver fly from the sea and head north and at the same place a tremendous flock of 12 Snow Buntings were feeding right next to the path giving great views. They called at each other as they scuffled between the rocks before fluttering off a short way south. Several nice males were included.  Much better than the lone female from the other week.

Two Rock Pipits were on the cliff top and a Fieldfare was with two Mistle Thrushes on the farmland.

A good morning then....

After writing this post I looked out of the window to find this dapper chap...

Brambling, in.
Pity the light was dismal just before dusk ( and its through the living room window...).


Check this out - yours truly in print in 'Bushcraft and Survival Skills' magazine! Don't even begin to ask how that came about.....

Friday, November 04, 2011

Patch Tick!

But dont get too carried away.

Yesterday while I was wandering along the road in our village something moved among the fallen leaves....Common Frog! Oh yes, it may not have you lot grabbing the camera and running for the car, but in the 2 years 7 months we've been here this is my first. Toads are the thing here. Common, particularly in spring, and the odd Smooth Newt but the humble lowly Frog is as rare as, as rare rare as a Fox thats for sure. Maybe not quite. Fox would be a new one for me here.

I have no idea why Rana temporaria should be scarce here. We have ponds and ditches for them as well as damp boggy areas but, despite looking, they are now where to be seen....

As for Fox, I know exactly why they are rare...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The last of the sunshine....

Above and below - Howick in an autumn light.

A lovely mild calm and quiet day today. A real pleasure to be out and about. The last rays of hazy sunshine lighting up golden leaves and red berries.

At home, while waiting for JWR to arrive first thing, a few things attracted attention.While having a coffee and gazing through the kitchen window, a 'buzzard' glided low over our house chased by a crow. I nearly didnt give it a second glance, but I lifted the bins and I was pleased to see not a buzzard at all, but a Short eared Owl! Not only new for the garden but new for the patch too...

Some viz migging from the drive had 1 Brambling, 1 Redpoll, 3 Siskin and 400+ Pinkfeet all south. Later, in the afternoon a walk to the Pond had 2 distant hirundines over the wood that I think were probably Swallows and 5 Crossbills circled about low overhead.

After John arrived we took a short trip up to Craster and walked the Heugh and around the Village. After some time, we found a nice Yellow browed Warbler that showed very well but only briefly before taking cover, a House Martin and a flock of 12 Crossbills flew S, a female Blackcap was in the allotments and a Purple Sandpiper was with Turnstones in the harbour. The sea was quiet with only a couple of Red throated Divers and Guillemots seen. A few birds were in a hedge next to a game crop including 15+ Tree Sparrows, 12+ Yellowhammers and a couple of Reed Bunting.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


A flexi day off.  I headed off to Holy Island to arrive there shortly after first light. There were not as many migrants as may be expected considering the weather on Tuesday but there was enough to keep the interest up.

Back home at 1pm, I had a walk from home down to the Howick Burnmouth and back via the coast path. Two female / fw type Black Redstarts ona manure heap near the farm was a nice record and a male Stonechat with yesterday's Whinchat were the highlights. The Stonechat was my first on patch this year. It shows how the winter has affected this bird, when a couple of years ago there may have been 3 or 4 pairs in the area.

To save me writing please click on the notebook to see the birds seen....

FW Male Blackcap...

The most unusual sighting...a bloke playing sax to Pale bellied Brents...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A nice chat...

Finished work early and headed home to check the coastal path and village to see if any migrants had dropped in. A strong SE wind and torrential rain through the night had built up expectations..

All was quiet really with not even the expected thrush-fest. A fllock of Chaffinches in the back field soon moved on, probably new in and a group of 11 Mistle Thrushes tried to look foreign, but generally a few Goldcrests were the only sign of immigration. That is until I was almost home, when a nice, late, Whinchat popped up on the fence behind our house.

Flexi day tommorrow so maybe I'll fare a little better....

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A double dip day saved in the closing minutes...

I collected JWR at 7am and we headed off to Teesside to see if we could find the Pallid Harrier and Semi palmated Sandpiper that were still present yesterday. I had a chance to go for the harrier with Alan and Andy on Friday but work commitments put the block on it.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, we never did see the harrier. Making matters worse for John ( he hasn't seen Semi P either) we didnt see the sandpiper but it was relocated minutes after we left! Oh well you cant win them all.

Of interest during the morning were 1 Merlin over the car at Greatham Creek, 1 Peregrine at Saltholme, 3 Little Egrets, 8 Black tailed Godwits, 100+ Golden Plover  3 Pintail and, my highlight, 130+ Shovelers feeding together in one group.

A wander around the RSPB reserve at Saltholme was a first for us. Its very nice too with all the facilities at hand, nice paths, comfy spacious hides and a cafe. A bit too soft and sterile for us though, back to normal next week - cold, knackered, and damp...

Speaking of which, back home this afternoon a stroll around the coast path brought a pleasant surprise, a Snow Bunting. A drab fw female but very nice all the same as it skipped along the ash path ahead of us until it was stampeded by a family striding forward on their afternoon walk. I didnt see it again after that...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Take it as Red....

Autumn sunshine at Howick Hall.
Masses of Red Admirals on ivy flowers high up in the sun. Click for a larger image.
The only time the thing sat still long enough to get a photo...
Speckled Wood.
A walk around the Hall grounds this afternoon was very pleasant. Lots of butterflies on the wing - 2 Speckled Wood, 1 Small Tortoiseshell, 50+ Red Admirals, including 40+ on one ivy bush all together made a spectacular sight and a lone Painted Lady flew through our garden.

A Red Squirrel rang rings around us, literally, very close to begin with but high and distant before he sat for a photo.

On the way home a Raven cronked high over the Hall and flew east towards the coast, the surrounding Jackdaws were not happy with its appearance.

Later this afternoon news of a Great Grey Shrike 2 miles along the coast at Dunstan almsot had me jumping into the car, but it will wait until the morning...maybe?