Sunday, February 26, 2017

To Bamburgh and back.

We headed off north this morning, though not far, Bamburgh and back.

On the way, first stop at sunrise was Embleton to see if the Waxwings found by Gary Woodburn ( and present since January) were still around. After a short hunt we found two in a garden near the main road. Photographing them in the poor dawn light, was always going to be tricky, but the birds were very confiding so we were quite close. These images are only very slightly cropped to shape. We were also pointing our cameras in the vague direction of bedroom windows, so after snapping a few shots we left the residents to their privacy!

From here was had a short tea stop at Monks House Pool, Seahouses where 13 Shoveler were quite frisky alongside 20+ Teal, several Tufted Ducks, Mallard, Coot and Little Grebe. The dunes- working Exmoor Ponies came to see us, one enjoying a jammy dodger from John before continuing to munch the coarse grasses down to a reasonable level to increase the local flora.

Budle Bay was next up, with its daunting expanse of mud flats.

Spotted Redshank feeding in creek.

The wintering Spotted Redshank was racing up and down the creek feeding behind three Shovelers constantly that, I assume, were churning up edible morsels for it. Also here were masses of wildfowl including many Teal, Wigeon, Shelduck, 300 Pale bellied Brent Geese, 1000 Pink footed Geese. The waders were in equally large numbers with many Bar tailed Godwit being the highlight. A lone Little Egret looked the part fishing in the close creek.

A nearby feeding station was to be our final stop of the morning. Marsh Tits used to frequent here but, as with this species across the rest of Northumberland, this site now seems devoid of them with none reported in the hide logs since last February. Still we enjoyed nice views of Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Great spotted Woodpecker, Yellowhammer, various Tits and finches.

With the weather not being too bad either, it turned out to be a nice morning all round.


Great spotted Woodpecker

Yellowhammer with a lot of 'pine bunting' chestnut streaking below its throat. Many yellowhammers can show these marks to a greater or lesser degree. 

Last night the first decent moth of 2017 came, an Acleris cristana, a scarce species up here, this is only the 13th for Northumberland.

Acleris cristana, the 13th for Northumberland.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Mothing has started...

As the book says... Pale brindled Beauties...


Monday, February 20, 2017

Two Dippers...

Us, not the bird!

What a lovely day it was on Sunday, with bright sun and blue skies most of the time. My first singing Blackbird of the year was along our drive and Skylarks seem to be all over now.

JWR and myself headed north for a second time this winter to try and catch up with the wintering American Black Scoter off Goswick and Cheswick beaches. Its a great site, this, very scenic with some nice birds too but the target proved elusive again. A good few Common Scoter were in small groups close in but there were hundreds in tight rafts about 2 miles offshore. Way too far for a duck that is tricky at a quarter of that range.

The beach at Goswick and Cheswick stretches for miles...

We tried two vantage points, the first from Cheswick tall dune, the second about half a mile further south at Goswick Golf Club.

No Black Scoter to be had but we did see 1 Black throated Diver N, 1 Great Northern Diver on the sea, 6+ Red throated Divers, 4+ Slavonian Grebes, 50+ ( possibly many more as they were constantly on the move) Long tailed Ducks, 10+ Red breasted Merganser, several Razorbills, Guillemots and Shags, 400+ Common Scoter.

A Stonechat was in the dunes with 20 Reed Bunting nearby and loads of singing Skylarks.

At Cheswick, we checked the goose flock again. There were 99 birds including 2 Tundra Bean Geese, 35 Russian White fronted Geese and the rest, Greylags. A good old number of White fronted Geese there for Northumberland.

From here, we had a walk north from the Holy Island causeway car park at Beal. It was generally quiet, but again, very scenic. 30 Twite drank from a puddle near the track while a very weak looking Knot was out of habitat on a marshy puddle.

  In the afternoon, Jane and myself took a walk along to Howick Hall to catch the snowdrop display in the sunshine. What a show too, there seems to be many more this year with huge drifts everywhere.  After the walk it was only fitting that we try out afternoon tea in the tearooms.

Howick Church

Jane in the snowdrops.

Red Squirrel.
While we were in the tearoom, I noticed a lady taking a photo from the window near her table. I could see the edge of a bird table and suspected what she might be photographing, so I went across and politely asked.

This lovely Red Squirrel was enjoying the feeder for ages, completely unconcerned at the faces at the glass only feet away. After interupting the couple's tea to take some photo's, I left them in peace.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

DBCP and East Chevington in a storm...

Out alone today, and just for a short while too as the weather was awful. A strong NE wind that felt like a gale at times, it was cold and often laden with stinging sleet.

As I turned the corner from our drive and headed through the village I was met with a very unusual sight indeed, a Guillemot, in summer plumage now, was standing on the roadside looking for all the world like a lost penguin. It had clearly been storm driven off its usual maritime course before first light and as daylight came, it was as surprised as me to find where it was standing.

I picked it up and took it back home for a quick physical inspection. It seemed fine and was keen to snap chunks out of me, so into the cat basket it went and I transported if off to a more suitable location.

At first I thought about Amble Harbour, but it was low tide and there were too many large gulls around for a tired auk, so I took it to Druridge Bay Country Park for a fresh water wash and brush up. Here, the lake often holds fish eating birds such as the recent Pacific Diver, it was relatively sheltered ( for an ocean going bird, maybe not for soft humans) and I thought it would give Guillie a chance to recover while the sea flattened off a bit, so it could fly back to its usual habitat. The sea is only a matter of a 100 mtrs from the lake so it could even smell it, for later on.

The cat box was opened and the bird couldnt wait to run down the boat launch and swim off strongly. It seemed fit enough, preening and flapping before settling in with some wintering coots.

While here, I decided to check the other birds around.

There were a good number of wildfowl including 6 Scaup, 5 Pochard, 44 Tufted Duck, 8 Red breasted Merganser, 4 Goldeneye, 4 Wigeon, 4 Gadwall, 2 Little Grebe, 20+ Coot, 20 Moorhen, 20+ Mallard plus a Sparrowhawk, Redwing, Siskins, 3+ Bullfinch and 10+ Tree Sparrows.

A walk down to the north end of East Chevington North Pool found a similar selection of species including - the now regular Pacific Diver, showing well, the closest bird on the water, 1 Slavonian Grebe, 8+ Scaup, 5 Red breasted Mergansers, 30+ Goldeneye and 4+ Pochard.

Then it was time to head hom to get warmed and to have some breakfast...

A drake Merganser facing into a strong Nor Easterly...

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Just like a White winged Gull...

A lunchtime dash down to North shields Fish Quay today soon located the arctic targets.

2 juc Glaucous Gulls showed very well indeed, its just a shame it was nearly dark and sleeting. The fw Iceland Gull was abit more reticent, keeping a comfortable distance. Thirdly the wintering fw Lesser Black Backed Gull was almost trod on and followed me around like Bunty asking for chips!

A worthy dinner time me thinks....

All images have more noise than an Amble beach party...still the birds were good. Glaucous Gull.

Big Chip Thief - Glaucous Gull
I think the Jaws music should be playing on this one and that's just for the big ugly Glauc!

Our friends from the North...
Iceland Gull flyby, scoping chips.

The Iceland Gull is very pale with a face like a black headed gull, very different to the big Glaucous Gulls above.

The young Lesser Black Back, looked a bit sickly...

Tuesday, February 07, 2017


Mid January we saw the 7 wintering Shorelarks at East Chevington, where they fed on an exposed bit of beach near the burn mouth. At the time I did a pencil sketch of one bird and its been left to smudge ever since, so tonight I have coloured it up. Handy as I didn't get any photo's due to me being full of cold and not bothered to carry the camera...Anyway, here it is...

Monday, February 06, 2017

Prestwick Carr.

Often we see the names of places or birding sites reported time and again, but they don't really register with us.

Prestwick Carr is one such place for me, sited between Newcastle Airport and Ponteland, this unusual historical boggy upland-in-the-lowlands spot is a real piece of wilderness right on the edge of urban Tyneside. Indeed, this morning after my visit, I drove for 20 minutes along to the Metro Centre, one of the larges malls in Europe, but when standing on the track north through the Carr, you could be a million miles away. This was the site of breeding Wood Sandpiper way back in 1853, so, it really does have history!

The Shrike was on those tiny bushes in the field.

Here they are from a different angle, over to the right hand side.

The site consists of lowland bog with huge rushy fields and flat flooded areas that look great for waders. There are scattered birches and hawthorns and a wood full of Scots Pine. An ideal spot for a wintering Great Grey Shrike you might say.

And so my visit today was to catch up with Exubitor that has been here since late autumn, favouring the northern end of the track. I found the bird quite easily today, sitting out in the bright sunshine on small stunted hawthorns. Quite distant, as is the way of Great Grey Shrikes, but good scope views were had in nice light.

The bird perched up on top, waving its tail from side to side scanning the ground for a vole or wren to pounce on. It seemed to have a larder low in a small thorn bush where it kept vanishing too from time to time.

Above, Great Grey Shrike, doing what shrikes do...

Living in the north of the county, Prestwick Carr is not somewhere I visit, I think I've only been once, maybe 20 years ago to see, another Great Grey! Its quite nice here though so I might come back. Before the next 20 years anyway....

Also today here were 3 Willow Tits, 40 Golden Plover, 3 Snipe, 2 Buzzard, 2 Kestrel and a Fieldfare.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Frustrating stuff...

The morning dawned very bleak indeed, with heavy sleet and leaden skies for the first hour. Despite this, John and myself headed up to the far north of the county to check the wide sandy bay of Goswick and Cheswick for the Black Scoter that has been around for a couple of weeks. From previous experience of this bird in past years, its one of those individuals that you need to 'get your eye in' before picking it out.

A busy Sunday at Cheswick Sands viewing north.

and viewing South...

Today was no different. In the gloom, early on,all the scattered scoter were either drab first year males or females, with many birds too far off to identify. As the sun came out, I called a false alarm as a nice adult male Common Scoter with extensive yellow on its bill was lit like a beacon.  Closer scrutiny revealed it to be a phony black scoter though as the yellow didn't have that swollen, spongy appearance that the Black Scoter has, As we scanned, a few more male Commons looked very bright in the low sun, but we couldn't find the target.

It was frustrating later when it was reported twice, especially when we had been there looking at the exact same time as the first report. To be honest, we did the usual birders thing and diss the report, but there were a lot of birds out there so we could have missed it, even though we kept picking out a female Velvet Scoter despite us moving from one end of the beach to the other.

Anyway, we did manage the Velvet Scoter, 3 nice Great Northern Diver ( one very close in the surf, and two together at half distance all at the same time), 8 -10 Long tailed Ducks inc a few fine males, 6ish Red throated Divers, 6ish Razorbills inc 2 in summer plumage and 2+ Shag.

(Numbers increased later with 150 Long tailed Duck! Black throated Diver, the Black Scoter, 3 Jack Snipe, Merlin, Twite and Short eared Owl by Ross Ahmed)

Two Tundra Bean Geese, a pair., with 7 Greylags in shot.

The male Bean Goose at the bottom.

12 of the 16 Russian White-fronted Geese.

We returned to the car park at Cheswick and noticed a few geese flying around about a fields length to the north, so we went to check them out. I'm please we did, as the 100+ strong flock of Greylags also held 16 Russian White-fronted Geese and 2 cracking Tundra Bean Geese, showing very well in the, now, sunny weather.

On the return, 2 Skylarks were singing and a Stonechat fed from the fence line.

All was well...

Wednesday, February 01, 2017


Well, that's January over with. 114 species of bird under the belt, all in Northumberland.

Thats a low total for Jan in the county, indeed some young whippersnappers saw 120 in one day earlier this month, but its ok for me with limited daylight hours available. There were a few interesting species in there too - starting with a lifer - Pacific Diver, and a decent supporting cast of 7 Shorelarks, 31 Waxwings, Both races of White fronted Goose, Velvet Scoter, Glaucous and Mediterranean Gulls, Water Rail and Twite.

February tomorrow and the start of nights visibly getting lighter...