Sunday, 29 January 2017


Good numbers of Eurasian White-fronted Geese were in the bay this morning with 33 south over Druidge Pools and probably another 9 at Cresswell, along with a Barnacle Goose. Today the Budge Fields held 6 Black-tailed Godwits along with the Ruff.

Eurasian White-fronts

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Revisiting the Pacific...

Slightly better views at Druridge Bay Country Park this morning! Came within four metres at one point...

70+ Waxwings in Morpeth were also a nice bonus...

While in the evening a trip to a Gateshead Red Kite roost with the NHSN resulted in 30+ birds seen, along with a couple of Dippers. Very nice.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

PACIFIC DIVER at Chevington!!

After a very tense wait yesterday evening we set out before first light to head to Chevington. Once we arrived it was quite misty, but before long we were able to pick out the first-winter PACIFIC DIVER swimming around at the north end. The scope views we really good from the L-shaped hide. It wasn't the most obvious bird so I've decided to discuss a few of the ID points below....

Other birds around the reserve included 10 Scaup, the 7 Shore Lark and around 70 Twite.

Head shape and jizz
I felt that the head shape varied a lot with what the bird was doing, just after surfacing or in a period of more frantic feeding the head shape looked more like a Black-throated, but most of the time when the bird was preening or relaxed it looked much more rounded, exactly like I would expect from a Pacific. Over the hour or so we watched the bird this morning it did feel slightly 'different' to me - smaller than what I would expect from a BTD (being not much larger than some of the ducks), with a slightly thicker neck and, most of the time, a slightly rounder head. The bill also looked smaller and this was perhaps the most obvious difference.

To us the nape looked a paler grey than on BTD and made it seem almost velvety, which along with the slightly thicker neck and rounder head gave it a more gentle look.

Chin strap
While watching the bird from the hide we did think that the bird showed a faint chinstripe, but later photos taken a the country park seemed to show it was extremely indistinct if present at all.

Vent strap
Very easy to see when in flight or preening.

Flank patch
No white flank patch whatsoever!

I'm definitely no expert on Pacific Divers (having never seen one before!), but despite photos from DBCP showing a more BTD head shape, I'm still convinced that it is a Pacific Diver. A big well done to the guys who flagged it up in the first place! Martin Garner's Frontiers in Birding had a great article on the ID of these two divers.

Looking a bit chunky just after surfacing.

Pacific Diver

Shore Larks



Sunday, 15 January 2017


A nice hour or two at the Fish Quay this morning produced good views of the white-wingers as well as an escaped Gyr-type falcon flying over the river...

Iceland Gull

Glaucous Gull

Iceland and Glaucous
Juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Cold and quiet...

It was quiet on the patch today, with our mission to find our own white-winged gulls being unsuccessful. The seven Shore Lark once again at Chevington burn mouth were probably the highlight with 10 European White-fronted Geese and a female Scaup on the north pool. Two further Euro White-fronts were at Cresswell along with a Barnacle Goose, while Peregrines were at Widdrington Moor Lake and Coquet Island. Finally this argentatus or 'Scandinavian' Herring Gull was at Amble...

Scandinavian Herring Gull

Shore Larks

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

A good start...

A slightly late post, but we managed to get the patch year list off to a great start on Sunday - seeing a total of 89 species throughout the day. Out first stop was Hadston Carrs where a half hour seawatch resulted in a Long-tailed Duck and Great Northern Diver.

When we pulled up at Chevington the 7 Shore Lark flew over the parking area, while the north pool held a moulty drake Scaup and a scruffy drake Red-breasted Merganser. We were also really pleased to get a flight view of a Bittern - a species which completely eluded us last year.

Druridge Pools produced a single Ruff and Black-tailed Godwit, while the Hen Harrier was once again patrolling the area.

Another nice surprise was a juvenile Glaucous Gull which I picked up flying in off the sea over Hemscott Hill. It cirlced a couple of times before flying back out to sea again. 7 European White-fronted Goose were with the Pink-feet just north of Cresswell. A return visit to Chevington produced 5 more White-fronts flying over north.

PWC 2017
Species: 89
Points: 106

Friday, 30 December 2016

2016 in twelve photos...

Long-billed Dowitcher at Cresswell Pond - showed really well for the fist four months of the year and gained nearly full summer plumage before it departed.

Bluethroat on Holy Island - followed a male at Hartlepool the previous day.
Western Subalpine Warbler on Holy Island - seen on the same day as the Bluethroat, this completed a great weekend which also included another Bluethroat, a pair of Whiskered Terns, a male Grey-headed Wagtail and 10 Dotterel.

Humpback Whale out of Reykjavik - one of five seen on an epic whale watching trip out of Iceland's capital which also produced Minke Whales, White-beaked Dolphins and Harbour Porpoises. Birds on our holiday included a 'Blue' Fulmar and a female Harlequin Duck with 4 chicks.
Spotted Sandpiper at Hauxley - five american waders were seen in Northumberland during 2016: Long-billed Dowitcher, Spotted, White-rumped, Baird's and Pectoral Sandpipers.
White-rumped Sandpiper at Amble - my best self find of the year.
Franklin's Gull at Whittle Dene Reservoir - just the second for Northumberland this was a nice surprise in mid-September.
Pallas's Warbler on Holy Island - one of two on the island today with this bird being self-found. Other highlights for us on Holy Island throughout the autumn include 3 Red-breasted Flycatchers, Great Grey Shrike, Yellow-browed Warblers, Black Redstarts, Siberian Chiffchaff and lots of commoner birds. We don't like to think about the dips... 
Siberian Accentor at Hendon - our first of the autumn! Another was seen at Newbiggin a few weeks later. The influx of Siberian Accentors was without a doubt my highlight of the year.
Isabelline Shrike at South Shields - perhaps one of the easiest twitches of the year, it was great to be able to just stand still and watch this long awaited lifer for a few hours.
Eastern Black Redstart at Hartlepool - the autumn never really stopped giving! Other late autumn highlights included a self found Richard's Pipit and 7 Shore Larks at Chevington.
Dusky Thrush in Beeley - combined with a Pallid Harrier in Yorkshire later in the day, a great way to end the year!
Overall: 229 (including 13 BB rarities: Long-billed Dowitcher, Whiskered Terns, Bonaparte's Gull, Spotted Sandpiper, Franklin's Gull, Baird's Sandpiper, 2 SIBERIAN ACCENTORSKing Eider, Isabelline Shrike, Eastern Black Redstart, DUSKY THRUSH, Pallid Harrier)

Top 5 birds of the year

  1. SIBERIAN ACCENTORS - Hendon and Newbiggin on 15th and 30th of October.
  2. Pallas's Warblers (one self found) - Holy Island on 8th of October.
  3. White-rumped Sandpiper (self found) - Amble on 21st of August.
  4. Pallid Harrier - Welwick on 10th of December.
  5. Spotted Sandpiper - Hauxley on 13th of August.
Self finds
2016 was a lot better than we could of hoped for in terms of finds with my highlights being White-rumped Sandpiper, Pallas's Warbler and Richard's Pipit, while my dad found Glossy Ibis and Red-breasted Flycatcher. I'm really hoping our run of good fortune continues in 2017!

Happy new year and thanks for reading my blog!!