Saturday, 29 March 2014

29 March - Early Morning Murk

Found the motivation to make Church Point again early morning prior to the usual Saturday kids activities. The murk reduced a planned two hour sea-watch to one followed by a miserable hour scouring likely Black Red hang-outs.

In order of appearance
Red-throated Diver 2 >N
Kittiwakes 21>N
GBB Gull 5>N; 1>S
Gannet 4>N; 1>S
Eider 2>N; 2>S
Fulmar 5>N
Razorbill 1>N
Shag 1>N
Guillemot 3>N

Friday, 28 March 2014

Kittiwakes by Cain

For anyone who didn't get along to the premier, the short film commissioned and paid for with a grant from the Northumberland & Tyneside Bird Club to help change attitudes amongst city planners and the business community is now included with some background on the BirdGuides webzine.

The film was made by the incredibly bearded and not a little talented Cain Scrimgour and can be viewed here.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

26th-27th March

26th Newbiggin/Woodhorn Flashes 
 Three Chiffchaffs around the Mound, and one of the resident Mistle Thrushes, little else to write home about. Four Med Gulls on the south pool at Woodhorn Flashes.

27th March Newbiggin/Woodhorn Flashes
Walked my now familiar route around Woodhorn this morning, 4 Little Grebes and 22 Tufted Ducks on the church pool. East of the road pool a single Pink-footed Goose had joined the Greylags in the grazing fields.
Things remained stubbornly migrant-less despite some brief heavy showers, a single Snipe, small number of damp looking Meadow Pipits, singing Dunnock etc.

On the south pool five Mediterranean Gulls (adult, two 2nd-winters and two 1st-winters) were the highlight of pool bustling with activity, albeit lacking in migrants.

 This afternoon I spent an hour seawatching from Church Point. Highlight was my first Manx Shearwater of the year north about 13:30. Good to get a nice early one as over recent years my first of this species has ranged from end April through May and even July in one year! 
There was a trickle of Gannets going both ways and I just about reached double figures for north and southbound movement, all were adults. Small but steady northbound passage of Kittiwakes resulted in a count of 128 north in the hour, this included birds of all three ages.

Not much else other than a few large gulls, three Red-throated Divers and a small number of Eider offshore.

I headed off north into Druridge Bay as far as Druridge Pools and then gradually drifted towards the school pick-up, checking roadside ponds and flashes for any signs of waders or ducks as I went. As I got back into the car at one site, a bird flew low along the hedge in front of me, expecting a Mistle Thrush I lifted my bins onto a smart Little Owl presumably hunting the hedge. It remained briefly allowing me to grab a couple of pictures before diving back over the hedge.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

March 21st-25th

21st Newbiggin: With one of the kids off skiing in the middle of the night I was on Church Point pre-dawn for an hour seawatch, still quiet.
Red-throated Diver 9S, 1N
Common Scoter drake N
Shelduck 1N
Gannet 1S
Fulmar 4S

I stopped to check the recently restored opencast at the Abyssinian and stumbled on three adult Greenlamnd White-fronted Geese with Canadas/Greylags. Presumably the Woodhorn birds beginning to edge west.
Three Buzzards were near Bothal Pond c.09:00

24th Woodhorn Flashes/Newbiggin: Cold. A female Sparrowhawk low over the church pool, Chiffchaff, 32 Gadwall, 2 Grey Partridges, 2 Long-tailed Tits and 2 Mediterranean Gulls. At the Spital end of Newbiggin, 10 Skylarks in the big field and 3 Stock Doves in the horse paddocks. Bothal Pond: Single Great Crested Grebe and Pink-footed Goose, eight Tree Sparrows.

 25th Newbiggin: With southeasterlies continuing I headed for the golf course ditches hoping to catch a little blue. A Short-eared Owl appeared from behind me and flew north along the ash lagoon bank and up over the top, later I watched it hunting briefly from one of the golf shelters.
At the gorse two Wheatears around the dump were the first of the year. At Beacon Point a good count of Purple Sandpipers with 19 roosting, six Grey Plovers still lingering too. A Red-throated Diver flew south.
Woodhorn Flashes: Three Med Gulls on south pool, (two 1st-winters and a 2nd-winter), Song Thrush singing there today. 250+ Woodpigeons fed in the field west of the church pool.


Monday, 24 March 2014

Thursday, 20 March 2014

March 11th-20th

20th Woodhorn Flashes: Blowing a hoolie, 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the south side, 2 Shelducks flew over...
Linton (nr): For the second consecutive March a fairly early Green Sandpiper on a small flash; also c.700 Golden Plovers in one of the turbine fields.

19th Plessey Woods: Fed up with westerlies I sought the shelter of woodland along the River Blyth. Bubo and I walked from Hartford Bridge to the East Coast viaduct (c.2km?), two Dippers were new additions to the 10km from home list, two Grey Wagtails nearby. Five Chiffchaffs singing, a drake Goosander on the river, Jay, Buzzard, four Nuthatches, Treecreeper, Buzzard made for a steady if unsurprising morning.

18th Newbiggin: Three adult Shags flew north, two adult Med Gulls around, five Grey Plovers still in the north bay.

17th Newbiggin/Woodhorn: Single Lesser Black-backed Gulls over Woodhorn then past Church Point were new for the year. A Chiffchaff briefly sang a the sun threatened in the churchyard and five Redwings flew east.

14th Newbiggin/Woodhorn: A much more productive morning, overcast with little wind until later. A Goldcrest in the Woodhorn hedge was new. Further south a single Redwing was in another hedge-line; this and later a group of six Blackbirds suggested some 'staging'. 
Six Common Snipe flushed from marshy ground followed by one then a second Jack Snipe. As the second one flew my first singing Chiffchaff sparked up nearby, I had a second non-singing bird later in a hawthorn behind the south pool.
A look on the sea produced little, a single Red-throated Diver and small numbers of auks moving south, perhaps 20-30 over 30 minutes.
At Spital Burn a male Linnet, took me until April last year to find one in the patch boundaries.

Bothal Pond: A good Jackdaw count with a minimum of 202 late morning. Also first signs of Pied Wagtail passage with 10 spread around the shore.

12th Newbiggin/Woodhorn: A good walk around with ADMc today, not too much seen, 3-4 Mediterranean Gulls in fields around the flashes. Two Bullfinches in hedge near the Mound. At least nine Grey Plovers still at Beacon Point and 4 Rock Pipits.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Scotland Tour 7-9 March

With three mainland rarities lingering in various corners of Scotland and the freedom of a car again after several weeks with Shanks's pony as the only available form of transport. I couldn't raise any interest from anyone I could contemplate spending three days with but that afforded me the luxury of doing exactly as I pleased from Friday to Sunday and not pandering to anyone else's needs, wants or targets.

A pleasant drive north into the Cairngorms where I took the easy Ptarmigan option at Glenshee Ski Centre scoping an individual from the car park adjacent to The Cairnwell in a howling gale. The weather alternated between pleasant, early spring sunshine, albeit breezy and howling winter gales that lashed snow across the road almost horizontally. A few Ravens here too as I drove through heading toward Linn of Dee at Braemar.

From Braemar I continued  north to Grantown and spent late afternoon wandering the paths at Anadach Woods to the east. A couple of crossbill sp, were all I managed to turn up here. I kipped overnight in the car nearby for an early start to try and track down Caper and Crested Tit.

In the event finding neither on Saturday morning I made do with Buzzard and Tawny Owl and more 'crossbills', all restless moving and nigh on impossible to do to species then I moved west, heading for Inverness. I dropped in at Loch Garten and jammed a Crested Tit down the footpaths on the west side with a couple of Great Tits and 2 Siskins. The drive to Inverness was scenic but with little to add to the trip list.
At Loch Flemington the American Coot was embarrassingly easy, providing close views of a less than inspiring bird. It dived a few times before scuttling off into the floating reed debris and bankside twigs to attend to itself for a while.

The drive to Dingwall was peppered with low-flying roadside Red Kites and a quick stop at Tesco Express for some Warburtons with which I hoped to entice the long-staying Ring-billed Gull. Not reported since 20th Feb I knew it was a long shot and I probably cut a sad figure hurling wholemeal around the grassed lawn in front of the local library and skulking at the 'boating pond' that apart from four Herring Gulls was lifeless and unloved.

Cutting my losses around lunch-time i headed south to Strontian and hopefully the unwashed Mallard drake Black Duck. Apparently not straying far from its mixed marriage with a female Mallard it had spent the previous day on a small garden pond a few hundred metres up-river. In fact it was still there late morning on Saturday judging by images. By mid-afternoon, after a long drive only broken by the stop to pick up a German hitchhiker who kept me company until Fort William, it had decided to treat me with the same scorn it should have reserved for country music-loving city bankers and vanished from the face of the earth. The road back out of Strontian to the shortcut offered by the Corran Ferry was a dismal, brooding affair.

Wanted to give myself as much time as possible on Sunday to catch up with the 1st-winter American Herring Gull at Campbeltown I pushed on through Oban, Lochgiplhead and down into the Mull of Kintyre, tired and trying to get there before dark I pitched up around 18:45 and found a room at a rather rundown pub/hotel.


Up early I hit the harbour in the gloom of six-thirty and with cries of over-flying Herring Gulls sharp and grating in my hearing aid. I was joined after a few minutes by a familiar face, Cliff Davis, who took up my offer of a a seat in the car as we spent the next three and a half hours on a circuit between the airport, floods and various fields holding small gull flocks. For a while it was a struggle, nothing of real interest, I tried to string a white-headed Great Black back at one flood as we pulled up but quickly recanted. Another rotation produced a juvenile Iceland Gull then further down the road back toward Stewarton a flock we had previously scanned suddenly produced this gleamingly white-headed beauty. Probably close to 800m away the views weren't exactly crippling but boy did it stand out. The same field also produced a different juvenile Iceland Gull as well as an adult (visible to left below).

After a few brief minutes there was a bit of a gull melee and off the yank went back in the direction of the harbour. In the harbour a couple of Black Guillemots and a 'sailed' Common Eider were of passing interest. Satisfied we headed off back on the journey home, Cliff taking the offer of a lift after arriving on the bus the previous night.
A little way up the road we stopped briefly to catch up with the Tayinloan Two, white and intermediate morph Snow Geese feeding amongst one of the many Greenland White-fronted Geese littering roadside fields.

A further stop at the east end of Loch Fyne produced another Black Guillemot and a juvenile Great Northern Diver.

March 1st-10th

10th Newbiggin/Woodhorn: Walked to Beacon Point from The Mound, a calm sea with good visibility but little movement. Two Common Scoters north and a Razorbill on the sea the highlights. 12 Grey Plovers still in the Beacon roost and 205 Dunlin with a few Purple Sandpipers. Skylarks (5-6) were prominent on the way back across the moor. Late morning I tried some 'viz mig' from the hill behind Collingwood Road. A single Stock Dove was new for the patch this year, scoped feeding in the field behind the south pool. Raptors to the west included 2 Buzzards, 2 Sparrowhawks and 3 sml unidentified raptors 'thermalling' about 2-3km to west with one of the Buzzards.

5th/6th Newbiggin/Woodhorn: New year birds for the patch over the last two days, a pair of Little Grebe on Woodhorn Flashes, a Buzzard lifted from the QEII CP. A single Stonechat in dunes north of Beacon Point and 46 Pink-feet flew north.
Lynemouth Flash: A single Dark-bellied Brent (6th).

2nd A1 Seaton Burn: A rather jammy Red Kite at 11:00 flying low over A1 toward Big Waters NR. A quick text to GB and he managed to get it as it went through too! Presumably same individual seen at Weetslade CP a little later.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

February 2014

26th Beacon Point: Gannet 10 flew north in 30 minutes, Rock Pipit 2, Grey Plover 17+, Purple Sandpiper Cooper's Kennel Field: Shelduck 2 Bothal Pond: Oystercatcher 2, Great Crested Grebe 1, Pochard 5, Goldeneye 2
25th Woodhorn Flashes: Reed Bunting 3, Meadow Pipit 5, Lapwing 33 Church Point: Shelduck 2 flew north, Red-throated Diver
24th Pegswood CP: A day at home waiting for the new car and continuing my attempts to get to grips with the complications of the NTBC records database. Morning dog walk produced some wader movement with first c.120 Golden Plovers flighty and calling, trying to land in the field south of the CP then on the main lake the Oystercatcher count now up to 23. Around 200 Common Gulls on the main lake and 3 Tree Sparrows in the hedge along the track of the old road.
21st Pegswood CP: Reed Bunting and Skylark singing this morning, Goldcrest and 4 Tree Sparrows in the hedges.
16th Newbiggin: Iceland Gull, flew south distantly offshore at 08:45, 2 Little Gulls north, again distant, and a close Shag flew south. Around the Mound, 4 Siskins, 2 Mistle Thrush getting territorial and a Coal Tit. Woodhorn: Tree Sparrow near village, 2 Shelducks and c.1000 Golden Plovers on Ash Lagoons. Pegswood CP: Oystercatchers 12 on west lake, 12 Lapwings in field to north.
14th Newbiggin: Little Gulls 2 flew south (adult and 1st-winter), female Red-breasted Meragnser south and 8 Red-throated Divers south. In the south bay 31 Mediterranean Gulls included 21 adults, 4 2nd-winters and 6 1st-winters. Woodhorn Flashes: Seven Pochard on Church Pool and 3 Curlews on South Pool were the big patch birds.
6th Newbiggin: Wife ill so took advantage of an available car, highlights Little Gull 3, two adults and a 1st-winter, Red-throated Divers 21, Fulmar 1 north.
Beacon Point Grey Plover 21, Purple Sandpiper 1, Bar-tailed Godwit 3, Eider 17 close inshore displaying, Rock Pipits 5.
Druridge Pools (Budge Screen) Pintail 7, Shelduck 3-4, male Stonechat in dunes.
Widdrington Moor Lake: Ringed Plover 1 ( first 'inland' record of the year for me), Red-breasted Merganser 4

4th Pegswood-Longhirst-Ulgham Wood: Tree Sparrow 6 at two sites around Longhirst village, 5 Stock doves in fields to south, Treecreeper at Longhirst & Ulgham Wood, Nuthatch at Longhirst. Willow Tit at Ulgham Wood