Friday, 28 November 2008

Pipit & Plover

Sunny and frosty start to the day, so a quick amble about St Mary's was called for. No sign of the water pipit, just a few rock pipit around the causeway, plus two brent geese and a selection of waders, including some dainty ringed plover. Snow goose has been reported from Holywell Pond this morning, maybe our paths will cross again over this forthcoming weekend.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Snow Goose

Managed to locate the Snow Goose fairly easily this morning - in roadside fields adjacent Crow Hall Farm SW of Old Hartley. Feeding quiet activley with 20 Grey-lags'. Flew north at 11:15, assume back to the Holywell area.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Water Pipit

Quiet potter on fresh winter morning with newly retired Dad to St Mary's - the single water pipit was commuting (actively, no chance of a photo) between the north beach and promanard area with a couple of rock pipit for company, purple sandpiper on the rocks and the brent goose still lingers.

Fields around Backworth and Holywell were checked for the snow goose but no immediate sign - it had been reported on 24th near Crow Hall Farm, just NE of the Beehive Flash. I suspect there will be a few more (wild?) goose chases' over the next few weeks - ferel or not, I'd still like a stab at better photographs.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Snow Goose!

A late afternoon visit to West Hartford to check for SEO - sadly absent today despite a light snow cover.

However, a quick scan of the pools revealed a single Snow Goose with nine Grey-Lag Geese. Ok, a presumed escape, but still a nice suprise and "new" bird on the patch. As usual I had chosen to check the fields from the A192 just south of the pools, so after a quick scope of the goose (confirming Snow as opposed to Ross's - long necked, big grinning patch on bill and size approximatley the same as a Pink-footed Goose) I drove to the "business park" entrance, set up the camera and set off for a closer look. Regretfully this area is a popular spot with dog-walkers, and sure enough there was a chap and unleeshed and hyper-active spaniel ahead... despite upping my pace (well, as much as I could with the camera!) the dog got to the pool first and up went the geese (must be wild birds eh!!??) - so apologies for the dismal "record" shots - I promise not to post any more. Three images posted, one is a huge crop to try and give a better view with a single grey-lag. The geese initially headed west, then banked back and headed off south-east into the ever darkening sky. Maybe it will roost at Holywell?

Friday, 21 November 2008

Ear Wax?

Invariably winter creeps in and the hours available go birding mid week reduce to next to nothing. A benefit of shift work is that I'm able to pinch the odd hour in the morning or early afternoon depending on which shift I'm doing - it was early shift this week, so 30 Waxwing that flew over the car while driving home through Bassington Industrial Estate (Cramlington) provided enough motivation to head straight back out with the camera prior to the light diminishing. Alas, the flock appeared to have moved on, although there will undoubtably be plenty of opportunities this winter as good numbers have arrived over the past few weeks. The image above was taken with my old trusty Canon 10D in January 2006 at North Seaton (just south of Ashington, Northumberland).

Another species that keeps me going during the winter is Short-eared Owl, this stock shot was also taken in 2006 on my patch - West Hartford. This site is destined to be a business park so currently consists of rough grassland and a shallow subsidence pool. The area has had quite a good track record with Northumberland scarcities including a single avocet, green-winged teal, marsh harrier and greenland white-fronted goose. Spring and autumn wader passage can be quite good if the water levels are favourable, with green and wood sandpiper being almost annual along with occasional black-tailed godwit, little ringed plover and greenshank. WH is also a reliable SEO wintering site and late afternoon visits are usually productive - in good years 4 birds may be present, and with patience, will be seen quartering the fields.

As with Waxwing, this species is on my "need to get better pictures with latest camera" list...

Saturday, 15 November 2008

H2 oh!

A quick hour (or 4, oops) at St Mary's Wetland produced some pleasing images of the calling Hume's. The bird was feeding activley on insects, some of which can be seen on an image above. Toppled with some good conversation with some of Northumberlands regulars, a most pleasant trip was had.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Hume's Warbler

Originally found on 7th November, this calling Hume's was still present this afternoon, frequenting the bushes at the end of the short access track at the north end of the wetland at St Mary's. Light was not particularly favourable so a high ISO was utilised.

Several very tame goldcrest and robin also added to the mix, along with some enjoyable chat with Lindsay McDougall, fresh back from Mexico.

Is November the "new" October? The last 5 days or so have provided some remarkable birding... granted the species available are typical of the month, but the sheer availability of migrants and scarcities in a condensed period is most satisfying!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Another Desert Wheatear

After the disappointment of not locating the male desert wheatear on 10th November (and seeing a pager message an hour after I had left informing that the bird was still present) I took the opportunity to have a second attempt today.

A scan of the favoured area was unsuccessful at first, but luckily a shout and wave from Bob Gadjus alerted me to the birds new location just south of Beacon Point. I was greeted with the news that the bird had been showing well on the coastal track... but the bird was currently not on view.

After a couple of tense moments the bird was relocated on the cliff side and provided superb views prior to flying further down the beach. This was my first male and first in Northumberland - so a good result!

Monday, 10 November 2008


Finally caught up with the red-flanked bluetail on Holy Island this afternoon - tides have been awkward the last couple of days so I had to wait until mid afternoon before the causeway to clear. While waiting for the tide I managed not to see the male desert wheatear at Newbiggin... maybe that will stick a bit longer. Bluetail was very active and kept low. These shots were taken on the roadside adjacent the Lindisfarne Hotel.

Desert Wheatear

Conveniently near to the SGS at Saltfleet. Feeding activley in front of a small admiring crowd on 9th November.

Steppe Grey Shrike

1st Winter at Grainthorpe on 9th November. A very showing individual indeed!

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Two-barred Crossbill

Early"ish" start today for a wasted journey north to Holy Island with Mark, where yesterdays bluetail had clearly departed. After a whole 5 minutes on site and some wise advice from BB, the car was pointed south for an attempt to see the male two-barred crossbill at Garfit Farm near Stokesley in North Yorkshire.

Dipping was looming after almost three hours wait in the cold damp... until it was located in the tree above the ever-increasing crowd. The fact that it was in the bird was in the tree above the crowd did not really help - it was a pain to pick out... the crowd moved outwards to the farmhouse and most people were able to get satisfactory views. Then the bird pulled a treat - flying down to the feeder in front of the masses, providing rather closer views than expected! Cracking bird. Great performance from the 1DIII too - images above were taken at ISO800 - 1000.

Friday, 7 November 2008

St Mary's Island in the rain

Spent a couple of hours in the drizzle looking for migrants. No sign of any LEO in the "gut" or bushes at the north end of the wetland, but 1 woodcock was compensatory. A few tame goldcrest and robin in the area but not too much else passerine wise. An obliging 1st winter dark bellied brent goose was feeding close to the island causway, a few photographs were taken prior to leaving (just as the sun broke through...).
Arriving home, the mail had arrived and to my delight the Isles of Scilly 2007 review was amongst the bills. The Isles of Scilly Bird Group must be congratulated for another fine report - very much worth the subs alone.
A text from Mark Armstrong was less pleasing - a 1w red-flanked bluetail had just been found on Holy Island (along with Pallas's Warbler) ... and I start work in just over an hour. One to watch.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Dull November Days

Glaucous-winged gull. Another sunshine-less day in the north-east of England - a far cry from the deep blue skies enjoyed in Vancouver in August 2008. Maybe one of these hard guys will brighten up a dull UK winter day over the next few months?

Monday, 3 November 2008

Sand 2 - GSP

Very pleased to (a) catch up with this and, (b) not have to travel to the Ythan Estuary to see it. An accomodating Saturday morning greater sandplover at Dunbar (Lothian) on 20th September.

Sand 1 - Curlew

Curlew Sandpipers showed well at Cresswell Pond in September (along with a host of other species that included Buff-breasted & Pectoral Sandpiper).

Red-back: September

St Mary's Island hosted this immature red-backed shrike in September. A very obliging bird.

Sub-alp: September

This sub-alpine warbler performed well at Trow Quarry (Co Durham) on 8th September.

Wheatear: September 2008

Along with all of the scarcitites at Newbiggin on 7th September there was also good numbers of commoner migrants - including tree pipit, whinchat, pied flycatcher, spotted flycatcher and wheater. This bird was photographed in the churchyard at Church Point.

Red-breasted Flycatcher: September 2008

Another photograph from Newbiggin: this stunning male was on the "mound", just west of the golf course. A tricky subject to photograph, always on the move.

Dotterel: September 2008

Obliging immature on Newbiggin Golf Course (Northumberland)

Sunday, 2 November 2008