Sunday, 30 October 2011


I do love a patch tick...

1st day of winter: SNOW ALREADY!

More on the snow in a bit...

Started the day back in Cleveland for what turned out to be a very quiet potter around Saltholme and Dormans Pool with Mark and John B. Plenty of birds but little of note...

This afternoon the pace quickened, with a couple of hours back at trusty West Hartford. No harrier today (tho GM did manage a marsh harrier elsewhere in Cramlington today), but a minimum of two short-eared owl hunted the fields. I fear it will be a tricky species to nail photographically speaking...

Every time I locked focus on one it did this...

Into the grass... again!
Still, they're a pleasure to watch. As the first night of winter encroached, one bird settled on a not too distant (but not as close as I'd like) post.

And it was while snapping away at this when the phone range - STH with some exciting news. MH had had a snow bunting on the road leading into the site - luckily West Hartford has a few "marker" points - in this case it was on the road next to the discarded bath! I expect the snow bunting find eclipsed MHs' 1999 short-toed eagle adrenalin rush.

I proceeded calmly to the aforementioned spot and within a minute or two found the snow bunting on the overgrown pathway near the bath - bingo, a Cramlington tick! Light was seriously fading now, so a few record shots were rattle off (albeit not as late in the day as GM ended up taking - check these out!

This is the second snow bunting at West Hartford - Brian aka Northumbrian Birder had one a winter or two back, but it was todays' bird that furnished the Cramlington (ir)regulars with this species. Great end to the first day of winter!

Saturday, 29 October 2011


A mid to late afternoon visit to West Hartford today, and a first scan of the fields played trumps, with both hen harrier and short-eared owl in the same binocular view. Not a bad start! With others alerted I set the camera up and got settled in for any photo opportunities...

It was a murky afternoon, despite still being "summer" (just), and with distant views, only record shots were achieved. My third HH here in 11 months, but first to make it onto a memory card. Feels like October 2011 has been good for harriers in the UK, pity all I can manage are out of focus record shots!

Pushing cropping to the max - 500mm & 1.4...

Short-eared owl only numbered two today and were generally elusive, as was the harrier ~ it was the assistance of the carrion crow that signalled their return to the fields. Raptor wise it was a good trip - two kestrel and a single common buzzard also noted.

On the pools gulls were well represented with the troupe of C,H, BHs' dropping in prior to their departure to coastal roost sites. A few lapwing were also present.

Three+ stock dove loafed round the water and many wood pigeon continue.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

More of the same?

 ...Nearly not, as I discovered a disinct lack of memory cards when I set the camera up at St Mary's this afternoon. Thanks to AC for the lend of a compact flash card!

No easier than yesterday, but with a little assistance of the tripod (remembered it today!), a few snaps were managed as the firecrest(s) (two?) fed actively on the northern most mound.

1 woodcock flew in, a peregrine circled, and redwing frolicked... all very nice.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Crest has fallen...

Every now and then I have the smart idea that leaving the tripod in the car is a good idea, and that it's easier to photograph very small migrants hand holding the 500. Wrong!

This afternoons trip to St Mary's was on the back of promising weather, a rainy start with south easterlies. 2 firecrest and a yellow-browed warbler had already been put out on the pager, and since SMI is only a few minutes away it seemed the best bet in the decreasing amount of light that afternoons currently have.

All quiet round the wetland - I did not see or hear the YBW, but there were loads of blackbird and robin, plus a single male blackcap.

A tip off had me walking north to the first mound, where very quickly I was watching the dazzling firecrest. Had I had the tripod I suspect I may have fared better...

Plenty of amusing chat was had and tales of the Shetland rubythroat [you can get there by train apparantly :) ] were gripping. Unlike my autumn so far....

Friday, 21 October 2011


An "end of a week of early shift" was celebrated down the road at Teesside with Phil, catching up with the juv pallid harrier at Dormans Pool.

Only seen twice during our vigil, the first fly through was close but frustratingly quick, while the second was more distant.... though not as distant as the Norfolk bird a few winters' ago. Smashing local bird, could do with one in Northumberland!

With any luck this fab raptor will stick and I'll have another "go"... The image above was the only "uncompletelyoutoffocusbutnotquiteasinfocusasI'dlike" shot...

Thursday, 20 October 2011


Three this evening. Been a while since we've had more than one at Wrst Hartford, and I'd forgotton how tricky these can be photographed in flight... need more practice and better light!

Saturday, 15 October 2011


A tip off from GM had me spending a couple of hours at West Hartford late afternoon. Distant views of an intermittent short-eared owl was the main reason for being there, while 13 stock dove was, I think, my best total at the site.

More impressive were the 100's, if not 1,000s of gulls passing through - predominately bh, with h, c and a few lbbs' coming in from the west, dropping in for a bathe and drink before continuing to the coast.

Hoping to get to the coast soon - mid month and still not caught up with any of the migration...

Friday, 14 October 2011

< scaup II

A couple more images of the Marden lesser scaup - it was, like today, a grey day.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Lesser Scaup

Took a very quick look at the lesser scaup at Marden this morning... more pics tomorrow.

Monday, 3 October 2011


British Birds arrived in the post today ~ the annual rare birds in Great Britain issue. Usually a welcome read, but not today, as the "redhead" that wintered on Kenfig in the early 2000s' has now been removed off the British list :(

Pah - I even had to make two trips to connect!

Spurred buy the yellow-browed warbler reports from Tynemouth and Holy Island, I did a quick scoot of Whitley Bay Cemetery this afternoon - no luck!

A single house martin over the street on my way back was a late individual...

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Dodgy geese continue, Crane in vain.

Alas the sandhill crane was an impossibility this week as I was stuck at work (There have been some stunning images of it taken near Holywell).

Saturday morning saw an ill fated trip to Budle Bay to see if the common crane was about - it wasn't.

Two ross's geese at Monks House did little to compensate, and the sun refused to shine.

Newton was very quiet, with only a couple of robin ticking next to the tin church, a few goldcrest and a single treecreeper...