Thursday, September 03, 2015

Same old same old...

This evening had another late dash to check the seawatching at Craster. This time the sea was much rougher, but the birding hadnt improved. All I had in 40 minutes were 21 Pale bellied Brent Geese and 10 Teal N.

Still the geese were a patch year tick...

137. Brent Goose.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky...

Craster. The north end of my patch shows the rocky shores typical of our coast here.
I have managed to fit in a few short seawatches over this Bank Holiday with not a lot to show for it really. Although the wind was from the NNW, there must be very few birds, other than the breeders of course, in the North Sea.

Yesterday, an hour from 08.45am had  -

Bonxie 2 ad N, big brutes together.
Roseate Tern 2
Teal 134 N
Common Scoter 1 N
Wigeon 10 N
Tufted Duck 3 N
Whimbrel 2 N

While another check from 4pm - 4.30pm was dead with only 5 Knot and 4 Dunlin going into the notebook.

This morning I ventured out for a 7am start. As you can see from my top photo the light was poor for viewing But a few more birds were on the go, but it was still a bit frustrating -

Gannet 50 N per minute, the whole north sea population seemed to pass.
Kittiwake 10 N per minute.
Manx Shearwater 2N
A possible Arctic Skua chased a bird on the horizon, but the more I think about this, the more I think the predator was a Peregrine, and not a skua at all!  Its behaviour was different with none of the twists and turns, just high flights and steep stoops. Shape looked right for Peregrine too, but it was too distant to call so we'll chalk that down to experience.
Carrion Crow ( yes thats right) 1 N at about half a mile range?

Back home 2 Wheatears were on the main road fence this morning.

Maybe this strengthening wind will have an effect by Thrusday? Hope so....

135. Bonxie
136. Wigeon 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Bank Holiday Sunday.

What a lovely morning its been . The sun was shining giving everything a lovely autumn glow, it was calm and mild, just the day to be pottering around the Warkworth patch.

Before that though, John came to seek me and we popped up to the field flash alongside the A1 at North Charlton. The rapidly dwindling water body held a good few waders with 3 Green Sandpipers, 2 Common Sandpipers, 13 Ruff and a Greenshank with the 100+ Lapwings.

From here it was back down the coast to avoid the Great North Cycle Ride that causes chaos on the roads every August Bank Holiday. We began at the Warkworth Beach car park area where we enjoyed a surprising number of common migrants under these conditions, best being a nice female Redstart and 2 Reed Warblers with 3 Blackcaps, 5 Sedge Warblers, 6 Whitethroats, 6 Chiffchaff and 18+ Willow Warblers. A steady movement of hirundines flew south while oddities included a Nuthatch and a family of Bullfinches in the car park scrub. The Nuthatch in particular is very unusual on the coast.

As the car park filled with day trippers we headed off down to the Marina car park to look for waders.
A massive tide had left the place looking like someone had pulled the plug and consequently all of the birds were scattered to the four corners. 2 juvenile, gingery, Black tailed Godwits were with the usual fare, but there seemed less than last week. Also of minor note were 8 Grey Herons and 5 Little Egret fishing while a female Sparrowhawk came down river in full hunting mode.

It was off home at lunchtime now the cyclists had migrated south. In our garden, 2 yellow juvvy Willow Warblers were with a male Blackcap in the elder.

I'm off work now for a couple of days and there may be the possibility of some seawatch weather in the offing. Here's keeping everything crossed and hoping for some overdue patch ticks...

A quick sketch done as soon as I got in the house, totally from memory. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Its an ill wind...

This weekend has seen a real mish mash of weather and with it some very dodgy weather forecasting too. Overall we have had strong easterly winds, two spells of overnight torrential rain and a couple of very nice warm, humid days. Not bad, a real hint of summer...

Beginning on Friday evening, a short seawatch from Craster was largely uneventful, but there was one highlight, a distant Bonxie, low over the waves flew south, followed later by second even more distant individual, but I might just wait for a better view of one before I add it to the patch year list ( cool or what). Other wise, 9 Swallows S, 1 Whimbrel S, 3 Common Gulls S, 20+ Turnstones on rocks, and a Goosander on the sea.

No birding on Saturday, but a light easterly had started to make things a bit interesting. A few 'hooweets' and 'tacks' came from deep in cover around the garden. Overnight there was lashing rain and a light SE wind making hopes high for the morning...

On Sunday I was out early and wandering Craster by 6.30am. I was surprised how quiet it was, but still believed that there would be some bird interest, somewhere. All I had here were lots of hirundines, a scattering of phylloscs and a few Blackcap and Whitethroat. I left them to it and drove south to meet John at Warkworth for 8am.

All areas were covered with the following highlights noted - 1+Whinchat and 1 Wheatear were down the dunes, 5+ Little Egrets up Old Water, where we heard convincing tales of up to 15 being present plus a Bittern yesterday. We gave the reed bed a short stake out but the boomer remained hidden.

Down on the proper mud flats there were masses of waders, 126+ Curlew, 1 Black tailed Godwit, 73+ Knot, 56 Golden Plover, 61+ Ringed Plover, sev hundred Dunlin, 1 Sanderling, 2 Turnstone,   150+ Redshank, 260+ Lapwing and a Common Sandpiper was heard. Not bad for a small estuary.

I left John  and headed home at lunchtime joking that the now increasing breeze might ground something around Howick for me.

Pied Flycatcher, both pics of the same bird, one of two present. The other remained quite high up.
Not much happened until late afternoon, when a flickering wing in the small oak next to our shed caught my eye. Peering through the greenery I could see a small bird lifting one wing and waving it in the air - a Pied Flycatcher! An excellent garden tick and a good bird for the patch list too. While trying to get some photos, one bird was quite showy at eye level while a second individual was flycatching higher in the sycamores. Two birds! Pied Fly isnt annual on my patch, its presence being wholly reliant on an easterly weather pattern between mid August and mid September, so I was well excited by these two.

Painted Lady
On Monday, I was up for work at 6.15am to find a North Northumberland speciality at work, or not - a power cut. Unable to get ready for work or even have a coffee, I did the only decent thing, rang in a days leave and went birding.

The morning was calm, warm and clear. Up at Craster, 8 Whitethroats, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 4 Blackcap, 6+ Chiffchaff, 2 Siskins S, 3 Grey Wagtails N were all I could winkle out.
Back home to photograph a rare moth taken from our bedroom wall last night, an Annulet. This is my second from only 4 records since 1976 in the county. It must have been blown into our house from the sea cliffs on that strong easterly.

A bit of luck does sometimes help when birding and today it gave me two patch ticks in a short time, the first was while photographing the moth, a distinctive call revealed a Green Sandpiper flying over the back field from the small ditch, later a Greenshank, 'pew pew pew'-ed as it flew south along the coast. Both excellent birds for this area.

Around the garden the south east breze and warm weather had brought more butterflies to the garden buddleias - 3 Painted Lady, 1 Red Admiral, 5 Small Tortoiseshell, 3 Peacock, 1 Wall ( 6 were on the coast path), Large Whites and Small Whites in goo numbers.

As the evening came, I took a stroll up the hedge to see if the Green Sand was still around or to try and find a shrike or something. No rarities or waders, but two Whinchats were nice to get in a rough area of marshy ground. A good finish to the weekend for me...

Annulet. My second. A very rare moth in Northumberland.

Ypsolopha ustella

Agonopterix kaekeritziana a new species for me.
131. Pied Flycatcher
132. Green Sandpiper
133. Greenshank
134. Whinchat.

Saturday, August 22, 2015


Last night was warm and muggy with some drizzle and overcast skies. Ideal for a big moth catch. I didnt realise just how big though til this morning when I did the count. I had 1197 moths of only 48 species in one trap! A record count for me here.

Pity about it though was that it wasnt a pretty sight. The whole Robinson was choc-a-bloc with Large Yellow Underwings, a minimum count revealing 868 of the blighters!

However, a wade through them did produce some tasty records -

Great Brocade, only my second after one on 24th July 2011. A scarce migrant.

Archer's Dart. Annual here but only in odd ones each year. What a belter!
Butterbur. My 7th in 6 years, once believed to be almost uncatchable at light...

Monday, August 17, 2015

Something is amiss...

I've just been down to Craster for a seawatch. There is a hint of NNW in the air but as its swirling from the east, hopes weren't high, and as it happened I was right. There was no passage at all, just the local birds loitering and feeding on what looked like sprats rather than sandeels. There were good numbers of Gannet, Kittiwake and Sandwich Tern, with a few Fulmars and Shag thrown in. I gave it 30 minutes before coming home.

What is more concerning is the lack of certain species now. For example Arctic Skua and Merlin. 10 years ago at this time you could look out to any calm sea and within a  short time you would pick out a dark Arctic Skua chasing a kitti or tern in the distance. I'm still waiting for one this year.

Merlins too have changed. Was a time when once late July came they were a day bird up the coast here. Right until November, when numbers dropped and the birds took up the familiar wintering sites along dune lined sandy beaches. I'm now lucky to meet one or two in a full year, and again 2015's patch list has a blank space that requires a tick.

I have no idea what has changed with these two species, but I know that something is not quite right out there...

Sunday, August 16, 2015

After the rain all day on Friday I was keen to see if there were any migrants around, on both patches. The Farnes and Holy Island between them held Red backed Shrike, Barred Warbler, Wryneck, Thrush Nightingale and 2 Greenish Warblers so maybe we would find something of interest.

On Saturday morning I headed to the north end of my patch at Craster, where there were a few common migrants to look through but that's all.

Today was a lovely sunny morning down at Warkworth where a few more birds were in evidence. The beach car park was a hive of avian activity first thing with 6+ Whitethroat, 6+ Blackcap, 6+ Willow Warbler, 4+ Chiffchaff and a Sedge Warbler. This theme and list continued around Birling Carrs and Amble Marina.

Two Yellow Wagtails flew south.

This Sedgie was not yet on passage, feeding fledged young nearby.
Waders continue to provide interest on the estuary with 228+ Dunlin, 58+ Ringed Plover, 11 Knot, 7 Golden Plover, 3 Sanderling, 1 Common Sandpiper, 2 Juv Ruff ( probably the day's highlight) and a few Turnstone. Redshank numbers were high but not counted. It was just the cherry from the top that remains missing...

Knot are difficult to approach...

10 Goosander, 3 Little Egrets ( 'Egberts', er, no. This isn't even an abbreviation!) and a Common Tern added to the show.

Out to sea, a large group of dolphins were leaping right out of the water but they were way too far out to identify. A few butterflies were seen -Small Copper, Small Tortoiseshell, Meadow Brown, Wall Brown and the Whites.

So no really noteworthy birds on offer today, but that's the beauty of patch watching...there is always tomorrow.

Small Copper

Small Tortoiseshell
On the home patch this week a few new additions to the list are beginning to trickle through -  a juv Spotted Flycatcher on Tuesday, 2 Dunlin and a Knot with 336 Golden Plover on Thursday. Not a year tick here but only the second on patch was a female Shoveler on the pond this evening hiding under the overhanging trees. A good bird for here but I'd have swapped if for a Gadwall...

128. Spotted Flycatcher
129. Dunlin
130. Knot