Thursday, 30 December 2010

My Way

And now, the end is near, and so I face, the final curtain.....

A super 2010 draws to a close, with some birding highs documented.  Nineteen additions to the Life List is, in itself, pretty good, but within them some birds I have waited a long time to see.  Hobby (and on my door step), Great White Egret, Nightjar, Woodchat Shrike and Rough-legged Buzzard were ornithogasmic!

Regrets, I've had a few.....

And only a few.  Not going for the Whiskered Tern, and dipping on Ring-necked Duck (twice) and Hawfinch (yet again) are but three.

Yes there were times I'm sure you knew, when I bit off more than I could chew.....

Challenging Sir Vipers of Dinnington, who 'won' 236 - 231!

The record shows I took the blows, and did it my way.....

Thanks to all who have assisted, stifled, thwarted, supported and generally contributed to this year - here's to an even better 2011.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Still Here!

Weather and work have combined to thwart the birding of late.  Yesterday's promise of a meteorlogical oasis ahead of today's storm was also fecked up by a wife at work and a son who needed nurse-maiding. 

Managed to get out this morning and walk from home to West Hartford and back.  The snow came with avengeance after about 20 minutes and lasted half an hour - just enough to freeze my head, blur the specs and generally frustrate the birding.  After it stopped, much better, but nothing too exciting to report.

Two Brambling were at the west end of Horton Burn yesterday (first for me in Crammers) and were still there today, as were Bullfinches, Siskin, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.  The Burn has Snipe and a Redshank, its banks covered in Blackbirds where the apple trees had dropped their fruit.

A single Woodcock flew south towards the Fire Station, and a flock of 40 Siskin were noisy in a generally calm snow scene.

Otherthan that, a moderately pleasant hour or so.  One 'interesting' aspect was what sounded like a brood of young birds coming from the eves/gutter of a house near the Burn.  No sign of visiting parents whilst I watched, but had this been six months earlier, I wouldn't have given it a second glance/hearing.

Monday, 6 December 2010

It's a game of 90 minutes

Great hour and half this afternoon, 13:45 to 15:15, but on foot close to home.  I haven't been to West Hartford for months and so a walk up Horton Burn and then once 'round the block' was a welcome release from domesticity.  And what an eventful time it was, dear Reader.

After and earlier stroll with the hound, the Burn from Northburn Wood west was busy with 20 or so species, including Redshank and Snipe lifting from the shore, and Fieldfare and Song Thrushes amongst the arboreally-based species.  After depositing 'Herself' at home, bins and camera replaced the canine companion for a more leisurely walk around the patch.  Leisurely?  Nope, not with deep snow and short boots!

Walking north over the Burn a male Sparrowhawk came in from my left at head height after a Starling, which it caught and grounded close by.  Camera de-cased, turned on and ready to go, the naked eye showed the classic 'guarding my dinner' open-winged pose.  Cameraman stationary, camera raised and yes, you've guessed it, bird off low with squealing prey and into a nearby garden.

To the garden, and bird not immediately found (it was on the path to the front door and so below the snow line).  And another repeat of the stand:raise:fly-off scenario.

After a brief chat with a neighbour, the Sprawk was seen flying south back over the Burn, pursued by two Crows and dropped behind the shrubs.  Another sprint, following the noise of the duelling Corvids, and the raptor was found again, in classic plucking pose, and once again, our eyes met and it flew off NE, never to be seen again.  Messers Dunn, Malloy (and even Smith!!!), I would take my hat off to you if I had one on.

Walking west along the north edge of the burn, two of these were next on the list:


Nice!

And continuing to West Hatford, where the scenery was Christmas card-like:



Walking in from the Fire Station, a flock of small birds flew north and into the smaller trees running east from the SE corner of the sub-station.  As stealthy as a 6' 4" adult male can be in knee-deep snow, I 'stealthily' crept along the hedge between the farmer's field and the trees and raised the bins.  Goldfinches!  Half a dozen of 'em, and as many Lesser Redpolls too, feeding on the trees and occasionally the snow below where the missed seeds had dropped.  But whilst watching, two larger, cleaner, whiter Redpolls were spotted - Mealies!  Superb, and time for a picture (but into the sun, so a nice silhouette of a tree and a couple of birds!!).  Moving position to get a lit view, several attempts at capturing the moment failed, and the flock took to air flying off north.

I then bumped into a guy who had just seen a Barn Owl near the woods to the north, but that eluded me.  And as he spoke, a Woodcock flew north from the thicket down the eastern edge.

And so walking west towards the Flashes, half a dozen Blackbirds fled the trees between the two frozen water bodies, and as I stood waiting to see the cause, another male Sparrowhawk, overhead and off east after one bird.  Moments later, one or two squeals, and I ran gazelle-like back and over the ditch and into the field to the north in the hope of a shot, but no sign of the birds until the Sprawk flew out of the hedgerow, but without its grub!  So a 1 - 1 draw at the end of the match.

A squadron of 11 Grey Partridge flew low and east from the smaller Flash towards the sub-station.

Back to see if the Redpolls had returned, but not so, but another Woodcock flying north and beautifully lit by the setting sun.

So, dear Reader, a crackin' walk and very eventful.  And if you are Gary - The Nemesis - Smith, I have not increased the year list.  The Redpoll addition has been balanced by removing the Egyptian Goose after dialogue with ACAS!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Mum's Gone To........

...................West Rainton.

After a fortnight of not using my optics 'in anger', thought I'd take advantage of the NE's population going Xmas shopping and the roads getting a little better and try for the YLG (would-be Lifer) at WR.

Journey was fine, roads clear, but the entrance to WR was gated off as the access road and car park were somewhat unkempt (bit of an understatement!). 

So a short walk in, Shackleton fashion, scope legs instead of ski poles, and at the hide, many gulls.  Those already in attendance had declared that the YLG was not and had never had been there today,but there was a probable Iceland Gull (juvenile). 

Indeed, there was a young white-winger, which, in my opinion and some others there, was the smaller of the two expected (I see BirdGuides has it as Glaucous but I disagree).

And then the best ever Bittern views I have ever had, with TWO exposing themselves frequently (where's Leslie Nielson when you need him?  Or Finbarr Saunders?) on the icy shores to the right of the hide.  Absolute birding perfection, and no other way to decribe it, with 20 minutes of both appearing and then disappearing into the reeds, and so it went on.

Others there will have fabulous stills and video, but for now, here's my contribution:


Monday, 29 November 2010

It Cannot Get Any Worse

Snow, snow and more snow.  Day off today and I'm 'cold turkey' and need an optics/feathers fix.

And then the news that Leslie Nielsen has died.  I'll not labour the point as I am sure the news will be giving it good coverage (and if they do not, that's a travesty), but some notable quotes from Airplane and Naked Gun are:

Rumack: You'd better tell the Captain we've got to land as soon as we can. This woman has to be gotten to a hospital.
Elaine Dickinson: A hospital? What is it?
Rumack: It's a big building with patients, but that's not important right now.

Hanging Lady: Nervous?
Ted Striker: Yes.
Hanging Lady: First time?
Ted Striker: No, I've been nervous lots of times.

Rumack: Can you fly this plane, and land it?
Ted Striker: Surely you can't be serious.
Rumack: I am serious... and don't call me Shirley.

And the ABSOLUTE classic of classics here.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Raven Lunatic

Well, dear Reader, some reassurance, if it were needed, that 'yours truly' is still alive and well and pursuing all things feathered.

On-call working scuppered last Sunday and will do the same this coming 'Day of Rest' (joke!).  So Saturday 20th was a toss-up between low tide assessing the gulls from the Fish Quay north to Blyth for a 'white-winger' or, 'out west' looking for Ravens again.  Without the need for Harry Hill to determine what's best, I chose the latter.

So, 'early doors', out, the vital hit of a Maccy Dees Latte with an extra Espresso and off on the A69 to the Plenmeller area.

Ramshaw Fell was the general location, kindly provided by the BirdForum's West-meister, Stewart J.  Location well erm, located, wellies on and off we jolly well went.

A dozen or so Bullies ('In 1' and 'Look at what you coulda won!' etc.) welcomed me, and on the burn, two very lively Dippers and hods of Coal Tits.  Dogs Bollocks!

The fellside was covered in Red Grouse, superbly vocal and very entertaining.  Kestrel and a possible Merlin made up the raptor count (and a Buzzard or two on the way there), but alas, in my three hours of observing, nothing bigger than a Crow as far as Corvids go.

So a second blank drawn and may be it'll be third time lucky.

Any ornithological philanthropists out there who know any more-reliable Raven haunts, please feel free to make contact (I am mILLYg on BirdForum btw).

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Deserted

Up at 05:30, me and the dog suitably cleansed (not simultaneously, I might add) and at Seahouses for 7:10.  And that's where the plan goes to rat shit!

'Force 250' Southerlies, sand blown up the beach, scope blown over, hat blown off (numerous times) AND NO FECKIN' WHEATEAR!!

It's Carry on Birding!

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Not Pied-billed....................

....................but equally spectacular!

Successfully told myself that I could not justify the time or money or carbon footprint of travelling to Rochdale, but unsuccessfully tried to avoid Hartlepool.  And pleased I did.

You cannot whack getting to a new location and first time and finding a birder already there and so seeing the quarry without delay.  Today was one of those days, with the Red-necked Grebe at Hartlepool Marina.

And the weather was breezy and sunny and clear and the views outstanding.  And what a spectacular place too!  Eight Red-breasted Mergansers on the water as well - which was nice!

And now the shitty-shotties:




Thursday, 11 November 2010

Noregulus

Thought I would spend some of a pre-booked annual leave day today 'up north'.  Despite the weather forecast being poor, my mentality is, 'you've gotta be in it to win it' so off via Maccy Dees to the Tin Church at Newton to see if one of the two Pallas's was willing to show itself.

Damp and windy on arrival, and not much better when I left, the birding tally was Blue, Great and Coal Tits, Robins and Wrens, and a Goldcrest.  I got the back end of a large Bullfinch but never saw it again (heard it one more time), and a multitude of other calls but no birds seen.  In fact, that was the peculiar aspect of the time I was there - noisy but nothing!  Almost as if the Ghost of Gary/Spectre of Stringer was playing games.

Anyway, second planned stop was Doddington for the Ross's Goose.  By comparison, pretty straight forward, a large flock of geese distant and in flight as I scanned the fields from the lay-by just before entering the village had me thinking I might of just been a few minutes too late.  Thankfully, not one of that group was white.  And scanning on the ground located another flock but too far away and in part shielded by trees.

Into the village in an attempt to get a better view, I saw Drovers' Lane and recalling Birdguides yesterday, drove to the end as the flighty geese were landing again.

Not surprisingly, the Ross's was easy to pick out from those on the ground, the views were superb as the light was momentarily good.

Monday, 8 November 2010

'The Early Worm Catches The Bird' or 'Tales Of The Riverbank'

Well, dear Reader, here we are again with another tale of another species and what a belter!

Reading yesterday of the Squacco Heron at Morpeth, it was first-light trip (yes, up at 05:45, cleansed, dog walked and on the metal bridge for 06:50).  It was dark, but time was of the essence.

After a few jaunts back and forth on the bank to the rear of Morrisons Filling Station, I was joined by some first class company, in every sense of the term, in the form of Messrs McLevy and Dack jnr.

The next half hour or so was spent to the town side of the 'elbow' where the river runs parallel with Whorral Bank.  And nothing but improving daylight to report.

The Dynamic Duo had some 'sinister' business to transact, some package to exchange from car to car in a Miami Vice-like manner, and so I proceeded back towards the Bank and then towards the des-res block that was the Old Mill, I believe.  By this time, Crockett (AMcL) was back with me and Tubbs had left for work.

A Grey Heron was on sentry duty in the middle of the river and as we approached, it took off low and northwards.

And then, dear Reader, like an angelic vision, flying low and south, a small, bright white, Little Egret-like bird that kindly landed not too far down stream.  Possibly spooked/flushed by its bigger, darker cousin, or by The Good Lord who determined that my endeavours merited reward, the wee birdie started to assess the shoreline as it wandered townward.  And then another short flight and more meandering in and out of the bankside foliage.

Joined by another birder (Stephen Trotter?), we both made attempts to do the bird justice, and me safe in the knowledge that my scope was a mile away at the end of Goose Hill/Bennett's Walk.

'Subscribers' to my e-ramblings will know of my dubious photographic prowess, so with that in mind, I am quite proud(ish) of the following:



Sunday, 7 November 2010

Generally Pleasant

Had a stroll this pm around Newburn Riverside (from the rear of the One NE building down to the pickle factory and back).

Great weather; warmish, clear and dry,but not much to see.  The land in the centre of the circuit was flooded and covered in BHG with the odd CG too.

On the river (two hours short of high tide) was a solitary Cormorant, a large fish jumped out (18" long, slim, silvery below and bronzy above) and the biggest surprise was a seal!

Not many other birds to be honest, Goldfinches a plenty and on the roof of the Stannah building a nice gathering of gulls - GBBG and HG (no white-wingers, more's the pity).

Back in time to see the locals beat the Cockneys 1 - 0 and my lot beat the other Cockneys 2 - 0.

All'n'all, not a bad day and weekend.

18:40 hrs - I take it all back!!!!  Squacco Heron seen in Morpeth this afternoon (and yesterday) 400m east of the town centre near the foot bridge!!

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Turned Out Nice!

Well, dear Reader, another tale of another search for another tick! 

If that prospect irks you at all, stop reading now.  I do not want to be blamed for deterioration in anyone's health due to raised blood pressure originating from my approach to ornithophilia.

Still reading?  Good.  Let's go!

Off west this morning in search of big black birds (as opposed to big Blackbirds).  Plenmeller was the site, and what a lovely one it was.

The departure weather was superb; clear; crisp and cool.  It remained that way until just past Haydon Bridge when it soon became overcast and 'foggy' due to low cloud.  Bloody typical, ten miles from arrival and bugger all to see!

Still, might as well give it a go, so on reaching Plenmeller Common, it was back to clarity:


Plenty of activity from these little fellas;


And after nearly three hours of scanning, nothing bigger than a crow, except................

Flying north, three birds, one ahead of other two, the rear duo Crows, the front one flapping and gliding, and flapping and gliding, the wing beats much more controlled and deliberate than a Sparrowhawk.  The bird itself was much more sturdier, and its direct flight path took it to within a few hundred yards and from bins to scope as it continued north and into a copse of trees, causing Red Grouse over which it travelled to scatter and the Wood Pigeons sunning themselves in the southern edge of the trees to get the flock out!

Good Lord!  What an unexpected surprise!  A Goshawk.  Not a first, but a first for this year.  After quite a few trips to Kielder with nothing to show for it, finally bagged one as an add-on.

Accipitastic!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Second Time Around

Well, dear Reader, whoever you may be, just to show I do not only chase ticks and birds located by others, I went back to Commondale this morning to see the Rough-legged Buzzards again

Another journey of 130 miles or more, including through Cleveland, or 'Gridlockland' as it should be called, the outward trip taking nearly TWO hours.

And nothing added to my L.I.S.T., just 90 minutes in the freezing cold wind, accompanied by six others, including BirdForum's Durham Thread's entertaining duo of Scuzz and JayBee. 

And most importantly, three juvenile RLBs, two in the same scope-view at some points, loads of hovvering, a little bit of perching, and lots of flying, but this time with excellent visibility and more time than last week to enjoy!

The Red Grouse put on a good show too, but other raptors were absent whilst I was there.

Nonetheless, a crackin' trio and well worth the increased carbon footprint!

Sunday, 31 October 2010

(W)Ring Duck's Neck

Dear Reader - it's 3 - 0 to the yanks!

It was March 2007 when I ventured south to Far Pastures NR to see a Ringed-necked Duck.  Despite many hours of searching, NOTHING!

And then I got home and checked BirdGuides and it had been seen.  Do I, don't I?  Yes, I do go back the next day.

And once again, a lengthy journey, this time a longer stay to cover the previous day's appearance time, but alas, NOTHING!

And so to last night and a consultation with the internet that showed one on home turf.  So, despite my parents being up for the weekend, a few hours were stolen to finally bag the critter.  Branton GP duly found, car parked and a beautifully lit water course full of wildfowl; except the R-n D.  And despite a thorough search along with others, NOTHING!

Bit of a pattern developing here, I think.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Large shoes, over-sized suit, revolving bow tie and a car with loose doors!!

Dear Reader - today had a large element of irony about it.

All started well with Bamburgh at sunrise.  I'm no Malloy, or Pears, or Goulding or any of the other birding David Bailleys, but one can but try.


Straight into a Black-throated Diver (S) and hopes of a good morning; best summed up as routine, with Eiders, Shags, Common Scoters and Red-throated Divers on the sea, and Oystercatcher, Turnstone and Purple Sandpiper on the shore.  Gulls of many denominations were all over.

And so checking BirdGuides on my Blackberry showed the Pectoral Sandpiper back/still at Newton on the scrape.  So into my crazy car and off south via Seahouses and Monks' House Pool in the hope of a white-winged gull.  Alas, this was not to be.

And after parking on the double-yellows, it was a quick look-see.  Redshank and Curlew abounded, as well as Lapwing and then voila, the Pec. Sand.  What a little belter.

The irony?  Given my birding 'style' of often using t'interweb to follow birds spotted by others (not 100% of the time as I love sea watching) and adding them to a year list, and my 'style' being likened to that of a clown, to be directed by technology to tick a bird on the patch of the Coulraphobic himself was somewhat bizzarre.

I hope he hasn't taken offence at my invasion, albeit a wee one, nor this post, as one day we may meet (given we appear to live only a few miles apart) and hopefully have a grin at this nonsense!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

A-feckin-mazin'!!

Dear Reader, there are some birding experiences that simply take your breath away.  Being ahead of Vipers is one (I jest, of course), and seeing a Lifer is another.  And within that latter ornithologically orgasmic state must be some Lifers above others.  This year has seen (so far) 18, and, yes Gaz, some have been better than the rest.  The Hobby at West Hartford was up there, as was Nightjar at Slaley and Woodchat Shrike at Hartlepool to name but three.  And today's addition was probably the best.  As the Geordie Diva Cheryl Cole would say, it was 'utt-lee stunn-in'!

But what a palava! 

A SEVENTY mile one-way journey to a place so close to Whitby I am surprised I didn't see Aidensfield CID there with Alf Ventress, taking over 1 hr 45 minutes, a few wrong turns, a few locals putting the train back on the tracks, and eventually, the sacred place described by Sir Foghorn of Durham (many thanks, the directions were spot-on) was located and as I neared, view No. 1, distant and to the north.  And a duo of lady cyclists were duly consulted about my being at the correct place (as per the map) and as they confirmed I was, the second view as the bird banked to the north showing underwing and tail pattern.  Su-f*ckin-perb!

After politely explaining why my advancing trousers were so excited, and apologising for my bad manners as the scope took precedence over the conversation, another couple of northerly views.

The fifth glimpse was over my right shoulder (SE) as the bird was being mobbed by a crow:gull combo over what the map says is an old quarry.

And that was it.  Five all-too-brief glimpses of what was a top-notch bird, and one I will, in the future, drop everything to go and see again.

The terrain was VERY similar to Harthope, so a visit there with more time (and less miles) is called for ASAP.

If you can get there, do so, it's fan-f*ckin-tastic!

Monday, 25 October 2010

(S)Nabbed

12:30 > 2:30 pm today at Snab Point, most of the 'action' northbound and beyond the flags and nearer the horizon.  Even with my scope on full throttle most was quick across the surf and either white or black or black and white!

Nonetheless, four Rt Divers on the sea with the odd Eider and GBBG, and a GN Diver above it at 13:00 hrs.  Several RT Divers also flying north, along with Gannets and Scoters.

More than 50 Knot on the rocks too!

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Little Success

'The kind of weather that makes you want to stay in bed is the exact weather you should be getting out of it and getting your a*se to the sea', I was once told.  And today was one of those.

07:40 @ Snab, McDonalds latte with a shot of espresso already consumed, and tripod and scope positioned as usual to the south of the point on the rocks to afford some shelter.

100s of Gannets and Kittiwakes (N), only Eiders, Oystercatchers and Curlews south.  In the two hours I was there, 12 Sooties all north, but the highlight was one Little Auk close in (N) at 08:40, then another 'very likely' 15 minutes later (N) (if it wasn't for the wind and the waves, sea watching would be a doddle!), then 09:10 another nailed-on (N) followed by another 'high-likely'.  And two more probables at 09:20.

As I left, I noticed Andy 'Lewoc' pulling into the car park north of the point and Andy McLevy's motor already there.  I hope they had as good a morning as I did.

Cresswell was busy but nothing to report and The Pools equally so.

Four excellent views of a Merlin (the same one, I bet), twice in the bay south of Snab(once putting all the gulls and waders up before off across the sea towards Beacon Point and the other chasing a small grey bird (who got away) in the same area), then over the white house just north of Cresswell village and finally over the hide at Cresswell.  Crackin'

High tide at half three, and the sun coming out just now, so a little dog walking and then part two!

PART TWO

14:50 > 16:10 - Church Point - on the wrong side of the brick house so with hat on and hood up could not hear the (very) wise men on the right side and so missed a Grey Phalarope.  Bit of a p*sser, really!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Sea-watching? G-watching more like!

Yesterday, I took an hour out and pottered off to Snab Point, after a brief look-see from my favourite big dune at The Pools.  To be honest, it was largely the same as the last time I looked (last Friday), with Common Scoters, Gc Grebe and Rt Divers.  Not a sniff of a GN Diver nor skua.

Today, a repeat of the time and location, but a change in the weather, now brighter, a tad warmer and sea like Hawaii 5 0!  Let the G's begin!  There was a steady trickle of Gannets, close in and far out, all going N.  Four Goldeneye, a distant Great Skua (N), a few north-bound Guillemots (could have been Razorbills but that would have fecked the semi-humorous title of this post), numerous gulls (GBB/H/Bh/C).

No GND nor Pom!  One day..........................................................................

20:15 20/10/10 - Looking at Birdguides just now, should have stayed longer or looked harder.  Some better birders at Blyth and N-b-t-S did much better than I (again).

(Also saw several non-Gs - Rb Mergansers (4 N), one Manxie (N)), half dozen Eiders (S) and a dozen Fieldfare in off the sea)

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Mealy Nearly

Well, this weekend has been nothing short of a p*sser. 

Yesterday (all my troubles did not seem so far away, more's the pity) as some poor decision making had me looking for gulls at Newburn and not getting 'Pommed' into oblivion on the coast.  And to make matters worse, I cocked the tides up and so the Board Inn mudflats were covered in water, and the gulls were on the south bank on the building site and out of sight.  Still, a nice stroll in the sun around the place netted about 20 species (at this point the sea watchers had not posted and so I was blissfully unaware).

Dropped in at Arcot to try and locate a Redpoll or two, and true to form, dipped.

So, like failing on the last part of Bullseye, I logged on to BirdGuides and looked at what I could have won!

And today, Whitburn Obs. at 7:45 and until 9:30, not a lot.  The highlight was a northbound Little Gull.  And then another text from SH re. Pallas's at St. Mary's and off north.

From 10:10 to 11:30, glimpses for most, and needless to say, nothing for me.  It was getting a bit frustrating, to say the least.  Home, chores and back for 3:10 and within minutes more snatches for some of the crowd. 

And then the dilemma, dear Reader, as a small, green bird dropped from the top of a tree into another, lower bush, and a declaration that it was, indeed, the PW.  And between then and 16:30, the briefest of views, sometimes accompanied by a call, and sometimes not.  And the question - Do I count this?

Well, my conscience would not be clear, so despite having seen it, I have not classed the odd frame or two as anything.

The Mealy Redpoll in the NW corner of the willows, on the other hand, was close and lingering and without doubt a tick.

NB - 09:30/19/10/10 - I note that the Mealy is now recorded as a Lesser.  I did think it looked a bit too buff in parts, but the 'Great and the Good' (and there were many of them) called Mealy so I was happy to accept their judgement.  Lesson No. 1 - don't be afraid to question.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Nearly Shopped

Sainsbury's at Crammers this pm filling a trolley to then fill the cupboards and remove the Old Mother Hubbard-like ambience from the kitchen Chez Moi.  Thought I'd check the web to see if the Ibis had reappeared.  Alas not, but SIX Snow Geese at East Chev. merited a return visit before sun down.

Like supermarket sweep, but without the girlie commentary, it was trolley dash time, and Cruella Devile-like driving 'standards', with the foodstuffs delicately placed in the correct locations before another 101 Dalmations-esque trip north.

Not surprisingly, Foghorn was there just in advance of me, and the sextet was duly 'ticked'.  I have never seen any other than singles before and never seen a juvenile, so all'n'all they were well worth the journey.

No sign of the GN Diver tho'.  The flock of RTDs, GC Grebes and Common Scoters I saw this morning were still there, albeit a few hundred yards further north, but no sign of the Big Fella!

Thee's always tomorrow!!

Flat?

Well, now that Barred's a tick, and in anticipation of Vipers' joker appearing at any time, thought I would try and increase my 'dominance' with a Redpoll or two.  After a Dusky chat with Sir PC Wanderings last weekend, off the the Carrs 'early doors' in the hope of one.  A walk around Newburn Riverside mid-week had failed to locate any, so Option Two was necessary.

All was quiet as I walked west from the east end.  A Sparrowhawk was up and off north, and another (or may be the same one) lifted from the hedge further along and flew into the woods.  It had a peculiarly visible white 'panel' from the base of the tail running forwards along its flanks as it did so.  I have never noticed this in Sprawks before.

And then the text from SH re. Glossy Ibis at Cresswell so a slightly faster amble back to the car, with a calling Willow Tit moving through the hedge alongside. 

A Common Buzzard was perched on a telegraph pole opposite on the road from Dinnington to Horton Grange as I drove north.

Needless to say, the Ibis knew I was coming and was never seen again until I left the area at 11 bells.  Did spot a male and female Viperus smithicus in the south-facing hide, last seen moving towards the beach.  As I left the same hide, a gull was barracking a raptor (or as Americans say, Rap-torr!) over the big pool.  Bins raised, male Peregrine.  Nice!

And so off home, neither flat nor ecstatic.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Four Yorkshiremen

Well, dear Reader, it is with a significant degree of pride that announce the eventual arrival of Sylvia nisoria onto my L.I.S.T. 

At noon today, I located Spital Burn car park, N-b-t-S, and within about ten minutes, spotted a substantial, grey, fluffy ar*e in the rosehips to the immediate right of the car park entrance.  After five or so minutes of different, brief views, it disappeared for another ten, but was then picked up as it gorged on elderberries along the eastern edge of the car park. 

After the activity of dog walkers, pram pushers and loud chatterers, the bird became a little more confiding and I reached for the camera.  Relax, there's no sh*te record shot below because at that point a silver car with four blokes in arrived and the bird flew NNW and into the shrubbery along the northern edge. 

For the next 25 minutes, it was a mixture of swapping stories with the Doncaster-bred occupants and watching the antics of the Barred.

Four Yorkshiremen?  Not the Monty Python sketch, but a quartet of South Yorkshire 'character', en route to Holy Island for a few days of quality birding.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

3 in 1

Well, Gents, after an orgasmic weekend, time to reflect and tell the tale that will be handed down from father to son (many generations over) of the weekend The Liverbirder bagged three Lifers in one day.

Yesterday started poorly, disproportionate to the excitement and expectation of Friday evening when Birdguides was dissected and digested and plans laid for a 7:30 start.  And start on time it did, with a 90 minute spell at Tynemouth Haven. 

Haven?  Asylum more like!  A place for the orithologically frustrated as nothing was seen or heard of a Radde's (is it pronounced Rads or Raddies (I prefer the latter)?)/Dusky persuasion.

At 9 bells (car park fee commencement time), I decided to venture south to Whitburn and give the CP a try.  Boy was it busy in the shrubs to the east side.  But the Barred quarry was not seen.  This little fella was tho':


And there were lots more.  And for once, or so it seemed, right place:right time (No. 1) as at 10:09, a Red-breasted Flycatcher was seen north of the Shearwater Estate and I was 50 yards away.  So I ran, and ran, and ran, and got there, and looked, and looked and looked.  And as fast as it appeared, it was gone.

Bollocks!

So back off to the busy path in the hope of a Bogey Barred, and after another 3/4 hour, and thoughts of a swift leap into the briny to end it all, as I walked back for one last attempt at the R-b F, right place:right time (No.2) as one had been caught and ringed and was ready for freedom.  So again I ran, and ran, and ran and got there, and voila!


You know you're sh*te at photography when you can't even get a decent snap of a bird from SIX FEET away when it is held still for you!  And to prove it, here's another!


So Lifer 260, and off to The Haven again to see the newly-id'd Dusky.  And within 10 minutes, 261.  And on a roll now, so N-b-t-Sea for the R-f Bluetail, and after another 20 minutes, 262, albeit the views were very brief.

So today, chores completed, it was off the Tynemouth yet again, this time for the Shore Lark and with my guiding light, Mrs Liverbirder for company. 

Compared to the confounded Dusky and its Yellow-browed cousin last week, this chap (or chappess) was a doddle to locate, but to capture 'on film', challenging as ever!


And so, off to St Mary's, recently described by Sir Tim of Whitley in his world-reknowned blog as, '...carpeted with Goldcrests this morning.'  Never a truer word (or series of words) has ever been written, it was heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeavin'!  heavin' with the wee birds, and Robins, and Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers.  And with views of the Bluetail that were superbly captured (by others), and with rumour of a Barred Warbler (my bogey, and still so). 

And Howdon Blogger has been stalking me all weekend, waiting for me at The Haven yesterday morning, and at St. Mary's this afternoon, with, I assume, Mrs HB as a cover story!  Scary! 

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Crackin' Start, Good Middle and Fab End

Good day yesterday was. 

Start at half past seven bells with a damp (the bird and me) addition to the year's Locally Informative Species Tally with the Red-crested Pochard at Bothal.

The Middle smile-raiser was a dark raptor being mobbed by a duo of well 'ard corvids over the wood to the west of the Snowy Owl at a quarter to 17 bells.  Suspecting a Common Buzzard, I was not thinking of stopping the car, but getting closer I noticed the light head.  Panicked, pulled in, donned bins, and voila, female Marsh Harrier.

And the End?  Nothing ornithological, but Level 42 at The Sage.  I've seen them three times; 1985, 2008 and yesterday, with last night being by far the best.  In fact, I would suggest they are better 30 years down the road than when they began.  Absolutely awesome, dare I say!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Mellow-browed. Warbler!

At last, one of my many warbler-related excursion-ettes has yielded its quarry.

Yesterday, at 1:10 pm, I passed Tynemouth during a work-related journey and took a(nother) quick look near the pier for the Yellow-browed.

A couple from Cumbria had arrived a few minutes before and had spoken with a birder as s/he left who directed them towards the sycamores about 75m from the pier gates.  And we all stood and looked, and looked and looked.

And after about ten minutes, voila!  The little fella, lit by the sun, in a sheltered bowl of foliage, bordered by the berry-laden hawthorn and rose, in front of an in accessible apple tree at the top of the bank.

And after a chat about Poms and Hawfinches and other west coast birds, we three left, just as PC Wanderings arrived (nothing personal, you understand, Sir!).

So a more relaxed and less perplexed forehead for me, and one that will be more so if I can add Barred too!

Friday, 1 October 2010

C'est Finit

Well, there you have it, eight days off work, back tomorrow, and what had promised to be an unusually self-indulgent 'feather fest' did not quite do it.

Sunday was the highlight, at Hartlepool, with the Shrike and a nice Snow Bunting.  The generally low aspect has been my disappointment at not seeing a Barred or Yellow-browed Warbler despite the fact that the entire population of local birders have done so and many hours of my being in the right place at the wrong time, or vice versa.

I have been given some sound advice re. not always following others' birds, but I need to put time aside to do that and often I don't often have that luxury.

Holy Island yesterday was a beautiful if not over-crowded day.  Great to meet Vee and Colin Pears (they're not 'a couple', it's just my poor grammar), and Gary Carroli Smith and Derek C, and like the Magnificent Seven, Messrs Forster, Gilbertson and McLevy (and others u/k) leaving the Great Grey 'School' Shrike and rounding the corner heading for the Vicar's Garden (VG) like Messrs Brynner, Bronson, McQueen et al.

The VG was heaving, but no Y-b W or R-b Flycatcher.  The Lonnens were too quiet too.

And today, mixing birding with pre-work chores, Tynemouth's Warbler 'banker sites' did not yield, and neither did Trow nor Marsden Quarries, or Whitburn.

C'est la vie.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Getting boring!

Sorry folks, anothet wee tale of an attempt to see a Barred Warbler, another addition to the St.Mary's parking attendant's coffers, and another blank.

One guy had been there for four hours when I arrived, and so I guess I shouldn't get too p*ssed off as I spent less time than him for the same result.

Did see Redstart and Goldcrest and pursued a likely candidate from The Gut to the thicket between The Gut and the willows (the patch the Linnets like, with the black berries on it) where is entered the plants but I could not see enough to be certain.

Holy Island tomorrow (I need some divine intervention) and probably a good few hours thrashing St. Mary's on Friday morning, I feel.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Hard Work

The past two days have been hard; very hard.  My early rising and driving from A to B (and often C and D too) are taking their toll.  I'm tired!

Today, as yesterday, it was 07:25 @ Snab, with a light and generally easterly wind but very little in the hour I stayed.  Half a dozen Gannet, one R-t Diver, and flocks of Wigeon, Teal and Common and Velvet Scoters, all north, were the 'highlights'.

So despite my resolve to stay put, after 60 minutes I was off the The Pools.  Along the access road, a juvenile male Sparrowhawk was nimbly and effortlessly moving north on the east side and then landed on a fencepost.  Excellent views, with camera in the boot of course, and the third bit of Magpie grief had him off north and low again.

From the Oddie (after spooking another Sprawk), many Wigeon, Teal, Little Grebe and Tufties, with the drake Scaup just outside Hide.  And what I believe was a Hare leaving the water in front of the Hide too.  I did not see it swimming nor exiting but as I glanced back, it was very wet and walking gingerly away from the water's edge.

After spooking the Sprawk yet again as I walked back, it was Cresswell, with the usual suspects on the north section, with a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper with half a dozen Dunlin.

Then to Whitley Bay Cemetery, which, excuse the black humour, was dead. 

So to a new venue, Priors Park, on the trail of the Y-b Warbler.  Afer finding a parking place, and almost by accident, I found the place, meeting Tim - Wild Up North - Sexton and Tom - My Camera And Lens Are Bigger Than Your Car's Engine - Tams and we tried to locate the tit flock, which I managed to do after 45 minutes.  Sprawk was about between the trees and a Peregrine was overhead, but the flock (G/B/C/LT and Goldcrest) was warbler-less.

And to make it worse, the Y-b Warbler at Woodhorn yesterday, whose 'tick' has put 'The Other Clown' one ahead, was reported by fellow Crameltonians Crammy Birder and SH!!  Where's the parochialism?

As if it wasn't hard enough!!!

Monday, 27 September 2010

Flat Sea

Trying to follow yesterday's ornithological extravaganza was never going to be easy.  And it wasn't!

07:20 @ Snab, full of expectation but not matched by Mother Nature, I am unhappy to say.

No geese, nor shearwaters, and only one u/k skua.  Small teams of Wigeon, Kittiwakes, Gannets and GBBGs, as well as BHG, Mallard, Grey Heron and Cormorant Two Common Scoter and two Tufties too over the next two or so hours.

R-t Divers were busy, with 2, 1, 2 then 5.  And 13 Redwing in (2 did a u-turn and went straight back out to sea!  I know I'm getting on a bit but that's quite insulting!!).

There was a P-f Goose on the rocks running west from the point (the south facing shoreline), which sat forlorn and let me get very close, its right leg and eye appearing to be in difficulty, so I guess it's not long before it joins the 'choir invisibule'.

On the sea, the GBBGs were gathering around a dark grey 'mass', one even perching on it; a dead seal/dolphin, perhaps.  When I moved from the low rocks to the 'cliff top' I could not re-locate the thing so it remains a mystery.

No Bramblings at Big Waters feeding station late morning, nor Y-b Warbler at Woodhorn Church mid-afternoon.  The Mound was quiet, as, in the main, were the Ash Lagoons, except for the areas of 'thicket' on the side of the Lagoons to the north of the burnt gorse with some interesting calls but no appearances.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

I've Got Wood!

Well, you can only look at so many waves, and wish for a Pom Skua for so long, so this afternoon I took a punt and travelled south to Hartlepool Headland to see the Woodchat Shrike.

Bizarre really, it's not much further than a trip to Alnwick but the tunnel/river subconsciously make it a more significant journey.

Plain sailing really, 40 miles door-to-door, and my first non-Northumberland 'twitch' was a success, with a dozen or so local birders lined up on a pavement looking over a fence across a bowling green at some bushes on t'other side.  It was a little bit surreal, but su-fecking-perb as a tick was added to my Life Locally Informative Species Tally (apparently the word 'List' is taboo).  And good to meet Derek C and Andrew - Do you never stay in - Kinghorn too.

And, as I hear you shout, dear reader,'Show me the record shot!', voila (watch out Sometimes!!):


And as a bonus, in the playground to the rear of the pavilion, a Snow Bunting (naturally, there were no kids in the area, as a man with a camera in a children's place is asking for trouble!).

Saturday, 25 September 2010

s(NO)w Buntings

Scoured the dunes and beach to the south of the west pier at Blyth's South Harbour this afternoon in the hope of locating the Snow Buntings.  Needless to say, and in keeping with my usual output, it was 3 - 0 to the buntings.

Fifteen (more) Barnacle Geese north, and a couple of dozen Teal on the sea.

Good Point

10:45 - 14:30; a well disciplined, glued feet spell at Snab Point.  Different day, different birds.  No Kittiwakes, nor skuas, nor shearwaters (plenty of very distant shapes that even a scope on warp factor 6 couldn't i/d).

105 Barnacle Geese N (90 up high and 15 low over the sea)
6 P-b Brent Geese N
3 R-b Mergansers (F) N
Small flocks of Teal and Wigeon N
Gannets N/S
2 Common Scoter (M) N
2 Grey Heron N
1 (poss. 2) B-t Diver N

Best part was Peregrine flying north from the bay, spooking all in its path, and in a very amateurish way, it sort of hovvered over a couple of waders at the eastern edge of the rocks, half landing/half hunting, then the waders flew off and it took a brief breather before up and off east over the sea and out of sight.  Brilliant!

Friday, 24 September 2010

Hmmmm!

Well, I thought I'd done reasonably well.  Snab Point for 07:30, hidden to the south of the Point, rain stopped, and voila, a heavy stream of Kittiwakes (especially juveniles), Gannets and distant shearwaters from the off.

07:45 - Close in, a drake Velvet Scoter.  Nice!
07:55 - Closer still, a Sooty Shearwater.  Nicer!
08:25 - Not too near nor too far, a Great Skua.

And in the words of 70s Punk icons, The Clash, should I stay or should I go?  Answer?  Stay.  Reality? Go.

Off to Cresswell for an hour.  Wind in through the hide's windows, and the majority of the birds on the south shore of the NE corner.  Not too much to get too excited about, I must say.

Then The Pools.  All quiet bar the noise of the wind.  A nice drake Scaup from the Oddie, and other miscellaneous wildfowl too.

East Chev?  The Sav Grebe looking quite Red-necked, I must say, in very good light.  The red eye was the giveaway for me as it remained close to the north shore.

And then home for tea and sticky buns.

And BirdGuides for Snab from 08:50, L-t Skua (year tick) and Pom too (lifer).  And hods of Sooties there and Newton.  And a Hoopoe at Shiremoor!!

Tomorrow?  Feet glued to the Point, I feel.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Still Here!

To all those who have enquired about my welfare, given the lack of posts of late, I thank you (both).  I have been out over the weekend, but quantity led quality and although both days were pleasant, there was nothing to write (home) about.  The sea off Church Point on Saturday was spectacular, but more for surfers than birders, and East Chev. on Sunday was a very pleasant stroll with Mrs L.  There was plenty to raise the binoculars about, but nothing to prompt a call to BirdGuides.  I am sure you get my drift.

But this weekend looks promising, if the weatherman (or woman) is right.

And with a week off from Friday, a chance or two to expand my personal ornitholgical record documentation?

Friday, 17 September 2010

Ruddy Miracle

After my nemesis was gifted a tick yesterday, and moved two ahead, it made what might be an average bird to some a significant one for me.  I would, had I read BirdForum last night 'afore slumber', have nipped to East Chev. this morning, but the Pope's visit must have precipitated The Big Man Upstairs directing that I went into work for 7:10 am and not to the North Pool (overnight, there was some substantial faeces that had hit the device to circulate currents of air, especially one with rotating blades).  It was ideal that I was at my desk not 20 miles away.  Phew!

But after my eight hours of public service, I thought I would give it a go.

Thirty five minutes later, and no ruddy duck!  Plenty to see, but no ticks to be had.  And then, beyond the islands, with scope at 60x, a stiffy (ooo-errr, Mrs Gimlet!).  And with it, I draw level with my best birding year (2007) at 209.  And one step nearer 'himself'!

If all else fails, can I count an Aylesbury Duck!?!?!?

Monday, 13 September 2010

All Square

Tonight it was in from work, quick sarnie, walk the dog and out at 6 pm to the golf course at Newbiggin to eak out a Lapland Bunting.  I walked the path from the club house and bagged one then two as they ran like little rodents up the path towards Beacon Point.

Spent 30 minutes playing cat and mouse trying to get even a record shot but fading light, strong westerlies and general lack of skill combined to defeat me.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Great Tits, a Warm Mound and Swallows

Well, what a queer old day! 

BirdMap has the British Isles a veritable ornithofest with 284 sightings (those with access to Birdguides, note that Lough Beg in Antrim is in the Irish Sea due north of Rhyl!), but from the Tyne north to the Border, zilch!

I thought N-b-t-S might have something of interest but after parking off Woodhorn Road behind the war memorial, and with a spring in my size 11s, I bumped into a renowned birder, let's call him JS (Quiz Question: his surname is a type of alloy) and my asking,' Much about?' was met with one of two answers.  Was it;

A - The Barred Warbler's showing well on the Ash Lagoons, the Greenish Warbler's in the sycamores and there's Lapland Buntings on the golf course.

OR

B - I've seen a few Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers about and not much else.

If you said A, get real.  If you opted for B, give yourself a gold star.

Nonetheless, a trip around the course yielded little, and 45 minutes on a warm and sunny Mound had Swallows and House Martins overhead, and Great and Blue Tits in the trees as well as the aforementioned WWs and Chiffies.

In the words of D-ream, things can only get better!

For Sale

Three, competition-standard, inflatable Little Stints.  Simply blow up and place on muddied watercourses for that 'now I'm in the lead' effect.

Guaranteed to fool even the most particular birder.  And as they are static, record shots are a doddle.

OIRO 50p for all three or will swap for a pneumatic Brambling. 

Contact Vipers via BirdForum!

N.B. No Stints (nor Quail) there this morning.  QED.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Four-gasmic!

From Birdguides this morning.  What a foursome; and all in THREE minutes!  A dream come true for the lucky birder(s), no doubt.

08:56 11/09/10 Pectoral Sandpiper Mayo Leam Lough

two juveniles on The Mullet this morning

08:55 11/09/10 Buff-breasted Sandpiper Mayo Leam Lough

one still on The Mullet this morning

08:54 11/09/10 White-rumped Sandpiper Mayo Leam Lough

juvenile still on The Mullet this morning

08:53 11/09/10 Spotted Sandpiper Mayo Leam Lough

Friday, 10 September 2010

Lazy Birding

No point in typing an update, BS has done it for me (and his 'snaps' are a bit better than mine too)!

And for those wondering what 206 for the year was, from the Cottage Drain Hide at Potteric Carr YWT (Doncaster) on Wednesday afternoon, whilst watching a crackin' Kingfisher, a Bittern left the reedbed behind and flew low over them and into another part of the same bed.

Nice!

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Hat T(r)ick

Yesterday started slow (chores to do).  Off work this week (was 21 again on Monday and off to Ladies' Day at the St. Leger meeting today).  Managed to get out at 3:30pm and needed a Harry Hill moment - South Tyneside or Newbiggin Golf Course?  The latter won the fight.

Headed to the Barred Warbler's place, the golf gorse (golf gorse!  Golf course!  Almost poetic!).  En route, noted it was Wheatear frenzy across the SW corner, and at least two Whinchats.

Wandered to the gorse, and saw little until I met a great guy with a collie (Priest, I believe his name was (the bloke, not the dog).  And readers of this blog will know I could often do with some religious intervention!). 

We chatted about what had been seen and what was sought and he explained that The Big Guns (Messrs McElwee, Dack (x2), Cleeve, McLevy and others) were on their way here to look for an odd warbler.  So like one of those irritating school kid autograph hunters who follow the celebs about, I waited and followed.

And behold, stars from the east, and tales of Lapland Buntings, Wrynecks and warblers.  And then, the intervention from a higher being (Mr McL) and the Wryneck was in the burnt gorse (fka the burning bush?).  But after a few seconds, it was up and off towards Barreds-ville at the side of the ash lagoon.

And more plodging in the foliage revealed Redstarts and Willow Warblers and a Pied Flycatcher and more Wheatears and Whinchats.  Magic!

But, in the words of the comedy icon Jimmy Cricket, 'There's more.'

Mr McL had had word of a Whiskered Tern at East Chev, so it was time for more gazelle-like lollopping (is that a word?) and in the car heading north.  And on arrival, my tripod had mysteriously become a bipod (hence the retort, 'I had one but the leg fell off') but nonetheless it still afforded me views of what was speedily converted into a WwB Tern, and with it, at least four if not five Black Terns.

And on the way home, my lost leg was recovered from the SW corner of the course and is now glued back on!

The End (thank the Lord).

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Jeux Sans Frontieres

Those as old as me will recall the late Eddie Waring and the great Stuart Hall and It's A Knockout.  I hated it but it's relevant here, not because I dress up in a huge foam suit and wear large shoes whilst sliding down a slope and carrying buckets of water, but because yesterday I played my joker.

In the competition that is Brunswick v Cramlington. the former contestant has silently (ish) edged ahead and I had high hopes that yesterday's pelagic would at least get me level or, dare I say, sneak to the front.

Not a hope. 

Despite a well organised trip, with perfect weather (for the first half anyway), the birds were pre-ticked and so no additions were made.


The thrill was not the variety nor quantity but the proximity.  Fulmars, Gannets, GBBGs and Kittiwakes close enough to almost touch, and the best views of Sooties and Bonxies I have had.  Excellent.

But the Lifers and 'Yearers' that kept me awake as the big day neared failed to appear (unless you were on land, that is).

Sea watching is bad enough as your quarry appears then disappears as the swell goes up and down.  But when you are going up and down too, it's infuriating.

And you know you are getting too attached to Skuas when the sight of one makes you regurgitate your lunch (three times)!

So all in all, I returned to base, eight hours after setting sail with high hopes, wet, cold, ill and with 'him' still ahead.

And an audit of my lists this morning showed a school boy error (no, that's not something a shamed MP makes.  Or is it!) and so it's now 204 v 202.

Bugger!


Friday, 3 September 2010

RBS reduces deficit

With Gary - The Fluke - Smith at 204 for the year, it was time to get closer (NOT in the pink and fluffy sense) and so this afternoon I hot-tailed up to Bamburgh to seek the Red-backed Shrike.

After an hour of watching the top of every bush between there and Seahouses, or so it seemed, I bumped into a local birder who confirmed where it should have been and was seen earlier today.  After a minute or two of joint bins-craft, voila!

What a stunner!  I must admit that shrikes are one of my absolute favourite birds and this juvenile was quite superb.

My 'assistant' was the guy who located the Barred Warbler at Budle Point yesterday, and what a great bloke.  Didn't get his name tho'.

So, Vipers, 204 - 202 and my first pelagic tomorrow.

Here's to a score draw or even an away win by close of play tomorrow! 

Unless you are taking the kindergarten on a field trip again!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Avian Enemy or Feathered Friend?

A present, the former.

Just got back from yet another hour looking a shrubs at St. Mary's.  This afternoon, I spent yet another hour looking at shrubs at Newbiggin.

Groundhog Day!

Closer?

Greenish?  Lights!  Camera! Action?  Nope.  Arrived at St. Mary's at 07:10 (for those who subscribe to Birdguides, note that time).

I was beckoned over with all due haste to the NW willows and so ran gazelle-like to be told it was 'there'.  But it was not.  The little bleeder is clearly competition to Usain Bolt and had darted into cover.

And, not surprisingly, for the next 110 minutes, it sat out of view, flicking me the ornithological 'v's.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Some you win.......................

...............many/most you don't!

Thought I would try again for the feckin' Greenish Warbler this evening but checkin' Birdguides there was an often helpful 'hasn't been seen since.....' report.

Whilst Harry Hill advises a a fight to determine between two choices, the Barred v Greenish debate was settled by the internet - Barred it was!

Barred shmarred!  Not a sniff at Newbiggin, just a Blackbird, a Whitethroat and an u/k.

And then on Birdguides, voila, the little green bugger was back, and it was too dim to start travelling!

What a(nother) pisser!

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Good-ish Day

Well, dear Reader, the first-footing post-Italy was a mixed bag.  Snook in an hour before work at The Pools.  Nice to have to halt my drive north from Cresswell by a dozen Grey Partridge crossing L:R.  My quarry was the Red-necked Grebe seen yesterday, but like all my troubles in The Beatles' song, it was clearly far away.  Plenty of activity on the water, but nothing too exciting. 

On the sea, various silhouettes, many from Red-throated Divers, but the bright sun was stifling identifying anything else definitively.  Five Arctic Skuas were teaming up to 'rob' terns of their breakfast - I have never seen that many in one scope view.

Passing Cresswell on the way back, the lone figure of Mr McLevy warranted a quick chat, and as ever, his wisdom pointed me towards a Curlew Sandpiper in with a dozen Dunlin north of the causeway.  After ticking it, it was off south to earn a penny or two to keep the wolf from the door and a Barn Owl was sitting on a fence post near the Hide.  It lifted and flew west such that had there been anyone in the Hide, they would have had an unprecedented view as it flew level with the windows and only feet away.  Magic!

At base, a quick internet 'hit' on Birdguides showed a Greenish Warbler at St. Mary's and so an early departure from the office gave me time for a quick prod of a few bushes without success.  The hike back to the car did yield a Merlin that disappeared west over the fields towards the caravan park.

And I see that this evening, the little green blighter is back, but tomorrow will have little chance of a return visit. 

Bring on Saturday's pelagic!!

Monday, 30 August 2010

Roman Four (of) 'Em

Some of the non-archeological sights!  Possibly a juvenile YLG?


Hooded Crow (they were everywhere)


Little Egret


Adult YLG

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

'E's Off

This site will be (very) temporarily suspended until BH Monday as Mr and Mrs Liverbirder are off to roam Rome today.

I will, therefore, ease off the birding for a few days but normal service (whatever that is) will resume from 30 August 2010.

First pelagic takes place 4th September so there should be something of note on here by then at the latest.

Addio amici!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Spotted the Blogger Spotter

Arrived at Snab Point at 07:30 to be met by an active, female Sparrowhawk over the cottages to the north, heading beachward.  It was seen again over the rocks half an hour later spooking the waders.

Flocks of Kittiwakes south, Sarnie Terns too, one distant diver, and three Arctics north (two dark and one pale).  Gannets up and down in small numbers and hods of GBBGs south.

Pale skua north at 08:30, slightly larger and flying slightly slower than an Arctic but no tail 'spoons'.  I still await my first Pom.

Cresswell had the Spotty Redshank at 08:50 (north of the causeway) along with a few Dunlin, at least one Pintail duck and one Knot.

The Pools were very quiet.  Saw a male of the species Blogger Prestwickcarrii near the Oddie, after amazingly close views of a female Marsh Harrier from the south-facing hide.  On the sea, many RTDs and one Darctic Skua, predictably harrying a tern and a group of six RBMs.

East Chev was dead (I am fast becoming a Vanellusaphobe), you can only take so many Lapwings (over 300 o/s the main hide on the North Pool), and half a dozen Swifts over the path to it (PC Wanderings take note).

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Priceless

  • Gettng spot-on directions from Newton Stringer - Free
  • Taking half a day off work - Have to work twice as hard tomorrow to catch up
  • Fuel for journey - £10
  • Eighty five miles of car depreciation  - U/K
  • Standing on top of a dune south of Newton Pool at 1:55pm today, with optics and cameras ready, scanning the 'naked' hawthorn bushes all around whilst reading on your web-enabled phone that at 1:18pm Birdguides said the RBS had not been seen all morning and so feeling like a right twat - Priceless.
Thank God I already have a Mastercard!

Two Ruff on what I believe is the scrape at Newton (where the yellow digger is, north of Newton Pool).

Did 'bag' yet another BTD amongst the RTDs and Common Scoters off The Pools on my way back tho', as well as a Darctic Skua (but that doesn't address my pissedoffedness).

Monday, 16 August 2010

Feck Me! I've been rumbled!

Scary McClary, I nearly did a triple-take!  During my nightly trawl of local blogs, I was rocked on my seat by this!  Whilst the ee-jut in the second photo is me (and I have tried for years to keep my fascination with 'the outdoors' secret) there is now a new craze - Blog The Blogger (BTB).  See how many birders you can secretly 'tick' every year. 

Brilliant! 

BTB - easier to i/d than a Sykes'/Booted, markedly bigger than a Firecrest but not to be undertaken in Arcot.  If I had known, I'd have worn my DJ!

More! More!

Delivered in the style of the late/great Harry Secombe as Mr Bumble in Oliver (bear with me, dear reader), yesterday's Lifer was surpassed 'early doors' with the Sykes' Warbler at Druridge Bay CP dunes (less than 21 hours later).  So my alternative title to this item may have been 'Sykes?  Bullseye!' and in so doing, two other characters from the same film would have been recorded here (Bill and his faithful, if not over-abused, Bull Terrier).  So there you are, a right Dickensian theme to an outstanding 24 hours in the world of 'extreme birding'.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Very Well Spotted

What a crackin' couple of hours this afternoon. 

Tried for the Spotted Crake at Shibdon Pond first and was rewarded within a matter of minutes, thanks to Andrew Kinghorn who arrived at the hide as I did, and just as a couple of more mature birders were leaving (I don't have a key, which would have made watching a little tricky!).  What an obliging and smart-looking little bird it was/is.  How it made it across the North Sea is a miracle in itself.  But Andrew and I were very glad it did.  It was frequenting the reeds to the back of the floating island opposite the hide (to the right of the white depth marker post).

Off north to Arcot (it looks very Shibdon-esque and so ripe for a crake too).  Nothing much noted in the short time I was there, but two other bona fide birders told me of a Spotted Redshank on the Blyth and so off there asap.  And continuing the day's luck, I dropped onto it straight away.  And what a super bird too, with its incessant wading and feeding, only punctuated to chase off its Common cousins.

So 200 for the year, and only ten more required to break my year's best.  Next!

Friday, 13 August 2010

And another threesome

No, dear reader, not an Arcot experience, but three year ticks (although my pride has been severely dented by the Whitburn Crew's tally today and the Church Point Gang's too).  Nonetheless, it's all relative and I have had a great morning.

Waking to a Sacha Distel moment, I did not recall precipitation being on the meteorolgical radar this week, so after sorting the dog (not a euphemism) and getting unpleasantly damp, I toed-and-froed about birding and eventually opted to go.

Off to Snab, no let up in the rain, but an ebbing tide meant some shelter on the rocks on the lower south side (sounds like and area of New York).

Tick One - 7:50 and a drake Velvet Scoter N.  Not too far out either, you could see the whites of its eyes (or rather the white behind its eyes and of course, the white wing bars).  Bring on 197.

Tick Two - 08:10 and after several distant dark shearwaters, a Sooty close in and N.

Tick Three - 08:27 with a Grey Plover N.

I lost count of the northbound Gannets, and the Fulmars and Kittiwakes too.  Three Manxies together (N) at 9 bells and a Great Skua (S) made it a crackin' couple of very wet hours (on to my second 'waterproof').  Cresswell, Druridge and East Chev were dead.

Bring on tomorrow!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Hat Trick

Early start today, up the coast for 07:30am and not too many souls about.  First soul was, unfortunately of the 'R' type (think about it!).  As I neared Cresswell's north end, with deluded anticipation about 196 and a Little Stint, for example, there was one car in the car park.  One car?  Another pun! (think about it!).  Some bloke standing on the causeway, just where the open water starts, looking all around like some misplaced sentry, his beloved Spaniel running through the reeds close by.  R sole!  One car!  With miles of beach to play with, he chooses the other side of the road.

So onwards and upwards to what is becoming my favourite place - The Pools.  And up the big dune to see what the sea had to offer.  Good move!

17 Red-throated Divers and a Black-throated too.  That's three BTDs in the past few birding days.  And far up the beach, a Darctic Skua was over the beach giving the terns a hard time.

From the Oddie, parties of 6, 4 and 3 Little Grebes, nothing outside the hide, and loads of Coots and common ducks on the water too.

Two Greenshank @ Arcot this evening too.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Encore! Encore!

'Escaped' at 12:30pm today and first stop was Snab Point.  The briny was a millpond, the bay to the south has c.300 Eider, c.40 Common Scoter, many parties of auks, one RT Diver, and on the beach, Arctic, Common and Sandwich Terns, the odd gull (H/C/BH), c.80 Oystercatcher, two dozen Redshank and a dozen Turnstone.  There were two airborne flocks of Common Scoters, c.50 north and half an hour later, c.40 south.  A steady passage of Gannets north occasionally dropping in for a bite to eat.

After a short shower (rain, not in a cubicle!), off for a quick squint at Cresswell, with little to say, I am afraid.

Final stop, The Pools, and the big dune that gives a good view of the sea.  Five RTDs, and another Black-throatie, with clearer but shorter views c/w yesterday.  Two in two days - excellent!  Again, the surface was dotted with auks and a juvenile GC Grebe was also present, Gannets and terns all over, but the best Arctic Skua v Tern activity I have ever seen, with two pale morphs hunting together, and joined by a dark morph too.  I have never had three in one scope view before.

So no year ticks (despite my best efforts, the skuas did not have spoons and the divers were not great nor northern!).

Saw Throat

Took a day off yesterday.  Mrs Liverbirder working from home, so dog well tended and 'Cry Freedom'!

Rather than a north to south sortie into coastal watercourses, I did the reverse (extreme birding or what!).

Cresswell - north of the causeway, a Mute Swan, two Shelduck young 'uns and a BHG.  To the south, two Greenshank and little else (three Pintail excepted).  Nothing to test my pacemaker there then!

Druridge Pools?  Or rather, From The Oddie (as my autobiography will be entitled) as the other observation points look out onto long grass and little else.  In fact, I am changing the adage 'like watching paint dry' to 'like looking out from the Budge'!!

Anyway, camera poised, I opened the Oddie windows and voila - barren shoreline.  Somewhat saddened by the lack of wee terns and gulls after last week's obvious slaughter, and no Egret, I was eventually warmed by the arrival of adult Common Tern plus 'beligerent teenager', who sat on a rock and, Kevin and Perry-like, demanded food.

A Common Sandpiper also appeared, and on the water, a young GC Grebe, more Mallards than you can imagine, and at least two female Scaup.

East Chevington next, and a Roman Forum-like gathering of birding wisdom sat outside the hide (no names, no pack drill, but tales of European visits and birds seen over the years made my exploits of the day somewhat mundane), with no room for a Little 'un, and ahead, the usual mix of Lapwings, commoner terns, commoner waders and commoner ducks.

Off to the sea in the hope of a year list addition.  Not a chance.  Gannets feeding (excellent to watch), terns all over, two RT Divers and even better, a juvenile BT Diver.

And then off home for tea 'n' sticky buns!  Wiz-ard!

Monday, 2 August 2010

Arcot

56 Greylags, 8 Canadas, 8 Herons, c.70 Mallards, 1 Tuftie, a dozen Moorhen and two Common Terns.

19:10 tonight.

Two Of The Best

Number One - Black-necked Grebe 'ticked' @ Bothal this morning.

Number Two - You cannot buy humour like this.  Superb!

Saturday, 31 July 2010

No Whiskered Tern, but....

.............what a crackin' day anyway!

Started with plenty of Sparrowhawk activity at 06:30 when taking the pup for her cock-a-doodle poo (Viz's Profanisaurus will explain) including two duelling above Chez Moi!  Accipit-astic!

Off north, first stop East Chev. and Drake-like (Sir Fancis, not a male duck), I surveyed the sea from the top of a tall dune.  Seven RBM's and one RT Diver, with nothing else on the surface but plenty of Gannet diving action. 

The burn mouth had a gathering of Terns; Common, Arctic and a solitary Roseate.  The South Pool was a duck fest, and the North Pool was one loaded with Coots, Lapwings and Greylags.

Off to The Pools, again the sea was nude in Diver terms, so off to the Oddie, only to find a Little Egret present, dining on Sticklebacks.

And its larger cousin also snacking on wee fish!


Also present was one Dunlin, one Common Sandpiper, one Greenshank and several Common Terns.

Next stop, Snab Point, which was disappointing other than four Med Gulls in with a flock of mixed Gulls just to the south of the headland and hods of Sanderlings on the shore.

Bothal Pond almost lived up to its name - Bot All, except for another Greenshank on the NE shore.  And barra-lods of Coots.

And so to Morpeth, yet again, in pursuit of a Kingfisher.  As ever, zilch.  BUT, Sir Cowell of Kingston had mentioned that Mitford might be worth a punt, and worth a punt it was.  Within 15 seconds of getting to the riverside, voila, a Kingfisher low from the right.  And after a little wellie-led exploring, I found the wee laddie further down stream, but inaccessible, so the shitiest record shot known to man or woman follows.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Two Cross

Popped up to East Chev. this pm for the Black-throated Divers.  Ticked within seconds of surveilling the sea, which makes a pleasant change.  At least eight Red-throats too, and at one stage, six in the same scope view.  Nice!

But back to birding reality with yet another Rosy Tern failure, and at Morpeth, no tick for the ever elusive Kingfisher.

If at first you don't succeed..........................

Friday, 23 July 2010

Adam and Eve

After this morning's debacle (item @ 19:00 hrs), I tried to cram an hour in at Seaton Sluice this evening.  Just as I was about to sit and over look a beautiful and apparently busier sea, the moby goes and it's No. 1 Son telling me his new footy had been pinched by some locals.  The shortest sea-watch known to man was followed by some Sweeney-like driving and just as I got to 'the scene', ball recovered and all's well (except a wasted 20 minutes and 15 miles of diesel and fading light).

Not to be out done, off for 30 minutes at Arcot.  Usual suspects there BUT sneaking along the periphery of the reed mace along the east shore was Rallus aquaticus.  What a corker!

Would you Adam'n'Eve it?!?!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Phil Collins

Just like the tax dodging, Switzerland dwelling philanderer, I missed again today.

Seeing Vipers hot on my tail, I sped to Cresswell to try and extend my slim lead with a Little Stint, but dipped.  'Not been seen for a couple of hours, mate', was the response to my question of two birders leaving the hide.  Despite a repeated and through digest of every inch of the shoreline, not a sign.

Saw the two Greenshanks that Birdguides reported, and did not have the time to forensically examine all the gulls in the flock on the spit (all appeared to be BHGs, all were sitting and all facing west).

Arcot was quiet tonight.  Six Herons accompanied the multitude of Mallards and meeting of Moorhens.  There was one Common Sandpiper and one Green Sandpiper too.

WH was dead.  The water now present on both flashes looks inviting, but not enough to attaract more than one juvenile Pied Wagtail.  A bloke I have never met before was there, and he had earlier seen two Barn Owls.  The chap had bought a scope from Crammy's mate and knew Steve Holliday too.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

And on the seventh day.................

........the Good Lord, whilst resting, looked down on his son, The Liverbirder, and said, 'It is now time for your first Hobby.' 

And The Liverbirder answered the phone call from 'Sometimes and heard the words, 'Hobby's back at West Hartford!' 

And like the sciroccos over the Sahara, Liverbirder sped in his chariot of 140 horses and within minutes, behold, Lifer 256.

The best birding hour ever!  I am off for some bromide tea!

2b, Oldgate

Spent a reasonably enjoyable couple of hours near Morpeth's Rugby Club this afternoon in pursuit of Alcedo atthis.  Nil points!

Two Grey Heron, two Grey Wagtail, Dipper, Song Thrush, Chiffchaff, Crow, Wren, and a few other 'bits'.

The address at the header of this narrative?  It's the Manzil Tandoori - one place in Morpeth where you are guaranteed to find a Kingfisher!

Friday, 16 July 2010

Total P*sser!

Just has Sometimes on the dog'n'bone (text) to say he has just had a Hobby through West Hartford!  What a complete downer.  Never seen one; and on my door step too!

The perfect end to a perfect day.

No Scaup at a very choppy (and surprisingly aquamarine in colour) Cresswell this morning.

No Roseate Terns at East Chev (but 28 summer plumage Knot were pleasing on the eye).

Zilch at Bothal (unless you like Coots) and even less at Arcot (unless you like Moorhens)!

The only person smiling right now is Vipers!

I could really do with something for the weekend!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Bijou Trip-ette

In between lengthy work-related periods of keeping the public safe, I managed an hour with the dog around WH tonight.  Not a lot to to see.  Adult and juvenile BHG on the main Flash that is now bone dry apart from a small area in the NE corner.  Another adult/juv BHG on the smaller and wetter Flash, and a Barn Owl over eastwards carrying prey at 7:05pm.  A Barn Owl was seen again 15 minutes later on the far west edge near the farm being mobbed by ane adult BHG.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Birding - not just a Hobby

Never seen one, Falco subbuteo that is. 

Walked the Holywell area last night with Mrs Liverbirder in the dim hope of success.  Plenty to see from the public hide; LRPs and Blackwit to name but two.

Best of the evening's 'ticks' was a Barn Owl up and down the tree line where the north edge of the dene meets the arable farmland. 

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Still Alive

Inundated with messages of concern from avid readers of this blog, I thought I had better confirm that I am alive and well and still getting out with the old bins!

Went local-ish, first stop today being Big Waters.  As entertaining as the Tree Sparrows are, you can only watch them for so long, so after about ten minutes or so, it was back to the car.  Next stop the burn through the Great North Park looking for a Kingfisher.  No joy!

On to the Tyne at Newburn Haugh.  The gulls were getting numerous as low tide neared but nothing unusual.  I don't think I have seen as many LBBGs as I have this year.  There's hods all over, more numerous in sunny ol' Crammers than HGs and following suit, plenty on the south bank of the river.

The birding 'excitement' was surpassed by a monster fish that lept out in front of where I stood - 2 to 2 1/2 feet long, like a LBBGs underwing it was.  And so a walk clockwise around the place, the pond between the path and the access road was full of wee birdies - Whitethroats and Moorhens - and a vole (Usain) bolted across the path.

Arcot was quiet too.  Two unringed Mute Swans, three Oystercatchers, a Mallard plus seven very new arrivals, three Grey Herons, plenty of Moorhens, and fledged Sedgies.