Friday, December 31, 2021

2021 Highlights...Rare Moths to Walrus.

 Whilst this year was not the same vintage as 2020, Northumberland still managed to pull some good birds out of the bag. Our county seems to be getting a lot better at this in recent years. Maybe we have more observer coverage these days?

January - 

We began the year in full lockdown mode. Well, some of us did. 

There was only one outright winner in the opening month of the year and that was significantly bigger than any bird.  On 31st our neighbour Mandy found a showy Humpback Whale just off the Bathing House. 'Ive only seen one Minke here before so this had us speed walking along the road to check it out. Unfortunately as with most of these poor animals in the North Sea, it was finally found moribund, entangled in lobster pot ropes.

The wintering Hooded Crow became a garden favourite eating most forms of meal left overs first thing in the mornings.

Humpback Whale

February - 

A cold stormy spell at the beginning of the month left us with some good garden bird activity but a day without electric. De-ja-vu. Barn Owl, Woodcock, 2 Kestrels and Hooded Crow plus a load of Fieldfares all feeding in our garden.

On 21st a Water Rail took up residence in our tiny village pond until spring though it remained very elusive throughout its stay.  

The Humpback Whale remained during the month. A county first was found near the end of the month with a one day wonder drake Bufflehead at Cresswell. I could have gone but decided to stick with the lockdown rules on essential travel and didn't bother. If it had remained another day I don't think my resolve would have held out. 

March -

Hoodie still around and Barn Owls every day from the house. We finally got out and about mid month. On the 14th an adult Mediterranean Gull was over our house. On the 18th the only patch Red legged Partridge of the year was calling on top of the Hips Heugh, scoped from our garden and on the same date, a new invert for me, were 25+ Water Crickets in a ditch in the village wood. Spring seemed to be here on 22nd with a Hairy footed Flower Bee on flowering currant in the garden.

Some garden safari mayhem occurred on 27th when my first ever Weasel in the garden caught a Jackdaw below the feeders. The Jack eventually flew off carrying the unlucky mustelid!

April - 

We received our first vaccinations against Covid on 3rd.  A cold but sunny day, the garden was alive with 5 species of Bumblebee. Spring migrants much in evidence with Wheatear, Sand Martin, Blackcap and Sandwich Tern around. The first village Swallows were back on the 10th but on 11th we had a covering of snow. Very strange seeing a Swallow flying over a white dusted landscape.

An Osprey narrowly missed slipping through Alnmouth unnoticed on 11th.

A few new inverts during these early spring days, 2 Hoverflies and a mining bee, Criorhina ranunculi and Eristalis intricaria plus Andrena nigroeana. See blog pages for details.

A morning inland west of Alnwick on 18th was nice with a good party of 6 Ring Ouzels the largest group Ive seen locally, Redstart and Willow Warbler.

On 23rd my first rarity of the year, a lifer, came when Gary Woodburn found a Red throated Pipit on Embleton Golf Course. A very nice bird too.

May - 

The month began up on the moors with Green Hairstreaks and Emperor Moths, a Redstarts nest, Tree Pipit, Cuckoo and Whimbrel.

Things certainly took an upturn on 6th when the Northern Mockingbird from Devon relocated to a  Newbiggin garden for a few days. What a totally unpredictable occurrence. Fabulous though.

The best at Boulmer were Little Terns and a very imposing Bonxie sitting around on the beach as tourists walked by. It even gave a small Daschund the eye at one point.

Northern Mockingbird

June - 

Another 'biggie' was worthy of a twitch down to Blyth on 5th  for mine and Northumberland's second Red necked Stint, and what a cracker it was too. A Great Reed Warbler was singing and showing at East Chevington on the same day made for a good morning out.

Less than a week later, on the 10th, another county first showed up, this time a British tick for me too. A Pacific Swift showed brilliantly, again, at East Chev where it strafed past us at ranges down to 10 mtrs. 

Some local inland Nightjars gave the best ever views near the month end.

July - 

Came in like the proverbial Lion on the first when a reported Fea's Petrel flew North at Flamborough early morning. As I'd only ever seen one, we staked it out at Cullernose where it came close past at 6.15pm giving great views.  Later on the socials, Paul French of the BBRC commented that 'Did it really have a breast band? After seeing photos posted by two observers from Newbiggin. It surely did, making it actually a first for Britain, a Soft Plumaged Petrel Pterodroma mollis. Amazing.

The 10th was my worst birding day of the year when we spent 11 hours at Bempton dipping the Albatross. Subsequent analysis of its presence showed that it eventually was present for 90 days but on 30 of those days it was not seen from the cliffs. Only a 66% chance of success then. Better luck in 2022.

Another bit of dippage occurred on 20th when the long staying Black Tern up at the Long Nanny at Low Newton was reidentified as an American Black Tern. I went up for a look but it had already gone for the autumn. Again it may come back next year?

On 24th a lovely Water Shrew showed very well scrummaging around our drive for 10 minutes before vanishing into a neighbours old greenhouse.

August -

Some August staples began to appear on patch with Sooty Shearwaters, Roseate Terns and returning waders.Best of these was my first patch Spotted Redshank at Seaton Point, a rare bird in this fresh water scrape devoid area.

The best of the month though was a flock of 5 Black tailed Godwits N past our garden on 24th. A rare patch bird at the best of times but from the garden, get in.

August ended with a second year Long tailed Skua on the sea with an Arctic Skua for comparison, at Boulmer.

September - 

Seawatching proper commenced on the 1st with a very smart spooned up Pomarine Skua close north at Cullernose, making it a four skua year on patch.

On 3rd we went to Suffolk for two weeks. Down here I get taken up with the multitude of new insects that can be found that we just dont get at home. A pristine Clifden Nonpareil and a Buttoned Snout both came to sugar, while Box Tree Moth was also new to me. At Carlton Marshes, a few Fen Raft Spiders Dolomedes plantarius showed well enough for photos with a supporting cast of Chinese Water Deer, Wasp Spider and Brown Hawker. 

On the day I returned, the 19th, my tardiness ensured I dipped out on a patch Semi palmated Sandpiper by 5 minutes. Its getting to be a theme this year.

On the 29th, another new spider, but more local near our village was found - Invisible Spider Drapestica socialis.

Clifden Nonpariel

October - 

A Norwegian colour ringed Bar tailed Godwit was at Boulmer but on the 9th it was good to get a huge county grip back. A visitor found Northumberland's 3rd Red eyed Vireo on the Straight Lonnen, Holy Island. Unlike the last two flitters, this one stayed for a week where despite being in thick cover with some patience decent views could be achieved.

Around this time some garden moth migration began to take place. A very unusual phenomena here. Gem, Rush Veneer, Dark Swordgrass, Silver Y and Diamond backs were all found but even better was a Delicate caught by Mandy at Seahouses Farm and on 11th I caught the North of England's first Radford's Flame Shoulder. The furthest north in the UK by about 200 miles!

Still the wind remained stubbornly in the west with a distinct lack of migration on the coast. My first year for a while with no sightings of Yellow browed Warbler.

Radford's Flame Shoulder

November - 

A nice Wilson's Phalarope saw in the month on a small farm pond at Newstead. A county tick for a few, this was my third in Northumberland.

One of the absolute wildlife highlights of the year must be the female Walrus that graced Seahouses Harbour on 14th. A appreciative pilgrimage continued all day but she was not seen in the morning. Freya has subsequently been relocated in December in Shetland on her way back North.

A not so welcome visitor, Storm Arwen arrived on the 26th and knocked us back into the stone age for a fortnight. Still, it did give some great late season seawatching with Great Shearwater, 2 Black Guillemots, Little Auk, Great Northern and Black throated Divers, Red necked Grebe, Glaucous Gull and Velvet Scoters.


Freya the Walrus

December -

After 10 days without power, probably the most significant event, personally, this year  we were back in the land of the living on 6th December only to find Storm Barra banging on the windows on the 7th. Fortunately it did not have the impact of his older sister.

The month did not really produce a lot locally other than a Lapland Bunting south on 16th. A Surf Scoter passed Whitburn and St Mary's on the solstice but bailed out before getting near the home patch. While I waited, a Great Northern Diver and a Woodcock were some compensation.

The year ended where it began, facing further Covid restrictions in the wave of new strain Omicron. In such uncertain times, who knows what 2022 will bring so there will not be any predictions from me other than to hope the Bempton Albatross liked it so much it decides on a return summer visit.

Stay safe everyone, thank you for all of your engagements on here, emails and tweets, its much appreciated.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Who came first, the patch or the list?

 In light of the Birdguides / Birdwatch magazine promotion of a greener, more local type of birding lots of birders on social media are coming around to the idea. One of the best things I see in the 'new dawn' is the lack of emphasis on list keeping. There is more a focus on the positive experiences gained from this type of back to basics birding with prizes for things like best bird in a local context etc.

My next thoughts are difficult to express clearly but there are definitely a few things not right in the way many birders view this local patch challenge. Well, in my humble opinion anyway. There are no rules so there cant be mistakes but somethings aren't 'in keeping' I don't think?

Firstly it seems that the term local patch, to many, actually refers to the nearest birding hot spot to home. This may be 1 mile or 20 miles it doesn't seem to matter. People will happily pass quite good areas, ironically in their car, to get to the nearest Titchwell, Spurn or other well birded site. I can see this for urban residents who are in the middle of some conurbation but many aren't . Again it's down to personal choice I suppose.

One other thing (sounding like Columbo) is how a patch is defined. This is maybe my biggest OCD type niggle. 

For me, when selecting a patch I'd pick an area of workable size that might have potential and is under watched or rarely watched at all. Then define the boundaries of the area. Once done you can work out routes, watch points, geographical and habitat features that might be productive. Lastly do some research into what, if anything, has been already recorded there, and away you go. In this, your new place, you visit regularly to document the ornithological comings and goings over the seasons and you will end up with a record of the species that use your area. 

Seems straight forward, yes?    

Well no apparently its not.

What appears to be the fashion is to take the whole British List or at least your County List and pull and stretch your patch to take in every possible species. 

Can you see the difference? One begins with an area, the other begins with the list. 

Birders love to say 'Ooh I will just move that boundary up to that wood so I should get Tawny owl, Jay and Nuthatch that I'll not get on the beach'  or 'if I just make my patch a 10 miles radius instead of 3 miles it will reach Blacktoft' or where ever. 

Of course you won't get every bird in your whole vicinity in one year but that's not the point. If you do get one of those birds like those above, it will be all the more worth while!

Some patches end up looking like multi-legged starfish stretched to this place for one species and that place for another. Is that really how patching works? What if we all just went to the same county hotspot?  

I think this is how some fall by the wayside by May. They've run out of interest having seen most of whats possible, the impossible is a bit harder to come by, leaving half a year with little to hope for. They've already had the Nuthatch in February that might have been a mega out of context in August. 

These massively stretched 'patches' are not local patches. Its more like county listing.

Or maybe its just me... 

What ever method you use, be it starfish, 20 miles drive to it or your garden, good luck in 2022. Try not to abandon ship when a Blyth's Reed turns up in someone else's spot ... 😉  

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

A light in dark times...

 I hope everyone had a good Christmas? Things were pretty much as usual at chez Boulmer Birder, which is something to be grateful for. In today's trouble ridden times it is a big thing to have our health, food and a roof over our heads when a lot of people in a world run and bled dry by a litany of greed fueled oligarchs, billionaires and liars have none of these things. 

Now that Omicron is set for global domination I can't help feel that its shadow is creeping up on us all. Not being a very social animal these days, hopefully it can be avoided for a while longer.

Today the weather was pretty miserable, maybe that's the inspiration for this post, being heavily overcast with rain for most of the daylight hours making it uncomfortable to be out in the open. This is what drove the decision for what to do on today's final birding session of 2021.

I met up with John in near darkness at 8am in tipping down rain. On any other day it would likely have been written off as hopeless, but as it was going to be the birding finale of '21 we headed for a very quiet Seaton Point, where an unused holiday chalet veranda gave us a dry place to watch the sea over the early high tide. Its a bit like the tale of Goldilocks and the three bears where we half expect an irked owner to arrive and turn us out on our ear - 'Who's been seawatching from MYYYY shed?' Luckily for us we came and went like church mice with no one any the wiser of our presence, that is providing they don't read this!  

The sit and watch paid off. From 08.30am - 10.30am we had a reasonable 2 hours for this time of year.

Red throated Diver 74N 3S

Red necked Grebe 1N

Great crested Grebe 2 N

Gannet 1N

Wigeon 40

Common Scoter 5N

Velvet Scoter 1 drake and 1 duck N very close in.

Red breasted Merganser 1 drake N.

Bonxie 1 N an unusual winter record here.

Kittiwake 1N

Grey Plover 15N

Bar tailed Godwit 8N

Knot 4 N

Purple Sandpiper 16

The view from our watch point.

Yesterday there was a nice garden birding surprise. There is an area of water forming just over our back wall in the field that was recently ploughed for oilseed rape. Since the flower rich grassland was obliterated, there is significant rain run off into the low corner, forming this flash. 

Recently it has been favoured by two or three Redshanks but today one flew and with it a smaller bird? Dunlin was suspected, an idea that was soon confirmed by a scan with the bins. This is the very first sighting I have had of a Dunlin from my garden, although I have had a couple of nocturnal birds calling overhead. Dunlins while common down the road at Boulmer are not so easy on the home rocky coast line where to get one for a year tick they are usually flying past on a seawatch. There was no sign of it today, but it was almost like finding a rare bird to see it from our drive. Maybe the flash will attract other new garden birds if it lasts? Water Pipit, Wood Sand or Little Ringed Plover would be mega here!

Garden mega!


Thursday, December 23, 2021

If you go down to the woods today...

 For the first time since Storm Arwen we took a walk into the Arboretum. It is not open to the public at the minute anyway, plus there are a few trees causing 'tripping hazards' shall we say.

The pond has a good showing of ducks today with 25 Teal, 10 Mallard, 9 Tufted Duck and a pair of Gadwall, a decent record for here. A pair of Mute Swans,a  few Moorhen and a Grey Heron were the only other things seen.

Further on, the damage caused by the Storm Arwen became very apparent with trees over the rides and, in some places, access totally blocked. The estate will want this cleared and made safe in time for public opening for the February snowdrops, but it will take a lot of work. Here are some images but they cannot portray what it really looks like in the field...

These pair of Beeches were just two of many huge trees lying like deceased beached whales. Those root plates were at least 10 feet in diameter.

Huge pines including a nice Wellingtonia blocked our route...


Monday, December 20, 2021

Lapland Christmas.


Our Village Hall looking festive...

As usual at this time of year, pre Christmas visits and shopping etc put the kybosh on the birding. This year is even worse than most as we had a two week non starter after Arwen, so we are tail chasing to catch up.

We both had our boosters last week. As usual mine left me hammered. The following day was like the mother of all hangovers and I am still not 100% yet. That's three out of three that have been no walk in the park but it is better than the alternative, so I expect it to be come a twice annual feature in years to come.

This week has shown that some birds are still on the move. In our village, Blackbirds on fallen apples have increased to 23+ from maybe a dozen, a lone Fieldfare was dotting around and 7 Redwings flew west.

One day last week I was pleased to have a Lapland Bunting fly low south along the coast path. It seemed to come from the field opposite the village and it headed towards Seahouses Farm but I couldn't relocate it. Laps are rare on my patch and I've still not seen one on the ground here. This was the first since 2019 and before that was 2013. An adult Mediterranean Gull was in the same fields with a few Black headeds.

An old drawing of a Lapland Bunting....

Monday, December 13, 2021

Full of Bull...the Bull is Full...

 A more pleasant day, weather-wise, at Boulmer yesterday morning.

After Storm Arwen, it makes a refreshing change to see the, albeit temporary, return of the Bull's Mere in the village roadside field. This is how Boulmer got its name. Whether this is the original historic site of Bull's Mere I couldn't say, but Id like to think it was here in centuries past.

This area used to flood regularly some years ago but these farmers are expert at drainage and habitat reduction, so it has looked more like a football pitch in recent times. At one stage the Northumberland and Tyneside Bird Club approached the farmer to see if he would allow a small flash to stand. All it would take is some minor amendments to the manhole that would be done free of charge to allow excess water to drain away to prevent flooding but for some to remain longer for wildlife.

The beach at Boulmer is heavily disturbed by dog walkers etc these days, so as soon as the field floods the waders get a peaceful high tide roosting place. It has also attracted some good birds in the past, the best being a patch first Baird's Sandpiper.

 Anyway, that approach was refused, only for us to find a short time later that they had granted permission for a new car park to be put there! Complaints to planning have been made.

We are now gathering any evidence through counts of birds using it to show how beneficial it is to waders etc locally. Today it held a nice little selection at high tide - 

Mallard 49, Wigeon 35, Goldeneye 2, Redshank 61, Curlew 46+, Lapwing 40+, Oystercatcher 50.  While counting, a Black tailed Godwit dropped in briefly. The high tide was not very big so some birds roosted out on exposed rocks. On a bigger one, these numbers would have been much higher. 

When the field has water, it only takes about a day for the birds to use it. Such a shame that this small change in land use request falls on deaf ears.. 

An overly full Boulmer flash. There is a manhole in the centre. This could easily be modified to allow a pond half this size to remain. 

Black tailed Godwit leaves with a Curlew


Later we walked down to Seaton Point for a scan. At sea were 38+ Red throated Divers, but even these were disturbed by 4 speeding dirigibles hammering around offshore. 3 Little Grebes were on the sea, always a novelty to see on salt water, 12+ Bar tailed Godwits, 34+ Grey Plover, 77+ Wigeon, 156+ Lapwing, 20+ Sanderling and 2 Ringed Plover. Passerines were very thin on the ground today with only 1 Gey Wagtail, 1 Rock Pipit, 2 Greenfinches of note.

6+ Bottle nosed Dolphins were hanging around off the village until the water racers arrived...

Wednesday, December 08, 2021

10 days of night.

I've just re read my previous post regarding Storm Arwen. A bit of an understatement there I believe. 

On one of our local upland patches, Brizlee Moor, the wind was recorded by the RAF at 98 mph and maybe a bit more down on the coast where we live! 

On Friday 26th November Jane and myself took a trip up to Bamburgh Castle to see the Christmas decorations. We hoped to go towards dusk, but we were contacted to say we should come earlier as the castle would be closing due to the Red Met Office warning that had been put out for the east coast of Scotland and Northern England. Red Warnings a rare things and are linked to a serious weather event that may result in structural damage to properties and the environment with a possible risk to life too.

Bamburgh Castle Christmas Tree

We were back home by 2pm just as the wind began to pick up. Rather than go into itemised details, it is enough to say that by 7pm the wind was roaring making it difficult to stand up outside. At 7.50pm our house was plunged into darkness as the power went off. Luckily we had expected this as our power goes off at least once a year and this was our third time this year but little did we realise how this would impact our community.

Our bathroom at 7am with snow on the roof. No heating, hot water or lights... 

The destruction of large trees around our village was incredible. Large Oaks and Scots Pines uprooted and snapped off as well as lesser trees down everywhere. It was a stand of pines that had blown on to a power pole snapping it and the cables clean off causing our power fault.

A huge tree across the pond field gate... 15 trees were down across this road to Longhoughton on Saturday morning.

So sad to see this massive old Scots reduced to logs...

A 200yr old oak blocks our path. This tree hosted my first patch Golden Oriole...

Carnage in the hill top plantation. The snapped pole can be seen far left against the dark pines.

The cavalry arrive. Day 10, late afternoon..

We were left back in the stone age for 238 hours or the thick end of 10 days, not being reinstated until 6th December at 6pm.

During this time we were constantly cold and tired. It was just physically and mentally exhausting. Some kind souls said that our wood burner looked 'cosy'. Without it heating a 6 feet radius in the living room we would have died. One person said their grandparents first house in 1948 had no electric. It isn't 1948. Then, people were kitted out for no power with paraffin lamps, cooking ranges that heated hot water etc. Some even found it quite funny. We weren't laughing that's for sure. Coping with 16 hours of darkness in zero temperatures is no laughing matter. It was just survival.

But, here we are past the ordeal now reviewing the aftermath before the letter writing begins...

Birding this ordeal?

Yes some. It was good to get out in daylight for a couple of hours to take our mind elsewhere, mostly seawatching.

Saturday 27th November still in the teeth of Storm Arwen.

Only watched from the car for 40 mins as it was really grim. The sea can be too rough for birds to move and today was one of them...

Great Northern Diver 1 S high over head.

Velvet Scoter 3 N

Goldeneye 6 N

Eider 66 on the sea.

Common Scoter 13 N 2 S

Little Auk 1 N very close under neath the bank.

Black Guillemot 1 N a good bird here very close in only my 2nd patch record.

Long tailed Duck 1 drake N

Shelduck 16 N

Pale bellied Brent Geese 19 N 

Sunday 28th November I ventured out to Seaton Point from 0830 - 11am. The weather was much better. Bright and freezing. Masses of birds were moving now the wind had subsided a bit. It was difficult to keep up.

Auks 5000 per hour N. Maybe more. At least 4 were dark hooded Brunnichs-a-like.

Pale bellied Brent Geese 23 N

Goldeneye 11 N

Red throated Diver 51 N

Puffin 26 N

Cormorant 53 N

Eider 40 N

Common Scoter 52 N

Shag 28 N

Shelduck 3 N

Great Shearwater 1 N so close I picked it up with the naked eye and thought it was a young gull! It came over waders roosting on the rocks. In the bins and scope it filled the field of view. Superb.

Great Northern Diver 9 N

Red breasted Merganser 2 N 2 S

Wigeon 36 N

Gannet very few hence count 12 N

Kittiwake 7 N

Red necked Grebe 2 N

Velvet Scoter 1 drake N

Purple Sandpiper 1 N

Mallard 14 N

Teal 1 N

Bar tailed Godwit 1 N

Black Guillemot 1 N again over the rocks, my 2nd in two days cant be bad.

Glaucous Gull 1 N a huge fw bird along the beach with Great black backs.

Black throated Diver 1 N

Snipe 2  and Siskin 1 in off  .

Monday 29th November 10 - 11am. Much quieter.

Red throated Diver 12 N 2 S 3 on sea

Great Northern Diver 1 N 1 S

Common Scoter 3 N 5 on sea

Velvet Scoter 1 drake with 2 duck Commons N

Red breasted Merganser 1 drake and 1 duck N

Manx Shearwater 1N a very late bird for here.

Eider 9 N

Teal 5 N

Purple Sandpiper 1 N

Gannet 2 juv N

Bottle nosed Dolphin 2 N

Some nice birds but no Brunnichs for us.... I didnt take my camera in the storm but Dan Langston did, with excellent results! See Here.


Thursday, November 25, 2021

Expectations, Hope and the Lottery...


Most birders, certainly coastal observers, spend a lot of time watching weather forecasts and trying to predict how it will impact on the bird life in their area. Often we raise our expectations too highly, more in hope than good judgement, but occasionally a good weather pattern forms that makes us think, surely this will do something. To be specific, that means it will bring rare or scarce birds to us.

The map above is of the wind forecast for this weekend. Today it is swinging around to the north and continuing from that direction until Sunday, peaking with 50+ mph gales on Saturday. 'Damaging' according to Carol Kirkwood. 

The chart shows the source of the 'breeze' to be from the Arctic Ocean, via the Greenland Sea, North East Greenland, Svalbard, Jan Mayen Island, Norwegian Sea and the Faroe Islands bumping into Northumberland nicely in time for Sunday morning.  

A quick Google of this area's birds shows that it is home to many seawatcher's palpitation inducing species like Brunnich's Guillemot, Ross's and Ivory Gulls, King Eider, Snowy Owl etc plus scarce stuff like Little Auks, Glaucous and Iceland Gulls, Grey Phalarope, White billed Diver and Leach's Petrel.  Any one of that lot would make for a good  local patch day.

But realistically what are the chances of pulling it off? Well who can say? It is getting late now and most of those birds rarely leave the pack ice let alone fly down a thousand miles of sea. There will be some Little Auks surely and maybe a white winged gull or phalarope somewhere but it is hope that will have us out in the teeth of a gale with fingers crossed. You need to be in it to win this space...


Monday, November 22, 2021



The weather forecast looked promising for a seawatch this morning. The wind was curling over the north of Scotland and down into the north sea, giving us a force 5 NW'erly. There was also a 30% chance of some precipitation too, but we didn't realise that seemed to translate into torrential sleet for a third of the time we were out.

We arrived at Boulmer at first light but had to wait in the car for the first of the squalls to subside before deciding what to do. Eventually it faired up enough to walk out south down towards Seaton Point. By the time we arrived, the sky was darkening again and curtains of sleet were heading our way. This is when we took advantage of the winter caravan site being empty and stood in the lea of this cabin. Strictly speaking we should not have been there, but the place was deserted and apart from this blog we left with no one being any wiser of our presence.

With the tide on the ebb, viewing wasn't ideal but the close sea south east of the point was sheltered by the land mass and a lot flatter than the wider sea slightly to the north and east. This meant birds were taking advantage of this and skirting just beyond the rocks and inside that line of breakers you can see in the photo above giving us good views in decent light. As further squalls arrived we just took a step backward under the porch canopy until it passed then we would pop back out again.

For this late, totals were as expected. From 9am - 11.30am we noted - 

Sooty Shearwater 1N

Little Auk 3 singles, 2 of which landed and bobbed around in floating weed for a bit before continuing north.

Long tailed Duck 2 fine drakes N.

Puffin, 15, a lot for the winter.

Red throated Diver  6+ 

Black throated Diver 1 north, close in then landed where it was seen breifly on the sea then lost in wave troughs.

Great Northern Diver 1N

Goldeneye 2N 1S

Velver Scoter 1 N over the rocks.

Pale bellied Brent 3N

Purple Sandpiper 3 on the shore and 1 N

Brambling, 1 calling in-off.

No Fulmars seen, Gannets, Kittiwakes, Gulls and larger auks not counted, but a steady movement throughout. Odd Common Scoters, Eiders, Mallard and Wigeon milling around too.  

So far so good. It was time to head back between storms. Peering out, the north sky looked blue and clear so off we went. Its about 1 km back to the car and as you expects, yes, we didnt make it. After only a third of the way, the black clouds raced over and hit us with driving sleet, right in the mush!

Back at the car, I was soaking with water running off my gear into the boot. Definitely time for home to get warmed and dried, still that was maybe the best local morning we have had for a few weeks...

Here it comes...

Nearly at the car park, sun and driving stinging sleet.


Thursday, November 18, 2021

The Lane.

 This is going off on a tangent with no current news here but I have been contemplating, as you do at the back end of the year, about next years patch projects. So far, I haven't come up with anything, but I was out with the dog the other day along our lane and it got me thinking.

Lots of people I follow on blogs and social media watch a local patch in some way or other. Some diligently, others more casually, but within your patch do you have small micro patches that draws you in more often than other areas? I'd imagine we all do.

Here, on my doorstep the village entrance is via a straight lane that stretches for 279 mtrs, according to Google Maps.

The Lane.

   As you can see its not East Bank, Hoddy Cows, or the Narrow Neck. Just an absolutely random bit of road that can be found duplicated right around the country. In its favour it is located 3 fields away from the North Sea, but its not on a headland or anything.

Habitat wise, its a tarmac, one vehicle wide, road and path with a low yield corn crop, this means there are some weedy seedy remnants in the stubble after harvest, on the East side and on the West is Village Wood, part of the estate with scrub and weedy areas. The whole length of the East edge has a deep ditch along it and a wide overgrown field margin, enjoyed by Barn Owls and Yellowhammers alike.

On the West, the ditch starts half way along and runs to the south end where they go under the main road.    

Facing North from the main road at the South end in May.

Same view in different weather.

I walk and drive this stretch almost everyday at some point, often several times when out with Peggy on her walks. Times of day and weather conditions vary but its flat and dry underfoot and always worth a stroll . Summer evenings at 11pm or fine early mornings are great but dark winter days with rain are also covered without bias.

November. Facing the other direction.

Beast from the East

No birder would ever visit. Its not a destination spot but for a local walk it is a route to other sites further south. The thing is, I have gone over my patch list to see what I have seen on this road over the last decade and it is quite surprising. In no particular order - 

Water Rail almost annually in the ditches during winter. Easier to see in hard weather.

Woodcock annually.

Little Egret 1 amazing record of a bird sat in the ditch then on top of the dead roadside tree.

Kingfisher a few records fishing over the ditches in winter.

Brambling, several times in with other finches in stubble and drinking from the ditch.

Mealy Redpoll a small flock one January included one very white bird feeding in alders on the west side.

Yellow Browed Warbler, a few records located by calling birds.

Grasshopper Warbler, once in the ditch reeling and seen down to 10 feet.

Peregrine a few records hunting over head.

Cuckoo 2 together autumn 2020.

Raven a few records, in the harsh winter of 2010 a pair roosted in the wood on the west side.

Crossbill annual in varying numbers

Tree Sparrow. Daily all year round.

Willow Tit. Rare only a couple of records usually late summer breeding dispersal.

Marsh Tit. Used to be regular now a very rare visitor.

Spotted Flycatcher, rare, 2 birds in 2020.

Waxwing, rare one sighting of 3 eating rosehips on the west side.

Hooded Crow 1 last year, 'our hoodie'.

Short eared Owl 1 in off, once.

Barn Owl regular along both sides in winter.

Osprey 1 a couple of years ago flew low right down the length of the road at tree top height.

Grey Partridge. Occasional.

This is not an exhaustive list, because I don't have one, but it shows how interest can be found in the most mundane spots by carrying out regular observation.   Quite a reward for watching a short stretch of road, I wonder what could be next?.


You can just make out a Woodcock on the road, quite regular here.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Not the rarity we anticipated....

 With the final throws of Autumn upon us it was with some eager anticipation this morning dawned damp and overcast with a light SE breeze.

As I stepped out of the house in the gloaming at 07.10, the sky was full of calling thrushes. Fieldfares, Redwings and Blackbirds were arriving in good numbers for the first time this season. This made me keen to get to Boulmer to see what might have pitched in. Last night on social media there was some daft chat about Rubythroats, Accentors and the like, but I was hoping for a Long eared Owl, or Black Redstart maybe.

Boulmer car park was ominously quiet with little arriving. A party of 10 Fieldfares W, was about as good as it got. John and myself  'smashed' Seaton Point grafting until our eyes bled. Well, maybe not but we did wander around looking at bushes and listening for calls for a couple of hours. Another 2 Fieldfares, a Redwing, 20+ Dunnocks were as near as got to migrants, but 2 Great Northern Divers flew North over our heads and a third North out to sea.

Not to be thwarted in our search for something, we retired to the car for sustenance that was made  up of a Greggs Cheese Pasty, a Chocolate Eclair and a mug of tea. That got us going a bit so we planned to head North now searching the rocky shore on the way with thoughts of a rare wheatear. Unfortunately, this plan was rapidly changed as we passed the Village front and a very unusual What'sApp message came through -  Walrus at Seahouses.

Could this be the return of professional dinghy sinker 'Wally' who wreaked havoc all down the west coast from Wales to Scilly to Spain and Ireland in the summer? Whatever, this is a very rare occurrence indeed so, it may not be a Rubythroat but we were soon in the car and off to Seahouses to see for ourselves.

Quite a crowd was already watching the Walrus, hauled out on a breakwater in the harbour. It looked like a huge, ginger sofa or maybe a fly-tipped carpet and didn't seem to be in a hurry to get off. We could watch it down to about 30 yards without it being in the least bit concerned.

The Marine Mammal Medics were on site to monitor the animals welfare. It seems to be a female called Freya who was last seen sleeping on a Dutch Submarine in late October. Comparison of the marks on its flippers seem to agree with this theory. See this link to an article in the Guardian.

Occasionally Freya would wake up and stretch, have a look around at its new admirers before going back to sleep. Never has an animal looked so comfortable on such an uncomfortable bed. After the Humpback in January, now Walrus is another arctic marine mammal to be added to the Pan species List. If she lingers it is well worth a visit. What a beast...

Walrus can just be seen on the granite breakwater near the end in front of the observers.

She sleeps on oblivious of the attention .

Occasionally Freya the Walrus would wake up, have a look around then go straight back to sleep. She has a sore looking abrasion on her flipper though this is a regular normal feature apparently?