Sunday, 31 January 2016


An excellent day in Northumberland, but unfortunately no year ticks.

Started at Stag Rocks where poor and very distant views of the Black Scoter were had. Also here were 15+ Long-tailed Duck and a Great Northern Diver.

With news of some geese it was to the Long Nanny next. A large flock of Pink-feet were separate from 30+ Greylag, 50+ Barnacle, 4 European White-front and 2 Tundra Bean.

At Birling the Redpoll flock was very mobile, but did provide good views of the Arctic and a Mealy.

East Chevington still held Slavonian and Black-necked Grebe along with a Common Scoter. Still no sign of Marsh Harrier here for me.

An hour's search for 2 Waxwing that had been seen on wires behind Druridge Pools proved fruitless.

No photos today as everything was either distant or fleeting.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

No Jack

Spent a few hours on a very windy day in wellies hunting round Gateshead for Jack Snipe. With no luck and just one flushed Common Snipe, I can only assume that they are spread very thinly over the many wet and flooded fields. I did manage to add a few Gateshead year ticks, Meadow Pipit and Wigeon at Lamesley, while Burdon Moor gave Skylark and Red-legged Partridge. Also at Burdon were 250+ Golden Plover, 25 Linnet and 4 Grey Partridge.

At dusk I had a look at the Starlings at Shibdon. Loads of Starling, but the strong wind seemed to disrupt them and stop them throwing the amazing shapes that I saw on past visits. Also here were 6 Tufted Duck and a Shoveler.

Thursday, 28 January 2016


An unbelievable day at Rufforth, with an amazing 27 Caspian Gulls (we missed an adult. 15x 1st winter, 11x 2nd winter and one 3rd winter was the breakdown. Supporting cast were 3 Glaucous, 1 Iceland and 30,000+ assorted Gulls.

1st winter Caspian Gull
1st winter Caspian Gull
1st winter Caspian Gull
1st winter Caspian Gull
2nd winter Caspian Gull
2nd winter Caspian Gull
2nd winter Caspian Gull
3rd winter Caspian Gull
3rd winter Caspian Gull
1st winter Caspian Gull
1st winter Caspian Gull
1st winter Glaucous Gull
2nd winter Iceland Gull

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Scoter and Bittern

Had a look up north this afternoon. Cold and windy at Stag Rocks, but I did manage poor, distant views of the Black Scoter. The bird was in a flock of 40 Common Scoter and was constantly diving in a very choppy sea, giving it's self away when it's yellow bill caught the occasional burst of sun. Very little else here with just a few Eider and a fly-past drake Shoveler.

A call in at East Chevington on the way home paid off as a Bittern swam across the ride through the reeds just as I sat in the hide. The Slavonian and Black-necked Grebe were still showing and shared the same scope view at one point.


East Chevington north pool looking from the south hide

Monday, 25 January 2016

More Redpoll

Another look at the redpolls at Birling this morning. Warm and overcast, but a bit windy, the redpolls played ball, regularly flying up from the game crop to perch on the fence. In flight the Arctic stood out as a large, grey ball of fluff with a huge white rump. When perched the bird was much whiter, larger and rounder than the Lesser Redpoll, but there were also a couple of grey Mealy among the flock. While watching a 1st winter Little Gull flew south over the golf course.

Arctic Redpoll

At East Chevington there were both Slavonian and Black-necked Grebe on the north pool, while a Barn Owl was hunting near the south pool.

A Little Owl was seen on the drive past Druridge (thanks Dave).

At Cresswell the Long-billed Dowitcher was showing to the right of the hide, but again no sign of the Ruff.

Sleeping Long-billed Dowitcher
At Lynemouth flash there were four adult Mediterranean Gull.

Mediterranean Gull

Sunday, 24 January 2016


A close encounter with an Otter on the River Team was the highlight of a look around Gateshead this morning. Unfortunately the briefest of views as it scurried into a drainage pipe, but excellent to see so close to home.

A pair of Gadwall at Shibdon were the first in Gateshead for the year, but otherwise quiet everywhere.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Wrong Yank

We headed way west to try for Andy's bogey bird- Ring-necked Duck. With the long staying bird at Caerlaverock having disappeared a couple of days ago we headed to Castle Douglas. Unfortunately, despite extensive searching and hindered by crap advice from locals, the duck could not be found.

Disheartened we headed to Laurieston, where the grim weather conditions were far from ideal for raptor watching. We did have scores of Red Kite and Buzzard in the area, but a complete lack of Golden Eagle or Hen Harrier.

On to Caerlaverock, where we were a bit more successful. Obviously boat-loads of Barnacle Geese and Whooper Swan were seen along with a field full of Pink-footed Geese. A Brambling was on the feeders, while a Merlin hunted the saltmarsh before perching up for photos.

Barnacle Goose
Whooper Swan
On the way back to the car we checked the Folly Pond for the Green-winged Teal. This was quickly picked up, as it was being chased by Common Teal. As this bird sped to the right  another Green-winged Teal briefly popped out of the sedge.

Green-winged Teal

Thursday, 21 January 2016

More gulls

A successful trip to Rufforth with loads of gulls and plenty of good crack. An excellent haul of 11 Caspian Gull (8 1st winter, 2 2nd winter and 1 3rd winter), 3 Glaucous Gull (2 1st winter and 1 2nd winter) and 1 1st winter Yellow-legged Gull. The following shots were by Andrew Kinghorn, who had much better results with phonescoping than me.

1st winter Caspian Gull
2nd winter Caspian Gull
3rd winter Caspian Gull
1st winter Glaucous Gull

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Yank Wigeon

Another trip out to Grindon Lough this morning, this time with success. The lads had the American Wigeon in the scope as I pulled up. Out in the open, resting on the point, it almost immediately swam off, out of view. Luckily for those that had just arrived it soon swam out into open water to show well. While we were standing chatting 18 Pink-footed Geese flew over and 4 Whooper Swan dropped in as I was leaving.

Rufforth for seagulls tomorrow.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

No wigeon

Another dip of the Grindon Lough American Wigeon. I and a couple of others spent an hour and a half scanning through the 500+ Wigeon with no success. The only highlight was the 6 Whooper Swan that flew low overhead, heading north west, calling all the way.

A bonus Brambling was at the roadside on the Military Road and a quick stop at Whittle Dene gave the wintering Green Sandpiper in the outflow channel.

Sunday, 17 January 2016


Looking at Jonny's Blog over breakfast had me heading up to Birling, just north of Warkworth. Just to the west of the golf course a field of game crop is home to a large flock of finches and buntings, among them the Redpoll that has been much discussed over the last week. Jonny's excellent photos seem to clinch it as an Arctic and from my own views today, I agree. Difficult to see most of the time, but it did show well, perched up, three times in the 2 hours that I was there. Also present were Lesser Redpoll, Linnet, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer, Tree Sparrow, Grey Partridge, Skylark and a fly-over Woodcock.

Arctic Redpoll

I headed further north to Stag Rocks, which was very disappointing with just a single Long-tailed Duck and 2 Eider, no sign of any grebes or divers.
On the way back south I called in at Cresswell where the Long-billed Dowither was showing well before flying off to the west. A Barn Owl flew over the track back to the car.
Long-billed Dowitcher and Snipe

Saturday, 16 January 2016


A sub-zero seawatch from Whitburn this morning. The northerly was much lighter than forecast, so with clear sky and light wind it was a slow start. Once it did get going we had some decent birds, with 2 Great Northern Diver and a Red-necked Grebe the highlights.

Eider    4n   1s
Red-throated Diver    3n   1s
Common Scoter    5n
Goldeneye    1n
Mediterranean Gull    1s
Gannet    6n
Shag    2n   2s
Velvet Scoter    1n
Red-necked Grebe    1n
Great Northern Diver    2n
Wigeon    1n
Little Auk    1n

Friday, 15 January 2016

Geese and Glauc

I'm not sure how I forgot, but I had  2 European White-fronted Geese flying south over Watergate yesterday. A Gateshead mega, with just a handful of records.

2 European White-fronted Geese with 3 Greylag
The 2 White-fronts
Started the day with a run along the Derwent, 7 miles on ice was interesting. The water-level has dropped and I managed a run-past Dipper near Winlaton Mill and a fly-over Goosander.

With the snow and brilliant blue sky I thought I would get a few shots of the Short-eared Owls at Burdon Moor. Arrived to news that they had been showing superbly, but there was no sign in the hour that I was there. A very confiding Bullfinch was feeding on dried blackberries on the way back to the car.

A check of the gulls on the Tyne at Stella gave an excellent Glaucous Gull, the first in Gateshead for a few years.

Glaucous Gull

A quick check of Burdon Moor at dusk gave 2 Short-eared Owl, but never coming close for photos.

Short-eared Owl

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Nowt from the north

I had high hopes walking from the car to Whitburn obs this morning. The 50 mph northerly and driving sleet would surely blow in a sack full of birds. After an hour and three quarters we gave up, sick of the cold and lack of birds. All we had to show for our efforts was a Little Gull, 2 Little Auk and 3 Eider. I can only assume the gale hadn't been blowing long enough to displace any birds.

A look around a snowy Gateshead gave nothing more than Kingfishers at Watergate and Dunston Staithes.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

The dark side

I was coaxed by Dave F into a trip to Rufforth, near York, to look for gulls. Apprehensive both about standing in the cold for 7 hours and the evil that is large gulls, I agreed. Double long johns and McMuffins saw to the cold, while Dave, like an evil Obi-Wan, guided me into the dark side.

With an estimated 25,000 gulls visiting the tip and surrounding fields there was plenty to look through and almost from the word go Dave started picking out Caspian Gulls. Daunted at first, I even started to pick out a few of my own. By the end of the day we had seen a total of 22 Caspian Gull (9 1st winter, 9 2nd winter and 4 adults). This, along with a 3rd winter bird seen by others gave the highest ever single site, day total ever in Britain. Not a bad start!

Other gulls seen were 2 Iceland, 1 Yellow-legged, 1 Glaucous and 15+ Lesser Black-backed.

The only downside was that the gulls were too distant for the camera, so just a few crap phonescoped shots.

2nd winter Caspian Gull
1st and 2nd winter Caspian Gull
1st winter Glaucous Gull
2nd winter Iceland Gull

Tuesday, 12 January 2016


Despite the onset of a dose of man-flu I managed to slay yesterday's nemesis. Twenty minutes of scoping at Big Waters gave very distant views of the red-head Smew.

Stunning shot of Smew
Wellies on and a splodge about at Burdon Moor failed to find a Jack Snipe, or anything else.

Monday, 11 January 2016


Started the day at Lambton Pond in thick fog. No sign of the Smew, but the fog was so bad I could barely see half of the pond. Back in Gateshead I had a walk around Watergate, which was overrun with dog-walkers and the only highlight was a fly-through Kingfisher.

After a bite to eat I had another shot at Smew, this time at Big Waters. The fog was even worse here, so I headed north. At Cresswell the Long-billed Dowitcher was asleep on the spit, but no sign of the Ruff. I just missed the Water Pipit at Druridge, so headed north again.

At Newton scrape the 6 European White-fronted Geese were easily picked up, but the Tundra Bean Goose took some effort, looking into the sun amongst 100+ Pink-footed Geese.

On the way back south an optimistic look at East Chevington failed to reveal a Bittern, but there were 3 Scaup and the Slavonian Grebe.

A bonus Tawny Owl over the road finished the day.

Sunday, 10 January 2016


A day in Teesside started well as we stumbled onto the 3 Shore Lark almost as soon as we got out of the car at the Jewish Cemetery, Hartlepool. Excellent, pretty close views, but the light was awful for photos.

Shore Lark
The 3 Snow Bunting a few hundred yards north took a bit of work, but eventually showed superbly.

Snow Bunting
A Jackson's Landing the Glaucous Gull looked a no-shower until some bread brought in the gull flock. A real beast of a bird, bossing the gull flock.

Glaucous Gull

The annual visit to Ward Jackson Park followed, where after a few minutes we picked up some Ring-necked Parakeets, with probably about a dozen birds.

Ring-necked Parakeet
At a very wind-swept Seal Sands we picked up the distant Red-necked Grebe along with Great Crested Grebe, 2 Great Northern and a Red-throated Diver. A flighty flock of 18 Twite were on the sands.

The Greatham Creek area was next. Here we picked up Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, 2 Grey Plover and 2 Little Egret.

Little Egret
The flock of Barnacle Geese were seen from the road at Saltholme and a stop at Cowpen Bewley gave 3 Yellowhammer to add to the year list.