Saturday 18 September 2021


 Something bad has happened, forcing auks (in particular Razorbills) close inshore and up rivers. Hopefully everything will turn out okay for them, but at the moment we can only be grateful for their first ever visit to Gateshead. Up to 17 have been in Gateshead waters, mostly at the eastern end, but one as far as Dunston. Several Guillemots have also been seen, normally mega rare with just a handful of previous records.


The end of August/ early September gave some tremendous seawatching, with a probable Yelkouan Shearwater followed by 4 Fea's/Desertas Petrels of which I managed 3.

                                                                Yelkouan Shearwater


                                                                Fea's/Desertas Petrel

Monday 26 July 2021

Caspian Tern

 I arrived at Saltholme in time to be told that the Caspian Tern had flown off just 5 mins before. With no sign from Paddy's hide I legged it towards Haverton. Luckily a large white bird was circling powerfully over the pool at Haverton Gate. I had it all to myself for a few minutes before it caught and ate a fish and powered over my head back towards Saltholme.

Caspian Tern

On the 1st I made the correct to abandon work and head to Whitburn with a Fea's-type Petrel heading north. Good, but distant views of my first Pterodroma sent me home happy only to return to the news that the Newbiggin lads had managed photos that will hopefully nail it as Britain's first Soft-plumaged Petrel.

I Gateshead autumn has arrived with up to 6 Green Sandpiper and a Greenshank at Lamesley, plus a couple of juvenile Whinchat moving through Burdon Moor.

Sunday 13 June 2021

Pacific Swift

 Northumberland's purple patch continues. I was just getting ready for work yesterday when news broke of a swift species with a white-rump. With the two possibilities being Pacific or White-rumped Swift I had to go. A couple of phone calls to get the morning off work and I was off. 

Arriving at the south end of the north pool at East Chevington there were already 50ish birders all scoping the sky to the north and all shouting different directions. For what seemed like days I was unable to pick out the, now confirmed, Pacific Swift among the Common congeners. Swearing a bit (!!) I had to shut out the conflicting shouted directions and eventually picked it up flashing low over the pool. Excellent distant scope views as it flew over the heads of birders on the north side. Superficially like a Common Swift it was clearly slimmer and more scythe-like wings, with a more elongated, deeper forked tail. The neat white rump was easy to pick out at distance.

With the bird in the bag and time running out I wanted to get to the north end for photos. I legged it back to the car past a singing Cetti's Warbler, the raucous Great Reed Warbler and a Marsh Harrier. Arriving at the north end to distant views of the swift, as it was now flying arriving the heads of the birders that I had just left. Luckily it flew back north and gave unbelievable views as it swooped around us, sometimes just a few feet away at break-neck speed. Too fast for me, I could only manage the following shots, but really I was more than happy to just watch.

Pacific Swift

Pacific Swift

Pacific Swift

Pacific Swift

Back down to work and the news that an American Golden Plover had turned up at Cresswell. An evening trip followed and the bird did the decent thing and stayed, being the only bird on the pool to the north of the causeway. In first summer plumage, it was a plumage tick for me and was a really faded and washed-out bird.

American Golden Plover

To the south of the causeway there was very vocal Little Gull and a distant, feeding Spoonbill.

Little Gull

A quick look at the Ring-necked Duck at Bothal on the way home topped off a stunning day.

Sunday 6 June 2021

Red-necked Stint

 Almost asleep on my sofa yesterday evening I was fired into action and panic by news of a Red-necked Stint on the Blyth Estuary. Racing north like a headless chicken with no real idea where I was going, I eventually got pin-point directions from Stew G and arrived on site to a crowd of about 50 scoping the bird on the mudflats. In full summer plumage, much brighter than I envisioned, the red in some light, like a Red-necked Phalarope. A Little Stint was present close by for comparison. 

Another visit early this morning, but the bird was still distant and no real chance of photos.

Red-necked Stint

On Friday a launch up to Northumberland gave a heard only, raucous Great Reed warbler and a Rose-coloured Starling at Newbiggin.

Rose-coloured Starling

Friday 7 May 2021


 I awoke at 2am to a message "Looks like the Mockingbird has come up to you!"

A bleary-eyed scroll through Twitter and RBA had me wide awake and up to Newbiggin early doors. A lack of birders on site and lack of news was unnerving. The odds of a dip and further frustration was enhanced when we found out that the owner of the 'lucky' property was reluctant to release details of the address until after the weekend.

Luckily, while we walked the streets Alan Tilmouth did some superb detective work, tracking down the bird and arranging access. Just a few hours later we were enjoying fantastic views of something I never envisioned seeing in Northumberland.

Northern Mockingbird

During breaks in pounding the streets the Black/Grey-headed Wagtail performed at Bothal and a confiding Ring Ouzel was in a horse paddock to the north of Newbiggin.

The Wagtail

Ring Ouzel

A fly-over Whimbrel back at Lamesley topped off an excellent day.

Sunday 4 April 2021

Citrine Wagtail

 A return to work after the lockdown would obviously curtail birding, but just four days in I had to stop a few hours early to pop up to Lynemouth. Having seen three other Citrine Wagtail (and impressed by them all) I was keen to see this male in the exact same spot as the stunning female from May 2017. It didn't disappoint, giving excellent and sometimes very close views. A Water Pipit added to the spectacle. As well as the bird it was great to see other birders after three months of lockdown. Looking west into the afternoon sun made photography hit and miss, but I'm happy with what I got.

Citrine Wagtail

Today an adult Iceland Gull dropped into Lamesley for a quick wash and the drake Pintail continues to linger.

Iceland Gull


Tuesday 16 February 2021

Lockdown 3

 The year started with the relative freedom of Tier 4. A couple of  seawatches and a trip up into Northumberland got the year off to a flying start. Some decent birds with Hawfinch, Egyptian Goose, Smew, Ruff and Black Redstart the pick.

Hawfinch at Abbey Mill, Morpeth

Black Redstart at Newbiggin

Unfortunately, full lockdown kicked in and I was restricted to Gateshead. The restrictions have, however, meant that a few decent local birds have been unearthed.

Mandarin at Swalwell

Glaucous Gull at Stella

Pintail at Shibdon

Siskin at Watergate

Barnacle Goose at Derwenthaugh Staiths

Greenshank at Derwenthaugh Staiths

Iceland Gull at Stella

Little Owl

A few other bits and bobs unphotographed include skeins of Pink-footed Geese, Barn Owl, singing Chiffchaff, Pochard, Goldeneye and plenty of Woodcock.