Saturday, 26 December 2009


Hello from the bar at Heathrow terminal 5. Currently waiting for my connecting flight to sunnier climes, due to leave early evening. christmas was quiet for birdingsometimes and family, and the approach to the new year shall be similar but warmer with a few good birds to boot. The flight down to the south east was nice, the snowy north east looked rather nice from, above.

At home the garden has been a hive of activity with visits from dunnock, robin, blackbird and assorted tits - including a tribe of long tails.

Hopefully I'll manage an update during the trip, if not it'll be early new year, hopefully with some nice photographs!

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Cool Waves

December is turning out to be my most birdless month of the year, and Saturday was no exception as bitterly cold weather took grip and the region received a scattering of snow. The evening was spent at The Sage, a concert venue celebrating it's 5th birthday. It was our first visit!

We had a rather nice meal at the Brasserie prior to the main event - Spiritualized, who were set to perform their much acclaimed "ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space" album in it's entirety. The show itself was spectacular and intense, with a couple of bonus songs for the encore. The band were joined throughout by a sting and brass section plus a choir. Lighting was superb with a starry back drop that twinkled throughout, although photographically it was too dark to capture in it's glory. For the first time in a long while a Steward asked me to stop filming (on the mobile), so that was a shame. How apt was the show finale? Silent Night. Pure genius.

In the garden a house mouse has taken kindly to the bird feed, joining the blackbirds, dunnock, robin and house sparrow that are frequenting of late.

And with the BA strike action "injunct-ed" (?), I can now take relief that the end of December will be far more birdy than the start. More on that later.... three and a half days left at work then a nice break.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Baggy trooosers!

It was a great night at the O2 Academy, Newcastle on Saturday where Madness performed a storming set of greatest hits to a very lively crowd... their second show of the day. First time I've been to a gig where "does anyone live in Cramlington?" gets a mention from the band!! No support act, but a thoroughly entertaining video of hw to become a sucessful band starring, no prizes for guessing, madness.
Only one more gig planned for the remainder of 2009, then the BA "madness" will determine whether a trip away goes ahead or not...

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Not so great northern diver

Spent a few hours this afternoon sitting in the cold waiting for the Whittle Dene great northern diver to swim closer to the causeway ... which it didn't. Cracking bird but no good for the camera! Two kingfisher were kicking about and I almost got a photo as one landed on a fence rail, however my reaction was too slow and it swifty moved on. Other birds included 1 gooseander, great crested grebe, redwing, common buzzard and great spotted woodpecker.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

I saw Yeah Yeah Yeahs earlier this year at Lollapolooza, but had to view from a distance as the crowd was huge! It was an easier show to get to the front at Newcastle, all we had to do was arrive early enough to get a good spot. Karen O and her team certainly know how to pull off a good show - great combination of dramatic costumes, playing to the crowd, lighting and a huge inflatable eyeball!!


Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Newcastle Academy 03 Dec 2009. What a great show!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Friday, 27 November 2009

Not much to report...

It was a relaxed day as the last of my 2009 "flexible" holiday was taken - a frightening thought as another year passes.

A potter up to Druridge Bay revealed very little - the north end of Cresswell Pond was busy with curlew, lapwing, wigeon and grey-lag geese, while East Chevington was rather desolate. Nearer home, West Hartford was also rather quiet, with two stonechat patrolling the field and a few common and black headed gull on the pool. No owls... yet. The Horton Burn held one kingfisher ~ a colourful end to a relatively quiet, dull day!

Hope to get out on Saturday morning...

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Stunning birds, blackbirds...

ISO 800, Fill Flash. Late afternoon in the garden.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


There's a nice interview with Tim Cleeves on the 10,000 birds blog today ~ infomation on the search for slender-billed curlew.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Garden Accentor

Back on early shift this week, but given the time of year there is not too much time to get out birding mid-week. So here is a stop-gap image. I fear I'll resort to editing old holiday images soon!

This dunnock was photographed as dusk descended on my unkempt garden (15:27 to be exact!) at ISO 1000, 1/500th sec manual, fill flash at -1.

Three of this subtle species are visiting the garden feeders at the moment.

Friday, 20 November 2009


Four weeks out of the last five have been spent on nightshift, so birding has been restricted to weekends. This forthcoming weekend does not look to good weather wise, so maybe I'll have to content myself to some rest, relaxation and bass.
Photographically it's been a good week with October radde's warbler, glossy ibis and sabine's gull images being published in Birdwatch, Birdwatching and Birding World magazines. They may turn out to be my last published until the spring migration commences!... although recent Decembers' have produced some quality birds.
While I was at work on Monday, Mrs Birdingsometimes had the pleasure of watching Arctic Monkeys / Eagles of Death Metal (photographs above) at the arena in Newcastle. Check out the EODM flying V guitar!

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Three dips and a BG

The plan was quite simple for Saturday morning - head up early morning to Holy Island, tick off the red-rumped swallow in the village and then have leisurely potter to the Lough for crippling views of the male bearded tit. We'd then head for Budle to take in the snow goose before heading to Stag Rocks for coffee and a sea watch.
That was the plan.
The reality was slightly different. Route was accomplished bar all the birds listed above!
No sign of the red-rump in the village from first light, and a walk to the Lough only provided a few mute swan and bathing herring gull. Tides were unfavourable so we had to bee off island by mid morning, and our stops along Budle Bay only provided barnacle and grey-lag geese. Maybe the snow goose is back with the others at Fenham-le-moor ;-)
Stag Rocks was a little better with the black guillemot detectable by binocular, and photographed (albeit very badly) with the 1.4 and 2.0 extenders stacked onto the 500mm. While we were watching the bg a kingfisher flew north, over the "stag" rock and round into Budle Bay. Half a dozen long-tailed duck were also present, along with red-throated diver, shag and eider. Could not see any slavonian grebe...

Friday, 13 November 2009

Another week of nightshift over celebrated with a mid afternoon visit to West Hartford. Rather quiet, with eight meadow pipit, two kestrel, bullfinch, three robin and a male stonechat. No owl activity, but I may have been a bit early.

Holy Island has hit the jackpot with a red-rumped swallow arriving today ~ I've already planned a visit there tomorrow (to try for the beardy) so hopefully both will linger.

Saturday, 7 November 2009


It's hard to believe that a year has now passed since the two-barred crossbill was a Stokesly, North Yorkshire. Mark & I spent four hours in the damp and cold waiting for the male bird to drop into it's chosen garden to feed on a peanut feeder. Roll on one year, and another morning has been spent photographing garden birds - this time in Northumberland and of a more common variety - blackbirds. Their numbers have increased over the past few weeks, no doubt boosted in number by continental birds set to winter.

Had to use fill flash as the chosen "feeding station" was in deep shade. Lens was the 100-400mm handheld.

Monday, 2 November 2009


News that the sabine's gull had me back out to the rather cold fish quay at North Shields this afternoon. Again it was a sabine-less visit, however a very late juvenile arctic tern was a surprise as it flew up-stream.

A close look at the juv greater black backed gulls revealed one with its legs tangled in fishing line and one foot missing. Nice.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

County tick, pec, chips and a sermon

Started Saturday's birding at Stag Rocks with Mark. After several years of trying we finally connected with black guillemot - a county tick for us both, a species which has been a bit of a bogey until now. BG's winter on the Farne's in small numbers and occasionally can be scoped from Stag Rocks. Today we were very lucky, as a single bird was about 400m offshore. Also seen during the watch were several guillemot, a gannet, red-breasted merganser, three red-throated diver, eider, bar-tailed godwit, oystercatcher and redshank. Interestingly there were no scoter offshore.

Monks House pool had held a snow goose for the past couple of days, but there was no sign on Saturday morning, just a few grey lags with mallard, shoveler and many black-headed gull. We later learnt that the snow goose was at Budle... and we had headed back south, via Swinhoe and it's amusing signpost -

Our next stop was the Beehive flash where a pectoral sandpiper had been reported off and on for a couple of days. Initially there was no sign and it was not until we drove off that the pec was seen (from the moving car) sunbathing in the long grass on the northern edge of the pool, hence the quirky shot below.

Next stop was the obligatory visit to the fish quay at North Shields for a nice portion of pie and chips, with a sab's on the side. Unfortunately for us, the pie and chips won the initial port of call, and after devouring them we discovered that the sabine's gull had been and gone while we were eating! This bird has lingered for a week now, but is becoming more mobile, spending time at both North Shields and South Shields. We had a check of Tynemouth Haven on route back home but there was no immediate sign.
My evening was spent back at the O2 Academy in Newcastle where Reverend and the Makers were performing. Pre-show was spent feeding up at the Canteen and Bar where a rather tasty steak and kidney pie was much enjoyed along with some rivot catcher beer. They were very good indeed, and with a Saturday 10pm curfew, continued their show (albeit Jon McClure and an acoustic guitar) in the car park adjacent to the venue!

After the show I managed to see a further two species - insomnia-ridden black-headed gull feeding on Clayton Street, Newcastle at 23:00, and barn owl - sitting on a roadsign on the A1/A19 slip-road.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Just can't get enough

A couple more from last Sunday... I had been back to the quay yesterday but only a brief view was had. I think I need to expand my birding horizons as I'm becoming a bit obsessed with this beauty!

A trip north is planned for today... more on that later.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Sabs' in flight

The sabine's gull spent the latter half of my Sunday visit feeding in the harbour at North Shields - and despite extremely close views (fly pasts of a couple of meters!) it was tricky to photograph - a smaller lens would have been much more useful. Light was poor to say the least, but maybe there will be another opportunity with better conditions as the gull appears to be lingering in the area.
The two images here are presented as an alternative to the standard flight view...

Monday, 26 October 2009


Another week of nightshift beckons for me - yawning is something I'll be joining the sabs' in doing very soon...
No birding today, I played catch up with some photograph processing and installed a wireless printer ...using a wire... which makes it pretty useless as of now.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Super Sabs

I spent a very enjoyable couple of hours at North Shields this afternoon in the company of Phil watching and photographing an immature sabine's gull.

Normally a pelagic species when recorded in Northumberland, this beauty gave itself up resting on the beach and later feeding in the harbour area.

A great deal of photographs were taken, so first up (as there is beer to tackle...) is a standard portrait shot, taken on the beach adjacent the car park.
I'll apologise in advance as I'm sure to post a few more images over the next few days - there is 7gb to work through first... with a few quirky shots that might amuse.

This bird was successfully twitched by a good number of the Northumberland birding community, even Mr & Mrs Birdingsometimes Seniors had a look!

It's been quite a good few days...

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Eastern Crowned Warbler / Autumn Colours

Fridays selection of images can only be regarded as record shots as the bird barely filled the central focus spot with the 500mm & 1.4 extender. However the colours of the sycamore leaves in the photographs provide a subtle distraction from the notequiteascloseasI'dliketohavebeento phyllosc.

My journey to seeing the bird was not quite as normal as... normal. I'd been on a pager-less nightshift on Thursday, so it wasn't until I was leaving work at 5am on Friday morning that I discovered that this mega was present via a bunch of text messages. Panic set in - I was due back to work at 13:30 and I needed some sleep. Do I stay awake and go there straight away. Do I dash home and have a power nap. Do I risk waiting till Saturday. Do I assume it's not going to be there....?
A tawny owl flapped past the car as I approached Cramlington

I woke up just after eight and much headless chicken mode ensued when I read that the bird was still present and apparently showing well.

After a quick call to arrange a pick-up of Dad we were off. Thankfully the Tyne Tunnel commute traffic had eased, so we arrived not long after nine. As I drove along the Leas looking for a parking space I spotted Mark heading back to his car - so the omen was good - I doubted that he'd leave the site so soon without the tick. A quick call confirmed it's presence and guidance for the best viewing.

First bird on view was a dapper yellow-browed warbler, closely followed by the eastern crowned. Result!

We spent the next three hours amongst the crowd of 150 - 200(?ish) listening to a variety of banter describing past twitches, near-fights, rapid journeys to the north-east and the strange and curious characters that this past-time attracts. It's fair to say that these sort of megas do attract the oddities of the human race. Readers of this blog excepted of course. ;-)

Friday, 23 October 2009


Record shot of an amazing bird. Eastern crowned warbler, Trow Quarry Co Durham.
1st for UK and only twenty minutes from home. Sweet!
More pictures to follow when I've calmed down...

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Wednesday Show Night

Had a great night on Wednesday at the O2 Newcastle watching Jack Whites' latest project - The Deadweather.

The band features Alison Mosshart (Kills), Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age), Jack Lawrence (Raconteurs) and Jack White (White Stripes/Raconteurs).

An amazing performance, especially Mosshart, who not cotent to stand still and spent a great deal of the show navigating the monitors on the front of the stage. 15 hours since the show and my ears are still buzzing away!

Good to see that some migrants are starting to turn up after the favourable easterlies, Holy Island is reaping rewards this morning with radde's / pallas's / yb / barred warbler reported. Someone is having a good day!
Looking forward to the weekend for the haul...

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Lesser 'throat & Pec

No sign of the presumed eastern lesser throat so far today, so here's another record shot from Saturday. For the record, this photo was taken at 17:55, ISO 1250 (should have bumped it up actually), 1/50th exposure, 500 + 1.4 extender, manual focus, fill flash.
Early Sunday afternoon saw me back at St Mary's - taking in distant views of the Pectoral Sandpiper on the wetland, then migrantless trudging around the north end and near-by cemetery.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Halimodendri Lesser Whitethroat

Visited St Mary's again today after news of a central asian lesser whitethroat was released on the pager.

This presumed halimodendri individual was very mobile and ended up spending most of its' time feeding high up in the willows at the north end of the wetland. The image here was taken late afternoon - 17:30 ~ 17:50 ish, and when natural light was extremely poor.

Camera focus was done manually and fill flash was used - without which I would have got no record at all.

There has been very little photoshop work in these images in an attempt to keep the as shot details of plumage as accurate as possible.

Hopefully the bird will stick and give another opportunity to get usable images...

Birding World has a good article on this form in volume 14 number 1 (January 2001 review). The bird here at St Mary's seems to match the bird in Sweden that was discussed, with reddish tone to mantle and rump, and hind-crown. Ear coverts grayish, slightly darker than crown, narrow white crescent under eye and dark lores. The bird did call once in my 4 hours spent at the site - a single high pitch "che".

If time permits and better images are not obtained, I'll post some more from this late afternoon session ...

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Wednesday lo-lights

Birding on Wednesday was confined to an hour at St Mary's.

Weather was very mild but skies were grey and it was a bit damp. The wetland was heaving with newly arrived blackbird and redwing - all very active and vocal. Lesser numbers of robin were present but more elusive. Only one 'crest - a gold was in the northern willows, while the "gut" was very quiet.

The evening was spent at a dark Newcastle Academy with the Editors ~ a wonderful night.

Sunday, 11 October 2009


A late morning/early afternoon visit to St Mary's Wetland produced glimpses of both firecrest and yellow-browed warbler. Both species were camera shy. Plenty of redwing dropping in, but were very skittish and quickly moved inland and only one goldcrest was seen.

The cemetery at Whitley Bay prove to be quiet, I could not relocate the yellow-brow that had been reported earlier and made do with further redwing, mistle thrush, grey wagtail, great and blue tit.

It was annoying to hear that the radde's at Druridge had been booted a bit this morning after being battered with mp3... anyone remember fieldcraft and patience? Or is that not convenient for "listing" in this day and age?

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Right place, right time. Totally Rad!


Having had the ibis and greenshank "fill" Mark and I headed back to the car, noting the increase in robin numbers - several were "ticking" along the track back from the Oddie hide. Coffee poured and the BBRC 2008 report in hand we began planning our route to the inevitable Amble chippie... would we stop at East Chevington for the black redstart? No.

A very pleasing shout of "Radde's" from Ian had us (well, me, Mark was a bit more cool about it) walking (trotting?) rather quickly in the direction of the ringing team just up the road from our parked car to have a grill of a fine radde's warbler!

This was a great twist to our morning out, and after the bird was processed and a few photographs were taken, the bird was released none worse for wear.

This was only my second radde's in Northumberland, following the 1991 bird at Tynemouth.

It was interesting to see that further radde's were reported at Holy Island, Spurn and Filey today... along with many yellow-browed warbler... maybe there is a real biggy waiting to be found?

Druridge Oddie

It was a mild morning today, and after another check of the northern pool at Cresswell (BBS-less), it was off to Druridge so that Mark could have another look at the glossy ibis. True to recent form the ibis was feeding right in front of the Oddie hide, albeit in poor flat light. This certainly did not stop the admiring crowd, and inevitably the hide reverberated with camera shutters every time the ibis looked up. Probably more satisfactory was the presence of two obliging greenshank feeding in the vicinity - a delightful species.

With our ibis and shank quota full it was off back to the car for a quick cuppa and...