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Crammy Birder

Updated: 2016-09-08T05:24:32.420+01:00


WEBS and others


Ten or so Tree Sparrows are still visiting my garden and last Saturday a Peregrine swooped through West Hartford during a short visit. This morning I did the WEBS count at Castle Island with SH, DM and IFo. Not much at Castle Island, Hauxley or East Chevington with the highlights being 50+ Whooper Swans on the north pool at chev and a single Greenland White-fronted Goose at Hauxley.
At Widdrington Moor Lake we caught up with the earlier reported Bewick's Swan which was swimming with 60 Whoopers at the western end of the water. A stunning drake Mandarin was 400m up river from the Stakeford road Bridge on the river Wansbeck. At first it was sleeping but when the local Mallards were feeding on bred it flew across the river to join them. Also, on the River Blyth at Hartford Bridge there were a pair of Dipper on our way back.

Shore-t Story


Yesterday I headed south for the morning with SH and DM. Hartlepool headland was our first stop in search of a bird that has eluded me for far too long and on far too many occasions, Shore Lark.
When we arrived at the area of wasteland north of the Spion Kop cemetery where the Lark has been frequenting, it was a bleak prospect. It was misty and eerily quiet and after searching the cemetery, we tackled the wasteland. The section south of the cemetery had more plant life and ground cover amongst the strips of concrete so made it harder to scan. 50+ Oystercatcher, Turnstone and a mixture of gulls bathed in the shallow pools and a Common Snipe and bizarrely four Grey Partridge flushed, how they are surviving there I have no idea. Whilst walking through, a Weasel ran past a meter or so in front of me, stopped, stood on its hind legs and stared at me before running back into the undergrowth.
Lastly we walked across the fly-tipped area between the two mounds. Once we reached the second mound a lark sp. lifted and flew back towards the cemetery. Eventually relocated on the beach by Steve it flew up the bankside and landed back in the first area of wastlend we had checked. Near the pools where the Oystercatchers were I spotted it running along a raised area of earth. It was indeed my bogey bird the Shore Lark-lifer. At times it was so well camouflaged only its yellow and black mask got us back onto it. We watched at close range as it fed on the earth and ran across the concrete. It was still there showing well when we left for the harbour.

At Hartlepool Fish Quay we were very kindly invited to the end of the pontoon by the local fishermen to view the Black Guillemot which was swimming and diving just off the end of the pontoon. Excellent views of what can be a tricky bird form what I've heard.  Down on Saltholme we spent a few hours but didn't see too much. The GW Teal didn't show but a pair of Pintail and a few Little Egrets were good. 42 Barnacle Geese fed close to the fence on the track to the main hide and on the water in front of the visitor centre a Great Crested Grebe slept. From the feeding station in front of the hide were a flock of Tree Sparrows and a Fox which ate apples not bothered at all by the people only a windows width away. Whilst watching the Seals at Seal Sands a Peregrine flew overhead and spooked all the waders in the vicinity.

Ward Jackson Park was our last stop and as soon as we got out of the car we could hear the cry of a Ring-necked Parakeet. Now sunnier and in a town park filled with Parakeets it was hard to believe this was the same town as the misty headland we had visited in the morning. A few pairs of Parakeets including some birds in nest hole in trees showed well as they flew about calling like mad. Also a drake Goosander was on the duck pond but unfortunately a Grey Squirrel was also in the park.

WH Dusk


I spent a productive hour at dusk at West Hartford last night. The amazing sunset was a good enough view in its own rite but the birds present were pretty good. The Great Grey Shrike was active around the row of dead trees behind the main pool and on the tops of the long grass as was a male Stonechat.
A flock of 30+ Meadow Pipit was probably the biggest flock I've ever seen at Wh. They flew around before settling down to feed in the marshy field before roosting in the reed bed. From the reed bed I could hear a pair of Water Rail squealing away and soon another third bird joined in from nearer the flooded channel nearer the fire station along with a Moorhen.
Eventually a Barn Owl appeared and flew around the brick building  for a while and as I was leaving a female Goosander flew south over the fire station. On my way to WH a Mallard flew over my street, a bird I still haven't seen from the house. I couldn't see any Little Egrets on the stretch of the Horton Burn I walked but a Grey Heron standing amongst the trees in Northburn Park was a strange sight.

Long time some birding


Although it seems like I haven't done much birding since the start of the year, what I have done has been pretty action packed including the 2015 Northumberland Bird Race. Disappointingly we finished third but it was still a canny day. Highlights for me were an urban Little Owl in the centre of Shiremoor, the WH Great Grey Shrike hovering, Black-necked Grebe in Seahouses harbour, a brief Hen Harrier, a moonlit Long eared Owl and a flock of Whooper swans and six Little Egrets flying together over Fenham Flats.

On the first we spent the morning out and got excellent views of both Iceland Gull and Glacous Gull at North Shields Fish Quay.A trip out one morning with SH provided excellent views of Tundra Bean Geese at Warkworth Lane the same place where some very obliging Greenland White Fronted Geese had been on the bird race.
The highlights of a few trips to WH have been an undisturbed Great Grey Shrike showing along the hedgerow where it was originally before being the focus of what seemed like every photographer in the north east. Also a Fox skulking through the long grass with a dead Teal in its jaws was pretty amazing to witness. Thinking about it I have seen a few Foxes already this year at both WH and in Blyth and one which crossed the length of Budle Bay at low tide on the bird race before sitting down on the sand!

Another personal highlight has been seeing at least one Little Egret nearly every morning on the way to work on the Horton Burn. Even in the early morning darkness they stick out, one morning two birds were joined by a third which dropped down from a willow tree where it looked like it had been roosting!



Yesterday was a fitting end to what has been another very good birding year. Trips to Estonia and Mull and some very good lifers and county ticks (Ferruginous Duck, Little Bittern, Caspian Gull, Collard Pratincole and many more) have been the highlights as was the trip to birdfair and being part of the winning 2014 Northumberland Winter Bird Race team.

Yesterday I had a trip out with Cain, Gary, Ewan, Andrew and Rachel to Leighton Moss. On the way we stopped at Sizeurgh Castle in the southern Cumbria. Loads of Chaffinch, Gold and Greenfinch, Nuthatch and Bullfinch were briefly joined by one Hawfinch in the car park but the presence of a cat was making everything flighty. More worrying was the presence of a Grey Squirrel!

We arrived at a cold and icy Leighton Moss and walked along the reed bed surrounded path to the lower hide. Bearded Tit and Water Rail called tantalisingly out of view close by in the reeds on the way. A pair of Marsh Tit were working there way through the trees and the worlds most tame Robins and Pheasants ate dog biscuits from our hands!
From the Lower hide we had great views of a male Peregrine resting in a dead tree before flying around a bit. From the main hide at least 2 Marsh Harriers were in view but unfortunately no Bitterns showed.

We spent the last hour or two of light in the Eric Morcambe hide. Around 4 Little Egrets were on the marsh including two fighting birds whose awful vocals could be heard across the marsh. A Marsh Harrier was quartering the area; a Sparrowhawk sat patiently on a fence post and a Peregrine also hunted. This alerted the attention of a flock of Lapwing that took to the sky to avoid an attack. They looked amazing silhouetted against the setting sun.
 Our last treat of the day was a Kingfisher that flew past the hide and settled on a post outside the hide. It then began to hunt on the unfrozen water before attempting to smash through the ice.

Thanks to everyone for another amazing birding year, hopefully I’ll see you all soon.

Garden Tick!


Yes Tree Sparrow joined Golden Plover and Grasshopper as the third garden tick of 2014. Grasshopper Warbler sounds like a strange one but a reeling bird behind the Brockwell Centre in the summer was still audible from my drive.

A combination of work and illness over the last week has meant that I havent been back to see the popular Shrike at WH. This morning though I woke up to the sound of Tree Sparrows close by and when I looked outside and saw 2 males and a female on  the nearly empty feeders on the fence. They were very flighty so I never got a proper count but hopefully like the shrike they will hang around for the winter. Also a Chiffchaff that was present yesterday was still around this morning.

I've seen the butcher (bird)


Yesterday I was out for a few hours in the morning with SH. First stop was Holywell Pond which held a group of 18 Pochard and a ringed Med Gull was amongst the BH Gulls from the public hide. Arcot was quiet so Steve dropped me off at WH.  A LBB Gull on the main pool and a Stonechat on the reed tops on the Snipe field were the highlights until I noticed something on the row of dead trees running between the pools. It turned out to be Cramlingtons second and West Hartfords first Great Grey Shrike. This long overdue patch prediction soon moved further along the dead trees and later showed much more distantly in the tops of some bushes nearer the river.  

Cold Start


After an uneventful WEBS count we checked the river in front of the rowing club but there was no sign of the long staying Blue-winged Teal. Newbiggin was checked next mainly the Church Point area. Amongst the large gathering of Golden Plover on the rocks were a few Knot and Sanderling and a Grey Plover. On the cliff bank under the caravan park was a Black Redstart which showed well on the boulders. Also a few winter plumage Med Gulls were flying over the car park.

Amongst the Eiders and GBB Gulls in Blyth harbour was a first winter Glaucous Gull but not much else. I have seen and heard a few flocks of Golden Plover and Pink Footed Geese go over Cramlington in the last few days also.

This week


On Monday I had the chance to go down to Teesside with LiverBirder for the Isabelline Wheatear- lifer, at Seaton Snook. It didnt take long or much effort to locate the bird which was really well camouflaged against the debris the tide had left behind.When it chased flies across the beach it moved with surprising speed as it also did when the local Pied Wagtails took an interest in it.

Today myself and Cain were supposed to go up to Harthope but decided against it after checking the weather. With conditions equally miserable locally we opted for Gosforth Park which at least has one hide to take cover in. Nuthatch, Jay and GS Woodpecker were all active in the woods as we passed through and 3 Roe Deer spotted us in the distance. Whilst watching the deer a Grey Squirrel jumped through the leaf litter. A large group of geese were in the field SW of the reserve next to the ever expanding pond. Amongst the 100+ Canadas and 20 or so Greylags were 2 European White-fronted Geese. Also a Canada/Greylag hybrid was present. From the hide a few Goldeneye and a pair of Shoveler were visible on the larger body of water and a few groups of Redpoll and Siskin flew over.

Good Starts


I got a text from Gary at CLV sports centre on Saturday morning saying that he had just seen a Black Redstart around the car park. This was the first BR record for Cramlington and I was soon there with Liverbirder. We had a few brief sightings of this very flighty bird around the sports centre and the tennis courts before it flew into scrub at the back of the field along with a female Blackcap. I had brief views in a similar area on Monday too.

Sunday WEBS count at Castle Island had a few highlights including two Kingfishers chasing each other along the shore. I could hear them long before I saw them and at one point they flew just over my head! Also a Little Egret flew east down the river which was our first on a WEBS count After the count we went to the rowing club past Stakeford Bridge were the Blue-winged Teal was showing well on the near shore, happily feeding despite the rowers on the river. 

With reports of no further sign of the Siberian Stonechat at the Spittal area of Newbiggin we decided to check the dunes along the Wansbeck Estuary in case it was there. Similar to last week Goldcrest were all along the tracks and five Little Egret were scattered along the river. Whilst watching one close in on the north shore we spotted something moving fast through the low tide. It was an Otter carrying a flatfish in it mouth. As it pulled itself up onto the rocks beneath us it was joined by another two, slightly smaller Otters (presumably a family group.) The two smaller ones wrestled with the fish before the all disappeared back into the water. Other than in Scotland I have never had such good views of Otter, truly amazing to watch.

There was no sign of the Siberian Stonechat just  a pair of  European Stonechat. More winter thrushes were in the bushes along the bank as was a male Blackcap. Our last stop was North Blyth. As we drove along the main factory access road Steve spotted a female Snow Bunting on the fence. We stopped and drove back and it was still there at touching distance on the fence. I really didn't look well.  Of the three Black Redstart reported in the area we saw two being chased by Robins on the rocks below the car park.

Warm Autumn


I was out for a few hours with SH this morning. We went to the scrub and bushes bordering the north side of the River Wansbeck between North Seaton and and south Newbiggin.
Bullfinch were everywhere, Redwing, Song Thrush and Skylark flew over in small numbers and so did a few Redpoll. A small group of Mallard on the river were joined by two Dark-bellied Brent Geese between the river mouth and the road bridge. 20+ Carrion Crow and eight Magpie were feeding on the large amounts of Sea Buckthorn that cover the banksides and 60+ Pink Footed Geese flew south over.
In the bushes surrounding the old car park were a few Goldcrest, two Reed Bunting and a stunning male Brambling which showed well before flying deeper into cover.

The area of dunes around the caravan site looks good for migrants but today we only found a male Stonechat. On our way back the three Little Egrets that had been on the river had now increased to five and they were roosting in the trees on the opposite side of the river with a few Grey Herons. By the time we left seven were in the trees! Also a Kingfisher flew up river near the Egrets.

Out at last


I was out with LMcD yesterday morning for the first time in a while. The day got off to a good start with a GS Woodpecker in my garden. On our way up to Druridge Bay we spotted some geese in the fields south of the Linton roundabout. 200+ Pink Footed Geese were accompanied by 100+ Canada Geese in the fields. Pink feet were flying over everywhere in skeins all morning but not many landed.

At Widdrington Moor Lake the Slavonian Grebe was showing well in the shallow west end near the bank but not much else was around. On the north pool at East Chevington there were two female Pintail and a few Mergansers and at least four Stonechat between the hide and the road.

Stopping at the metal gate at Hemscotthill Links we could hear then saw seven Snow Bunting flying together over the dunes. A mixed flock of 200+ birds contained mostly Goldfinch but did have a few Linnet and Twite amongst it. Also seven Grey Partridge were in the field next to the inlet.

Despite it being late October, Arcot Pond is at the lowest water level I have ever seen it. The legs of the gulls standing in the middle of the pond can be seen! Two Terrapins were on a fallen log in the SW corner and a drake Shoveler was amongst the Teal. Also in the SW corner was a single winter plumage Black-tailed Godwit.

Petrel Patience


With conditions looking good for a seawatch I headed to Church Point, Newbiggin with GB last sunday. Early on we heard that a Fea's Petrel- Lifer, was being tracked up the coast in yorkshire so with nothing else planned we diceded to stick it out all day on the off chance that the Petrel made its way further north.

The first out was hard work due to the sun but a steady stream of Gannets and a few Manx Shearwater was a good sign.  Wildfowl were present all day mainly small groups of Wigeon heading north but a few Brent Geese, Common Scoter, Goosander, Red Breasted Merganser and a Velvet Scoter were also noted. I heard but never saw Pink Footed Geese and a Tree Sparrow came in off the sea. 

Now used to seeing Med Gulls at Newbiggin it still looked strange seeing them on the sea, some were quite a way out to. 20+ Sooty Shearwaters passed during our time watching the sea including some very close birds. As more time passed and more reports of the petrel surfaced, more birders appeared. Somebody picked out a Sabine's Gull amongst a feeding flock of Kittiwakes. It stayed for around half an hour before heading north. 

By the time the Fea's had reached Whitburn the sun had vanished and fog had set in. The tension was unbearable by the end as it headed past St.Marys but we all managed to get onto it as it appeared from the fog. What a bird! My best ever seawatch and best ever sea bird, a day that will stay long in my memory. 

Good enough for me


After failing to locate the Blue-winged Teal- lifer, at Castle Island during our WEBS count on Sunday morning I went back on Monday afternoon.

A large gathering of Ruff were on the mud under Stakeford Bridge on both days accompanied by 2 late Common Sandpiper on Sunday and a Spotted Redshank on Monday. Two Greenshank and another Common Sandpiper were further up river past Castle Island on Sunday and were replaced by three Little Egret on Monday. I saw a Little Egret in the same place on both days, on the Sleekburn at low tide.

Groups of Teal were scattered across the river and after scanning them all with no luck I got a text from Birding Sometimes saying it was coming down river towards the rowing club. As I looked across I could see it swimming near to the bank albeit distantly. By the time I got around to the other side of the river I saw it fly off back to where I had been. At least I was able to appreciate its name as it flew low over the river.

To my untrained eye I see nothing wrong with it and would like to hear an explanation as to why it is being touted as a hybrid. I'll leave that one to the experts.

Little Redwood


After news of the Woodchat Shrike at Prestwick Carr broke on monday, myself and Cain went straight up for it. He got good views as it hunted its way along the hedgerow west of the viewing platform. It was nice to see a Woodchat Shrike in good plumage compared to the last one I saw a few years ago in Hartlepool.

We were also out for a few hours yesterday afternoon starting at Cresswell Pond. A Little Egret was fishing,  Little Ringed Plover on the mud north of the causeway and a Little Stint followed a flighty flock of Dunlin around the north end of the pond.
Druridge Pools was quiet, the highlight was a Weasel that ran in front of us as we drove along the road. Again quiet on the bird front at Hauxley but busy on the mammal front with a Stoat running around the main car park and surprisingly a Red Squirrel sitting feeding on a nut feeder in the car park.



Had my first trip to West Hartford in a while tonight and was very pleasantly surprised. The sound of Swallows filled the air as I approached the site and as I got nearer to the pools I could hear more and more gathering over ever expanding reed bed. As the sun faded more came until around 2500-3000 birds were swarming the sky. They spiraled downwards and went to roost in the reeds in small groups until they all went down on mass and the "running water" sound could be heard. Truly an amazing spectacle and probably one of the best sightings on my own patch.

Plenty of bats including a Noctule were over swooping over the pools where a Greenshank and 2 Ruff were also present. As I was leaving I saw a Fox scurry accross the road near the entrance in the glow of the street light.

Done more than I can remember


Completely forgot to mention in my last post that I spend a week on Mull last month with Ciara L, Andrew D and Ewan M. Anyway a good week was had by all. Eagles and butterflies were the main highlights along with some good walks.

Last tuesday I headed up to Amble with Graeme B in search of the Caspian Gull. To our surprise instead of having to scan through the gull flock at the harbour we pulled up and saw Jack B and co staring at the chippy roof. It was there and stayed there for the next hour and a bit only moving occasionally to scrap for chips with the other gulls. In flight its wing moult could be seen.

On saturday I traveling down south with Cain, Heather D and Ciara L to Bird Fair. It was the first time any of us had been and we enjoyed some good talks and visited some good stalls. Camping overnight meant that we had plenty of time to do some birding from the multiple hides on site. Distant views of Ospreys were had from the visitor centre and a stack of waders including Little Ringed Plover, Green Sandpiper and Black Tailed Godwit occupied the mud. From one of the hides as it was getting dark we had brief views of a Badger and three cubs that ran through the long grass under the hide! Also a Long Eared Owl began hunting around the hide and flew straight past along with many bats.

Just remembered that I went to the Hen Harrier Day as well which was good despite the rain!



My 300 bird species in Britain finally arrived on Monay afternoon in the from of the Collard Pratincole at Castle Island. A great bird to mark this birding landmark and fittingly at a location where I have spent many hours helping do webs counts.

Wet but worth it


I was out in the rain this morning with SH and DM for WEBS. Castle Island was alive with wildfowl families of various ages but little else was on offer.
Despite the persisting rain we headed north to Druridge Pools. From the Budge Hide only a single Little Egret flew past. Cresswell Pond held one feeding Spoonbill but we did go into the hide.
Before headign back to Cramlington we called in at Newbiggin to count the returning Med Gulls. As we watched a smart adult med on the beach Dee noticed a Dolphin in the bay. Over the next ten minutes we spotted a total of 9 White-Beaked Dolphins and a single Harbour Porpoise very close in just off the Couple statue in the south bay. The Dolphins swam around and breached a few times giving me my best ever cetacean views in Northumberland. They were still there as we left and looked as settled as cetaceans can, well worth a look if in the area.

Return of a ghost


Despite West Hartford looking better than ever it still cannot pull in any waders just gulls. After checking the main pool I went to the smaller one last night where a Moorhen flew from the long grass dividing the two. As I looked up at the Moorhen something else caught my eye. A Barn Owl lifted from the grass NW of the pools and began quartering the field for the next 20 minutes up until 21:50. This is the first sighting at West Hartford for almost three year and only the second confirmed in Cramlington since then!

It was amazing to watch this silent hunter in the fading light along with a family party of Kestrels. Together they were hammering the WH mammal population.

A Little Bit


I spent the majority of my day off at Gosforth Park NR yesterday in search of the Little Bittern. As soon as I had entered the reserve both Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker were calling form the same tree.
Unable to get a decent view from the full Pyle hide I wondered around the reserve for a while in the hope that the Bittern could pop up anywhere. It didn't and it was back to the hide where I managed to get a a seat. It had last shown 45 minutes before I arrived and was in the reeds opposite the hide. With my bins trained on that section for 4 and a bit hours eventually it paid off as I got very brief views of the Little Bittern flying through the tress to the right of the hide and out of sight. Although the views were somewhat disappointing I did see a flyby Kingfisher, juvenile Water Rail feeding in the mud to the left of the hide and brief views of a Hobby as it flew off having earlier been perched on a dead tree at the back of the pool. Also an Otter was constantly mobbed by nesting gulls and Terns from the raft as it swam through the water.

Estonia 2014 Part 3


Off on the road again the next day and it was a longer journey NW to Matsalu National Park. Along the coastal area of the reserve between Lihula and Virtsu is another massive tower hide the overlooks part of the extensive coastal bay. On the road to the hide a Hawfinch and a perched Rough-Legged Buzzard were seen from car. Whilst everybody else scanned form the hide I initially stayed on the ground near the harbour office. From here I had excellent views of a Caspian Tern as it flew through. The views from the hide were amazing and provided views of two pairs of Smew, Goosander, Marsh Harrier and a hunting White Tailed Eagle. Ruff, Spotted Redshank and Common Sandpiper occupied the shallow water and Wheatear and Whinchat were also in the vicinity. Later on in the day we were at another part of the national park, here we visited the Matsalu Natural Science museum which was well worth the visit. From another tower hide, this one a rusty converted telephone mast with the missing roof visible in the undergrowth beneath, a male Hen Harrier was the highlight.  A Thrush Nightingale was singing from the scrub along the river bank too. On route to our final stop at Haapsalu, we briefly stopped at a village whose name I don’t know. The small pond in the centre of the village held a drake Garganey and a Grey Headed Woodpecker showed from the trees behind the pond. Also on the way we pulled over and marvelled at the site of 140+ male Ruff in full multicoloured plumage together in the same ploughed field. They looked even more spectacular when they flew off and over the car on mass. Haapsalu which looks like one big impressive film set, boasted another impressive area of reeds and a huge lake complete with a tower hide. A Great Reed Warbler deafened us as we approached the hide and as the sun set a White Tailed Eagle flew low over the lake which flushed at least 30 Grey Heron to the air. A massive number of pairs of Great Crested Grebe were on the lake and some had nests close to the pier. On the section of the lake in front of our hotel for the evening there were three pairs of summer plumage Slavonian Grebe which looked amazing in the late evening sun. Also some summer plumage Little Gulls hawked insects over the lake. With an early start and early flight back on the Friday we didn’t have time to stop anywhere but did manage to pull over in time to see an Elk standing out of the open on the edge of a forest. Even without antlers it was still a mighty beast despite its dopey appearance. It didn’t stay long before melting back into the forest. An amazing end to an amazing trip with great company and laughs. Thanks to everybody again, until next time...[...]

Estonia 2014 Part 2


The next morning the clearing was as empty as when we had arrived but 10 Hooded Crows were attracted to the mess left by the Racoon Dogs. On our way back to the car the sound of Wood Warblers filled the air along with the call of multiple Cuckoos. Cuckoos proved to be very common throughout the trip but typically they were heard more than see. The next leg of our journey had us travelling south to Tartu with a few stops planned of course.First stop was Alam Pedja which is another boardwalk trail through a giant woodland bog.  From the tower hide overlooking the bog, Tree Pipits descended from the tree tops and another Great Grey Shrike was spotted. Looking towards the famous ‘’Hollywood Hill’’ we could distantly see one then two Lesser Spotted Eagles. Although distant we still saw them perform some aerial acrobatics before disappearing below the tree line. Another impressive tower hideAs we headed back along the track to the car something large and black flew in front of us before landing on a tree next to its nest hole. It turned out to be the bird of the trip, a Black Woodpecker! As we watched the Jackdaw like woodpecker climb up and around the tree trunk another briefly appeared. Despite having the safety of the nest hole so close the Woodpecker stayed in view for around 15 minutes! Throughout the week whilst travelling along long stretches of road we saw loads of nesting pairs of White Stork. Many were adding sticks to their impressive ‘nurseries’ and whilst stopping in a supermarket car park we were even treated to views of a pair bill clapping.No words needed Next stop was the underwhelming looking Ilmatsalu Fish Ponds near Tartu, how deceiving looks can be! The surrounding fields over the river were full of constantly flighty White fronted Geese and the reed beds had multiple Marsh Harriers quartering them permanently whilst Honey Buzzards flew above the distant plantation. The paths between ponds were lifting with Blue Headed Yellow Wagtails and as we passed one of the canals a Thrush Nightingale was singing from the scrub on the opposite bank. It was surprisingly obliging hence the photo below. ObligingThe biggest pond had a diverse mixture of species including typical winter ducks like Shoveler, Pintail and a Whooper Swan as well as waders including Stunning summer plumage Spotted Redshanks, male Ruff, Black Tailed Godwit and the most Wood Sandpipers I have ever seen. A large gathering of Swallows over one of the smaller pond attracted a Hobby which gave great views as it flew low overhead before diving at the Swallows. It was eventually mobbed by others and flew out of sight. We also had fly over Little and Great White Egrets. After arriving and finding somewhere to sleep and eat in Tartu we headed out to a Great Snipe Lek site. Unfortunately only one bird was showing and I just missed it as it disappeared back into a gully in the field. Final instalment arriving soon...[...]

Estonia 2014 Part 1


From Monday 5th until Friday 9thMay I spent an amazing few days in Estonia with Cain, Gary S, Andrew D, Stephen W, Heather D and Ciara L. It was our first birding trip all together outside of Scotland. When we touched down in Tallin on Monday it was snowing but fortunately by the next morning it had melted. In the hotel car park at Rakvere we were greeted by a singing Redstart on our first full day. With the hire van picked up we left for the Lahemaa National Park and it was noticeably wintery still with the numerous arable fields en route full of wintering geese. We stopped near Rakvere to check the geese and ended up scanning hundreds of Eurasian White Fronted Geese, Tundra Bean Geese and Barnacle Geese who were joined by a few small pockets of Pink Footed Geese and Greylag Geese.  The fields also held a few foraging White Storks and Common Cranes.  With visiting at a strange time of the season there was a lot of cross over between departing winter species and arriving summer migrants so seeing storks and cranes amongst groups of geese wasn’t the strangest sight of the trip. Once at the vast Lahemaa National Park we explored the Viru Bog Trail following the boardwalk and stopping at its impressive tower platform hide.  Common Cranes were heard calling from the ground but remained elusive whilst Pied Flycatcher were the opposite as they showed well in the woods. The small pools scattered across the bog held Goldeneye and Teal but the best viewing was from the tower hide. In just a few minutes, Goshawk and Montagu’s Harrier were soaring above the tree tops along with a distant Eagle sp. A Great Grey Shrike was perched on top of a pine tree amongst the bog also. From the woodland trail we were all utterly suckered by the local Chaffinches which not surprisingly sound slightly different to the ones back in England. In fact they sound so different we thought at first we were listening to Parrott Crossbills the call was that different.  Cain and Gary got onto a Grey Headed Woodpecker in the woods whist we all stumbled across a Hen Capercaille which soon flew off.  The roads through the various forests were full of flocks of Chaffinches feeding on grit. Amongst these flocks a few Common Rosefinch were picked out.View from the tower hideOn our way to our next destination, the Bear Hide, east of Maetaguse, we stopped and explored the dense surrounding forest. Along the forest roads we found a former Beaver Dam that had been destroyed in a small flooded ditch. Further off the beaten track we followed a set of Elk prints which led us into thick forest. We found tantalising fresh evidence of the impressive creature but never really got close to it. A smart singing male Red Breasted Flycatcher and a common Lizard were worth the diversion. Also we saw a few Wood Sandpiper  in the flooded ditches.  As we drove along the track I spotted something flying across the road and got on it just in time to see that it was a male Golden Oriole, unfortunately nobody else got on it as it flew back further into the forest. A tame Red Throated Pipit feeding along the forest track did make up for the disappointment though. Also another Hen Cappercaille flew from the roadside. After getting the key and walking up to the Bear Hide we settled down and began our vigil. On the way through the forest leading to the hide it was eerily quiet with only the cronking of Ravens echoing in the di[...]

Building up


Arcot Pond on Monday night was alive for the first time in a while. A pair of Great Crested Grebe were on the pond, Grasshopper and Sedge Warbler were reeling away as was a Lesser Whitethroat. Two pair of Common Tern fished above the pond and later another pair passed through at the same time making this my highest total I have seen in Cramlington. At least two Grasshopper Warbler were also rattling behind the Brockwell centre on monday afternoon.

Yesterday I was lucky enough to visit Cain's ''office'' near Kielder. With the sun shinning GS Woodpeckers were drumming away in the woods and  Green Woodpecker was yaffling away. On a short walk by the river we stumbled upon two Song Thrush nest, one with young chicks and another still under construction.
The peaceful woods were momentarily disturbed as two rutting Roe Deer ran through the trees before crashing through the river barking as they went. A Dipper was dipping through the rapids as a Grey Wagtail picked amongst the rocks and a drake Mandarin flew downstream.
The highlight of the day for me though was seeing a Common Lizard (a British lifer) chasing spiders along the grassy bank side.

Later in the afternoon we checked Killingworth Lake where we got excellent views of the Great Crested Grebe pairs. At least eight Common Terns were fishing here and a Speckled Wood butterfly was in a garden near the lake side.
During a quiet trip to West Hartford today I spotted a Speckled Wood flying around the substation. A pair of Gadwall and a Whitethroat were also noted. A few Tree Sparrow flew east calling high up as they passed were my first noted record of seeing them on visible migration through Cramlington.