Saturday, 31 December 2011

No more

So thats it. 2011 birding over. No yearlist. 3 UK ticks.

Finished up at West Hartford at dusk. Two short-eared owl were good, while lapwing numbers had increased to 200. Nine mallards dropped in, 2 grey heron stalked the reedbed and a single meadow pipit remains.

West Hartford has had a good 2011, with some decent birds - wryneck, snow bunting, hobby, merlin, 2 great white egret, hen harrier, osprey, wood sandpiper, wheatear, whinchat, yellowhammer (!) ...Wonder what 2012 will bring?

So 2011 ends... Here's what Cramlington's premier birding spot looked like at close of play today...

Dull Desert.

Met up with cousin Rob at Newbiggin on this final dull morning of 2011. With no reports of the desert wheater for a couple of days we were still mildly confident that it would still be there. And it was... easy as pie at the north end of the beach.

Only took the 100-400 today and it was ample as the wheatear maintained it's confident self, feeding within a few meters of us on the shore.

At Church Point we could only pick up three mediterrean gull - an adult and 2 1w.

Down the road, and still in winter gloom, West Hartford was quiet - 120+ lapwing and a few bhg, hg loafed on the pool. A single gbbg flew up the Blyth valley.

That could be it for 2011...

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Great Ears

With West Hartford remaining very quiet, I opted for a trip out this morning to Prestwick Carr. Only a few miles from the patch, but much more to see.

The main quarry was the great grey shrike - always nice to see, but very good at keeping out of the camera range... (and murky light)

With the shrike distant and light not too much kop, attention was turned to the short-eared owls. I'd hoped for some nice perched shots - but apart from the first image (above), I'll have to settle for more "atmospheric" images...

Thursday, 22 December 2011


Ah, the onset of lighter nights.

Celebrated the last full shift at work with a potter round West Hartford and the Horton Burn.

West Hartford was busy with c200 lapwing - though little else. Two buzzard cavorted to the west, while a single kestrel patrolled the back field. Four teal on the pool...

Near the old fire station, the Horton Burn was more productive, with a pair of mallard, many blue/great and coal tit, several blackbird and my first kingfisher of the winter.

With the festive break approaching I look forward to a few potters round the doors ...

Thursday, 15 December 2011


A late morning roadside look at West Hartford was pleasant despite the cold temperature.

The flash was 90% frozen, yet it still held >149 lapwing and 45 teal. Two grey heron stalked the fields, with fifteen meadow pipit and a single skylark. Thrush-wise, blackbird, redwing and fieldfare were in the hawthorns along with 7 long-tailed tit.

Saturday, 10 December 2011


A cold, sleety day in the north-east. Saved by a couple of good birds though, with the desert wheatear still present just north of Beacon Point, and the drake green- winged teal at East Chevington. Didn't bump into the 'legs or connect with any geese, but can't complain.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011


A few more images from yesterdays session with the desert wheatear...

Monday, 5 December 2011

Desert Wheatear, Newbiggin

I spent a pleasant hour or so with the 1w desert wheatear this morning. The bird was rather obliging, feeding on the muddy banks and beach south of Beacon Point. At one point the wheatear landed within 50cm... (a tad too close for the auto focus).

A moderate selection of photographs were taken, some of which should appear here later in the week, as nightshift beckons.

A single snow bunting fed on the path north of Beacon Point.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The 3 "IANS" - Siber_, Casp_, Euras_

Headed south to Teesside this morning after encouraging reports from the Zinc Works Road area of Seaton Carew on Saturday.

First up, a stop at the first lay by on the road for IAN number 1- on show was the confiding male siberian stonechat - my second encounter of this newly promoted species in the UK. A dapper chap at that, and thoughts of prolonged viewing and photography were quashed as the bird flitted off into the scrub upon the onset of a heavy, cold winter shower.

Hoppy... plain rump just about on show.

Taking shelter from the rain we headed to lay by number two for IAN number 2 ~ and a few minutes later (refreshed with coffee) we set about scanning the gull flock. The 1st winter caspian gull (one of perhaps 3 that have been here this week) was picked up by another fellow, and decent scope view were had. Rather embarrassed to admit this, but the caspian gull was a UK tick for me and Mark. Northern sightings of this species are few and far between, and it's certainly not a bird I'd have travelled far for! In hindsight some record shots should have been taken, but a scope was essential to get a good view. Not long after the bird was picked out one of the two local peregrines lifted the flock and the gull dispersed.

The third port of call was, conveniently, at the third lay by down Zinc Works Road for IAN number 3 of the jaunt - a small group of Eurasian white-fronted geese were on show along with a single pink-foot. With the geese in the bag, and another less successful short wait for IAN number 1 we headed back north.

News of desert wheatear at Newbiggin might provide an incentive to get out on Monday, as time is not on my side today. Nice to see that the birding pace has not yet settled down for winter!

Saturday, 3 December 2011


A mid afternoon visit to West Hartford was unproductive, with little to note.

Eighteen lapwing consorted on the pool, with a few teal and bhg for company. No sign of any seo today.

A single fox was the highlight, it came close as it hunted the edge of the field.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011


Just when I thought that the November blog posts were done for the month, news on the phone from both STH and MA had me diverting to Arcot Pond on my journey home from work. I'd already seen the particular birds a couple of weeks ago, but today's connection was much more important as it constituted a Cramlington patch tick! No camera equipment with me, but the trusty bins were in the car - and between goodbyes at work and lunch at home, the two bewick's swan were added to the Cramlington list. Hurrah! Also noted during the quick pit-stop ~ great spotted woodpecker, c30 teal, bhg, cg, pheasant...

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Legs Eleven

It was a lovely sunny day, so after a relaxed breakfast I headed north to Hauxley for another crack at the greater yellowlegs. Decent views were had, but all were distant as it kept to a limited area on the eastern shore.

Reports of common crane heading south over Warkworth, then attempts to land at Hadston gave enough reason to divert on the way back mid afternoon, but no connection was made. A single brent goose was with the grey-lags on the reclaimed opencast at West Chevington...

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Weak week

First week of work complete, but hindered with a rotten cold! Waxwing noted on two days - 17 on wednesday, 15 on Friday, BSHQ maintains a good waxwing record... This morning breakfast proceedings started well (even with a congested headache) as a garden "second" was observed. Don't get too excited though, the subject was a chaffinch!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

In Mourning :(

A late morning potter, mourning the end of a very pleasant two weeks holiday.

Prestwick Carr felt Spring-like weather wise, and it was a distant great grey shrike that reminded of winter. Quality birds, even if not within camera range. I would like one of these at WH please!

Down the road, Big Waters still held two bewick's swan ~ good birds in Northumberland these days. I only viewed from the public end, so no pics taken. A handful of whooper remain.

West Hartford was very quiet and a check of the Horton Burn only revealed a pair of mallard!
No sign of waxwings today, we had 28 next to the house yesterday - they'll still be around though, just a case of bumping into them...

Avoided the crowds for the greaterlegs and EBR (the latter was commented on by my sister visiting Holy Island today)...

Work and a forecast of rain for tomorrow. Great!!!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Eastern Black Redstart, Holy Island, 17 Nov 11

Quick post of the splendid eastern black red - again time not on my side, may post some others after I've trawled through them all...

Greater Yellowlegs, Druridge Bay CP, 17 Nov 11

An unexpected bonus on the way back from Holy Island - the light wasn't great, but it was a chance to get my own record images. Hoping it continues to like Hauxley on days with good light...


Nice bonus after a good day out on 17th... what is it about greater yellowlegs? Everytime I see one there are waxwings outside my house.... :)

Grey Phalarope - early morning on 15th...

Only shot taken on the "dawn raid"...

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Cross, east, greater then waxy!

A quick textual update, as another busy day continues to thwart any efforts to edit photographs taken. Started the day well, with flyover crossbill while replenishing the garden bird feeders - a belated Cramlington tick for me! News that the "eastern" black redstart was stills present on Holy island had me heading north on a lovely mild winter day. A chance bump into AC on the road in to the village provided opportunity to return the loan memory card from the recent firecrest fiasco, and prompted a quick about turn to walk in the correct direction to the ebred. What a stunner it was too, looking forward to uploading some images here... The journey back was interrupted by the news that the AWOL greater yellowlegs had been relocated on Druridge Bay CP - twenty minutes later I was there... But views were distant. Some field craft ensued and I eventually got within photographable distance, tho light was fading (14:15!!!). Bizarrely the better images taken were of it on the grassy footpath that encircles the artificial lake! Arriving home the familiar trill of waxwing welcomed me as I unpacked the car - 28 today perched in trees adjacent BSHQ... Pics soon...

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Dawn Raid

Got to Hauxley prior to 8 this morning - a good move as first three birds (in order) were redshank, greater yellowlegs and grey phalarope! Phew!

Too dark for any pics, but extremely close views from wader hide (unable to focus 500mm lens)

Took some mobile phone video, it may appear here later.

Hope they stick till later in week, as it's a busy day today....

Got home and there were 20 waxwing in the tree outside the house!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Bottled it...

Got back to BS HQ just after 15:00 and dusk was setting in!!!!!

Time is not on my side this first half of the week, so it'll be an early attempt on Tuesday for the 'legs.

The last week has been spent on a non-birding trip to Miami... it was thirsty work on South Beach (and a bit warmer than the Blyth equivalent).


Stranded in Heathrow airport... Will the yellowlegs stick? Will failing light beat me? Mmm....

Saturday, 5 November 2011


... Pink-footed geese north over the house late afternoon - a house "tick".

Tuesday, 1 November 2011


A sunny afternoon today, the first day of November! Took advantage of an early shift at work and headed back down to West Hartford for a couple of hours. They were more productive than yesterdays visit (it was a very dull afternoon).

Nothing "new" seen during the visits, but I rarely get bored of the short-eared owls! Three again this afternoon - taking flight as the sun started to set.. This provided "opportunities" for photography - strong orange casts on the images, tricky autofocus and ever increasing notch ups of ISO to maintain an exposure (or not!)...

Few pics from the trip out. Still room for improvement, but opportunites to spend time in the local field will decrease a bit soon.



Light seriously going...

Dusk fly-through, ISO 1600

Sunday, 30 October 2011


I do love a patch tick...

1st day of winter: SNOW ALREADY!

More on the snow in a bit...

Started the day back in Cleveland for what turned out to be a very quiet potter around Saltholme and Dormans Pool with Mark and John B. Plenty of birds but little of note...

This afternoon the pace quickened, with a couple of hours back at trusty West Hartford. No harrier today (tho GM did manage a marsh harrier elsewhere in Cramlington today), but a minimum of two short-eared owl hunted the fields. I fear it will be a tricky species to nail photographically speaking...

Every time I locked focus on one it did this...

Into the grass... again!
Still, they're a pleasure to watch. As the first night of winter encroached, one bird settled on a not too distant (but not as close as I'd like) post.

And it was while snapping away at this when the phone range - STH with some exciting news. MH had had a snow bunting on the road leading into the site - luckily West Hartford has a few "marker" points - in this case it was on the road next to the discarded bath! I expect the snow bunting find eclipsed MHs' 1999 short-toed eagle adrenalin rush.

I proceeded calmly to the aforementioned spot and within a minute or two found the snow bunting on the overgrown pathway near the bath - bingo, a Cramlington tick! Light was seriously fading now, so a few record shots were rattle off (albeit not as late in the day as GM ended up taking - check these out!

This is the second snow bunting at West Hartford - Brian aka Northumbrian Birder had one a winter or two back, but it was todays' bird that furnished the Cramlington (ir)regulars with this species. Great end to the first day of winter!

Saturday, 29 October 2011


A mid to late afternoon visit to West Hartford today, and a first scan of the fields played trumps, with both hen harrier and short-eared owl in the same binocular view. Not a bad start! With others alerted I set the camera up and got settled in for any photo opportunities...

It was a murky afternoon, despite still being "summer" (just), and with distant views, only record shots were achieved. My third HH here in 11 months, but first to make it onto a memory card. Feels like October 2011 has been good for harriers in the UK, pity all I can manage are out of focus record shots!

Pushing cropping to the max - 500mm & 1.4...

Short-eared owl only numbered two today and were generally elusive, as was the harrier ~ it was the assistance of the carrion crow that signalled their return to the fields. Raptor wise it was a good trip - two kestrel and a single common buzzard also noted.

On the pools gulls were well represented with the troupe of C,H, BHs' dropping in prior to their departure to coastal roost sites. A few lapwing were also present.

Three+ stock dove loafed round the water and many wood pigeon continue.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

More of the same?

 ...Nearly not, as I discovered a disinct lack of memory cards when I set the camera up at St Mary's this afternoon. Thanks to AC for the lend of a compact flash card!

No easier than yesterday, but with a little assistance of the tripod (remembered it today!), a few snaps were managed as the firecrest(s) (two?) fed actively on the northern most mound.

1 woodcock flew in, a peregrine circled, and redwing frolicked... all very nice.