My eyes hurt. Riding the rollercoaster that has been east coast birding this weekend has me done in and it's far from over. Friday morning with what I thought was a monster scenario with drizzle, south-easterly breeze and mist I was out at dawn at Newbiggin. Sometime later after a few Mipit and a couple of Rock Pipit I was scratching my head a little wondering what was going on. I moved off the coast path and inland over the rough grass of the golf course once again hoping for a large pipit, to be honest I'd have taken anything by this point, Jack Snipe, Woodcock whatever, just something to show for two hours in what should have been great conditions.
Out of the mist from the north they came low and fast, one, two, five, twelve in total, like Spitfires on a mission in a WWII movie the Swallows blew past me and disappeared into the mist to the south.
A few minutes later and from the north east behind me came the familiar call of Redwings I looked up and such was the relief at seeing some proper migrants I actually began to applaud them.
By the time I reached the Ash Lagoon banks, several waves of Redwing and Song Thrush had passed overhead. I spent a good while at the banks, counted 40-50 Song Thrush, moving inland, had a few Goldcrests and a couple of Siskins and a single Chiffchaff but that was it.
Three and a half hours later I headed off to Woodhorn, some Blackbirds another Chiffchaff, a few Redwings but nothing to get to grips with. Needing to be back for mid-afternoon I made one last stop at Spital Burn, south of Newbiggin. A Barred Warbler here a few days back and I have had Rose-coloured Starling in the allotments albeit in summer. Loads of Greenfinch, perhaps 50, feeding on the dog roses, more Siskin, another Chiffchaff and then in the Elders a big Sylvia Warbler that flushed as I moved for the camera. One look, I was fairly sure it was a Barred Warbler but not 100%. A 1st-winter male Stonechat fed from a nearby fence.
So the first two hours this morning were spent tidying up that loose end and confirming it was Barred Warbler albeit a bloody elusive individual for most of the time, staying low and fairly inactive. Poor light, awkward bird, so you can guess that ';record shot' is just around the corner.
After two hours I headed off to the golf course, I could see Andy Mclevy on the coast path and in front of me in the rough was Graham Bowman and Les Robson one half of the old bird race team I was part of in the late eighties/early nineties. I veered off inland a few hundred yards through the marshy area and began to scan the first scrub patch on the ash lagoon banks confident if anything was behind me I'd get a shout. Several Goldcrests at the back were worth working through to perhaps pick out the odd Firecrest I thought. After a few minutes I turned and GB/LR had walked over to where I stood, the conversation struck up, shared sightings, news, the usual birder talk, after 2-3 minutes we hadn't moved and were still lifting bins to various Thrushes and others as they whirled out of the scrub or dropped in from behind. Les casually asked the question "What's That?" and raising his bins continued to answer himself casually saying "Oh, it's a Red-flanked Bluetail" I almost stumbled, my brain seeming to hang for what seemed an age. The bins came up as did GB's and well, it wasn't just the tail that was blue as the air around us rapidly turned a similar shade.
A spanking, rather bright 1st-winter/female type sat on the lower brambles maybe 20m away. I rattled off a few shots on the camera, which was just as well as we never got as close again and whilst it showed on and off for an hour it was a bit on the shy side. The word duly went out, Birdguides, Andy and other birders including Uncle Jim back down on the patch for the day from Newton.
This was a triple tick for me, life,county and patch, it just doesn't get any better. I hung around for another hour, during which it appeared briefly once or twice, then with work starting early today I headed home.
Being at the other end of the phone gives you a real appreciation of how good today was nationally, two other Red-flanked Bluetail on the east coast, we (birdguides) put out over 500 reports today, I think the highest number I can recall in the 11 months I've been working.The quality was great and even late on there was still news to be dug out with an unreported Little Bunting in Pegwell Bay, Kent and a late report of probable Olive-backed Pipit closer to home at Tynemouth. Put it all together and today has got to be one of the best in recent memory with an excellent spread of good birds. With Sunday still to come there's still time for more to come out of the woodwork, though I've done my bit in the field as I'm working again tomorrow, should be fun.