Sunday, 25 January 2015


Another quiet morning on the patch today, ticking off some of the commoner species I still needed for Patchwork Challenge. Highlights included Purple Sandpiper at Hadston, Ross's Goose, Peregrine, Black-necked Grebe and Otter at Chevington, Golden Plover from the Budge Screen and 30+ Twite at Hemscott Hill.

PWC 15
Species: 83
Points: 99

Sunday, 18 January 2015


Earlier reports of the Rose-coloured Starling in Prudhoe suggested that it was very hard to catch up with, so we weren't very optimistic when we set off this morning. We decided to leave the car to make sure we didn't get stuck on the ice on any of the slopes and walk instead. An hour later we were still walking around in the drizzle when I looked at four silhouetted starlings and saw that one of them was the adult Rose-coloured Starling. I managed to take a few record shots in the horrific light before it flew off. Certainly not an easy bird to find and surprisingly easy to overlook...

On the way home we stopped in at Big Waters and the highlight was 2 Willow Tits in the woods.

Rose-coloured Starling

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Jupiter & Lovejoy

I was pleased to discover that I could see some of Jupiter's rings through the scope at 60x tonight. I attempted to digiscope it and you can just about see a couple of rings in the photos. Quite pleased given that I don't even own a astronomy telescope. Also visible were it's four brightest moons.

I took a few more of Comet Lovejoy C/2014 Q2 as well.


Jupiter and four of it's moons

Comet Lovejoy C/2014 Q2

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Staying Local...

Expecting it to be quite a quiet day, we only intended to do a couple of hours birding when we set out this morning,. Our main target was the 3 Tundra Bean Geese at Warkworth Lane, which were still present but the wind made photos almost impossible. 5 Whooper Swans dropped in.

No sign of the Little Owl near Widdrington on both of our attempts, also no sign of last weekend's Green-winged Teal at Druridge Pools, but it was probably there, out of sight in the grasses. A Water Rail was the best bird seen from the Budge Screen. A Pintail was also asleep.

A quick look at Hadston produced some of the commoner waders which I still needed for Patchwork Challenge. When we reached Chevington we found an adult Black-throated Diver on the North Pool (possibly the same bird that was here last winter?). The adult Black-necked Grebe, Long-tailed Duck and Otter remained there as well. The hybrid/escape White-front/Lesser White-front thing also dropped in with some Greylags.

PWC 15
Species: 69
Points: 82

Tundra Bean Geese record shot

Black-throated Diver record shots

Black-necked Grebe - another record shot!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Comets & Nebulae

Comet Lovejoy C/2014 Q2 is currently visible through binoculars in the night sky looking south. I photographed it yesterday but it was hampered by the bright moon. Hopefully it will be visible to the naked-eye later in the month. It looks like a fuzzy green ball...

For a guide on how to see it in the next couple of weeks see here.

I also captured the Great Orion Nebula last night...

Both photos taken with my 100-400 lens at 400mm, and both are single photos.

Saturday, 3 January 2015


Had my first day doing the Patchwork Challenge on my new patch (Hadston to Hemscott Hill). At Chevington I finally added Black-necked Grebe to my self-found list. Also on the North Pool were: 3 Scaup (two drakes an a female), a brief drake Goosander, 12 Whooper Swans (flocks of 9 and 3), Long-tailed Duck, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers and an Otter again. Offshore there were 7 more Red-breasted Mergansers and a fly past Long-tailed Duck.

When we reached the Budge Screen one of the first birds I looked at was a drake Green-winged Teal; another nice addition to my self-found list. There were no other birds of note around Druridge Pools.

In the end I managed 57 species on the patch and got a total of 68 points.

Green-winged Teal

Long-tailed Duck

Friday, 2 January 2015

Yorkshire Double

Two nights ago we were staying with relatives in Yorkshire, so while we were down that way we took the opportunity to do a bit of twitching. Originally we were just expecting to look for the Blyth's Pipit, but news of the Little Bustard slightly altered our plans...

We got up at 5am and were on our way to Fraisthorpe shortly after. We arrived just as it was getting light, nobody had seen the bird yet. It didn't take long for people to start running around; someone had seen the Bustard. I couldn't see it at first but it turned out I was looking too far away. Sure enough there was the LITTLE BUSTARD, which showed well all the time we were there despite not doing much!

On the way to the Pipit site we saw a Red Kite over the car near York. When we arrived the BLYTH'S PIPIT was walking around in the field near Thomas Maddison Lane providing some great views. I was surprised how distinctive the bird looked in the field. I hoped to hear it call, so I was quite pleased when it flew out of the field giving it's classic buzzy call. It landed in the field opposite KFC in which it was much more elusive. I only got one more view of it on the ground, and a few in flight when it was flushed.

Afterwards, we decided to have a look in the gull roost. Despite there being loads of gulls, the best bird in it was a distinctive third-winter Yellow-legged Gull.



A review of my birding during 2014

A Great Grey Shrike at Bradbury in Durham was the first notable bird I saw in 2014. The next day I went to Broomhead Reservoir in South Yorkshire to look for Two-barred Crossbills. It was a great success and I saw a minimum of 7 birds, with another 4 probably being different birds. In 2014 it took me just four days to get my first tick, yet in 2013 it took me over four months! Also at Broomhead Reservoir was an adult Kumlien's Gull and a Kittiwake in the Gull roost and 30+ Common Crossbills and a Woodcock in the woods.

On the 11th I saw a Siberian Lesser Whitethroat (blythi) in Tynemouth and a Siberian Chiffchaff at St. Mary's Island. 2 Bitterns were at Gosforth Park the same day.

My first trip around Druridge was on the 19th and was really productive with a Glossy Ibis at Lynemouth, Green-winged Teal and 2 Black-tailed Godwits at Druridge Pools and a Slavonian Grebe at Chevington. 3 Tundra Bean Geese and a Merlin were at Alnmouth on the 26th.

Two-barred Crossbills

Kumlien's Gull

Siberian Lesser Whitethroat

Siberian Chiffchaff


Glossy Ibis

Green-winged Teal

Tundra Bean Geese

A Grey Phalarope was the highlight of a brilliant days birding on the 1st at Stag Rocks. There also was a Black-throated Diver, Red-necked Grebe and 3 Little Gulls. A brilliant YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER showing well on the 9th at High Shincliffe in Durham was very unexpected and one of the best birds I've ever seen! 3 Waxwings were also seen while we were there.

On the 16th I spent an enjoyable hour photographing Mediterranean Gulls at Newbiggin. I finally managed some really good views of a Caspian Gull, with a first-winter at Nosterfield, North Yorkshire on the 20th.

 I saw the Siberian Lesser Whitethroat in Tynemouth again on the 22nd. A Slavonian Grebe at Warkworth on the 23rd gave absolutely brilliant views, easily my best of this species.

Alright, it's not a bird, but the display from the Northern Lights over Cresswell on the 28th is certainly worth a mention. It was amazing.

At East Chevington throughout the month I saw: a Red-necked Grebe, 2 Slavonian Grebe, 3 Long-tailed Duck, 3 Pintail and a Marsh Harrier.

Grey Phalarope

Yellow-rumped Warbler


Mediterranean Gull

Caspian Gull

Slavonian Grebe

Aurora Borealis, aka the Northern Lights

On our first trip out birding in March was on the 2nd when a Red-necked Grebe, 2 Slavonian Grebe, 3 Long-tailed Duck and a Peregrine were all at East Chevington. The first Chiffchaff of the year was singing in Morpeth on the 10th. 2 Mealy Redpolls were at East Chevington on the 16th.

More migrants came on the 23rd with 2 White Wagtails at Low Newton, and a Wheatear was at Newbiggin on the 29th along with 2 Sand Martins at Bothal. 9 Snow Buntings were at Chevington on the 9th along with the Red-necked Grebe.

Snow Bunting

Mealy Redpoll

Our first Swallow of the year was at Druridge Pools on the 5th, with a Ruff and 8 Black-tailed Godwits also on the pool. A Black Redstart was at Blyth the same day as was a Great Northern Diver.

The first proper good bird of April was the drake Ferruginous Duck at Gosforth Park on the 8th. 4 Ruff were at Druridge Pools the same day with a White Wagtail, and a Egyptian Goose and Black-throated Diver at Chevington. Another White Wagtail was at Low Newton on the 11th.

2 Adders were at Branton Gravel Pits, and 4 Ring Ouzels and 3 Wheatear were at Harthope later in the day. On the 15th a Bearded Tit was heard at Chevington, and a Redstart and Yellow Wagtail were at Beacon Hill.

A summer plumage Black-necked Grebe was nice to see at Chevington on the 19th as were 2 Grasshopper Warblers. A Garganey was at Druridge Pools with 2 Yellow Wagtails the same day.

Migrants on Holy Island on the 26th included a Pied Flycatcher, Redstart, Ring Ouzel and 8 White Wagtails. A female Scaup was at Cresswell on the 27th as well as a Great White Egret at Bell's Pond.

Ferruginous Duck

Egyptian Goose


Ring Ouzel

White Wagtail

Great White Egret

Whilst dipping the Newbiggin Easter Bonelli's on 3rd, a Crane flew over, which was nice to see. On the 5th we made our annual trip to Allen Banks, and we got great views of a Wood Warbler, 5+ Pied Flycatcher and 4+ Redstart, and on the way home a female Woodchat Shrike near Druridge Pool provided a good county tick.

2 drake Garganey were at Bothal on 7th. On the 10th I saw my first Lesser Yellowlegs since 2008, with an adult at Beadnell. A Pectoral Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper and and 4 Garganey were at Hoppen Kiln Flash also on the 10th.

A family holiday to the Suffolk coast from the 24th to the 29th allowed me to get my 2014 target: Woodlark. Also in Suffolk we got great views of Hobbies, Bitterns, Dartford Warblers, Bearded Tits, Cetti's Warblers, Marsh Harriers and Green Woodpeckers, as well as singles of Red-backed Shrike and Spoonbill.

On the way home 2 Bee-eaters at South Gare provided great views on the 29th.

Wood Warbler

Pied Flycatcher

Woodchat Shrike

Lesser Yellowlegs



Dartford Warbler


Red-backed Shrike


June got underway with 3 Black-necked Grebes on my patch at Bothal Pond on the 3rd. I didn't release the news at the time because two of the birds were paired up and looked like the might stay and breed at one point but unfortunately they didn't. The next day I got some good views of a silent Great Reed Warbler at Cresswell.

A drake Ruddy Duck was at Bothal on the 16th. On the 21st 2 Barn Owls, a Mediterranean Gull and 8 Little Gulls were at Cresswell, and 4 Spoonbills were at Druridge Pools.

Black-necked Grebes

 Great Reed Warbler

Ruddy Duck


On the 5th an adult BLACK-WINGED PRATINCOLE gave great scope views at Hurworth Burn Reservoir, and a Spoonbill was at Cresswell on the 13th. I managed to add Nightjar to my Northumberland list on 21st, and the next day a Wood Sandpiper was at Bothal Pond.

Remarkably I managed to see another species of pratincole on the 28th; this time a Collared Pratincole which showed brilliantly at Castle Island, and the next day I saw an adult Stilt Sandpiper at Cresswell! It was still present on the 30th along with 2 Spoonbills.

Black-winged Pratincole

Collared Pratincole

Stilt Sandpiper

We spent the first week of August in Gairloch, Scotland where the highlights included: 9 Black-throated Divers, 8 Black Guillemot, 50+ Storm Petrel, Golden-ringed Dragonfly, Azure Hawker, Pine Marten and 2 Minke Whales.

On the 12th we saw the colour-ringed Caspian Gull in Amble Harbour which provided some great views. A Spotted Redshank was also at Cresswell Pond and 10 Ruff were at Bothal Pond. A juvenile Black Tern flew past Snab Point on the 18th and another flew past Newbiggin on the 26th.

My highlight of the year came on the 19th when I picked up a Great Shearwater flying north past Newbiggin at very close range, a species which I've always hoped to see. 2 Sooty Shearwaters also flew past on the 19th.

Holy Island was quiet on the 28th with just 3 Pied Flycatchers and a Cuckoo, but we saw an adult Pectoral Sandpiper on the way home at North Charlton Flash which made up for it. 2 Little Stints showed down to just a couple of metres at Cresswell on the 31st.

Golden-ringed Dragonfly
Pine Marten (photographed by a relative)
Minke Whale

Storm Petrel

Caspian Gull

Pectoral Sandpiper

Little Stint

On the 6th we saw a total of 104 Ruff at Low Newton which was quite impressive! Also on the scrapes were 9 Curlew Sandpipers, 2 Little Stint and 16 Black-tailed Godwit.

A Wryneck at Hadston on the 7th was the first bird in a great few weeks for us...

Next up was a showy Red-breasted Flycatcher at Druridge Pools on the 15th. On the 20th we had an absolutely brilliant day on Holy Island where the highlights included: a first-winter male Siberian Stonechat, a Barred Warbler, a Firecrest, a Red-backed Shrike, 2 Yellow-browed Warblers and a Hen Harrier. On the way home we saw another showy and vocal Red-breasted Flycatcher at Low Newton. Finally on the 21st I saw my most wanted bird at Newbiggin; an awesome FEA'S PETREL!


Red-breasted Flycatcher

Siberian Stonechat, Reed Bunting and Red-backed Shrike!


Yellow-browed Warbler

On the 11th we saw a confiding Yellow-browed Warbler at Cresswell and an equally confiding Shore Lark at Chevington. I got my final lifer of the year in Sunderland on the 18th in the form of a brilliantly showy Olive-backed Pipit. Amongst a large fall of thrushes, a Black Redstart, Yellow-browed Warbler and Siberian Chiffchaff were on Holy Island on the 30th.

A winter plumage Spotted Redshank was at Chevington on the 31st.

Yellow-browed Warbler

Shore Lark

Olive-backed Pipit

3 Snow Buntings were at Chevington on the 8th along with a Little Gull offshore. Another 3 Snow Buntings flew over Newbiggin the next day and a Little Auk and 8 Little Gulls were off Snab Point. I eventually caught up with a Rough-legged Buzzard during this autumn's influx with two birds in the Harthope area.

A Richard's Pipit was at Low Newton the next day. On the 22nd a Hume's Warbler gave super views in Brier Dene and allowed for some sound-recordings, and a Lapland Bunting and 8 Twite were on the beach at Chevington the next day. Finally 3 Black Redstarts were at Newbiggin.

Under-exposed Rough-legged Buzzard

Richard's Pipit

Hume's Warbler

My latest ever Sooty Shearwater passed Chevington on the 6th, and a Black-necked Grebe was at QEll as well as a Great Grey Shrike at West Hartford on the 20th. A Hen Harrier was behind Widdrington Moor Lake on the 23rd, and a second-winter Iceland Gull rounded off the year at North Shield Fish Quay.

Black-necked Grebe

Great Grey Shrike

Iceland Gull

Total (2013 total: 231)
Overall: 234 (Including 10 BB Rarities: Two-barred Crossbill, YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER, Lesser Yellowlegs, Great Reed Warbler, BLACK-WINGED PRATINCOLE, Collared Pratincole, Stilt Sandpiper, Siberian Stonechat, FEA'S PETREL, Hume's Warbler)

Top 5 birds of the year

  1. Great Shearwater - Newbiggin - August
  2. FEA'S PETREL - Newbiggin - September
  3. Collared Pratincole - Castle Island - July
  4. Hume's Warbler - Brier Dene - November
  5. Two-barred Crossbills (x11) - Broomhead Reservoir - January 

Good self-finds in 2013 (A combined list of me and my Dad)
Crane, Spoonbill, Black-necked Grebe (x3), Ruddy Duck!, Storm Petrels, Great Shearwater, Lapland Bunting.

Not nearly as good as last year in terms of finds!

Targets for 2014
Add Bluethroat to my county list as well as hopefully finding something good! I also wouldn't mind a Red-rumped Swallow...

Happy New Year!