Tuesday, 30 December 2014


Another day, another fish quay. Hartlepool was the venue this morning, where I spent a fruitless hour stood outside the fish quay gates scanning the shed roofs for the Glaucous Gull. A distant Viking Gull (Glaucous/Herring hybrid) raised hopes, but the coffee coloured wing tips were clear through a borrowed scope. A good bird though, with a stonking black-tipped, pink bill. The luck changed when the fish workers let us onto the quay and the first bird we saw was the Glaucous Gull, just 20 feet away. Posing for a while before a short flight around the harbour and down to a small rubbish heap where it fought off a few Herring Gulls.

Glaucous Gull
Viking and Herring Gull
As yesterday Gateshead was pretty lacklustre with nothing to shout about at Watergate, Burdon Moor or Lamesley. At Far Pasture there were 3 Chiffchaff feeding in the alder opposite the hide, one very pale bird probably Siberian, but a bit distant and I didn't hear it call. Hopefully it will hang around.

Monday, 29 December 2014


I woke at 4.30 this morning to the sound of a calling Tawny Owl, obviously fairly close to get through the double glazing. My first from home for 4 or 5 years.

No traffic this morning, so straight through to North Shields Fish Quay for the Iceland Gull. It took a while to find it, but after 45 mins I picked it up cruising through the harbour. It showed well on and off for several minutes, but on the south side of the sheds so difficult to photograph looking into the sun. Thankfully it was re-found sitting on the water within the harbour where I got lucky with some reflected colour from the fishing boats.

Iceland Gull

Back to Gateshead where despite extensive searching I couldn't dig out anything exciting. With frost and ice persisting all day the highlights being a Water Rail at Shibdon, a Buzzard at Burdon Moor and 20 Snipe at Far Pasture. The car park at Far Pasture held 2 Willow Tit and 2 Nuthatch.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Xmas Eve

Cold and windy, so although sunny there were just a handful of dog-walkers at Watergate this morning. 10 Bullfinch and 2 Redpoll feeding on the path and a Water Rail feeding out in the open at the north end. Still only 5 Tufted Duck, normally a flock of 30+ by now.

At Lamesley the Whooper Swan was near the hide with 2 Greylag. The 3 Wigeon also still here.

Whooper Swan with Greylag
Plenty of the usual suspects at Far Pasture car park with Willow Tit and Nuthatch showing well.

Willow Tit
The pond here continues to disappoint with just a handful of Mallard and Teal, but a Chiffchaff was feeding in the tree tops.

At Shibdon the Ruff was again present and a Sparrowhawk shot through.


Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Soggy Gateshead

I didn't venture far from the car on a soggy tour around Gateshead this morning. The Whooper Swan was back at Lamesley along with 3 Wigeon and increased numbers of Teal and Mallard. Sled Lane gave 5 Goosander and 5 Goldeneye, but no Wigeon. Shibdon was quiet except for a large flock of Lapwing. Final stop was Far Pasture where a Kingfisher showed distantly and 2 Willow Tit were in the car park.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Garden Tick

Limited time this morning, so just quick looks at Lamesley and Shibdon. Nowt exciting at Lamesley, but the Ruff is hanging on at Shibdon, hopefully staying into the new year.

Leaving for work I had 3 flyover Grey Wagtail over the house, so stuck a foot back into the garden to get them on the Garden List.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Distant Shrike

Distant views of the Great Grey Shrike at West Hartford this morning. The wind had picked up by the time I got there, so the bird was keeping low in the hedge. Little else here, but a Stonechat was on a fence.

Great Grey Shrike
All quiet around Gateshead.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Wrong Wigeon

A trip up to Fenham Flats this morning after a bit of a lie-in. After several attempts for American Wigeon last winter I was optimistic today, but despite scanning every Wigeon several times, today was another failure. The Flats were covered in birds with large numbers of Brent Geese, Dunlin and Knot. A couple of Little Egret were feeding in channels and a Peregrine powered through at low level. A finch flock near the hide was made up of c80 Twite and c20 Linnet. A check through the Wigeon at Budle Bay again lacked the Yank, Another Little Egret was feeding here.

Holy Island castle from across the flats
Brent Geese
Twite and Linnet
Yesterday was spent around Gateshead where Shibdon's Bearded Tit failed to show. Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail and Dipper were in the outlet stream at Watergate. Lamesley still held the Whooper Swan along with a drake Wigeon.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Med Gull

Surveying waders in the Marsden area yesterday was a bit short on the wader front, with just 1 Purple Sandpiper and a handful of Turnstone. Best birds were close in Razorbill and Red-throated Diver, plus 3 Mediterranean Gull by the cliff-top car park.

Mediterranean Gull

Monday, 8 December 2014


A day spent dipping in the cold. The morning was filled by North Shields Fish Quay and Black Middens where the white-winged gulls failed to show. The highlight here was a bacon sarnie with a side order of poor bairns.

Via Lamesley (Whooper Swan) and Far Pasture (Willow Tit) I ended up at Shibdon where I received news of a Bearded Tit in the reed bed. The next three hours failed to unearth the bird, but I did manage 5 Water Rail, 2 Dunlin and the Ruff. A Weasel on the path was the highlight.


Sunday, 7 December 2014


A brief look out yesterday to Boldon Flats and Whitburn. The Bean Goose, 5 Black-tailed Godwit and Ruff were on show at the Flats, but no sign of any Water Pipit at Whitburn, just plenty of Rock Pipit and Sanderling.

A trip to Watergate before work this morning was disappointing with no build up of diving ducks yet. A Woodcock flying down the path was my first in Gateshead for the winter. A phone call from Lamesley sent me there for a Whooper Swan feeding across from the hide, a Gateshead year tick. Fly-throughs here by Buzzard and Sparrowhawk with a steady stream of Redwing overhead.

Whooper Swan

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Black Redstart

Distinctly colder today with a north-westerly wind. Started the day at Druridge Bay C.P. where there were a scattering of Pochard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye and Red-breasted Merganser. East Chevington held similar, with no sign of the Smew. The beach here held 30+ Sanderling, while 6 dark-bellied Brent Geese flew north.

Church Point, Newbiggin next where a crowd of twenty or so birders were huddled on the cliff edge. Just one Black Redstart remained, but this this showed well at close range as it fed along the cliff base.

Black Redstart

A few gulls on the beach with 4 adult and 1 2nd winter Mediterranean Gull, but no sign of yesterday's Glaucous Gull.

4 Mediterranean Gull

Friday, 28 November 2014

Bean there

With Burdon Moor shrouded in fog this morning I carried on over the hill and on to Boldon Flats. The Tundra Bean Goose was picked up quickly, feeding with Wigeon at the far side of the pool. Also here were 2 Black-tailed Godwit and a smart Mediterranean Gull.

On to Whitburn Steel and 2 Water Pipit were eventually seen through the drizzle, despite the efforts of the ever thoughtful dog-walkers that plague the beach.

The Bean Goose was much closer to the road on the way back, allowing some photos through the gloom.

Bean Goose

Monday, 24 November 2014


Handily, news of the Isabelline Wheatear broke just minutes after I had booked today off work. I was worried it might disappear during a clear night, but I got the happy news it was still showing when almost there this morning. The bird was showing superbly as it fed at the top of the beach and among the dunes. Coming to within ten feet at times, cracking views were had.

Isabelline Wheatear

After an hour I was suitably chilled, so headed north to try for the Smew at East Chevington. No sign today, but great, distant views of an otter that was fishing the north pool. A look on the beach by the burn mouth gave great views of 8 Twite.


All quiet at Cresswell so I headed south for another look at the Hume's Warbler at Whitley Bay. Three Waxwing were feeding in bushes by the road as I got out of the car.

The Hume's Warbler was showing well in its favoured sycamore on the south side of the dene.

Hume's Warbler

Not a bad day!

Sunday, 23 November 2014


Stuck at work yesterday, so first light saw me at Brierdene, Whitley Bay. It took a few minutes to find the right area before the Hume's Warbler was picked up calling loudly and continuously from a sycamore on the south side of the dene. Skulking at first, the bird eventually showed really well. Like a pale, ghostly Yellow-Browed Warbler it was very distinctive and made up for the wonky Scilly bird from 2012 that I had to strike from my list. My 3rd tick in a month and all Phylloscs. Sadly no photos as it was again dark and dingy.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Water Pipit

I got the Water Pipit at Whitburn Steel this morning, feeding just below the cliffs with 15+ Rock Pipit. Very dark and murky this morning, so no chance of a photo.

I should have had some cracking shots when two Sparrowhawk landed to fight over some prey, but even with the ISO at 1250 the action is just a blur.

Monday, 17 November 2014


Proper easterlies this morning made for an excellent seawatch at Whitburn. 33 Pomarine Skua , including two flocks of 8, were the highlights.


Little Auk    279n
Red-throated Diver    11n  5s
Long-tailed Duck    1n
Long-tailed Skua    1 probable distant south
Little Gull    1s
Arctic Skua    1n
Eider    1n  3s
Common Scoter    21n  4s
Pomarine Skua    33n
Woodcock    1n
Bonxie    1n

The Water Pipit failed to show at Whitburn Steel, with just Rock Pipits below the cliffs. A Little Auk briefly joined a flock of Starling before peeling off and heading high inland.

Little Auk heading inland
Another go for the Siberian Stonechat at Cleadon was eventually successful. Unlike the two previous, very showy, Sibe Chats that I've seen, this bird spent an hour and a half skulking  in deep cover. Good, but brief, views were had, although no chance of a photo. A Stonechat and a flyover Short-eared Owl were also here.

Another unsuccessful try for the Water Pipit (where a Pomarine Skua flew over head) was curtailed by heavy rain and I headed for home.

Saturday, 15 November 2014


Spent the morning dipping. First up was the Grey Phalarope at South Shields, which failed to show. Birds seen here were 4 Purple Sandpiper on the pier and a mixed flock of Sanderling, Dunlin and Ringed Plover on the beach. The next no show was the Siberian Stonechat at Cleadon, where little else was seen.

Almost home when news of a Pallas's Warbler at Whitley Bay cemetery had me heading over the river. By the time I arrived the bird had disappeared and the carrier flock of tits was long gone. Two hours of extensive searching revealed nothing, but a Chiffchaff and a Grey Wagtail before a Barn Owl put on a show.

Barn Owl
Trudging back to the car, sure I had dipped, and the news came through that the Pallas's was showing again. A dash back along the lane and the bird was in the bag, giving excellent  close range views as it flitted about some back gardens. Light was a bit poor for photos, but you can see what it is!

Pallas's Warbler
Pallas's Warbler
A bit of rump

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

More Little Auks

Whitburn again this morning in brisk south easterlies. Not the big numbers of last week, but still a pretty good seawatch.


Great Northern Diver    1n
Red-throated Diver    5n
Little Gull    8s
Golden Plover    2000+ s
Little Auk    23n
Red-breasted Merganser    2n
Common Scoter    4n  1s
Red-necked Grebe    1n
Eider    1n
Goldeneye    3s
Snow Bunting    1s
Bonxie    1n

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Little Auk

I hadn't seen a Little Auk since about 1985. This morning I saw 932 of them, all heading north past Whitburn. Travelling in small flocks and singles, some passed close inshore where they unfortunately fell to hungry Great Black-backed Gulls. Also heading north at 08.17 was a Black Guillemot, accompanying 4 Common Scoter, which was also my first since the early eighties. Also this morning was a trickle of Thrushes, limping in just above the waves. A Woodcock flushed from the path down to the Obs.


Little Auk    932n
Common Scoter    75n  1s
Goldeneye    2n  2s
Red-throated Diver    10n  1s
Great Crested Grebe    1n  1s
Wigeon    37n
Teal    53n  25s
Fieldfare    79 in off sea
Curlew    2s
Golden Plover    80n
Black Guillemot    1n
Little Gull    4s
Common Tern    1n
Red-breasted Merganser    1n
Black-throated Diver     1s
Great Northern Diver    1s
Eider    7n
Shelduck    3n
Blackbird   3 in off sea
Redwing    10 in off sea
Mallard    4s

Friday, 31 October 2014

In the bag!

An emergency holiday was put in and I was back down at Brotton before first light. A crowd of 50 or so were waiting for the best part of an hour before someone got fleeting views of the Eastern Crowned Warbler. A couple of frantic dashes about the woods followed until everyone got onto the bird, which eventually showed very well in an ash by the road. Like an Arctic Warbler in build, it had a striking head pattern with the very dark eye stripe and cap framing the bright supercilium. Sadly, although I had great views, I couldn't get a photo through the foliage in the crap light. Judging by the cracking photos around the web, it must have shown very well this afternoon.

While waiting for the star of the show to reappear a very vocal Yellow-browed Warbler zipped around the wood and a constant stream of thrushes moved overhead.

No photos today, but I went home happy.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

So close

Spent this afternoon dipping the Eastern Crowned Warbler at Brotton. I did see the bird, but just fleeting views in silhouette and I can't bring myself to tick it. I came so close again, missing by seconds after being led down the wrong track and then stalled by a bloke unable to climb the fence across the path. "It's just dropped" were the words in my ear as I lifted my bins and that was it as the light faded. Good to get the heart pumping again after a lacklustre Scillies, but I would have preferred a better outcome.

Started the day seawatching at Whitburn. Highlights were 4 Pomarine Skua and a Fieldfare that flew in off just inches from the sea.


Goldeneye    4n  1s
Shag    1n
Wigeon    127n
Common Scoter    33n  1s
Mallard    16s
Little Gull    31s
Teal    6n
Eider   5n
Dunlin    9s
Red-breasted Merganser    1n
Shelduck    1n
Long-tailed Duck    1n
Turnstone    4s
Redwing    22 in off
Pomarine Skua    4n
Red-throated Diver    1 on sea
Great Northern Diver    1s
Fieldfare    1 in off

Huge numbers of thrushes were arriving all morning, but a good thrash around Marsden failed to turn up anything more exciting.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Dipper Dipper

Got a text from George this morning saying there was a Dipper at Shibdon- only the 2nd ever at the site. Unfortunately I was seawatching at Whitburn where it was very quiet with 4 Little Gull and 4 Red-throated Diver the highlights.

At Burdon Moor I had a Merlin hunting over the stubble field, my first in Gateshead for years. Also here were 150+ Canada and Greylag Geese, 30 Skylark, 3 Reed Bunting, 6 Yellowhammer, 50 Linnet, 1 Buzzard, 1 Red Kite and 2 Kestrel.

The usual fare at Far Pasture and Shibdon, but the Dipper was long gone.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

More Pipit

Started the day at Whitburn with a seawatch, but after an hour with just a handful of Red-throated Diver I headed for another look at the pipit. A small crowd was standing looking at the wooded slope, but it took another 30 mins before the bird crept into view. The bird gave cracking views as it worked up and down through the leaf litter, pumping it's tail as it went. Disappearing into the undergrowth only to reappear 20 mins later just 15 feet away, it eventually worked it's way almost to our feet, picking aphids from the underside of leaves. Crippling views and at times too close to focus the camera.

Olive-backed Pipit

With Aphid

What a stunner
Back in Gateshead a Wigeon was at Lamesley a flock of 150+ Canada Goose and Greylag on the fields above Burdon Moor contained 3 Pink-feet. Birds at Shibdon and Far Pasture were similar to yesterday.