Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Little and Large Xmas Special

With work closed due to it nearly being Santa's birthday, I headed south to year tick Bewick's Swan. Not really knowing where to go I headed towards Sadberge until four distant white dots in a field made me pull over. Scope out and there was the Bewick with 3 Whoopers feeding in crops. Not obvious at that distance, but the massive size difference was clear when the Bewick's waddled over and sat next to the adult Whooper.

Bewick's and Whooper Swans
With the swan in the bag and the wind beginning to bite I jumped in the car and headed home. I have obviously been a very good boy all year and just south of Bradbury a Great Grey Shrike flitted over the road. Thank you Santa! I pulled over and ran back to get some distant, crap shots before heading home to the joys of wrapping.
Great Grey Shrike
A look at Chopwell for assorted Crossbills was aborted after ten minutes when it started snowing.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Right White-wing

A morning seawatch did not produce the big displacement of birds following the storms, Great Northern Diver and Velvet Scoter the highlights. A single Brent Goose feeding in the field by the Obs gave me a chance to try my new phone/scope kit.

Dark-bellied Brent
After lunch reports of an Ivory Gull at Seahouses launched me north. I pulled up at the golf course to the news that the single Ivory Gull had morphed into two and both had flown off south east.
The bitter taste of defeat was short lived as news that the gulls had been re found had me hurtling over the dunes for lung-bursting run along the beach towards Beadnell. The two first winter Ivory Gulls were hunched down on rocks by the surf, giving great, but distant views in fading light. Very chuffed after dipping the Saltburn bird in 1986.
Ivory Gull


Tuesday, 3 December 2013


Got down to Lamesley this morning, despite shredding a tyre driving over Pennyfine Road. The Barnacle Goose found yesterday was still feeding with Greylag and Canada Geese. A rare bird for Gateshead, usually only seen in flight during migration. The only other bird of note was a female Wigeon.

Barnacle Goose

Barnacle with Greylag
Very quiet at Watergate and Shibdon, hopefully the forecast northerlies will bring something in.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Wrong White-wing

A quiet couple of weeks. I have put in some effort around Gateshead, but without success.

Today I headed to Whitburn at first light in the hope that yesterday's Ivory Gull would drift past. No luck today, but a pretty good seawatch with Iceland Gull and Great Northern Diver the highlights. There was also a good passage of Shag and Red-throated Diver.

A quick look at Boldon Flats gave 4 Black-tailed Godwit before news of a Shore Lark had me heading down to Hartlepool.

I arrived at the Jewish Cemetery to news that the bird had not been seen since its initial sighting, so I went for an optimistic walk along the beach. I flushed the bird almost immediately, but it took a good 20 mins to pin it down and get good, though distant views.

A couple of shots of a Kestrel at Burdon Moor from last week.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Plain Lazy

Too lazy to do Gateshead this morning, but a quick look at Shibdon on the way to work gave a cracking Water Rail just in front of the hide.

Water Rail

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Accidental Yank

Started at Newton, where there were already a fair few watching the Lesser Grey Shrike from the car park. The bird showed well down to about 50 feet and was chased at one point by a small flock of Reed Bunting and Chaffinch. An easy twitch.

Lesser Grey Shrike
After an hour I headed to Seahouses to buy a bacon sarnie and on to Stag Rocks to eat it. Between bites I could pick up a bit on the sea from the warmth of the car. Among the Eider and Common Scoter were a Slavonian Grebe, 2 Red-throated Diver, 6 Long-tailed Duck and a pair of Velvet Scoter.
Velvet Scoter
I braved the cold and got the scope out. With just 5 gulls on the sea I had a quick scan. Second bird in was the dainty, black billed Bonaparte's Gull that I had previously spent many hours dipping. It felt like cheating today with so few gulls to scan through.
Bonaparte's Gull
A quick look at Prestwick Carr and Shibdon on the way home was fruitless.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013


Another look around Gateshead.

Watergate had 1 Little Grebe on the pond with little else. 1 Curlew, 1 Grey Wagtail and 1 Redpoll were fly overs.

At Lamesley there were still 2 Black-tailed Godwit with 17 Curlew.

At Burdon Moor a Peregrine drifted over west. Also here were 1 Red Kite, 1 Kestrel, 1 Skylark and 1 Meadow Pipit.

The Ruff was still at Shibdon with a Shelduck the only other bird of note.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013


A spin around Gateshead this morning.

Watergate had 2 adult Mediterranean Gull, 2 Water Rail, 13 Tufted Duck, 1 Little Grebe and 2 Grey Wagtail. Med Gulls seem to be everywhere.

Mediterranean Gull
Lamesley had 4 Black-tailed Godwit and 1 Curlew on the water meadow and a Tree Sparrow by the house.
I also had a look at Burdon Moor, Far Pasture and Shibdon, with nothing seen of note.
Not bad, as it is usually crap after the previous night's fireworks.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Bonus Tit and Bittern

With blue sky instead of the expected rain, I headed back up to Stag Rocks. The gull flock has shrank and it looks like the Bonaparte's is a gonner. On the sea were 6 Long-tailed Duck, 1 Velvet Scoter, 15 Red-throated Diver, 2 Great Crested Grebe and 300+ Common Scoter. 100+ Linnet were feeding on the beach and rocks with 20+ Meadow Pipit.

The Long Nanny was overrun with dog walkers and there was nothing except the very mobile flock of Twite.

Called in at East Chevington on the way south and after just 10 mins the Bearded Tit 'pinged' through the reeds, showing well before dropping into the reed bed to the east of the hide. Just as it disappeared the gulls went berserk as a Bittern flew west over the pool.

A good range of ducks on the pool with Red-breasted Merganser, Shoveler, Gadwall, Teal, Tufted, Wigeon and Goldeneye. Also single Little and Great Crested Grebe. 140 Pink-footed Geese headed over south.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Out of Lark

A trip back up to Long Nanny in a howling westerly. No luck with yesterday's reported Shore Lark, but a good selection of winter birds. First up was a Lapland Bunting flushed from the path and then a single Barnacle Goose battling west, just over my head. The flock of 50+ Twite were showing well with 8 Snow Bunting. 15 Fieldfare and 1 Redwing flew in off the sea, while 1 Jack Snipe and 10 Snipe were flushed from the marsh.

Snow Bunting
Next up was another try for the Bonaparte's Gull at Stag Rocks. Again no luck despite searching through several hundred Black-headed Gull. A Velvet Scoter and 12 Common Scoter were among the Eider, but little else on a very choppy sea.

Velvet Scoter
The rising tide gave a good opportunity to photograph the waders, which relieved the tedium of picking through the gulls.
Purple Sandpiper
Grey Plover

Saturday, 2 November 2013


Frost on the car this morning. A great day for standing on the beach, in the cold, watching people run around, shouting while their dogs shitted happily. There was no Bonaparte's Gull at Stag Rocks today, it was holidaying at the dog-free Farnes. There was an adult Mediterranean Gull, 2 Kittiwake, 30+ Purple Sandpiper and 30+ Knot.

Purple Sandpiper
Rock Pipit
Once I was very cold I headed for a coffee at Seahouses and then the Long Nanny. It was raining now and after a slog from the car park I was pleased to find a couple of kind-hearted souls letting their two dogs run amok on the salt marsh. I bit my tongue, but met their hellos with a Paddington stare. I must be getting soft! Luckily just down stream from the bridge I found The flock of 50+ Twite, which gave great views in the murky light.
With nothing else about I headed south. Stopping just north of Howick to check out a Buzzard I found a flock of 300 Pink-footed Geese with 1 Barnacle Goose among them.
A call in at Shibdon gave 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Ruff and 2 Dunlin.


Thursday, 31 October 2013


With news that the Glossy Ibis had reappeared 10 mins before I had left the site and with no other birders present, I was a bit sceptical, but headed back this morning.

Arrived at 08.10 to an empty field, I waited in the cold wind and 40 mins later picked up the bird flying in high from the northeast. The bird was dropping and I pulled out the camera expecting it to drop into the horse paddock. It didn't and was lost to view behind trees to the west. I hung around for 20 mins, but had to leave for work. Not the views I wanted, but another year tick.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

A long day dipping.

Headed to Hartlepool the news yesterday that the Glossy Ibis and Dusky Warbler were showing well.
Decided to try and get a photo of the Dusky first. Idiot!! Spent an hour in the cold seeing nothing except Robins and hearing Chiffchaff and Goldcrest.

Arrived at the Glossy Ibis site (the posh end of Hartlepool) full of confidence only to be told that the bird had flown east 5 mins before.

Spent the next 6 hours between here, McDonald's, here, Greenabella, chip shop, Newburn Bridge and here. Can't believe I dipped this because I wanted to photo a bird I had seen last week. Hope it hangs around.

Highlights of the day were 1 Greenshank, 1 Little Egret and 5 Grey Plover at Greenabella and 3 Mediterranean Gull at Newburn Bridge.

Med Gull 1
Med Gull 2
Med Gull 3

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Back to Gateshead

A quick trip round Gateshead before work this morning.

Burdon Moor had 3 Red Kite, Buzzard, 2 Reed Bunting, 1 late Meadow Pipit and 1 Fieldfare.

Far Pasture had 1 Chiffchaff, 2 Willow Tit, 2 Bullfinch and a few Goldcrest in a tit flock. Also a glimpse of a very pale Chiffchaff that called once, a possible sibe that disappeared into the hedge before I could nail it.

Shibdon held 1 Ruff, 1 Dunlin and a Grey Wagtail that dropped in front of the hide.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Scotland to the grave

Decided this morning to head up to St. Abbs to try for the Sardinian Warbler. Arrived at 08.30 to be shown cracking photos of the bird perched in the open from only 5 mins before I got there. Over the next hour and a half it called twice without showing. For the next hour or so I had 3 good, but brief views. A very skulky bird and was always partially obscured by foliage.

Sardinian Warbler
While waiting tit flocks flitted through with several Goldcrest and a couple of Chiffchaff called.
Got back home mid afternoon planning to call it a day, but news of crap weather for tomorrow had me heading to Hartlepool for the Dusky Warbler.
The scrub opposite the Jewish Cemetery was the location and 2 hours in fading light gave only very crap views as the bird tacked its way through thick vegetation. Also here were Blackcap and a late Swallow.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Not Sure

With a late start at work I got down to Marden Quarry this morning. First bird was The Siberian Chiffchaff which I picked up on call and had great close views of a very pale Chiffchaff. After viewing photos, are the cheeks too dark?

Siberian Chiffchaff?
The next bird was we at the time thought Pallas's Warbler. In the field the jizz was all wrong for Yellow-browed Warbler, looking bull headed and short tailed with very prominent black eye stripe and yellow supercilium and double wing bars. I left for work happy with the tick, but after uploading the photos has the look of a very strongly marked Yellow-browed Warbler. To confuse the issue the bird was calling like a Pallas's. Comments very welcome as yet I have the box unticked.


Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Hoopoe in the rain

A lie in this morning meant battling through the rush hour traffic to get down to Bishop Auckland. After a plodge through some pretty grotty waste ground I joined a dozen birders watching the Hoopoe. Seemingly undeterred by the awful weather the bird was watched feeding in the open and in flight as it flitted over waste heaps. Weather no good for photos, but another tick in the bag.

It was then back up north to Prestwick Carr, but the Great Grey Shrike was again a no show. I did have 2 Willow Tit and a dozen Redwing.
Back to Gateshead and Burdon Moor giving a Red Kite and 13 Redwing. Watergate was equally uninspiring with 3 Little Grebe and 13 Tufted Duck.
Back to work tomorrow for a rest!

Monday, 21 October 2013

A Three Tick Day

With the news that the Pallid Swift had roosted on St. Hilda's church I arrived at Hartlepool Headland before first light. With no sign of the bird roosting by the clock, as expected, it was looking grim. Bang on 8 am the bird dropped from under an eave and shot over our heads. It turned and gave great views as it flew towards the Heugh Battery. Tick one.

It was then down to the Croft Gardens to search for the Western Bonelli's Warbler. Birds could be seen flitting about some bushes, but at first only Chiffchaff and Goldcrest could be picked out. A Redwing dropped in and then a Sparrowhawk shot through quieting everything. I picked up a pale warbler flitting right and out in the open was the Bonelli's. Brief, but cracking views before the bird disappeared again into the dense foliage. Tick two.

At the Heugh Battery the Pallid Swift was performing. Swooping low, it was just a shame the light was so poor for photos.

Pallid Swift
After a quick, but unsuccessful hunt for the Dusky Warbler I headed north before the weather closed in.
I arrived at Longhoughton and after a short walk the Siberian Stonechat was seen immediately and gave great views showing down to 20 feet. Tick three.
Siberian Stonechat
Showing the rump
A call in at Prestwick Carr gave no sign of the Great Grey Shrike, but I did see 2 Buzzard, 2 Willow Tit and a couple of Chiffchaff were calling.
Not a bad day.