Monday, November 21, 2022

Surely this is The End!

 Yesterday I met John at first light at Seaton Point to see if any migrants had been grounding in the overnight rain. The wind was a light SSE. It was dull first thing but it brightened into a nice day by mid morning.

Seaton Point from Foxton beach.

A few Thrushes were coming in with a scatter of Redwing and Fieldfare but there were more Blackbirds and Robins. In fact every bush and bracken clump or seaweed pile had Robins.

A Woodcock was flushed from the edge of the golfcourse. In this spot, 9 Redpolls and 30 Siskins flew W.

Along at the point the sea was dead today with very few signs of movement so we decided to check the shore for the two Snow Buntings I had seen on Friday. We soon located one bird feeding along the strand line but there was no sign of its colleague? As is the way with Snow Buntings, this loner fed unconcerned as dogs and their owners walked past yards away so we took the good opportunity to get some photos. While we were watching, the shore waders became anxious and began calling. This disturbed the bunting and it flew off southwards.


After some tea back at the car, the sun was shining so we checked the coast path south to Foxton Golf Club.

A couple of small settling ponds here looked good for a migrant or two but the best we could manage was a nice Kingfisher giving a close fly by before perching briefly on top of beach side brambles.

Then down to the Golf Club proper. It was here when we were checking a nice looking gully a loud call close overhead jolted us back into concentration - Waxwing! I thought it might be sat in the trees but it was just flying low overhead, and continued straight south. Waxwings are scarce but regular on our patch recorded in 8 years out of 14 but this was my first local bird since 2019. Hoping there are more to come!

A shot from a previous year but this is what it was like if I could have deployed the camera quicker! 

The End 2...

 On Friday morning  I was back out for a couple of hours seawatching but what a difference a day makes.

After yesterdays masses of birds, today was much quieter with, for example, instead of the thousands of Kittiwakes passing, they must have all gone through because I had no more than 10 in 2 hours. Same for Gannets. 

The visibility was awful with thick drizzle and a moderate Easterly wind.The tide was still a good way out so to see birds they would almost need to be over the rock edges, as indeed most were. 'Real' seabirds were few but wildfowl made for a decent variety - 

Common Scoter 137

Velvet Scoter 6

Scaup 1 female with a scoter flock

Long tailed Duck 2 females

Goldeneye 15N 4S

Red breasted Merganser 2 drakes

Goosander 3 fine drakes S unusual in this plumage here.

Teal 99

Wigeon 31

Little Auk 3

Grey Plover 15

Purple Sandpiper 3

Snow Bunting 2 came off the beach, flew N and seemed to land again.

All birds moving North unless stated.

In the village the now flooded mere had 4 Black tailed Godwits and 200+ Lapwings. Oh for this to be a more permanent feature, what it would pull in...

So not a bad jaunt out...    


The view from Seaton Point...

Bull Mere, Boulmer


Thursday, November 17, 2022

The End.

 Of Autumn that is.

We used to begin our county Winter Atlas surveys after 13th November so I always think of that date as the end of autumn. Still, depending upon the weather, some tardy birds are still migrating up until the end of the month.

The Pied Wheatear from my previous post remained faithful to its graffiti daubed skate park right up until Saturday 12th November, allowing even the most reticent of twitchers time to catch up with it if they so wished.

On my patch things have been a bit quiet recently though a female Merlin across our village, well lit from early morning sunshine on the 6th was good and even better was the Snow Bunting on the 14th that danced low over our garden, calling its lovely tinkling tune all the way. This is my 3rd ( I think) garden record. 25 Whooper Swans flew S on 5th while 16 Redpolls were in Village Wood the previous day. Ive seen them in flight a few times and suspect a couple of Mealies in there but cant clinch it.

Other bits of interest around home were a Water Rail sadly killed on the road overnight, having just arrived on its wintering grounds and some big fungi on the cricket pitch, known descriptively as Macro Mushroom Agaricus urinascens. Apparently this is a widespread, but scarce fungi so I was pleased to meet with its oval, tiger bread, form while out walking Peggy.

Macro Mushrooms

On the invertebrate front, the moth trap has been moth balled until the New Year. With the rising cost of electricity units per moth well up, its not worth putting it on for 13 hours for 2 Angle Shades... The last Butterflies for me were a Small Tortoiseshell on 3rd and a Peacock on the 6th.

I've been on holiday this week, using up annual leave before Christmas. The time was to be spent putting the garden to bed for the winter. There has been mixed success here with fine Monday and Wednesday utilised but on other days its just been too wet and windy.

When the weather is stormy from the East we all know what that means to an East coast patch watcher - Seawatching.

Today has been really grim. Raining most of the day, barely daylight  and blowing a strong Easterly.

Although an East wind can be good, I prefer a Northerly for seawatching. My home spots are just too exposed in this weather, so I headed to Boulmer and the safety of the relatively sheltered Seaton Point, where strategically placed caravans make it just about bearable.

From 09.30am - 11am the count went  - 

Kittiwake 1300 N ( a gross under estimate with maybe double that in reality).
Sooty Shearwater 3 late birds taking the 'breeze' in their stride.
Little Auk 24 N
Pomarine Skua 3 N
Arctic Skua 2 N ( these 5 skuas were in one flock)
Skua sp probably a Long tail but it was too fast and hiding in wave troughs)
Brent Geese 2 N
Long tailed Duck 3 drakes N.
Gannets not counted but a light movement.
Fulmar 2N

Hopefully there will be more moving in the morning, I'll give it a couple of hours first thing.

Apologies for the images, I only had my 300mm lens. The pics look black and white but they are in full colour, honest!


Three Little Auks of the 24 seen.

Squint or click and zoom, these are Long tailed Drakes...

Arctic Skua first, then 3 Pomarines, and another Arctic at the tail end. Compare the sizes of the Arctic and Pom at the front.

Three Pomarine Skuas.

Thursday, November 03, 2022

Hero in a half-pipe...

 As dusk fell on Tuesday night news was released that a nice first winter male Pied Wheatear had been found at Whitley Bay sea front, along the prom.

A lady walking her dog had noticed a 'wheatear', thought it was a bit late in the season, and contacted local birder Alan Jack. Alan was sufficiently intrigued by the report to check it out. You can only imagine his delight when the bird popped up and was not a late Northern Wheatear or even the quite similar looking Desert Wheatear  ! The WhatsApp group message duly arrived complete with some gripping snaps of the bird.

For many a new Northumberland birder this would be a county tick, but I have seen two already, one at Tynemouth in December 1998 and another at Newbiggin in October 2004. Both birds were females so this nice male was very tempting.

As I was working from the office on Wednesday, I planned to take a lunchtime trip for a look, ala Bluetail recently. 

On arrival the prom and beach were busy with walkers etc and the bird had been lost. However, not to worry, it soon came back to its favoured zone in the Skate Park where it looked very incongruous hopping around the graffitied half-pipes and associated detritus. On two occasions the poor thing hopped down to pick up small bits of plastic, only for them to be discarded again when it realised it wasn't an insect.

Occasionally the bird would drop down and sit only a few feet away from us over the boundary wall giving point blank views.

I'd imagine that will be the excitement over for another autumn now, but you never know...

Pied Wheatear, Whitley Bay Skate Park.