Friday, 28 September 2012

28/09 - YBW

Big clear-out overnight was apparent this morning, I developed a crick in my neck trying to chase down a couple of 'leaf warblers' high in the church sycamores, a Chiffchaff and a grey-looking acredula-type Willow Warbler though I got little on it.

At Newbiggin a single Whinchat still along the Ash Lagoons along with 3-4 Redstarts  and in the central scrub patch opposite the gorse a hyperactive sprite, presumably an individual from further north moving down the coast rather than a fresh arrival against the westerlies. Usual excuses about distance and big metal fences apply to images.

Yellow-browed Warbler


Working on Wednesday meant I was restricted to picking up stuff from the 'office' window, top birds of the day were two Jays that moved east along the hedge. It's interesting that further south many observers are noting significant movements of Jays with some parties well into double figures being counted from viz mig watch-points.
After that a single House Martin and a Chiffchaff through the garden for the 'visitors' and a Sparrowhawk, Song Thrush and juvenile male Bullfinch for the residents.
Post-work I managed a quick wander across the golf course at Newbiggin, a single Snow Bunting at Beacon Point that had been picked up by a couple of birders earlier and a Redstart

Yesterday I spent most of the day around Woodhorn and Newbiggin trying to pick up what was left of the migrants generated by the recent easterlies. Woodhorn hedge still held Redstart and a couple of Blackcaps, a Spotted Flycatcher was a patch year tick and did it's level best to avoid being seen by remaining high in sycamores over the railway line. A locustella warbler dived from the hedge into nettles on the railway line never to re-appear.

More Redstarts in the ash lagoon scrub and around the gorse, there were probably somewhere in the region of 10 around including a couple of males. The previous day a 1st-winter Red-breasted Flycatcher had been seen on the ash lagoon scrub, apparently found by a couple of Cumbrians (so much for border controls!) I was lucky enough to pick it up again today as it fed on a bit of a circuit between two scrub patches. Difficult to get anything from the footpath and on manual focus, despite trying...

A Grey Wagtail flew south calling just as the Red Kite Monitoring Team arrived en masse, sadly not bringing any Red Kites with them. I continued north, 2 Whinchats flycatching from the central scrub, more Redstarts and a 1st-winter male Stonechat in the gorse were about all I could add, though the latter was my first Stonechat at Newbiggin this year as they haven't bred since the two cold winters drastically reduced their numbers.

Out on the golf course the rain has left some nice puddles in places and a few common waders were sat about including 3 Bar-tailed Godwits and a couple of Knot.

Monday, 24 September 2012

24/09 - Monster Seas

Gone this morning were the happy smiling faces at the school gate, instead furrowed brows and vexed looks as the rain and wind swirled the first autumn leaves around booted feet. I was perhaps the only one smiling brightly in the full knowledge I'd soon be staring into the teeth of the gale and enjoying some great seabirds.
By the time I arrived JGS, DD and AA had already knotched up several Long-tailed Skuas and some incredible flocks of Bonxie, one of 14 and another 11 strong. Only DD remained until 11:00 I was then joined by IK for the last hour until midday.
The Great Skua movement was huge, I added 50 to the earlier total by the time I knocked off including a flock of 10. Better still were three rakish juvenile Long-tailed Skuas and two juvenile Pomarine Skuas, all deliciously close over the breakers. Bird of the morning for me was a single Leach's Petrel, fairly close in that showed around 5-6 times before disappearing into the huge almost bottomless troughs between waves. Only the second county Leach's I've ever had alive!
Supporting cast included a few Sooty & Manx Shearwaters, 2 Blue Fulmars, Velvet Scoter, summer-plumaged Great Northern Diver, several small groups of Pale-bellied Brent Geese, a single Shoveler and a drake Pochard ( the latter a bit if a rare on a sea-watch).
Passerines in a short spell on the golf course were sparse this afternoon but there's always tomorrow...

Saturday, 22 September 2012

22/09 - 'Viz-mig' From The Desk

Whilst working this afternoon I had a busy little spell of sightings from the window including two garden ticks, the first of those was an adult Mediterranean Gull that lifted from the fields north of the house where c.100 gulls have been feeding behind the plough all day. Long overdue given we are directly inland from Med Gull central at Newbiggin.
The other garden tick wasn't a bird but a splendid female Southern Hawker that grazed around both the willow and one of the garden mallows, only the second dragonfly species for the garden ever!

Other birds noted included c.50 Pink-feet north, a single Greylag flying southeast, up to four Buzzards including a 'kettle' of three, 1 perhaps two Sparrowhawks, a single Kestrel, Chiffchaff and 4 Long-tailed Tits.

22/09 - Early Morning Seawatch

Poor conditions with low sun early morning though the occasional cloudy spell helped.
Top billing 4 Velvet Scoters north, a single juvenile Great Crested Grebe north, three each Bonxies and Manx Shearwaters and 6 Pale-bellied Brent Geese.
Steady numbers of Common Scoter, Wigeon & Teal also moving north. I cut the sea-watching short after hearing a Yellow-browed Warbler had been reported from one of the new plantations south of the Mound but I only had 30 minutes before I was due home so no luck; plenty of Chiffchaffs.
The only other sighting was a Rock Pipit, sat in the guttering of the church it was presumably fresh in.
The dog-walk later produced a Jay on the old Pegswood pit heap and an unexpected flood over the railway line that might be worth a visit, perhaps pre-work tomorrow.

Friday, 21 September 2012

19-21/09 - Wheels Keep Turning

Errands on Wednesday resulted in less time than previous days so I opted for a hike along the River Blyth. The wader selection was a little disappointing (where are all the Dunlin?) and after a half hour most of the small waders were flushed by a low-flying adult Peregrine. I forgave the aforementioned falcon after it spent the next 10 minutes gliding and soaring around the estuary in perfect sunshine affording stunning aerial views.

Thursday brought rain and as it had been accurately forecast it was a work day, almost completing some writing work I have an impending deadline for as well as some other domestic tasks. A Robin on the front lawn and the loud calls of an unseen Blackcap in an Elder behind the house the only birds for the day.

This morning I had planned to sea-watch but with the wind starting out lighter than forecast and some early morning sunshine likely to make viewing conditions poor I opted for a journey north to look for the two Buff-breasted Sandpipers found by Ross Ahmed a few days ago at Goswick. I walked in from the golf club onto Cheswick Sands and after successfully rounding a small gull roost without flushing them quickly located one of the Buff-breasts. Feeding with around 200 Dunlins and a similar number of Ringed Plovers I spent 30 minutes out on the sands just enjoying this smart looking yank, the first I've seen for several years, mostly it fed alone and further away from the water's edge than the other waders. I enjoyed uninterrupted views but stayed far enough back to avoid flushing anything, so photographically I was quite distant. I added a 2.0x converter to my kit in recent days extending the reach of the lens (Thanks Dom, it arrived Thursday) the downside is the lack of autofocus which is removed. So this morning was a trial run of going 'commando' or fully manual on the camera. Immediately apparent that capturing sharp images, especially hand-held will be a challenge.

The next few hours were spent grilling the Dunlin, some great variation including a couple of small, very short-billed individuals. On both occasions I initially thought I was looking at another species, perhaps a stint or something better but both birds turned out to be Dunlin. The small size and short bill have me thinking they may well have been arctica race Dunlin but there's not a great deal of material or images available showing the different Dunlin races.No reason why some of these NE Greenland breeders shouldn't occur on the east coast especially after the recent prevailing wind direction. Lots of ringed plovers in the same area, to be honest I was a bit fed up of looking at (or at least trying to) gape-lines by the time I moved on.
Further encounters today included a single Short-eared Owl off the Straight Lonnen, two Curlew Sandpipers and a Ruff at Elwick Flash. Oh and I bumped into a couple of old Tractors too!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012


I've had a poor year patch-wise, not helped by some neglect on my part in favour of getting out and about around the county. September is all about promise though and there aren't too many better places to be.

I checked on yesterday's Grey Plover on floods just west of Ashington on the way to find it was still present. A few Meadow Pipits on the golf course then over to the Ash Lagoon scrub. Not exactly lifting with birds, the highlight a patch year-tick male Bullfinch. Two Chiffchaffs and a male Blackcap the only warblers, a single Coal Tit and four Blackbirds devouring berries.

A single Wheatear on the golf course and a further three at Beacon Point the only other migrants. A further six Wheatears were in the field behind Lynemouth Sewage Works as I drove past on my way north. Brief stops at Lynemouth Flash and Druridge Pools added little except a Ruff. 

Final stop of the day was the new lake/reservoir at Widdrington Moor where a large number of geese have already begun to gather. Four species present today with over 90 Pink-feet, a single Barnacle Goose, Greylags and a huge gathering of Canada Geese. In fact the flock was by far the largest I have ever seen at a coastal location, I counted 775 this afternoon. It'll be interesting to see whether numbers at previously favoured sites in the county at this time of the year such as Haughton Strother and Hallington reservoir in the west have been vacated or still hold large numbers as they have done in recent years. Typically there was also a couple of 'rogues' amongst them including at least one very grey looking leucistic -type and at least one Greylag x Canada hybrid. There were also two Great Crested Grebes on the lake.

(Distance walked 2.54 miles; 353 calories)

Monday, 17 September 2012


Lynemouth Power Station to Lynemouth Flash return via Sewage Works & village (Distance 3.38 miles; 481 calories)

I parked up in the power station west car park and walked via the dunes onto Lyne Sands then north as far as Lynemouth Flash. With a landscape like Mars this area doesn't get many visitors and doesn't have much cover for birds. A couple of Meadow Pipits  flushed from grass as I crossed the old compound and a few gulls loafed on the beach (Common, Black-headed and Herring).
On the north side of the River Lyne two Wheatears on the beach and the occasional calling Skylark overhead. At the flash almost all the waders were gone other than a Dunlin and single Ruff. I later learned that everything had been flushed by a Peregrine earlier in the morning.

I walked back along the River Lyne between the sewage works and river, three Chiffchaffs were in nearby low bushes. Outside of Lynemouth a few gulls and corvids fed behind the plough including an adult Mediterranean Gull and another individual that had a second-winter wing pattern but looked a little odd, thinly billed and I did wonder if it was a Black-headed x Med hybrid but looking again at the one image I managed to grab on a bigger screen maybe it was just earth on the bill deceiving me. It's been that kind of day.

Next stop Woodhorn Flash, quiet with a few Gadwall and Little Grebes though on the way back I did have a flyover calling Crossbill.

I stopped off at the pools east of the A1068 and west of Ashington (Cooper's Kennels Flashes?) and got over-excited by a single pluvialis plover. A combination of all the yank waders floating about, the inland location and it obviously not being 'just a Golden Plover' had me dragging ADMc from his lunch and firing off pictures from the phone only to be gently and sensitively brought back down to planet earth and being reminded that Grey Plovers do actually exist and do occasionally turn up inland. I headed home to lie down....

Grey Plover - note the lack of stars and stripes!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

16/09 - (Look At The Pecs On That!)

'That' being Lynemouth Flash. After a failed post-work sea-watch with too much heat haze making viewing difficult and the only notable birds behind me in the cemetery in the form of 4 Wheatears I decided to head a little north to Lynemouth Flash to check for any signs of the possible Baird's Sandpiper that had been seen at Cresswell Pond earlier in the day.

I knew there was a Pec on the flash as that had been reported too, on arrival a birder approached the car asking if I had a camera as there were now two Pectoral Sandpipers. Sure enough there were indeed two juveniles as well as Ruff and Yellow Wagtail. The variation between the two Pecs was interesting with a bright individual with a more obvious rufous cap and more prominent supercilium (though no streaking on the undertail coverts that I could see and a not quite bright enough super for anything 'sharper').

Pecs - courtesy of Iphone and Scope

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Cup Final

I was invited south of the Tyne this morning as my nephew had a football cup final and brother wanted some pictures of the occasion. London may have had a fabulous Olympics but they couldn't have picked a better day, glorious sunshine at the Monkton Stadium, Jarrow, apparently home to the former announcement system of British Rail.

Down there with a camera I came over a bit 'Lethbridge' ( albeit with a third of the talent) and started papping a few of the crowd too, so excuse the complete lack of birds in this post it won't happen too often, just enjoy some snaps from a pleasant morning, nephew's team won, 4-1 I think, so the result went the right way, for us at least. Kids and families enjoyed it though I was a little disappointed to learn that we arrived after the two dad scuffle that apparently occurred during one of the earlier matches, missed photo opportunity there.


A late morning walk along the ash lagoon banks at Newbiggin produced the exciting combination of Great Tit and a Blackcap that remained unseen. The westerlies have ruined the first half of September on the east coast.

So I slipped north to Lynemouth Flash and sat in the car for a while looking through the Dunlin and hoping to get some pictures of the juvenile Curlew Sandpiper that has been lingering on and off for several days. A single Ruff and a limping Knot added to the wader variety whilst an adult Yellow Wagtail was a bonus.

Thursday, 13 September 2012


Despite the continuing run of westerlies I opted for a trip north to Holy island and the surrounding Lindisfarne NNR today. The rain stayed away at least until mid-afternoon and though the wind strengthened as the day passed it was pleasant enough most of the time.

Almost first bird on arrival was a Peregrine with prey atop one of the regular plucking perches on the mudflats not too far off the road. I opted for a couple of short walks to The Snook and at Chare Ends to look for any migrants and stretch the dog's legs. As expected there was little on offer, a single Goldcrest in the Snook garden and a single Wheatear along the path at Chare Ends were as exciting as it got. A skein of 133 Pink-footed Geese flew west as I walked into The Snook.

The main aim for today was waders and geese, out on the mudflats there was a huge amount of activity and I spent the next few hours counting, scoping and looking in vain for something tasty. Some decent counts of Bar-tailed Godwits and Grey Plovers with lots of Knot, Dunlin and Sanderlings to boot.

As the tide approached high I backtracked over the causeway and spent some time looking on the north side towards Beal Sluice where a small gull roost had built up and many of the waders were moving as the water continued to rise. Over 300 Pale-bellied Brent Geese moved over from the south side and 115 Pink-feet were out on the mud with a further 150-ish in the stubble behind me. A second-summer Arctic Skua flew up the channel before dropping on the water and drifting for a while on the rising tide.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

11 & 12/09

Yesterday I was back at Newbiggin, the golf course held two Wheatears and a single Bar-tailed Godwit was still present. Blackcap and Whitethroat were all I could squeeze from the Ash Lagoon banks. To be honest I timed my visit to do the wader roost at high tide so I didn't give the scrub long.

On Lyne Sands 108 Oystercatchers roosted and at Beacon Point 201 Golden Plovers that I spent some time going through thoroughly after some of the arrivals over the weekend on the west coast. A Great Skua created some havoc as it flew through north. On the rocks at Beacon Point two more Wheatears (or the same two pushed off the golf course by golfers?).

Further north at Lynemouth Flash a good number of Dunlin (61) along with 4 Ringed Plovers and here another White Wagtail amongst the Pied, this one a first-winter individual.

Another drive-by at Cresswell added the second Bonxie of the morning, just to the south in stubble behind the old Drift Inn I stopped to look at a finch flock, c.100 Linnets and c.20 Greenfinches and had the third/fifth Wheatear of the morning feeding in the stubble.

This afternoon I did the high tide roost at Beacon Point again briefly this time without any counts. This evening a quick hour on the beach with the kids at Hadston Carrs where there were good numbers of Black-headed Gulls feeding offshore along with a few Kittiwakes and Sandwich Terns./ The loafing gulls at the outfall pipe included a first-winter Mediterranean Gull.

Oh and almost forgot the cr Herring Gull at the Coquet Estuary on 7th came back from FERA, it was ringed as an adult in March 2005 on Ellington Road Landfill perhaps 21/2 miles from home as the gull flies and hasn't been seen since, getting on for at least 12 years old it's no spring chicken.

Monday, 10 September 2012


Back to Warkworth Gut & Amble Braid again today to look for waders on the rising tide. Single Black-tailed Godwit and Greenshank still on the scrapes and only one Little Egret on show from the little group that had built up in recent weeks.

Overhead hundreds of Swallows moving south today, at least several hundred per hour throughout the morning. A strong passage of Meadow Pipits too though nothing like the Swallow numbers. On the ground the frequent showers were dropping birds in, best of the bunch was a juvenile Whinchat amongst four Stonechats (though I doubt the latter have come far). A Common Whitethroat was in some dune scrub and several Chiffchaffs fed in nearby gorse.

One or two of the showers were pretty heavy and I took a bit of a hammering on the water front, I might have been less wet if I'd waited them out in the sea.

With an extra hour available this week I decided to call into the north end of Hadston Carrs and walked to the Ponteland Hide. I took the back road through Amble to take a quick look around the dunes north of Hauxley. A small flock of Pied Wagtails, 16 in total fed on the grass just south of Amble. I stopped and diligently went through them one by one muttering , 'pied, pied,pied,pied,....' 16 times as I went. At the Ponteland Hide nine Little Grebes appeared to be a family party as they dived amongst weed close to the hide and five Dunlins were the only waders. With the tide now in I checked the north end of the beach, stacked with seaweed there were a few birds feeding, a couple of Rock Pipits and a couple of Pied Wagtails. My reward for diligence came with what looks like an adult female White Wagtail feeding in the same area as the Pieds. Crap shots as I was phonescoping but enough to get the gist I think.

  The road home allowed for a couple of roadside pull-ins, the long-staying Long-tailed Duck on Cresswell Pond and a quick sort through the decent Dunlin numbers at Lynemouth Flash for something more exciting.

Total Distance: 4.22 miles
Calories: 547

Friday, 7 September 2012


Warkworth Gut this morning on a falling tide and just enough time to walk as far as Amble Braid looking for passage waders and migrants. The managed realignment (apparently I shouldn't use the word retreat anymore) still looking good, a nice Whimbrel and an equally nice Greenshank the highlights along with several Snipe. 

Five Little Egrets remain in situ, all north of the wooden footbridge and showing well as they say in the trade.

A single 'older than juvenile' Wheatear jumped from the track onto vegetation by the scrapes and a Herring Gull obligingly stood still just long enough to read a colour-ring. Apart from that the only other notable event was being photo-bombed by a Guillemot in the dunes, displaying the usual ingratitude at being rescued from the clutches of my canine companion.

Chin Chin

A drive-by at Lynemouth Flash threw in a Curlew Sandpiper (juvenile I think) and a grinning bearded bloke from a parked car.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012


This week and next week are induction weeks, part days at school to help the wee ones settle in. I have 1001 things to do that have built up whilst I've been goofing about with the kids over the last six weeks and getting angsty about Moroccan Turtle Doves. This morning I ended up packing a bit into the three hour window, swimming, for the first time without kids for five years, a bit of foraging resulting in a few days supply of Blackberries for breakfast and of course a little birding.

With the Indian Summer continuing I took the dog to Linton Pond this morning as I haven't visited one of my former patches for several months. The wood was almost-springlike with Chiffchaffs flicking everywhere, and at least one singing, a tribe of Long-tailed Tits constantly calling as they whirred around between the hawthorns and oaks. A single Blackcap and probably the bird of the morning a Spotted Flycatcher feeding from the oaks then the hawthorn tops adjacent to the mineral line. They don't breed in the wood (or at least they didn't) so presumably a migrant.

On the pond 17 Little Grebes, a single Great Crested Grebe, 3 Pochard and 3 Shoveler were the pick of a quiet but pleasant half-hour from the hide. Still plenty hirundines of all three persuasions moving north to south.

A walk along the lane to the north produced more Chiffchaffs and a southbound Buzzard drifting over in the morning sun.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Vol Solo

I'm free to do what I want any old time
 I'm free to choose what I please any old time
- Sep 6 1965 (Jagger/Richards)
 For much of the last five years our twins have been my most regular birding companions; from Atlas Tetrads in their buggy, through freezing winter yomps on the Newbiggin beaches and even the occasional twitch ( I wonder how many other four year olds can count White-throated Robin and Desert Wheatear on their lists?) they have kept me company. They've chased Med Gulls along the beach, flushed warblers from the hedges and often frustrated me with their refusal to ever, ever stay quiet. Equally I've watched as they stood in almost stunned silence watching a Robin singing a sub-song barely two feet from their faces and seen the joy in their faces, been astonished as they've called Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming in the distance (more than once) that have been beyond my impaired hearing.

I know that outside they are different, more relaxed, less prone to bickering, less likely to have the hissy fits you'd associate with kids of their age. I also believe they are more confident outdoors, more observant than perhaps they would have been and are as happy climbing trees, throwing stones and digging holes as they are watching the latest episode of Doctor Who. Today they started school and a half-decade of picnics from the boot of the car and sudden and unexpected journeys filled with bribes of chocolate buttons and cries of 'just five more minutes kids' comes to an end. We had fun.


So with new found freedom this morning I took myself off to Newbiggin. I didn't see much but I enjoyed the quiet and the warm sunshine and began to look forward to Autumn and hopefully a few birds. A quiet golf course produced a single roosting Bar-tailed Godwit. 
The Ash Lagoon banks yielded nothing, no migrants, it wasn't until the dog and I reached the beach that we found a migrant in the form of a single, smart-looking  Wheatear. Also at the north end was a single Rock Pipit and a rather bedraggled looking Dunlin. 

With time to spare we even managed a quick traverse of the Mound and first 'new plantation', plenty Chiffchaffs calling and a single Coal Tit. A few Speckled Woods lurking around the rides and a couple of dragons - a Common Darter and also a Migrant Hawker that perched up nicely for me at just the right moment.