Thursday, 30 September 2010

Barred Warbler

Mid-to-late afternoon was spent watching / glimpsing the immature barred warbler just north of St Mary's - feeding alongside blackcap, whitethroat, chiffchaff, robin and song thrush on the rifle butts.

Cracking bird but camera shy!

Finish nightshift Friday morning, so hoping for a decent weekend...

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Here we go?

Woke up just after 13.00 and after a quick check of the pager over breakfast (great grey shrike Holy Island, yellow-brows, woodchat, shorelark etc to the south...) I headed out, back to St Mary's.

Pager reports from the morning had suggested new arrivals - 3 pied flycatcher, 4 redstart etc... but my visit was quieter. Much quieter!

One redstart, several goldcrest, a single brambling and not much else. Robin and thrush numbers less than yesterday.

Arriving home local news informs of another shorelark (closer to home than the earlier report), continued yellow-brows, a barred warbler etc all within striking distance...

Maybe tomorrow?

Monday, 27 September 2010

Here we go...

With a week of nightshift looming and extra working hours to cover absence, I took a trip to the coast this morning to try and cash-in on the favourable weather conditions. Two visits to St Mary's - 11-12, 13-14hrs... Visit one was most productive, with 3 - 6 brambling, tens of arriving redwing, robin, blackbird, goldcrest, 3+ blackcap and a garden warbler.

Inbetween St Mary's I ventured in to Whitley Bay Cemetary (where I'd had pied flycatcher on Sunday) - little of note, plenty of robin "ticking" and many blackbird.

Lots of good birds being picked up on the Farnes... and Sacha reports lots of goodies "fresh in" on Norfolks' Blakeney Point (he's had to make do with hen harrier and short-eared owl circling above him as he grilled the flycatcher sp!... along with osprey, jack snipe and many common migrants...).

Could be a stressful week ahead!

Saturday, 25 September 2010

From the archive: September 2008

Presented here are a couple more images from September past. The photograph above is of the greater sand plover that graced Dunbar, Lothian on 20th present here after a short visit to the Ythan Estuary north of Aberdeen. It was twitched on a Saturday morning after rumours had circulted on the previous evening. A fine wader indeed. This bird was amongst one of the first species featured on this blog in November 2008 (see this), I hope that improved photoshop techniques on the image above are more pleasing to the eye...

This sand plover was the 14th for the UK and  first September record (per British Birds, Volume 102, p551).

Earlier in September 2008, and more local to home, was the buff-breasted sandpiper (below) at Cresswell Pond, Northumberland. Water had drained from the pool after extremely heavy rainfall had caused the sandbar that contains the water to break, revealing some wader-friendly mud at the north-and of the pool.

Meanwhile, in 2010... the pace quickens. A "yankie" flycatcher & warbler have hit the shores of east and west... here's hoping...

Thursday, 23 September 2010

(un-sharp) Sharp-tailed Sandpiper: Composite & Creek

There have not been many images of this weeks sharp-tailed sandpiper from Greatham Creek, Cleveland, so here is another "image" ~ a composite of soft-focus record images taken with two extenders stacked on the 500mm. By no means sharp for a sharp-tail, but suffice to present. Probably. Darker chestnut cap, pale super, pec-like but pec-less, long legged, marked flanks...

View from the watchpoint at Greatham Creek - the sandpiper was feeding on the mud exposed by low tide just right of the staithe, associating with a few dunlin, redshank and the occasional curlew. As can be seen from the image below, the bird was not really that close - the arrow indicates where the sandpiper had been feeding! (The assembled viewers can be seen on the right portion of the mobile-phone "panorama" shot...

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

From the archive: September 2007

Blyth's reed warbler at Woodhorn, Northumberland: a great end to a relatively quiet days birding on 29th September 2008. Mark had just dropped me off back home when the pager message came through - so after a quick "turn around!" phone call we headed back north to join the crowd for fleeting glimpses of this desirable species...

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Cleveland

Apologies for awful record images, but as this is a UK (and world!) tick for me I can't resist...

Taken this morning just after nine a.m, Phil and I had had an easy drive down to Teesside with little delay from commuters. News came on the pager as we hit the A1185, and a few minutes and a short walk (quick-step) we were enjoying distant views of this sibe mega. Good light provided great scope views, but it was on the edge of reality for the camera - images here are with the 500mm & 2.0 & 1.4 extenders stacked, with high ISO to try and give a reasonable shutter speed. One for digi-scopers me thinks!

You can just about make-out-able on the soft images is the rustier cap, white supercilium. A bit of a pec sand/ruff/dotterel combo... Nice size comparison with redshank, dunlin and curlew too.

All this before a shift at work: perfect!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

From the archive: September 2006

The excesses of overtime have again prevented me from getting out this weekend, so here is another image from the catalogue of images I took with the 10D camera body. It's surprising how much more improved the new camera bodies are with increased resolution ~ a six megapixel image from the 10D is much less robust than that of the 11 megapixel mark III (which is already out-"pixeled" by newer models).

Pictured above is the popular near summer plumaged adult bonapartes gull that frequented Newbiggin, Northumberland during September 2006. Having first been seen at East Chevington on 4th it was relocated at Newbiggin on the 7th, remaining until the 29th October, moulting into winter plumage. (Birds in Northumbria, report for 2006). This was my first in Northumberland, and for the county it was the third record.

Photo-wise it was obliging, joining the other gulls in the bread-fest that was handed out by visiting birders.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

From the archive: September 2004

With all of the recent leach's petrel reports from the north-west of England I was prompted to have another quick look back at my own images of this pelagic species. Taken in September 2004 at New Brighton, Wirral, this has, to date, been my only encounter with leach's petrel... and what a great day it was. Mark and I set off early from the north-east on the back of a good petrel weather forecast and increasing petrel numbers over the preceding days.

Upon arrival the wind was blowing a hooley and we did not even need to get out of the car before we saw our first bird ~ struggling to get out of the River Mersey. A UK tick for us both.

Many more followed throughout our visit, with many birds pushed right over the waters edge, and some flew between the observers! It's amazing how such a small bird can cope in such conditions.

The image above shows a bird struggling along the tide-line and was taken using a 6 mega-pixel Canon 10D and 100-400mm IS lens. Photographically my strike rate was poor ~ even with exposures of 1/1000th second most images were blurred as I struggled to stand in the gales. Lack of experience at the time meant that exposure compensation was not utilised either - so detail of the bird plumage has been difficult to extract. If time was not a premium I'd have been back this week to have another go!

Added to the mix were two immature long-tailed skua, an immature sabine's gull, manx shearwater and several gannet.

2004 was a very good leach's petrel year with numbers peaking at New Brighton on 22nd September (the day of our visit). Accoding to the Cheshire and Wirral Bird Report 2004, 300 leach's were recorded past New Brighton on that day (!)... with only 3 on the 23rd.

Another WWBT...

Final blog image from yesterdays enjoyable session with the juvenile white-winged black tern at Cresswell Pond... very white underparts on this species at this age.

It seems that blogger now allows images to be posted at original size, permitting better presentation of .jpgs ~ hopefully this autumn will give plenty of opportunity for scarce and rare bird photography.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

White-winged Black Tern

News this afternoon of a juv white-winged black tern at Cresswell Pond was a good excuse to not do any exercise / wash the car / do ironing / cut the lawn.

I arrived a little after three to find only a handful of people watching this active marsh tern feeding at the north end of the main pool. A strong headwind was suffice to "hold" the bird in a bay for feeding, but it was still a very tricky subject to photograph. Several others arrived over the next hour and good views were had by all, albeit in awkward light.

At 16:15 the bird lifted and headed out towards the sea... only to return a few minutes later to give equally good views for a further thirty minutes before heading north, possibly to Bell's Pond.

 &Two wood sandpiper, two ruff and a greenshank were also available.

Monday, 13 September 2010


I've been reviewing some images from across the pond this afternoon and stumbled upon these pictures - an obliging peregrine on Naples beach, Florida. Taken in either December 2006 or January 2007, I was alerted to this bird by a passer by - had I "seen the 'hawk' on the beach?"

I get a lot of useful tips from passers by when photographing birds, most are not very complimentary! I must admit that I hadn't taken much notice of the info until I proceeded my walk along the beach - and not 100m to the south of where I'd been photographing some white ibis was this stunner... feeding on what looks like an expired willet.

As can be seen, the peregrine was very wary... good job Mrs Birdingsometimes had her camera to get the record shot above... while I tried for a few myself with the 100-400mm.

An image of this bird featured in "Birding World" magazine (March 2007, Issue 243, 89) and provides detail of the taxonomic status of peregrine. This female bird is of the Greenland tundrius race which winters in the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and northernmost South America.

It certainly was a privilage to get such good views of this raptor, not a sight I'd expect to repeat in the UK (especially if it's taken a willet out!).

Friday, 10 September 2010

Very productive stint on the patch

By national standards a pager message of 4 little stint at West Hartford would be largely ignored. However, on a patch scale, 4 little stint at West Hartford (or anywhere in Cramlington for that matter) is MEGA!

Steve and Phil had sent a text not long after three to advise of their presence - so after a quick assembly of camera and bins I was off, and soon was enjoying my second record of little stint in Cramlington (the last being a single bird in Spring 2004, also at WH).

Flighty and keeping to the west edge of the promising looking pool the stints were a great sight. Images here are with the 500mm & 2.0 extender - so records at best!

"Flighty" is probably a good link to the next species that was on offer. After hearing them in Spring 2010, the next species encountered was very much unexpected. In fact it surpassed the stints!

Remarkably we had  a single quail, not once, but twice (or thrice if you're Steve and Phil)... in flight, calling.

What next?!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Chatting & Spotting

Here are a few images from yesterdays afternoon potter with some fall migrants. The weather here in the north-east has settled somewhat and only a few of the migrants are being reported today - it may be a while before conditions return to favourble. 

The whinchat pictured to the above and below is the same individual - a mobile bird at Seaton Sluices' "Rocky Island". 

The spotted flycatcher presented below was one of two birds at St Mary's - actively feeding at the top of the wetland. I wasn't quick enough to capture the glorious male redstart that was also present. Forgot to mention yesterday that in addition to the birds listed, there was also a single tree pipit over too.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Catching up with the migrants

Messed up by not getting out on Tuesday, so today I tried to make amends. A pleasant trip was had birding from Seaton Sluice - St Mary's - Whitley Bay Cemetery.

Numbers were low but a reasonable selection was had;

Whinchat - 1 @ SS
Wheatear - 2 @ SS
Reed Warbler - 1 @ SS
Spotted Flycatcher - 2 @ SM
Pied Flycatcher - 1 @ SM
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 1 in the "gut" at SM
Redstart - 1m @ SM

No sign of the reported Barred Warbler / Wood Warbler at SM.

Hopefully there will be more to come, late Northumberland  news from today included booted, greenish, marsh warblers, ortolan bunting, more wryneck....

Monday, 6 September 2010

Brown Flycatcher!


Flew off?

Had waited (like others) for news this morning - just after eight a.m. and the first confirmed news was broadcast. Picked up Tom and we were off. We'd already commented on the lack of news updates during the journey... and just as we passed Robin Hood Bay a call from AG confirmed that the rumours of no definite sightings were, perhaps, more substantial.

So that was that - car turned around and we headed back...!

News from the Farnes is encouraging and the forecast still looks good for this week - just need to juggle night shift into the equation and I'm sorted. Bring on the rares...

Sunday, 5 September 2010


Not long back from a great musical weekend - with headliners Muse putting on a great show - unlike the mobile captured video and images here!!!

Very Loud!!!

Great set of songs played, details here.

The fabulous Nirvana tribute riff set a few tingles down my old crusty grunge spine...

With support from Editors, Band of Skulls and Pulled Apart By Horses... it was a smashing gig...

Lifting spaceship" stage!!!

Big lightshow!

Loads of big eyeballs!

Some brown flycatcher news just as I got home could make for an interesting day tomorrow...

Friday, 3 September 2010


Just returned from a third visit to St Mary's for this week. It's the second "dip" on the elusive greenish warbler, and thanks to a price increase by North Tyneside council, I've only wasted £1.20 in parking fees - less than others who have not caught up with this county rare. That's a 1 in 3 strike rate for me so far.

A beautiful morning no less, with common whitethroat and willow warbler in the "gut", sandwich tern off shore and the occasional barn swallow over. Robin "ticking" gave a nice autumn feel to the air.

The East Yorkshire twitch is still on hold (and unlikely to happen) as lateshifts at work and a much looked-forward-to Muse concert in Manchester on Saturday obstruct.

Shifts next week are better for some birding, so if the east coast continues its good run there should hopefully be birds to go and look at...