Friday, 28 October 2011


Yesterday's wander around Newbiggin produced three species of bunting, a few Reed Buntings on the Ash Lagoon bank, two Lapland Bunting that I inadvertently flushed from the weedy bankside north of Beacon Point (is it just me that does this? blunder in, next thing you know they're halfway to the next town and your left with a couple of flight calls as a reminder of what might have been).
On the beach a 1st-winter male nominate race (oh yes there not just Snobs anymore!) Snow Bunting performed well, Greenland or Scandinavia? Probably the latter I guess. Had it not been for a vocal Pied Wagtail alarm calling whenever I got close it would have been down to a few feet.

A couple of Short-eared Owls hunted above the Ash Lagoons and over the golf course.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Pallid & Plausible?

You would have to have been living under a rock not to have noticed we are having an exceptionally good year for Pallid Harrier records; almost so common you can pick one up at your local Aldi on a Monday. Rude not to take advantage especially with such seductive advertising as the images captured by Ian Forrest finder of the first Cleveland PH yesterday afternoon at Dormans Pool.

So whilst students still slept, Uncle Andy and I careered our way through cartfuls of commuters on the A1 to arrive on site just as the rain eased and the first rays of morning poked their way through the Petroplus pylons.
A short wait in the chilly wind until 07:57 when up pops our boy, takes  a short flight across the pool to the accompanied 'oohs and ahhs' of the expectant small crowd before promptly dropping into the reeds on the west side of the pool for another hours kip, typical bloody youth!

A further hour or so later the rufous-toned Ruski upped and off for a bit of a saunter from one end of the reedbed to the other, briefly dropping onto a small island some 200m in front of us before sneaking off back for more zzzzs in the reeds. A good flypast allowed some good views and whilst my distant record shots don't stand comparison to the finders I was happy enough with a nice display of a super looking bird. Breakfast at Trattoria Saltholme before heading back north.

So with Pallid in the bag and bacon in the belly we gently chugged through the Tyne Tunnel and headed for one of the north's premier wildfowl paradises Marden Quarry. If I'm honest I didn't think the Lesser Scaup, found whilst I was in Portugal, had much going for it before we arrived given the assorted menagerie of plastic, deformed, hybrid wildfowl that it has chosen to keep company with, but I guess there is no accounting for taste.
After wandering around trying to avoid the one-legged begging Canada and its hybrid companion and chortling at the pristine looking Speckled Teal, we found the LS diving alone in the centre of the pond. During the few minutes we were there it appeared wary and stayed well away from the throng of it's cousins squabbling over little Izzy's grain that was being spread liberally around from the shore, choosing instead to dive repeatedly on its little lonesome and therefore displaying admirably 'wild' credentials....perhaps?

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Gosforth Park/Salter's Lane

Newcastle City Council is setting out its latest development plans which they are calling their “One Core Strategy”, this includes a “Strategic Land Review” in which they have identified potential sites for new development. They are proposing that 8,000 new homes are built in the Green Belt, including 600 new homes in the fields next to Gosforth Park Nature Reserve, which they are calling Salter’s Lane Neighbourhood Growth Area – the fields are conveniently owned by Persimmon Homes.

The fields that would be destroyed provide essential foraging habitat for wildlife that lives in the nature reserve. Without this habitat this wildlife will be lost forever. This includes families of badgers and roe deer, brown hare, several species of bats and birds such as barn owl, kestrel, buzzard and reed bunting. Other wildlife in the reserve that would be badly affected by this development include otters, red squirrels, voles, shrews and small birds. The area is also attractive and peaceful countryside that is well used and loved by walkers, nature enthusiasts, dog walkers and cyclists.

10 years ago Newcastle Council designated this area as a Strategic Wildlife Corridor linking Jesmond Dene to the wider countryside. Further developments since then make this wildlife corridor even more important today. The Government’s Environmental White Paper, published in June, highlights the importance of creating buffer zones around important wildlife sites and retaining wildlife corridors – the Council’s proposal clearly goes against this Government advice.

The Council is consulting people on their views of these plans. You have until 18th November to tell them what you think.

YOUR VIEWS WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE. You can stop the destruction of our wildlife and countryside by telling the council that you object to their plans. The more people who object the better the chance we have to stop this terrible proposal and to save our wildlife and open spaces for future generations.

You can view the Council’s full plans at If you want to give them your views on their plans to build houses next to the nature reserve then the policy that you are objecting to is Policy CS3 1a Salter’s Lane Neighbourhood Growth Area.

To give your comments online go to and follow the instructions.

Alternatively send your comments by email to planning& or write to Harvey Emms, Director of Planning, Newcastle City Council, Civic Centre, NE1 8PD.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Last Day For A Week

I made the most of my free time between work shifts today. Last opportunity to get out for a week with my impending foreign trip looming over the weekend. A familiar call as I bundled the kids into the car at 08:30 signalled my first two Redwings of the Autumn as they flew west over the house.

As I stepped from the car at Newbiggin I could hear the 'kik' of a Great Spotted Woodpecker in The Mound nearby, I never found it. I made do chasing a Treecreeper around for a short while. A migrant? Perhaps. My eyes have this individual a shade paler with a fairly prominent supercilium so it could in theory be a 'Northern' but whether they are ever separable in the field.... 

On the sheltered side of The Mound a few Red Admirals and Speckled Woods basked in the Autumn sunshine. A couple of Goldcrests  and a Chiffchaff were all I could mop up down the path.
I hit the Ash Lagoons still feeling good, a few minutes at the 'Bluetail' scrub produced the best bird of the morning with another Newbiggin Yellow-browed Warbler wing-flicking its way across the Whitebeam and Dog Rose, a nice self-found tick. (though others later suggested one has been around there for a few days).
Apart from a single Wheatear out on the golf course this was the last of the obvious passerine migrants of the morning. The first of three groups of Barnacle Geese flew north, 63 in total. The first group inland over the Ash Lagoons , the later groups out over the sea.
A short seawatch from Beacon Point produced little other than the aforementioned geese, 5 adult Little Gulls the pick of a quiet half hour. I headed back via the beach stopping for a while to snap some of the waders loafing on the high tide , mainly Dunlin.

I stopped off at Castle Island which as so often happens flattered to deceive, a Grey Plover, 7 Dunlins and a notable arrival of Teal were as good as it got. Sadly despite a full gull count there was nothing of note amongst them. It could all be over by the time I get back.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Delightful Double D's

A call from Dave Dack early afternoon broke the monotony of recent days spent mopping fevered brows and scrubbing vomit stains. Bob Dack  and John Spraggett had found a couple of dowitcher (sp) at East Chevington North Pool. With two kids back at school and the third 'on the mend' I went for it.
By the time I arrived the finders had sorted it all out and settled on two Long-billed Dowitchers; quite a rare bird in Northumberland with four previous records and last recorded in 2004. At a distance of c.350m there wasn't a huge amount to see and even at 60x the tertial pattern wasn't visible (to me). One looked greyer, more adult like? (the bird to the left in the dodgy images below).

After about 15minutes they got up and flew almost over our heads, at least one calling a single note 'tew' repeated but spaced out with clear pauses between each note. Mysteriously as they arrived there was apparently a third bird, not seen on the pool and at least one observer saw a third wader re-join them in flight as they moved off high to the south.