Sunday, 29 May 2016

Bonaparte's and Phalarope

With just distant flight views of the Bonaparte's Gull I was keen to get a better look, so when news came through that it was showing again I popped up to Castle Island. Asleep on a sand bank when I arrived, it took a while to wake up, but it eventually showed superbly.

Bonaparte's Gull

As I was near I checked Druridge, Cresswell and Bothal, but nothing noteworthy other than the Great White Egret at Druridge.

I headed west to Grindon Lough and this time I was lucky with the Red-necked Phalarope which was spinning around in the shallows at the western end. Also here was the Demoiselle Crane of unknown origin, asleep on the far bank.

Red-necked Phalarope
Last night a look up to Slaley yielded three churring Nightjar. Just brief views and they only churred for a short time, perhaps still a bit cold. Plenty of Woodcock and a great noise from Cuckoo, Snipe, Curlew and Tawny Owl.

Saturday, 28 May 2016


Another mixed day. Started lucky at Castle Island where I managed to pick up the Bonaparte's Gull in the scope as it flew down the river. It did look like it had landed, but by the time I got round to the north side there was no further sign. Other birds here were Avocet and Little Gull, but no sign of yesterday's Garganey.

The best part of an hour was spent at Druridge where there was again no sign of the Rosefinch. Only bird of note was a Great White Egret from the Budge screen.

At Hauxley point I was able to pick out a few Roseate Tern.

A drive across to Grindon Lough was fruitless as the Red-necked Phalarope was long gone.

The most exciting bit of the day was watching a Stoat catch and kill a Rabbit on the road at Druridge.


Dragged off home

Friday, 27 May 2016


A run around Northumberland today with some success and some dipping. Success with the Icterine Warbler at Druridge and the two Glossy Ibis at Newton, but dipping the Druridge Rosefinch and the Bonaparte's Gull at Castle Island.

Icterine Warbler
Glossy Ibis
Glossy Ibis and Wood Sandpiper
A few other birds. Wood Sandpiper, 3 Ruff and 4 Whimbrel at Newton. Avocet, Garganey and 3 Little Egret at Castle Island.


Thursday, 26 May 2016

Grey-headed Wag and Pec

A late start to recover from Scotland. No sign of any of the waders at Lamesley that I had hoped would drop after last night's rain, so headed to Boldon Flats to look for yesterday's Pectoral Sandpiper. Unfortunately the overnight rain had filled the pool and covered the mud, so after 30mins there was no sign of the Pec and I was about to head off I picked up a 'yellow' wagtail appearing from the longer grass. A totally dark grey head, no supercilium and just a small area of white on the throat. Only my second ever Grey-headed Wagtail ( Scandinavian form of Yellow).

The bird was incredibly elusive in the long grass and I only managed 3 brief views over the next hour. The Pectoral Sandpiper reappeared, giving excellent scope views and at one point feeding along the water's edge, just a few inches from the wagtail. Unable to get a photo of the Wagtail, I was pleased that Ross was able to twitch it and get brief views.

Pectoral Sandpiper
With the easterly wind it was worth checking the Leas hedge. Initial excitement caused by Sedge and Willow Warbler was short lived with no further migrants.

Quiet back in Gateshead, but the two Black-tailed Godwit were hanging on at Shibdon.

Another Picture of the Cuckoo from Tuesday.

Black-billed Cuckoo

Arriving on North Uist Tuesday afternoon wired with coffee and lack of sleep, our nerves weren't helped by being almost last off the ferry. Driving full-pelt across the island we eventually reached a line of birders peering into a roadside garden. Nerves were further frayed by news that the Black-billed Cuckoo had disappeared into deep cover. Thankfully after a few minutes we managed brief flight views and then 30 mins of stunning views as it perched out in the open in brilliant sunlight. Fantastic!!!!

Black-billed Cuckoo

A supporting cast on the island were male and female Hen Harrier, White-tailed Eagle, Short-eared Owl, Arctic Skua and Glaucous Gull. At Balranald Corncrake could be heard from every iris bed and eventually we managed brief views.

Glaucous Gull
White-tailed Eagle

On the way up we had Crested Tit after much searching of the woods around Aviemore along with Tree Pipit and Redstart. Two Osprey were seen on the drive west. Waiting at Uig for the ferry produced two Golden and a White-tailed Eagle along with plenty of Black Guillemot.

A superb trip and thanks to Mark and Martin for the lift.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Ruddy Duck

Popped up to Northumberland this afternoon on news of a drake Ruddy Duck. I gave it an hour, but with no sign I headed off. I was grateful for a text just a few minutes later from Jonny F to say it was showing again. A quick backtrack and I had the bird in my sights! A great looking bird and lucky to so far dodge the eradication scheme.

Phone-scoped Ruddy Duck

A couple of quiet seawatches from Whitburn the last two days. A few Little Tern and an Arctic Skua the highlights. Yesterday on the walk back to the car I had my first Small Copper of the year.

Small Copper

Two new Black-tailed Godwit dropped in at Shibdon yesterday.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Not a garden Hobby

Popping out tonight to check Lamesley, I was driving through Whickham when I picked up a long-winged falcon hunting around the tree tops beside the Coachman car park. Slamming on the brakes I just managed to the bins out in time to confirm a Hobby as it drifted north over the pub.  Only my second ever in Gateshead, but missing out on a garden tick, as it would have gone straight over my house.

This morning was spent seawatching at Whitburn (report at Paul's blog). Just standard fare, but as I sat down a Mute Swan flew south just below the cliffs. Surprisingly rare, with just a couple of records a year, Paul was over the moon with an Obs year tick. Later it flew back north for photos.

Mute Swan

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Gateshead year ticks

News of a Red-necked Phalarope at Grindon Lough got me out of bed, but unfortunately it didn't stop long and flew off at 8am. Luckily the finder put out the negative news promptly and I was able to turn round at Wylam. Rather than fight through the morning traffic I popped up to Bradley Fell. A small copse here held Spotted Flycatcher last year and immediately on arrival I could hear one calling. It took another 15 mins to locate one, then two flitting through the tree tops. Difficult to get a photo, I managed a record shot when one stopped in the gloom under the canopy.

Spotted Flycatcher
Just up the hill I stopped at another traditional site and was welcomed by a singing Tree Pipit. Thirty years ago both species were easy in Gateshead, now barely annual.

Tree Pipit

Tuesday, 17 May 2016


An early start got me through Middlesbrough before the traffic and up onto the North Yorks moors for the long staying trip of Dotterel. I picked up one bird immediately, about 200m west of Danby Beacon and another four crept out of the heather. Sitting in the car, I got great views as they ran around the short vegetation about 20m away before melting back into the heather at about 7am. The autofocus was playing up, so photos not as good as they could have been. Two Cuckoo could be heard in the valley below.


It was then over the moors to Sutton Bank, where unfortunately the Turtle Doves failed to show. A bit too much disturbance around the visitor centre and no sign in the woods. At least three Tree Pipit were singing on the heath along with Blackcap and Garden Warbler.

Tree Pipit

Monday, 16 May 2016

Gateshead Warblers

A slow day in Gateshead, but I did pick up a reeling Grasshopper Warbler as soon as I got out of the car at Birtley reed beds. Singing loudly, perched on a patch of brambles in bright sunlight.

Grasshopper Warbler
Stuff to do, but a call from Brian P had me heading to the Derwent Valley. He'd received a recording of a singing Wood Warbler that someone had taken this morning and passed on to him for identification. Once common all down the valley, they are now rare with just the odd record of a briefly singing male every 3 or 4 years. The bird was calling strongly in the canopy when I got there, soon dropping to the under-storey to give some cracking views.

Wood Warbler

Sunday, 15 May 2016


A disappointing weekend after a cracking week. Yesterday was mostly spent at Whitburn Obs, where a Fea's Petrel failed to fly past. The best birds were a flock of 8 Little Tern flew north along with 10 close Manx Shearwater.

Today was mostly spent in Gateshead not hearing Quail in the Kibblesworth area. A great looking area by the Team Valley where a Quail had been singing yesterday, but looks to have moved on. The only birds of note were the Black-tailed Godwit still at Shibdon and the first Whimbrel of the year over Burdon Moor.

Field without Quail
A late tweet got me down to SAFC Academy where I failed to see a Red-backed Shrike. A Whinchat was scant consolation.

Friday, 13 May 2016


Teesside continues to produce the goods, but at least I managed my lie-in this morning. It took an hour's run around Hartlepool Headland before the Bluethroat was eventually relocated by the bowling green. A little distant, but showing well feeding out on the path. The only other migrant was a singing Lesser Whitethroat.


A Yellow Wagtail and a pair of Gadwall were at Lamesley tonight.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Great success

I was lying on the settee last night looking forward to a much needed lie-in when the phone rang and the news that the Great Reed Warbler was again singing at Haverton. Unfortunately too late to go last night, it meant an obscenely early start to get down for 05.15. The bird had already started singing and could be heard well before I reached the lads already on site. For the next two hours the bird blasted out its raucous song, sometimes just twenty feet away, but stayed annoyingly hidden. Eventually we were rewarded with poor flight views, but enough for the Durham tick. While waiting several Reed Warbler were singing close by and a Sedge Warbler gave cracking close views. Two Spoonbill did a fly-over to keep us entertained.


A brief stop by the road at Saltholme gave good views of two Black Tern.

McDonald's breakfast was eaten at Hartlepool headland, which was a bit quiet, but I was rewarded with decent views of a Spotted Flycatcher.

The three Wood Sandpiper remained at Lambton along with Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover and Common Sandpiper.

2 of 3 Woodsandpiper

News from Gateshead was the brood of Gadwall chicks at Birtley reed beds, the first breeding record in Gateshead. The Black-tailed Godwit was still at Shibdon, but the Greenshank has moved on.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Early morning dip

News of a singing Great Reed Warbler got me out of bed and back down to Teesside. Unfortunately it had long shut up by the time I got there at 07.30 and I was left with a load of singing Reed Warbler. At Saltolme West the two Whiskered Tern were still hawking over the water and the five Spoonbill were just outside the hide (if only the RSPB opened the reserve at a reasonable hour). Two Little Gull joined the terns briefly.

Whiskered Tern

3 of 5 Spoonbill
At Hartlepool there was no sign of the Firecrest behind the Cosmopolitan, but there were 2 Spotted Flycatcher, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, a Garden Warbler, a Blackcap and a few Chiffchaff.

Spotted Flycatcher
Lesser Whitethroat
Garden Warbler
At Crimdon the tern colony was alive with Little Tern.

Little Tern

A call in at Lampton Pond gave 3 distant Wood Sandpiper with a Little Ringed Plover.

No sign of Mike's Greenshank at Lamesley, but the Greenshank and Black-tailed Godwit were still at Shibdon. Also here was a Holly Blue, just outside the hide, unfortunately flushed by a Speckled Wood before I could get the camera out.