Saturday, 30 April 2016


A frosty start this morning, but hopefully the end of Winter at last. At Burdon Moor at least 2, possibly 3 Whinchat were at the top of the loop, but constantly on the move and difficult to photograph. These had moved on by this afternoon, but 4 Wheatear had dropped in.


Pretty quiet at Birtley reed beds with just single singing Reed and Sedge Warbler. A couple of Swift were over the treatment works. A smart Sparrowhawk was perched up over the path.

Over to Far Pasture where my first Whitethroat of the year was singing, but keeping to cover. Plenty of butterflies in the sun with Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and the first Orange Tip of the year. Red Kite were constantly low overhead.

Red Kite

Very little at Shibdon, but there were several Orange Tip and a Green-veined White.

Orange Tip

Green-veined White

Thursday, 28 April 2016

More migrants

Winter continues, with a thick frost this morning, but migrants continue to filter through. A search of the scrub at Shibdon failed to turn up any Whitethroat, but two Common Tern were new in.

Common Tern

At Birtley reed beds there were no warblers singing today, but a huge cloud of Hirundines contained at least two Swift. At least 100 House Martin were among the flock.

Burdon Moor was cold and wind-swept, but held 4 Wheatear.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Snow Warbling

There was a carpet of snow this morning when I headed out to look for Spring migrants. At Kibblesworth the two Grasshopper Warbler were still reeling away, with one showing pretty well. Birtley reed beds held plenty of singing Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap, but no sign of the Lesser Whitethroat. A steady stream of Swallow and Sand Martin was flowing north.

Grasshopper Warbler
Willow Warbler
All very quiet at Lamesley, but a Robin was feeding three young, just outside the hide.

This afternoon a message from Michael got me back down to Birtley reed beds, where in driving sleet I managed brief views of a Lesser Whitethroat. As I watched this 2 Sedge and a Reed Warbler defied the weather to sing their way onto my Gateshead year list. I plodged back to the car soaked and freezing.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Tough going

After a glimpse of Spring, Winter has returned. Early morning seawatches with the northerly flow have given little reward other than a couple of Manx Shearwater and Bonxie, plus a very distant Marsh Harrier that flew south yesterday. A couple of Grasshopper Warbler have been reeling and showing well on the walk to the Obs, unfortunately in poor light.

Grasshopper Warbler

Back in Gateshead it has been tough going with the cold weather holding the migrants back. Two Grasshopper were back reeling by Birtley reed beds on Thursday and I jammed a female Redstart on Sunday, perched by the road near Lamesley.


A venture up to the Derwent Reservoir area was disappointing, with just a Pied Flycatcher to show for it.

Pied Flycatcher
A look up north did get four smart summer plumage Black-necked Grebe, but little else in unpleasant conditions.

Black-necked Grebe

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Real Spring

Another stunning, blue sky day. An icy start, but 17c by mid afternoon, ideal. I didn't see a great deal, but it was superb to be out in the sun all day.

Started the day at Cresswell, where the Dowitcher was again showing well along with a couple of Avocet and a Little Egret. At Druridge 4 Ruff dropped in, with one in Summer plumage. At East Chevington a fly over Whimbrel was new for the year and 2 Otter were playing on the north pool.

Long-billed Dowitcher
An early afternoon trip to the Durham hills was perhaps badly timed, as nothing was singing, but I did manage a male Pied Flycatcher.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Dowitcher in the sun

With sun and blue sky forecast I was up to Cresswell to try for some shots of the Long-billed Dowitcher in decent light. I was in luck as the bird was feeding just north of the causeway and looking brick red in the sun. Crawling out along the causeway with the bird feeding continuously I was able spend the next hour at close range. After an hour lying on the ground without coat or gloves I was freezing and retreated to the car, leaving the Dowitcher to continue feeding.

Long-billed Dowitcher

Sorry for the Dowitcher overkill!

Some mentalist (cheers John)

At Druridge 2 pairs of Pintail were looking splendid in the sun. At least 6 Sedge Warbler were singing at the south pool East Chevington and I got brief views of a reeling Grasshopper Warbler (thanks Dave).

At QEII the Iceland Gull was dazzling in the sun.

Iceland Gull
All quiet back in Gateshead, but the common warblers were enjoying Spring.


Monday, 18 April 2016

Common Sand

Still slow with the chilly weather. My first Common Sandpiper of the year was at Shibdon today, but nothing else. A few White Wagtail have been passing through Lamesley, while hirundine numbers have been building up. Warblers have been slipping in with Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap singing everywhere.

Seawatching at Whitburn on Saturday was poor despite the northerly and the only decent bird was an adult Little Gull. The walk back to the car was pleasant in a heavy sleet shower.

A couple of decent days forecast before Winter returns at the weekend.

Common Sandpiper

Friday, 15 April 2016

Terned out well

The dire Spring weather continues. Got my arse out of bed and was at Whitburn Obs for 06.30 for my first seawatch for a while. It didn't disappoint, with Sandwich, Arctic and Common Tern with Manx Shearwater joining the year list. A bonus 2 Ring Ouzel were around the manure heap, inland of the Obs.

Sandwich Tern    27n  61s
Eider    9n  2s
Gannet    48n  1s
Shelduck    4n  7s
Red-throated Diver    3n  4s
Arctic Tern    6n
Common Tern    1n  1s
Bonxie    1n
Puffin    1n
Red-breasted Merganser    2n
Goosander     3s
Carrion Crow    12s
Shag    1n  1s
Manx Shearwater    1n
Common Scoter    23s
Goldeneye    5s

Back in Gateshead the afternoon rain dropped some birds. 2 Ring Ouzel flew north over Burdon Moor where there were also 2 Wheatear. At Lamesley there were 100+ Swallow and Sand Martin, but the star was a smart Yellow Wagtail along with 4 White Wagtail.

Yellow Wagtail
Wednesday gave a brief Ring Ouzel at Burdon Moor, plus Pink-footed Goose and White Wagtail at Lamesley.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Dowitcher in the rain

A look around Gateshead this morning yielded little. A Cormorant low over Burdon Moor in the fog was only the second I've had here. White Wagtail and Pink-footed Goose were at Lamesley. 8 Willow Warbler were singing at Watergate, compared to just 2 yesterday. A singing Blackcap at Far pasture was new for the year.

A look up to Cresswell and the Long-billed Dowitcher was showing superbly just north of the causeway. Unfortunately it was almost dark and lashing down, so photos not what they could have been. At Druridge I had my worst ever views of a Jack Snipe, while 3 Pintail were among the many Shoveler.

Long-billed Dowitcher

Sunday, 10 April 2016


We arrived on North Uist knowing that the Gyr hadn't been seen for over a day, seemingly having given up on the Mute Swan carcass. A drive over the island came to a stop when we pulled over to let a car past. I quickly checked out a Wheatear then scanned left onto a distant white blob. GOT IT!! Diving out of the car we got great scope views and although happy, they weren't the views others had had earlier in the week. Staking out the dead swan gave no luck, but a fly through Merlin was a bonus. Corn Bunting and Twite were added to the trip list and heading to find accommodation 3 Short-eared Owl were by the road.

Short-eared Owl
Corn Bunting
On Friday morning a quick check of the dead swan drew a blank, so we wandered off to Aird An Runair. The Great White Egret was showing distantly on the marsh (how many people have seen GWE and Gyr in the same day in the UK?). No sign of the Gyr, but we did have fly over Peregrine and Iceland Gull. An impressive flock of 150+ Twite were in fields, while a Bonxie battled south past the point and Great Northern Diver were every couple of hundred yards. Large numbers of Barnacle Geese were constantly moving around.

Iceland Gull

Great White Egret
Barnacle Geese
The Gyr was waiting at the swan. Stunning views from the car window as the bird plucked and ate feathers from the swan carcass. The amazing bulk of the bird was most apparent when head-on, showing its massive, wide chest. After an hour it took flight and powered off over the bay. A fantastic bird!


Over the moon we head to the north west of the island (passing 4 Mealy Redpoll). Approaching the hills a Golden Eagle flew overhead and another distantly from the watch point, while a female Hen Harrier quartered below us.

Golden Eagle

Hen Harrier
With the weather now turning nasty it was back to Balranald to hunt for the Glaucous Gull, which we found by the dead whale on the beach.

Glaucous Gull

Sadly now a Glauc feast

Saturday morning gave distant views of the Gyr and Great White Egret, more Short-eared Owl, 7 fly over Greenland White-fronted Geese, a Pink-footed Goose and now 2 Glaucous Gull. With the ferry looming we heading to the eagle area, where we managed a very distant White-tailed Eagle and 3 Black Guillemot, but all too distant for photos.

Great Northern Diver

Short-eared Owl

Red Deer

From the ferry a very distant White-tailed Eagle was being hounded by Hooded Crows. While tucking into a chicken curry, the sea view gave loads of auks, a Common Dolphin, 3 Porpoise and amazingly an Otter about 2 miles from land.

Driving over Skye we had an adult White-tailed Eagle mobbed by a Buzzard. Not the best photos as we barely slowed down.

White-tailed Eagle
Stunning scenery as dusk fell and then a most wanted tick in the form of a Pine Marten by the road about 30 miles north of Stirling. Superb!! Four Barn Owl between the Scottish border and home finished the trip off. With great thanks to Chris for driving, this was a fantastic trip.