Wednesday, 31 January 2018


A quiet seawatch from Whitburn this morning, but enlivened by a pair of Pintail and then a flock of 37 Eurasian White-fronted Geese coming in from the east before heading north. This is the highest day total past the Obs.

From here it was down to Seaton Carew where the Lapland Bunting was feeding by the road with a very flighty flock of Linnet.

Lapland Bunting with Linnets
Lapland Bunting

Just a little inland at Windermere Road, Hartlepool I spent a fruitless hour looking through gulls and just as I was leaving the Iceland Gull swooped low over the car, before dropping down to bathe.

Iceland Gull

No sign of the parakeets at Ward Jackson Park so I headed north. A decent selection of wildfowl at Lamesley, but nothing out of the ordinary yet. Still no Dipper on the Derwent at Winlaton Mill with high water, but there were 2 Little Grebe.

Long-tailed Tit basking in the sun at Far Pasture

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Red-crested Pochard

My first seawatch of the year from Whitburn this morning. All quiet except for an odd-looking Black-throated Diver. All looked good with bill and head, but a short neck and a lack of white flank patches...

A trip down to Hardwick Hall was a success with excellent views of the Red-crested Pochard resting on the ice.

Red-crested Pochard

Just up the road at Bishop Middleham at least 2 Hawfinch were feeding in Hornbeams on the track up to Castle Lake.

Back in Gateshead for a few year ticks with Buzzard, Willow Tit, Grey Partridge and Little Owl. A Stonechat was at Burdon Moor.

On the 23rd I eventually caught up with the Black Scoter at Cheswick. The stiff south-westerly pushing the scoter flock north and out to sea, making viewing difficult. 3 Russian White-fronted Geese were at Woodhorn on the drive back south.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Water Rail

Thick snow this morning so I declined the battle through traffic to go seawatching and had a lie-in. A look around the more accessible sites around Gateshead gave a few year ticks including a very confiding Water Rail at Watergate.

Water Rail

A flock of Goldfinch and Siskin held a few Lesser Redpoll, but nothing rarer.

Lesser Redpoll
A scarce bird for Gateshead was the female Pochard on Saltwell Park lake along with 50+ Tufted Duck.


Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Desert Wheatear

An early start and a drive through some unexpected snow got me to a very cold and wind-swept Whitby just after first light. The Desert Wheatear was immediately on view and gave stunning point-blank views as it fed around the sheltered areas of the abbey car park.

Desert Wheatear

A Snow Bunting dropped in to show just as well.

Snow Bunting

A dearth of Teal at Saltholme on the way home meant no sign of the Green-winged, but I did pick up the Long-eared Owl from the new watch-point. A further dip followed at Seaton Carew where there was no Lapland Bunting among the Linnet flock.

Long-eared Owl

The first couple of weeks of the year started with the Ross's Gull failing to show at Boulmer on New Year's Day. A few days later a trip up to Slamannan  gave distant views of 102 Taiga Bean Geese before a stop at Musselburgh gave us the drake Surf Scoter. A further stop at Goswick was not so lucky, with the Black Scoter having moved on.

Taiga Bean Geese
A trip around Northumberland the following day gave some good year-ticks including Water Pipit, Great Grey Shrike and my first ever Northumberland Hawfinch.

Great Grey Shrike
Not much time in Gateshead so far, but I have managed to see Rock Pipit, Barn Owl and Waxwing thanks to David, George and Alan.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

2017 in pictures.

Back working full-time, but I still managed to get out a bit and managed 8 (possibly 9) lifers along with a fair bit of other stuff. Lifers first...

Pacific Diver (22nd Jan)- a pre-work twitch to Druridge Bay Country Park for stunning views as it hugged the shore.

Blyth's Reed Warbler (15th June)- a drive across to Siddick Ponds on the Cumbrian coast, straight from the Rose-coloured Starling at Stanhope. Luckily got there 5 mins before it stopped singing. A couple of good, but brief views before it disappeared for good.

Night Heron (1st August)- a dash after work to Whittle Dene Reservoir. Initially crap views as it roosted high in a pine, then a brilliant series of fly-byes in stunning evening light.

Scops Owl (27th September)- ran out of the Obs in blind panic before some careful driving meant I was just the third person to see this cracker at Ryhope.
Cliff Swallow (2nd October)- the downer of dipping Rose-breasted Grosbeak on St. Agnes was quickly forgotten after a jet-boat ride in the pouring rain to Tresco for this massive pull-back from last year.
Cedar Waxwing (3rd October)- arriving on the same weather system as the Swallow this beauty led us all on a wild goose chase around St. Agnes before giving itself up and showing well for several days.
Wilson's Snipe (11th October)- in the pending file, this striking Snipe was at Porthellick, St. Mary's. Photos by others of the under-wing and tail seem to show this is the real deal. I did have brief scope views of another strong candidate a couple of days later.
Eastern Orphean Warbler (13th October)- an embarrassingly bad photo, with every possible camera setting wrong. Many hours of frustration on St. Agnes before getting good views on day two.
Leach's Petrel (29th October)- a brilliant seawatch from Whitburn Obs with this self-found Leach's followed 20 mins later by a Grey Phalarope and then 20 mins later a close-in White-billed Diver. Cracking!!!

A couple of major and distant dips, but a reasonable haul.

Along with the above were a decent number of scarcities and rarities, some of which were fairly photogenic.

Rose-coloured Starling (15th June)- after dipping the previous day, this eventually appeared and showed well at Stanhope.

Red-rumped Swallow (15th May)- not expecting the single bird reported still at Druridge Pools I stopped en-route for an ice-cream, only to arrive to two Swallows.

Sabine's Gull (17th July)- eventually stunning, close views after two frustrating hours of searching at Nosterfield.

Citrine Wagtail (12th May)- an after work twitch. Driving through fog and fading light I wasn't expecting this. Amazing views down to just 6 feet. Possibly my bird of the year.
Long-billed Dowitcher (12th July)- a couple of hours basking in the sun on Boulmer beach waiting for the tide to push this closer were rewarding with great views in perfect light.
Red-backed Shrike (3rd June)- arrived at Marsden to news that this had flown, but luckily it reappeared to pose. 
Bee-eater (2nd November)- not an expected winter bird at Whitburn. I'm far too old to be climbing trees to take photos!
Grey Phalarope (8th November)- the best year ever for these from Whitburn Obs, this very confiding bird was a regular at South Shields Pier.
American Golden Plover (11th October)- just a few feet away from where I ticked my first on Porthellick Beach, St. Mary's.
Short-toed Lark (10th May)- my first away from Scilly, in the amazing setting high on the moor above Catton.
Hopefully a good-as or better 2018!

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.