Saturday, 8 December 2018

Fourth time lucky...

We were fourth time lucky with the Rose-coloured Starling in North Seaton village early this afternoon. Otherwise the bay was extremely quiet...

Rose-coloured Starling

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Better than expected!

When we set off this morning we just hoped to catch up with the adult Bonaparte's Gull at Stag Rocks. We didn't think much else would happen but of course you never know with birding...

On arrival at Stag Rocks, the adult Bonaparte's Gull was the closest bird in the surf and provided some really nice views before it took of with a small flock of Black-heads, circled a couple of times and landed on the sea much further out.

We decided to start scanning the rest of the sea hoping for a grebe or Long-tailed Duck. From the parking area we could only pick up a single Great Northern Diver so we walked north to scan from the lighthouse. There were a couple of Puffins offshore as well as a Long-tailed Duck, but it certainly wasn't our most memorable visit at that point.

However, that changed when I picked up a large diver about half way out to our north-east. The view wasn't great with it slightly in silhouette but something about it demanded attention - I think it was the way it held its bill - exactly like how a White-billed Diver would. After a few seconds it turned to face a different angle and I saw what I thought was an unmarked yellowish bill.

My dad had a look through my scope and was also interested immediately. I rang SS and JWR who were looking from the top of the bank, and it turned out they also had briefly seen a large diver but left it as a Great Northern. However, on having closer views when they joined us by the lighthouse they also agreed that we had a found a White-billed Diver!

After a while, the bird made its way a bit closer and I managed to digiscope a few record shots before it drifted south and further out again. When at its closest the scope views were excellent and we were even able to easily pick out the white spotting on the back of the adult Diver. By the time we left, it was out towards the Farnes but did briefly spend some time alongside a Great Northern, providing a great comparison.

Other stuff offshore included 7 Long-tailed Ducks, at least 2 Great Northern Divers and 3 Red-breasted Mergansers while 145+ Purple Sandpipers were on the rocks. Just as we were leaving a group of 7 Snow Bunting flew south quite high.

Before heading home we made a detour to Newbiggin where a first-winter Red-backed Shrike had been found earlier in the day. We arrived to find it showing nicely around the tank blocks at Church Point, though it did look a bit bedraggled in the rain! This December record is unheard of in the county previously, and looking at birdguides it seems to be just the fourth December Red-backed Shrike since 2001.

Some videograbs along with the videos below...

White-billed and Great Northern Divers - videos should be watched in HD at 1080p

Bonaparte's Gull with Black-headed Gulls
First-winter Red-backed Shrike

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Buston Links

After a failed attempt at seeing the North Seaton Rosy Starling this morning, we headed north to the saltmarsh at Buston Links, just south of Alnmouth.

For the first hour or two there was no sign of our target, but on our final check the group of 4 Shore Lark had reappeared. We really enjoyed being able to watch these smart birds feeding on the saltmarsh, and they were our first of the year. After a while they took off and headed off south.

We headed back towards the car park, and bumped into a few birders making their way down the track. We were stood around talking when GB looked into the ditch beside us and saw a Red-necked Grebe just a couple of metres away. The grebe gave incredible views as it hunted for fish in the small ditch.

On the way back, a quick look at Warkworth again produced the 2 Bewick's Swans again with 6 Whoopers, as well as 10 Black-tailed Godwits.

Shore Larks

Red-necked Grebe

Bewick's Swans

Sunday, 11 November 2018

A swift twitch...

Today we were visiting some relatives in Stockton, and me and my dad decided to take our kit with us in case the Hoopoe in Co. Durham was still around and we could have a look on the way home.

As the day went on a few reports of Pallid Swifts came on, so we decided that we'd give one a go on the way home. We weren't in much of a rush but I decided to check birdguides mid-afternoon, and got a bit of a shock when I saw that a Little Swift had joined the Pallid on Hartlepool Headland.

We quickly said goodbye and were in the car heading north-east. It took us about half an hour to get there, and at first we weren't sure where to go, but noticed a birder run down an alley way. We followed him towards the town moor where a crowd of birders were watching the two rare swifts over the sea.

Before long, the superb Little Swift flew straight towards us and started feeding up and down the promenade, and was joined by the Pallid Swift which did the same. We started until dusk, and both gave absolutely amazing views flying to within a few feet of us at times, and with some great light. The Little Swift looked stunning through the binoculars and it's definitely one of the best birds I've ever seen!

While the close range made for spectacular viewing, it did make photos extremely difficult, but I did manage a few which I'm happy with...

Little Swift

Pallid Swift - the light had started to go by the time I got round to photographing this!

Little and Pallid Swifts!

Saturday, 10 November 2018

A successful day...

With a couple of reports of Black Guillemot at Cheswick last week, we decided that we would target catching up with one today as it was easily the commonest bird missing from our county list.

While the light wasn't great first thing, we gave it an hour or two on Holy Island. There was no sign of yesterday's Shore Larks but a Snow Bunting flew over and we did see 18 Twite and a Short-eared Owl.

Next we did head to Cheswick and parked by the railway bridge. We walked through the dunes and started scanning the sea, and it wasn't long before my dad did pick up a first-winter Black Guillemot about half way out. We watched it for a while, but once it started diving it was really difficult to get onto again.

Having not seen one (it?) for seven years, we also hoped to see the drake Black Scoter while we were here. As we walked north, we noticed a small group scoter just off Cheswick Black Rocks. Setting up the scope revealed the Black Scoter with some female Commons. We enjoyed some really good views of this bird - much better than we were expecting.

Other birds off Cheswick included a Great Northern Diver, Long-tailed Duck, Red-breasted Mergansers and a Goosander. 

Black Scoter - with female Common Scoters
Black Guillemot obviously!

Friday, 2 November 2018

A quick visit to Warkworth...

I had to pick my dad up this afternoon, and we decided to call in for a quick look at Warkworth on our way back home.

The Red-necked Grebe present in the area for the past couple of weeks was showing well below the weir, and the two Bewick's Swans from Chevington a couple of days ago also dropped in, but flew off again before I had a chance to photograph them on the water.

Red-necked Grebe
Bewick's Swans

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

A decent end to October...

It felt like quite a while since we'd last been on the patch, and when we set out there this morning we didn't have huge expectations. In the end we did have a decent day...

With good numbers of Crossbills being reported around the county, we decided to start at Druridge Bay Country Park, and it wasn't long before we got onto a group of Crossbills. The group numbered at least 35, although there was probably more and they were as mobile as usual.

We checked the dunes at Hadston for redpolls but with no sign we had a look at the sea. My dad picked up a Little Auk moving north, and 3 female Velvet Scoters were in with the Commons.

Chevington was our final call and I was pleased to pick up a couple of Bewick's Swans among the minimum of 27 Whoopers. These were our first in the county for over three and a half years so we were pretty happy! A Long-tailed Duck had also arrived on the pool with 2 Ruff and 4 Pintail.

Bewick's Swans - videograb hence the poor quality