Saturday, 30 July 2016

The only way is Essex

It ended up a half-decent seawatch this morning despite the bright sunlight. Velvet Scoter, Little Tern, Arctic Skua and plenty of Manx Shearwater. Full results here.

After the seawatch I headed south to Greatham Creek where Brian S's directions lead me straight to my first Essex Skipper. There were at least 5 skippers and all of them Essex. Some large, nasty, biting flies made photography difficult.

Essex Skipper

I called in at Saltholme, where a female Garganey brought her 7 duckling out of the reeds. Also here were 2 Greenshank and 5 Black-tailed Godwit. A distant Buzzard had a mid-air grapple with a Marsh Harrier.

Little Egret

Lambton Pond on the way home had 3 Green Sandpiper, 2 Common Sandpiper and 14 Black-tailed Godwit.

A call in at Shibdon had a Black-tailed Godwit and a Little Egret.

Friday, 29 July 2016


A tweet this afternoon from Ross had me heading to Gateshead's most north-easterly  corner. He'd had a flock of Sandwich Tern feeding at Hebburn, just 2 miles downstream from the Gateshead boundary. Approaching from the east, I was almost at the boundary when I had a Sandwich Tern from the car, unfortunately flying in the wrong direction. Luckily when I arrived at the pier that marks the boundary a flock of Common Tern could be seen well upstream and among these at least 3 Sandwich Tern. A long overdue addition to my Gateshead list. As I turned for the car another 4 birds flew upstream to join the flock.

Sandwich Tern with Bill Quay in the background
Sandwich Tern with the dark side in the background
Earlier and Osprey put on a good, though distant show at Derwent Reservoir. A Greenshank was on the far bank, but a complete lack of small waders. At Winnows Hill there was no sign of any Golden-ringed Dragonfly, but there were plenty of Emerald Damsel, a Common Hawker and a couple of Dark-green Fritillary.

Emerald Damsel
Tachina grossa a big beast
Two Dunlin at Shibdon were my first in Gateshead for the year yesterday, but the Little Egret hasn't been there for the last two nights.

Field Scabius

Wednesday, 27 July 2016


After some heavy over-night rain I thought I would try Northumberland for some waders. Newton Scrape was again first port of call and there had been an increase in waders. Yesterday's Pectoral Sandpiper was still here along with 16 Dunlin and 31 Black-tailed Godwit.

A few more sites revealed little and there was no sign yet of the Caspian Gull at Amble. A stop at Cresswell gave excellent views of the Curlew Sandpiper, feeding with around 20 Dunlin, just north of the causeway.

Curlew Sandpiper

Shibdon tonight hoping that the Caspian Tern would arrive from Big Waters. No luck, but a Fox took a wander along the back of the pond.

Fox and escorts

Monday, 25 July 2016

Curlew Sandpiper

A good seawatch yesterday from Whitburn with a record 97 Black-tailed Godwit south past the obs. 7+ White-beaked Dolphin were off-shore all morning and a group of 3 Porpoise were close in. Full results here.

White-beaked Dolphin
With plenty of waders turning up around the country I headed up to Northumberland first thing this morning. Newton Scrape was the first call, but disappointedly just held 2 Ruff, 9 Black-tailed Godwit and a couple of Yellow Wagtail. A sausage sarnie was the highlight at Stag Rocks, where despite the high tide there was nothing on the rocks. Heading south to Cresswell where I managed to pick out Dave E's Curlew Sandpiper on the west shore. Good numbers of waders here with 54 Dunlin, Ruff, Greenshank, 4 Common Sandpiper and 37 Black-tailed Godwit.

Back in Gateshead the Little Egret was spending it's third evening at Shibdon. Roosting on the tree-covered island and feeding elsewhere during the day. A Kingfisher did a flypast tonight.

Little Egret

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Mixed week

The week started where it left off on Sunday. Cetaceans were the stars again of Monday's seawatch with 12+ Bottlenose and 5 White-beaked Dolphin, backed up by a couple of Harbour Porpoise. Star bird was a Mediterranean Gull that flew past, close in. Full results here.

Butterfly and dragon hunting on Monday and Tuesday was surprisingly disappointing with red-hot, sunny weather failing to coax them out.

A trip up to Aberdeen on Wednesday and Thursday was planned to get better views of the White-winged Scoter. A Surf Scoter was seen within a few minutes, but despite many hours in almost constant heavy rain the target couldn't be found among the much-diminished Scoter flock. Good crack, so not a wasted trip.

At Shibdon on Friday night a Little Egret spent some time on the tree covered island. A single Snipe was the first of the autumn and a pair of Oystercatcher had brought their single fully-grown chick to feed at the pond.

Little Egret
Today was seawatching from Whitburn, before the chaos of the airshow. A flat sea and full early cloud meant good viewing with a good movement of Little Tern. 14+ White-beaked Dolphin spent a fair while in view, with one enjoying itself, constantly breaching. Full results here.

White-beaked Dolphin
I ended up this afternoon at Derwent Reservoir where there were 2 Greenshank, but only single Little Ringed Plover and Common Sandpiper. An Osprey flew the full length of the reservoir to have a half-hearted look for fish while hovering high in the sky. A family party of Spotted Flycatcher were by the hide.


Emerald Damsel

The Little Egret was at Shibdon again tonight along with a Shoveler. 2 Grasshopper Warbler were still reeling at Burdon Moor.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Whales & Skuas

A couple of excellent seawatches from Whitburn. The highlight of yesterday's was a cracking adult Long-tailed Skua that showed briefly at 06.10 before dropping onto the sea. It spent 25 mins on the sea until it lifted and gave great, though distant views as it headed south.

Today's stars were 2 Minke Whales picked up by Mark N heading distantly north. A county tick for me after my first from Scilly last year. A distant Arctic Skua heading straight in towards us and gave some excellent close passes, chasing Kittiwake, Redshank and Sandwich Tern. A Bonxie passed distantly north and there was a steady stream of Manx Shearwater and Common Scoter. Great viewing conditions under full, light cloud cover. Full results here.

Arctic Skua & Sandwich Tern
Dragon-hunting yesterday at Kibblesworth was disappointing despite the warm, sunny conditions. Only a handful of Four-spotted Chaser, 2 Emperor, a male Black-tailed Skimmer and a few Common Darter. Only small numbers of damsels were out and ovipositing along the water edge. A few Banded Demoiselle were on the Team at Lamesley.

Black and Yellow Longhorn (Rutpela maculata)
Red Soldier Beetle (Rhagonycha fulva)

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Druridge Bay

 A trip up to Druridge Bay to look for waders proved fruitless on the wader front, but ended up being a good morning. At Cresswell Grasshopper, Sedge and Reed Warbler were singing while a Barn Owl flew over as I parked the car. Just a handful of Dunlin and a sitting Avocet on the pond.

Ten Black-tailed Godwit were on the Budge Field at Druridge, but there was no sign of the Great White Egret seen earlier.

At East Chevington 3 juvenile and the adult male Marsh Harrier gave an excellent show over the cut field by the south pool. The young birds were constantly harassing the adult bird.

Marsh Harrier
At the beach there were few terns, but a couple of flocks of Common Scoter flew north along with a Whimbrel leading 3 Bar-tailed Godwit. Two Great Crested Grebe were on the sea here. The young Cuckoo that's been hanging around made an appearance and I managed a phone-scoped shot.

The best bits of the morning were the two flower 'ticks' pointed out by Dave E. A couple of Dark-green Fritillary were zooming around, too quick for photos.

Marsh Helleborine
A quick look at Burdon Moor this afternoon gave no birds, but there were loads of Ringlet and my first Small Skipper of the year.

No Quail
Scorpion Fly
Northern Marsh Orchid

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Second stint

Dipping the Temminck's Stint at Newton yesterday was made worse as I got home to the news that it had been re-found. I'd been pretty sure that it would still be there, but after 2 hours it failed to creep out of the grass. Pretty quiet here with just 10 Dunlin and a Black-tailed Godwit.

An early start this morning was more successful. Arriving at Newton Scrape just after 06.30 I was initially disappointed, with no sign of the stint and only one Dunlin with the Godwit. Luckily after 20 mins and a change of angle I picked up the stint appear from the grass on an island at the north end of the scrape. It spent the next half an hour showing well, but a bit distant for photos. The camera didn't come out of the bag today, poor phone-scoped shots only.

Temminck's Stint

Stopping to pick up a sausage sarnie from Seahouses, I headed up to Stag Rocks. Plenty of auks passing well out to sea, but otherwise quiet apart from a smart Whimbrel.


On the way back south I timed my visit to East Chevington well, as the four Roseate Tern left just a few minutes after I got there. An adult female Marsh Harrier was near the south pool, but no sign of the juveniles.

Roseate Tern
Quiet in Gateshead with 3 Common Sandpiper on the Tyne yesterday and 2 juvenile Water Rail at Shibdon today.

Saturday, 9 July 2016


A superb adult Pomarine Skua (with full spoons) was the highlight of this morning's seawatch from Whitburn. Also seen were a Bonxie, a few Manx Shearwater and a good flow of returning waders. The full results here. On the way down to the obs there was a juvenile Wheatear, already for the off.

Four Black-tailed Godwit were at Boldon Flats, but the birds at Shibdon seem to have headed off.

At Far Pasture this afternoon two Otter gave a great show chasing temporarily flightless Mallard around the pond.


Friday, 8 July 2016

Returning Waders

Better luck with the terns at East Chevington beach this morning. Only a few terns, but there were two Little and a Roseate. With some heavy showers keeping the dog-walkers at home I was hoping to get some photos, but a couple of horse riders kindly ensured that the flock was constantly moved on.

Quiet on the north pool, but a female Marsh Harrier was quartering the reeds and plenty of Sedge and Reed Warbler were making themselves heard.

At Cresswell there was a Little Gull and a couple of Little Egret by the causeway. From the hide there were newly retuning waders with 11 Dunlin and a Knot. all in summer plumage.

Lesser Butterfly Orchid
I'd just got home when a call from George got me down to Shibdon , where 6 Black-tailed Godwit had dropped in. A Common Sandpiper was also flycatching around the islands in front of the hide. Hopefully the start of the autumn's waders.

5 of 6 Black-tailed Godwit
Common Sandpiper

Wednesday, 6 July 2016


As expected, slow and boring mid-summer meanders on. A look up the Northumberand coast today revealed little, but a little hope that birds are starting to move. At Newton Scrape there were 10 Black-tailed Godwit and a Yellow Wagtail. At East Chevington a check of the beach gave good numbers of Arctic, Common and Sandwich Tern, but unfortunately no Roseate. A Little Gull was at Cresswell along with a couple of Little Egret. A few other sites were very quiet, but I did stumble cross a smart, summer plumage Black-necked Grebe, presumably a non/failed breeder.

Black-necked Grebe
Seawatching was slow at the weekend, but there was a good pod of 20+ Bottlenose Dolphin and a few White-beaked.

Bottlenose Dolphin