Thursday, 31 December 2015

A few photos & highlights from 2015...

A great day's twitching on the 1st of January produced two lifers in the form of Little Bustard at Fraisthorpe and a Blyth's Pipit near Wakefield, both in Yorkshire...

Just two days later I found a Green-winged Teal at Druridge Pools and a Black-necked Grebe at East Chevington.

On the 18th a first-winter Rose-coloured Starling was in Prudhoe.

A weekend's twitching was very successful with a superb Laughing Gull at New Brighton in Cheshire along with 3 Iceland Gulls and a Caspian Gull in Yorkshire.

A week in Devon in early April produced 2 stupidly confiding Penduline Tits, plenty of Cirl Buntings among lots of other commoner birds.

An American Wigeon was at Holywell Pond on the 22nd of April was the first of two seen this year with another at Grindon Lough in September.

Spring highlights on the patch included Great White Egret, Little Stint, Wood Sandpipers, Garganey, good numbers of Ruff and Black-tailed Godwits and a flock of 4 brilliant Temminck's Stints.

 On the 10th of May a stunning male Red-throated Pipit was at Seaton Common, Cleveland.

 The Black-winged Pratincole returned to Northumberland for the second year running and I caught up with it at Bothal Pond on the 30th. A Black-necked Grebe was also here a month later.

The 5th of August was the first great day of a highly enjoyable month, with a county-tick in the form of a Hobby at East Chevington and a self-found Pectoral Sandpiper at Bothal Pond. This site also held Spotted Redshanks, Little Stint, Green Sandpipers, Wood Sandpipers, Ruff and Black-tailed Godwits during the month.

 A week in Norfolk from the 8th produced up to 5 Caspian Gulls, plenty of Yellow-legged Gulls, Red-veined Darters, impressive numbers of waders and an Icterine Warbler.

The 20th of August was our first of three visits to Holy Island in four days...

20/8 - Icterine Warbler, Wryneck (self-found)
23/8 - Wryneck (self-found)
24/8 - Greenish Warbler, 2 Icterine Warblers (one self-found), 2 Wrynecks (one self-found),
           Barred Warbler (self-found), Red-backed Shrike, Wood Warbler!

On the 2nd of September we visited the Cumbrian quarry which a pair of Bee-eaters had decided to nest in. We were provided with some great views of the two adults and a youngster briefly in the nest hole.

Two seawatches at Newbiggin two days later were productive, with an Osprey, good numbers of Sooties and a Great Shearwater! A great bird, though made slightly less exciting due to the astounding views we got of one there last year!

The patch highlight of the year was a first-summer male Red-footed Falcon which turned up at Hemscott Hill on the 10th. We had also seen it in Lincolnshire the month before.

Point blank views of a Lapland Bunting were had at St. Mary's Island in October...

The late autumn/winter period was very productive on the patch with highlights including Long-billed Dowitcher, 3 Water Pipits, Iceland Gull, Merlin and Greenland White-fronted Geese.

New years eve surprises...

We had a couple of hours to kill this morning, so we set off for one last brief look at the patch especially with the good weather forecast. It turned out to be a lot better than we were expecting...

One the way we stopped at Widdrington Moor Lake where there was no sign of the Bewick's Swans, but a smart juvenile Great Northern Diver was on the north side.

When we reached the Budge Screen the number of ducks was impressive especially when they all flushed onto the middle of the water, with a couple of hundred Teal being the most numerous, and looking very smart in the sun. Also present were Wigeon and Mallard and 6 smart Pintail (5 drakes).

Then my Dad picked up the first-winter Long-billed Dowitcher sitting in the grass. It provided some nice scope views with it being a bit closer than when we've had it at Cresswell.

While watching the Dowitcher a Water Pipit dropped in on the edge of the water right in front of the screen allowing some brilliant views. A couple more birders arrived and the Dowitcher decided to fly off, later to appear back at Cresswell.

All of a sudden two Water Pipits flew out of the tussocks and headed off west, followed shortly after by a third bird which dropped in calling from behind us. The Pipits continued to be very mobile over the next half hour or so, regularly flying off and then dropping back in, when they would become invisible in the grass.

PWC 2015 - The final scores
Species: 179
Points: 249

One of the Water Pipits - surprising just how much the appearance varies depending on lighting.

Horrific Dowitcher record shot!

Monday, 28 December 2015

The last of 2015..?

 I had possibly my last visit to the patch in 2015 today. Chevington was first, where the Slavonian Grebe was still on the north pool and the Marsh Harrier was again over the south pool. No sign of the Water Pipit in a brief search. At the Budge Fields the water levels were very high with the 2 drake Pintails being the highlight.

At Druridge Bay Country Park there was no sign of any Iceland Gulls, and the Dowitcher did not appear to be at Cresswell when we were there, just a female Scaup and a brief Pintail. We estimated there were around 4000 Pink-footed Geese in the bay in two main flocks but the best we could find in amongst them was a single Barnacle Goose.

Finally we stopped at a flash just north of Hemscott Hill where we picked up an Iceland Gull in the distance, which was my first on patch despite having seen several Glaucous Gulls there in the past. An adult Mediterranean Gull was also here earlier.

A very distant Iceland Gull behind hundreds of Pink-footed Geese!

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Midwinter Pipit

Finally after 8 years trying I managed a good view of a Water Pipit at Chevington this morning. It was present on the small flash at the south end early this morning. The bird was very mobile, often flying off to the pool at the burn mouth or flying towards the south end of the coal road. A Kingfisher put in a brief appearance flying from the burn mouth towards the south pool.

 The Slavonian Grebe was present on the north pool and 3 Pintail were on the Budge Fields. At Cresswell Pond the first-winter Long-billed Dowitcher remained on the west shore along with a Knot.

PWC 2015
Species: 177
Points: 243

Water Pipit
Slavonian Grebe

Monday, 21 December 2015

A glimpse of aurora...

The clouds parted briefly last night to provide me with this brief view of the Aurora Borealis. Had it not been so cloudy then the display would have been much better with sightings from as far south as Kent...

Sunday, 20 December 2015

The bay again...

No sign of the Water Pipit for us at Chevington this morning, but a Merlin flew north chasing a passerine and 12 Twite and a Water Rail were at the burn mouth. 3 Otters gave some great views on the north pool.

Further south at Druridge Pools several thousand geese were in the fields opposite the cottages and the 2 adult Greenland White-fronted Geese which we saw last weekend were showing well. Also here was a neck-collared Pink-footed Goose, and at QEII a colour-ringed Black-headed Gull was in the car park. Hopefully more on these later...

Greenland White-fronted Geese


Sunday, 6 December 2015

Recent birding...

I haven't posted on here for a while as we haven't been out birding that much, but we've still seen some good birds...

The first-winter Long-billed Dowitcher has been present at Cresswell Pond since I first saw it on the 10th of November. Every time it's been on the west shore, however some good scope views have been possible.

On the 14th there were 11 Whooper Swans in the fields west of Druridge Pools, including a flock of 5 which we watched fly in off the sea.

Woodhorn Motors hosted 11 Waxwings which we got to see on the 29th. Yesterday another look at Cresswell to see the Dowitcher also resulted in a Whooper Swan, a female Goosander and a female Red-breasted Merganser.

2 Otters were our first interesting sighting this morning at East Chevington. At the burn mouth 3 adult Little Gulls were present offshore, along with 5 Red-breasted Mergansers and an adult Great Northern Diver which we first picked up in the surf. It gave some brilliant views as it slowly moved slightly further away and to the south. The female Marsh Harrier remained on the south pool.Next we walked to the top of Hemscott Hill to scan the goose flock to the west. Eventually we picked out the 2 Greenland White-fronted Geese which had been seen on Tuesday. 2 Barnacle Geese were also among the 1500+ Pink-footed Geese, and a Short-eared Owl flew into the distance. Another Short-eared Owl was at Cresswell Pond.

8 of the 11 Waxwings
Record shot of the Greenland White-fronted Geese
Brown Hare at Cresswell

Saturday, 21 November 2015


The strong northerly winds lured us to the coast at Newbiggin for a few hours this morning (08:35-11:35). Despite it being freezing cold and wind the occasional blizzard there was a great variety of birds including good numbers of Little Auks, a late Sandwich Tern and my best ever seawatching count of 23 Long-tailed Ducks...

206 Little Auks
23 Long-tailed Ducks
68 Wigeon
28 Goldeneye
18 Mallard
3 Velvet Scoter
6 Mediterranean Gull
14 Red-throated Diver
202 Pink-footed Goose
1 Kingfisher
14 Common Scoter
6 Gannet
2 Kittiwake
15 Eider
18 Guillemot
5 Red-breasted Merganser
1 Goosander
4 Teal
13 Pale-bellied Brent Goose
1 Dark-bellied Brent Goose
1 Sandwich Tern
2 Shelduck

Sunday, 8 November 2015


Today was the PWC patchday, and we had a very enjoyable morning trying to see as many species as we could before the weather closed in. In the end we managed a total of 84 species, perhaps slightly more than we expected!

First stop was Hadston Carrs where one of the first birds we saw was a smart adult Little Gull feeding just offshore with the Black-headed Gulls. It was joined by a drake Goosander which landed on the sea alongside 2 Red-breasted Mergansers. Other highlights at Hadston included a Great Northern Diver which flew south before appearing to land in the bay, and a Purple Sandpiper and Grey Plover on the rocks.

A Bittern was the pick of the birds at Chevington which gave two great flight views before flying towards the reeds on the south pool. Other flyovers here included Little Egret and Marsh Harrier.

The Budge Fields at Druridge Pools were once again very quiet apart from the Marsh Harrier which flew south. A look from the dunes added Shag, Kittiwake, Mediterranean Gull and a flyby Arctic Skua to the day list.

The last of the day's main highlights was a few Twite in with the Goldfinches opposite Bell's Farm.

PWC 15
Species: 172
Points: 234 

Bittern record shot
Red-throated Diver

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Catch up...

On Wednesday we spent the morning on Holy Island hoping that the easterlies and drizzle might have brought some migrants to the island. Sure enough it had, with impressive numbers of thrushes and Bramblings, but unfortunately the day just lacked something rare...

1645 Redwing
504 Fieldfare
648 Blackbird
8 Song Thrush
1 Ring Ouzel
120 Brambling
5 Woodcock
9 Goldcrest
2 Black Redstart - around the Lindisfarne Hotel.
15 Long-tailed Tit
2 Blackcap
1 Short-eared Owl

Later in the day another Black Redstart was mobile around the compound on Newton Point, while the day before a Jack Snipe had been sleeping in front of the south hide on the north pool at Chevington.

Down in North Yorkshire on Thursday the gull roost at Lingham Lake held 2 Caspian Gulls (distinctive first and third-winters), an adult Yellow-legged Gull and a leucistic Black-headed Gull among the thousands of other gulls.

This morning we managed good views of a male Bearded Tit in front of the north hide on the north pool at Chevington (only my second on patch and a much better view than the first) along with 2 Otters there and a Short-eared Owl at Druridge Pools.

PWC 15
Species: 169
Points: 229 

All my photos recently have been pretty poor and my excuse is that the weather hasn't been great!

Bearded Tit

Caspian Gulls - at maximum ISO and one second shutter speeds!
Sleeping Jack Snipe

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Harrier sp. near Blyth

A quick rush out of the house provided some brief views of this ringtail harrier over some fields east of the A192 just south of Laverock. The bird flew north, appeared to land in a field but them disappeared. We only saw the bird through binoculars but still it didn't 'feel' like a Hen Harrier with it appearing quite small and slim, and quite warm underneath. I managed a few record shots which might help with the ID. I have not edited the colours at all. Any comments very welcome...