Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Grey Phalarope

Seawatching at Whitburn Obs this morning when Paul picked up a Grey Phalarope heading north with a Guillemot about a mile out. Well to the north I noticed it cutting in towards shore. Paul put the news out and Doug was on hand for the bird at South Shields Pier. Team work! I took a break from seawatching to pop up for photos and returned later in slightly better light.

Grey Phalarope

A decent couple of days seawatching with loads of migrants arriving, inbound ducks and 3 Tundra Bean Geese.

Thursday, 2 November 2017


A county tick finally fell today when Paul picked up a Grey Phalarope heading north past Whitburn Obs. I actually completely failed to pick it up in flight, scanning too far out in panic, but luckily managed to pick it up well to the north when it stopped briefly on the sea. Not much else had been pushed down by the northerly, but there were 3 Great Northern Diver, including one cracking bird still in full summer plumage.

Almost home when Dave rang to say the Bee-eater had reappeared in Whitburn CP. About turn and I arrived back at Whitburn to the news that the bird had just flown off. A few minutes wait and it returned in a brief flyby before eventually settling on a garden fence. Excellent views for the next hour as it moved between house roofs.


Yesterday a welcome year-tick with a Little Auk past Whitburn Obs. An early juvenile Glaucous Gull was on the rocks before flying south.

Glaucous Gull
A call from George eventually got me to Shibdon where a Whooper Swan had dropped in.

Whooper Swan

Wednesday, 25 October 2017


Today was my second day on a wild-goose chase at Budle Bay. Better weather this morning meant better visibility and I began picking through the several thousand Barnacle Geese, about a mile away to the north. After about 30 mins I picked up a lone small Canada Goose circling the bay. Small, but with a long thin neck, this had to be the Todd's Canada Goose. I watched it disappear to the north, then resumed picking through the Barnacles. Another ten minutes and I had the Richardson's Cackling Goose. About the same size as the Barnacles, this had the required short, stocky neck and short legs. A birder from Essex pulled up and just managed a quick view of the goose through my scope before the entire flock took off to the north, lucky! Usual suspects around the bay, but no sign of the second winter Glaucous Gull from yesterday.

Richardson's Cackling Goose

From here down to Newton, where there was no sign of the Little Bunting, but I did get excellent views of one, probably two Yellow-browed Warbler.

The burn mouth at East Chevington held 40+ Twite and a superb Shorelark. A Marsh Harrier was heading south, low over the sea, about a mile out.


A Cetti's Warbler singing by the south pool was a Northumberland tick.

On the north pool there was a Slavonian Grebe, Long-tailed Duck and several Pintail among a good selection of wildfowl. A young Marsh Harrier spent 20 mins flying just above a playing Otter, not something I've seen before.

Marsh Harrier and Otter

Some good news from Scilly. The Orphean Warbler that I spent the last two days of my trip chasing around St Agnes looks set to be accepted as Britain's first Eastern Orphean. Unfortunately I managed to have every possible setting on my camera wrong!

Eastern Orphean Warbler

Wednesday, 11 October 2017


Porthellick today for the possible Wilson's Snipe. Whatever this turns out to be it was certainly striking, almost monochrome compared to the 'golden' nearby Common Snipe. The Jack Snipe-like constant bobbing was something that I have seen for a few seconds in Common Snipe, but never for prolonged periods like this bird did. Hopefully under-wing and tail shots by Jim Almond and others will clinch this.

Wilson's Snipe?
Common Snipe

On the way to Porthellick we had brief views of a Rose-coloured Starling at Buzza and stunning close (sub 10 feet) views of a Spotted Crake at Lower Moors. Should have had a cracking photo, but ISO was way too low for the dull conditions.

Spotted Crake
After vacating the hide to allow others views of the snipe, a quick visit to the beach was in order for the confiding American Golden Plover. Cake followed.

American Golden Plover

Monday, 9 October 2017

More Waxwing

Another visit to St Agnes to improve on my Waxwing photos. A frustrating wait, but eventually I got the shots I wanted.

Cedar Waxwing

An added bonus was excellent views of two Hawfinch, a Scilly tick for me.


Friday, 6 October 2017


A bit less frantic for the last three days and time to pick up a few other birds (new and lingering), plus some slightly better shots of the megas.

Cedar Waxwing
Cliff Swallow
American Golden Plover
Yellow-browed Warbler
Vagrant Emperor
Isabelline Wheatear (ever present, always distant)
Portuguese man o'war
Birds that didn't get on film were a flyby Purple Heron and a brief Spotted Crake in the near dark tonight.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Cedar Waxwing

Another manic Scilly day. Started the day with decent scope views of the Isabelline Wheatear at the airport and we were almost at Porthellick when news broke of a Cedar Waxwing on St Agnes. A swift march and the 12.15 boat followed, only to arrive with the bird having gone to ground. Over four hours of searching and it looked like we were going home empty-handed. Luckily the bird gave in and gave excellent, prolonged (though distant) views to the ecstatic crowd.

Cedar Waxwing
Back on St Mary's a walk over Peninnis gave the Cliff Swallow as it moved north over the island with a House Martin flock.

What will happen tomorrow?