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...