Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Best of the Decade...

With just a week left of the decade, I have been thinking about what have been my favourite birds of the last ten years. We have seen some quality birds, and it has been difficult to narrow down but eventually I have come up with my top ten. Here they are in chronological order...

1. White-throated Robin (Hartlepool Headland, 7.6.11)

My first mega rarity of the decade was the famous White-throated Robin on Hartlepool Headland. To start with we were put off by the van-top viewing areas, but a few days later we decided to go anyway and we were actually able to get into the Doctor’s Garden to view the bird. It performed brilliantly as it fed on the lawns and flower beds, and really looked like a proper rare bird.

2. Collared Flycatcher (Low Newton, 8.5.13)

We had a perfect spring twitch in warm May sunshine to see the stunning male Collared Flycatcher in spring 2013. We had seen it before we even stopped the car and were able to watch it flycatching from gorse for the rest of the evening.

3. Ivory Gull (Seahouses, 8.12.13)

We were meant to be visiting relatives on this afternoon but news of an Ivory Gull on the golf course at Seahouses had us heading in completely the wrong direction! A short while later we were treated to the remarkable sight of an Ivory Gull wondering around the golf course just in front of us.

4. Fea’s Petrel (Newbiggin, 21.9.14)

The day after having a long but very productive day on Holy Island we were planning to have a bit of a rest, but news of a Fea’s Petrel being tracked up the coast got us moving! We arrived to a decent (for Northumberland!) crowd at Newbiggin and the tension mouted as it was seen from sites just to our south. Then, from behind a Sooty Shearwater, the Fea’s Petrel flew into view. The light was excellent and the bird not very far out, which made for a memorable moment with my most wanted bird.

5. Siberian Accentor (Newbiggin, 30.10.16)

Despite having ticked one already a couple of weeks earlier in Durham, the Siberian Accentor at Newbiggin was the first bird which came to mind when I put this list together. It took several hours to show for us, but when it did, it showed superbly as it crept closer and closer, down to just five metres or so, and in nice autumn sunshine. The looks, views and story behind this sighting makes it my personal favourite of all time.

6. Bee-eaters (East Chevington, 15.10.17)

While not our rarest find of the decade, the moment we heard and then picked up two juvenile Bee-eaters flying over our heads at Chevington was incredibly exciting! They remained a county blocker for less then a week as one of them reappeared at Druridge Pools and performed well for many visiting birders.

7. Little Bittern (Waren Mill, 5.5.18)

In 2014 we spent over eleven hours dipping the Little Bittern at Gosforth Park, so were pretty keen to see this bird when it was found at Waren Mill. We only had the small matter of a two hour drive from Allen Banks in one end of the county to the other end. Once we arrived we were told that it had flown off upstream, and three hours later it wasn't looking good. Luckily it was relocated in the evening and we were able to observe it at short range just across the small river.

8. Little and Pallid Swifts (Hartlepool Headland, 11.11.18)

This was one of those days when everything seemed to come together perfectly. We were visiting relatives in Stockton, and were getting ready to go to Hartlepool to look for the Pallid Swift when news came on that a Little Swift had been found there too. Within half an hour we were stood on the promenade with both rare swifts flying around together just metres from our faces.

9. Baillon's Crake (Monks House Pool, 5.6.19)

With two A-level exams the next day, I had spent all of the 5th of June revising. Then news of a crake at Monks House Pool came through so the textbooks were hastily moved into the car. However, when we arrived there didn't seem to be much hope of seeing the bird. Then, all of a sudden, it walked straight out of the rushes and started preening in the open! We were treated to unexpectedly good views of this mega county first for most of the evening.

10. Sooty Tern (Newbiggin, 9.7.19)

Following the end of my exams, I was planning on having a relaxing day around the house until news of a Sooty Tern powering north along the coast came on. I rushed (well actually got stuck behind a tractor for most of the short journey!) to Newbiggin and arrived with minutes to spare to see the Sooty Tern give us an incredibly close flyby. It circled the tern roost several times then continued north.

It's been a great ten years with plenty of other highlights too, so here's a few of the best of the rest...

  • Male Citrine Wagtail in Norfolk
  • Bridled Tern
  • Self-found Thrush Nightingale on Holy Island
  • Penduline Tits within metres of us in Devon
  • Collared Pratincole calling over our heads at Castle Island
  • Great Shearwater almost in the surf at Newbiggin
  • Olive-backed Pipit lurking in some undergrowth in Sunderland
  • Male Pine Bunting in Yorkshire
  • Point-blank views of a female Citrine Wagtail
  • Scops Owl
  • Ross's Gull in the last light of 2017
  • Singing Bluethroats and finally ticking my bogey bird of Broad-billed Sandpiper on the same day on Holy Island 

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Another Eastern Yellow Wagtail!

I timed my return home from uni nicely last weekend as it coincided with the finding of an Eastern Yellow Wagtail at Prestwick Carr. I managed to see it on Sunday morning and it showed superbly down to a couple of metres.

It was my second in just over a month, although a lot less striking looking than the one in Suffolk...

Eastern Yellow Wagtail

Sunday, 15 December 2019

Caspian Gull and other birds from Norwich...

This first-winter Caspian Gull was a nice way to round off my first semester at uni. It was at Earlham Marsh, Norwich yesterday before being flushed by some horses. Other highlights at my local patch at uni have included a Great Egret and fly-over Marsh Harrier.

I also made a trip to Buckenham Marshes RSPB last weekend to see the four Taiga Bean Geese, although they remained distant, and had good views of the local wildfowl and Marsh Harriers.

Caspian Gull
Great Egret
Wigeon at Buckenham Marshes
Distant Taiga Bean Goose

Sunday, 17 November 2019

More quality birds...

Had another great day on the north Norfolk coast today. We walked from Wells to Holkham Pines with the highlights including a juvenile Rough-legged Buzzard at the former and two Hume's Warblers, 6 Shore Larks, 10 Eurasian White-fronted Geese and Great Egret at the latter. Unfortunately my photos don't really do the birds justice...

One of the Hume's Warbler
Rough-legged Buzzard
Shore Larks

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Eastern Yellow Wagtail...

A nice trip down to Walberswick NNR is Suffolk today, eventually getting good views of our target - the Eastern Yellow Wagtail. We had just arrived back at the car ready to leave when we heard news that it had been seen again so a rapid walk back to the marshes and thankfully it was still showing well. We heard it give the classic buzzy call a number of times too.

Also in the area was a Western Yellow Wagtail, Great Egret, Short-eared Owl, 7 Twite and up to 10 very showy Snow Buntings...

Eastern Yellow Wagtail

Western Yellow Wagtail - notice the plainer looking face with pale lores, and of course the different call!

Snow Buntings

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Up and running in Norfolk...

Yesterday I finally had the chance to go on a twitch since arriving at uni! I woke up to see that my three-hour practical for the day had been cancelled so decided to get straight on the bus and head to Cley! For a change the public transport was quite simple and we arrived mid-afternoon. The Isabelline Wheatear was on view immediately and, as the afternoon went on, started to show even better. It came within metres of us on several occasions, although never seemed to stand side on!

Other highlights during the afternoon included 3 very confiding Snow Buntings, a Long-tailed Duck and a Purple Sandpiper feeding on Arnold's Marsh.

I have also got out birding on a couple of other occasions, managing some nice sightings, even if not quite as rare as the Wheatear! These have included a Pallas's Warbler at Waxham, 8 Cattle Egrets and 3 Great Egrets at Burnham Overy Marshes, and Yellow-browed Warbler, Jack Snipe and Ring Ouzels at Walsey Hills.

Isabelline Wheatear at Cley
Snow Bunting at Cley
Three of eight Cattle Egrets at Burnham Overy

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Back in the north...

This weekend I'm back at home from UEA, so today me and my dad decided to have a full day's birding on the coast. We chose (perhaps wrongly!) not to start in the Druridge area, and instead head north to look for seabirds.

Stag Rocks was quiet with just a single Great Northern Diver offshore and then a Red-necked Grebe just before we left. Budle Bay and Fenham-le-Moor were both busy with birds although we couldn't find anything out of the ordinary.

We continued north, ending up at Cheswick. Here we quickly picked up the drake Black Scoter, while a single drake Long-tailed Duck and a group of six Velvet Scoters were nice to see.

On the way back home we called in at Cresswell Pond to take a look at the smart juvenile/1st-winter Long-billed Dowitcher found earlier in the day. We had decent scope views of the bird but unfortunately it didn't land on the mud in front of the hide. The pond had a good selection of other birds too including a Little Stint, 4 Long-tailed Ducks, 5 Scaup and 5 Ruff.

Tomorrow I'll be heading back to uni and I hope to round up any bird sightings I have while there on my blog soon...

Black Scoter
Distant Long-billed Dowitcher at Cresswell - please view at 1080p