Sunday, 31 December 2017

2017 in pictures.

Back working full-time, but I still managed to get out a bit and managed 8 (possibly 9) lifers along with a fair bit of other stuff. Lifers first...

Pacific Diver (22nd Jan)- a pre-work twitch to Druridge Bay Country Park for stunning views as it hugged the shore.

Blyth's Reed Warbler (15th June)- a drive across to Siddick Ponds on the Cumbrian coast, straight from the Rose-coloured Starling at Stanhope. Luckily got there 5 mins before it stopped singing. A couple of good, but brief views before it disappeared for good.

Night Heron (1st August)- a dash after work to Whittle Dene Reservoir. Initially crap views as it roosted high in a pine, then a brilliant series of fly-byes in stunning evening light.

Scops Owl (27th September)- ran out of the Obs in blind panic before some careful driving meant I was just the third person to see this cracker at Ryhope.
Cliff Swallow (2nd October)- the downer of dipping Rose-breasted Grosbeak on St. Agnes was quickly forgotten after a jet-boat ride in the pouring rain to Tresco for this massive pull-back from last year.
Cedar Waxwing (3rd October)- arriving on the same weather system as the Swallow this beauty led us all on a wild goose chase around St. Agnes before giving itself up and showing well for several days.
Wilson's Snipe (11th October)- in the pending file, this striking Snipe was at Porthellick, St. Mary's. Photos by others of the under-wing and tail seem to show this is the real deal. I did have brief scope views of another strong candidate a couple of days later.
Eastern Orphean Warbler (13th October)- an embarrassingly bad photo, with every possible camera setting wrong. Many hours of frustration on St. Agnes before getting good views on day two.
Leach's Petrel (29th October)- a brilliant seawatch from Whitburn Obs with this self-found Leach's followed 20 mins later by a Grey Phalarope and then 20 mins later a close-in White-billed Diver. Cracking!!!

A couple of major and distant dips, but a reasonable haul.

Along with the above were a decent number of scarcities and rarities, some of which were fairly photogenic.

Rose-coloured Starling (15th June)- after dipping the previous day, this eventually appeared and showed well at Stanhope.

Red-rumped Swallow (15th May)- not expecting the single bird reported still at Druridge Pools I stopped en-route for an ice-cream, only to arrive to two Swallows.

Sabine's Gull (17th July)- eventually stunning, close views after two frustrating hours of searching at Nosterfield.

Citrine Wagtail (12th May)- an after work twitch. Driving through fog and fading light I wasn't expecting this. Amazing views down to just 6 feet. Possibly my bird of the year.
Long-billed Dowitcher (12th July)- a couple of hours basking in the sun on Boulmer beach waiting for the tide to push this closer were rewarding with great views in perfect light.
Red-backed Shrike (3rd June)- arrived at Marsden to news that this had flown, but luckily it reappeared to pose. 
Bee-eater (2nd November)- not an expected winter bird at Whitburn. I'm far too old to be climbing trees to take photos!
Grey Phalarope (8th November)- the best year ever for these from Whitburn Obs, this very confiding bird was a regular at South Shields Pier.
American Golden Plover (11th October)- just a few feet away from where I ticked my first on Porthellick Beach, St. Mary's.
Short-toed Lark (10th May)- my first away from Scilly, in the amazing setting high on the moor above Catton.
Hopefully a good-as or better 2018!

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Grey Phalarope

Seawatching at Whitburn Obs this morning when Paul picked up a Grey Phalarope heading north with a Guillemot about a mile out. Well to the north I noticed it cutting in towards shore. Paul put the news out and Doug was on hand for the bird at South Shields Pier. Team work! I took a break from seawatching to pop up for photos and returned later in slightly better light.

Grey Phalarope

A decent couple of days seawatching with loads of migrants arriving, inbound ducks and 3 Tundra Bean Geese.

Thursday, 2 November 2017


A county tick finally fell today when Paul picked up a Grey Phalarope heading north past Whitburn Obs. I actually completely failed to pick it up in flight, scanning too far out in panic, but luckily managed to pick it up well to the north when it stopped briefly on the sea. Not much else had been pushed down by the northerly, but there were 3 Great Northern Diver, including one cracking bird still in full summer plumage.

Almost home when Dave rang to say the Bee-eater had reappeared in Whitburn CP. About turn and I arrived back at Whitburn to the news that the bird had just flown off. A few minutes wait and it returned in a brief flyby before eventually settling on a garden fence. Excellent views for the next hour as it moved between house roofs.


Yesterday a welcome year-tick with a Little Auk past Whitburn Obs. An early juvenile Glaucous Gull was on the rocks before flying south.

Glaucous Gull
A call from George eventually got me to Shibdon where a Whooper Swan had dropped in.

Whooper Swan

Wednesday, 25 October 2017


Today was my second day on a wild-goose chase at Budle Bay. Better weather this morning meant better visibility and I began picking through the several thousand Barnacle Geese, about a mile away to the north. After about 30 mins I picked up a lone small Canada Goose circling the bay. Small, but with a long thin neck, this had to be the Todd's Canada Goose. I watched it disappear to the north, then resumed picking through the Barnacles. Another ten minutes and I had the Richardson's Cackling Goose. About the same size as the Barnacles, this had the required short, stocky neck and short legs. A birder from Essex pulled up and just managed a quick view of the goose through my scope before the entire flock took off to the north, lucky! Usual suspects around the bay, but no sign of the second winter Glaucous Gull from yesterday.

Richardson's Cackling Goose

From here down to Newton, where there was no sign of the Little Bunting, but I did get excellent views of one, probably two Yellow-browed Warbler.

The burn mouth at East Chevington held 40+ Twite and a superb Shorelark. A Marsh Harrier was heading south, low over the sea, about a mile out.


A Cetti's Warbler singing by the south pool was a Northumberland tick.

On the north pool there was a Slavonian Grebe, Long-tailed Duck and several Pintail among a good selection of wildfowl. A young Marsh Harrier spent 20 mins flying just above a playing Otter, not something I've seen before.

Marsh Harrier and Otter

Some good news from Scilly. The Orphean Warbler that I spent the last two days of my trip chasing around St Agnes looks set to be accepted as Britain's first Eastern Orphean. Unfortunately I managed to have every possible setting on my camera wrong!

Eastern Orphean Warbler

Wednesday, 11 October 2017


Porthellick today for the possible Wilson's Snipe. Whatever this turns out to be it was certainly striking, almost monochrome compared to the 'golden' nearby Common Snipe. The Jack Snipe-like constant bobbing was something that I have seen for a few seconds in Common Snipe, but never for prolonged periods like this bird did. Hopefully under-wing and tail shots by Jim Almond and others will clinch this.

Wilson's Snipe?
Common Snipe

On the way to Porthellick we had brief views of a Rose-coloured Starling at Buzza and stunning close (sub 10 feet) views of a Spotted Crake at Lower Moors. Should have had a cracking photo, but ISO was way too low for the dull conditions.

Spotted Crake
After vacating the hide to allow others views of the snipe, a quick visit to the beach was in order for the confiding American Golden Plover. Cake followed.

American Golden Plover

Monday, 9 October 2017

More Waxwing

Another visit to St Agnes to improve on my Waxwing photos. A frustrating wait, but eventually I got the shots I wanted.

Cedar Waxwing

An added bonus was excellent views of two Hawfinch, a Scilly tick for me.


Friday, 6 October 2017


A bit less frantic for the last three days and time to pick up a few other birds (new and lingering), plus some slightly better shots of the megas.

Cedar Waxwing
Cliff Swallow
American Golden Plover
Yellow-browed Warbler
Vagrant Emperor
Isabelline Wheatear (ever present, always distant)
Portuguese man o'war
Birds that didn't get on film were a flyby Purple Heron and a brief Spotted Crake in the near dark tonight.