Monday, 31 December 2012


After a tip off on Saturday I found myself again walking along the Horton Burn in search of the elusive mainland Cramlington Dipper. As I walked from the old fire station end two Kingfishers flew past. As I approached the road bridge I saw the Dipper move from the side of the Burn and fly west towards the park.

So that was my last birding action of 2012. A quiet year by recent birding standards but still some good local activity at West Hartford and a few lifers and county ticks thrown in along the way to. My obvious birding highlight was the trip to Mull but days out in Cumbria and in the county have also been good. I really need to put more effort into this blog.

Happy new year everybody

Monday, 17 December 2012


Out yesterday morning with SH, Ifo and DM this morning or the last WEBS count of the year at Castle Island. The day was off to a good start as two Waxwing flew over the Brockwell shopping centre as I waited to be picked up. As usual nothing much to report from Castle Island but a couple of Red Breasted Merganser behind the island were noteworthy.
On to Bothal Pond next were we couldn’t locate any of the Todd’s (or whatever they are now thought to be) Canada Geese or the juvenile Great Northern Diver.
With no wind and good visibility it was an ideal day for us to check East Chevington for Bearded Tits. First we checked the settling pools and straight away we could hear at least one Bearded Tit- County lifer, pinging away from the reeds. It was a female which flew to the next pool and showed well on top of a reed stem before flying off over the bottom car park and over to the next area of reeds.
An unfrozen north pool held good numbers of wildfowl along with a female type Long Tailed Duck. Whilst watching the pool a Bittern climbed up the reeds in front of the hide next to us and launched itself into the air before flying the length of the pool and landing in the reeds at the opposite side.

Our last stop of the day was at Arcot Pond. As we crossed the stile leading to the pond a Willow Tit was calling from the hedgerow and showed well on top of the bushes.
The earlier reported drake Pintail- Cramlington lifer, was still on the pond amongst the Wigeon, Teal and Canada Geese.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012


Whilst looking at the setting sun yesterday at 3:45 I noticed a Cormorant flying west high above the Horton Burn. It then angled away and continued SW over the rooftops.

That was the 60th addition to my garden list. So that’s Peregrine, Whimbrel, Greenshank and Cormorant added in 2012, but what will be next I wonder?

Tuesday, 11 December 2012


After nearly falling arse over tit multiple times on the black ice, which seems to have coated Cramlington overnight, I eventually ended up at West Hartford.
To my surprise the main pool was only half frozen, and an even bigger surprise was that there was some wildfowl present. Unfortunately there were only 10 Mallard.
As I was leaving a Short Eared Owl flew around the field behind the main pool before settling on a fence post.

I then walked and skidded the length of the Horton Burn in search of the Dipper Liver Birder found yesterday which was a long overdue first for the Burn.
I was half way along the burn with no sign, which was no surprise as the water was very cloudy with a lot of steam rising from it. Also the number of rats was increased of late, probably due to the raw sewage that was accidentally pumped into the burn during the summer.
As I crossed over the second main road bridge over the burn a Kingfisher flew from its perch on an over hanging conifer branch. I saw it perched a few more times as I approached the end of the burn. No sign of the Dipper today but I will check again.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Still around

I’m not sure if the novelty of Waxwings has worn off yet or if they have generally moved on but there seems to be fewer reports of these colourful Scandinavians in the county of late.
Anyway whilst walking back from Manor Walks this afternoon nine Waxwings were in the tree tops of a garden half way along Needham Place on the Shanklea estate. They were dropping down into the garden so there could have been more than just nine. They could be part of the 70+ Beaconhill flock from the other week as this part of the estate doesn’t get much foot traffic or passing cars so they may have been here for a while.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Another WH first

Yes today I added the tenth addition to my West Hartford list for 2012, which was also a first for the site, but more about that excitement later.

I got to WH this morning in time to see the sun rise, a moment of beauty and tranquillity in an urban surrounding was complete when a pair of Roe Deer walk past the fence line only a few metres away.

A pair of Stonechat were near the main pool and occasionally ventured onto the ice presumably in search of food. Eight Fieldfare flew south and a Cormorant followed the river.

With not much activity near the pools the plantation next to the substation was a different matter. 30 Goldfinch, 20 Siskin and 6 Lesser Redpoll along with multiple tits, Reed Buntings and Chaffinch were feeding on the alder east of the station.

It was whilst watching the alder I could hear an unusual but distant call. I headed further north behind the substation and about half way along the plantation I could hear the call much more clearly and a few second later a female Brambling landed in a dead tree before flying off as quickly as it appeared. Along overdue but very welcome patch tick.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Bothal Todd's

After failing to once again to locate the Todd’s Canada Geese at QE2 this morning with LiverBirder despite scanning every goose and field in the area, I had another go this afternoon.

I was on my way anyway to visit family in Morpeth so we had a quick detour to Bothal Pond. 150+ Canada Geese were on the edge of the pond south of the farm. After scanning through I could see 3 obvious Todd’s Canada Geese- lifer. The main ID points were that they noticeably smaller than the surrounding Canadas, had thinner necks and longer bills, the back was nearly all brown and there was no white neck collar. After checking through again I think there may have been four birds in total but the flock was constantly moving and feeding so viewing was difficult at times. Also a leucistic Canada Goose was present amongst the flock.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

On our Todd's

I never thought I would see the day that I would be enthusiastically searching through a flock of Canada Geese but yesterday along with Holywell Birder, that’s exactly what we were doing.

We started our search for the two pairs of reported Todd’s Canada Geese at Woodhorn. The stubble field they had been in was goose-less when we checked so we quickly moved onto QE2. The only Canada Geese were a group of around 70 birds near the car park. After scanning through we realised how variable Canada Geese can be, some birds showed features of Lesser Canada Geese but none had all the correct features.
Next we checked the fields with the new turbines in Linton Lane, both Woodhorn flashes and surrounding fields but there were no Geese of any description at any of these sites.
The flock probably either joined the larger inland groups or flocks at the new open cast sites around Widdrington or Bothal Pond.

On our way back Cain had some business to deal with at Gosforth Park NR so we spent an hour on the reserve. The 8 Waxwings which had been feeding along the main path had disappeared by the time we got there but the woods were alive with tits crests and especially Treecreepers including 5 singing within the space of three trees. I have heard Treecreepers singing before but never for so long and I had never heard the endnote, which sounds similar to a Little Grebe.
From the hide we could see hundreds of Wood Pigeons and Jackdaw going to roost along with some very vocal Jays. The pools were quiet but a Water Rail was squealing from the reed bed left of the hide.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

No Owls

Spent an hour at West Hartford from 3:30 until 4:30 yesterday. No sign of any owls as dusk turned to night but a pair of Goosander flew south over the pools and an impressive sight of 200+ Carrion Crows gathered on the pylons before going to roost along the riverside.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Bees Wax

It seems I’ve done most of my birding of late on housing estates. Last Sunday I was in Seaburn with SH and DMcK. After half an hours waiting the Bee Eater- lifer, finally showed. Over the next hour we got amazing views as it perched in some trees before hawking insects over the streets and then landed on an aerial. Also whilst we were waiting a Crossbill flew over.

Last tuesday by chance I was passing the Moor Farm roundabout between Cramlington and Annitsford when 30+ Waxwings were in the dead trees on the crammy side.

Later that afternoon I went down to West Hartford just in time to see 20+ Waxwing fly over the roundabout in front of the fire station. These were probably the same birds JM had the day before which I missed by a 5 minutes. Anyway that’s another one on my WH list and another first for the site this year.

On Sunday I was out locally for a few hours with SH. The highlight of the morning were 40+ Waxwings (not on a roundabout this time) on the Beaconhill estate. They were in the trees outside the community centre and commuted between the trees and the berry bushes opposite and down the street. They also fed on the ground and visited the puddles on the centre’s flat roof. More Waxwings were later seen near the windmill site and on the Bassington Industrial estate.

It was also the first time I had been to Arcot Pond in a while and the first time I had seen the wildfowl numbers, which have been building up over the last few months. No diving duck but plenty of dabbling duck with over 60 Wigeon, too many Mallard to count and the Coot count was almost at 90! I have never seen the numbers so large here lets just hope it continues over the winter and pulls something else in.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Exotic, Possible, Probable?

At 13:15 on Friday I could hear something strange calling that I vaguely recognised. I heard nothing for 20 minutes until I could hear it again as it flew north over my house, turns out it was a Ring Necked Parakeet. Strangely enough it was about this time last year when a mystery parrot sp. was heard by a few different people in cramlington including me.
Anyway onto some proper birding as yesterday myself and GB had a three hour seawatch at Church Point, Newbiggin from 13:40-16:40. My target had been any of the four ‘‘easiest’’ birds I haven’t yet managed to catch up with; Pom and Long Tailed Skua, Grey Phalarope and Little Auk.

It wasn’t long until 5 Little Auk- lifer, flew past north. In total we had 28 past north during the three hours, some very close in.
No skuas at all past but we did see 18 Mallard (N), 7 Wigeon (N), 5 drake Goldeneye (N), 50+ Kittiwake, 7 PB Brent Geese (a family party of five adults and two juvs) (N), 1 Rock Pipit, 3 Common Scoter (N), 2 Med Gull (N) and 3 Manx Shearwater (N).

Most frustratingly of all I picked out a large Diver moving north. It had obvious trailing feet, a heavy build with a solid contrast between its upper and under parts, which were clean and white. Crucially we couldn’t see the bill well enough to confirm whether it was a White Billed or Great Northern Diver. This was 50 minutes after the Whitburn White Billed Diver had been seen flying high north.

Oh well at least I saw the Little Auks.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Catch up

I’ve been too busy to write up what I have seen over the last week so here it goes. Last Saturday I was at St.Mary’s along with many others watching the mystery Warbler in the willows. I got good views but don’t have the experience to make any claims as to what it might have been, I’m just glad is all been settled and I can now add Blyth’s Reed Warbler to my county list.

Sunday morning it was time for WEBS where the highlight was a drake Pochard amongst the Mallard near Stakeford Bridge. As I was leaving the house a flock of 20 Fieldfare and 2 Redwing flew from the tree in my front garden and continued west. Before an early finish we called in at Cambois railway line. No sign of the Hume’s Leaf or 2 Yellow Browed Warblers but plenty to keep us occupied. A flock of around 50 Redpoll, which contained a possible Mealy, were flying up and down the track. A very vocal Brambling was also nearby before flying off.

On Monday afternoon myself and SH returned to Cambois railway for a few hours. A lot more thrushes had come in overnight and a massive flock of Blackbirds and Song Thrush held two Ring Ouzels, which showed briefly in the dead trees before landing in the ditch near the top bank.

We also had a quick look at the Shags in Blyth Harbour on the way back. Not as many birds as usual but the highlight was a white ringed bird, LDT, which had been ringed as a chick on the Isle of May 9 years ago! Also in the harbour were 13 Purple Sandpipers roosting on the pier.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Numbers building

I’ve had a few visits to West Hartford this week. With the pools devoid of life apart from BH Gulls, I decided to focus on the border area next to Hartford Wood.

A WH mega in the form of a Nuthatch was lurking amongst a tit flock behind the substation and 20 Reed Bunting occupied a single stretch of hedgerow between the substation and the new flash pool. I cant remember the last time I saw 20 Reed Buntings together so this must be a new Hartford record.
Large numbers of Siskin and Lesser Redpoll were all around the site in tight flocks most of which were feeding in trees. The highlight of the trip though was a Red Squirrel jumping around the treetops at Hartford Wood. Also a Common Toad I narrowly avoided stepping on was my first at WH. Whilst watching the Toad two Fieldfare flew over calling.

Yesterday on my way to WH 10 Redwing flew from a berry bush next Northburn Community Centre and headed west.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012


Sunday saw a bit of a milestone for me as I finally caught up with my 250 bird in Northumberland.

These days I only seem to care what birds I see at West Hartford and in the county. Although I still like seeing any new birds I will never be a twitcher and new birds south of the Tyne don’t seem to have the same appeal they once did.

Anyway onto the bird, the Long Billed Dowitcher at Cresswell Pond. I got a quick scope view of this rare wader as I entered the hide before all of the birds on the sand bar flew off and relanded a few times. I’m sure the presence of the Great Skua on the pond had something to do with the birds flightiness. The Dowitcher re landed and settled down with a group of Snipe on the sand bar. Also a Little Stint was amongst the Dunlin.

On Saturday morning thanks to a text from SH, I had my first West Hartford tick since the spring. When JM had a flyover Yellow Wagtail and a Little Grebe at the same time in April I thought that I would have to wait a long time until my next chance.
So thanks to the heavy rainfall and large amount of water now at WH I was treated to views of a Little Grebe swimming across and diving on the main pool.
I still find it strange having a patch where common birds such as Little Grebe, Coot and Tufted Duck are mega rares but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Early and Late

I hadn’t had a proper look around all of West Hartford in a few weeks for one reason or another so I gave it a few hours on Saturday morning.

A Painted Lady and Speckled Wood Butterfly were making the most of the sunshine on the edge of Hartford Wood. Whilst walking towards the overgrown field behind the sub station I flushed a very late Grasshopper Warbler, which landed in a small bush providing excellent views. A vocal Jay was calling as I walked to the pools and a Short Eared Owl was hunting over the back fields.

On Sunday morning I heard a Greenshank fly north over my house just before I was leaving to meet SH and DMcK. We stopped at West Hartford first and on the flash pools in the field east of the entrance plantation there were 2 Redshank, 1 Green Sandpiper and a Greenshank.

Next we checked Cambois for migrants. 6 Blackcap, 8 Chiffchaff (including a few singing birds) and a Lesser Whitethroat were the only migrants we could find along the old railway line.

Yesterday I was at Seaton Sluice for 9:00 ready to check for migrants. As soon as I crossed the bridge to Rocky Island a few Goldcrest flew down the sluice and landed in the bushes at the harbour mouth. I spent a few hours searching Rocky Island and the harbour and managed to find: 4 Goldcrest, 6 Song Thrush, 4 Robin, 5 Wheatear, 1 Spotted Flycatcher, 2 Redstart and a Common Sandpiper in the harbour.

I met Cain at Seaton Sluice and form there we moved onto St.Mary’s. With a much bigger area to cover we managed to find: 4 Redstart, 2 Spotted Flycatcher, 2 Pied Flycatcher, 1 Reed Warbler, 1 Yellow Browed Warbler (one of 4 around), 5 Brambling and a Swift.

We would have given it longer if the weather wasn’t so bad. Most of the birds were taking shelter in the gut so we headed off to Tynemouth.

Although happy with what we had seen at St,Mary’s it was still annoying to have missed an Osprey which flew overhead!

Tynemouth was much quieter with only a few Redstart seen. Our last stop was Blyth Links Cemetery where 5 Redstart (including a stunning male) were grave hopping along with a White Wagtail.

Thursday, 20 September 2012


With frustrating strong westerlies on Tuesday morning myself and LMcD couldn’t decide where to go. In the end after a disappointingly quiet look at Cresswell Pond and Lynemouth flash, which held a single Ruff rather than Pectoral Sandpiper, we headed slightly further inland.

We started at the now viewable reclaimed opencast at Widdrington Moor. Around 500 Canada and 300 Greylag Geese sat on the bare earth surrounding the vast pools. Amongst them was a Pink Footed Goose and a Great Crested Grebe dived in the water to the west side.

A lot of Gulls, mostly Common, were flying over west but the main highlight was an immature Marsh Harrier which lazily drifted south on the wind.
Maiden’s Hall lake was quiet despite having a good looking muddy edge but the smaller quarry pool near the farm building held 12 Teal, 8 Moorhen and 4 Coot. Also 3 Jay were calling from the adjacent plantation.

Last stop was West Harford where a single Dunlin was the best thing I have seen there in a while now. But this was eclipsed by SH’s 2 Redshank, 2 Green Sandpiper, 1 Stonechat and 1 adult Med Gull which he had later in the afternoon!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Wader Day 2012: Disturbance

With a target of 23 wader species to beat I went out with Graeme B, D McKeown and John (Howdon Blogger) on Sunday morning.

Our first stop at West Hartford just before 6:20 provided us with out first waders of the day, Lapwing and Snipe.
The mist cleared as we headed north, just in time as a family party of 7 Red Legged Partridge ran across the road just outside Newton. 2 Ruff, Redshank, Black Tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover and Curlew were next on out list at Newton scrapes before a quick pit stop at Seahouses Harbour gave us Knot and Bar Tailed Godwit.

No Purple Sandpipers were at Stag Rocks only 2 Stonechat and hundreds of diving Gannets close offshore. At Budle Bay we saw our only Common Sandpiper of the day.

Holy Island causeway was next and this is where our birding was first disturbed not just by the constant stream of traffic across the causeway but by dog sand kids flushing everything on the sand and a group of backpackers standing in front of our scopes.

The best we could managed apart from Dunlin were 2 Greenshank on the edge of the causeway near Beal.

After failing for the first time that I can remember to find a Grey Plover at Holy Island we thought one would be at Fenham flats. No sign of any there either or at anywhere else we visited during despite being present during the day.

When we began the day we also thought that we stood a good chance of finding our own rare wader but this notion soon disappeared when we saw that common waders were only present in poor numbers.

The best ‘self found’ wader of the day was at Fenham when Graeme found a Curlew Sandpiper amongst the Dunlin. Also at least 300 Brent Geese had returned to the flats.

On the return journey we quickly stopped at Amble Braid when a Whimbrel flew over calling. As we approached Bell’s Pond we could see all the birds take to the air as a jet flew (too) low over. By the time we got to the hide at Cresswell it was Little Stint, Avocet and Pectoral Sandpiperless.

Futher south at Cresswell Village we had a Great Skua fly low over Cresswell Ices and head further inland. It had earlier seen on the pond where it killed a Coot!

A Yellow Wagtail was the only thing at Lynemouth Flash. The Spotted Redshank that had been at Castle Island had also disappeared as people were on the island in canoes.

The day would have been complete if cocklers were picking at Blyth Estuary but fortunately they weren’t’ it just a shame no bird were there either.

So the day finished just over 12 hours after we set off and we finished on a disappointing 19 species but still a good day was had by all.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Autumn approaches

Before I forget, again, I was up at Warkworth Gut on Monday with the family and had 7 Little Egrets feeding in the channel viewed from the wooden bridge.

Tuesdays autumnal feel continued this morning in Druridge Bay with SH. The highlights at a very quiet East Chevington were 2 Greenshank, which flew around the islands on the north pool, a single female Pintail and 2 Snipe.
From the Budge hide at Druridge Pools, 2 Shoveler were lurking in the grass and a juvenile Marsh Harrier struggled against the wind over the far plantation.
The Pink Footed Goose was still amongst the 87 Greylags at Cresswell Pond. Yellow Wagtails were still calling and Ruff still present. Groups of Hirundines were all along the bay not flying anywhere just feeding presumably fattening up before their journey home for the winter. Amongst a group of House Martins and Swallows at Cresswell were 2 Swifts.
Also a juvenile Cuckoo flew from the wires just outside Cresswell Village back towards the pond.

On the way back we stopped at Snab Point for a few minute. A few large rafts of Common Scoter flew north and a lot of Teal were also moving north. Whilst at East Chev and Druridge we could see Teal flying over the dunes and landing on the pools ready for the autumn.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Window Pain

That’s what the Greenfinch below would have felt this morning as it crashed into my window at 7:30 this morning. Fortunately it was ok and after half an hour sitting on the roof looking very dazed, it flew off onto the neighbour’s seed feeder.

Later on this morning I went to Cresswell Pond with LMcD. A Curlew Sandpiper was with 30 Dunlin on Lynemouth flash as we passed.

The pond was full of wildfowl with Wigeon, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Teal in large numbers. 2 early female Pintail were also amongst the duck along with a few Shoveler.

A female Shoveler is coincidentally the best bird I have seen at West Hartford recently when I saw one fly off on Sunday evening.

An Avocet was sleeping amongst the waders near the sand bar and 20 Ruff and 12 Black Tailed Godwit flew in. The best wader though was a Little Stint on the small area of shore south of the causeway.

A few Snipe were on the sand bar too and an early Pink Footed Goose was among the Greylags on the spit. They soon moved when 4 Buzzard circled the nearby fields.

Very dazed

Getting better
ready to fly

Wednesday, 22 August 2012


I spent an hour at Holywell Pond yesterday evening. Good numbers of wildfowl building up and the most Little Grebes I have seen together in a while. Juvenile Grebes were noisly begging for food in front of both hides.
The Black Necked Grebe put in an appearance as it dived around the fence right east of the public hide and dispite the mud begining to form around the edges of the pond a Greenshank which circled a few times couldn't find any.

Monday, 20 August 2012


After today’s WEBS count at Castle Island with SH and DMcK we headed to Hadston Carrs in search of the Barred Warbler reported earlier.

I have searched around Newbiggin for hours for Barred Warbler in the past so was expecting a long wait as we approached the dunes. Birders were surrounding small areas of scrub and it didn’t look promising so I was surprised when after only a few minutes the Barred Warbler- lifer, flew from the scrub along with a Whitethroat. The size difference was obvious to see as the silvery grey warbler landed in scrub further south. It showed again a few times as it flitted around the scrub looking like a small Cuckoo.

As we were leaving for Cresswell Pond a Yellow Wagtail flew SW over. It was a wader fest at Cresswell with 1 Curlew Sandpiper, 1 Wood Sandpiper, 2 Greenshank, 1 Spotted Redshank, 7 Ruff, 2 Black Tailed Godwit and 15 Golden Plover dotted around the pond with small groups of Dunlin.

The Spoonbill on the spit was asleep, obviously, and Yellow Wagtails were numerous although we couldn’t match the 40+ reported on saturday! Whilst watching a Goldcrest in the willow outside the hide we were told that a Cuckoo had flown past.

With the succession of waders at Cresswell we quickly checked the River Blyth on the way home. Bar Tailed Godwit, Whimbrel and Turnstone were all but not much else.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Bats and Dragons

Last week I spent an hour at West Hartford after dark. Not much in the way of birds but a couple of bats caught my attention. One in particular was bigger than the others and could have been what Sedgedunum Warbler had at Hartford back in the winter. After mentioning this to SH we went back on Friday night from 9:15 to 10:15.

 After dark WH came to life as 27 Canada Geese and 12 Mallard came into roost. The bats were quieter on Friday night with only a Common Pipistrelle and a possible Soprano Pipistrelle around. We also had a potential Wh first fly close past us but it was to dark to confirm. We couldn’t rule out other possibilities in the end but we both thought it was a Kingfisher that flew past!

On Saturday I was out with the family to Harwood Forest. We parked in the village and walked to Tutehill Moss and back. It was deathly quiet with only 5 Buzzards, a single Crossbill and a single Great Spotted Woodpecker seen. It got slightly better at Tutehill Moss where two juvenile Whinchat were flying around the clear fell and a couple of Roe Deer got close.

Yesterday I visited East Cramlington NWT. Along the main stretch of boardwalk a Ruddy Darter was sunning itself, this was the first three Dragonfly lifers I saw yesterday. Apart from a few Moorhen on the ponds the only bird of note was a Green Woodpecker which was yaffling near the roadside before flying across the ploughed field near the bee hives and into the trees behind Ivanhoe Forge in Seaton Deleval.

In the afternoon I went to Newbiggin with SH. The beach was too busy so only 6 Med Gulls could be seen including a scaly juvenile bird. On the way back we spotted a Little Egret on the Cambois side of the Wansbeck estuary.

The second Dragonfly lifer came at West Hartford where 3 Black- tailed Skimmers were chasing each other at the edge of the main pool. We also checked Bassington N.R. in the industrial estate where last weeks Black Darter, (the third lifer and Cramlington’s first) was amongst a group of Common Darters.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Harbour to Hartford

On Wednesday evening I went to Blyth Harbour with SH to do a Cormorant Count. A new August peak of  5 Shag were resting on the staithes near the pier along with 133 Cormorant.
Although many of the birds were ringed two in particular caught are attention.

A bird with yellow ring ZR6 was ringed in Rutland Water as a chick in May 2011 and was seen at Castle Island last August before moving to Blyth harbour from December 2011.

A Shag with a blue ring IUC was ringed at Isle of May as a chick in June 2011 and has been seen several times at Blyth since Sep 2011.
Also in the harbour were 2 adult Roseate Terns, which were amongst the Common Terns in the railings of the shorter pier, 2 Rock Pipit and around 80 Ringed Plover on the yellow factory roof. A freshly dead Guillemot and Razorbill were floating in the water near the jetty.
On our way back we called in a West Hartford where on arrival 3 Gadwall took off from the main pool just before a cream crown Marsh Harrier flew from the row of dead trees and in the reeds south of the pool.
It was a very dark almost black bird with raggy wings, which has also been seen at Hartford over the past 2 days.
With news of the Harrier LMcD soon appeared and once he had seen the bird we went off to Beacon Lane in search of the Little Owl. As we were leaving a Yellowhammer was calling near the sub station.
It didn’t take long to find the Owl, sitting on the same fence post I had seen it on a while ago. It then flew into the trees and wasn’t seen again.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Hear and there

That’s where I have been this past week. I was helping Cain out with some tetrads in Cumbria last week. The main highlights were a family party of Pied and Spotted Flycatchers in trees on the same stretch of road near Penrith.

The water level is looking much better at West Hartford and it is surely only a matter of time before they start attracting some decent waders although probably not a good as the Stilt Sandpiper at Low Newton.

Yesterday I was out with SH. Plenty of Med Gulls in the south bay at Newbiggin and a few Roseate Terns on the breakwater rocks.

A Long Tailed Duck presumably the Chevington bird was on Cresswell Pond along with a Ruff, a few Avocet and a couple of Yellow Wagtail.
Was up at Newton this morning with JM watching the Stilt Sandpiper - Lifer. Good but distant views across the back of the scrapes. A few Greenshank were keeping the Sandpiper company as they waded across the scrapes.

Not much else to say really, a very good bird, which we watched for over an hour. No need for record shots.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Wind Ternbine

I started an internship in Blyth a couple of weeks ago for a few hours each week. I had to be in the last two saturdays as they were short staffed so once I finished headed off to Blyth Harbour.

A trawler had just arrived and with it about 300 gull mostly Herring. 10 Kittiwakes including a juvenile bird were sitting on the staithe next to the harbour masters office.
Most of the gulls had settled on the water and were feeding on scraps from the boat until the GBB Gulls landed and forced the others off.

After getting sand blasted by the strong winds on the beach I then got rained on, heavily as I watched a pair of Ringed Plover trying to distract me from their nest.
A Sandwich Tern landed on the roof of the big yellow factory just outside the harbour. It had a bill full of sand eels and then I noticed that it was feeding two large young. They dont breed there so must have landed still a strange site.

The best sighting though was an adult Roseate Tern on the small area of beach between the mains piers next to the much smaller pier. A few Common Terns were also there and soon a juvenile Roseate landed near the adult.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Last few days

I’ve been out a few times over the last few days. On Friday I went to Slaley with SH for Nightjars. There were a few hours before it got dark so we had a walk along the forest track. A pair of Kesrels which had been hovering over the clear fell were later heard screeching as they mobbed a Peregrine over the forest. A few Crossbill flew over in small groups and a rodding Woodcock flew low overhead.

As the darkness began to close in a Tawny Owl started calling and it wasn’t long until a pair of Nightjar’s were ‘churring’ away. They were difficult to place and as a result we failed to see them. Also I had my third Cramlington lifer of the year as a Whimbrel flew east over the house at 12:06 am. I’m not sure if there were one or more birds as I could seem to hear it calling for 30 seconds or so.

On Sunday we were out again for WEBS. As well as the regulars at Castle Island, 4 Green Sandpiper and a Common Sandpiper were present on the island shore.

After the count we went up to Warkworth Gut. I mentioned during the winter that this site had a lot of potential for the future and our visit today started to show why. As well as the long staying Little Egret which was on the main water channel, a juvenile Little Ringed Plover was on the muddy scrapes just down from the car park.

Around 40 Pied Wagtails were dotted around the site and amongst a mixed group of them and Meadow Pipits on one of the scrapes were 2 juvenile Yellow Wagtails. Also a juvenile Wheatear was with them.

East Chevington was next where the highlights were a Kingfisher on the south pool and a summer plumage Long Tailed Duck on the north pool.

Cresswell Pond kept up its recent good form despite being Pectoral Sandpiperless. The only bird north of the causeway this time was a Yellow Wagtail.

4 Black Tailed Godwit slept near the sand bar and a Water Rail ran from the reeds just behind. Around 100 Swift were slowly flying south over the pond and the Ruff was still present from last week whilst a Med Gull followed a tractor in the field north of the pond.

This morning I went back to Warkworth Gut with LMcD. Minus the Little Egret all the same birds as Sunday were present plus a few extras. 2 Common Sandpipers and a summer plumage Golden Plover were new on the wader front and at least 7 Stonechat were in the dunes just off the main track. Two were fresh juveniles whilst one was a female and the other four were males including one almost completely black individual. One of the Yellow Wagtails was on the track and a Grey Wagtail landed on the mud near the bridge. On our way out of Warkworth 5 Redhead Goosander were on the river.

We checked for the earlier reported Spoonbills at Cresswell Pond but they had already left. A female Marsh Harrier graced us with its presence as it flew close past the car in a field near the pond.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Less local

After yesterdays success on the patch I went up to Cresswell Pond with SH this morning. The Pectoral Sandpiper was at the far end of the water north of the causeway with two Dunlin.
We took shelter from the wind in the hide. 7 Little Gulls were on the sand bar and 6 unseasonal Wigeon were swimming accross the water.
A large number of Lapwing, Gulls and Terns were resting on the grass to the left of the hide, strange to see Terns doing this.
Amongst the Redshank and other common waders on the west shore, a Ruff was picked out. It looked like a different bird to the one that was north of the causeway a few weeks ago. Also a Great Crested Grebe was diving near the west shore.

We briefly stopped at Newbiggin, Castle Island and West Hartford on the way back. Newbiggin was to full of people to hold good numbers of Med Gulls with only 4 seen off the south bay. Castle Island held all the WEBS usuals but no Green Sandpipers and WH is too full of water to attract anything.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Back to the patch

I stayed local today but slightly further afield than West Hartford. I headed for Beacon Lane in search of the Little Owl which is still hanging around. I had missed it on several occasions since it was first spotted in May.
After checking the trees just past the bend on Beacon Lane where it was been most often seen, I turned back. Walking back up the Lane the Little Owl flew from a well hidden fence post next to the hedgerow and into its usual tree. Unsettled by my presence it flew to the next tree along briefly before flying towards the area of trees nearer the Beaconhill estate.
From the Lane I could still see it sitting high up in the bare branches, turning its head around and staring at me with that grumpy face only owls can master.
This was the first Little Owl I have seen in Cramlington and along with Cuckoo is my second full Cramlington patch tick of the year.

On my way home I took the long route back taking in Bassington N.R. and the gull colony on the empty factory roofs in the Nelson industrial estate. Bassington was dull with only a pair of Oystercatcher on the promising looking shallow scrapes in the NW corner.
On my way to check the gulls I spotted a Green Woodpecker on the path in front of me near Bolam properties. It flew to the other side of the road where it pecked at the gaps between the paving stones before flying into the trees nearer Bassington. As I walked along the path it kept reappearing and I could see form the amount of disturbed moss in the gaps that it has obviously been using this area for a while.

Amongst the gull colony I could see a few juvenile birds just starting to fledge. Although they were mainly Herring Gull I could see at least one juv Lesser Black Backed Gull along with 30+ adult Herring and 6 adult LBB.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Isle of Mull 2012

On 30th June I travelled to Scotland with Cain and the rest of the Cumbria University Wildlife Photography Society.

After seven hours our journey was complete and we had reached our destination for the next week, the Isle of Mull.

As soon as we got off the ferry and drove to the campsite at Killiechronan, I could see the subtle differences from the mainland. Carrion Crows had been replaced by Hooded and Black Headed Gulls by Common.

Killiechronan Campsite is on the shores of Loch Na Keal and provided us with excellent views of Mulls wildlife during the week.

Both Red and Fallow Deer occupied the fields behind the site and nesting colonies of Common Gulls were on a small island metres from the shore in front of us.

A Barn Owl hunted around the toilet block most nights, Sedge Warblers sang from every overgrown ditch and Hooded Crows and Raven could be heard early in the morning.

But perhaps most impressive of all was that a pair of White Tailed and Golden Eagles were breeding nearby and hunted over the Loch.

As soon as we started to pitch out tents the rain started but was gone by the next morning and only reappeared intermittently during the week where sunshine and high temperatures were more common.

Day Two: 1st July

Spread over three cars, the ten of us made the short journey to the harbour ready for a day trip to the Treshnish Isles. On the way we stopped half way along Loch Na Keal as three Otters were spotted in the water and a Harbour Porpoise.

After half an hour on the boat we reached Staffa where we could see the impressive Fingal’s Cave complete with volunteer bagpipe player.

In the sun we enjoyed watching the Fulmar colony on the cliffside and the Great Skua which was mobbed by them.

We were only allowed an hour on Staffa before moving onto the even more impressive Lunga. The sea around Lunga was lifting with Puffins, Black Guillemot, Manx Shearwater and Seals both Common and Grey. If nobody has been to Lunga before then just imagine the Farne Islands only 100 times better.

If you though the Puffins on the Farnes were close then think again as the Lunga birds move around your feet and nearly land on you!

I left the others trying to get the perfect picture of a Puffin and explored some of the island. The noise of the seabirds is deafening as they flypast and over at all angles. Space is at a premium on the island and some Shags had resorted to nesting under large piles of rocks, their green eyes all that could be seen peering from the darkness.
One large outcrop of rocks housed hundreds of Guillemots, many of them bridled birds. A family party of six Raven circled the outcrop cronking as they went.

The most interesting thing I saw whilst watching the Puffins dive into their burrows was a Meadow Pipit take a Sand Eel which was dropped by one of the Puffins.

Unfortunately we only had two hours on the island, which isn’t long enough to take in all this almost prehistoric place has to offer.

On the way back on the boat we saw a pair of White Tailed Eagles sitting in trees near Loch Na Keal.

Back on the island that night we drove up to the satellites above Tobermory where amazing sunsets over the surrounding isles were photographed, even I managed to get one!

Look at Holywell Birder for proper pictures from Lunga

Sunset over the Island

Day Three: 2nd July

It was back to the mainland for another day trip this time to the Ardnamurchan Peninsular a short ferry trip from Mull. At RSPB Glenborrodale it was too cold and wet to for Slow Worms and Adder but a nearby White Tailed Eagle soaring over the car made up for this.

Unfortunately I was ill during the day and stayed in the car whilst the others went out to the edge of the peninsular to see the Seal colony.

After recovering later on we went out at dusk, I say dusk but it was so light 2:00 in the morning looked like dusk. Plenty of Wheatear flitted around the rocks on the roadside and a Short Eared Owl hunted as the light faded.

Day Four: 3rd July

Whilst the others went on a seven hour cetacean boat trip, I stayed at the campsite. I missed crippling views of Minke Whale, Common Dolphins and Basking Sharks along with Storm Petrels but all was made up for.

Sitting scanning the Loch from the campsite I saw the whole Common Gull colony take to the air. Out of nowhere a White Tailed Eagle appeared low to the water before rising as it was mobbed. Soon it dropped down and landed on the island only metres away. It stayed there for a few minutes hopping around the grass as it avoided the bombardment from the gulls. After managing to escape the eagle appeared an hour later again close to the shore this time as it caught a fish. We had excellent views of the eagles all week but these were by far the best near the campsite.

Also that day I walked a few miles along the edge of the Loch at low tide where the best bird of note was a Greenshank fishing in one of the pools.

Day Five: 4th July

Another boat trip was planned. This time on the sea just off the mouth of Loch Na Keal. That trip was one of best birding experiences of my life.

The eagle boat tour lasted a few hours and also provided good views of over ten Black Guillemot as they swam next to the boat, a few Manxies and Rock Doves on the cliffs along with a heard of Feral Goats.

At first the White Tailed Eagles stayed a long distance away circling the boat, but as soon as the engine of the boat stopped and the fish were thrown it didn’t take long until a pair of eagles appeared.

Over the next hour they dived down and took the fish next to the boat avoiding the gulls as they went. One of the eagles sat on the nearby cliff edge before diving down next to the boat.

It was amazing to see these incredible birds so close up and the free coffee and biscuits made the whole trip very civilised.

In the evening we visited a vast site where a pair of Hen Harriers and at least three Short Eared Owls hunted. Sitting in the road the birds got quite close including a stunning male Hen Harrier. A family of Stonechat were also nearby.

Almost in the darkness we could see an Otter take its prey onto the bank and eat it before swimming back out into the Loch.

As we approached the camp a Barn Owl flew in front of the car so he stopped and opened the window just in time to see it hovering along side before turning its head and looking at us.

Day Six: 5th July

We spent most of the day in Iona, commonly known as Corncrake Island. Once on the island we only had to walk past the church yard before the first Corncrake could be heard calling from a small area of garden. Despite hearing over seven birds only metres away at times, we never saw any of them.

After a few hours on the beach we headed back to the mainland. A quick stop near the ferry terminal provided more good views of ringtail Harriers and an Irish Hare openly feeding in a field.

Along with Oystercatcher, Common Sandpiper is the most numerous wader on Mull so much in fact that we often saw them sitting on telephone and other overhead wires.

Day Seven: 6th July

Waterfall In Aros Park: Insert Twin Peaks theme tune here

We spent most of the day relaxing around Tobermory but did visit Aros Park just outside Tobermory. The highlight was a Dipper near the waterfall.

We spent out final evening watching a Golden Eagle nest. One of the pair were sitting on the nest before the other soared high over the mountain and came back to the nest.

Golden Eagle was my only bird lifer of the trip but Harbour Porpoise, Red Deer, Fallow Deer and Irish Hare were all new.

Many thanks to Cain for organising the trip and doing the driving and thanks to the others for the good company and for being such a good laugh.

Cain: Nike Airs on with pants tucked into socks, you can take the birder out of Whitley Bay but...

Official Mull Bird List

Mull List: 93 species

Official list of birds seen on Mull (including Treshnish Isles and Iona) from 30th June until 7th July 2012. In order they were seen.

30th June



Common Buzzard

Hooded Crow


Lesser Black Backed Gull

Common Sandpiper

Herring Gull

Meadow Pipit

Pied Wagtail


Common Gull

Greylag Goose


Grey Heron

House Martin


Song Thrush


House Sparrow

Feral Pigeon/Rock Dove

Great Spotted Woodpecker



Mute Swan

Collard Dove


Sedge Warbler

White Tailed Eagle

Ringed Plover

Red Breasted Merganser

1st July

Willow Warbler

Blue Tit




Lesser Redpoll



Wood Pigeon


Great Black Backed Gull





Common Snipe




Black Guillemot


Manx Shearwater

Great Skua




Arctic Tern


Rock Pipit



Sand Martin




Short Eared Owl



Tawny Owl


2nd July


Spotted Flycatcher

Barn Owl

3rd July

Great Tit


Mistle Thrush

Storm Petrel

4th July

Hen Harrier


Canada Goose

Reed Bunting

5th July

Grasshopper Warbler


Tree Sparrow




6th July

Garden Warbler



Coal Tit

Golden Eagle

Monday, 25 June 2012

Call of the wild

Myself and Cain have been volunteering at Cramlington Learning Village over the past week. The project we have been helping with is called

As we approached the school on Monday morning a Common Tern flew west over the school.

The idea is to help the students create a piece of ambient music using bird song. On Monday we helped on campus to find what birds were around and with some basic ID skills.

With our target birds selected we set off for Arcot Pond on Tuesday. Along Beacon Lane Yellowhammer and Whitethroat were calling and a pair of Tree Sparrow flew from the horse paddock just off Beacon Lane. Despite later searches the Sparrows were not seen again, a shame as they are very rare in Cramlington.

A Garden Warbler was in full song further along the lane near the pond. 2 Little Grebe were on the pond along with the usual wildfowl. It was great to see the kids becoming more interested as the week progressed and by Wednesday Chiffchaff and Yellowhammer could be competently identified by their song. With enthusiasm growing we were back down Beacon Lane and Arcot but before we started the walk I heard and saw 5 Crossbill fly NE over near the railway bridge.

The latter part of the week was spent helping analyse and identify what had been recorded. Fortunately we were in doors for this part as the weather began to turn.

Yesterday I was out with SH and DMcK for WEBS. Common Sandpiper was the highlight at Castle Island. We had good views of a stunning full Orange plumage Ruff north of the causeway at Cresswell Pond as we passed. A brief stop at East Chevington provided my first sighting of Barn Owl this year as a bird was sitting in a pine tree behind the south pool.

No sign of the Spoonbill at Hauxley but 4 Black Tailed Godwit were seen sleeping on one of the banks. We were also treated to amazing close up views of a Cuckoo, which was hoping around in front of and to the side of the Tern hide whilst it was mobbed by Tern.

Also I have just seen that a Carrion/Hooded Crow hybrid was reported at the high school today. Me and Cain both saw this bird on the school field last monday and in the main car park on Friday but thought nothing more of it.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Local Marshes

Stayed mostly local this through the week. On Wednesday I was at Shasun  (permit only) at Dudley doing some work for them at their wildlife area.
Two Tree Sparrows were in the trees bordering the pools amongst a flock of House Sparrow. Whilst taking measurements and photos I was dive bombed by a protective pair of LBB Gulls as I walked past the silo they breed on and a pair of Common Terns nesting on one of the floating islands also made their presence felt.
Mallard and Tufted Duck were the only duck on the pools and two pairs of Coot with 8 young amongst them swam around. Also a family of Canada Geese (two adults with four young) patrolled small areas of grass between silos and tankers.

Also on Wednesday I went to West Hartford but this time failed to avoid the heavy showers so only stayed a few minutes. Despite this I managed to see 12 young Mallard ducklings swim out from the now long grass bordering the NE corner of the bigger pool. Although with the amount of corvids and Grey Heron at WH I doubt the total will stay at 12.
On my way home an Oystercatcher was on the Horton Burn, probably grounded by the rain.

Back to WH on Thursday this time in sunnier conditions so stayed for a few hours early morning. The Coot have moved on with no sign of young. A Redshank circled the pools a few times before heading back towards the river and a Jay flew north.
Four singing Sedge Warbler had the pools surrounded by song but the highlight of the morning though was a squealing Water Rail heard only form the largest reed bed in the marshy field behind the fire station.

Yesterday I was at Big Waters in the morning with SH and at Hadston in the afternoon with JM.
No Marsh Warbler heard at Big Waters only a Reed Warbler making a few different notes. It was a different story at Hadston were a Marsh Warbler showed well and mimicked a range of different birds as it flew back and forth across the reeds into the sycamores.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Red Hot

Its been another busy week of birding for me. See Killy birder for details of last weeks trip to Harthope and Holywell Birder for details of our first few days in Cumbria.

Wednesday we did another tetrad this time the highlight being a Tawny Owl on the ground in some woodland. Tertad complete we headed to a quiet Solway firth.  On the way we stopped at Glasson Moss.
There was much more activity were with a pair of Willow Tit near the entrance car park, hunderds of Dragon flies many of which had just hatched flying around the meadows, two recently fledged Stonechat being fed by parents, a Teal on the marsh and a pair of Cuckoo trying to enter a Meadow Pipit nest.
It was our best ever views of Cuckoo but unforntunately somebody forgot his camera.... not me for once.

Back home this weekend and the weather has been very frustrating. Clear and sunny inland, foggy at the sea. With visibility difficult see did well to see a female Marsh Harrier being mobbed at Cresswell before heading south. No sign of yesterdays Marsh Warbler or Spoonbill at East Chevington and Cambois was migrantless when we checked on our way back.

Dropped off at West Hartford I had good views of WH's first Red Kite as it circled over the smaller pool before heading north over the river Blyth. JM soon turned up and we then saw a female Marsh Harrier fly east along the river.

Really it has been a look of mammal sightings which have impressed me the most. Red Squirrel and my first ever sighting of Badgers at a set in Cumbria. Good views of Noctule Bats in Penrith and a Roe Deer and Fox at Cambois. Also heard roding Woodcock at the badger site.

Seeing the Red Kite and Marsh Harrier does make up for missing the Little Owl and Ring Ouzel at Beacon Lane during the week. I'm sure the owl will remain and I can check some time this week.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Belated post number 2

Out with the family on Saturday so missed out on the excitement of the migrants along the coast. Although I did see a pair of Yellow Wagtail in a remote area near Aydon.

On Sunday I went with SH to a site tick for me, Allenbanks. I cant believe I have never been to this site before. Despite the crap weather I could still see what a great place Allenbanks is.

Four Grey Wagtails were active and feeding along the river. Two redhead Goosander flew upstream and a Dipper downstream. Up one of the pathways through the woods a Wood Warbler, a county tick was singing away. Whilst listening to the warbler it landed on a nearby branch and gave off its explosive song overhead for around five minutes.

With the cold wind and sporadic sunshine, not much else was singing so birds were hard to locate despite the relatively bare trees. A pair of Pied Flycatchers were briefly seen in the tree tops and a Spotted Flycatcher showed well over the metal entrance bridge.

On the way back we stopped at Whittle Dene Reservoirs. A pair of Great Crested Grebe were on the smaller part of the GN reservoir. Plenty of hurendaines were hawking over the water but not much else around apart from a couple of Yellow Wagtails on the grass verges.

On Wednesday I was out with Steve again this time up to Long Nanny. Around 1000 Arctic Terns were on the beach nest building. A few Little Terns were flying high over the burn mouth; later on we had a total of 22 on the beach.

We were told by the volunteers at the hut that the colony had been having problems with crows in the last week so it was good to see the terns chase away a Carrion Crow on mass. Even they stayed away from the two Common Buzzards circling high over the burn mouth. Unfortunately they were only common and not late Rough Legged or early Honeys. Amongst the 22 Curlew on the nanny were a few Whimbrel, a single Black Tailed Godwit and two Wheatear on the grass.

A few hours later whilst at home I got a text from JM and soon I was back out again up the Holy Island in search of Kentish Plover and White Rumped Sandpiper. Despite the row of birders searching the tide was too far out and the birds were nowhere to be seen.

We searched from the causeway, chare ends and a few pull ins overlooking the mud but nothing. 6 Whimbrel were nearby and plenty of nice summer plumage Grey Plover and a SEO. I was out with John again this afternoon to Newbiggin. Yet again the target bird, this time Red Backed Shrike, could not be located. Hopefully this weekend will provide more opportunities.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Belated Post Number One

On Friday morning I went down to a dark and damp Hartlepool headland in search of the Red Spotted Bluethroat.
Last time we were at the headland there were chaotic and embarrassing scenes as all ladders and car roofs were climbed on to see the White Throated Robin.
No such scenes on our latest trip with only a few birders and photographers present.
The main threat to the birds on Friday was the presence of a grey cat, which kept low in the undergrowth of the memorial garden with a dead mouse and ringed blackbird beside it. The ring was later recovered.

Plenty of other birds were taking shelter around the garden as we searched for our target bird. Willowchiff, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler and Grasshopper Warbler were all seen.
After an our or so of searching somebody found the Bluethroat – a lifer for me, in one of the front gardens opposite the memorial gardens. It frequented four joining gardens, often disappearing before reappearing on a wall or gatepost before picking off insects from surrounding plants and vanishing again into thicker cover.
Although our views were relatively brief they were well worth it as we got to appreciate this truly stunning bird from less than a metre at times.
Whilst watching the Bluethroat hop around a bare patch of soil in on of the gardens, a Lesser Whitethroat flew past being chased by the cat, which then dived onto a nearby wall.
Curious indeed, the cat watched our every move before turning its attentions to the Bluethroat. It landed on the same stretch of wall as the cat and flew off back into the memorial garden just in time as the cat made a dive forward. We didn’t see the Bluethroat again but fortunately it was seen later that afternoon.
Also a Whimbrel called overhead as it flew out to see.

Also on Friday we failed to locate the Nightingale at Cowpen Bewley but did see 2 Little Egrets at Saltholme and plenty of Avocets on Greatham Creek along with a Little Ringed Plover.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Over and out

I'm now finished at university so its back to birding for me. Over the last few weeks whilst finishing my work off I have managed a few early morning trips to West Hartford. The highlight of these trips being a Nuthatch in Hartford Wood, (a first at WH for me), a Greenshank which briefly dropped in and 12 Shelduck, a record WH count.
I have missed the odd bird at WH recently but work had to come first so no Little Grebe or Yellow Wagtail for me. However after finishing last week I did manage to catch up with a pair of Coot which have taken up residence in the SW corner of the main pool. Little Grebe and Coot may not sound that exciting but they are the first records at WH since 2003 this is surely because of the high amount of water flooding the area and linking both the pools.
With Prestwick Carr being the place for waders recently WH has only managed Greenshank and Ringed Plover but 5 Tufted Duck two weeks ago was also another very rare sight.

On sunday I was out with SH for a few hours. Woodhorn and Newbiggin were quiet. A few 1st sumer Med Gulls were on the beach in the South Bay and a Eurasian White Fronted Goose was still amongst the group of Greylags near Woodhorn south pool.
No sign of the Hooded Crows at Cresswell/Bell's Farm area, (they would have been a county tick for me). Two Avocets and a Common Sandpiper were near the causeway though.

Yesterday I took advantage of the good weather and went to WH. First thing I noticed on the main pool was a stunning drake Garganey alongside a pair of Shelduck. It spent the next hour moving in and out of the vegetation along the west side of the pool and at one point few off and landed again in the SW corner.
This wasn't my first at WH, I saw the pair that spent a few days in the same area two years ago. But whilst watching the Garganey I heard a first record for WH and a long overdue tick, Cuckoo!
It called between 10 and 12 times somewhere between the main pool and the farm but  I never saw it. There is a lot of suitable habitat around that area but unfortunately I think it was just passing through.
2 Sedge Warbler and 2 Grasshopper Warbler and at least 10 Whitethroat were seen or heard also yesterday around the pools.

Also on 26th April I looked out the window and saw a Swift flying north struggling against the wind.

So thats Wigeon, Crossbill, Nuthatch, Coot and Cuckoo all added to my WH list so far this year, I wonder what is next?

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Around Cramlington

Another early mornign trip to West Hartford this morning after the rain. On my way 3 Linnet were sitting on LiverBirder's fence before flying off. Nothing much to report until 8:05 when I heard a distant Greenshank. It soon appeared and landed on the main pool before flying off north. I say pool but WH is so flooded at the moment the whole area is one big pool.
2 Swallows and a Sand Martin (my first of the year) were hawking over the pools and three Short Eared Owls were in flight.
I went and checked the bushes behind the substation hoping that a migrant had dropped in with the rain but unlike this time last year nothing. No Wryneck .
When I got back to the pool 1 Shelduck, 3 Canada Geese and a pair of Gadwall had appeared and were being watched by LMcD.
We went to Arcot Pond next and did a circuit of the pond. 5 Tufties, 2 Little Grebe and 2 Coot were on the pond and 2 Lesser Whitethroat were calling from the hedgerows surrounding the highland cow field.

Saturday, 7 April 2012


I was at West Hartford at 6:30 this morning. Amongst the Teal were 5 (1 female and 4 drake) Gadwall, which soon flew off towards the river.
Next I went to the stairs by the river and sat there for an hour. A couple of Jays were calling as was a GS Woodpecker and 2 Treecreeper, which got very close. Again I heard a possible Marsh Tit but never saw it. A Comorant flew down the river and landed on a trunk in the middle of the river before fishing.

2 Short Eared Owls were still hunting the fields as I walk around. My first Willow Warbler of the year was singing away from the plantation behind the substation as were a few Blackcap.
I decided to walk along the fence line behind the pools leading towards the farm next. Another Cormorant with more white on it flew over the river and in the hedgerow along the fence line a Yellowhammer was singing.
As I was leaving 4 Canada Geese circled the pools before flying off SW.

The first stage in combatting the mice invasion in the garden shed was a success last night. It seems Mars Bar covered in Nutella was too tempting for them as 3 Wood Mice were in the humane traps this morning.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012


On Sunday morning I went out for a couple of hours with SH. We headed north to Warkworth Lane to try and find the elusive Common Crane, which had been hanging around.
After our initial scan produced nothing we walked down the lane past the caravan site and through the woods. Numerous Tree Sparrows were calling around us and three Buzzards soared over the woods.
After noticing a distant group of Whooper Swans we soon spotted the Crane standing amongst them. Although we were a long way from the group they looked very nervous and kept standing up and moving further away. There were a lot of people and dog walkers up and down the lane and it looked as if the Crane would fly at any moment.

We quickly checked Cresswell Pond next which was dead. 5 minutes after we left to go to Druridge Pools Steve got a call saying that just the Crane had flown over the hide at Cresswell before flying west.

Druridge pools wasn’t much better than Cresswell with the highlight being a pair of Pintail on the Budge field. The ponies (I don’t know if they are Exmoor or not), on the Budge field have done a good job of grazing around the pool; I hope the ones at Arcot can do the same.

Yesterday it was back to the drawing board, literally, doing my final work for university when I got a call from JM saying that he was watching an Osprey circling over the Holiday Inn between Seaton Burn and Arcot!
Rather than rushing there to find that it had gone, I headed to West Hartford on the off chance that it would follow the River Blyth like one did a year ago today.
Soon I was at the brick building with my scope scanning over the river. I stayed nearly 2 hours but there was no sign although Grey Heron, LBB Gull and Lapwing were doing their best Osprey impressions as they flew over.

Not much was on the pools but 2 Short Eared Owls hunted over the marshy fields and a Buzzard flew west. The highlight though was a male Peregrine, which landed on the top tier of the pylon behind the WH farm. It stayed for 10 minutes or so before gliding down out of sight. I then spotted it later on chasing Wood Pigeons west over the river.

Through the week Wood Pigeon, Blackbird, Jackdaw, Magpie, Dunnock and House Sparrow have all been collecting nesting material in my garden and the shed has been invaded by mice.

Friday, 30 March 2012


Out early this morning again at West Hartford. Again not much around. A pair of Ringed Plover on the main pool were the highlights. A Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly seemed to be following me around.
Despite the breeze nothing was flying over the river and a pair of Jays shattered the peace there.
On my way home I stopped and watch a singing male Blackcap at the west end of Horton Burn.

Friday, 23 March 2012

WH Woods

Another early trip to West Hartford this morning. Numerous Reed Bunting, Meadow Pipit and Skylark, 3 Grey Partridge were around the pools.
4 Greylag, 35 Herring and 3 LBB Gulls on the main pool were joined by a Shelduck. A few Snipe were accidentally flushed as I passed.
2 Short Eared Owls hunted over the marshy area including one which flew low over my head before landing on a post only meteres away, they seem to be getting used to people watching them now.

I went past the pylons and into the woods bordering the River Blyth today. No sign of a Marsh Tit but 2 Jay 3 GS Woodpecker were very vocal.
Also a Yellowhammer flew south over the river in almost the same area were I heard the Crossbill the other day. Like the Crossbill I just looked up in time to see the Yellowhammer flyover.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

First addition to the West Hartford list 2012

I got up early to go to West Hartford this morning. As I arrived I met MH on his bike who had just found the Jack Snipe. He said there wasn't much else on the pools so instead I checked the back fields towards the river.

The fields were quiet so I went to the fence line bordering trees surrounding the river. From hear were 2 Stock Dove, 2 Sparrowhawk, 2 Chiffchaff, 1 GS Woodpecker and a possible singing Marsh Tit. There was a tit flock in an area of scrub under one of the pylons and amongst the group was a song I wasn't familiar with. Since I have listended to recordings on the internet but I'm still not sure, I'll have to go back and check sometime.

Just before I left I heard a sound I am more familiar with, a Crossbill chipped away as it flew south over the river. I even managed to see it as it flew over, a nice green female.
A long overdue fly over at WH is the first addition of 2012, but what will be next?

Monday, 19 March 2012

Winter Hangover

Over the last week I have only gotten out a few times again, all locally. Couldn't find the Stonechat at West Hartford and scanned all the gulls but found nothing interesting.
I checked the woods surrounding Nelson Hill and the patch of scrub between Crowhall Lane and the Industrial estate for an early warbler but only Chaffinch and LT Tit were found.

A nice male Bullfinch was probably the highlight at the top of my street.

This morning I went to Blyth with Cain to look for the Waxwings. We pulled into Thorntree Way just in time to see the four fly over the car and land in a bare tree near the roundabout between the street and the car park. As we approached only three birds were visible then we turned to face the berry bush and were face to face nearly with the other bird as it sat in the bush. These were by far the most tame Waxwings I have ever seen. Cain got some good photos just before they flew off into the estate and out of site.

On the way back we checked the pool at Bebside recycling centre. A pair of Shelduck and Coot were both on the water.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Work stops for a county tick

I have only managed to get out of the house a few times in the last week. A few quick checks of West Hartford produced the same every time, Shelduck, 3 LBB Gull and a Mute Swan.
The most interesting sighting I had was last Friday when I was scanning from Nelson Hill, the gull flock took off from WH and a single Goose flew with them before following the River Blyth then turning around and flying off in the direction of Holywell.
Visibility was poor but and the only feature I could pick out was a large white wing panel.

This week I had two attempts for the Egyptian Goose at Holywell. The first was unsuccessful as I found the flock and a White Fronted Goose but no Egyptian. 10 Tree Sparrow were in the hedge between the new viewing screen and the public hide.
Yesterday I went back with JM and this time the Goose was showing well much closer in the field west of the pond.
A nice bird with a lot better credentials than the pair at Stakeford Bridge!

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Drive by Raptors

On the train home this morning I had excellent view of a Sparrowhawk chasing a flock of Feral Pigeons near the centre of Hartlepool.
Later on I spotted a Merlin sitting in a dead tree overlooking a costal field near Seaham.
Also I have heard a Song Thrush singing in Middlesbrough town centre early morning over the last few days.

Monday, 27 February 2012

From hill to garden

With not much spare time at the moment I only did an hours birding at the weekend. Rather than going to West Hartford I took the five minute walk from my house to the top of Nelson Hill.

Despite the strong winds I could still hear Siskin going over in good numbers and a singing Skylark. 3 Buzzards were soaring over the River Blyth also.

A pair of Woodpigeon in my garden have been nest prospecting in the third different conifer in a week and a Song Thrush has began singing from the grounds of Northburn first school as it did for most of the early part of last year.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Friday AM

I was out with SH this morning as we both had the day off. First stop was a quiet Bothal Pond, 107 Canada Geese there.
At Cooper’s Corner just outside Ashington we spotted 7 Whooper Swan in a field.

East Chevington was our next destination. As soon as we looked on the South Pool we saw the Green Winged Teal in the SW corner.
Rather than shying away from the other Teal like GW normally do this bird was aggressive towards the male Teal as it swam around the females.
Also a Redhead Smew showed briefly in the SW corner of the pool.
In the field between the South Pool and the road were a lot of Grey Geese and at least 16 Whooper Swan.

The hour we spent at the North Pool was even better as we managed to see the Slavonian Grebe, 3 Scaup (1 male, 2 female), 1 Drake Red Breasted Merganser, 1 Drake Common Scoter, 1 Otter and another Redhead Smew.
The Common Scoter was sitting on west bank amongst a flock of Wigeon before flying back out to sea.
The other Smew was quite close in at first before flying off to the back of the pool. The best sighting of the day though was a Bittern, which jumped out form the reedbed in front of us before flying across the pond and landing in the reeds. It was seen again a few minutes later as it flew a quarter of the way across the pool before turning back and landing in the reeds in front of the L shaped hide.

On our way out of Chevington near Red Row, a Peregrine was chasing a flock of Woodpigeon.

West Hartford was our last stop. Only one Short Eared Owl was showing as was the Fox which spooked the Lapwing flock.

Monday, 13 February 2012

2 WEBS and too many good birds to count

First WEBS count, River Blyth, Saturday with LMcD:

A huge number of Dunlin were on the river at low tide along with a few Grey Plover and Bar Tailed Godwit. The highlights of a quiet count were a pair of Gadwall and a fly over female Goosander.
We checked the stubble field at Gloucester Lodge on the way back. Tree Sparrow, Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting were in the surrounding hedgerow and a group of 14 Snow Bunting landed I the middle of the stubble.
At West Hartford there were 4 Short Eared Owls and a flock of Siskin flew south.

Second WEBS count, Castle Island, Sunday with SH, DMcK and IFo

Not much of note at Castle Island. We headed north after the count, stopping at Maiden’s Hall Lake first. An adult and Juvenile Bewick’s Swan were very close to the roadside in a field just south of the lake. Both pools at East Chevington were quiet with the highlight being a Slavonian Grebe on the north pool.

Next we stopped at the new site near Warkworth Gut. If anyone hasn’t been yet I strongly recommend you do as it looks like one of the potential best new sites in the county.
It is a series of fresh water scrapes with a large phragmites reed bed, situated between the caravan park and the dunes at Warkworth. Also part of the River Coquet flows through and floods around the channel at high tide.
With the potential to attract anything on the River Coquet, in Amble Harbour and coming off the sea, this place is really exciting.
From the path near the car park, which looks really good for migrants, we could see the Spotted Redshank with a few Commons in one of the scrapes.
We walked the length of the path until we crossed the wooden bridge and scanned from the viewpoint near the car park.

Next stop was Stag Rocks but first we stopped at Monk’s House Pool. Not much on the pool but a pair of Stonechat were on the fence opposite the pool in the dunes.

With our usual spot at Stag already taken we scanned from the bench half way down the hill instead. A vocal Stonechat was flitting around the grass in front of us.
At least 6 Slavonian Grebes and 4 Red Throated Diver were spotted on the calm sea along with Common Scoter, Fulmar, Brent Geese and a Harbour Porpoise which I missed.
A Merlin was sitting on the rocks below us before chasing the Purple Sandpiper flock up and down the beach, almost catching one in mid air.
The best find of the day though was by Steve as he spotted a Black Guillemot just off the foghorn. This was my second sighting of Black Guillemot in the county in the last two years almost in the exact same spot.

Before heading further north to Fenham flats we stopped at Budle Bay where despite the large number of Carrion Crows there was no sign of a Hoodie. A Greenshank in the main channel was nice to see at this time of year.
As the tide got further in at Fenham a group of over 5000 Geese took to the air andf began landing on the flats. 2000-3000 were Brent Geese and the rest were mainly Pink Footed. Whilst scanning the geese I pick out 4 Barnacle Geese and a Eurasian White Fronted Goose. 50+ Pintail were also on the flats and a few Tree Sparrows were near the hide.

Our final stop of the day was back on the patch where we finally caught up with the female Green Woodpecker at Bassington N.R. It took a bit of finding but once found it showed well in the Beech trees.

Friday, 3 February 2012

First West Hartford tick of 2012

I went to West Hartford at mid afternoon yesterday, not for a look at the owls but at the gulls. Usually when I take my scope to WH it is blowing a gale and I can’t get a proper look at the gulls as a result but yesterday there was no wind so I though it was as good time as any to find an Iceland or Glaucous Gull.

As I was setting up my scope at a safe distance, a flock of 25 Meadow Pipit flew over and landed on the ground in front of me briefly before flying off again.
As I approached the rubbish pile a Short Eared Owl lifted form the ground behind it and joined another hunting over the marshy field.

100+ Lapwing were on the main pool along with BH, Common and adult, and juvenile Herring Gulls. The only interesting gull I could see was one, which looked similar to a juvenile Herring gull but was significantly paler with an almost white head.
I was just about to take a better look at it when all of the birds on the pool lifted and only half relanded. The reason they got up was a Fox ran between the two pools before walking off into the fields behind the substation.

Around 30 Teal had also lifted from the main pool before landing again in the NW corner, when I looked closer I could see that 6 Mallard were also in the NW corner along with 2 drake Wigeon – a long overdue WH patch tick for me!

AS I approached the main pool I noticed another two SEO. One was sitting on a fence post behind the main pool and another was even closer on the metal railing.
The two Owls I had previously seen were now fighting with each other over the marshy field, hissing and screeching as they wrestled in mid air.
As I was leaving a GS Woodpecker flew over the entrance plantation.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Black Ice

On Saturday morning I went up to Newbiggin with SH. We checked the lifeboat station first along with GB and RF.
The Black Redstart soon showed itself on a nearby roof. It then spent the next 15 minutes flitting around the lifeboat station before flying off further towards the south bay.
Next we walked up to Beacon Point. No sign of any Snow Buntings but a Short Eared Owl flew around the rough ground in the middle of the golf course.

Leaving Newbiggin we headed south to North Shields Fish Quay. After an hour of waiting an adult Iceland Gull began flying around the harbour as a trawler came in. A few Kittiwakes were also in the harbour.
This morning quite a few Redwing were in the hedgerow near Nelson Farm as I went to the train station and I spotted a Little Egret fishing in a channel near Greatham Creek as the train passed.
I have just seen some reports about a pair of Black Necked Grebes at West Hartford over the weekend! Who found them? BN Grebes are mega rare at WH with only one record from the 80’s. Grebes in general are megas at WH with only a hand full of records none of which I have seen. Nothing about this record makes any sense, BN Grebes are rare in winter in Northumberland anyway especially in pairs and WH was frozen over the weekend and is very shallow anyway. Very Strange.

Below is a picture taken by LMcD of the mystery Duck we saw at Killingworth Lake on Friday, any ideas?

Friday, 27 January 2012

Local Ponds

I was out with LMcD this morning for a tour of some of the local ponds.

First up was a prearranged visit to the permit only site, Shasun at Dudley. After getting through security we went to the ponds at the back of the pharmaceutical plant.
You can see part of the ponds from the railway tracks, which border it, but it is surprisingly bigger up close.
Scanning from the path between the two ponds there were an impressive 25 Tufted Duck along with 16 Mallard and 1 Goldeneye.
There has been a lot of good work done at the site over the last few years with a dipping pond and boardwalk put in along with a few viewing platforms around the ponds.

Next stop was Annitsford Pond. Not much on the pond apart form Mute Swan, Moorhen and Coot but near the bridge that crosses the stream a Willow Tit was being harassed by a Great Tit as it moved through the trees between the bridge and the pond.

Burradon Pond was next. 6 Coot along with 6 Moorhen and a few Mallard fed on the grass around the pond. A Snipe flew from the edge of the pond near the reeds as we did a circuit.

All wildfowl numbers we had seen at the other ponds were tripled when we arrived at Killingworth Lake. Too many Tufted Duck and Goldeneye to count were on the lake along with 17 Pochard, 3 Little Grebe and 5 Goosander (3 Drakes, 2 Female).
Amongst the Canada on the lake were a Greylag/Canada Hybrid and an obvious escapee duck but what it was I have no idea.

Back at Arcot there were 2 LBB Gulls on the pond along with Wigeon, 3 Gadwall and 4 (all female) Goosander.

Friday, 20 January 2012


After completing a bird survey at Mayfield Cemetery in High Pit this morning I needed to drop something off at Seghill. On the way I sent a few minutes checking Seghill Nature Reserve.

As usual the reeds are so overgrown that they block the view of the water. I found a patch of flattened reeds left of the hide and scanned from there.
Apart from a pair of Mute Swans it was very quiet. I then heard movement behind me and saw something run along the edge of the stream that runs past the landfill site, and land in the pipe, which connects, to the pond.
As I went up to the pipe to investigate a Water Rail jumped out of the pipe, landed on the flattened reeds next to the hide and then flew off into the thicker reeds.

No gulls were in the surrounding fields, or anything else, it was all very quiet.

Monday, 16 January 2012


We did two WEBS counts yesterday, First was the usual at Castle Island. It only took us 10 mins or so as the river was 90% frozen! Well it was -6 when I left the house.

Next it was onto Cresswell Pond where we did AMcL's count as he is on holiday. Being that bit more brackish than many of the other ponds Cresswell was only about half frozen.
The highlights were 200+ Pink Footed Geese circling the pond and 5 (4 Drakes) Red Breasted Merganser together.
Whilst watching the geese over the pond I noticed a lot of splashes in the water, expecting to see the Otter appear, I soon realised that it was Goose shite raining from above!
Also 12 Grey Partridge were active in the fields near the car park.

We checked the awkwardly placed Whooper Swan herd near Warkworth Lane but there was no sign of any Bewick's amongst them.
A single Whooper was attacking loafs of bread at QE2 with the Mutes. The Redhead Smew was also distantly seen at the back of the lake with a few Goosander.

Last stop was at Woodhorn south pool. Again mostly frozen but still held a few Shoveler and a Med Gull was amongst the gulls on the ice.
A flock of 9 Skylark were feeding in the field between the pool and the road. We then decided to check the fields surrounding the nearby Summerhouse Lane Pond. Whilst walking past the small channel behind the pond 2 Common and 1 Jack Snipe lifted.
I didn't see a single Jack Snipe last year, missing the one at Cresswell.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Early Warbler

At 8:51 this morning I was walking past the farm at Nelson Village (Cramlington), on my way to the train station when I heard the faint call of a Chiffchaff.
A tit flock was buzzing around the bushes the call was coming from but it was still too dark to get a look at the bird.

Also I had my first Grey Wagtail of the year, fly over Newcastle Central station.

Monday, 2 January 2012

2012 kick off

2012 started well (and early) yesterday. First stop of the year for myself, SH and DMcK was Marden Quarry where it took us nearly an hour to locate the Lesser Scaup, which seemed to be hiding whenever we scanned the Tufted Duck.
2 Goosander were also on the quarry and a brief flyover Waxwing ‘‘trilled’’ away as it went.

Next stop was Gloucester Lodge Playing (near Blyth) fields were 5 mobile Snow Bunting were in and out of a stubble field. They were accompanied by 18 Grey Partridge, 40+ Yellowhammer, 14 Tree Sparrow and a handful of Reed Bunting and Chaff and Goldfinch. It was encouraging to see such good numbers of declining farmland species.

Newbiggin was next to be visited. Only two Med Gulls could be seen amongst the flock in the south bay. Whilst we searched the beach around Beacon Point for the Desert Wheatear, which had temporarily gone missing, a Short Eared Owl was spotted hunting along the ash bank.
With the Wheatear relocated and watched we headed off to check the flock of Greylags in the field north of the north flash at Woodhorn.
The Tundra Bean Goose was soon picked out as were 4 Greenland White Fronted Geese.

A Kingfisher was mobile along the Horton Burn near the old fire station. When we checked. West Hartford was on poor form as was Arcot Pond apart from the 10 (8FM, 2M), Goosander.

So off to a good start, although this year I am not keeping a Cramlington List, just going to enjoy my birding list free the year.

When I finish university for good in May I will give the blog a revamp and include some of my artwork. It desperately need a new look.