Wednesday, 30 December 2015

The Hawk Owl!

Prior to Christmas,I answered the phone to an excited golfing friend of my husband whose house overlooks the Pier Field at Berwick  telling me that he was looking at a Hawk Owl from his window!After some persuasion and much denial on his part,including referral to the distribution map in his Collins Bird Book, he reluctantly agreed with me that said owl was more probably a Short Eared Owl.!
In fact it appears that these are now regular sights on the  Magdalene Fields and having received two stunning photos of two  of the Owls taken there on Christmas Day by two of our NNBC members, (see above) I headed off with another member on Tuesday  to investigate.On opening the car door one of the Owls was seen immediately disappearing over the cliff edge and during our short circuit of the Golf Course the Owl was seen throughout,
Definitely worth a visit there at the moment ,combined with a walk along Berwick pier and the Little Beach!

Getting to the Point-

After a desperately miserable ,wet ,housebound Boxing Day,there was no option but to head out on the Sunday which promised to be fine!
So by 10 am I was headed to Ross and  Gyle Point,being gloriously the only person on the beach-something to be treasured!
Little was obvious on the shore of the receding tide,or out to sea ,and indeed I saw very little apart from a chevron of 5 Shelduck flying overhead shortly followed by a similar formation of 5 Cormorant .On reaching Gyle Point  I disturbed a small flock of Brents, which flew North while numerous Curlew,Eider  and Oyster Catchers were also evident. The highlight however was 5 pairs of Red Breasted Merganser in extremely flirtacious  mood and whose antics kept me entertained for some time!Pairs of Great Black Backed Gulls were also cosying up to each other!
Heading round the point ,I wished I had brought along my scope as there was a lot of activity to the North .
With my target species of the day (Snow Bunting,Short Eared Owl and Hen Harrier) being elusive,I headed back to Ross by which time it was extremely warm ,and correspondingly had brought out large crowds making the most of a glorious day.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

A quiet Christmas

A quiet Christmas
with no sign of the white stuff it has been very quiet for winter birds, however the locals seem to be pairing up already, Dippers are chasing one another up and down the river,the Song Thrushes are singing and the Great Tit's are beginning to have a few tentative "teacher,teacher" calls. The ponds have been very high for the last week and are tricky to get right around, but the numbers of Wigeon, Tufted Duck and Teal seem to be building. As a post Christmas cobweb blower we took the dog to Holy Island today but it was very quiet, our only sighting of note being 3 Snow Buntings on the north shore, so here's wishing everyone a happy and wildlife filled New Year.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Long-eared Owls

A bonus of going to this year's NNBC Christmas Dinner was a superb sighting en route of a Long-eared Owl sitting in the roadside hedgerow between Yearle and Wooler. There it sat, about a metre away from the car, orange eyes glowing and 'ears' pricked up.( really just tufts of feathers- nowt to do wi' hearing!) What a beautiful bird, what a treat!
           The first LEO I ever saw in the County, indeed the first 'close' view I ever had of one was in 2004....... driving home along the very same little country road in early January, likewise sitting in the hedgerow. I thought that sighting was a 'once in a lifetime' opportunity............ but again in December 2011, in the same place, lo and behold, there were TWO Long-eared Owls in the hedge! I suspect that there may be a daytime winter roost tucked away somewhere in the vicinity, though all four birds seen alongside this stretch of road in the hours of darkness have of course been wide awake.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Great White

Great White
No Branton Ponds hasn't been taken over by some large fish with big teeth set to the theme tune from "Jaws", but something much smaller and less fearsome, unless you are a small fish. A walk around the ponds this morning produced a good variety of birds including Siskins, Lesser Redpolls and Bullfinches all feeding on the seed of the Alders. As I reached the east pond I noticed what I thought was a Heron with the sun shining off it's back, on examination with the bins I realised it was an Egret, but due to it's size and orangey/yellow bill not a Little Egret but a Great White Egret. The bird flew briefly then settled back down in some trees where with the aid off a scope it's finer features were picked out including it's dark legs, pale eye with dark iris and almost a hint of green to the base of the bill, a stunning bird in non breeding plumage. The bird finally took off and headed in a north westerly direction, at this point a bright turquoise streak flashed past and the day was complete.  

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

A Tern up for the books

A Tern up for the books

Tuesday morning saw us at Druridge Pools looking for a Long-billed Dowitcher, despite checking through numerous birds on the water it couldn't be found. As we checked out the Budge Screen a lady with a scope and bins said she had just seen what she thought was a species of Marsh Tern heading in the direction of Druridge Pools so we headed off in that direction and after a bit of scanning noted a Tern jinking about over some wet ground, it soon showed itself to be a Black Tern with November being very late for this species. Next to Cresswell Pond where we had been told the Dowitcher was visible from the hide, soon we were looking at the bird as it fed endlessly along the west shore amongst Teal and Wigeon, a great morning's birding and 2 new birds for the year list.

Thursday, 29 October 2015


I decided to have a short visit to Holy Island this morning and was striding through the dunes by 8 o'clock. The weather was grey and hinted at dampness to come, perfect!, nothing was seen on the rarity radar but it was one of those days where you can just enjoy migration. The dunes were alive with the sights and sounds of wintering Thrushes, every bush held chattering masses, the air was filled with their calls. I eventually gave up counting and just enjoyed the spectacle but numbers did reach into the hundreds, Redwing( several hundred), Fieldfare(150+), Blackbird(several hundred).
Thrushes weren't the only migrants and during the morning I noted 8 Woodcock fresh in from the continent, 1 was flying up the main road from the Village to the car park and on Fenham Flats some 2500 Golden Plover were gathered.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

                                    A Varied Day in the Rain!

With the weather forecast promising drier conditions by 11 am,three of us decided to see what was around.
First stop at Fenham le Moor produced a lot of activity in the trees and bushes around the hide-Reed Bunting,Yellow Hammer,Tree Sparrow,Greenfinch and Linnet being of most interest.Into the hide and a solitary Barnacle Goose was spotted.It seemed in reasonable condition,preening and feeding in the same spot but when it turned ,an area of matted feathers and raw flesh was spotted above its right wing-shot?Texted this info to Mhairi McLaughlan.
The bird was still in the same spot when we left after an hour or so during which time we also recorded Brents,Goosander,Shelduck,Wigeon,Eider ,Gadwall, and a solitary Grey Plover.

Then it was off to Low Newton.On the the path to the hide the heavens opened and we arrived soaked to the skin.Lunch in the hide was accompanied by an orchestra  of around 200  noisy, restless Grey Lags plus the  constant roaring of the brushcutter being used on the reeds near the hide!Apart from Little Grebe,Grey Heron,Shoveller and Gadwall there was little else to keep us long.

With the light poor and the weather predictions proven badly wrong,we headed to Spindlestone Hide having heard from Winnie Banks earlier that Brambling had been spotted.A quick stop at Budle Bay turned up about 1500 plus Brents on the mud across the Bay to the North west;Shelduck,2 Little Egrets,Grey Plover ,Wigeon and a good number of Gadwall.Pink Feet were flying over,above the mist.

Spindlestone hide was next where a Red Squirrel,2 Nuthatch and a Marsh Tit  kept us amused for 20 minutes or so .Of the Brambling there was no sign ,but we were briefly joined by Charles Baker -Cresswell who left us some peanuts,seed and some hazelnuts to top up the feeders before we left.

As we emerged,the sun had broken through-finally!We agreed however there were many less enjoyable ways of spending a rainy day!

Saturday, 26 September 2015

When the dust settled

When the dust settled
September is a great time to visit Musselburgh especially if you want Red Necked Grebes before they disperse. With this in mind we headed off with the dog early morning, on arriving at Levenhall Links there seemed to be a lot of people about and not just dog walkers, we began chatting to some people and found out the reason was at 12 o'clock they were going to blow up the chimneys at Cockenzie power station. As we headed off along the seawall there were 2 tides one was the sea, the other was a tide of humanity heading out of Edinburgh to watch the spectacle and it would be churlish not to do the same. At the appointed time there was an explosion of dust and the 2 huge towers sank slowly to the ground followed by a muffled thud, as the dust spread out a large flock of Feral Pigeons circled where their home had been. To our astonishment the large flocks of birds on the sea appeared to be un-affected, we counted 110 Goosander, 50+ Velvet Scoter and large numbers of Eiders, Wigeon and Grebes including 20+ Great Crested Grebes and 15+ Slavonian Grebes. On moving on to Gosford Bay the numbers were equally as impressive with more Great Crested and Slavs but also 7 Red Necked Grebes the birds we had hoped for, as well as several Red Throated Divers we also had terrific views of a Great Northern Diver now in full winter plumage, a great end to a great day in a fantastic birding area.  

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Holy Island early migrants

Holy Island early migrants
Looking at the weather charts we noticed a high over Scandinavia and a low over Britain with rain and northeasterlies yesterday, this promised maybe a few good birds for today, so early on we headed for Holy Island. Our first port of call was the Snook and after 10 minutes we were checking out the garden at Snook House, Keith caught a glimpse of an interesting warbler, which eventually came out into the open and proved to be an Icterine Warbler, our first in Northumberland since 2008, this was a great start and boded well for the rest of the day. Our next stop was at the Half Moon slack, here we carefully walked up either side of the bushes and eventually found our second rarity of the day in the form of a juvenile Barred Warbler, it flew into a bush and joined another bird which also turned out to be a Barred Warbler, we left them in peace and continued on only to come across a third bird. We next headed for the Village and gravitated towards The Straight Lonnen, very little was seen except a female Marsh Harrier cruising about over the nearby fields, on reaching the Willows at the far end we noticed several birds moving about, one was a Pied Flycatcher along with Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff, the final bird of the day was, yes you've guessed it a Barred Warbler, our 4th of the day, bring on the autumn!.      

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Migrant Wader numbers increasing...

Today:  Black-tailed Godwits - 36 at Newton Scrape, 15 at Monks House Pool; Ruff - 4 at Newton Scrape, 1 Monks Hse Pool; 4 Snipe at each above site, 30 Dunlin at each site, 30 Redshank at each site , 20 Lapwing at Monks House Pool, 1 Greenshank at Newton Scrape.
Yellow Wagtail: 1 at Newton Scrape, 2 at Monks House Pool.                                                               A Peregrine pair at Budle Bay (this pair credited to Winnie Banks).

Friday, 24 July 2015

Birdy places to go !

Although slightly out of NNBC's area, S.E. Northumberland coastal reserves have plenty to offer - today:
Cresswell Pond produced 12 species of wader: Little Stint, Reeve, Common Sandpiper, Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Snipe, Curlew, Whimbrel, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Dunlin &Lapwing accompanied by 2 Little Egrets, Common Tern, Shelduck, Mallard, Teal, Canada & Greylag Geese, Coot & Moorhen. Also a family of Reed Warblers near the hide, whilst a Barn Owl flew over (19.00hrs) as I departed. (On Tuesday, 3 days ago, I saw an Otter from this hide but no sign today!).
Druridge: Whitethroat feeding at close range and Reed Buntings.
Chevington: Great Crested and Little Grebe, Heron, Tufted Duck, Swifts & more.
Worth a visit!

Wednesday, 10 June 2015


A late evening visit to Beanley Moor proved very productive. As I sat taking in the sounds of Owls hooting and Grey Herons croaking as they flew over, like something out of Jurassic Park, I slowly began to hear other things. 3 Cuckoos were calling from different places at the same time- the calls were mainly the familiar "cuckoo" but also a bubbling trill which would indicate a female. This went on for sometime before silence reigned once more, then as a final flourish just as I was about to leave came the unmistakable churring call of a Nightjar. All was silence apart from this one weird yet wonderful sound. 

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Black Winged Pratincole

We were just starting a walk around Branton Ponds on Friday when I received a phone call from a friend to say a Black Winged Pratincole had been discovered at Bothal Pond in Southeast Northumberland, a jog back to the house for optics and camera saw us on our way and on site within 45 minutes. There was already a large crowd assembled of local birders and we soon picked up the bird at the far side of the pond preening, ok views but not brilliant, this was all about to change as it took off and started hawking for insects with a group of Swifts, this elegant wader flew around almost Tern-like and at one stage appeared to call again very like a tern, views were had from as close as 40 yards and enjoyed by all, it was still there today and well worth the trip.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Buston Links

It is weeks since I walked from Kilacrankie north along Buston Links and thought that today's fine weather was an opportunity to put that right. No more waders on Birling Carr but Herring gulls, Greater black backs, Oystercatchers and Eiders on the rocks. Walking through the caravan site Whitethroat, Sedge warbler and Linnets were calling. Walking up the slope to the top of the dunes I stopped to look over the field with new scrapes on Northfield farm and was surprised to see a Short-eared owl quartering the field. With terns calling time to look out to sea. There were twelve Sandwich terns fishing alongside twenty two Gannets - must be a good supply of sand eels. Perched in the scrub was a stonechat.
The dunes were ablaze with colour : cowslips, early purple orchids, crosswort, speedwells, bloody cranesbill, bluebells both English and Spanish, campion, violets, milkwort, mouse-ear hawkweed.
No decent bird photos but some colourful flowers.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Black-throated Divers

Our annual pilgrimage to the Long Nanny Tern Colony walking from Low Newton took us round Football Hole, where we were excited to see a pair of Black-throated Divers in full breeding plumage close to shore. Never on the surface for more than ten-to-fifteen seconds at a time, they crossed the little bay back and forth several times as we watched them for the next ten minutes. Fabulous! As always, we enjoyed the frenetic activity of  the 2500 Arctic Terns and 20 pairs of Little Terns at Long Nanny, and a Barn Owl hunting in broad daylight was an unexpected bonus on our return across the dunes.

College Valley

A very enjoyable circuit on the "new" path in far better weather than predicted. A cuckoo was calling for much of the time and birds seen were : common sandpiper, dipper, pied wagtail, raven, buzzard, pair of oystercatcher with calling willow warblers far out numbering chiffchaffs. Chaffinches were pretending to be flycatchers and swallows and martins were swooping around.
The valley is still golden with gorse but now is added the yellow of the broom. The cooler weather has meant that there are still banks of primroses and plenty of wood sorrel and violets. Tormentil is now out along with germander and thyme leaved speedwell, creeping corydalis, common milkwort (pale blue) and lady smock.
There warmer, sunny weather had brought out orange tips, small and green veined whites.
Overhead planes brought up gliders from Millfield but there were few thermals today.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Coquet Valley Today

After visiting Hazelton Rigg to see the bluebells with a friend and after a sandwich at Barrowburn we made our way slowly down the valley and had good sightings of a buzzard, forty sandmartins, a pair each of dippers, grey wagtail, pied wagtail and common sandpiper.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

NNBC on Tour in Yorkshire!

Yorkshire Highlights 15th-18th May 2015

A few months ago I decided it would be good to re-visit old birding haunts in Yorkshire where I had spent many a happy day with my teenage son, an avid birder ,and thought it may be fun to see if anyone else from NNBC would like to go along too!
So it was that 9 of us descended on Yorkshire and Humberside to try our luck with species rarely seen 'Up North'

First stop was Bempton Cliffs where we were delighted by the sounds (and smell!) of thousands of Gannet,Kittiwakes ,Razorbills and even a few Puffin to name but a few. Bempton is a fantastic reserve which has just had a makeover and definitely worth a visit at this time of the year- a bit like St Abbs on Steroids!

The following day we had a date at Blacktoft  Sands where we were made most welcome by the duty warden who was expecting us and who filled us in with latest news.Unfortunately news of the Montagu's Harriers presence on the Reserve had spread and the hides were busy but this did not detract from the magnificent views we had of this fabulous bird !Marsh Harriers were also a  common sight and no less of a thrill to watch their frequent fly pasts!Avocet, Temminck's Stint (a first for me!),Cetti's Warbler(another first!),and Yellow Wagtail were a few amongst many others!

The afternoon(very windy and dusty) spent at the reclaimed sand gravel extraction quarries of North Cave Wetlands ,was also productive ,Gadwall,Wood Sandpiper and Avocet being of note.

Sunday morning at 6.45am found four of us across the Ouse at Faxfleet where a short walk along and below the dyke gave us great views of Barn Owl,Marsh Harrier,Yellow Wagtail and certainly more Reed Bunting  among the Phragmites than I have ever seen in one place!

The rest of the day was spent at Potteric Carr,an unlikely spot for a Reserve next to the thundering M18!A magnificent 61 species was the total after a hard day's birding by the whole group in this enormous but fantastic reserve-so huge that we did not manage to meet up with the other part of the group  in the entire day!Highlights for me were frequently booming Bittern,and Cetti's Warbler-both heard but not seen!

Monday 18th May saw us all go our separate ways or (for three lucky Club Members!)the rest of the week to explore even further!Our party of three headed home via Tophill Lowe,near Great Driffield for a final couple of hours.This is owned by Yorkshire Water and is more of a reserve for serious birders as opposed to a family day out.Time was short but a quick visit to a couple of hides allowed us to add Common Tern to our list in addition to great views of a posing Kingfisher.

Fuller details about this weekend and the species seen, will appear in the Newsletter and on the Website in due course courtesy of Richard Poyer.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Spring Waders

Spring Waders
We decided on an early visit to Low Newton scrape to check out the reported waders. On our arrival a Greenshank flew off with another, smaller wader, when we checked the scrape a bird with a small group of summer plumaged Dunlin turned out to be the Pectoral Sandpiper. At that moment the Greenshank came back in with its smaller companion, this soon revealed itself to be the Lesser Yellowlegs, as we scanned further along we came across another small wader, this proved to be a Wood Sandpiper which had just flown in. The high point was to have Lesser Yellowlegs, Pectoral Sandpiper and Wood Sandpiper all together in the same scope view. Whilst there we could hear Reed Warbler calling in the reedbeds, Wheatears ran about in the wet meadow, two Yellow Wagtails were having a scrap and a Little Tern flew past on the tideline.

Monday, 11 May 2015

American Visitors

News of two visitors to the scrape at Low Newton tempted me down to the coast this afternoon; when I arrived the fierce gusty westerlies and the strong sunlight from the same westerly direction reflecting off the water made viewing difficult. No sign of them- no sign of any waders!
                       But after ten minutes or so an elegant wader picked its way along the nearside edge of the scrape- the Lesser Yellowlegs. Following closely behind was a smaller darker wader with an abruptly marked cut-off point between its streaked breast and white belly- the attractive Pectoral Sandpiper. Both breed in North America but winter in South America; they are quite regularly carried across the Atlantic to our shores when wind conditions disrupt their migration. 

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Far from the Madding Crowd-

Being a fine  Bank Holiday Monday,the Harthope Valley was never going to be peaceful but leaving the car on the roadside I headed up  Cockshaw Sike,and within minutes the crowds in the Valley were invisible!First sound was my first Cuckoo of 2015 ,calling from the woods above Langleeford Farm and next, a male Whinchat showing well.
Further up the hill,a male Stonechat  and the usual multiplicity of Meadow Pipits whilst above a Skylark was singing.
Heading onwards, I stopped as usual to pan the large extent of moorland over to Broadstruther and beyond and towards the twin Iron Age Settlements on top of Yeavering Bell,thinking ,as always, how good it would be to spot a pair of Hen Harriers quartering the ground-one day hopefully!
Eventually a peaceful lunch stop at the top of the Hawsen Burn still,alone apart from flitting Whinchat and Meadow Pipits.
Another stop to listen for Ring Ouzel, soon heard and also spotted, sitting in one of the trees!Further down the path ,two more Singing males ,also in trees!A Buzzard flew over lazily and shortly afterwards a Kestrel appeared briefly over the hill before disappearing again.
Again in the Valley,the Cuckoo was still calling but it was time to head back through the picnickers,walkers and traffic,just proving that a just short way off the beaten track one can soon have the hills to oneself!

Tuesday, 28 April 2015


Recent days around Branton Ponds have seen an influx of warblers, first we had the Chiffchaffs which were then overtaken  by the Willow Warblers, now Blackcaps are here in large numbers, there seems to be a bird on territory almost every 50 yards. This evening we came across the first Garden Warbler of the year, sounding a bit like Blackcap but a bit more monotonous, on Monday we had a first for the ponds in the form of a Wood Warbler with both it's very distinctive shape and song which sounds like a spinning coin gradually coming to rest on a table, it was still there this morning. Another warbler which just arrived yesterday is the Common Whitethroat with one bird calling from the gorse, this evening there were a further two birds, so all we need now are Lesser Whitethroat and Grasshopper Warbler then the set will be complete.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Upper Teesdale in spring

Upper Teesdale in spring
A fairly early start saw us at Langdon Beck at the sensible hour of  7.00 am, some may say that is too late but a showing of 24 Blackcock and 6 Greyhens proved that the early bird doesn't always catch the worm. The noise was incredible on a very still, crisp and sunny morning, not only were there Black Grouse but also Curlew with their beautiful "bubbling" call, Redshank and even a Woodcock which looked totally out of place. We then headed to Cowgreen Reservoir where more Black Grouse were to be found ( the total for the day was 43 Blackcock and 11 Greyhen), overhead Common Snipe were "drumming"as the air vibrated against their outer tail feathers, the Wheatears were almost too numerous to count as they "chacked " away on the hillside. The next to appear on the stage was a Short Eared Owl, silently quartering the moor, setting up nervous Red Grouse and all to the constant, plaintive whistling of Golden Plover. The day ended as it had began with a Black Grouse, this time a very impressive male standing on a picnic table near the reservoir, a great end to a stunning morning.

Saturday, 11 April 2015


Well spring must have finally sprung, a walk around Branton Ponds  this morning in less than ideal conditions (cold and windy) revealed a number of spring migrants, the best being more than half a dozen Swallows feeding over the water with at least 100 Sand Martins. Also of note were a small number of Meadow Pipits heading for the hills, a singing Blackcap and numerous Chiffchaffs doing what it says on the tin, meanwhile on the water Little Grebes were calling and a pair of Great-crested Grebe were doing their courtship display.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Ring Ouzel

Our first opportunity to check out the Harthope Valley for returning migrants didn't look too hopeful; the Meadow Pipits were back in good numbers indulging in their characteristic parachute displays, and Red Grouse exploded from the heather hillside with their 'Go-back, go-back' calls, but there were no signs as yet of Wheatears or the elusive Mountain Blackbird. Having walked up a side valley for half a mile or so, we stopped for five minutes to bask in the warm sunshine. Suddenly the faint but clear liquid calls of our target floated across from the far side of the valley. In a small bush we tracked down a "blackbird" in the scope, facing away from us, but it obligingly turned round to reveal its beautiful white crescent for a moment or two before flying across to the opposite side and soon disappeared from sight.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Sounds of Spring

After the warmth of Morocco, where the swallows, martins, bee-eaters and yellow wagtails were moving inexorably towards Europe, this morning's walk to Wooler in bright sunshine may only have been 5 degrees Centigrade, but the Peewits were calling as they displayed over the ploughed fields and the Yellowhammer sang from the Hawthorn hedge. In another field, twenty Oystercatchers were gathered together, no doubt debating when they should head up the Harthope Valley to their nesting territories. Today? Tomorrow? Certainly Spring is in the air

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Sand Martin

My first Sand Martin of the season: Whiteadder Point on Sunday (15th).

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Marvellous Murmuration in March!

A gradual increase in an annual gathering of Starlings, only at this particular time of year, must be reaching its peak of over a thousand birds. It is a sight to behold as smaller groups fly in and join into a large swirling murmuration before settling to roost in local conifers at:                                            NE71 6RB or Grid Ref OS NT987262

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Coastal movements

At Berwick's Little Beach this morning (Saturday), about 8 groups, each of approx 8-10 Gannet, mainly heading south.
Goodish numbers of waders: Oystercatcher; Redshank; Sanderling; Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Turnstone.
Flock of about 12 Linnet circulating around the nearby bushes and, best of all, a Scandinavian (littoralis) Rock Pipit.


Friday, 13 March 2015

Day down in Druridge

Spent a very cold day birding at Hauxley Reserve  (before it closes for the year) and at Druridge Bay Country Park on Thursday.

Nothing to get the heart racing at Hauxley. Numerous (well, about 15) Snipe feeding on the islands, well away from the water's edge so easy(ish) to spot and presumably enjoying the earthworms. The usual good numbers of Wigeon and Tufted Duck which sometimes looked a little skittish what with an Otter not that far away. On the middle island, a Lapwing looked like it might just have been on very early eggs (?).

At Druridge CP we had a good view of a male Peregrine. On the pool (the middle one with the hides) the highlights: Whooper Swan (about 12) mixed in with Mute SwanBlack-necked Grebe; an obliging Sparrowhawk sitting on fence; four Great Crested Grebe and a splendid sinensis Cormorant. One of our party saw off in the distance a raptor that he thought might just have been one of the returning Marsh Harriers. It went down in reed bed and was not seen again.


Thursday, 19 February 2015

Ford Moss 19th February

Ford Moss 19th February
We had a quick visit to Ford Moss this morning to do a bird count, there were a few birds about(we managed 26 species) on a bright but blustery day. Apart from the usual's such as Great Tit, Blue Tit and Robin we also had 1 Woodcock, 3 Common Buzzard, 1 Sparrowhawk, 8 Fieldfare, 3 Jay and best of all 2 Ravens flying over at tree height, "cronking" as they went, not a bad morning for mid-February, perhaps a sign of things to come!  

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Grazing Geese fuelling for flight

If anyone wants to catch good numbers of geese, before their departure from these parts for their summer breeding grounds, try the Doddington to Milfield to Wooler triangle: the Milfield Plain. Yesterday (14th Feb)2-3,000 Pinkfeet were fattening up on a cereal crop on a road-side field between Wooler & Doddington. However, they were very wary and easily disturbed.
95 Dark-bellied Brent Geese were easily seen from the crooked-lonnen, Holy Island, and less nervous. The greater numbers of  Pale-bellied Brents remained elusive.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Ross and Gyle Point.

Wednesday 11th February was misty and cold as we crossed the dunes from Ross Farm heading for Gyle Point to have a final search for Snow Bunting which had eluded me so far this winter!
With a flat sea,it was easy to spot a couple of dozen Wigeon off shore.
50 or so Brents flew low over the water heading South whilst higher in the sky a large skein of Pink Feet flew North.
There were no waders on this stretch of beach at all. Heading North we had good views through the scope of 4 Slavonian Grebes.
Crossing the Wide Opens we looked over to Fenham Flats where in the far distance Shelduck were feeding.Continuing towards Gyle Point a small flock of 10 Snow Buntings flew over-my first this year!
Redshank ,Curlew and 2 Bar Tailed Godwit were spotted on the water's edge whilst a  Red Breasted Merganser gave some great views as the sun briefly appeared,illuminating it in a shaft of sunlight.
Rounding the Point,a raft of Common Scoter was bobbing some way out with another Red Breasted Merganser also seen .
Our penultimate spot of the day on the home strait were 5 Long Tailed Ducks which shortly took off flying south as the visibility decreased,whilst just before Ross Farm a group of around 50 Curlew landed in a field.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

The p(o)int of the tail......

A tale of two halves..........our first visit to the coast this year (memo: must get out more often!) on a cold but bright day, took us to Stag Rocks and Bamburgh, usually a birdwatching Mecca. But where were the Purple Sands? or even the Turnstones? let alone the twinkling 'edge of the tide' dancer, the Sanderlings? A bracing walk to the Black Rocks and back was rewarded with one fly- past, a Great Northern Diver, but little else of note. No rafts of Scoter, no Long-tailed Ducks.....hey ho. not the usual delights of Bamburgh in Winter.
So we headed for Fenham-le-Moor on the turn of the tide, where the mudflats were 'busy- busy' with many Ringed Plovers, Dunlin, Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwits, and aerobatic displays of Knot. Further north the Shelducks seemed to line the horizon. As we waited  in the hide, a small party of light-bellied Brent Geese flew in to the shore, and we watched as the ducks on the tidal edge came ever closer, many Wigeon of course, but over a hundred beautiful, graceful Pintail. As a parting bonus, a few Grey Plover flew by revealing their tell-tale black 'armpits'. Not such a bad day out after all!

Friday, 23 January 2015

lower Whiteadder

Birds that might not raise an eyebrow elsewhere, but a Dipper and Gadwall (on pond near Low Cocklaw) got me excited when seen on 20th and 13th, respectively. Both are rather scarce in these parts. I have not seen a Dipper on the Whiteadder below the Border in the six years that I have been regularly watching this spot.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Spring is in the air!

After a spell of freezing weather,today looked more hopeful so three of us set off for Twizel.
Leaving the car at Twizel Bridge car park and heading up through the woodland we immediately heard  the drumming of a Greater Spotted Woodpecker in the distance ,followed by the unmistakeable call of a Nuthatch.
Several Tree Creepers were also spotted in this old deciduous piece of woodland.Reaching the top of the hill we then flushed a Woodcock -the spot of the day!
The woodland was teeming with Blue Tits,Great Tits,Coal Tits and Long Tailed Tits ,and Chaffinch all of which were surprisingly vocal.A Greenfinch was also heard wheezing by a nearby house.
On the river,Cormorant,Mute Swans,Mallard,Grey Heron and a large number of Goosander were seen.
The warmth of the sun,the patches of Snowdrops,the singing birds plus the sight of several Roe Deer bounding through the trees were  enough to lift the spirits-Spring is on the way!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Grazing Geese...

Many hundreds of Pinkfeet, with more arriving, could be easily viewed from the Wooler to Berwick road near Doddington (from a convenient lay-by) this afternoon. This area of the Milfied Plain is an old favourite of these season visitors. Grasslands (& crops of autumn sown cereals) were the main object of their attention. Their coming and goings around this area makes a visit, in the hope of seeing them, worthwhile. However, true to their reputation, their moves are unpredictable!

Friday, 2 January 2015

Shades of white and grey

Shades of white and grey
On a very blustery day we headed off to North Shields Fish Quay where several birders were gathered on the quay beside the Trawlers.Our gaze was directed towards the roof where a juvenile Glaucous Gull was lounging, instantly recognised by its pale pink bill with a black tip which looked as if it had been dipped in ink. Further along was what looked like a second bird but this turned out to be a Glaucous/ Herring Gull hybrid; we didn't have to wait long when a second star made its entrance in the form of a sleek, ghostly looking Iceland Gull, yet again a juvenile.
Our next port of call was West Hartford where after 20 minutes standing in a very cold wind we were rewarded with a distant view of the Great Grey Shrike. After a while it disappeared. A small group of us stood and chatted about birds in general, when someone said 'it's heading in our direction'. Sure enough the distinctive shape of the Shrike got closer and closer until finally it landed in the tree above our heads. What views we had before it flew off and continued its circuit; the only downer was that of the six people standing there no one had a camera.