Monday, 30 December 2013


If anybody has been checking this blog throughout the year then there is no need for me to go through the highlights, mainly because there have been too many. 2013 was an amazing year of birding for me on patch, in the county and further afield. Thanks again to everybody who has made it such as good year I hope to see you all in the future.

2014 has a lot to live up to

Happy new year!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Mull 2013, Part 3: Don't mention Ivory Gulls

Thursday 5th, after the 96mph winds during the night, a light covering of snow was a welcome change. Whilst having breakfast a Woodcock fed in the garden foraging in the undergrowth next to the wall. More activity was in the garden as a Raven cronked from a tree under the window and a Ringtail Hen Harrier flew through the valley opposite.

Most of the day was spend on the cliffs between Treshnish Point and Calgary Bay. One of my favourite sites of the week were the abundance of Hooded Crows. There were plenty of the beaches and shorelines as they dropped shells onto rocks from a height. After being caught in a snow storm that forced us to shelter for half and hour we made it back to the car in time to see a male Hen Harrier close in as it quartered a coastal field. As we left we even got to see the phenomenon that is the reverse waterfall.

Friday 6th, more stunning snowy scenery back at Loch Na Keal. Extended views of feeding Otters once again on the rocks and a few Goosander of the Loch. Another WT Eagle swooped over the car near Killiechronan, Fallow Deer in the woods and a WT Eagle chasing Salmon through a stream near Loch Ba made for a great ending to an amazing trip.

Saturday 7th, whilst stuffing my face with deep fried Black Pudding and chips, news of the Ivory Gulls came through. Unable to get back before dark we mad the best of the day and visited the William Wallace monument at Stirling instead. Oh well at least we won at Old Trafford, that made things slightly better :)

Winter is coming

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Mull 2013, Part 2: gets you through

Tuesday 3rd Loch Begg was revisited. This time a ringtail Hen Harrier was hunting near the car. Amazing. On our way back from the pub at Tobermorey we spotted three Whooper Swans on Mishnish Lochs. With Dervaig reed beds only a few minutes away from the cottage we decided to spend the rest of the daylight seeing what came in to roost. Unfortunately nothing turned up but it is a great sight. With a cloudless sky we headed up to the radio masts near Tobermorey. Whilst the opthers timelapsed I spent the evening looking to the darkest sky I have ever seen. The greenish glow of the northern lights flickered in the distance, shooting starts passed over and two moons of Jupiter were visible. The Milky Way was also an incredible sight. On our journey to the masts four separate Barn owls flew form fence posts and one bird was hovering like a ghost near the masts.
Wednesday 4th and our furthest journey of the week to Iona ferry terminal. A stunning Hen Harrier flew over the road near the terminal and later on a Ringtail flew even closer. Best ever views of these amazing creatures just a shame I have to go to Mull to see them. The farmland near the Iona terminal had attracted a flock of 120+ Barnacle Geese and we had more good views of WT Eagles over the roads near Loch Na Keal.
Gets you through

Man make fire

Near Dervaig

The season finale will soon follow…

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Mull 2013, Part one: To freedom!

From Saturday 30th until Saturday 7th I spent the week on the Isle of Mull with Cain, Ewan, Andrew and Ciara.  The trip got off to a good start as we spotted at least three Waxwing south of services on M74 near Uddington outside Hamilton. One of the Waxwings flew over the road bridge and did some aerial acrobatics before joining the others in the trees.
A brief and welcome stop at the Green Welly Stop and for more potato based products at Fort William, we were on the island by dusk. After checking in at our cottage for the week near Dervaig, we had a drive around the local roads. Not surprisingly Tawny Owl were on fence posts and Red Deer roamed the roadsides but a sign of how mild the weather was took the form of a Hedgehog that was wandering around the middle of the road.

Sunday the 1st we spent most of the day around the shores of Loch Na Keal. On our way we called into Salen Bay where a winter plumage Great Northern Diver was just off shore where it wrestled with a crab for about ten minutes.  It was great to see this species close up for a change rather than a distant blob on the sea off Stag Rocks.  Plenty of gulls though no white wingers were around the fish factory. Occasionally they would all take to the air before re-landing, we soon noticed why. A juvenile White Tailed Eagle was sitting on a fence post near the factory. Its amazing how such a massive bird can stay so well hidden. The eagle eventually took off, flew past us and landed on a rocky outcrop just offshore.
Also on the Loch were a group of five Slavonian Grebe, Black Guillemot, more close in Great Northern Divers and very entertaining displaying groups of Red Breasted Merganser. We watched as three or four males made a variety of noises and head movements towards unimpressed females.
Next we headed over to Loch Buie where another White Tailed Eagle flew over the Loch. The Bay just past the Loch was impressive complete with an honesty shop that sold Guinness crisps, honest! Feral Goats climbed over the rocks near the bay and Woodcock swooped in front of the car as we headed back.  In the darkness on a road near Salen I had my best ever views of a Tawny Owl as it stared down at us from a roadside wire.

Monday 2nd we started again at Loch Na Keal. A pair of Shoveler were amongst a flock of Teal in the middle of the Loch, it turns out that these were unbelievably only the second record for the Isle! Surely there must have been more.
At the nearby Killiechronnan as we left, a Golden Eagle was being mobbed overhead by Hooded Crows and Buzzard. A pair of White Tailed Eagles were also circling a plantation as we headed to Loch Scridian. An Otter preformed well on the shores of Loch Scridian and whilst we watched a Long Tailed Duck landed on the water after flying from further inland.
Loch Begg was our final stop of the day as light disappeared. A lone Greenshank and 124 Golden plover were the best waders at this attractive spot.

More to come soon... and pictures!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Another Viking

I spotted my third Nordic type Jackdaw of the year this morning on the grass outside Bedlington Cricket pitch. The bird I saw at Lynemouth Flash in August and one for a couple of days in September near Gosforth both showed characteristics of the species but the bird I saw this morning is the best example I have seen.
Amongst 20 or so other Jackdaw it stood out as its body was a lighter shade of grey with darker wings and a full bright white collar. I know there is more to it than that but it looked good for a Nordic to me.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Very Vis Mig

On Saturday whilst viewing the north pool at East Chevington from in front of the hide we noticed small flocks of Starlings coming in off the sea. A smaller bird was present near one of the flocks and it then separated and headed towards us. As it got closer we could see that it was a tired looking Goldcrest , it flew through the channel in the cut reeds, up the bank and then hovered like a Hummingbird in front of me and tried to land on my shoulder! It must of thought better of this and then took off over the hide.

After seeing the Woodcock in my garden last week I have seen a few more on my travels both typically in the evening at coastal locations. Last Tuesday at 20:45 one was sitting on the roadside grass opposite the Sea life Centre at Tynemouth. Before I had a chance to get closer a dog walker flushed it and it flew off over the cliffs towards Sharpness Point.
On Monday at 17:15 between the car park at Blyth Community Hospital and Morrisons a Woodcock was curled up on the grass next to the curb. This bird seemed very tired and made no attempt to move as car passed it so I left it in peace.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Lesser = More

I managed to head up north with GB and LR on saturday morning. Whilst waiting on news of the Long Nanny Shrike we called in to East Chevington. Very similar to last week with two drake Pintail and Shoveler being the wildfowl highlights. No sign of the Bearded Tit but a Water Rail ran through accross the gap in the reeds again and we briefly saw a Bittern in flight low over the reeds in the SW corner before it landed out of sight.

When news arrived we headed up and were greeted with great views of the Lesser Grey Shrike- Lifer, on the fence at the Newton Steads car park. In 2008 I dipped the LGS at Long Nanny and its not often you get a second chance of the same species at the same location, well nearly.
The Shrike was very obliging as it hopped around the ground and sat on thistles and fence posts around the car park before occasionally flying around and exploring the coastal bushes and fly catching before returning to its favored spot. A few Tree Sparrows were also in the coastal bushes.

Next we tried for the Bonaparte's Gull at Bamburgh but had missed it by 20 minutes. Despite grilling the ever expanding flock of BH Gulls on the sea off the castle it never reappeared. With the tide coming in the Common Scoter raft got closer and we picked out at least three Velvet Scoter amongst them.
Long Tailed Duck, Slavonian Grebe and a Great Northern Diver were also on the sea but we didn't see a single Auk sp.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Back to basics

I filled up the feeders ready for the winter yesterday. Today the garden was alive with activity. The feeders had attracted multiple, Blue, Coal and Great Tits, Magpie, 8 Blackbird, Green, Chaff and Gold finch, Jackdaw, Starling and two Fieldfare.
A rare occurrence in the garden the Fieldfare sat eating berries on the fence before being chased off by the Blackbirds.

With all this activity the inevitable happened and one of the eight Blackbirds hit the window. It stood open mouthed on the patio comically rocking back and forth on it legs. I went outside and checked its wings and waited until it flew form my hands to the safety of the trees. I then checked the amount of seeds in the trays and as I did a Woodcock exploded form the ground and flew west over the neighbors roof.  It must have been a migrant roosting on the leafy cover under the row of fern trees bordering the fence. This is surprisingly not the first garden record as I flushed one form nearly the same spot in the heavy snow of 2001.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Back to normal

After recent twitches and neglecting the patch it was a welcome return to real birding today. Out for WEBS early morning with SH and DM first stop was the count at Castle Island. Nothing out of the ordinary and no sign of any Quail we headed off to East Chevington.
We had just missed the bearded Tit, Bittern and a Glacous Gull on the north pool but did manage fleeting glimpses of a Water Rail in the cut channel in the reeds. Our next and final stop was a more productive Cresswell Pond where the Black-necked Grebe showed well but distantly as did three Scaup. Two Whooper Swans rested on the edge of the west shore.

This afternoon 20+ Pink-footed Geese flew south over my house but something was strange. They were calling very loudly and instead of flying in a traditional V shape they flew tight together as a a group and flew around in circled over the street for a while almost like they had been chased by something.

I had a quick trip to West Hartford yesterday. A Redshank landed on the smaller pool and a few Siskin few in the plantation.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Worthy of a mention

Rather than leaving it just to Birding sometimes, I thought I'd give the weekends adventure a mention. Our second trip up to Mire Loch, St.Abb's head for the Sardinian Warbler ended in success as we got brief but good views almost straight way.
Sardinian Warbler is up there as one of the best birds I have seen. In amazing surrounding with Ravens and Peregrines overhead it was a great day. I'll let John's pictures tell the rest of the story.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Yesterday at Hartlepool...

Once again why waste time saying something somebody else has already said and has picture:

Friday, 4 October 2013

Sub Appearance

The purple patch continues as myself and John were up at Druridge late afternoon for the Subalpine Warbler- lifer. It was showing well on and off before flying off to another group of bushes north of the turning circle before ending up in dunes heading towards East Chevington.
Another great bird to accompany Bluethroat asnd Firecrest over the past few weeks not forgetting the American Golden plover of course. Whats next?

Thursday, 3 October 2013


Continuing the theme of recent weeks myself and JM headed to the St.Mary’s area yesterday afternoon to see if the rain had landed any migrants. Rocky Island was first but only a lone Stonechat was on show although a raft of 60+ Common Scoter were offshore.

Whitley Bay cemetery was also disappointing and we didn’t hold out much hope as we moved onto St.Mary’s. The Gut held a few Redwing and 60 Mallard and three female Pintail were on the wetland. The tracks along the wetland were quiet with only a few Robins ticking away. It was the return part of our journey that got interesting.

A Yellow-Browed Warbler called form the overgrown edges of the wetland and a Redstart and female Blackcap showed occasionally. As we passed the second viewing screen at the wetland I heard a strange high-pitched call not dissimilar to a Goldcrest. As we looked up and scanned the row off willows next to the screen a stunning Firecrest popped into view.
They are amazing little birds and never disappoint even though the views were limited. It worked it way along the willows and lower bushes between the first and second viewing screen before we decided to leave. Also a Goldcrest was calling from the willows.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

The Goats who stare at men

At one with nature

Yesterday I got the chance to see something in Northumberland that I have always wanted to see – Wild Goats.
With Cain doing some work up in the Cheviots photographing them it was the ideal opportunity to not only see them but get up close and see how these ancient creatures live. We focused on three main herds around the border ridge area of the Cheviots north of Alwinton. The weather was perfect and there was some bird life to keep up the interest including Ravens cronking overhead, Buzzard, Red Grouse and the most Meadow Pipits I have seen in a long time. The roads around Alwinton were littered with Red Legged Partridge and every lowland stream through the hills held small family parties of Goosander.  As well as the goats Roe Deer and a sun bathing Fox were seen.

As you would expect the goats were in the most awkward parts of the hills so photographic opportunities (for my camera anyway) were limited. The herds were mostly a mixture of generations with some kids and females staying together and the Billie’s leading them as they grazed on the hills. The 11 hours we spent in their company yesterday was a great insight into their lives and a truly wild experience.

Billy on the hillside

Thursday, 26 September 2013

bright but blue

Out again with John to Hartley this morning. A Yellow Browed-Warbler flitted about in the sun covered trees on one of the mounds whilst the Bluethroat stayed low down around the base of the bushes. Eventually it popped up and showed quite well as it worked its way accross the mound. Also we saw another Yellow Browed-Warbler in the trees at the gut.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

September at last!

With weather conditions looking good, myself and JM headed for the coast this morning. No sign of yesterdays Red Backed Shrike in the dunes between Blyth and Seaton Sluice. As we pulled into the car park at Old Hartley news of a Bluethroat near one of the mounds along the cycle track came through. There seconds later, we got brief but excellent views as the Bluethroat came into the open only metres in front of us and ran along the path.

There was a lack of good numbers of birds despite the ideal weather, a few Redwing flew over but that was about it. With news of a Common Rosefinch at Rocky Island, Seaton Sluice we were there soon after. We had already been there for a few minutes before going to Hartley but could only find three Stonechat.
No sign of the finch amongst the House Sparrow flock it had been associating with but a Yellow- Browed Warbler did fly past us as it came in off the sea.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Golden Wonder

Bit of a catch up form the last few days. Out for a while with SH on Wednesday morning starting at Bothal pond. Three juvenile Great Crested Grebe and a couple of Pochard the highlight there. Next it was onto Linton. 375 Canada Geese were on the larger pond form the hide along with 54 Greylags. A few gammy looking geese were amongst the flock including a Canada/Greylag hybrid and a Canada/Barnacle hybrid as well as a strange thin necked white headed Canada goose.
In the sun trap by the old feeding station a late brood of recently fledged Bullfinch, multiple Chiffchaff and a Willow Tit were soaking up the rays.

Cresswell was dead so Druridge Pools was next. 15 Pink Footed Geese flew south over the dunes as we got out the car.In total 80+ Pink Feet went over the pools. A single Black tailed Godwit was on the pool form the Oddie hide and 4 Stonechat were in the dunes.

On friday I got out to St.Mary's with JM for the American Golden plover- lifer. It was initially amongst the group of goldies on the rocks in Hartley Bay but as the tide rose it moved off the the Island near the hide where we had our best views.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

St.Mary's Seawatch

For the first time I went seawatching at St.Mary's yesterday afternoon with JM. It was quite a good view from the toilet block apart from the cars passing in front. Large parties of Gannet were feeding distantly but during the two hours we spent we didn't see a single Shearwater sp.

In total we had six Arctic Skua including some dark phase birds go past. Two ganged up to harass the local gulls sitting on the sea which included two Little Gull. Later on at least eight Little Gull flew north just off the rocks on the island. Also a couple of Red Throated Diver went passed north and sat on the sea.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Coming and going

As are the seasons so are the birds, at least around Cramlington anyway. I have heard several Chiffchaff over the last few days including one in my garden and one in full song at Brockwell scrubland.
Ive noticed a light passage of Meadow Pipits overhead in a few places this week including Cramlington and yesterday I saw a flock of 70+ Linnet behind Nelson Hill.
The Linnet were flying as a group around one of the stubble fields behind the hill and I am told that there are now around 150 birds in the flock. Also 13 Magpie and a single LBB Gull were feeding in the fields along with numerous Carrion Crow and Woodpigeon.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Definite and possible

Managed to get to East Chevington yesterday for the White-rumped Sandpiper- lifer. The north pool continues to look in good shape and attracted Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Black- Tailed Godwit and Ruff.
Eventually the WR Sand showed itself on the near bank but kept disappearing behind the overgrown reeds.

With GM having found four Spotted Flycatcher at Arcot yesterday evening I was soon at WH to try and find one there. On arrival six dogs and their owners along with four horses were leaving so not much chance I thought.
Nothing on the pools apart form a load of horse shite so I checked the area behind the sub station. I did hear one bird making a soft robin like ticking sound and looked like a Flycatcher in silhouette but I never got a good look and as the light faded it never reappeared.

Thursday, 29 August 2013


I managed to catch up with the Pintail at Arcot this afternoon as it slept on the edge of the island in the NW corner along with a female Shoveler, 5 Gadwal and  5 Wigeon. The Garganey was feeding just off the island towards the reeds.

Also I saw a grey and green stripey juvenile Green Woodpecker probing between the cracks of the pavement along Bassington Lane. It was on the pavement in front of one of the factories that seems to have no name, not an area I have seen one before, not the usual area near Bassington NR.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Weekend Waders and others

Despite missing three Whinchat, Pintail and Marsh Harrier on the patch over the weekend I saw some good stuff up the coast. At East Chevington on Monday night around 8 with Cain, the north pool was lifting with birds. 200+ Greylags came to roost on the north pool, four Bar-Headed Geese were amongst them. There was no sign of the Spotted Crake but an amazing 49 Ruff were together on the mud. The size difference between the males and females was really noticeable even in the fading light.  Starlings were chattering away from the reeds and a Greenshank also dropped in.  As we were leaving a Tawny Owl flew low over the car near the entrance to the reserve.

Tuesday morning I was back at East Chev with LMcD. The number of Ruff had halved but a Spotted Redshank was now on the mud along with 3 Golden Plover and eight Black-Tailed Godwit. A pair of Great Crested Grebes were also on the north pool and most surprising of all two Fulmar were flying around the north pool before heading back out too sea.
The Spotted Crake did show itself briefly but I couldn't get onto it in time before it crept back into the reeds.

Cresswell Pond held three Spotted Redshanks close to the hide along with a few Greenshank and a Whimbrel was whistling overhead. Also a second year Med Gull landed on the sand bar.

Last night I did the Cormorant count at Blyth Harbout with SH. 134 Cormorants were in the harbour along with 46 Kittiwakes and some Dunlin were amongst the Ringed Plover on the factory roof.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Booted Forward

Busy all day yesterday so didn't even know about anything that had been seen anywhere until a text from Cain. So this morning myself, Cain and Tom headed up to Druridge for a few hours. A few common migrants were noted at Hadston Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat etc but no Booted Warbler. Missed a Marsh Harrier and Red Necked Grebe flying north also.
We could only spend a few hours early morning as we all had prior arrangement for the afternoon. On the way back though we did stop at WH and saw the Little Stint and Sanderling standing together.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Hard work pays off

Liver Birder's hard work that is as last night I twitched Cramlington's first ever Sanderling at West Hartford. I have never seen one away from the beach before not even somewhere as close to it as Cresswell Pond or East Chevington.
A Yellow Wagtail in the dead trees was also nice to see. Role on the next big find, a Citrine Wagtail! Mark my words.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Early Viking?

Had another morning out with LMcD today starting at West Hartford and Arcot Pond. WH was dead and Arcot wasn't much better although I finally managed to catch up with the Garganey and clawed back a female Shoveler.

Next we headed for Druridge Bay. On the way we stopped at a dried out Lynemouth Flash but did see something unusual there. A Jackdaw amongst a flock of 50 or so had a full white collar all the way around its neck. Seen quite closely it definitely wasn't molt feathers but it seems too early for a bird showing Nordic characteristics. Any suggestions? Also 30+ Linnet were on the mud

Not much else to report for Cresswell other than four Greenshank and an Avocet. The last month was and continues to be hard work.

Friday, 16 August 2013


After reading Stewart's latest post:
It got me thinking about when I was out last week with LMcD. At a few separate locations we heard either individual or small parties of Crossbill passing over. There aren't many around anywhere at the moment and Lindsay said that when he was in the scottish highlands in May he only heard and saw three!
The day we heard them roughly coincided with the first Two-barred Crossbill sightings in the country. One place we had a few pass over was East Cramlington LNR, there are probably a few in the plantations around there.

I have tried a few times this week for the female Garganey at Arcot Pond but without a scope and in poor light. Yesterday I got there a bit earlier and thought I was onto it when another swam out form behind the island making me think that I was probably looking at Teal rather than two female Garganey.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Wader Waters

Was out with LMcD yesterday morning for a few hours. We stayed local starting with West Hartford. Now topped up with rain the pools look in much better shape for the autumn but they were deserted yesterday. It was a similar story at Arcot Pond until a Black-tailed Godwit appeared from behind the NE island and wandered around.

East Cramlington NWT was also quiet as was Holywell Pond. There were none of the recent waders at Holywell but four Bar-headed Geese were amongst the usual Canadas and Greylags in front of the public hide. They soon moved from the water onto the meadow and all four birds were not ringed.
St.Mary's Wetland was too overgrown to see properly but we could hear a Reed Warbler singing form the reeds at the north end.

next we decided to check the coastal fields between Seaton Sluice and Blyth as they often flood and can hold water for a while. The fields near Gloucester Lodge Farm opposite the toilet block held the only pool attracting any birds. 100 Lapwing, 50 Black Headed Gull, masses of Starlings, a juvenile Shelduck, 5 Black-tailed Godwit and a Whimbrel were all taking advantage of the flood. The Godwits and Whimbrel were all on the edge of the pool but were spooked by a tractor coming down the lane opposite.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Spotted a Crake

I went to East Chevington late afternoon yesterday with SH. Despite the rainfall from recent nights the water level on the north pool remains very low. Two Ruff, Greenshank and a Curlew Sandpiper-looking Dunlin were all on the pool along with the bathing gulls and terns.
We scanned the edge of the reeds where the Spotted Crake has been seen but could only see young Moorhen. The presence of a Grey Heron unsettle the Moorhen and eventually the Spotted Crake made a brief appearance running along the edge of the reeds before diving into cover again. 
This is the second Spotted Crake I have seen in Northumberland but there  must been more lurking out there, Arcot Pond maybe? 

On the way back we quickly called in at Newbiggin where on the breakwater rocks next to the maritime centre, three juvenile Roseate Terns were being fed by an adult.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Spotted a Sandpiper

I was down in Wales visiting family last week. No chance to do any real birding but Red Kites were everywhere and even came into gardens for scraps that had been left out.
I did manage to see the Little Egret at Arcot Pond last Wednesday evening before we left. It was standing into top of a small bush in the middle of the pond.

Yesterday I had a quick look at Arcot. No sign of the showy Water Rail family but two Wood Sandpipers were on the mud in the NW corner together.

This morning I went up to Foxton Bends, Alnmouth with GM for the Spotted Sandpiper- lifer. Alongside a few Common Sandpipers on the mud bank viewing was difficult due to the long grass obscuring our view but still managed to see it a few times. 

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Ashington area

Myself and West Hartford are not good in the heat and along with its water supply my birding has dried up over recent weeks.
This morning I was out with LMcD. We started at Arcot Pond where three separate Little Grebe families with a total of five young were. A moulting Wigeon, Teal and Common Gull were surprise finds.

With most places drying or dried up we had been reliably informed that Castle Island was good at the moment. I have been visiting Castle Island as part of WEBS for four years now and today it was the best I have ever seen it. Almost half the water in the river has gone and large areas of mud are exposed although there was no sign of yesterdays 17 Black Tailed Godwits, Greenshank or Ruddy Shelduck.
At least 2 Common Sandpipers were amongst ten Redshank on the south shore of the island. Further along the shore were four resting Avocet which eventually moved around, a good inland record.

We walked further along the path than usual and checked the river from Stakeford Bridge. Although a lot of mud there were no more waders just some juvenile BH Gulls begging to adult birds.
A few young Chiffchaff flitted around the trees bordering the path and we heard a jay and Willow Tit near the bridge.

Next we called in at Wansbeck Business Park. Two female Tufted Duck have broods of 7 and 5 young whilst a Muscovey Duck watched us from one of the islands.
Woodhorn south flash was quiet but did hold 67 Coot.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Bridled Tern

Continuing what has been an unbelievable run of lifers for me this year, yesterday I caught up with the stunning Bridled Tern on Inner Farne. No early boat trip, myself and LMcD played it cool and went accross on the 10:30 boat, a decision that nearly cost us the bird.
It had last been seen at 10:02 and there was no sign during the first hour we waited on the jetty. At one point a birder said he could hear it calling but we couldn't see it. The mass of Arctic Terns on the rocks kept flying around and at some point it must have sneaked back in as with only 5 minutes until the boat headed back to the mainland I spotted it on the rocks under a group of Puffins. It was surprisingly well camouflaged amongst the grey rocks and Terns. Eventually it took to the skies and showed amazingly well looking more like a frigate bird in flight!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Migratory birds project- CLV

Below is a link to the project I have been helping out with over the last two weeks. Please have a look and see how they have progressed to produce a quality piece of  work.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Still here. Still busy

I have been quite busy of late hence no posts although I have been getting out to WH a few times a week. Over the last week and over the next week I have been volunteering at Cramlington Learning Village for the third year in a row along with Cain as part of the school’s Project Fortnight.
As previously the project I have been involved with mainly takes part in the classroom but some set birding has taken place around the school grounds and at Arcot Pond, Valley Park and Shasun in Dudley. The aim of this years project is for the students to create a migration map showing the journey of migratory birds journey to Cramlington.
More details of the project can be found on a specially set up blog documenting the student’s progress. I will upload the link later.

Unfortunately there wasn’t much to see on the trips out, as you would expect at this time of year. Young Canada Geese accompanied their parents at Shasun and the pair of returning Common Terns were sitting on the nest. The highlight at Arcot was a singing Reed Warbler

Today I was out doing WEBS with SH and DM at Castle Island. Not much on the bird front apart from a Green Sandpiper but a Fox carrying a young duckling crept along the southern shore whilst being mobbed by Magpies.

East Chevington was quiet but it was a different story at Cresswell Pond with a most unseasonable range of wildfowl. As well as Teal and Wigeon, a female Scaup and a drake Pintail were also on the pond. 12 moulting Teal were also at Castle Island.
Between heavy downpours 2 Little Ringed Plover landed north of the causeway alongside a pair of Ruff. One was a Reeve whilst the other was a stunning ginger and Black male, failed breeders form Holland maybe?
5 young Linnet showed well in front of the hide as did 4 separate Reed Warbler.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Grey in the sun

I had an hours wander around West Hartford early this morning. Nothing new in the way of birds but a Speckled Wood Butterfly was near the sub station.

On my way  back I took a detour into Nelson Industrial Estate. I took the path near the NE corner of the estate just off the WH roundabout. I could hear something moving in the branches above me and unfortunately there was a Grey Squirrel looking back at me. This is the furthest north  have seen one in Cramlington and perilously close to the Plessey stronghold. It soon moved off and out of site near the road.
Not much else of note on the estate but another Speckled Wood was taking advantage of the sun.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Purple to Black to Purple

With what seemed like any chance of seeing the Kite sp. found by LiverBirder at West Hartford on Tuesday all but gone, imagine my surprise to see LMcD at my front door at 7:15 last night saying he had a Kite sp. back at Hartford.
We went straight back just in time to see it land in a tree in the plantation north of the small flash. With the light fading and all of the main ID features obscured by branches we stood and waited on top of the mound inside the metal compound.
Eventually after being mobbed by corvids it flew low to the west then higher over the river but still the ID couldn’t be confirmed. It then disappeared into the trees along the riverside next to Bedlington Golf Course. The rain soon came as did some other birders but there was no further sign.

I was back there early this morning with a few other birders. With no sign we stood at the same point inside the metal compound and at 6:55 the Kite appeared from roughly the same area it had gone down in last night and landed in a tree near where we had seen it last night.
This time it was not obscured by branches and the light was much better and at last it was confirmed as a Black Kite, a patch, county tick, lifer etc all rolled into one!

There was some questions that could this not be the supposed hybrid seen at Hartford Hall four years ago but this was defiantly not a hybrid and crucially had none of the multiple rings that the hybrid wore.

With many people connecting with the Kite as it sat in the same tree for over an hour it then took off and soared overhead gradually gaining height before flying off over the river and towards Morpeth.

As always with birdign no matter how good the morning was the edge was later taken off when news that a Purple Heron had flown NW over Arcot Pond broke. Oh Well at least it wasn’t over WH.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Awash with waders

Well by West Hartford standards. 4  nice summer plumage Dunlin and 5 Ringed Plover this morning. Still not managed to catch up with the LRP that has been seen throughout the week.  No sign of the Wood Sandpiper this morning but it could have been hidign in the long grass.

Had a quick trip to the Cresswell area with SH this morning. The usual stuff on Cresswell Pond and the highlight of a Ruff on the Budge field at Druridge Pools. No sign of the reported Garganey or Wood Sand.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Makes a change from Doves

Not much to say really apart from amazing views of an amazing bird. The Collared Flycatcher at Low Newton was an unexpected end to a good weeks birding.

Strangley enough with the light drizzle that covered Cramlington for most of the day, I had been hoping to find a Spotted Flycatcher at West Hartford. I checked the good looking areas behind the sub station but no sign. The Wood Sandpiper in the SE corner of the main pool was a nice bonus though.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Purple Reigns

Cramlington’s recent Purple Patch continued over the last few days. I missed a few of the sightings but saw the Greenshank at West Hartford on Friday evening.

Yesterday evening I headed up to East Chevington with Cain for the Purple Heron. We got to the second viewing point on the south pool just in time to see it take off from the water and fly over the reeds before landing around the corner just out of sight.

Sine I began birding Purple Heron has been top of my list of birds I want to see and it didn’t disappoint. No heat haze or wind, which had obscured views for some people earlier in the day, we could see the maroon patch under the winds and down the neck as it flew around. The presence of a nearby patrolling Marsh Harrier may have encouraged it to fly.

We moved down to the south end of the pool and spotted it on the edge of the reeds where for the next 45 minutes it fed and even stretched its neck upright like a Bittern.
As well as the Heron Pied Wagtails and Reed Buntings came to roost in the reed beds, Grasshopper Warbler and Reed Warbler sang and Buzzard and Short Eared Owl were hunting over fields to the south.

As we left we stopped and listened to a Sedge Warbler, which mimicked Tree Sparrow, Song Thrush and Swallow. The Grey Herons that had been very tolerant of their Purple cousin but eventually chased it around but it just turned back and landed in the reeds out of sight.

With light fading fast we quickly stopped at Cresswell Pond in time to see a flock of 23 calling Whimbrel fly north over the dunes and south car park. Also a single Whimbrel had been calling over the south pool at East Chev.

Friday, 3 May 2013


At last this morning after 7 years of birding West Hartford I finally added my longest overdue tick, House Sparrow. Whilst watching the new flash pool in the farmer's field east of the substation a pair churped overhead before landing in the hedgerow opposite. They stayed for about five minutes collecting nest material before flying back towards the Northburn estate.

At last I could die a happy birder!

Nothing much else around this morning, no waders on the pools but at least 3 Grasshopper Warbler and a Sedge Warbler reeling away.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Two posts in one morning!

Its that time of year. Shortly after writing the last post I went to back to West Hartford with LMcD to check for the Little Ringed Plover. No sign on the main pool but instead I spotted a stunning breeding plumage Wood Sandpiper well camouflaged on the near shore. It soon moved into the open water and began feeding. At least two Wheatear were in the ploughed field behind the football pitch at East Hartford on the way back.

Also I forgot that I heard a Yaffling Green Woodpecker on Beacon Lane this mornign and a pair of Curlew were displaying in the fields behind the farm.

Little and lots

On my way to West Hartford early this morning I met LiverBirder who had earlier seen the Little Owl on Beacon Lane and was now on his way to Arcot Pond.

I didn’t bother checking the pools at WH and instead went straight to the riverside woods. Two Grasshopper Warbler were reeling away as I passed. As I reached the woods I got a call from Gordon saying that he was watching a Scaup at Arcot Pond.

Kindly picked up by him minutes later I was watching the dapper drake swim across the pond with the Tufted Duck, its silver back making it even easier to pick out. This is the first one I have seen on the patch but it is a rare Cramlington species. Also at least two Sedge Warbler were singing from the reeds.

Next stop was Beacon Lane where eventually I found the Little Owl perched high in the tree on the bend in the lane. It watched me the whole time turning its head as I moved.

On the way back I checked Brockwell Scrubland where plenty of Blackcap, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were singing. I also heard another Grasshopper Warbler and a Lesser Whitethroat.

As I am writing this post a pair of Blackcap are on my feeders in the garden, never had a pair in the garden before. I think I should have checked the pools at WH this morning as I have just seen the there is now an LRP!

Sunday, 28 April 2013


A days birding with GB and LR yesterday started at Newbiggin. We checked both the mound and the golfcourse but the freezing winds meant that no birds ventured onto the course. The only bird of note found at The Mound was a reeling Grasshopper Warbler on the side of the Ash Bank. A RT Diver and a few Sandwich Terns and Gannets were all that was out at sea.
Woodhorn Churchyard was also migrantless although 7 Blackcaps may have been. They along with a few Willow Warblers stayed on the shaded side of the hedgerow overhanging the pool.

Lynemouth Burn was quiet with only a Common Snipe flushed and a single White Wagtail on the flash. Cresswell Pond still had a Long Tailed Duck on it along with 4 Red Breasted Merganser. 4 Avocets chased each other from one side of the pond to the other and Grasshopper and Sedge Warbler both sang near the hide. Druridge Pools was Crakeless but does look very good for something soon especially on the Budge Field.

Next we checked the flash pools between Chevington Burn and the turning circle at Druridge. The pools were full of Ringed Plover and Dunlin. At one point we though we might have had either a White Rumped or Baird’s Sandpiper but when we got a better view out of the sun we decided on a lst summer Dunlin with a strange plumage variation.

A few Yellow and White Wagtail were in the fields including a ‘Channel’ type, the first of this kind I have seen.
We walked along the beach back to the car but found more dead than alive birds. 15+ Puffins, a Grey Seal, young Porpoise, fresh Guillemots and Gannets amongst a few migrants like Blackbird and Woodcock.

Last stop was Prestwick Carr where the GW Egret was nowhere to be seen but some very showy White Wagtails were on the flashes near the horse paddocks.

Friday, 26 April 2013


Whilst waiting at the Brockwell Seam bus stop this morning I heard a Lesser Whitethroat rattling away from the row of bushes behind the green grit bin. Not typical habitat for one and probabaly just moving through. Less than an hour later I got a call form LMcD to say he had one calling form the path behind his house only a minute or so away from the bus stop.

I have been hearing a lot of strange noises around 12:20 each night. I think they are waders of some kind but I never quite heard enough. Also Canada Geese have been moving over north through the week at the same time.

Monday, 22 April 2013

White Wag

After a few texts yesterday morning saying that 6 Common Cranes had flown north over Backworth Pond only 15 minutes ago I hurryed out the house and was on top of Nelson Hill 5 minutes later.

Knowing I was probabaly too late I still spent 15 minutes scanning the sky to the east but no sign. The only bird of note was a Curlew flying south over the hill.
On my way to the hill I noticed two male Blackcaps feeding on fat balls on a garden feeder near the edge of the eastate. One flew off into the hedgerow but the other just sat on the arm of the feeder.

After leaving the hill I went straight to West Hartford. No sign of yesterdays Avocets or much else really. Although I did have a White Wagtail on the wet area of mud in the field east of the substation along side a Pied Wagtail.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Black, White and Yellow

Another trip south to Teesside with SH and DM today. After a successful trip in February we were hoping for more success today and we weren’t disappointed.

With the sun shining it felt like the first proper day of spring and the birds reflected that. Nothing apart from some distant waders on the receding tide from the hide at Seal Sands but the Seal were very entertaining. Common Seals chased each other up and down Greatham Creek and slid comically down the mud banks along the creek.
A couple of Yellow Wagtails called overhead and at least 40 Avocets were on the pool opposite the bus shelter.

Before driving to Dorman’s Pool we spotted a Whimbrel in the fields near the car park. Two Reed Warbler and a Water Rail were singing and calling form the top car park art Dorman’s and a male Blackcap flitted around the bare trees whilst a couple of Pintail remained on the pool.

Five sleeping Black Tailed Godwits were on west Saltholme pool viewed from the roadside and the male Lesser Scaup occasionally showed well on the Allotment pool. Also a Fox ran for cover after being disturbed sunbathing near the pool.

Once the reserve opened at 10! we went to Back Saltholme hide. In the space of five minutes we managed to see a pair of Black Necked Grebe, 2 Wheatear, 4 Yellow Wagtail, 5 White Wagtail, a sleeping drake Garganey, 3 Little Ringed Plover and a Common Sandpiper. All of which were close to the hide most centred around the causeway.

After seeing all these great birds the day was nearly ruined when we got a text from Liver Birder saying he had found a pair of Avocet on West Hartford!

Luckily we got back in time to see Cramlington’s second ever Avocets wading happily around the main pool. Just as I thought it couldn’t get any better my second WH lifer of the day flew over in the form of two calling Yellow Wagtails which flew low over the rubbish pile and main pool before disappearing west out of view.

Whilst leaving we found out about the Pectoral Sandpiper at Backworth so quickly went and had a look. It was showing well on the edge of the flash north of the pond and occasionally crouched down low to the ground.

So on a day where we must have seen over 60 Avocets and 10 Yellow Wagtails the most appreciated were the ones seen on the patch, that’s birding for you.

By the way I did take some photos at Saltholme but for some reason they are showing up white on my camera and will not download, oh well I’ll leave it to the professionals.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Patch and Plessey

Myself and LMcD explored some more of the patch this morning. Nothing at a windswept West Hartford although I did have a juv GBB Gull and a pair of churpping Tree Sparrow yesterday morning.

Next we checked the plantation between the railway line and the windmill. A Reed Bunting, pair of Bullfinch and a Stoat were the highlights.  A pair of Dipper were diving in the river and feeding their young near Hartford Bridge. The pair took it in turns to collect food and we could even see them swimming under water the river was so low.

A walk along the riverside at Plessey Woods gave us good views of singing Goldcrest and Nuthatch. A Nuthatch and Willow Warbler were singing on the Cramlington side of the river and a flock of hirundines were flying low over the river near the farm. Mostly House Martins and Swallow, Lindsay managed to pick out a couple of Sand Martins on the Cram side but I couldn't get onto them.

We then searched every inch of Bassignton NR and still couldn't find a Woodcock.  Arcot was its usual quiet self apart form 90+ mixed gulls mostly Herring which tried to land.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Little Bunting

It’s not often you get two attempts to see a rare bird a few months apart but that is exactly what has happened with the Little Bunting in Lambton, Durham.

After an unsuccessful attempt with Liver Birder in October we went back this morning along with Cain.
Present this time in a different area to where we checked on October, the Little Bunting was in an overgrown field opposite the Harrington Burn in Elba Park.
It showed on and off feeding amongst the grass before landing on the wire fence and then along the reeds in the burn channel. I didn’t think it looked particularly smaller than the surrounding Reed Buntings and its most noticeable feature was the Robin like ticking sound it often made.

On the way back we stopped at a quiet Arcot Pond where a Swallow flew north overhead. I don’t think I have ever seen a Swallow before a Sand Martin.

Friday, 12 April 2013

April showers

With the weather looking worse for the Sunday myself and SH did the Castle Island webs count this morning. The only birds of note were 8 Shelduck and 6 Gadwall.

The rain was light but constant and after finding out there had been Ring Ouzel, Snow Bunting and Black Redstart at Newbiggin yesterday we headed there to check for migrants.

We walked form Church Point to Beacon Point and eventually we found 2 Wheatear on the rocks just off Beacon Point. Nothing was amongst the gorse on the way across the golf course but a Short Eared Owl was flying over the south end of the Ash Bank.
The path through the new plantation south of the Mound was the most active area. A few Robins and 20+ Blackbirds were on the path along with Red Wing, Mistle Thrush and a nice male Ring Ouzel, two had been seen half and hour before.

We didn’t find anything else so headed back and stopped at West Hartford. Nothing new there apart from a pair of Crossbill showing well ij the tree tops just behind the substation.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Good sign

I think this morning at West Hartford was the first time I haven't had to wear gloves this year so it must be getting warmer. Its a shame nobody told the trees as they still look dead.

The pools are slowly drying out just in time for spring and a good sign this morning was a Redshank wading accross the main pool.
The fields to the east of the substation were ploughed a few weeks ago and it looked as if the newly formed pools were gone forever. This morning I noticed a lot of gulls flying around the fields and then I saw two tractors levelling the ploughed earth. Once they had finished I could see that the area where the two pools had been had already filled up again although the vegetation that had been building up around them has now gone as has the frog spawn in one of the tyre tracks near the hedge.
Nothing interesting amongst the gulls but the fields now look excellent for a Common Crane.

As I left 3 GS Woodpeckers were chasing each other around the entrance plantation and I breifly heard the Tree Sparrow calling. No sing of Woodcock along the old road on Crowhall Lane but a singing Chiffchaff and stragely a calling Pheasant.

Saturday, 6 April 2013


Early morning at West Hartford and it was still like winter. You know it is bad when the highlight of your two hours are 3 Canada Geese.
A complete contrast by the time I left with the sunshine and birds in full song. No sign of the Woodcock along the disused road off Crowhall Lane but at least two Chiffchaff were singing away near the electricity substation at Brockwell Scrubland.

I also got excellent views of three Great Spotted Woodpeckers chasing each other near the WH roundabout.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013


Myself and LMcD explored certain areas of the patch in more detail yesterday morning starting with Beacon Lane.

Everywhere I go around Cramlington of late I have been hearing Siskin and today 3 bright males were in the trees at head height over the railway bridge near Beaconhill. A brilliant photographic opportunity if only I had brought my camera.

A few Yellowhammer were in the hedgerows along the lane near the horse paddocks and 7 Great Tit were hopping along the path in one area near the crossroads on the lane gathering both food and nest material. At the crossroads a Willow Tit flew form the ground into the hedgerow and began calling, I have never had one this far along the lane before.

Great Spotted Woodpeckers could be heard drumming away on Arcot golf course and a Green Woodpecker was yaffling away between the lane and golf course.

Arcot Pond was much quieter than usual with wildfowl numbers significantly down for the first time in a few months. Also a pair of Mute Swans were attending to their new nest on the edge of the reeds.

We walked back through the fields just off the lane but didn’t see much else of interest although at least 10 Skylark were in song overhead.

Bassington NR was also quiet with a pair of Jay being the only birds we saw!
West Hartford was equally devoid of life so instead we checked the fields around East Hartford. The only note worthy birds there were 3 Tree Sparrow, which landed in a stubble field west of the village. We were going to walk along the river from the sewage works but a hail shower forced us to leave. Our last stop was Horton Burn. Nothing there apart from a singing Reed Bunting near Shankhouse Bridge the first I have had there.

No sign of Chiffchaff on the patch and in total we managed to see 53 species. Wihtout missing anything significant it was a poor toal and still seemed reminicent of winter.

Monday, 1 April 2013


I decided to sit at West Hartford for a couple of hours and see what flew over this morning. Approaching form the fire station end I walked across the marshy field to view near the brick building so that I had a better view over the river.

Nothing much on the main pool as all the activity seemed to be concentrated around the ever-expanding pools in the marshy field. 4 Gadwall and a few Mallard were on the biggest pool and 2 Common Snipe were also still around. Best of all though was a Water Rail, which was weaving its way through the reeds before flying off when it saw me and landing in the middle of the field.

I should have just gone back then, as I didn’t see much else. A Fox was making its way through the field, a Buzzard was mobbed overhead and 4 Shelduck flew east. Also 2 Grey Partridge lifted from the rubbish pile on my way back.

Saturday, 30 March 2013


I headed north with SH and DM this morning. Spring was trying its best to break through but the cold wind and occasional snow flurries still made it feel more like winter.

Our first stop was to check the swans at Buston Links. No sign of the Bewick’s and only 2 Whoopers amongst the Mute Swans in the roadside fields.

Next we stopped at the Coquet Island viewpoint where worryingly there were no Auks on the sea or around the island. We decided to give Hauxley a miss but on the way out of the village we stopped and scanned a flock of 300+ Pink Footed Geese. They were in a field close to the roadside but we couldn’t pick out anything unusual amongst them.

There was no sign of the Marsh Harrier at East Chevington. A redhead Smew was asleep on one of the islands on the north pool and a Water Rail was squealing from the Reed bed below us. Whilst the sun had its most prolonged appearance of the day a Chiffchaff began singing from the scrub between the two bottom hides on the north pool.

We briefly stopped at Hemscotthill Links in search of Wheatear. No sign but a Peregrine flew low overhead as it chased a group of Starlings. Every bird between Druridge and Creswell seemed to take to the air when the Peregrine was hunting including a flock of finches in the dunes, which had at least one vocal Twite amongst them.

At Cresswell Pond Moorhen and Coot were feeding on the open grass between the barn and the hide. 3 Stock Dove flew north and 7 Red Breasted Merganser, a drake Shoveler, 60 Wigeon and a long Tailed Duck were on the water.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Local Ponds

Whilst out and about with the family today I checked some of the local ponds. A quiet Marden Quarry only held a pair of Pochard amongst the usual ducks. At least 7 Stock Dove were in the trees surrounding the pond including a nest building pair.

Despite its small size West Allotment Village pond still managed to hold 5 Mute Swan, 5 Pochard, 20 Tufted Duck and a pair of Shoveler along with many Moorhen and Coot.

Killingworth Lake was also busy. Tufted Duck were in good numbers on both sides of the lake along with a few Goldeneye, 6 Pochard, a pair of displaying Shoveler and a Great Crested Grebe asleep on the edge of the reeds.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Spring into action

With a mixture of sun and snow showers this morning I wasn’t holding my breath when I went to West Hartford.

Walking passed the entrance plantation I could hear a WH rarity calling form the hedgerow next to the Substation, a Tree Sparrow. As I approached it flew south towards the next hedgerow down before going into the entrance plantation. Just out of view it then flew back into the hedgerow near a single tree before working its way down towards the border of East and West Hartford.

From here I could see that it was a male as it popped in and out of view also I could hear at least another two birds with it but the strong wind made listening difficult and seeing was made even harder as the newly ploughed fields were hard to move across.

Whilst watching the sparrows I noticed all the gulls in the nearby field get up and begin mobbing something. Expecting to see a Buzzard I was surprised when I looked up and saw a cream-crown Marsh harrier being mobbed. I flew off north avoiding the gulls and disappeared over the river towards Bebside.

SO that’s my first new species at WH this year, all I need now are House Sparrows! These Sparrows must have come from the newly discovered population at Laverock Hall Farm just over a mile away.

Friday, 22 March 2013


As I plan to do more often this year, I had a ''landwatch'' from the top of Nelson Hill this morning. 60% of the patch can be seen from the top of the old pit heap and on a clear day you can even seawatch! Although I am yet to clearly make anything out from there.

There wasn't much today as snow flurries kept blocking my view and the howling wind made it hard to hear anything. The highlights were a drake Mallard flying north and eight Waxwings perched on the scrub at the base of the south side of the hill. They soon took off and landed in a garden in Nelson Village.

I checked Browckwell scrubland on the way back but only found a pair of Song Thrush and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Thursday, 21 March 2013


Whilst passing I quickly checked Arcot Pond this morning. Nothing new apart from a diving Little Grebe and 60 or so bathing Black Headed Gulls. I scanned through the ducks and gulls hoping for something rarer but no luck, not even a Chiffchaff singing yet.

Later on I went to the easterly border of Cramlington at Laverock Hall Farm in search of the Tree Sparrows spotted there at the weekend. The farm itself is just outside the patch boundary but the row of cottages on the opposite side of the road are just inside and luckily the Tree Sparrows were there this morning.

It was hard to get a proper idea of how many were there as they were in and out of the cottage gardens and mixed amongst a flock of House Sparrows. I have passed here many times before and regularly buy birdseed but have only even seen House Sparrows.
There were at least four Tree Sparrows in the trees above the stables and around the same number in the hedges surrounding the cottages.

The fields behind the cottages are usually good for Golden Plover most winters but they only held Lapwing today.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Record Count

Duelling Dunnocks and singing Song Thrushes were the theme of the morning as I walked to West Hartford.

A Short Eared Owl was hovering low over the fire station field as I arrived before perching on a fence post next to the sub station. Oystercatcher numbers were down from the weekend high count of 18 to just three today. Usually when a seo hunts over the marshy field nothing much happens but not today. It was mobbed by gulls and at one point four Skylark.

Also it flushed up 2 Common Snipe, 20+ Teal and best of all a persona record West Hartford count of 16 Gadwall!

Gadwall seem to be increasing everywhere over recent years but 16 especially 14 drakes and 2 ducks would be a good Arcot record never mind on the smallest body of water at West Hartford. They landed briefly on the main pool before heading back to the marshy field.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Enemy Territory

With the Cramlington vs Big Waters 2013 patch listing competition in full swing I visited enemy territory to see what was about. Not really I went to Big Waters with Cain this morning to practice using my new camera.

The wasn’t much out of the ordinary on the water from the 5 star hotel hide but its comfortable seats did make practicing with the camera in the freezing cold conditions more enjoyable even if the light was awful.
Whilst in the hide we were shown the unfortunate Long Eared Owl, which had died on Monday. Up close I really appreciated how small they are.

Once the feeding station was filled up the birds appeared with 8+ Moorhen, Pheasants, Reed Bunting and a Willow Tit amongst the mass feeding on the grain. 

Anyway it was nice to practice and take a few shots even if they are a bit dull.

Flight Shot


Monday, 4 March 2013

Getting Louder

As I walked to West Hartford this morning the birds are getting louder. Both Blackbird and Song Thrush in full song throughout the north end of Northburn. Before I left the garden was full of Great Tits and a GS Woodpecker passed through.

The birds at Hartford all seemed a bit nervous as they kept taking to the air. I soon noticed a Sparrowhawk being chased overhead by a Carrion Crow. The Sparrowhawk then disappeared into Hartford Woods causing chaos as 200+ Wood Pigeon and 96 Fieldfare took to the air. I know there were 96 as they landed briefly in the tree tops along the river before flying off.
When things settled down again on the pools there were 4 Greylags, 1 Shelduck, 3 Mallard, 50+ Teal, 9 Oystercatcher and 6 LBB Gulls amongst the BH and Herring Gulls.

The highlight of the morning were 5 bright red male Crossbill which flew south low overhead in the field behind the main pool. I watched them in the bins for about 30 seconds before they disappeared over the top of the fire station. I think this was the first time I had ever seen only male Crossbill together.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Quick roundup

Shasun yesterday- nothing

Arcot Pond - nothing (new anyway)

West Hartford - (Two Linnets flew over)

Holywell Pond today - (Nothing)

Monday, 25 February 2013

Out of County

A change of scenery is nice from time to time especially in birding. So this morning myself, SH and DM headed south to Teesside.

Our first stop was Hartlepool Marina where as soon as we pulled up into the car park we could see a close in Slavonian Grebe. I got probably my best ever views of a winter plumage slav and soon after I got my best ever views of a Black Throated Diver as it came to the surface under the Premier Inn. The two swam the length of the Marina staying under the water for long periods of time along with three Little Grebe.

Next we walked across the bleak Seaton Snook where eventually we found the flock of 15 Snow Bunting amongst a pile of rubble. Some nice males were viewable amongst the flock in flight.
Although the snow of Northumberland was not as heavy in Teesside we still caught the odd sleet shower and the freezing wind followed us all day.

Later we walked along a section of Greatham Creek before turning back and seeing the Greenshank wading in the creek under the road bridge. Whilst watching we could hear but never saw a Spotted Redshank.

Amongst the Greylags and Canada Geese at Cowpen Marsh was a sleeping Dark Bellied Brent Goose and eventually the Tundra Bean Goose showed itself distantly on top of one of the grassy mounds dotted across the marsh.

A short time later we ended up at Dorman’s Pool where we walked along the ridge above the pool next to Reclamation Pond. Whilst up there we were shocked when we looked and saw that the rec had been filled in with what must have been a quarry’s worth of rubble. The last time we were there we were watching an American Wigeon!
There was no sign of the Smew or Bittern on Dorman’s but there were at least 12 Pintail, most of them drakes and what probably the same amount of Pochard in the whole of Northumberland on one small section of the pool.
Whilst scanning the reed edges for the Bittern SH spotted the elusive Green Winged Teal swim out and join the Teal on the pool. Instead of the usual 30-second views of GW Teal we were treated to prolonged views as it swam and flew around before settling on the pond with the Teal. Also form our vantage point over the reeds we heard at least three separate Water Rail squealing.
A quick look on west Saltholme Pool provided us with good views of a dapper looking drake Scaup and a pair of Great Crested Grebe.

On our way back we stopped at Seaton Common. I hadn’t appreciated the sheer number of gulls in that area with hundreds of gulls on the various pools across the common, on the tip, in the air and over towards the mouth of the Tees.  Despite searching I couldn’t find a Caspian Gull but there could have easily been one on show if the gulls weren’t so active. As well as the number of gulls there was masses of corvids and Starlings performing aerial displays above the tip.
The last area of the common we checked was the near the entrance to North Gare. A Little Egret was feeding in a small channel along with some Grey Herons. We soon located the gulls, which had just landed, and we just got onto them in time to see a juvenile Glaucous Gull take to the air and fly north towards Seaton Carew.

Our last stop was Ward Jackson Park in Hartlepool where at least eight Ring Necked Parakeets were heard and some were sitting together in trees near the pond.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Still around

We were passing West Hartford in the car this afternoon and with the perfect light he stopped to see if the SEO was hunting.
As soon as we got out the car we could see it hunting around the fire station field before it landed on a fence post along the entrance plantation.

As we got closer I could hear the trilling of Waxwings and looked up in time to see nine flying south together over the substation. They circled the area for a minute before landing in the trees above the West Hartford Business Park sign. They spent the next five minutes dropping down from the trees onto the berry bushes before a land rover got too close and they flew off over the roundabout into the Northburn estate.

They were probably part of the larger flock seen around the Northburn area for most of this year. The flock hasn’t been seen for a week now so they way have split up and some may have moved into theBedlington area.

We watched the Short Eared owl hunt near the main pool before another was spotted hunting nearer the farm. The two then hunted near each other and flushed a Grey Heron from the reeds. The pool was still full of Teal and a single Curlew landed.

Saturday, 16 February 2013


I had a successful early morning visit to West Hartford and Arcot Pond this morning. Whilst out and about on the patch yesterday there was a light northerly passage of Siskin and Skylark, which were also on the move today as I walked to WH.

I saw the Short Eared Owl for the first time this year at WH as I arrived, it then sat on the fence outside the fire station. A few Crossbill were in the plantation behind the substation before flying off. The strangest site of the morning were 5 Cormorants, which flew south together over the substation. One appeared by itself later and circled the pools but never landed.
The pools held around 60 Teal, a lone LBB Gull, 1 Oystercatcher and a Shelduck. A Moorhen called form the reeds, 4 Roe Deer were feeding together behind the main pool and a Stock Dove flew east.

After alerting Liverbirder to the Hartford activity he kindly dropped me off at Arcot Pond. It is still nice to see the pond alive with wildfowl but there was no sign of yesterdays Pintail pair.
Still the pond held 2 female Goldeneye, a pair of Pochard, 1 drake Goosander, Wigeon, 20 Tufted Duck, 3 Canada Geese, 2 Gadwall and 2 Cormorant.

The walk home was quiet. No sign of the Little Owl along Beacon Lane but at least 6 Yellowhammer on the lane and 60+ Siskin feeding on Alder at Beaconhill play area.

The only birds of note at Bassington NR were a grey Heron and a GS Woodpecker.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Staying local

After an average webs count yesterday myself and DMcK explored the patch. It wasn't off to a good start as we got to West Hartford and a local youth football team were preforming some military style training exercise along the old road but fortunately they never went further than the rubbish pile. But that wasn't everything as a lass on roller skates wearing a tiger print onesie was being pulled along by a Pitbull Terrier, only in Cramlington!
Suprisingly this flushed all the gulls and a lone Lapwing from the pools but we did get there in time to see the LBB Gull flying off. The pair of Stonechat were chasing each other from fence post to fence post near the smaller pool. Hartford Wood and the steps down to the riverside were quiet although 3 Cormorants flew east along the river together.

After leaving WH we walked through the Nelson Industrial Estate which was Waxwingless and ended up at Nelson Village. Around 100 Redwing and a single Mistle Thrush were feeding in the horse paddocks on the edge of the village. They made for a spectacular site as they all flew off on mass as a Sparrowhawk dived through the flock. Also a Grey Wagtail called as it flew over Crowhall Lane.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Different yet mostly the same

I had my first visit to West Hartford this month late this morning. Amongst the Herring and Black Headed Gull on the main pool was a Lesser Black Backed Gull which soon flew off towards the industrial estate.

50+ Teal were on the pool's edge and a male Stonechat tacked away from the mound inside the metal compound. I could only find two Common Snipe and a female Stonchat in the marshy field bordering the main pool.

Now that all the snow has melted away most of the water has filled up the fields and a lot is probably in the old mine shafts which riddle Cramlington's underground. The snow has taken its tole with a lot of the bare trees now collapsed but it has also had a positive effect. A combination of snow melt and last years rain has increased the amount of reeds and other pool side vegetation. Long grasses now surround the site and two new shallow pools have been formed in the stubble fields.
I now hope that the increased water level in the main and smaller pool will attract more wildfowl and gulls whilst the new shallow pools attract more waders.
Having a relatively new site as your patch means that you will encounter more change until the land settles but WH is a non managed site on top of an old mine so change will always happen.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Cow Heron

I wont bore you with details of yesterdays trip, see to see what happended. Also a Merlin has perched on the Beal side of the Holy Island causeway and a flock of around 50 Twite were flying around Stag Rocks.
Anyway Northumberlands long overdue second Cattle Egret is now on my county list and my first lifer of 2013.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Garden tick of a different kind

At 12:40 last night I was checking to see if it was snowing when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye moving accross the school field. Expecting to see a cat I was suprised when I looked closer and saw that it was a Fox!
It scurried off straight up the middle of the field and disappeared into the shadows around the school pond. Everytime I have seen a Fox in the past particularly urban ones, they tend to turn around a lot and just generally take more notice of their surroundings. This fox just seemed in a hurry to cross the field and I didn't see it again over the next half an hour.
The closest I have seen a fox to my house in the past is around the Crowhall Lane area but people have told me that they sometimes see one near the Brockwell centre. I wonder if this fox was just forced out of its usual area by the snow or if it has been around more regularly and I was only able to see it last night because of the snow?

Wednesday, 23 January 2013


Last night I went to Tynemouth as I will have to do once a week for the next few months. I spent and hour and a half helping clear the street of snow only to get past Laverock Hall Farm and find that the snow had stopped and was non existant along the North Tyneside coast.
A part from hearing a few Fieldfare fly over whilst clearing the street, a Grey Heron also flew over, very low almost like it was going to land in a garden.
Tynemouth Boating Lake was completely ice free and held 10 Mallard and 18 Tufted Duck. Under the streetlights I could see amongst a small group of Mallard and Mute Swan asleep at the south end of the lake, was the tame Barnacle Goose.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Crept into the garden

Whilst going to close my window this morning as the freezing wind blew in a snow shower I could hear a familiar song. At first I couldn't place but then as it continued on and off for a few minutes I realised it was another garden first, a Treecreeper!
Despite searching the limited number of trees in the garden I couldn't see it and a few minutes after it stopped singing I could hear it again this time further east in my neighbours garden.
It's not unusual for one to turn up in a garden during these conditions but I never thought I would get one due to the lack of trees but I have seen Treecreeper less than half a mile from my house  on Crowhall Lane and JM did have one along the section of the Horton Burn nearest to my house the other day.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Garden Traffic

After filling up the feeders in my garden this afternoon, the birds soon appeared. A mixed finch flock of around 10 Goldfinch, 10 Greenfinch and 5 Chaffinch hung around the feeders on the fence. Whilst watching the flock I noticed a stunning male Brambling amongst them, which didn’t stay long.

The resident Robin who has sung constantly each night from 1am since the 20th December chased away anything that got to close. Numbers of Collard Dove, Wood Pigeon, Coal, Blue and Great Tit and Blackbird doubled as they pillaged the feeders. Jackdaw and a Song thrush were also briefly present as was a male Bullfinch.

Down to the woods, yesterday

In need of some more fresh air yesterday I pushed on through the snow and ended up at West Hartford. All pools were frozen as expected but still a pair of Stonechat flew around the edges of the reeds.

I then walked up to and through Hartford Woods. A nice male Bullfinch was flushed from the ground on the way there and 2 Cormorants flew east along the river Blyth. It was worth sitting in the freezing cold and snow for over and hour as a few Roe Deer wandered past me completely oblivious as I sat on a tree trunk. A GS Woodpecker was drumming away nearby and a flock of 5 Song Thrush, 15 Fieldfare and 30+ Redwing fed on the rare patch of bare ground on the edge of the woods.

Every so often the flock would get up on mass and fly further into the woods and then come back. I soon realised that some of the flock were mobbing something in the trees. A few times I caught site of something brown hopping from tree to tree as it was mobbed. I never got close enough or got a proper view but I’m sure it was a Tawny Owl.

I walked back through the stubble fields were 6 Grey Partridge, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting and a Grey Wagtail were all seen. Also a flock of 60 Lapwing were flying around the backfields.

Despite the cold not a single snipe was along the edges of the Horton burn on the way back where the water was still flowing.

When I got home I look out my window and as I thought I could see the Lapwing flock high up in the air. So that’s the first new bird to enter the garden list in 2013.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Enjoying the game

On Saturday I went to West Hartford to clear my head. Apart from a few gulls dropping onto the pools there wasn’t much else. A pair of noisy Stonechat chased each other around the smaller pool as I headed back.

As I approached the gap in hedge north of the entrance plantation, to check the new pools in the fields, I could hear the crowing of pheasants. Over the next five minutes I was treated to views of two cock Pheasants duelling both in the air and on the ground.
These usually nervous birds hadn’t noticed me only standing feet away as the kicked, pecked and pulled chunks out of each other. Six Grey Partridge were also closely watching the fight almost as if they had money on it. There didn’t seem to be a clear winner in the fight as the two flew off in separate directions across the field along with the partridge.

I had never seen Pheasants duel before until Saturday and enjoyed it just as much as seeing a new bird at WH. So I have decided that although I will still be looking out for new birds on the patch this year I will also take time out to enjoy nature and its events more rather than just listing or ticking.

Also this year there is the patch competition with Big Waters to do, I’ll mention more about that in the future.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Winter Bird Race 2013

Saturday saw myself CS, JB, DMcG and TM take part in the Northumberland winter bird race for the first time. With a route in mind we started off at Fenham-le-moor at first light. Not much in the way of wildfowl compared to the sites usual standards but a few species ticked off with the highlights being a Peregrine flying north along the shoreline and a Long Tailed Duck south, although we missed the family party of Whooper Swans in a field nearby.
Little Egret and Greenshank were surprise additions in Budle Bay and we got most of our seabird targets from Stag Rocks. The highlights there were a Great Northern Diver, 6 Slavonian Grebes and a surprise Little Auk floating on the sea alongside a Guillemot!

After an hours detour inland we picked up a few more common birds before arriving at East Chevington. A Slavonian Grebe was diving on the north pool and whilst we watched, 8 Crossbill flew south. The Twite flock was in flight at Hemscotthill Links as were 6 Grey Partridge. The Greenland White Fronted goose at Woodhorn was viewable

Our next main stop was Horton Burn. No sign of the Dipper but eventually we located one of the Kingfishers. Whilst checking the boggy field on Pipe Lane near the old fire station we managed to flush 3 Jack Snipe along with 2 Common Snipe. All birds got up in separate parts of the field so three different ones were definitely seen.
We spent the rest of the afternoon fighting against the fading light and failing to locate any owl species at all despite searching numerous sights in north Tyneside.

We finished in last place on 98, which was quite good considering we missed some obvious species such as GS Woodpecker and Treecreeper. It was an enjoyable experience and showed another side to birding. Its just a shame that nobody else was around to see some of the species we saw as I am sure a few eyebrows were raised with reports of Little Auk and 3 Jack Snipe.