Sunday, 30 August 2009


A call from Steve Holliday got me on to my first 2009 dunlin at West Hartford - it was keeping company with the LRP, now onto it's third day. More impressive was the presence of five whinchat - all feeding along pools' the western fence line along with two stonechat. This is the highest count of whinchat that I have had here in eight years - and the next couple of weeks is the optimum time for this species here. A bit of birdy chat at the car was interrupted by a fly over golden plover... autumn is most certainly on it's way.

Saturday, 29 August 2009


A brief pre-Reading Festival BBC3 coverage visit to West Hartford provided further views of the juv little-ringed plover and a wind-swept juv whinchat - the first of the Autumn. Eighty or so black-headed gull mixed with a forty strong group of herring/lesser black backed gull, while five stock dove were note worthy.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Friday Quickie...

Friday dawned with another week of night shifts complete, so after a few hours in bed to recover I headed to the coast to clear the heavy head cobwebs. The destination was a blustery but sunny St Mary's where four roseate tern (1 juv) were readily observed sitting on the rocks below the promenade. With little else to see I headed inland to West Hartford where the birding was a little better - 180 black-headed gull dominated the diminishing flash, with two green sandpiper (both flew south at 15:30) and a single little-ringed plover lurking on the exposed mud. The field held one juv stonechat but little else...!

Monday, 24 August 2009

Monday Semi

News of the yellow breasted bunting on Inner Farne came a tad too late in the day for me... all was not lost though, I'd already had a very pleasant morning with the semipalmated sandpiper at Cresswell.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

3 imagingary birders breakfasts

I spent a very pleasant morning birding with Mark and John B at Saltholme RSPB today. Granted, there was nothing in particular to go there for, but there was plenty to keep us interested none the less.

In no particular order birding highlights included 1+ marsh harrier, juv black-necked grebe, 2 yellow wagtail, 2+ greenshank, 1 wood sandpiper, peregrine (had a pop at the wood sand!), ruff, 1 little ringed plover and whimbrel. Best of all was the "birders breakfast" (record shot featured here) - we each chose the nine item meal (yum) and spent a good while catching up on our respective gossip while enjoying it.

Note strategic position of pager - even while enjoying breakfast we're on mega alert!

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Staring at the sea...

I had an early start this morning to try and get some better images of the semipalmated sandpiper at Cresswell. The bird was eventually located on the shore and proved difficult to view as it fed in a large group of dunlin, sanderling and knot amongst the scattered rocks. Eventually the tide subsided enough to allow a suitable vantage point with the sun behind me and some reasonable images were obtained. I like the image above as it has the semi-p alongside a dunlin - providing nice comparison of the birds size. On the image below you can just see the palmations on one foot.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009


As Brian at Northumbrian Birding says in his blog, it is always nice to see a pager message for Northumberland, especially when the species name is in capital letters.

And so it was this morning, just as I was about to head out to do some non birdy things before work. A quick change of clothes and a gathering of camera gear and I was off - to Cresswell Pond for a semipalmated sandpiper.

The last message had suggested that the target was on the beach, so upon arrival I parked the car and the pond outlet with the intention of heading onto the beach - but a quick glance at the hide revealed that it was full - so the bird must be on the mud in front of the hide...

Got there to find that the only birder who was aware that semi-p had been reported was Blyth Birder - and there was no sign (although there was a moulting ad med gull). A glance to the north of the pool revealed a small gathering of birders - twitch on!

Sure enough, the semi-p had just returned to the north part of the pool with a small group of dunlin. Although viewing was good it was, in the time I had available, a bit too distant for anything more than a token record shot. Judging by some other images on the 'tinternet it was showing better early afternoon. A county tick for me. Smashing.

Very nice to see this bird well attended by the Northumberland birders - lots of chat ensued. Watched the bird for about an hour then had to head back (rather quickly) to get changed for work. No time for lunch!

Apparently this bird may have been present for it's third day - so hopefully I'll get another chance for better photographs later this week.

Other species largely ignored during the semi-p grilling included black tailed godwit, sanderling, dunlin, curlew, golden plover, redshank, ruff - and with the apprant clearing of the sandbank about to happen (or a stolen JCB digger on the beach?), water levels may be set to drop making the pool a wader mecca over the next few weeks...

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Quail Trail

I spent another morning driving stopping driving stopping driving stopping along the Bellasis Bridge/Green Lane/Bells Hill area west of Stannington in search for quail. As with previous visits this year my quest was doomed with failure. It even started to rain when I got to the area. A couple of yellowhammer sang from telegraph wires and I bumped into a family of whitethroat and a buzzard en-route.

West Hartford looks more promising with the emergence of mud. No waders today but a handful of lbbg/bhg. It will pick up soon...

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Barn Swallow

A couple more of the american form of barn swallow ~ Navy Pier, Chicago

Friday, 14 August 2009

Chicago birds

This was the least birdy trip that I've done for a while and the holiday list was paltry. Of the few bird images taken a brief selection is included here. The picture above is a white-throated sparrow, taken in Olive Park on the Lake Michigan waterfront. Bonny birds.
This immature cedar waxwing was very confiding. Could do with another one of these in the UK! This bird appears to have a bit of cob-web stuck to it's bill. A yellow warbler was feeding above, but did not come into range for the 400mm lens. Boo.

Olive Park held a family of eastern kingbirds - and they proved difficult to photograph as they commuted via the lamp posts - teasingly flying off just as the camera was aligned.

I seem to be posting a lot of barn swallow images of late... this bird was at Navy Pier, part of a family group using boat rigging as a perch. Cliff swallow were also present, but did not alight.

Chicago by day

Millennium Park & the "Cloud Gate" sculpture (also locally referred to as the "bean")

View from our hotel room - 17th floor, with the Chicago river flowing into lake Michigan. Navy Pier juts out.

Olive Park. Segways seem to be very popular here and they amused me greatly - even the Chicago Police were using them!

Chicago Tribune building with statue of the iconic "American Gothic" outside.

Chicago by night

Sunset from the Hancock Tower bar - 96th floor!

Pritzker Pavilion - Chicago band Shellac performed a free show on Monday night - band is fronted by infamous Nirvana (and most recently Manic Street Preachers) recording engineer Steve Albini!. An amazing venue in Millenium Park.

Another view from the 96th floor - the Sears' Tower stands tall in the background.

Lollapalooza Images

White Lies - heavy rain on the first day ~ didn't stop the crowds though!

Depeche Mode - great video back drops for the show

Glasvegas - Saturday was very hot with temperatures in the 90's

Kaiser Chiefs - Sunday was even hotter, but KCs were full of energy and really got the crowd going!

The Killers - Final headline act, very powerful performance.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Enjoy the silence

Getting Personal...

Just back from a fantastic break in Chicago, with Lollapalooza 2009 being the main purpose of the visit. Not too much in the way of birding - some limited photo highlights will follow over the next few days, along with some point and click photographs from the festival. Bands seen included the mighty Depeche Mode (above), The Killers, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Lou Reed, Kaiser Chiefs, Arctic Monkeys and White Lies. Chicago itself is a wonderful (windy) city, and I'll share some photographs of that too...

Now? I need some sleep!

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Pec? (k)not!

Spent an hour at Hauxley NR this afternoon avoiding packing/trying to see the reported pec sand. As with yesterday, luck was not with me, despite being told it was on view as I approached the hide! Plenty of dunlin (mixed states of moult), plus whimbrel, curlew, redshank, turnstone, greenshank and a colourful knot - which leads me nicely to the next bit!

Ian Fisher has kindly forwarded details of a colour ringed knot that I saw with Tim Cleeves at East Chevington a few weeks ago - here are the details:

colourcode - G5RYWW
date of catch - 09/09/07
location - Simonszand (NL)

Re-sighted at East Chevington on 13/07/09

See this for more details of the ringing project.

One two, one two...

There will be a brief pause in communications as I'll be on my travels during the forthcoming week. This trip is primarily music orientated but there will be some casual birding either side...

Great Grey Dipper

A late afternoon venture south west to Alston Golf Course on Monday was shrike-less. 1 buzzard, 1 stock dove, couple of wood pigeon and barn swallow were all that were available during a cold and windy hour. Pity, I've not seen a great grey in August before...

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Evening trip to West Hartford

Saturday 1st August ended much drier and sunnier than it had started, so I ended my day at West Hartford in the quest for a couple of owls.

I was not disappointed - pretty much the first bird I picked out was the short-eared, sitting on a fence post near to the east side of the pool.

With hopes of a good fly-by I promptly got the camera gear out of the car and set up... only to find that some jerk on a trial bike was zooming around the rough ground between the pool and the "business park" road.

So that was that - the SEO had shifted and was not seen again during my visit.

Not to worry, plenty of gulls heading in and out of the pool - mainly black-headed, with a few lesser-black backed and herring to boot.

A common tern flew over calling but could not be seen.

Just after 20:00 the barn owl appeared and within seconds had caught a rodent... and was off - too efficient a hunter! So just a few record shots as it flew away (in a less than perfect direction for a picture).

Ten minutes later it reappeared, only to land on a distant fence post alongside the plantation behind the farm - from where it hunted from until I left... so I'll have to try again!

There are lots of barn swallow feeding over the fields too, with numbers of swift also increasing.. they'll be off soon to warmer lands.