Monday, 31 December 2012


So another year closes and another is about to begin. It's been an unusual year...

2012 started well with a second trip to South Africa - a beautiful country with amazing bird life. Ornithology-wise the highlight was a two day venture into the wilds with Birding Africa - we amassed a good number of species on the full-on days (163 species - declared a record by our guide), with personal highlights being Cape Rock-jumper (above), Secretarybird and some decent views of Victorin's Warbler.

Back in the UK January had started well with Desert Wheatear, Lesser Scaup, Great Grey Shrike and hods of Short-eared Owl available on the 1st - a pace that seemed to lessen for me as the year progressed!

February was dominated with decent geese selections, with great showings of white-fronted and bean... and a wandering Egyptian.  A Green Woodpecker in Cramlington was a local highlight.

By March I was assembled with Mark, John B and  cousin Rob for our annual birding weekend - this year Northumberland was the host county, and we enjoyed some great birding, with our "own" Great Grey Shrike in Allendale, Red and Black Grouse, Jack Snipe, Smew, Greenshank, Iceland Gull, Ring Ouzel etc

April brought summer migrants and a few padders - Common Crane, Hooded Crow and Marsh Harrier. Grasshopper Warbler arrived late at West Hartford and were notable in their absence for much of the wet summer... Little Grebe was good for West Hartford on 30th

May brightened up with two Red-rumped Swallow at Lynemouth and a splendid but distant Red-backed Shrike at Hauxley. Two Cuckoo at West Hartford were notable, while dipping Kentish Plover on Holy Island was extremely frustrating. The end of may was good in Cramlington (not often said!) with Little Owl and Ring Ouzel being picked up late in the month. Lack of twitching instinct cost me dearly on 29th - opting to go the next morning was bad judgement, as the Hartlepool Orphean Warbler was a 1 dayer...

Birding in June was limited by work commitments, but locally was able to enjoy singing Marsh Warbler, Corncrake, and another Cramlington Green Woodpecker.

July gave an unusually good opportunity to see Long-eared Owl at Druridge - with daylight hunting birds in front of the Budge Screen.

A walking holiday in Switzerland ended July and began August, limited bird species seen, though Snow Finch, Alpine Accentor and Honey Buzzard were pleasing.

The return to the UK was timed well with the appearance of the Newton Stilt Sandpiper - my third county tick of the year. A quality bird for the county, and with Quail on the route home, a decent morning out.

September was still limited by overtime, so I was pleased to get nice views of Yellow-browed Warbler at St Mary's and enjoyed the mini-fall of common migrants late in the month. A Long-billed Dowitcher at Cresswell was a nice bonus (along with the Great Skua that took up residence on the pond!)

October saw the return of Kingfisher to the Horton Burn and an interesting day at St Mary's when an interesting warbler was on intermittent show - the Blyth's Reed was no easy picking but was an interesting lesson to be part of. Rarity-wise October was a no-goer for me... A Slavonian Grebe on Druridge Bay CP was nice though.

November was a "big" month for me - reaching a milestone of sorts early on...
Weirdly, bird of the month was a Bee-eater! Really bizarre, especially in an urban location. Great views were had by many.

The dreary November weather was left behind for a week while I travelled to the warmer climes of St Lucia. A relaxing trip with birding restricted to a luscious resort nestled between the Pitons. A few new birds were inevitable, and along with the beautiful St Lucia Warbler, Antillean Crested Hummingbird were star attractions (an a source of great frustration trying to get decent images!).

The year has concluded quietly (as much the rest of the year) with Great Northern Diver land-locked on Bothal Pond, the immature Glaucous Gull at North Shields and many cycle rides along the Horton Burn in search of Gordons' Dipper (Eventually seen with Gordons help on 29th)...

So, 2012 - NO UK TICKS (or National twitches)!!!! / 3 County Ticks / a pitiful UK year list/county list (many dumb omissions) and a world year list of approximately 390

... maybe "13" will bring better luck! 

Saturday, 29 December 2012

The BIG dipper

A very overcast morning saw Mark and I head to North Shields Fish Quay - both glaucous and iceland gull had been reported a day previous.

We parked up opposite the boat sheds and ended up walking round to the Black Middens - with no sign of either gull and very wet conditions we opted for a pit stop back at the quay for coffee and a panini (we're so sophisticated).

Meanwhile STH had arrived - so a quick text from the warmth of the cafe to Steve to inform of our presence was rewarded with a call back informing that the glaucous had re-appeared. Result.

The monster gull spent most of its time up on the shed roofs, but luckily it took a fish scrap and flew past, giving one ok photo from a flyby sequence...

High-fives all round, we then headed back to Cramlington - a journey that was intercepted by Gordon with news that he had re-located the dipper on the Horton Burn. Tensions rose as we promptly headed to the burn!

Thankfully the dipper was still present - and hopefully will remain available over then next few days for a 2013 tick. This dipper is the first to be really available within urban Cramlington - birds on the River Blyth are really at the periphery of Cramlington acceptability!

A single kingfisher patrolled the burn while we grilled the dipper, and to complete the set, a grey wagtail flew over the house while I de-booted on the driveway.

Not a bad morning - perhaps more exciting for me than anyone who cares to waste there time reading this drivel!

Thursday, 27 December 2012


A quick summary of recent Cramlington bird sightings while tootling on the bike - 1 short-eared owl in the usual fields, 1 kingfisher on the usual burn and 3 brambling frequenting a garden...

All quiet / still dipper-less...

Sunday, 16 December 2012


I like nothing better than a tootle along the Horton Burn during the winter - and mid week news of a first "within the houses" dipper during the week was suffice to get me out this morning. No East Chevington Beardies were going to spoil this chase!

It was rather lush this morning - sunny, mild and still - perfect for a cycle aided trip. While dipper dipping was on the menu, two kingfisher now patrol the burn, a single grey wagtail, a pair of mallard, a great spotted woodpecker were also noted.

A brief diversion to a neglected of late West Hartford produced a single short-eared owl, stonechat and stock dove. 5 Siskin worked the plantation next to the electrical sub-station.

Looming holiday should bring with it more regular burn outings, so fingers still crossed for the dipper...

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Antillean Crested Hummingbird

A tiny species of hummingbird, with a week of effort producing poor photographic results - all these images from the last day on St Lucia, having found a favoured feeding plant in a quiet garden. Should have taken a flash-gun...

Green-throated carib

Saturday, 1 December 2012


Bananaquit - abundant on St Lucia, noisy and always full of busy!