Thursday, 30 June 2016


A superb trip up to the Aberdeen area. Arriving mid-morning in blazing sun, we headed straight for the Ythan estuary. Expecting the King Eider to be roosting with the hordes of Common Eider on the far bank, we were pleased to see it sail past us, upstream, at a range of 30 feet. If only the sun was behind me and not so bright, but I'm not complaining.

King Eider
With friends

Next we were a little further up the estuary where a drake American Wigeon was mid-channel with a small group of Wigeon. A summering Whooper Swan was asleep just in front of us.

American Wigeon
Whooper Swan

It was now down to the dunes at Murcar for the main event. Very challenging conditions when we arrived, with strong glare from the sun making the search through the 2000+ scoter flock far from straightforward. I hit lucky just a few minutes in when I picked up a first summer Surf Scoter in flight with a Velvet Scoter. I was well pleased with this self-find tick and it eventually returned to show well just in front of us. After another half an hour we picked up the American White-winged Scoter, getting brief, but tickable views before losing it in the ever-shuffling flock. It was another two hours before we able to pick up the bird again and helped now by the increased cloud cover we managed superb, though distant views.

After a lazy start today we arrived at the Murcar at 08.30 in bright sunshine to a very distant Scoter flock. Luckily the cloud built up quickly and we managed cracking views of the White-winged on and off throughout the morning. Dave picked up another Surf Scoter to add to a cracking tally of rare ducks.

Phonescoped pic of the White-winged Scoter

A great couple of days with thanks to Dave for driving and Chris for putting us up.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Sun Dragons

Hot and sunny at last. Still no birds, but at least some dragons are out. A trip to Kibblesworth yesterday gave the year's first Common Darter, but not a great deal else, as although warm, it was pretty cloudy most of the time we were there. Today was much livelier with the year's first 2 Emperor, 50+ Four-spotted Chaser, 15+ Common Darter, 2 Black-tailed Skimmer and a Broad-bodied Chaser. The grass around the pond was full of damsels of four species, but surprisingly few butterflies.

Four-spotted Chaser ( damsel exuviae on reed behind)
Common Darter
Northern Marsh Orchid
At the bridge over the Team at Lamesley at least 15 Banded Demoiselle were putting on a superb display, dancing over the water. I don't have the lens to do them justice, so go and have a look.

Banded Demoiselle

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Bonaparte's Again

Popped up to the Wansbeck again this morning. The Bonaparte's Gull was showing well on the north shore of the estuary. Difficult to photograph in tricky light, I had just  got in a better position, when it was flushed by a Mute Swan.

Bonaparte's Gull

Common Tern
Quiet elsewhere, the only birds of note were two Knot that dropped in at Cresswell.


Sunday, 19 June 2016

Bleak Mid-summer

A pretty grim week. Grey skies and a cold northerly have made it feel like November, so there has been little to do other than seawatch from Whitburn. A decent passage of common stuff with the odd goodie like summer plumage Great Northern Diver and Roseate Tern. A trip up to the Northumberland coast on Tuesday yielded little, but a Wood Sandpiper at Newton was a nice find. A Peregrine over Lamesley on Thursday was my first Gateshead year tick for ages.

A bit of warmth this morning, so a wander around Kibblesworth was worth it. Although it wasn't sunny there were loads of Four-spotted Chaser and four Broad-bodied Chaser, including an ovipositing female. Unsurprisingly there were few butterflies, but there were several Small Heath and the first Meadow Brown of the year.

Four-spotted Chaser
Broad-bodied Chaser
Meadow Brown
Large Skipper
Common Blue Damsel
A good show of Bee Orchid were at nearby Birtley.

Bee Orchid

Saturday, 11 June 2016

More Bonaparte's

A light easterly doesn't make for great seawatching, so it was unsurprisingly quiet this morning, but the crack was good. Birding highlights were two Bonxie and a Little Tern.

At a bit of a loss with the crap weather I headed back up to the Wandsbeck for another look at the Bonaparte's Gull. Initially on the wrong side of the river it was shifted over by a bait collector giving good, but fairly distant views. A fly-by up the river allowed me the flight shots I was after. Fairly happy with the results considering the drizzle.

Bonaparte's Gull

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Sunny day

Out in the sun today. Good views of local Pied and Spotted Flycatcher, but the heavy canopy making it no good for photos.

Up to the Durham hills where I managed brief views of Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary. Frustratingly, the thistles weren't in flower and the Frits just flitted up, chasing Small Whites before disappearing again into the vegetation. There were still loads of Orange Tips around and a couple of Dingy Skipper and Small Copper. A Curlew was showing well from the same post as last year.

Back in Gateshead at Burdon Moor there were three Broad-bodied Chaser, including a rapidly maturing male.

Broad-bodied Chaser
Last night I had another look up to Slaley, where I managed brief views of 3 Nightjar, but only one roding Woodcock. At least 3 Cuckoo were constantly calling.


Tuesday, 7 June 2016


It really felt like summer today, seawatching in a t-shirt. The birding was more summer-like too, with little moving over a flat sea. Two Roseate Tern and a couple of Manx Shearwater were the best.

Popped out north this afternoon for some photos.

Black-necked Grebe


Monday, 6 June 2016


It made a pleasant change to be seawatching without thermals this morning. Summer has arrived, but the star birds were still wintery, with two Great Northern Diver north past the obs. Both birds in non-breeding plumage and one drifted past on the sea at flag distance.

No sign of the singing Common Rosefinch, but there were a few Painted Lady.

Painted Lady
Hot and sunny, Gateshead was superb for dragons today. The Team at Lamesley held 3 male and 3 female Banded Demoiselle. Mostly perched up, but occasionally dancing over the river.

Male Banded Demoiselle

Female Banded Demoiselle

Also here a newly fledged Grey Wagtail was feeding on the river and a Dipper shot through.

Grey Wagtail
At Kibblesworth the whole area was alive with damsels, mostly Common Blue, but also Azure, Large Red and my first Blue-tailed of the year. There were 30+ Four-spotted Chaser zipping about, but the star was another newly emerged Black-tailed Skimmer.

Black-tailed Skimmer
Four-spotted Chaser

Also here were Small Heath, Common Blue, Large and Small White, Orange Tip, Speckled Wood, Dingy Skipper and my first Large Skipper of the year.

Large Skipper
Up to Burdon Moor where there were 4 Broad-bodied Chaser, 2 newly emerged and resting, while 2 were actively hunting.

Broad-bodied Chaser
A tweet got us back down the hill to Lamesley where 3 Little Egret had dropped in. A site record, with only single birds previously. Also here were a pair of Gadwall.

Little Egret

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Grebe and dragons

Another lazy start to the day paid off again. Not arriving at the obs until 08.15 I was disappointed to have missed a Pomarine Skua, but the bird of the day went north after the early shift had gone home. A Black-necked Grebe (only the 4th ever past the obs) was the star, passing at a reasonable distance for the 3 of us remaining. Shortly after 31 Barnacle Geese flew north, close inshore.

Barnacle Geese
With the sun out and feeling warm I headed down to Kibblesworth. Boat-loads of damsels were out, mostly Common Blue, but also Large Red and Azure, while 25+ Four-spotted Chaser were already on the wing. A surprise find was a very early, newly emerged Black-tailed Skimmer.

Four-spotted Chaser

Black-tailed Skimmer
At first there were surprisingly few butterflies about, but on the way back to the car were Dingy Skipper, Small Heath, Common Blue and Small Tortoiseshell.

Dingy Skipper
Common Blue

Small Heath
An optimistic look over the bridge at Lamesley produced an early Banded Demoiselle fly catching from the bank-side vegetation.

Banded Demoiselle
Long-eared Owl