Friday, 31 May 2013


With news of a female red-backed shrike at Cambois this afternoon, and a spot of sunshine, I opted to cycle-twitch my second rbs of the week...

No big camera, just the trusty bridge/compact...

Rather elusive, we had a couple of good views - and a great addition to the bike-list!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

On the cards

A decent couple of days bird wise, with Gordon's avocet collected late afternoon on Monday - West Hartford's third record, and second of 2013 - maybe a bird that will no longer be unexpected on the patch.

This afternoon after a brief visit to West Hartford I fell prey of the "twitch" urge and headed north for the cracking male red-backed shrike at East Chevington and then the not so great roosting spoonbill nearby at Hauxley.

On the cards? not exactly, although the camera travelled with me, the memory cards did not. So no pictures!


Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Easterly

It's been an odd time of late - east coast doing really well for scarce and rare birds ... While I'm in Asia. 

Departed the UK a week ago - having visited West Hartford last on Sunday 12th. That "odd" raptor over the back of the north pool hurts a little.

Birding here has been slow - my fault entirely - in Kuala Lumpur I saw nothing new but here in Langkawi there have been a few new species.

The resort Lies on the north coast of the island and is a little bit quieter than hoped - tree sparrow predominates! Otherwise Brahminy Kite and White-bellied Sea Eagle patrol the beach, and a noisy group of oriental pied hornbill cause trouble... 

Friday, 10 May 2013

The week that was...

It's been a great week for birding - both locally and further afield. The roller-coaster that birding can be sometimes...

2 county ticks for me - an overdue purple heron and county first: 1s male collared flycatcher

County bird of the year?

A selection of smashing year-ticks: surf scoter, king eider, white-billed diver, black throated diver, ptarmigan, capercaillie, crested tit, golden eagle, great white egret.

Some great birds at West Hartford too! ~ black-tailed godwit, little ringed plover, ringed plover, wood sandpiper... whatever next?

Great encounter with Ptarmigan on Cairngorm

Eight Osprey seen during Highlands visit

Obliging king eider - a stunning sea duck

Pristine great-white egret

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Collared Flycatcher, Low Newton

It was an early evening dash up the coast for the splendid 1s male collared flycatcher at Low Newton... news had broke just as evening meal preparations had begun, so it was a somewhat long hour and a three quarters before the twitch commenced - departing at 18:50.

Easy to see on arrival, the flycatcher was favouring the hedge opposite the tin church, resplendent in early evening sunlight. Great viewing but tricky for the camera, a tad distant. The fence line of the horse field was great in respect that it enforced an orderly watch-point, enabling the migrant to feed without any hassle.

As the sun set the flycatcher made a very quick foray to the near fence line enabling some ok record shots to be taken, albeit at ISO1250... The first two images here were amongst the last to be taken (20:10hrs).

Earlier on while the sun was out, the flycatcher remained a bit further up the hedge - strong contrasting light again making photography a mild challenge. However, fantastic viewing ensued, and it was good to catch up with some fellow Northumbrian birders - a county tick for all and a lifer for some.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Late Decision / Good Decision

A late evening decision on a week of early shift - worth it though!

Rock hard

Day 2 saw the team heading up Cairngorm, in search of grouse and buntings. First port of call saw a single female black grouse flying past the parked car, while reds gave themselves up not long after.

The car park was quiet, so with cold weather gear on we started the moderate climb up alongside the mountain railway. Fresh snow began to dictate our route, and a good call from John B saw us heading south in search of snow free patches.

Within a few steps we were halted by an incredibly obliging party of ptarmigan - two females and a vocal male. The next few minutes were spent in admiration of the mountain specialists, with unanticipated good views...

With mission accomplished it was time for the easier stroll / slide back to the car park, but not until the customary team picture.

Back in the car park a small of snow bunting were picked up - maybe 20 birds in total but very mobile - a few smart males in the group:

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Touring the east...

Day 1 of the Scottish trip commenced with a team pickup at Newcastle (collecting a hire car for the trip) and Edinburgh (collecting the remaining members of the party).

Edinburgh was convenient in that a drake surf scoter was available for relatively easy observation off the River Esk, Musselburgh. Although quite distant and in murky conditions it only took a matter of minutes to pick the drake up - loafing about with velvet scoter. Not a particularly great view of what is typically a very bonny duck, but none the matter, a quality start. White and pied wagtail were on the river banks, while our drive into the area had also provided the only swift of the trip. One member of the team thought that a particularly distant and drab long-tailed duck was the highlight of the visit...

Next up a drive north and east, past the granite city and onwards to the delights of the Ythan Estuary. I had dipped drake king eider here in the 1980s on a family holiday - todays visit was better. Parked up at the golf course and headed over the dunes to find a very low tide and a concentrated flock of eider on the estuary.

Armed only with the 100mm-400mm lens, some ok record shots were achieved - how I wished I'd brought the 500mm! My first "proper" drake king eider, a contender for bird of the trip... Wonderful to here the eiders calling away, arctic terns overhead seals in the background noisy too!

Next stop was a short drive north to Meikle Loch - a drake ring-necked duck had been reported earlier in the week (and a blue-headed wagtail), but none were on show on this visit.

Further north, Portsoy was to be the final birding destination of the day, and a little while later were were enjoying tricky viewing of a summer plumaged white-billed diver! An incredible finale to the day, made all the better that it was a life tick for one member of the team, albeit a little distant in choppy conditions. Better still, we were treated to great views of gannet and fulmar riding the blustery conditions.

Bleak conditions at Portsoy - but a tick on view through Ian's scope

So a good start to the trip - three quality birds. Next port of call was inland, to our lodgings in Grantown-on-Spey...

Monday, 6 May 2013

The journey home...

Great White Egret / 100-400mm Lens

Arrived back in the north-east yesterday evening after an enjoyable weekend further north - more on that later.

First port of call wast East Chevington, where an eventual catch up with the adult purple heron provided a long awaited county tick for me - another relative blocker un-blocked (cattle egret being the other earlier in the year).

The heron was on the south pool, concealed very well in the front of the reed bed - for a colourful bird they can be darn tricky to pick out! Eventually the heron lifted and flew to a better area for viewing.

A few whimbrel were in adjacent fields and a cracking male yellow wagtail.

Further north, the great white egret performed well at Hauxley. Initially bathing between the weir and the wader hide, it flew back towards the southern edge of  the reserve after some prolonged preening.

From the wader hide I was surprised to find the egret on the right hand side in the corner that the greater yellowlegs and grey phalarope had frequented a couple of years back - the egret was no more than 5 meters away!

With the hide windows all closed I rattled off a few record shots - not ideal but in hindsight the correct decision - as soon as the click of the window lock was undone the egret lifted again and dropped onto the adjacent shore.

Bizarrely this is the second time I've had both purple heron and great white egret on the same day - it happened a few years back on Teesside too.

With a hire car to return Mark and I headed off, and after his drop off a quick look at West Hartford produced (the tipped off by GM) black tailed godwit and ringed plover.

Quite a day - which started with capercaillie at 05:30!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Patch A.M.

A grand morning in Cramlington, with Liverbirders drake scaup collected at Arcot - a Cramlington first for me (and the bike for that matter). The cycle to West Hartford was little owl-less, but an encounter with LMcD was good value as always.

West Hartford produced a little ringed plover - always good to get in spring, while the cycle home was broken up with a check of the wheatear fields at East Hartford - 1 male and 2 female this morning.

Warblers today included willow, chiff, lesser whitethroat, whitethroat, blackcap and grasshopper. Still not managed a sedge, but plenty time for that.

Work commitments prevented a trip back to West hartford for the wood sandpiper - hopefully I'll catch up with one later.

Bags now packed, a trip is about to happen!