Thursday, 26 December 2013

Boxing Day birding

Boxing Day birding
With the weather looking settled at last we had a walk around Branton Ponds, a Pink-footed Goose joined the resident Greylags, Coot numbers reached about 40 and were joined by a large number of Tufted Ducks, Wigeon and Teal, small birds included Bullfinches, Lesser Redpoll and Siskins.
After lunch we decided to drive to Bamburgh for a reported two Grey Pharlaropes of which there was no sign, however there were still good numbers of birds including Long Tailed Ducks, Eiders, Slavonian Grebe, Red Throated Diver, two very large flocks of Common Scoter and to top it all a winter plumaged Great Northern Diver just off the Lighthouse.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Fenham Flats 15th December

Fenham Flats 15th December
Once again it was time for my monthly WeBS count at Fenham Flats, the weather was sunny but with a blustery wind. The mudflats held large numbers of birds and the highlights were as follows- Lapwing 300, Shelduck 236, Golden Plover 235, Redshank 202, Knot 250, Dunlin 230, Bar-tailed Godwit 130, Curlew 192, Sanderling 138, Black-tailed Godwit 1, also present were 760 Pale-bellied Brent Geese and 150 Eider Duck. On reaching Guile Point I noted 4 Long-tailed Ducks and 2 Red Throated Divers, I had expected to see a large number of Oystercatchers on the island just off the point, it was however remarkably quiet, a careful scan revealed the answer as sitting on the rocks in the middle of the island were a male an female Peregrine. Whilst watching them my attention was drawn to some trilling overhead and out of the clear blue sky came a flock of 15 Snow Buntings of all ages and sexes, what a great way to end my 2013 surveys, lets hope next years are just as productive..

Monday, 9 December 2013

It's an ill wind........tales of a wild gull chase

The phone rang 2pm on Saturday with news of the Ivory Gull at Seahouses Golf Course...surely still just time for a quick dash to the coast. The unexpected lack of a crowd at SGC, and cars accelerating sharply south suggested Beadnell might be worth a try; sure enough, chaps lugging scopes confirmed there were  'two' (TWO?) in the bay- 'just follow that path to the shore'. But yet another gaggle of birders there indicated a 'Lowry-like group of matchstick men' on the rocks way to the north....... the birds had flown yet again. Following a brisk walk towards Annstead Beach ( I don't do fast) and out over the seaweed covered rocks to join the others, I was finally rewarded with great views of these young gulls on a skerry just offshore. ( No doubt the Ivory Gulls were driven south from their High Arctic abode by the recent severe gales).
            We waited patiently for the next twenty minutes anticipating the moment when the incoming tide would cover their skerry; then we all enjoyed that magic moment when they took off northwards heading  towards Seahouses.... revealing the full beauty of the delicate black etching lines of their plumage. The light was fading fast by the time I retraced my steps to Beadnell, but not before a spectacular red sunset briefly lit up the Cheviots...........a fitting end to a memorable afternoon.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Arctic beauty

Arctic beauty
We had just started around Branton Ponds when a friend called and said a juvenile Ivory Gull had come up on his pager and was at Seahouses Golf Course, cue panic and mad dash to Seahouses.
Fortunately we were in luck and we joined a group of about 20 birders scoping a superb juvenile Ivory Gull at a distance of about 60 yards. Occasionally it came closer and gave great views to everyone there, the group gradually grew and when we left numbered some 40 birders with more turning up all the time. Even more astounding was when a second bird appeared,which is staggering bearing in mind the last Northumberland bird was 34 years ago.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Branton Ponds 4th December

Branton Ponds 4th December
A spare hour and a lovely crisp morning proved too hard to resist, the ponds were relatively quiet but there were still good numbers of Wigeon and Teal smaller birds included Bullfinch and Goldfinch. On the west pond 3 male Goosander were joined by a stunning male Goldeneye, on reaching the far end something set up all of the birds on the ponds, the culprit was soon spotted in the form of a large female Peregrine which cruised around looking for prey but left hungry.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Whoopers near Wark

Beautiful sight and sound of over a hundred Whooper Swans gathered in a fodder field to the east of Wark on the south side of the River Tweed. (grid ref: NT 845382). We counted 105 adults and 29 juveniles. At the Hirsel Estate, on the other side of the river at Coldstream, the Yews at the junction just north of the Arts and Craft Centre were attracting up to a dozen Mistle Thrushes plus a few Redwings  and Song Thrushes with their ripe berries.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Newton Point and Long Nanny

Newton Point and Long Nanny
We parked at Links House car park where the Lesser Grey Shrike was still showing well, which is a bit worrying as it should be in Africa. From here we headed off to Newton Point where we noted 5 Long Tailed Ducks, 2 Red Throated Divers and a flock of about 1500 Wigeon in Beadnell Bay. Next we walked along the beach towards Long Nanny which was very quiet only 3 Sanderling on the tideline but no Twite or Snow Buntings, the only other thing of interest was a Merlin chasing small birds in the dunes.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Shrikes and Snowflakes

An early afternoon visit to High Newton and Links House through some surprisingly snowy conditions over Belford Moor was rewarded with some cracking views of the very confiding Lesser Grey Shrike now in its fifth or sixth day of wondering if it should have turned 'left' rather than 'right' at some critical point in its migration to Africa. Nevertheless, it still seems to be finding food  in these wintry conditions, flying down from the hawthorn bushes on to the open areas adjacent to the car-park, even finding the energy to  'buzz' a female stonechat on its way back to the hedge!
      Close by, the little saltmarsh at Long Nanny held eleven Twite and two beautiful Snow Buntings restlessly feeding on the strandline. The winter sunshine lit up two Red-throated Divers in the bay.In the opposite direction, over three hundred Golden Plovers and nearly as many Lapwings gathered on the scrapes at Low Newton, beautifully back-lit by the setting sun when they took to the air and re-assembled in much the same place.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Shrikes and Gulls

Shrikes and Gulls
We were out with North Northumberland Bird Club at Bamburgh today but decided to go via Low Steads car park(as one does) and there as promised was a very smart looking 1st winter Lesser Grey Shrike. It performed well for all those present throughout the day, next on to Bamburgh where at Budle Bay we had 2 Peregrines out on the mudflats,whilst at Stag Rock there were Velvet Scoter, Long tailed Duck and an unexpected bonus in he form of the much twitched Bonapartes Gull.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Winter Visitors - more of them!

Are the birds telling us something? Might colder weather be on the way! A large influx of the thrush family have invaded our area, in Cheviot foothills, where increasing numbers of Fieldfares & Redwings, together with immigrant Blackbirds are feeding up on haw berries and fallen fruit - crab apples.

Increasing numbers of 'garden birds': tits & finches, plus Tree Sparrow, Nuthatch & G.S.Woodpecker are appreciating what the garden feeders offer.

A late note that on Tues.5th November at Stag.Harkness Rocks, Bamburgh, 130 Common Scoter & 3 Red-throated Divers were afloat, whilst 100 Purple Sandpipers explored the rocks for food and 90 Linnets were near the shore.

Nearer to today, 3 days ago, on Nov 12th a Merlin mobbed a Buzzard at Doddington and a flock of 200 Lapwings were spotted.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Birding home and away

Birding home and away
The day got off to a really good start when 9 Grey Partridge appeared in our garden, they ran and jumped about in typical gamebird manner but stayed still long enough for a few photos through the kitchen window. After breakfast we headed off to Stag Rock to look for a Bonepartes Gull reported yesterday, after a scan around the lighthouse we headed off towards Budle Point. Just offshore from the sandy spit were a group of Black Headed Gulls feeding, one bird was smaller and showed an all grey nape and head. On getting the scope onto this bird we realised it was the Bonepartes Gull, a dainty little bird with a black bill, a grey mantle,a dark cheek patch,limited black on the primaries and pale pink legs. What a delicate looking bird to have flown all the way from North America.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Garden visitor

Garden visitor
I was sitting at the computer this morning with a feather in hand looking at a bird book and mulling over emarginations, luckily at this point my attention was drawn to a commotion outside and a thump as a large bird hit the window. As I looked at the powder impression left on the glass I noticed a juvenile Sparrowhawk perched in a tree just outside, it was quite recently fledged and still had a number of white feathers on it's mantle and wings. After a short rest it flew off, later in the morning my attention was drawn to Wrens and a Robins making a real racket down the garden, I was expecting a cat but there on the hedge was the juvenile Sparrowhawk looking very subdued, it must have flown into another window as it remained there some time, long enough for me to get one or two photos before it flew off. Many people would not be pleased to see such a bird in their garden, but as the top avian predator I think it is a privilege and shows a healthy population of small birds.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Foray North of the Border

A rare opportunity to finally catch up with a new species  saw me visiting a wonderful little marshy pool in the Eastern Borders at the invitation of the landowner, where we saw more than twenty Common Snipe and three of their relatives, the elusive Jack Snipe. The latter, smaller and much shorter-billed winter visitors from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, rarely break cover until the very last moment when they fly up silently and quickly take cover again, unlike the Common Snipe (which invariably call as they zigzag wildly into the air). An unexpected and slightly bizarre bonus came in the form of an Arctic Skua circling over the site, a few miles inland from the coast.
     Earlier in the day, I managed to catch up at last with the Sardinian Warbler at the Mire Loch, St Abbs, where it has been entertaining ( or frustrating) visiting birders since the end of September. There were many other migrants passing through including Chiffchaffs, Blackbirds, Redwings, and a goodly number of Blackcaps. In the warm sunshine I enjoyed listening to a Yellow-browed Warbler, which was calling from a particularly dense area of vegetation along the western edge of the loch, but it never broke cover while I was there. Must stray across the Border more often!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Aberlady Bay

NNBC Field Trip to Aberlady Bay

Saturday 5th October 2013

Thirteen members of the NNBC met at Aberlady Bay for a walk on the reserve, hoping to see the large numbers of Pink-footed Geese that arrive in large numbers to winter on the mudflats, we were not disappointed! Just beside the wooden footbridge, a Little Egret was feeding, Wigeon, Teal, Curlew, Shelduck & Redshank were on the mudflats,  a good start to the day!  As we crossed the footbridge, we could hear the constant ‘wink wink’ calls of Pinkfeet flying randomly on the reserve. Apparently a total in the region of 10,000 had been present earlier in the week.  We continued to walk across the reserve; one could notice the Sea-Buckthorn bushes were covered in berries, great feeding for the arrival of the winter thrushes! All of a sudden 3,000 Pinkfeet took to the air. It was a marvellous sight, & sound, perhaps disturbed by an unknown predator.  On arrival at Gullane Point the group had the chance to sea-watch, an Arctic Skua (dark phased.) passed near to the shore, rafts of Common Scoter  & several Velvet Scoter were close in & gave excellent views A Stonechat sang nearby, Eider Ducks (adults & young) rode the surf, in the distance, a flight of Knot wound its way across the rocks in characteristic formation & a Sandwich Tern flew past low over the sea. On our return to Aberlady a Kestrel hovered motionless over the dunes; also seen were a flock of Long-tailed Tits, Linnet, Coal Tit & Reed Bunting.  From the wooden bridge at the car park a further 3 Little Egrets were seen, & in the distance 6 Redwing flew over the mudflats & across the main road a Great -spotted Woodpecker was seen in one of the nearby trees.  After some well earned refreshments in the village, the group visited the HQ of the Scottish Ornithological Club to view an exhibition of paintings by local artists.  It was now about an hour before sunset, time to wait for the arrival of incoming Pinkfeet to roost on the mudflats,  Right on cue, at least 3,000 flew overhead, & joined the main group of 5,000 + an awesome sight!  The sunset was  to say the least spectacular with all the different shades of colour in the decreasing sunlight.  An excellent day out, highly recommended!

Monday, 14 October 2013

A Great Day out on the Coast!

Plans for a spot of birding on Sunday looked glum weather wise but we persevered and started along the shore at Beal whilst waiting for the tide to recede.Large flocks of Curlew were feeding along the water's edge whilst on the low marshy grassland huge flocks of Goldfinch were feeding on seedheads whilst 3 Canada Geese passed overhead.A chilly looking ,but handsome Reed Bunting peered out from a Hawthorn Bush.
The tide still being up,we decided to pop down to Fenham Flats for a better view of the large flocks of Geese,swans and ducks we could just about see through the murky haze with the scope.From the hide there we saw Shelduck,Wigeon,Mute Swan,Eider and Brent Geese near Fenham Mill,and right in front of the hide , Bar Tailed Godwit, Curlew,Redshank,Knot,Dunlin,Ringed Plover ,Grey Plover and Turnstone - a great way to brush up one's waders!The highlight however was the noisy arrival of about  two thousand Light Bellied Brent Geese which after a brief fly past settled just outside the hide- a magnificent sight!
After a brief spell of sunshine ,the visibility deteriorated so we decided to head for the island to see if there was anything interesting about.On the Straight Lonnen,the first sighting was of two Goldcrest
and at least two Chiff Chaff.A couple of seasoned birders alerted us to Yellow Browed Warblers,Great Grey Shrike and Mealy Redpoll so we set off hopes raised!
On the Crooked Lonnen,we spotted a distant and motionless Peregrine on a wall,a flock of Redwing,magnificent in some sudden and unexpected sunshine and finally 4 Mealy Redpoll.
Next it was off to the school in pursuit of Yellow Browed Warbler,but no luck there apart from 4 Swallows overhead.Next it was the Vicarage Garden  where we spotted a female Blackcap,A Great Spotted Woodpecker,more Goldcrests and a small active flock of Chiffchaff.
The Great Grey Shrike and the Yellow Browed Warbler were unfortunately elusive but it otherwise it was a great day out!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Fenham Flats 13th October

Fenham Flats 13th October
Today was my monthly WeBS  at Fenham Flats. The weather wasn't too promising, damp and breezy, but the birds didn't seem to mind. The Wigeon numbers have really started to build up and today's count was 2570; the sight of so many birds taking off at once is awesome and the sound they make made me think of a friend who was born on Holy Island and told me that Islanders called them "Hugh's" as that is the sound they make, their call is a repetitive "Hugh,Hugh,Hugh". Geese numbers were also impressive today, with totals of 723 Pale Bellied Brents and 400 Barnacle Geese. It was also nice to see 3 Little Egrets feeding on the salt marsh and also all the small waders taking to the air when a single Merlin flashed across the Flats. On the way back I came upon a Seal pup with an injury to its mouth. It was also at least 500 metres from the colony, but it did look very well fed and obviously had hauled up at high tide, gone to sleep and been left behind. Fortunately my last view of it was of a Labrador sized slug flopping its way along the beach in the direction of its friends.  

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Holy Island: a lucky strike!

Tuesday 8th - on Holy Island - I was amazed to see a Rough-legged Buzzard fly steadily east over the causeway, being mobbed by Curlews and disturbing a Little Egret & a Greenshank, amongst other species!
 In addition circa 1000 Golden Plover circled overhead, over the lonnins.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Early snowflakes

Early snowflakes
As we headed off around Branton Ponds this morning with the dog the sky was a stunning bright blue and the slight breeze gave the day an autumnal effect. This was enhanced when we caught the distinctive call of Whooper Swans and soon we had 10 perfect white snowflakes banking over our heads and landing on the ponds. We have Mute Swans here all year round but nothing can compare with the sight and sound of true wild Swans which have spent the summer on the Arctic Tundra.
Numbers of other birds also seem to be on the increase, especially Wigeon ,Teal and Goosander which can number up to 100 birds, but alongside all of these winter visitors there were still 30+ Lesser Black Backed Gulls on the west pond today. Maybe with the huge number of Rowan Berries the next thing to look out for is Waxwings, watch this space.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Southeast Northumberland 5th October

Southeast Northumberland 5th October
We set off early on Saturday morning for Druridge Pools, or more specifically a patch of Blackthorn about 200yds to the north. The bird we were looking for was a Subalpine Warbler, a small group of birders had gathered and after a short while the little beauty appeared(rubbish photo attached), it kept us entertained for quite awhile as it flew from bush to bush
All of this before 10 o'clock, we were on a role so we then headed to St Mary's wetland near Whitley Bay where we soon had our second little sprite of the day in the shape of a tiny little Firecrest which flitted endlessly amongst the upper branches of a Willow tree,whilst in another group of Willows we managed to find a Yellow Browed Warbler,other birds included a couple of Stonechats and at least 1500 Golden Plovers(but no American) on rocks north of St Mary's Island.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Budle Point 2nd October

Budle Point 2nd October
We decided to spend the morning at Bamburgh, the weather looked promising with low cloud and a strong southeasterly. After parking at Stag Rock we headed off across the Golf Course, the bushes were full of birds ,mainly Reed Buntings but also a number of Redwings. At this point a small looking Skua flew over our heads, we immediately recognised it as a juvenile Long Tailed Skua.
As we headed further on we came across many Goldfinches and Linnets and the bushes near the old military defences produced a single Brambling. The journey back along the beach was also interesting as we picked up the distinctive trilling call of a flock of 4 Snow Buntings, which finally landed a short distance away( close enough to take some rather poor record shots ). Out to sea large numbers of Gannets were feeding along with a flock of about 100 Eiders, on land we also came across Rock Pipits more Goldfinches and at least 2 Stonechats.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

September Specialities: 26th 2013

Today - on Holy Island: 1 Red-breasted Flycatcher, 3 Yellow-browed Warblers, (Straight Lonnen); 1 Pied Flycatcher (Vicar's gdn); 11 Barnacle Geese overhead;  3 Green Shank by the causeway.

Yesterday - Monk's House Pool: 1 Wood Sandpiper, 44 Dunlin,1 Gadwall.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Holy Island 25th september

Holy Island 25th september
The weather looked perfect for a trip to Holy Island, it was damp,miserable and murky,so off we set to our first port of call the Snook. The trees at Snook House held 2 Yellow Browed Warblers with another one in the dunes and a fourth at the Half Moon Slack plus a single Redstart. Next to the village which apart from visitors was very quiet, the Vicars garden only held one Chiffchaff. We then headed off to the Straight Lonnen via the Harbour where we failed to find a reported Little Stint, the Lonnen was also strangely quiet except for a small patch of Willows at the north end. We could hear and see birds flying about and soon got onto another 2 Yellow Browed Warblers, the best bird was still to come in the shape of a first winter Red Breasted Flycatcher, at first views were brief as it was being continuously chased by a Pied Flycatcher, but eventually it settled down on a low branch and we had much better views, lets hope for more miserable weather!.   

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

A hint of things to come

A hint of things to come
The weather forecasters keep telling us that we are in Autumn and today it certainly felt that way. A walk around Branton Ponds showed some leaves beginning to turn and ripe berries hanging heavily from the Rowan and Guelder Rose. The ponds themselves were alive with the sights and sounds of Autumn, hundreds of Greylags loitered about on the muddy edges whilst Goosander numbers seem to increase on a daily basis. Teasels were being picked over by Goldfinches,some of them juveniles still begging to be fed whilst back on the pond Lesser Black Backed Gulls settled down to bathe and over head hundreds of hirundines swooped on the last insects of Summer as they stocked up ready for their long journey south, at this time of year a sad sight to see, but one which was soon made happy by that sound of Autumn which everyone listens for, the "wink, wink" of dozens of Pink-footed Geese as they flew over heading south west . A sad time of year as our summer migrants leave us but also a fantastic and thrilling time of year as we look forward to old friends heading back to our shores from all points north.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Back to the Point

Back to the Point
We decided to kill two birds with one stone and combine the dog's evening walk with a spot of seawatching at Newton Point. The sea was quite calm but there was plenty of passage, once again large numbers of Gannets of all ages were heading north, we soon began seeing Arctic Skuas which finally totalled 8 birds, some pale and some dark morph birds. Amongst them we managed to pick out 3 Manx Shearwaters and a total of 7 Sooty Shearwaters, some of them taking advantage of a Gannet feeding frenzy about 800 yards offshore. The most interesting sighting occurred towards the end of our watch when about 400 yards offshore hundreds of Swallows were seen dipping delicately on the surface of the water, and the dog enjoyed her walk.  

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Low Newton 11th September

Low Newton 11th September
It looked like there had been a good passage of interesting seabirds on Tuesday so I decided to go to Newton Point and maybe find a few of my own. The weather didn't look too promising, what little wind there was appeared to be almost S.W., however there were birds out there, Gannets were streaming passed in small groups which added up to many hundreds of birds. An Arctic Skua was the next  bird to be noted along with several Manx Shearwaters( which eventually totalled 19 birds), after about 45 minutes watching 2 Sooty Shearwaters glided into view quickly followed by a Great Northern Diver still in breeding plumage, the final birds of note were 2 Red Throated Divers heading north.  From here I decided to head off in the direction of the hide at Low Newton, the tideline in front of the pub turned up a couple of Sanderling plus several Bar Tailed Godwits, Ringed Plover and Dunlins whilst overhead flew a flock of about 150 Golden Plover. My final port of call was the hide where Mallards and Teal lounged about and a very noisy Kingfisher made his presence known 

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Spotted Flycatchers on the move

It was almost as if our summer breeding pair of Spotted Flycatchers (constantly busy, but rarely seen again once the family fledged) had called by for a farewell visit to the garden before heading south! There they perched in the autumn sunshine- sitting high up in one of the tall conifers, sallying out for every passing insect for ten minutes or so, then they were off. The reality is they were more likely just a couple of birds passing through on migration.See 'spot flies' from the July archive opposite for earlier report and video. The house martins are still busy-busy, attending to a couple of 'second' broods they are rearing. By the nearby Carey Burn, buzzard and kestrel hung in the air over the rim of the valley; luckily neither spotted the slow worm basking on the path in the beautiful autumn sunshine. The sea trout or salmon were even making an occasional attempt on the waterfall, no doubt encouraged by the extra volume of water from Friday's rain, but they will need more of a spate to make it further upstream.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Holy Island 7th September

Holy Island 7th September
On Friday evening the weather looked good for migrants so we decided to go to Holy Island early on Saturday morning. We started at the Snook where apart from several Meadow Pipits, Whinchats and Wheatears the only other bird of note was a Barn Owl fast asleep in a Sycamore.
Next we headed off towards the Village, unusually the Vicars garden like everywhere else was very quiet as was the Straight Lonnen, so we decided to head back to the car, on our way back we were called across to a small bush by two other birders , on reaching them we were told they had a Nightingale or Thrush Nightingale in the bush. We had watched the bush for about 20minutes before we eventually saw some movement, at this point more birders turned up and the debate began as to what kind of Nightingale it was. At some times when in deep shade it looked quite grey, but when in the open looked more rufous brown , we felt it looked more like Common Nightingale but unless someone gets much better views or a good photo the debate will continue, watch this space!.  

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Stag Rock 1st September

Stag Rock 1st September
A dull,grey, windy day saw us seawatching at Stag Rock, the sea was covered with birds of all descriptions, mainly Gannets and Auks but also a steady stream of Manx Shearwaters, we eventually came up with a total of 54 birds some of them flying through but many were piling in with the Gannets into invisible sources of food hidden below the surface. After a short while we noted a couple of Sooty Shearwaters heading past and then the jackpot with a small group of Manxies we picked out a single Balearic Shearwater. As more birds went through our totals mounted up and were added to with the passage north of 4 Arctic Skuas whilst on the rocks a group of Sandwich and Arctic Terns were joined by 2 Roseate Terns.  

More Shearwaters - August 2013

Although we're 5 days late in reporting this sighting it tallies with that reported on 20th August...  On 27th huge numbers of Manx Shearwaters were off the coast from Emmanuel Head, Holy Island. Initially a flock of  c100 were noted, 6 or 7 flew south soon followed by the whole flock. However, another flock c150 birds, further out to sea, was spied in the ultra calm conditions.

In addition, if wondering where all the Eiders have gone, a flock of 600 ( many in eclipse) were off the North Shore of Holy Island on the same day with up to 359 near Guille Point on the following day.

Fair numbers of a selection of waders * were easily seen at Coves Bay and 9 Goosanders were at sea or on nearby rocks at Sandhaven Bay ( yes, Goosanders!) - E.N.E. Holy Island - on the same date.
(* Oystercatcher, B-t Godwit, Redshank, Turnstone & Knot).

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Low Newton 27th August

Low Newton 27th August
After all the crowds of a Bank Holiday Monday thought today would be a bit more quiet, it was but also on the wildlife front. I first spent a couple of hours seawatching at Newton Point but fog out to sea made it tricky to see birds, I did however manage to pick up a single Manx Shearwater,an Arctic Skua and even better a small group of 3 Bonxies (Great Skuas) as they cruised by looking menacing.
On to Newton Ponds and flash which held a few Mallard and a couple of Curlew Sandpipers amongst a group of 12 Dunlin .Other wildlife included numerous Wall Brown butterflies and a single Speckled Wood also a number of Grasshoppers making quite a racket in the undergrowth.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Druridge Bay 24th August

Druridge Bay 24th August
In between showers we decided to check out some of the birds seen in the Druridge Bay area, first we tried East Chevington where we soon noted a Little Stint feeding on an area of mud along with a Curlew Sandpiper. The call of another wader flying in alerted us to a Spotted Redshank which eventually became three, one of them still showing some breeding plumage.other birds on the site included 2 Ruff,a juvenile Little Gull,,a Little Egret,some 200+ Lapwings and I shouldn't forget more extensive views of the Spotted Crake as it lurked in the reeds. For our final bird of the day we should thank Mick McMahon for telling us about a possible Booted Warbler at Hadston Carrs, 15 minutes later we were on site with about 20 other birders watching it  as it skulked in a patch of Ragwort, a small pale warbler which is a very good sighting for Northumberland.  

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Shear numbers

Shear numbers
We decided to head off to Budle Point today hoping for some early passerines,we were not optimistic and this was the case. The day began to liven up when we walked back along the beach, whilst scanning offshore a Sooty Shearwater came gliding into view, its pale underwing panels showing up well. What happened next was even more stunning as our attention turned to a fast moving flock of dark birds which were involved in a feeding frenzy just beyond Stag Rock, it was a flock of at least 120 Manx Shearwaters and in amongst them we counted another 2 Sooty Shearwaters, the morning was made complete when 3 Porpoise cruised past just in front of us. 

Monday, 19 August 2013

Anglers all 19th August

We were heading back from a morning photographing Dragonflies and Butterflies at Druridge Bay and had reached our turn off at Hedgeley Bridge only to see a large bird land on the bridge railings, we immediately recognised it as being a juvenile Osprey. It dropped down to the river so we got out of the car and hurried across with bins and camera only to see it disappear down the river towards Hedgeley Ponds with a Common Sandpiper in hot pursuit, meanwhile a Kingfisher sat impassively on a rock by the side of the river,not a bad haul of birds seen in such a short period of time.    

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Autumn migration,already ??

Is it really time for autumn migration? Last night on the way home from Whitsome,Duns, we witnessed some bird "gatherings". First of all, many swallows were lining up on the wires, next we saw a large party of swifts and on arrival at South Yearle a flock of 16 mistle thrushes flew over and settled in the conifers in the field at the back of the house.
We also had a willow warbler in the garden and these cute baby swallows that had just fledged (second brood) were lined up on the roof, being fed by their parents, but also being encouraged to "come and join us in the sky and find your own food" by numerous other family members.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Winter waders...

Winter waders are returning ( as with the large number of lapwings noted by previous blogger, Ian)!

On Thursday 8th August: a mixed flock of over a hundred waders, mostly Lapwing & Curlew, were to be seen on the mud of the ebbing tide line upstream in the Tweed Estuary; 26 Goosanders occupied the river mouth.

Today, (Sun. 11/8/2013): 2 Little Egrets near Holy Island causeway, a Greenshank and a Peregrine were sighted at Budle Bay. Up to 150 Curlew can be seen roosting on the salt-marsh of the Long Nanny river, Beadnell Bay.

Another Red Kite in the North !

A further Red Kite has been seen in Wooler at 09.00a.m. on Tuesday 30th July 2013.

It has been reported to me by a resident of Common Road in Wooler. Common Road is close to a large wooded area/ conifer plantation on the edge of moorland. He clearly saw the bird flying past his garden towards the wood. As it turned he saw its forked tail. ( Notified to FoRK & County recorder).

Friday, 2 August 2013

What's the Crake

What's the Crake
Last day of my hols and decided to try and connect with the juvenile Spotted Crake which had been reported at East Chevington. The signs were not good as when I arrived at the site there seemed to be a mass exodus of birders, one of them had last seen it at about 9.15 am and it hadn't been seen since,this was 3 hours ago. On reaching the hide there were about 10 people there,I had taken a seat and after the first hour I was glad of it. There were about 300 Lapwing plus a number of Common Terns, Sandwich Terns and a single Arctic Tern on the mud, suddenly they all took to the air and someone shouted Peregrine, as the bird got closer it lacked the bulk of a Peregrine and seemed to have narrower wings, as it flew past in front of us it showed off it's orangey/red vent which instantly identified it as an adult Hobby. Time passed slowly and we were about to give up when someone shouted Crake and there it was a tiny little bird which emerged for about 5 seconds and then disappeared only to be seen once more for an even briefer view. Longer views would have been better but this is the more typical sight of a crake, something which probably makes them more attractive to birders is their difficulty to see well. Also of note were 4 Greenshanks, 4 Ruff and one splendid looking Dunlin in his summer finery.

Monday, 29 July 2013

A week on Speyside

It seems strange when you say it was almost too hot in Scotland but it was, this seemed to have an effect on the wildlife as some species were in short supply, however the birds that did appear were all quality and a side effect was the almost total absence of midges.
We visited a number of sites,Loch Garten produced Ospreys, Crossbills(could they be Scottish?) and
Crested Tits. A visit to Lochindorb was not without incident,we spotted a pair of Red Throated Divers very close to shore, I managed one distant record shot and moved closer, when only about 30 yards away they began their territorial snake dance and rose right out of the water,it was at this point the camera battery decided to expire and the spare was back at the cottage. Whilst there we also noted their bigger cousins , a pair of Black Throated Divers and for good measure a hunting Osprey flew over.
The Northern Corries and in particular the Coire-an-t- Sneachda produced the next photographic disaster, I had just finished taking shots of a female Ptarmigan with some very small chicks and we sat down for lunch when a juvenile Snow Bunting landed at our feet and proceeded to check out our rucksacks in the panin we for got about the camera and by the time we remembered it had flown down the mountainside.
Our last main trip was up the Findhorn Valley looking for raptors, as with other sites they were lacking in numbers, but we did manage brief views of a Golden Eagle before it flapped it's wings and headed off across the moor.
All in all a great trip and a one which never disappoints.
Ian and Keith

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Spotted Sandpiper

I joined the gaggle of birders and scopes perched high above the Foxton Bends of the River Aln near Alnmouth this afternoon to see a rare vagrant from the other side of the Atlantic- a Spotted Sandpiper- only the third record of this species for the county.(It's similar in size and behaviour to our Common Sandpiper.) Travelling further down the coast to East Chevington, there were many more interesting waders gathered on the exposed mud (following the recent hot dry spell.) In front of the hide, there were least three Knots and a Curlew Sandpiper still sporting much of their summer breeding colours. Many Dunlins were also probing in the soft mud; they still had their distinctive black belly patches.Over to the right, a Wood Sandpiper periodically came out from the edge of the reeds; a solitary Green Sandpiper over to the left rarely left the comparative safety of the reedy shore.Did I mention the Little Tern.......... or the Little Egret.........or the low flying Sea-King Helicopter which spooked everything up into the air? The waders were undoubtedly the stars today!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Spot Flies


  The garden has fallen strangely silent today as our pair of Spotted Flycatchers led their newly fledged youngsters away to the edge of the wood as they usually do. How we'll miss their scolding 'sweee-chh-chh' warning calls whenever we venture into the garden. Like many migrants this year, they arrived later than usual because of the cold Spring and didn't settle down to nest in the creeper on the south side of the house until at least the middle of June. During the recent sunny weather they have continuously perched on the roof of the birdhouse.....or the back of a garden chair.... or indeed any other vantage point from where they can sally forth to gather insects for their brood. They have nested in the garden every summer for the last twenty years or so, except last year, when the cold wet summer seemed to defeat them.
Click the following link to watch a short video (48 seconds)of the Spot Flies          Meanwhile our even later broods of House Martins are filling their mud nests to breaking point, and the recently fledged Swallows still come back to roost next to the nest in the porch above the front door each night. Must be summer.


Three Highlights:
*Yesterday, 17th July 2013, 2 Red Kites flew lazily northward and slightly inland of the coast at Beadnell Bay, ( this relatively rare sighting of Red Kites in Northumberland will be reported to Friends of Red Kites who monitor sightings after a release of this species in the N.E. some 8 yrs ago).
*This evening, c 30 Swifts, screaming in delight at the perfect weather to display their antics at full speed over the rooftops, where several are know to breed annually, but flying too fast for an accurate count.
*Farne Islands' birds: huge numbers of Puffins ( c55,000), record numbers of Razor Bills, together with Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Shags and a fine selection of Tern & Gull species are currently fledging thousands of juveniles as their breeding season has passed half-way, but it is not too late to visit in these perfect weather conditions.
Oh, and the visiting Bridled Tern is back there again.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Sunset sighting!

A chance encounter leads us to report a steady, seemingly endless, stream of approx 1,500 Corvids, many being Jackdaws, heading for their night roost at the 'Plantation', near Wooler, at 20.45hrs this evening. A Sparrowhawk was also present, keeping an eye out for a weary bird at the edge of the flock!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Newton Point 11th July

Newton Point 11th July
An evening visit to Newton Point for a spot of seawatching was worthwhile as we watched a steady stream of Gannets heading north, they totalled well over 200 birds .Also tagging along were 23 Manx Shearwaters some of them gliding in very close to the shore, a single Arctic Skua harried the many Arctic and Common Terns fishing just offshore. Our visit ended with a walk along to Low Newton where we noted 3 Whimbrel on the rocks. 

Noisy Youngsters

Noisy Youngsters
Our next door neighbour kept telling us that she thought an Owl was roosting on her roof, this was confirmed when it floated down on silent wings onto her lawn and showed itself to be a Tawny Owl.
We were sitting watching t.v when we noticed an Owl hunting in the garden, as dusk fell the air was filled with a squeaky call which sounded like PSEE-ep, we recognised it as the begging call of a young Tawny Owl, on going outside we could see the culprits, as 2 young Tawny's sat on the ridge tiles begging for food. This went on for some time even after we had gone to bed, it was great lying there listening to them knowing the were calling from just outside our windows. 

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

A Tern up for the books

A Tern up for the books
The scene - the bird news channels show that a rare Bridled Tern had turned up on Inner Farne and we were too late for the boat, however a boat was being organised for the following morning, so we booked up.
The next morning saw us with about 40 others from as far away as London by the harbour wall at Seahouses ready to board our 6.00 am boat to paradise. Word had come from the island that it was still there, the tension mounted as the 20 minute crossing seemed to take hours. On our arrival we were greeted by head warden David Steele, who informed us that the bird was showing well next to the jetty,cue a mass exodus from the boat which began to list at an alarming angle. For the next 15 minutes all of the stress was worth while as we enjoyed great views of this supremely elegant dark grey and white bird, after a while it disappeared further over the island, at this point we got onto the boat and headed back happy to the mainland and were home for 8.30 am, just in time for breakfast,then out with the dog around Branton Ponds where you've guessed it a Tern was flying over the water, but due to the poor views we would have to put it down as a "comic" Tern , just proves that the early bird really does catch the worm.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Fenham Flats 23rd June

Today saw me doing my monthly WeBS count at Fenham Flats,it is a very quiet time of the year and today was no exception,the mud flats were very still and almost devoid of birdlife. On closer examination using a telescope more and more birds could be seen including 115 Curlew, 57 Oystercatchers, 88 Bar Tailed Godwits and 5 Knot which included a stunning breeding plumaged bird in its brick red finery. One thing which wasn't quiet was the weather as I was soaked by an intensely heavy downpour. The one downer on the day is the excellent wet flash at Elwick is slowly being drained which is a real shame as last year it was a fantastic spot for autumn wader passage. 

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Black Beauty

We were having our late evening dog walk around Branton Ponds when a group of four Redshank came flying in, it was obvious that one of them was very dark. Once they had landed and settled we got our bins onto them and the dark bird did turn out to be a stunning breeding plumaged Spotted Redshank, its feathers a subtle mix of black and brown, its legs and bill longer than the nearby Common Redshank and when chased across the pond by a Moorhen, its white rump contrasted with its otherwise dark plumage. The question is, at this time of year was it coming or going?. 

Monday, 10 June 2013

Yellow Fellow

We paid a visit to the Lees Haugh on the north bank of the River Tweed immediately upriver from Coldstream in search of Yellow Wagtails. These beautiful birds regularly choose to nest here in a large field of Oil-seed rape bordering the river. Locating a little yellow bird flying across the day-glow brilliance of the rape in full flower is quite challenging to say the least! Altogether we saw five birds including a brightly coloured male.

St Abb's Head re-visited...

                     A few days ago the two of us decided to visit St Abb's Head (National Trust for Scotland & National Nature Reserve), having missed the NNBC field trip a little earlier in the month.The greatest numbers of birds were to be found just north of the lighthouse. Watching the behaviour of these birds, in such good weather, can easily take up 1-2 hours of one's time  - plus the walk and study of flowers  & butterflies!                                                                                                                                   In addition to the many thousands of Guillemots crowded onto the rugged cliff ledges and stacks, hundreds could be found on the water -  it being a fine, calm day. They could be viewed 'queueing up' waiting for a gentle wave to wash them high enough to aid their fluttering clamber out of the sea on to the almost perpendicular rock face. Razorbills seemed less adventurous but were occupied with allopreening.  Kittiwakes displayed  their pair bonding & copulating skills whilst perched on equally precipitous narrow ledges, whilst Fulmars occupied the air-space surveying the scene and watching us watching them!
              It's a great place to see these cliff-nesting birds without taking a boat trip to the Farne Islands, but there were no Terns to be seen!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Branton Ponds - a must...

If in the area, Branton Ponds ( near Powburn / A697) are 'a must' at the moment - the antics of the many duck species with duckings and all the other sights and sounds, as previously recorded in earlier blogs, make it a special place at the moment. I have never seen as many Cowslips in my life before!

Harthope Valley Secrets !

Three consecutive, (unprecedented!), evening visits to the Harthope Valley have led to sightings including the following:  Ring Ouzel (male & female), Mistle Thrush, Whinchat, Meadow Pipits (carrying food), Grey Wagtail, Grey Heron, Dipper (feeding young), Common Sandpiper, Oystercatcher (incubating),  Curlew, Snipe (heard, distant), Willow warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Whitethroat & fleeting Buzzard & Kestrel
Roe Deer, including a Doe suckling twin fawns!  Also Slow worm killed on road.
The varied habitats - riverine, woodland, moorland -  can reveal their secrets (& flora) in different places at different times but the scenery alone has been worth the travel in this recent fine weather ( perhaps see you on Sunday...).

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Crepuscular Birding

Crepuscular Birding
After an unsuccessful late night expedition to Thrunton Woods on Monday looking for Nightjars, we decided to go back to more familiar ground where we had seen them in the past. It was with this in mind on Tuesday evening we headed for Holburn Moss, unusually the midges were almost non existent,was this a bad omen?. As we stood next to the moss Tawny Owls could be heard along with a very noisy Cuckoo , then suddenly, very distantly at first we could hear the churring call of a Nightjar, after some careful scanning we could make out his distinctive silhouette on a dead piece of conifer, it got better when at that moment another bird glided right past us and banked to reveal it's long pointed wings with white flashes on them, what a fantastic bird at a site which yet again came up trumps.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Out of area 2nd June

Out of area 2nd June
The last day of my holidays so we decided to have an early start and visit Allenbanks near Bardon Mill. The early start was justified as we were the only car in the carpark, as we wandered along the riverbank we soon picked out the lovely tones of a Pied Flycatcher,another one was added later. The only problem with Allenbanks is the volume of the noise coming from the river,even this could not stop us from locating the instantly recognisable call of a Wood Warbler and soon the little songster was located,we came across two more further on along with a very shy Redstart.
As the day was still young for our final visit we called in at the Derwent Valley and even though it was extremely busy with what seemed like all of Gateshead, we were soon enjoying  views of four Red Kites as they moved effortlessly across the clear blue sky,it just goes to show the huge variety of both wildlife and sites we have in our area.
  

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Branton Ponds 1st June

Branton Ponds 1st June
Amazing, a second sunny day,and a walk around Branton Ponds showed that the breeding season is in full swing,both Greylags and Canada Geese with their goslings and a gaggle of 20 little "mint humbugs"otherwise known as Shelducks with their parents. The air is still full of the calls of Blackcaps, Willow Warblers, Garden Warblers and Sedge Warblers, long may this weather last.

Friday, 31 May 2013

A walk in the woods 31st may

A walk in the woods 31st may
Finally a warm,dry,sunny day and what better place to go at this time of year than Holystone Woods.Our target species was Wood Warbler but the air was full of sound everywhere. As we made our way through the oak woodland the bubbling calls of Cuckoos seemed to be everywhere and two were noted chasing each other around a tree. Tree Pipits were calling from the tree tops along with numerous male Redstarts, a male Pied Flycatcher made a brief appearance whilst a Spotted Flycatcher provided us with a more leisurely view. After the oak woodland we came to an area of beech and conifer, here the air was filled with the calls of Treecreepers,Nuthatch and Goldcrests a fitting end to a glorious morning.  

Monday, 27 May 2013

Dusk Chorus



What a magical experience it is to listen to woodland gradually fall silent as night approaches. As part of the BTO’s survey of breeding woodcock this Spring, I duly turned up at dusk to my allotted woodland survey point to stand and look up from the glade while listening  out for the strange calls of this enigmatic bird. A cuckoo called from another part of the wood; but gradually the willow warblers, robins, thrushes and blackbirds ceased singing their symphony as the sun set. A badger came bustling down the trail, only to stop and ‘test the air’ with its nose about three metres from where I was standing stock still before beating a hasty retreat; a while later a fox crossed quickly over the trail and a roe deer barked from the depths of the wood.
As it grew darker, several  bats emerged to tackle the abundance of flying insects and the querulous ‘oooh…ooh’ of a male tawny owl was answered by sharp ‘kewick’ calls as another owl responded. Then, out of the gloaming, a woodcock flew over the clearing uttering its weird croaks and squeaks. Altogether I recorded five ‘events’ including one more sighting, but whether this involved the same bird five times (possibly) or five different birds (less likely) is difficult to tell.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Holy Island yet again

Holy Island yet again
After work and dinner we decided as it was a lovely evening to take the dog to Holy Island.On reaching the Snook Keith and the dog went through the dunes and soon found a female Red Backed Shrike and a Short Eared Owl,I headed for Snook House a picked up a second Short Eared Owl and a Lesser Whitethroat. We both moved on to the Half Moon slack where there was no sign of the Bluethroat but we did find a very confiding Spotted Flycatcher who was struggling to dispatch a very large moth.In the wonderful late sunshine we headed back across the dunes and soon discovered another Red Backed Shrike,this time a stunning male.  

Sunday, 19 May 2013

More Holy Island migrants

More Holy Island migrants
An early start on Holy Island saw us wandering around the Snook looking for migrants, there were a few about mainly Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers. Our next port of call was the main car park, where we had reports of a Lesser Grey Shrike, this was soon located sitting on a fence next the car park, it was a very smart individual with some pink colouration on the breast. From there we headed off along the track from Chare Ends and located a second member of the Shrike family, a stunning male Red Backed Shrike, as it hunted for food along a fence line. Next we walked back along the Straight Lonnen, which was alive with small birds, the highlight being a bush full of Lesser Whitethroats, we saw 5 in total. The bad weather of Saturday must have brought in many waifs and strays as we heard later that other birds found included, Rustic Bunting, Icterine Warbler and Common Rosefinch.      

Friday, 17 May 2013

Holy Island migrants

Holy Island migrants
In view of the poor forecast we decided to pay a visit to Holy Island looking for stranded migrants.
Our first bird was a skulking Grasshopper Warbler in the dunes. From there we walked along the Straight Lonnen and picked up Common Whitethroat,Spotted Flycatcher and Redstart, the Rocket Field only held a single Dunlin.To increase our tally we needed to check out the area around Snook House,we weren't disappointed on reaching the buildings a small brown coloured bird flew up onto a fence,flicking its tail and showing off its striking supercilium. We realised we had found a female/1st winter Bluethroat.After watching the bird for about 5 minutes we headed off to the Half Moon slack where we added Pied Flycatcher, Sedge Warbler and Short Eared Owl to the list.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Wader Heaven

The weather and light conditions were far from ideal yesterday when I dropped in on Bradford Kaims near Bamburgh following reports of some interesting waders on the muddy flash to the north of the road. There in the scope amongst the lapwings and black-headed Gulls were five beautiful spangled Wood Sandpipers and an American vagrant- a Pectoral Sandpiper. A Greenshank was towering above the other waders present including a Snipe and a Dunlin- a very pleasant end to a showery afternoon. (Many thanks to Ian Davison who just happened to drop by and 'rescued' me from a fruitless search of another nearby scrape!!!).

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

A first for Northumberland

Teatime and a quick check on the computer set the pulses racing,a 1st summer Collared Flycatcher had been reported at Low Newton near the Tin Church.Optics were thrown in the car and off we set hoping to get there before the crowds.When we arrived we found a group of about 20 people.The bird was soon located,in fact it was hard to miss it,as it flitted around catching insects on the ground and in the air.Eventually it settled down and began to preen,this gave us the chance to look at its plumage in detail,a smart black and white bird with a large white patch above the bill,a greyish white rump,brownish tinge to the primaries and the most important feature,a complete white collar.
What a superb little bird and a first for Northumberland.