Monday, 31 December 2018

A day on Teesside...

Yesterday me and my dad fancied a change of scene. A few visits to the patch recently have proved rather quiet so we decided to have a day down on Teesside.

Our main aim was to get better views of the Bean Geese, so we headed there first. We were the first there so the 6 Taiga Bean Geese were close to the road and we were able to get some really good views from the car. They had been joined by a Pink-footed Goose but there was no sign of the Tundras.

While the weather was still good, we drove round to Dorman's Pool. We gave it a while in the top car park but there was no sign of the Bearded Tits. Down at the hide, the drake Green-winged Teal was showing well on the grass in front, even if the light was a bit difficult.

Saltholme also provided a nice selection of birds. One Long-eared Owl was visible from the viewing platform, and the ringtail Hen Harrier showed nicely from the Haverton Viewpoint along with a Short-eared Owl. 3 Pintail and several Little Egret were also around the reserve.

Back at Seaton Common, the 6 Taiga Bean Geese had been joined by the 2 Tundra Bean Geese but unfortunately they were now staying at the back of the field, so photos were impossible with the poor light.

Taiga Bean Geese - with a Pink-footed Goose in the last photo.
Green-winged Teal
Greenfinch - it was good to see these in decent numbers around the RSPB reserve. 

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

12 photos from 2018...

Spotted Sandpiper at Holme Pierrepont - we had a few days stay down in Norfolk in February, stopping off to see this Spotted Sand on the way. Highlights from Norfolk included Black Brant, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Golden Pheasant and 17 Parrot Crossbills.
Cyprus Wheatear - in April a family holiday to Cyprus also allowed for some great birding. All three endemics along with plenty of other good sightings including Baillon's Crake, Greater Sand Plover and an extremely early Eleonora's Falcon
Little Bittern at Waren Mill - probably the best bird we saw in the county. The views were amazing and it was a welcome grip back after dipping at Gosforth Park. 
Glossy Ibis at Druridge Pools - during the spring a flash developed in the fields between Druridge and Chevington and it proved extremely attractive to spring migrants. This extremely confiding Glossy Ibis was the pick of the bunch along with a Pectoral Sandpiper and multiple records of Garganey, Wood Sandpiper, Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper.
Rose-coloured Starling in Ashington - the first of a national influx. Surprisingly a different bird wintered in nearby North Seaton at the end of the year.
Red-breasted Flycatcher - this was the best of a spring fall on Holy Island with other birds including an Icterine Warbler, Marsh Warblers and Red-backed Shrikes
American White-winged Scoter at Musselburgh - we saw this bird twice during the year, in March and September. This photo was taken in September, when we also saw a Woodchat Shrike and Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Barns Ness on the way home. 
Pomarine Skua at Newbiggin - some northerlies in late October gave me the opportunity to finally see my second Pomarine Skuas after a five year wait! Not only this, I also picked up a lifer in the form of a Leach's Petrel
Barred Warbler on Holy Island - just one of the highlights of a decent late autumn. Two Gull-billed Terns at Haughton Strother were a British tick for us and a Spotted Sandpiper showed well in Jarrow. 
Little Swift at Hartlepool Headland - bird of the year, especially with it flying around alongside a Pallid Swift!
White-billed Diver off Stag Rocks - my favourite find of the year. A Bonaparte's Gull also showed well at Stag Rocks that day. 
Red-backed Shrike at Newbiggin - one of the most unexpected sightings of the year with it turning up in December!
246 (including 11 BB rarities: Spotted Sandpiper x2, American White-winged Scoter, Long-billed Dowitcher x2, Little Bittern, Gull-billed Tern, Black Scoter, Little Swift, Pallid Swift, Bonaparte's Gull)

Thanks for reading my blog and have a good Christmas!

Monday, 17 December 2018

Teesside Taigas

We called into to Seaton Common yesterday morning on our way down to visit relatives. The flock of 6 Taiga Bean Geese showed nicely, if hidden at times in a small dip.

Tundra Bean Geese were also at nearby Cowpen Marsh, although the views were much more distant.

Taiga Bean Geese

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