Monday, 31 December 2012


So another year closes and another is about to begin. It's been an unusual year...

2012 started well with a second trip to South Africa - a beautiful country with amazing bird life. Ornithology-wise the highlight was a two day venture into the wilds with Birding Africa - we amassed a good number of species on the full-on days (163 species - declared a record by our guide), with personal highlights being Cape Rock-jumper (above), Secretarybird and some decent views of Victorin's Warbler.

Back in the UK January had started well with Desert Wheatear, Lesser Scaup, Great Grey Shrike and hods of Short-eared Owl available on the 1st - a pace that seemed to lessen for me as the year progressed!

February was dominated with decent geese selections, with great showings of white-fronted and bean... and a wandering Egyptian.  A Green Woodpecker in Cramlington was a local highlight.

By March I was assembled with Mark, John B and  cousin Rob for our annual birding weekend - this year Northumberland was the host county, and we enjoyed some great birding, with our "own" Great Grey Shrike in Allendale, Red and Black Grouse, Jack Snipe, Smew, Greenshank, Iceland Gull, Ring Ouzel etc

April brought summer migrants and a few padders - Common Crane, Hooded Crow and Marsh Harrier. Grasshopper Warbler arrived late at West Hartford and were notable in their absence for much of the wet summer... Little Grebe was good for West Hartford on 30th

May brightened up with two Red-rumped Swallow at Lynemouth and a splendid but distant Red-backed Shrike at Hauxley. Two Cuckoo at West Hartford were notable, while dipping Kentish Plover on Holy Island was extremely frustrating. The end of may was good in Cramlington (not often said!) with Little Owl and Ring Ouzel being picked up late in the month. Lack of twitching instinct cost me dearly on 29th - opting to go the next morning was bad judgement, as the Hartlepool Orphean Warbler was a 1 dayer...

Birding in June was limited by work commitments, but locally was able to enjoy singing Marsh Warbler, Corncrake, and another Cramlington Green Woodpecker.

July gave an unusually good opportunity to see Long-eared Owl at Druridge - with daylight hunting birds in front of the Budge Screen.

A walking holiday in Switzerland ended July and began August, limited bird species seen, though Snow Finch, Alpine Accentor and Honey Buzzard were pleasing.

The return to the UK was timed well with the appearance of the Newton Stilt Sandpiper - my third county tick of the year. A quality bird for the county, and with Quail on the route home, a decent morning out.

September was still limited by overtime, so I was pleased to get nice views of Yellow-browed Warbler at St Mary's and enjoyed the mini-fall of common migrants late in the month. A Long-billed Dowitcher at Cresswell was a nice bonus (along with the Great Skua that took up residence on the pond!)

October saw the return of Kingfisher to the Horton Burn and an interesting day at St Mary's when an interesting warbler was on intermittent show - the Blyth's Reed was no easy picking but was an interesting lesson to be part of. Rarity-wise October was a no-goer for me... A Slavonian Grebe on Druridge Bay CP was nice though.

November was a "big" month for me - reaching a milestone of sorts early on...
Weirdly, bird of the month was a Bee-eater! Really bizarre, especially in an urban location. Great views were had by many.

The dreary November weather was left behind for a week while I travelled to the warmer climes of St Lucia. A relaxing trip with birding restricted to a luscious resort nestled between the Pitons. A few new birds were inevitable, and along with the beautiful St Lucia Warbler, Antillean Crested Hummingbird were star attractions (an a source of great frustration trying to get decent images!).

The year has concluded quietly (as much the rest of the year) with Great Northern Diver land-locked on Bothal Pond, the immature Glaucous Gull at North Shields and many cycle rides along the Horton Burn in search of Gordons' Dipper (Eventually seen with Gordons help on 29th)...

So, 2012 - NO UK TICKS (or National twitches)!!!! / 3 County Ticks / a pitiful UK year list/county list (many dumb omissions) and a world year list of approximately 390

... maybe "13" will bring better luck! 

Saturday, 29 December 2012

The BIG dipper

A very overcast morning saw Mark and I head to North Shields Fish Quay - both glaucous and iceland gull had been reported a day previous.

We parked up opposite the boat sheds and ended up walking round to the Black Middens - with no sign of either gull and very wet conditions we opted for a pit stop back at the quay for coffee and a panini (we're so sophisticated).

Meanwhile STH had arrived - so a quick text from the warmth of the cafe to Steve to inform of our presence was rewarded with a call back informing that the glaucous had re-appeared. Result.

The monster gull spent most of its time up on the shed roofs, but luckily it took a fish scrap and flew past, giving one ok photo from a flyby sequence...

High-fives all round, we then headed back to Cramlington - a journey that was intercepted by Gordon with news that he had re-located the dipper on the Horton Burn. Tensions rose as we promptly headed to the burn!

Thankfully the dipper was still present - and hopefully will remain available over then next few days for a 2013 tick. This dipper is the first to be really available within urban Cramlington - birds on the River Blyth are really at the periphery of Cramlington acceptability!

A single kingfisher patrolled the burn while we grilled the dipper, and to complete the set, a grey wagtail flew over the house while I de-booted on the driveway.

Not a bad morning - perhaps more exciting for me than anyone who cares to waste there time reading this drivel!

Thursday, 27 December 2012


A quick summary of recent Cramlington bird sightings while tootling on the bike - 1 short-eared owl in the usual fields, 1 kingfisher on the usual burn and 3 brambling frequenting a garden...

All quiet / still dipper-less...

Sunday, 16 December 2012


I like nothing better than a tootle along the Horton Burn during the winter - and mid week news of a first "within the houses" dipper during the week was suffice to get me out this morning. No East Chevington Beardies were going to spoil this chase!

It was rather lush this morning - sunny, mild and still - perfect for a cycle aided trip. While dipper dipping was on the menu, two kingfisher now patrol the burn, a single grey wagtail, a pair of mallard, a great spotted woodpecker were also noted.

A brief diversion to a neglected of late West Hartford produced a single short-eared owl, stonechat and stock dove. 5 Siskin worked the plantation next to the electrical sub-station.

Looming holiday should bring with it more regular burn outings, so fingers still crossed for the dipper...

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Antillean Crested Hummingbird

A tiny species of hummingbird, with a week of effort producing poor photographic results - all these images from the last day on St Lucia, having found a favoured feeding plant in a quiet garden. Should have taken a flash-gun...

Green-throated carib

Saturday, 1 December 2012


Bananaquit - abundant on St Lucia, noisy and always full of busy!

Friday, 30 November 2012


A few images from the recent trip to St Lucia. Birding was restricted to the lush resort grounds, limited by the temptation to relax in the heat!

A frustrating trip with regards to the endemic St Lucia Warbler - not taking a flash-gun prevented any decent images as the species stuck to shade - but was extremely confiding...

Of the 3 hummingbird species seen, two were photographed - they'll appear in another post.

Mangrove Cuckoo - easier to find in St Lucia than Florida!

Carib Grackle

Zenaida Dove

Spotted Sandpiper - obliging as they are...

St Lucia Warbler - a stunning species

As if to tease... St Lucia Warbler above my head in the dark...

Green Heron - immature taking a lizard sp.

Lesser Antillian Bullfinch

Little Blue Heron - feeding at sunset below our bungalow

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Boobies and the like

First full day on a relaxing break in St Lucia. Little to report birdwise with sub 20 species so far (though 6 are new, so a good percentage!)

It'll be slow pace birding in the heat, with the resort becoming the patch for a few days...

Monday, 5 November 2012

Round the doors

12 waxwing over the house justified the energy spent washing the car this morning.

Afternoon was spent on the bike - West Hartford providing 1 stonechat, 1 short-eared owl and a brute of a female sparrowhawk - first bringing 8 waxwing to my attention, then later lifting a snipe and mobbing the SEO! Raptor numbers were increased with 2+ kestrel and a distant buzzard.

At the Horton Burn 1grey wagtail and a single kingfisher ended the avian and cycling activities.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Winter Surprise!

A couple of quick snapshots of the amazing Seaburn Bee-eater... stalled to travel down for this as I didn't quite believe that there could be a bee-eater in November - so these pictures were taken mid afternoon as the sun was starting to dip... bit pushed for time this afternoon, so will have a better trawl through the images later in the weekend.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012


Lateshift duties severely restricting birding opportunities this week...

Ridley Park in Blyth yesterday was devoid of any bluetail action - 50 or so redwing along with robins and blackbird were the only migrants on offer.

This morning, St Marys' - no sign of yesterdays dusky warbler, nor todays pallas's / long-eared owl. Hods of robin, redwing (dropping in out of the mist), brambling, goldcrest, blackbird.

Journey back produced a lone woodcock lifting out of a garden in Hartley.

It just could happen...

Sunday, 21 October 2012


Saturday evening had seen me out with some of the Crammy and "nearly" Crammy Birders for a few beers - so Sunday dawned a little later than anticipated.  Its been a nice day weather wise, so  I headed up to Druridge Bay Country Park for a mid afternoon stroll with the better half for bit of fresh air.

A Slavonian Grebe had been reported on Saturday, and sure enough it was still present today. Rather obliging, but into the light for the camera. Seems to be feeding well on the pool edges.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Bits and Pieces

Selection of un-edited pictures from Saturday - light and posture can make an appearance look different in a matter of seconds. All at 100% size cropped from original RAW file / no saturation adjustment etc.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The wigs on

3 wigeon at West Hartford this afternoon were the first for a while. Otherwise not much avian excitement, with a couple of hundred bhg, 3 lbbg, cg, hg. 2 grey heron dropped in and a buzzard patrolled the river Blyth banks. Hundreds of wood pigeon in the area too.

Horton Burn produced the standard winter-fare ~ grey wagtail near the old fire station and the male kingfisher mid section.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Same old

Stuff as yesterday, pretty much. Reversed the cycle route, with kingfisher and grey wagtail early on. Later at West Hartford, two short-eared owl, five+ snipe, 1 lbbg and not a sniff of the hoped for water rail!

Monday, 8 October 2012


Late afternoon on the bike was uneventful at West Hartford, with only a few gulls on the pool and a meadow pipit on the track. The action so to speak was as dusk descended, with a more productive stake out adjacent the old fire station - a mix of seasons, with three barn swallow south & the arrival of winter with approx 300 pink footed geese south (22 north) a single kingfisher and a grey wagtail on the burn.

Sunday, 30 September 2012


Early afternoon was spent at Cresswell - reports of a long-billed dowitcher were suffice to make up for the miscalculated weekend. Friday night was a late one, so Saturday morning on Holy Island was abandoned, while Sunday morning reports from Phil revealed that the arctic warbler was no more. Saved some petrol I guess...

The dowitcher was readily available from the hide, roosting with snipe.  It didn't do much... until the seemingly resident great skua decided to pop over for a visit. Up and off...

Forgive the picture quality - I'm test driving some new image processing software.

Hard Lad

Also present - 1 merlin (caught a dunlin), marsh harrier, greenshank, ruff and a single great-crested grebe.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Dark afternoons...

Mid afternoon spent at St Mary's - nothing exceptional, but a nice scattering of wet migrants... a few spotted flycatcher, pied flycatcher, several redstart, robin, song thrush and chiffchaff. Just inland at the cemetery a couple of redwing dropped in and there were many low hawking barn swallow.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Yellow Fever

Beautiful sunny morning at St Mary's, with an elusive yellow-browed warbler finally photographed over midday. Waited years to clinch a decent image, so was happy to get a satisfactory shot in nice conditions. Used the "focus on a branch and hope it goes there" approach...

Sunday, 16 September 2012

The darkness

West Hartford had a wintry feel this evening - despite huge numbers of barn swallow ~ the appearance of 2 short-eared owl was a pleasant surprise. 30 mallard, six teal and a grey lag goose was about all that was available to fill the note book tonight.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Not a great deal

A quick late morning venture up the coast with stops at Lynemouth (ruff, dunlin, yellow wagtail and a surprise tree pipit) then Cresswell Pond where the great skua still resides - apparently favouring coot for sustenance. No killing while we were there, unfortunately.

Gastronomic success was had at Widdrington Farm, with the consumption of two sausage rolls, a bacon pasty, chicken and vegetable pie, finishing off with Maltese slice and hot tea.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012


A calling tree pipit over the house was a nice surprise while getting out the car this morning. Knew nightshift would have advantages...

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Cresswell ~ waders, an albino and a cuckoo

A couple of hours at Cresswell this morning was very productive, with little stint, ruff, water rail, spoonbill, curlew sandpiper, whimbrel, long-tailed duck, yellow wagtail, an albino barn swallow (amazing - flew south over pool), and greenshank noted.

A great display from a couple of stoats was set to be the highlight until the very last moments - when a cracking barn owl was watched hunting over the dunes and an amazingly obliging juv cuckoo fed along the entrance track!

A bit heat-hazed...

Friday, 10 August 2012

We'll meet again

Been too long since my last West Hartford visit... No excuses.

This mornings foray produced a wandering female type marsh harrier, three + kestrel, sparrowhawk, a couple of lbb / bhg and pheasant. Water level has dropped a wee bit so hopefully a wader or two will grace the muddy edges...

Monday, 6 August 2012

Stilt Sand, Newton

An enexpected addition to my Northumberland list.

Couple of images from early morning, 500mm & 1.4 & 2.0 stacked ... ISO 3200!

Well done Gary / thanks to Gordon for the early morning notification too!