Saturday, 3 March 2018


An extra cold seawatch from Whitburn Obs in a stiff easterly produced little this morning. A Little Gull and a pair of Red-breasted Merganser were the star birds.

A stop-off at South Shields Pier was more productive with a Little Gull feeding with a flock of Black-headed, a Glaucous Gull and 3 wind-swept Snow Bunting.

Little Gull
Glaucous Gull
Snow Bunting
A check of the Tyne from Bill Quay upstream revealed little, other than 2 Lesser Black-backed Gull at Dunston and a Ringed Plover at Stella, where 3 Oystercatcher were displaying in the middle of the road. No sign of Darren's Guillemot from yesterday. 20 Wigeon were at a mostly frozen Lamesley.

An afternoon walk in the snow when a hunting Barn Owl flew past, almost brushing my arm.

Barn Owl
Late on at Shibdon the decent gull roost held nothing unusual, other than a 1st winter Lesser Black-backed Gull. Two pairs of Shoveler were back on the pond and there were single Jack and Common Snipe.

Common Snipe

Thursday, 1 March 2018

No beast from the east.

A bit of a dusting of snow has meant a couple of days birding close to home, mostly on foot. The first sign of the hard weather was the marauding bands of hungry Redwing and Fieldfare around Whickham.

The confiding Water Rail was still in residence yesterday in the outlet channel at Watergate, but absent or hiding today.

Water Rail

Shibdon Pond this morning held both Jack Snipe and Woodcock. Little else was seen in the heavy snow and stiff easterly wind. 

Jack Snipe

At Watergate my first Lesser Black-backed Gull of the year was with a large flock of Common and Black-headed Gull. No sign of any rare ducks pushed west by the weather, but a pair of Gadwall were a site-tick for me.

Lesser Black-backed Gull
A pair of Dipper were around the top of the waterfall along with a Grey Wagtail. Several Snipe were feeding along the inlet stream, both in the open area and into Washingwell woods, where I spooked a Woodcock.


Common Snipe

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Iceland Gull

Only about 150 large gulls on the Tyne at Stella this afternoon, but including a smart 2nd winter Iceland Gull. Just before this bird dropped in my first three Gateshead Oystercatcher flew upstream.

Iceland Gull

With high water levels since the turn of the year Dippers have been absent from usual haunts, but a pair were back on territory on the Derwent.


Wednesday, 31 January 2018


A quiet seawatch from Whitburn this morning, but enlivened by a pair of Pintail and then a flock of 37 Eurasian White-fronted Geese coming in from the east before heading north. This is the highest day total past the Obs.

From here it was down to Seaton Carew where the Lapland Bunting was feeding by the road with a very flighty flock of Linnet.

Lapland Bunting with Linnets
Lapland Bunting

Just a little inland at Windermere Road, Hartlepool I spent a fruitless hour looking through gulls and just as I was leaving the Iceland Gull swooped low over the car, before dropping down to bathe.

Iceland Gull

No sign of the parakeets at Ward Jackson Park so I headed north. A decent selection of wildfowl at Lamesley, but nothing out of the ordinary yet. Still no Dipper on the Derwent at Winlaton Mill with high water, but there were 2 Little Grebe.

Long-tailed Tit basking in the sun at Far Pasture

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Red-crested Pochard

My first seawatch of the year from Whitburn this morning. All quiet except for an odd-looking Black-throated Diver. All looked good with bill and head, but a short neck and a lack of white flank patches...

A trip down to Hardwick Hall was a success with excellent views of the Red-crested Pochard resting on the ice.

Red-crested Pochard

Just up the road at Bishop Middleham at least 2 Hawfinch were feeding in Hornbeams on the track up to Castle Lake.

Back in Gateshead for a few year ticks with Buzzard, Willow Tit, Grey Partridge and Little Owl. A Stonechat was at Burdon Moor.

On the 23rd I eventually caught up with the Black Scoter at Cheswick. The stiff south-westerly pushing the scoter flock north and out to sea, making viewing difficult. 3 Russian White-fronted Geese were at Woodhorn on the drive back south.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Water Rail

Thick snow this morning so I declined the battle through traffic to go seawatching and had a lie-in. A look around the more accessible sites around Gateshead gave a few year ticks including a very confiding Water Rail at Watergate.

Water Rail

A flock of Goldfinch and Siskin held a few Lesser Redpoll, but nothing rarer.

Lesser Redpoll
A scarce bird for Gateshead was the female Pochard on Saltwell Park lake along with 50+ Tufted Duck.


Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Desert Wheatear

An early start and a drive through some unexpected snow got me to a very cold and wind-swept Whitby just after first light. The Desert Wheatear was immediately on view and gave stunning point-blank views as it fed around the sheltered areas of the abbey car park.

Desert Wheatear

A Snow Bunting dropped in to show just as well.

Snow Bunting

A dearth of Teal at Saltholme on the way home meant no sign of the Green-winged, but I did pick up the Long-eared Owl from the new watch-point. A further dip followed at Seaton Carew where there was no Lapland Bunting among the Linnet flock.

Long-eared Owl

The first couple of weeks of the year started with the Ross's Gull failing to show at Boulmer on New Year's Day. A few days later a trip up to Slamannan  gave distant views of 102 Taiga Bean Geese before a stop at Musselburgh gave us the drake Surf Scoter. A further stop at Goswick was not so lucky, with the Black Scoter having moved on.

Taiga Bean Geese
A trip around Northumberland the following day gave some good year-ticks including Water Pipit, Great Grey Shrike and my first ever Northumberland Hawfinch.

Great Grey Shrike
Not much time in Gateshead so far, but I have managed to see Rock Pipit, Barn Owl and Waxwing thanks to David, George and Alan.