Sightings 2008

Welcome to my sightings page for 2008, where I aim to display a compilation of my birding and wildlife sightings and experiences from that year.  For up to date reports of sightings, please consider following me on my Facebook, Twitter and Flickr pages.

January 2008

Picture:  Cattle Egret at Cardoness, 6th January

1st January, 2008 – Teesside
Sixty seven different species were seen on this very dull and wet visit to Teesside (the camera didn’t come out once).  Good numbers of Tree Sparrows (10+), Yellowhammer (20+), Greenfinch (10+) and a single Great Spotted Woodpecker were at Cowpen Bewely feeding station with the other regular visitors. Little Grebe (2), Tufted Duck (7), Goldeneye (5) and Gadwall (2) were birds of note on the pond.  A pair of Black–throated Divers and eighteen Red–breasted Mergansers were found at Jacksons Landing.  Two Red–throated Divers, a single Shag and fifty plus Common Scoters were seen off the Headland. Purple Sandpipers (10+) and a Rock Pipit were amongst the usual waders on the rocks.  Two Brent Geese were on Seal Sands and a Little Egret was on Greatham Creak. At least two Bewicks Swans and several Pintail were amongst the usual birds at Dormans / saltholme.

3rd January, 2008 – Teesside & Etherley Moor
The regular Yellow–legged Gull was seen at Tees Barrage. Surprise find here was a fully grown Grey Seal with several Cormorants close–by.  At least one Water Pipit and a male Kestrel were seen on the pipeline at Haverton Hole before heavy snow forced a steady drive back home.  Back on Etherley Moor, three Tree Sparrows were seen amongst good numbers of House Sparrows (50+). Several groups of Fieldfare were seen (totalling at least 150), with the odd Redwing (10+) amongst them.  Other birds seen here in a one hour period included Herring Gull (10+), Common Gull (5), Black–headed Gull (3), Carrion Crow (2), Rook (1), Magpie (2), Starling (15+), Blackbird (5), Great Tit (2), Blue Tit (2), Robin (1), Dunnock (3), Wren (1), Woodpigeon (3) and Collared Dove (5c). A Sparrowhawk visited the feeding station yesterday afternoon.

5th January, 2008 – Teesside
Over seventy different species seen today, picking up from where I left off on the third.  Eight Barnacle Geese were amongst good numbers of Canada Geese (100+) at Back Saltholme. A probable Merlin passed through, temporarily lifting all the usual wildfowl and waders. At least ten Pintail were also there and a drake Scaup was seen on East Saltholme. Four Bewicks Swans were seen on Dormans.  A Little Egret and at least thirty Twite were found at Greenabella. Two Pink–footed Geese were in fields to the north of Zinc Road and a Mediterranean Gull was off Newburn. A good selection of waders were also found here, including Sanderling (30+), Oystercatcher (50+), Common Redshank (50+), Knot (10+), Turnstone (10+) and Ringed Plover (35+).  A single Red–necked Grebe was seen amongst Common Scoters (50+) and Eiders (100+), off Marine Drive (Hartlepool Headland). A single Ring–necked Parakeet was at nearby Ward Jacksons Park.

6th January, 2008 – Cardoness & Caerlaverock
The reported Cattle Egret at Cardoness Castle was found shortly after day break, providing views down to as close as five yards. Unfortunately the light was far from perfect, so the photo opportunity was not as good as it could have been.  A quick drive over to Laurieston gave good views of Raven (several in the area) and Stonechat (2).  A good variety of geese were at Loch Ken, which included Snow Goose (a single white morph), White–fronted Goose (80+), Canada Goose (100+) and Greylag Goose (80+). Three Common Buzzards, a Red Kite, a Common Kestrel and a Peregrine Falcon were the only raptors seen and a Pintail was the only noteworthy bird on the Loch. A female Scaup was found at Carlingwark Loch.  At least five Pink–footed Geese were amongst thousands of Barnacle Geese in and around the area of Caerlaverock, but unfortunately failed to catch up with the reported Red–breasted Goose. At least forty Whooper Swans were also seen here.   A Tawny Owl was seen on the top of a telegraph pole when leaving the reserve.

12th January, 2008 – North Norfolk
Set off at 4am and arrived at 8.20am to find approximately 100 birders all trying to look up a small lane to the feeding area where the bird was visiting. Many more arrived before the White–crowned Sparrow showed itself.  A good selection of birds were seen whilst waiting for the bird to appear including Sparrowhawk (1 over), Greenfinch (5+), Chaffinch (10+), Robin (2), Dunnock (1), Blue Tit (4), Great Tit (1), Collared Dove (10+), Woodpigeon (10+), Stock Dove (2 over), Black–headed Gull (2 over), Herring Gull (2 over), Jackdaw (10+), Starling (5+) and a Barn Owl (hunting the field behind us).  Two Lapland Buntings were amongst at least fifty Snow Buntings at Salthouse, before mysteriously disappearing. Five Egyption Geese and the first of todays Brent Geese (30+) were close–by. Little Egret (1), Wigeon (100+), Mallard (10+), Shoveller (10+), Shelduck (2), Marsh Harrier (2), Barn Owl (1), Turnstone (10+) and Dunlin (15+) were also in the area.  Up to a thousand Pink–footed Geese were seen close to Egmere. Brambling (1) and Red–legged Partridge (6) were also seen in the area.  Two Black Brants (including one that was not so convincing) were seen amongst approximately 100 Brent Geese at the Wells Pitch & Put Green. Several Curlew were also here. Ross’s Goose (1), Pink–footed Goose (500c), White–fronted Goose (200c), Greylag Goose (3), Marsh Harrier (1) and Barn Owl (1) were the pick of the birds at nearby Holkham.  Three Hen Harriers (1 male and 2 ringtails) were seen going to roost at Roydon Common before setting off home at approximately 5pm. Back in the house at 8.30pm after an enjoyable day in North Norfolk.

14th January, 2008 – New Brancepeth
A Dipper was seen on the river that runs along the northern edge of the village and a Goldcrest was also there. A single Brambling was seen on a near–by feeding station.

15th January, 2008 – Hesleden
Nine Grey Partridges and approximately a hundred Fieldfares were seen on the outskirts of Hesleden.

19th January, 2008 – Low Barns
The feeding station produced all the usual birds, including Great Spotted Woodpecker (1), Nuthatch (1) and Marsh Tit (1). A Little Grebe and nine Goldeneye’s (7f & 2m) were amongst the usual wildfowl.

26th January, 2008 – Escomb
Nothing unusual found during this half hour visit to Escomb other than a small party of at least twelve Pied Wagtails in the recently ploughed field behind the Saxon Church. Plenty of work going on in the area by the local fishing club / landowners in an attempt to help the local wildlife.  Thirty eight different species, with the only point of note being a pair of female Goldeneye and upto thirty Tufted Ducks on the small lake. A single Cormorant was on the main lake and a pair of Goosanders were on the river.

30th January, 2008 – Croxdale
A lunchtime visit to Croxdale Hall for possible Hawfinch provided good views of Little Owl (1 at its usual location), a female Sparrowhawk and a selection of garden birds. A Grey Wagtail was on the river. No sign of any Hawfinch in this quick half hour visit.

February 2008

Picture:  Water Rail at Hetton Bog, 19th February

2nd February, 2008 – Escomb
Two Mute Swans, a Great Crested Grebe, a pair of Little Grebes, at least ten Mallards, four female Goldeneyes, a female Pochard and no fewer than thirty two Tufted Ducks were on the two lakes.  Two Great Black–blacked Gulls and four Herring Gulls were amongst a mixed group of Common Gulls and Black–headed Gulls. Eleven Canada Geese and four Greylag Geese were in a field north of the small lake (11 Greylags flew over heading towards Low Barns).  A Willow Tit was amongst a decent sized flock of titmice that were working their way around Escomb Lake. Two Bullfinch and at least three Reed Buntings were in the hedge row that runs along the eastern edge. Jay (1), Mistle Thrush (2), Song Thrush (3), Redwing (1) and Great Spotted Woodpecker (1) were amongst other birds that made a total of thirty six different species in an enjoyable hours walk around the two lakes.

3rd February, 2008 – South Tyneside
A quick visit to South Tyneside for two reported birds resulted in a 2 – 3 second view of a Firecrest at Mount Pleasant and very good views of a Yellow–browed Warbler at Jarrow Cemetery.  Several male and female Bullfinches were showing well at Mount Pleasant NR, along with a smaller selection of common garden birds.  Jarrow Cemetery was much more productive with Kestrel (1), Redwing (50+), Mistle Thrush (2), Song Thrush (1), Blackbird (5+), Great Spotted Woodpecker (1), Goldcrest (3), Long–tailed Tit (10+), Wren (1), Robin (2), Great Tit (2), Blue Tit (4+), Coal Tit (2), Greenfinch (1), Chaffinch (2) and Goldfinch (3) being seen.  The Yellow–browed Warbler was seen on numerous occasions in the trees / bushes that run along the northern edge of the cemetery and was very flighty, which made photographing the bird difficult.

4th February, 2008 – New Brancepeth
A pair of Dippers were seen on the river, ‘downstream of the bridge’.  At least four Siskins and two Bullfinches were seen visiting a local feeding station. Other birds here included Greenfinch (2), Chaffinch (2), Goldfinch (3), Blue Tit (1), Great Tit (2), Robin (1), Pied Wagtail (1) and at least ten House Sparrows, all seen in a brief 3 – 4 minute spell watching the feeders.  No sign of last months Brambling, but I was reliably informed that it has been seen recently.

6th February, 2008 – Bishops Park
A single Green Sandpiper was at the small pool, along with three Grey Herons. A drake Goosander was on the River Wear. Two Fieldfares and two Mistle Thrushes were also in the area. A Barn Owl was seen at it’s usual location on the outskirts of the town.

9th February, 2008 – The Stang
Four Crossbills were seen soon after arrival. Black Grouse (25 (highest count I have recorded here)), Red Grouse (10), Siskin (20+), Chaffinch (4), Coal Tit (10+) were also seen.  A Red–legged Partridge was seen near Brignall, along with Fieldfare (100c) and Starling (200c).  A pair of untagged Red Kites and two Common Buzzards were seen on the outskirts of Kinninvie. Fieldfare (250c), Starling (350c) and Red Grouse (2) were also in the area.  There was plenty of Lapwings moving through the area, with many back on their nesting grounds. A regular Black Grouse lek was visited for a second time this year and once again, there were no grouse present?

9th February, 2008 – Teesside
The reported Smew (1 redhead) was seen at Portrack Marsh. Grey Heron (1), Shelduck (1), Shoveller (7), Mallard (10), Pochard (1), Tufted Duck (3), Gadwall (5) and Common Teal (2) were also on the ponds.  The regular Yellow–legged Gull was at it’s usual location.  A Pink–footed Goose was with Greylag Geese (20c) on the road that leads to North Gare. Golden Plover (100c), Lapwing (100c), Wigeon (100c) and Pheasant (8) were in the fields to the north of Zinc Road. A pair of Stonechat were also seen, but there was no sign of the recently reported Barn Owl, Short–eared Owl or Caspian Gull.

10th February, 2008 – Etherley Moor
The feeding station has been very active for the past two mornings with Tree Sparrow (3), House Sparrow (20+), Greenfinch (2), Chaffinch (2), Great Tit (2), Blue Tit (2), Robin (2), Dunnock (2) Blackbird (3) and Starling (10+) all visiting regularly.  A male Pheasant put in a brief appearance yesterday morning, but the highlight for me has to be the increased activity in nestbox exploration over the past week. Tree Sparrows, Great Tit, Blackbird, Robin and Dunnock all fighting for territorial rights and Blue Tits visiting the front nestbox without contest.

10th February, 2008 – South Shields
Two Stonechats were in the quarry.  Two Short–eared Owls showed nicely on the Leas.  A single Skylark and a male Kestrel were also seen here.  A Little Owl was seen during the walk back to the beach.  Back on the beach, fourteen Sanderlings were working the shoreline and two Fulmars were seen offshore.  The reported Waxwings at Gateshead Stadium were seen flying to roost and no fewer than twenty three Greenfinches were observed in a nearby tree.  A Barn Owl was seen hunting a field on the outskirts of Bishop Auckland late evening. A new site for this species (now seen at seven different locations on the outskirts of the town).

11th February, 2008 – Low Barns
The feeding station was less than active this evening (no screen to stop scaring the birds).  The semi–leaucistic female Goldeneye was on the west lake and a further three Goldeneyes were on Marston Lake (including one drake). Three female Pochards and eight Common Teal were also there.  A Jay and a male Great Spotted Woodpecker put in a brief appearance before departure. An enjoyable, but relatively quiet walk around the reserve.

12th February, 2008 – Gaunless Flats
Five Common Snipe, a Grey Heron, several Mallards and four Goosanders (including 1 drake) were seen this afternoon. A male Yellowhammer was on our Etherley Moor feeding station this morning (not recorded last year).

16th February, 2008 – Escomb
Last months Great Crested Grebe and Little Grebes (2) were still on Escomb Lake, along with Mallard (2) and Goldeneye (4 females). Still high numbers of Tufted Duck (at least twenty five). Several Common Gulls were amongst Black–headed Gulls on the iced over section of the lake. Eleven Canada Geese and seven Greylag Geese were also in the area.  Two Oystercatchers were back on their breeding ground. Coots were displaying and Bullfinches were seen gathering nesting materials.  Activity is still high on Etherley Moor with Tree Sparrows and Blue Tits securing their nest boxes. A Song Thrush has been singing quite loudly over the past two nights and a male Yellowhammer is visiting the feeders for the first time in two years.

17th February, 2008 – Upper Teesdale
Five Black Grouse and a single Red Grouse were near Kinninvie. A Common Buzzard was seen en–route to Egglestone.  A further twenty two Black Grouse were seen at Langdon Beck, including one female. A Grey Partridge and a pair of Ravens were seen near Harwood.  Good numbers of Lapwing (800c) and Golden Plover (250c) were in the area, returning to their breeding grounds. Mistle Thrush (10+), Fieldfare (30+), Redwing (1), Kestrel (3), Sparrowhawk (1 male) and a second Common Buzzard were also in the area.

19th February, 2008 – Hetton Boggs
Whilst dropping off a couple of servers I decided to have my lunch break at Hetton Boggs.  A Water Rail showed very well, showing at least twelve times during the hour that I was there.  Three Common Snipe were seen and I was told that a Jack Snipe had previously been flushed prior to my arrival. I enjoyed watching Coot (4+) and Moorhen (7+) trying to walk / skate across the ice.  Other birds seen included Blackbird (1), Bullfinch (1m & 1f), Chaffinch (1m), Willow Tit (2), Blue Tit (3), Great Tit (2), Long–tailed Tit (5), Dunnock (2), Robin (1) and Reed Bunting (7+).

24th February, 2008 – Teesside
A free afternoon gave me the chance to visit Norton (Stockton) where a Humes Leaf Warbler has been seen for the past week or two.  A pair of Blackcaps (1m & 1f) were also seen, along with Wren (2), Robin (2), Blackbird (5+), Coal Tit (3), Blue Tit (4), Great Tit (2), Long–tailed Tit (2), Goldcrest (3+), Collared Dove (2), Woodpigeon (4+), Goldfinch (4), Greenfinch (3+), Chaffinch (4+) and Lesser Redpoll (2).  Next stop was Seaton Snook where a Short–eared Owl showed beautifully on Zinc Road. Golden Plover (50+), Lapwing (50+), Curlew (20+), Wigeon (30+) and Pheasant (4) were in the fields opposite the power station.  A Merlin was seen flying up the channel and a Red–throated Diver was seen flying in the opposite direction. Red–breasted Meganser (20+), Shelduck (4), Eider (2) and Cormorant (30+) were seen, but there was no sign of the reported Long–tailed Duck.  Waders at the snook included Grey Plover (30+), Ringed Plover (30+), Redshank (50+), Dunlin (10+), Turnstone (10+) and Oystercatcher (100+). A pair of Stonechats were seen on the way back to the car.

March 2008

Picture:  Humes Leaf Warbler at Norton, 9th March

1st March, 2008 – Bishops Park
Very quiet visit this morning probably caused by the high winds. The only points of note were the close views of both Brown Hare and Jay. A group of approximately eighty Starlings were in the area.

1st March, 2008 – Low Barns
A late afternoon visit to Low Barns feeding station provided good views of all the usual birds that can be found here.  Six Pheasants (including five females) and at least three Moorhens were ground feeding. A Great Spotted Woodpecker visited regularly along with Chaffinch (5+), Great Tit (2+), Blue Tit (10+), Coal Tit (4+), Long–tailed Tit (3), Blackbird (3), Dunnock (2) and Robin (2). Nuthatch (1), Marsh Tit (1), Goldcrest (1) and Treecreeper (1) put in brief appearances during the half hour spent watching the feeders and surrounding trees.  At least twenty Tufted Duck, a female Goldeneye, two Gadwall, two Grey Heron, several Curlew and a Mistle Thrush were seen at the nearby Beechburn Gravel Pits.

2nd March, 2008 – Teesside
A second winter Iceland Gull was found amongst the hundreds of other gulls in a field close to Cowpen Bewley landfill site. Cowpen Bewley Country Park was quiet, with no food on the feeding station. A single Tree Sparrow was seen before moving on to the pond where Pochard (10+), Tufted Duck (10+), Mallard (10+), Shoveller (2), Gadwall (4) and Little Grebe were seen.  A Merlin showed nicely along the fence line at Zinc Road. Mistle Thrush (1), Curlew (20+), Wigeon (50+), Greylag Geese (2), Lapwing (20+) and Golden Plover (100+) were also in the area.  Oystercatcher (20+), Turnstone (7) and a single Knot were on marine drive, north of Seaton Carew. A Kittiwake was seen with other gulls on Seaton Carew Golf Course.  Two Lesser Black–backed Gulls and the regular Yellow–legged Gull was at Tees Barrage. The Humes Leaf Warbler was still at Norton and a Common (mealy) Redpoll was amongst at least fourteen Lesser Redpolls at a nearby country park in Billingham.

8th March, 2008 – Rainton Meadows
A drake Pintail, two female Ruddy Ducks, at least twenty Teal, several Tufted Ducks, a pair of Gadwall, a drake Shoveller, several Mallards, a single Little Grebe and a pair of summer plumaged Great Crested Grebes were seen throughout the reserve. Waders included Curlew (7), Redshank (1), Oystercatcher (10+), Lapwing (15+) and Common Snipe (1). Herring Gull (5), Common Gull (3), Black–headed Gull (10+), Greylag Goose (5), Canada Goose (4), Cormorant (1), Moorhen (4), Coot (10+), Kestrel (1), Blue Tit (2), Great Tit (2), Long–tailed Tit (2), Robin (1), Dunnock (2) and Chaffinch (1) were also seen.  A quick visit to the nearby Hetton Boggs was unusually quiet. Water Rail (1), Moorhen (2+), Mallard (3), Blue Tit (1), Great Tit (2), Reed Bunting (1) and Common Snipe (2) were the only birds seen in a short thirty minute stay.  Back on Etherley Moor, Skylarks ar now singing in the surrounding fields and a small group of Long–tailed Tits have been visiting the feeders on a daily basis during the past week.

9th March, 2008 – Teesside
First stop was Saltholme Pools, where I was hoping to find the recently reported Tiaga Bean Geese (5) and Green–winged Teal (1). Unfortunately, there was no sign of either species whilst I was there.  Three Ruff were on Back Saltholme and a Pink–footed Goose was amongst the Greylag Geese and Canada Geese. A Green Sandpiper was seen on the pond opposite the fire station.  A first winter Glaucous Gull was amongst the regular gulls to be found at Cowpen Bewley landfill site and a Merlin was seen close to Haverton Hole.  Several Black–tailed Godwits and three Grey Plovers were amongst Curlew (20+), Common Redshank (50+), Dunlin (50+), Knot (10+), Turnstone (20+) at Seal Sands. Shelduck (20+) and Shoveller (4) were also in the area. A Jack Snipe was seen on the return to the car (a big thank you to P.H. for pointing me in the right direction).  Two pairs of Stonechats were on Zinc Road. Meadow Pipits and Skylarks were heard singing in the surrounding fields. Golden Plover (50+), Lapwing (20+), Kestrel (1), Starling (30+) and Mistle Thrush (2) were also there.  At least ten Red–breasted Mergansers, several Eider and a Long–tailed Duck were seen at Seaton Snook.  The regular Med Gull was at Newburn and a small group of Common Scoters (10+) were off Hartlepool Headland. Purple Sandpiper (3), Knot (2), Turnstone (10), Oystercatcher (30+) and Common Redshank (50+) were also in the area.  A last minute decision to go and view the Humes Leaf Warbler at Norton proved very rewarding, as it showed very nicely between the showers.

15th March, 2008 – Low Barns
A Little Grebe (in full summer plumage) and two Tufted Ducks were on Coot Pond.  A Reed Bunting was singing from a tree top on the pasture, with three others close–by.  A fifth Reed Bunting was seen near the boardwalk, before seeing a Hawfinch flying towards the River Wear.  A Grey Wagtail was on the river, but there was no sign of the other usual birds to be found here (Goosander, Dipper & Kingfisher).  Several Goldeneye were on Marston Lake (1 drake) along with Mute Swan (7), Greylag Goose (2), Grey Heron (1), Tufted Duck (5+), Mallard (4), Teal (4), Black–headed Gull (10+) and Common Gull (2). Several Cormorants, a pair of Oystercatchers, a Herring Gull and a Great Black–backed Gull were on the raft. Moorhen (10+) and Coot (10+) were seen throughout the reserve.  The feeding station was being visited by the usual birds. Great Spotted Woodpecker (2), Blackbird (1), Great Tit (4+), Blue Tit (10+), Coal Tit (4+), Marsh Tit (2+), Long–tailed Tit (2), Chaffinch (6+), Goldfinch (2), Robin (2+), Dunnock (2), Jackdaw (10+), Curlew (1 over) and a Stoat (carrying a young rabbit) were all seen from this location.  Nuthatch (1), Song Thrush (1), Rook (2), Carrion Crow (3+), Hooded Crow (1 Hybrid), Magpie (4), Green Woodpecker (1 heard), Treecreeper (1), Goldcrest (2) and Bullfinch (2) were seen from the paths.  Back on Etherley Moor, pairs of Song Thrush and Tree Sparrow are nest building. Skylark and Lapwing are also setting up territory in the surrounding fields. Greenfinch and Chaffinch are visiting the feeders on a daily basis.  A Curlew was heard calling on at least two occasions during the past week, but still no sign of any Corn Buntings.

16th March, 2008 – Sleddale
Unfortunately, the Rough–legged Buzzard that had been reported here for the past fortnight failed to show, in what turned ut to be a seven hour raptor watch.  Kestrel (2), Sparrowhawk (1) and an unconfirmed Goshawk were the only raptors seen.  Five Ravens were seen from the cattle grid, soon after arrival. Curlew (20+), Lapwing (20+), Golden Plover (3), Red Grouse (20+), Red–legged Partridge (3), Pheasant (100c) and Fieldfare (50c) were in the surrounding fields.  Great Black–backed Gull (1), Lesser Black–backed Gull (1), Herring Gull (10+) and Black–headed Gull (20+) were also seen.

19th March, 2008 – Kelloe
A pair of Green Woodpeckers were calling on the outskirts of the village (1 seen).

21st March, 2008 – Low Barns, Northumberland & Teesside
A quick stop at the Low Barns feeding station found the feeders empty. After topping up a couple of the feeders, the usual birds slowly began to arrive with Blackbird (1), Blue Tit (4+), Great Tit (3+), Coal Tit (2+), Robin (3) and Moorhen (1) visiting regularly. No sign of any Woodpeckers, Nuthatches or Marsh Tits during a 20 minute stay.  After lunch I decided to go for the reported Common Cranes (an adult and a juvenile) that were found just to the north of the Queen Elizabeth II Country Park in Northumberland with good numbers of Great Black–blacked Gull (100c), Herring Gull (100c) and Black–headed Gull (50c) all in the same field.  Next was a drive down the A19 to view the reported Whooper Swans (11) that were seen in fields close to the pipeline at Haverton Hole. All in all it was a good day, dodging between the snow, sleet and rain showers in the high winds.

23rd March, 2008 – Bishops Park, Hamsterley & Etherley Moor
A Green Sandpiper, a Willow Tit and approximately fifty Redwings were on the outskirts of Bishops Park. Three Goosanders were on the River Wear.  Three Common Buzzards and a Sparrowhawk were displaying over Hamsterley Forest with no sign of any Goshawks. At least eighty Fieldfares and possibly two Crossbills were also in the area.  Several Greenfinch have been visiting our feeding station on Etherley Moor, along with Tree Sparrows (3), Chaffinch (1), Great Tit (3), Blue Tit (4), Dunnock (2), Robin (2), Blackbird (1), Song Thrush (1) and Sparrowhawk (1). Escomb has been very quiet all weekend.

24th March, 2008 – Hartlepool Headland
At least ten Purple Sandpipers were amongst Knot (15+), Oystercatcher (5), Turnstone (20+), Redshank (5+), Ringed Plover (5+) and Curlew (2) between the two breakwaters. Eider (7), Cormorant (2), Shag (1), Great Crested Grebe (1), Great Black–backed Gull (10+), Herring Gull (4) and Black–headed Gull were also seen from this location.  Several Common Scoters were seen from Marine Drive with a handfull of Sanderling working the shoreline.  A Black–throated Diver was seen flying from the fishing quay before moving on to Zinc Road and Greenabella. Nothing much happening at these locations, other than a Jack Snipe at the latter of the two.

25th March, 2008 – Byers Green
A half hour lunch break at Byers Green Hall gave good views of Yellowhammer (17+), Tree Sparrow (10+), Chaffinch (10+) and Greenfinch (5). Great Tit (4), Blue Tit (7), Coal Tit (1), Long–tailed Tit (1), Magpie (1) and Collared Dove (5) were also seen.

25th March, 2008 – New Brancepeth
A quick stop at the river resulted in good views of Dipper (1), Grey Wagtail (1) and Great Spotted Woodpecker (2). Heard a possible Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in the same location.  I was reliably informed that last months Brambling was still visiting the feeders at a local feeding station, but not seen today.

26th March, 2008 – Leadgate
A wing–tagged Red Kite was seen from the A692 near Leadgate.

27th March, 2008 – Escomb
Three Sand Martins, nine Meadow Pipits and a Chiffchaff were seen amongst the usual birds during this late afternoon visit.

30th March, 2008 – South Durham
A group of at least fifteen Crossbills that included both adults and juveniles were in the tree tops at the stang. Brambling (3), Chaffinch (10+), Greenfinch (2), Siskin (10+), Coal Tit (2), Blue Tit (4), Great Tit (2), Wren (1), Blackbird (3), Robin (1) and a probable Goshawk (1 at a distance) were seen either side of the stang. Three Black Grouse, four Red Grouse, Mistle Thrush (1), Pheasant (10+), Curlew (10+), Lapwing (35+), Golden Plover (50+) and a male Kestrel were seen close–by.  At least eighty Fieldfares were amongst approximately three hundred Starlings at Sleightholme. Several Oystercatchers and a Common Redshank were amongst Curlew (10+), Lapwing (50+) and Golden Plover (30+). Three Red Grouse and five Meadow Pipit were also seen here, as well as a probable Merlin.  Other notable birds included a pair of summer plumaged Great Crested Grebes, a total of twenty three Tufted Ducks, five female Goldeneyes (including one that appeared to be a first winter male) and a drake Wigeon. Three male Reed Buntings were setting up territory. Mistle Thrush (1), Song Thrush (1), Redwing (5) and Blackbird (4) were also there.

April 2008

Picture:  Blackcap at Ward Jacksons Park, 17th April

5th April, 2008 – Teesside
No sign of the Yellow–legged Gull at Tees Barrage, but there was a pair of Lesser Black–backed Gulls amongst the usual gulls to be found here.  A White Wagtail was on Back Saltholme, a single Iceland Gull was at Greatham Creek and a pair of Avocets were on Greenabella.  On the return journey, a Little Ringed Plover was seen on a pond close to Coundon.

6th April, 2008 – Escomb
At least fifty Sand Martins were over Escomb Lake late PM. Not much else happening, which was probably due to the combination of a very cold wind and occasional snow showers.

7th April, 2008 – Escomb
What a difference a day makes. Plenty happening here thisafternoon with Willow Warbler (1), Chiffchaff (10+), Sand Martin (50+), Meadow Pipit (8), Skylark (1), Green Woodpecker (1), Willow Tit (2), Reed Bunting (7), Grey Wagtail (2) and Swallow (2) being the pick of the birds seen today.  One bird that I am questioning is a 1st winter Goldeneye that was seen over a week ago. After seeing a picture of the Barrows Goldeneye in Ireland, I decided to visit Escomb again today. It showed very briefly before being disturbed by dog walkers / fishermen and on reflection, I believe it is a first winter partial eclipse Goldeneye (but of which species)? Brown head with faded white cheek patch behind the bill, grey body with more predominent white markings than a common Goldeneye.

8th April, 2008 – Escomb
I managed to get some good telescoped views of the Goldeneye and I now strongly believe that it is a 1st winter, partial eclipse Common Goldeneye. Three Lesser Black–backed Gulls were amongst the regular gulls on Escomb Lake. A Nuthatch was seen on the opposite side of the River Wear.

10th April, 2008 – Low Barns
Two Swallows were amongst several Sand Martins over Marston Lake. At least four Chiffchaffs were calling as was a Green Woodpecker. Nine Cormorants were on the raft and a pair of female Goldeneyes were amongst Teal (2), Mallard (4), Canada Goose (1) and Greylag Goose (4).

11th April, 2008 – Teesside
The reported Spoonbill was on Back Saltholme with a selection of Gulls, before flying high in a northerly direction at 0745am and a drake Pintail was amongst the usual wildfowl. Ringed Plover (1), Dunlin (1) and Black–tailed Godwit were also there. No sign of any Whimbrel amongst the hundred or so Curlews in the surrounding fields.

12th April, 2008 – Swallow Pond, Northumberland
A family holiday to Northumberland allowed us to have our break at Swallow Pond situated to the north of the Tyne Tunnel. The reported Red–crested Pochard was on the pond with a supporting cast of at least three Black–necked Grebes.

13th April, 2008 – Stag Rocks & Seahouses, Northumberland
An early morning run out on Saturday proved very rewarding with the first of the birds being a Merlin on one of the fence posts, seen whilst checking the safe crossing times on Holy Island causeway.  With the tide not allowing me to cross for a further two hours, I decided to go further down the coast to Stag Rocks at Bamburgh. It was here that the best bird of the day was found, a ‘a superb Slavonian Grebe in full summer plumage’. At least three Red–throated Divers were on the sea with Long–tailed Duck (10+), Common Scoter (10+), Eider (10+), Shag (3), Guillimot (30+) and Razorbill (7). At least fifteen Kittiwake, several Fulmars, a Sandwich Tern and a Gannet were also seen. A Northern Wheatear was seen to the north of the light house shortly before the rain arrived.  Several Shovellers were on the pond situated to the north of Seahouses. A Purple Sandpiper was amongst Turnstones in the Seahouses Harbour.

14th April, 2008 – Holy Island, Northumberland
A family visit to Holy Island in what turned out to be the brightest day of the weekend proved excellent for landscape photography, but unfortunately denied me the chance of getting some birding images. If I had only known what was to follow!  Whilst taking photos of one of the churches, all the pigeons suddenly took to the air. A Merlin was soon seen chasing one of the Linnets that were in the area and was soon entertaining the family for some 4–5 minutes to the sound of ‘oh no’ and ‘somebody save it’. Was this the reason why the Linnet escaped I hear you ask? Although I have thought of this myself, I think it was the intervention of a second Merlin that gave the prey it’s chance to dive for cover. The ability of the bird was truly amazing and with views down to ten yards, this display is one that will stay with us for a very long time. Magnificent. Two Rock Pipits, three Pied Wagtails and a single White Wagtail was seen on the shoreline.  A visit to the beach at Bamburgh gave me the opportunity to quickly scan the sea. Two Sandwich Terns were fishing the area and good numbers of Gannets (150+) were heading north.

17th April, 2008 – Teesside
A pair of Manderin were seen at ward Jacksons Park in Hartlepool. At least two Ring–necked Parakeets were in the area along with Great Spotted Woodpecker (1), ChiffChaff (3), Blackcap (2m & 1f), Song Thrush (3), Mistle Thrush (1) and the usual garden birds that are found here.  A Brent Goose, two Greylag Geese and three Canada Geese were on Seaton Common. A pair of Stonechats were on Zinc Road and Meadow Pipits were calling / showing at almost every stop.  The pair of Avocets were still on Greenabella. Saltholme Pools were surprisingly quiet, with the only birds of note being several Black–tailed Godwits on Back Saltholme. A Reed Warbler was singing from within the reeds at Dormans.

18th April, 2008 – Bishop Auckland
A Little Owl appears to have taken up residency in a tree cavity, regularly used by Barn Owl. A Corn Bunting was also heard from the same location.

19th April, 2008 – Bishops Park
A mid morning visit to the top end of the park was very quiet.  A Treecreeper was busy building it’s nest. ChiffChaffs (3+) and Willow Warbler (2+) were seen and heard, but there was no sign of any Redstarts.

19th April, 2008 – Swallow Pond, Northumberland
Upto nine Black–necked Grebes were on the pond along with Little Grebe (2), Mallard (10+), Tufted Duck (2), Pochard (1), Teal (10+), Moorhen (2+) and Coot (2+). Herring Gull (2), Lesser Black–backed Gull (2) were seen amongst a hundred or so Black–headed Gulls.  The reported Pallas’s Warbler proved to be too elusive. This was not too dissapointing as some very enjoyable birdwatching took place whilst looking, with Goldcrest (2), ChiffChaff (3+), Willow Warbler (2 heard), Goldfinch (3+), Chaffinch (4+), Dunnock (2), Robin (3), Wren (2), Blackbird and Reed Bunting being seen.  Lapwing (2), Carrion Crow (7) and Magpie (4+) were seen in the surrounding fields / hedgerows.

20th April, 2008 – Lytham St. Annes
The reported Ross’s Gull was found to the north of Faithaven Beach, which was the target bird of the day. Soon after this we decided to go for the nearby Glossy Ibis at Warton Bank / Marsh, which was found soon after arrival. Other birds of interest at these locations included Shelduck (30+), Black–tailed Godwit (40+), Grey Plover (50+), Dunlin (20+), Knot (1000c), Little Egret (3), Swallow (1) and Merlin (1 female).  We decided to stop off at a couple of sites on the return journey. The first stop was Warton Crag near Leighton Moss, where we got good views of a male Peregrine and a Raven. A short drive from here, we observed a Marsh Harrier flying over the reedbeds at Leighton Moss (a Green Woodpecker was heard calling in the distance). Several miles further and we stopped at Sizergh Castle, where we seen at least five Hawfinch in the tree tops by the car park.  An excellent day out spoilt only by the cold, wet and breezy conditions, which limited photographic opportunities to nil.

23rd April, 2008 – Escomb
Several Willow Warblers, upto three Chiffchaffs and a single Common Whitethroat were seen this afternoon. At least ten Sand Martins and two Swallows were also seen.  The best find of the day was two Shelducks that were in one of the fields between Escomb Lake and the angling club fishing ponds. Six Greylag Geese, a Lapwing, a Curlew and a pair of Lesser Black–backed Gulls were also in then same field before being disturbed by dog walkers.  Eight Tufted Ducks, four Coots, two Moorhens, two Mallards, a Common Gull and a small number of Black–headed Gulls were on the lake. At least four Reed Buntings, four Blue Tits, two Long–tailed Tits, two Great Tits and two Meadow Pipits were on the edge of the lake. A drake Goosander was seen flying up the river wear, heading towards Low Barns.  Other birds included Magpie (2), Carrion Crow (5), Starling (4+), House Sparrow (10+), Robin (3), Dunnock (4), Wren (2) and Song Thrush (2).

24th April, 2008 – Bishops Park
A quick visit to the top end of Bishops Park resulted in my first Common Redstarts (2 males) of the year. A Swallow, a superb male Kestrel and a hand full of Yellowhammers were also seen.

26th April, 2008 – Teesside
At least six Northern Wheatears were in the fields to the north of Zinc Road. Fifteen summer plumaged Golden Plovers and at least three Linnets were amongst good numbers of Lapwing (20+), Meadow Pipit (20+) and Skylark (10+).   Two Avocets and two Little–ringed Plovers were on Greatham Creek, before finding a Whimbrel close to the fire station.At least one Common Tern and a probable Arctic Tern (initially identified as a Roseate Tern) were at Back Saltholme. A reasonable number of Swallows and Sand Martins were seen over West Saltholme, along with two more Whimbrels and a Yellow Wagtail. Seven Barnacle Geese and a small number of Pink–footed Geese were amongst the usual Greylag and Canada Geese in the fields to the rear of Saltholme Pools. At least three Reed Warblers, two Common Whitethroats and one Sedge Warbler were heard at Dormans.  A quick visit to Portrack Marsh produced two Common Whitethroats, at least one Grasshopper Warbler, two Willow Warblers, three Chiffchaffs and a male Blackcap.

27th April, 2008 – Bishops Park
Three Common Whitethroats, two Blackcaps (1 male & 1 female), two Willow Warblers and upto three Chiffchaffs were by the River Wear. Two Sand Martins and a couple of Swallows were in the same area on yet another dull and wet day.  The regular Green Sandpiper was at it’s usual location.  A Treecreeper was seen amongst a small group of woodland birds that included Great Tit (2), Blue Tit (2), Wren (1), Dunnock (1) and Robin (1). A Nuthatch and a Green Woodpecker were heard calling. Blackbird (1), Song Thrush (1) and Mistle Thrush (2) were also there.  Back on Etherley Moor, Yellowhammer (1), Corn Bunting (1) and Skylark were heard. Tree Sparrows have now occupied three nest boxes and a pair of Blue Tits have taken residency in another.

May 2008

Picture:  Reed Warbler at Dormans, 23rd May

1st May, 2008 – Low Barns
Two Common Swifts were seen whilst driving over Bishop Auckland viaduct.  A good variety of warblers were back on territory with Blackcap (4+), Willow Warbler (8+), Chiffchaff (10+) and Garden Warbler (1) calling from all around the reserve.  Several Swallows and a handfull of Sand Martins were seen over Marston Lake, where Little Grebe (1), Great–crested Grebe (2), Goldeneye (2), Oystercatcher (2 on the floating raft), Cormorant (3) and Common Sandpiper (1) were to be found. Two more Common Sandpipers and a Dipper were seen on the River Wear.

2nd May, 2008 – Escomb
Plenty of Warblers calling from all sides of Escomb lake but surprisingly, no Blackcaps. Highlight this evening was a pair of Marsh Tits seen by the River Wear.

3rd May, 2008 – Brotton & Teesside
At Brotton, the reported Subalpine Warbler was seen almost straight away (thanks to the birders who were already viewing the bird). Stonechat (1), Swallow (10+), House Martin (1), Skylark (2), Chiffchaff (1), Lesser Whitethroat (1) and Mistle Thrush (1) were seen whilst walking to and from the cliff face.  No sign of the wintering Black Redstart at Skinningrove, but managed to get excellent views of Northern Wheatear (1 male & 2 females), Pied Wagtail (6+), White Wagtail (2), Grey Wagtail (1), Rock Pipit (2), Stonechat (2) and Sparrowhawk (1). At least twenty Fulmars were on the cliff face.  A Spoonbill, two Ruff and a Wood Sandpiper were on Back Saltholme. A Whinchat, a Grey Plover, two Ringed Plover, two Dunlin, a Black–tailed Godwit and several Whimbrel were on Greenabella. At least six Avocets, two Little–ringed Plovers and a calling Cuckoo (not seen) were on Greatham Creek.

4th May, 2008 – Tunstall & Etherley Moor
Three Common Sandpipers, two Oystercatchers and two Common Redshanks were seen whilst walking to the wooded area on the eastern side of the reservoir.  At least two Pied Flycatchers and a single Common Redstart were found in the woods. Tawny Owl (1), Great Spotted Woodpecker (1), Nuthatch (2), Treecreeper (1), Great Tit (4+), Blue Tit (10+), Coal Tit (2), Long–tailed Tit (2), Chaffinch (4+), Robin (2), Willow Warbler (4+), Chiffchaff (2+) and Blackbird (1) were also seen.  Quick stops at Blackbank Wood and Bedburn Beck resulted in very few birds being seen. Very wet and not a nice day weather wise.  Back on Etherley Moor, the Song Thrushes are now feeding young and Goldfinches are nest building. Tree Sparrows (upto 4), Chaffinch (2), Greenfinch (4+), Robin (2), Dunnock (4), Woodpigeon (2), Collared Dove (2), House Sparrow (10+), Starling (6+), Blackbird (2+), Magpie (2+), Carrion Crow (4) are all visiting the feeding station on a daily basis. Curlews (2+), Lapwing (2+) and Skylark (1+) are calling from surrounding fields. Corn Bunting (1) seen only twice.

5th May, 2008 – Bedburn & Knitsley Fell
First stop was Bedburn Beck. The pick of the birds here were Pied Flycatcher (1 male) and Grey Wagtail (1).  Other birds at Bedburn included Greylag Goose (4 adults with several young), Moorhen (1), Treecreeper (1), Nuthatch (1), Song Thrush (2), Mistle Thrush (1), Great Spotted Woodpecker (1), Robin (1), Chiffchaff (2), Willow Warbler (3+), Long–tailed Tit (2), Blue Tit (2+), Marsh Tit (2), Greenfinch (5+), Chaffinch (3+), Swallow (5) and Pied Wagtail (1). No sign of any Wood Warblers.  Next was a quick visit to Knitsley Fell where the target bird of Tree Pipit was quickly found. A single Cuckoo was heard and then seen.  A Dipper was seen on the River Wear at Witton Gate (again, no Wood warblers) and at Etherley Moor, a Corn Bunting was seen close to the feeding station. Best view of the year.

6th May, 2008 – Bishops Park
The first serious sunshine of the year meant a quick stop at The Batts on the way home from work was in order. It proved excellent for butterfles with Small White (10+), Orange Tip (10+), Peacock (2), Small Tortoiseshell (1) and Comma (2) butterflies all on the wing. Common Whitethroat (2), Chiffchaff (1), Willow Warbler (2) and Blackcap (1) were all singing from their usual locations.

8th May, 2008 – Cleasby
The reported Lesser Scaup was seen amongst several Tufted Duck. Goldeneye (1 female), Great Crested Grebe (1) and approximately twenty Lesser Black–backed Gulls were the other birds on the lake.

8th May, 2008 – Deepdale & Bollihope
A male Pied Flycatcher and at least two (possibly three) Spotted Flycatchers were in Deepdale Wood. At least three male Blackcaps were also seen.  A quick drive over to Bollihope in Weardale proved to be well worthwhile. Northern Wheatear (5+), Golden Plover (2+), Lapwing (2), Curlew (1), Cuckoo (1) and Meadow Pipit (10+) were calling from all directions. A Woodcock and a Common Snipe were seen before finding two Ring Ouzels towards the top end of the quarry. At least five Red Grouse, two Greylag Geese (over), several Swallows and a Chaffinch were also seen.

9th May, 2008 – Bishop Middleham
A rare visit to Bishop Middleham returned no fewer than eight Black Terns (at times, all in the scope at the same time), a single Greenshank and at least two Yellow Wagtails.  Other birds around the Castle Lake area of Bishop Middleham included Little Grebe (1), Grey Heron (1), Mute Swan (1), Lapwing (3), Oystercatcher (2), Rnged Plover (3), Little–ringed Plover (5+), Dunlin (1), Common Sandpiper (1), Mallard (10+), Tufted Duck (4+), Pochard (10+), Shoveller (2), Shelduck (1), Gadwall (4), Teal (4+), Coot (10+), Pied Wagtail (1), Blue Tit (1), Great Tit (3), Chaffinch (4+), Woodpigeon (3), Starling (10+), Jackdaw (10+) and Carrion Crow (4+).

10th May, 2008 – Danby Beacon & Teesside
An early morning visit to Danby Beacon in North Yorkshire resulted in finding two groups of Dotterel (a group of six, followed by another ten). Other birds in the immediate area included Golden Plover (4+), Common Snipe (1), Meadow Pipit (10+), Stonechat (4+) and Curlew (1). A Bean Goose and a Cuckoo were amongst the regular birds at nearby Scaling Dam.  A drake Garganey, a Ruff, two Knots, a Northern Wheatear, at least four Little Gulls (1 adult) and a Spoonbill were on Back Saltholme. Two Common Sandpipers were on West Saltholme. Sedge Warbler (2), Reed Warbler (5+), Common Whitethroat (2+) and Reed Bunting (2+) were singing at Dormans.  Two Avocets were at Greatham Creek, a Whinchat was on Greenabella and a Temminck’s Stint was to the north of the road leading to North Gare.

10th May, 2008 – Low Barns
An afternoon visit to the reserve pond dipping, resulted in a good variety of warblers being heard with Reed Warbler (2), Sedge warbler (2+), Common Whitethroat (3), Blackcap (3+), Garden Warbler (2+), Willow Warbler (3+) and Chiffchaff all being heard / seen. A Green Woodpecker and three Common Swifts put in a brief appearance. Otherwise, very quiet.

13th May, 2008 – Teesside
After a teaching session, I decided to stop off at a well known site for Little Terns and I was not disappointed with at least forty gathering on the beach and in the protected area. Hopefully, they will have a good year. Other birds present included Kestrel (1), Blackbird (2), Swallow (2), Common Whitethroat (2), Chiffchaff (1 heard), Linnet (10+) and Yellowhammer (2).

17th May, 2008 – South Durham
A single Turtle Dove and two pairs of Red–legged Partridge.

18th May, 2008 – Bedburn & Etherley Moor
A Common Whitethroat and a Corn Bunting were in the field to the rear of the feeding station. Common Swift (6), House Martin (4+) and Swallow (4+) were hunting insects.  Tree Sparrows and Song Thrushes are feeding young, but it looks as though the Blue Tits have failed for the second year running. Goldfinches are now sitting on the nest (unsure of quantity of eggs as I haven't looked).  Other visitors to the feeding station include Robin (2+), Dunnock (2+), Wren (1), Blackbird (2+), Great Tit (2), Magpie (1), Collared Dove (2) and Woodpigeon (2).  Bedburn produced it's usual variety of birds, but no Pied Flycatcher or Wood Warbler present on this visit.

19th May, 2008 – Muggleswick
Decided to stop off at Muggleswick on the way back from a photo shoot in Gateshead. No sign of any Spotted Flycatchers or Wood Warblers, but six Common Redstarts (3 males & 3 females), a Pied Flycatcher and a single Tree Pipit were amongst the regular woodland birds.

23rd May, 2008 – Teesside
Yesterdays summer plumaged Spotted Redshank was found on Back Saltholme, showing superbly in the early morning sun (unfortunately, just out of range for any decent photograph).  At least two drake Garganey (possibly a third) were also seen, but there was no sign of yesterdays Little Stint. A Pink–footed Goose, two Pintail, a Wigeon, a Black–tailed Godwit, two Dunlin and several Ringed Plovers were also there.  Reed Warblers were showing and calling from all directions at Dormans. Sedge Warbler (5+), Common Whitethroat (2) and Chiffchaff (1 heard) were also there.

24th May, 2008 – Backstone Bank Woods, Tunstall
Not the good weather that the forecast promised, but I still arrived at 0730am with high expectations.  The walk over the dam was very quiet, with Oystercatcher (2), House Sparrow (5+), Blackbird (1), Magpie (1) and Carrion Crow being the only birds seen  Once in the woods, it soon became apparent that the morning was going to be a good one, with bird song coming from all directions.  A female Common Redstart was the first bird seen, with a noisy Garden Warbler soon after. A Wood Warbler was calling and singing nicely and showed superbly providing the opportunity to get some good record shots. Very nice to watch and listen to what is my favourite species of warbler.  Pied Flcatcher (2), Spotted Flycatcher (2), Blackcap (1), Willow Warbler (3), Chiffchaff (2), Nuthatch (2), Treecreeper (1), Blue Tit (2) and Great Tit were also seen. A Tawny Owl was heard whilst watching the Wood Warbler.

24th May, 2008 – Teesside
A summer plumaged Great Northern Diver, at least three Red–throated Divers and upto sixteen Common Scoters were seen from the marine drive at Hartlepool Headland. Fulmar (2), Kittiwake (20+), Sandwich Tern (4+) and Little Tern (10+) were also seen. A Pied Flycatcher was in a nearby garden.  A male Whinchat was at Greenabella, two Avocets were at Greatham Creak and yesterdays Spotted Redshank was still at Back Saltholme.

25th May, 2008 – Bishops Park
A very quiet visit to the park this morning. Two Dippers and two Grey Wagtails were on the Gaunless. No sign of any Kingfishers raises questions on the quality of the water (once a regular, but none seen here for 3 years).

26th May, 2008 – Low Barns
Pied Wagtail (2 feeding young), Swallows (at least three) and a single Wren were in and around the observation tower. Two Grey Herons were on the west pond. Two Sedge Warblers and at least three Reed Buntings were close to the board walk.  Chiffchaff (3c), Willow Warbler (7+), Blackcap (5+) and Garden Warblers (3+) were singing well and a Green Woodpecker was also heard.  A Kingfisher was seen flying up the River Wear. Black–headed Gull (1), Jay (1), Swift (6+) and House Martin (7+) were also there.  Azure Damselfly (1), Common Blue Damselfly (1), Blue–tailed Damselfly (10+) and Large Red Damselfly (10+) were showing well. Butterflies included Speckled Wood (1), Peacock (1), Wall Brown (1), Small White (3) and Orange Tip (10+).

29th May, 2008 – Teesside
A late afternoon visit to Hartlepol Headland and Seaton Common to hopeful connect with recent sightings of Subalpine Warbler, Icterine Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Red–backed Shrike or Common Rosefinch resulted in failure. None seen by me and no reports from any other birders. The only bird of note was a single Spotted Flycatcher, which was on Seaton Common.

30th May, 2008 – Bishops Park
An excellent half hour by the River Wear watching Swift (50+), House Martin (10+), Sand Martin (10+) and Swallow (4). Not much else seen, other than a single Yellowhammer.

31st May, 2008 – Teesside
Before departure, a Corn Bunting was seen from our feeding station at Etherley Moor and a Common Whitethroat was heard calling from the back field.  First stop was Hartlepool Headland, which was very quiet. No sign of any migrants, but Goldfinch (4+), Greenfinch (2), Linnet (3) and House Martin (2) were seen amongst the usual residents.  Next was North Gare, where a female Red–backed Shrike was found after being flushed by dog walkers. A search along the golf course found Linnet (10+), Meadow Pipit (10+), Skylark (4+) and House Sparrow (20+).  The Red–backed Shrike was relocated on the walk to Zinc Road, before accidentally flushing a possible Great Snipe whilst returning to the car. After almost standing on it, the bird flew towards North Gare car park at a hieght of approximately 10 - 12 ft off the ground, setting in the meadow before the car park. It was slightly larger than Common Snipe and not as big as Woodcock. Slightly paler upperwing, with white markings on not only the upper wing, but also the tail. Unfortunately, I didn't see the underwing or the size of the bill and I was the only person present (hence only the possible sighting). A quick report and search by local birders proved unsuccessful.

June 2008

Picture:  Lesser Grey Shrike at Long Nanny, 5th June

5th June, 2008 – Long Nanny, Northumberland
The reported Lesser Grey Shrike showed very well during this late afternoon visit, but it was quite flighty. Poor weather limited the photographic opportunities, but patience paid off when the shrike landed 15 – 20 foot away from me. The photo's obtained weren't perfect, but it was lovely to see and hear my first Lesser Grey Shrike at such a close range.  Grey Heron (3), Shelduck (4), Swallow (4), Meadow Pipit (10+), Skylark (20+), Black–headed Gull (3), Linnet (10+) and Goldfinch (3) were the other birds seen.  Plenty of Terns were heard from the seaward side of the dunes, but due to me needing to return home I decided not to investigate. A Common Buzzard was seen whilst travelling to Northumberland.

7th June, 2008 – Etherley Moor
Tree Sparrows (2 adults & 2 young), Dunnock (2 adults & 3+ young), Starling (1 adult & 2+ young) have all fledged and it appears that the Tree Sparrows are now using last years nest box for a second attempt. The Song Thrushes are still feeding young but unfortunately, it looks as though the Goldfinch nest has failed (not seen sitting on the nest for over a week now).  Corn Bunting (1), Common Whitethroat (1) and Song Thrush (1) are still singing.  Other birds over the past week include Kestrel (1), Pheasant (1), Swift (10+), Swallow (6+), House Martin (10+), Greenfinch (2), Chaffinch (1), Blackbird (1), Blue Tit (2), Great Tit (1), Wren (1), Robin (2), Woodpigeon (2), Collared Dove (2) and House Sparrow (10+).

15th June, 2008 – Bishop Middleham & Hamsterley
Work commitments stopped play during this past week, so a photography session targeting butterflies and orchids at Bishop Middleham Quarry was in order. Common Blue (20+), Dingy Skipper (7+), Large Skipper (2), Wall Brown (1), Meadow Brown (2) and a single Northern Brown Argus were the butterflies. Plenty of Bee Orchids coming through, but none in flower. Birds seen included Lesser Black–backed Gull (1), Sand Martin (10+), Swift (2), Willow Warbler (1), Yellowhammer (1), Robin (1) and Jackdaw (1).  An evening visit to a new area in Hamsterley Forest resulted in Nightjar (1 male), Woodcock (7+), Tawny Owl (3 calling), Little Owl (1 calling), Tree Pipit (2) and Common Buzzard (1). A Tawny Owl was seen on the return journey (on a telegraph pole at Etherley Moor).  Etherley Moor is still as active as ever. Tree Sparrows are taking nesting materials into a second nest box (as predicted). Blackbird and Song Thrush chicks have now fledged. Surprisingly, it looks as though the Blue Tits are feeding young (thought the nest had failed). A Corn Bunting is still singing from the tree closest to the feeding station.

24th June, 2008 – Escomb
Work commitments are still getting in the way, so a late afternoon visit to Escomb was thoroughly enjoyed.  At least sixteen Tufted Ducks and several Mallards (7+) were on the main lake. Coot (2), Kingfisher (1), Swallow (2), Swift (1) and Reed Bunting were also there.  A Green Woodpecker, a Jay, a Common Whitethroat and a female Blackcap were seen between Escomb Lake and the fishing lakes. Four Oystercatchers and a further fourteen Tufted Ducks (including six recently fledged young) were seen dodging the fishing lines.  A Grey Wagtail and a second Kingfisher were seen whilst returning to the car, via the River Wear  The Corn Bunting is still calling nicely from the trees, hedge rows and wires on Etherley Moor. Blue Tits are still taking food into the nest box, but there is no sound of any chicks? One of the Song Thrushes is still very vocal.

29th June, 2008 – Etherley Moor
A Yellowhammer is now calling from the same tree that the Corn Bunting has been calling from (not seen for at least two days).  The feeding station is still quite active with House Sparrow (10+), Tree Sparrow (3+), Goldfinch (4), Greenfinch (3), Chaffinch (1), Blue Tit (2), Great Tit (1), Wren (1), Dunnock (5+), Robin (2), Blackbird (5+), Song Thrush (1), Jackdaw (2), Woodpigeon (2) and Collared Dove (2) visiting regularly. Common Swift (2+), House Martin (4+) and Swallow (3+) hunting overhead.  A spiders web appeared over the entranceway to the Blue Tit nestbox, which prompted me to check the contents. Sure enough, there was one dead chick and one unhatched egg, suggesting a possible shortage of food in the area.  On a brighter note, it looks very likely that a second brood of Tree Sparrows are about to fledge (two young chicks looking out of the entranceway to their nestbox).

30th June, 2008 – Low Barns
A late afternoon visit to hopefully photograph Kingfishers was disappointing. An hour was spent in the west hide, with no sign of any Kingfishers. Several Mallards and a Grey Heron were on the pond, with Reed Bunting (3 males) and a single Sedge Warbler being seen on the west pasture.  The river was very quiet, but the walk to Marston Lake produced at least three calling Chiffchaffs and upto two Willow Warblers.  Three Little Grebes, three Cormorants, an Oystercatcher, at least twenty Common Swifts, ten Sand Martins and two House Martins were seen from the South Hide.

July 2008

Picture:  Little Owl at Trow Quarry, 11th July

2nd July, 2008 – Etherley Moor
It sounds as though the Tree Sparrows are close to fledging, with at least two young birds being seen from the entranceway to thier nestbox. Corn Bunting (1) and Yellowhammer (1) are still calling from the tree line behind the feeding station.

3rd July, 2008 – Low Barns
A Mute Swan, two Tufted Ducks, three Coots, a Moorhen and several Mallards were on Coot Pond. Two Reed Buntings were calling from West Pasture. Still no sign of any kingfishers.  A third Reed Bunting, a Common Whitethroat and a Sedge Warbler were seen from the board walk. Two Grey Herons were on the River Wear.  Chiffchaff (3), Willow Warbler (2) and a family of at least five Coal Tits were seen on the way to the South Hide. Three Speckled Wood butterflies were also seen.  Two Little Grebes, two Oystercatchers and at least ten Mallards were on Marston Lake. Two unidentified Chasers and a Banded Demoiselle were seen whilst viewing from the hide.  Two Swallows and a Song Thrush were seen from the butterfly garden opposite the visitor centre.

5th July, 2008 – Teesside
Persistent rain meant an early exit from Crook Carnival and a visit to Teesside for the reported Terek Sandpiper, which was soon located on the Calor Gas Pool (10 – 15 birders already watching).  Other birds on the pool included Common Sandpiper (2), Wood Sandpiper (1 possible, briefly), Ruff (1), Greenshank (3), Redshank (10+), Dunlin (3), Ringed Plover (2), Black–tailed Godwit (15+) and Shelduck (1 with young).  Nothing much more of interest and the poor weather meant photographic opportunities were non–existant.

11th July, 2008 – South Shields
A visit to check on some camera equipment provided me with the opportunity to see if any Roseate Terns were on the beach at South Shields.  The rain once again stopped play for the best part of the day, but once the rain gave way to intermittent sunshine I was able to check the beach. After a quick scan, I managed to locate a small group of terns containing four adult Roseate Terns, six Arctic Terns, twelve Sandwich Terns and at least twenty Common Terns (including one juvenile). Also seen were Kittiwake (10+), Fulmar (3), Herring Gull (5), Black–headed Gull (1), Turnstone (2), Oystercatcher (1), Ringed Plover (1), Cormorant (5+), Eider (1), Linnet (6+), Goldfinch (6+) and Meadow Pipit (3).  A quick stop at Trow Quarry provided me with good views of a family of Little Owls (2 adults with 2 young), Blackbird (1), Meadow Pipit (2), Goldfinch (2), Linnet (1) and Common Whitethroat (1).  Ten Common Scoters and three Gannets were seen amongst the usual birds to be found off Lizard Point, which included Guillimot (20+), Razorbill (1), Fulmar (20+), Herring Gull (50+), Lesser Black–backed Gull (1), Kittiwake (50+), Jackdaw (2) and Feral Pigeon (20+).

12th July, 2008 – Low Barns
A late afternoon visit to Low Barns for Kingfisher proved disappointing, with the only noteworthy record being the sighting of a single Black–tailed Skimmer on a log next to the West Hide (coot pond).

20th July, 2008 – Etherley Moor
A very quiet month so far has allowed me to catch up with work in the office that overlooks our feeding station at Etherley Moor.  Update from the past week. A Grey Heron has been seen flying over the feeding station heading towards Escomb. Common Swifts are now seen on a daily basis between showers. A Chiffchaff and a Yellowhammer have been calling from the field behind the feeders. Sparrowhawk has now returned (two known kills from the feeders).  All the regulars are still visiting including House Sparrow (20+), Tree Sparrow (7+), Dunnock (5+, with juveniles), Robin (3+, with juveniles), Blue Tit (2), Great Tit (2), Blackbird (5+, including juveniles), Jackdaw (7+, including juveniles), Woodpigeon (2), Greenfinch (2+) and Wren (1).

20th July, 2008 – Etherley Moor
A very quiet month so far has allowed me to catch up with work in the office that overlooks our feeding station at Etherley Moor.  Update from the past week. A Grey Heron has been seen flying over the feeding station heading towards Escomb. Common Swifts are now seen on a daily basis between showers. A Chiffchaff and a Yellowhammer have been calling from the field behind the feeders. Sparrowhawk has now returned (two known kills from the feeders).  All the regulars are still visiting including House Sparrow (20+), Tree Sparrow (7+), Dunnock (5+, with juveniles), Robin (3+, with juveniles), Blue Tit (2), Great Tit (2), Blackbird (5+, including juveniles), Jackdaw (7+, including juveniles), Woodpigeon (2), Greenfinch (2+) and Wren (1).

20th July, 2008 – Bishops Park
Three Common Whitethroats, two Garden Warblers, four Willow Warblers and at least three Chiffchaffs were seen. Two Nuthatches were heard calling.

20th July, 2008 – Etherley Moor
Corn Bunting (1 on the wires) and Song Thrush (1 on the roof top) singing before going to work at 0730am. Grey Partridge (1) calling from behind the feeding station late evening.

August 2008

Picture:  Little Stint at Back Saltholme, 1st August

1st August, 2008 – Teesside
A good day for waders on Teesside today with two Curlew Sandpipers, a Little Stint, several Ruff, two (possibly three) Wood Sandpipers, two Common Sandpipers, at least three Greenshanks, five Common Redshank, seventy Dunlin, eighty summer plumaged Knot, six Ringed Plover, several Common Snipe and five Avocets being seen on Saltholme Pools.  Great Crested Grebe (2), Little Grebe (2), Grey Heron (3), Little Egret (5) being the other birds showing well.

3rd August, 2008 – Hartlepool
An hours seawatch proved to be very quiet with Manx Shearwater (4 north) and Arctic Skua (1 south) being the only highlghts. Other birds seen included Gannet (10+), Guillimot (40+), Kittiwake (30+) and Cormorant (10+). Elsewhere on the Headland, two Arctic Terns were amongst a handfull of Common Terns. A reasonable amount of Gulls were on the rocks, but the only waders to be found were approximately twenty Turnstones.  Two Mediteranean Gulls were at Newburn (1 adult and a very quick view of a probable 2nd winter). Black–headed Gull (50+) and a further twenty Turnstones were also at this location.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to check the marshes, but I did manage to see what could have been the regular wintering Yellow–legged Gull at the Tees Barrage.  The Corn Bunting and Yellowhammer continue to display at Etherley Moor.

6th August, 2008 – Etherley Moor
Plenty of activity round the feeding station this week, with families of Great Tit (2+), Blue Tit (3+), House Sparrow (10+) and Tree Sparrow (3+) visiting on a daily basis. At least one Willow Warbler is feeding on greenflies, which have covered the small trees behind the feeders.

8th August, 2008 – Bishops Park & Escomb
The bird activity during these late afternoon visits to both these locations suggested that Autumn is rapidly approaching.  Both locations had three or four good size groups of birds, each containing Willow Warbler (10+), Chiffchaff (5+), Great Tit (2+), Blue Tit (6+), Coal Tit (2+) and Long–tailed Tit (10+).  Single Sparrowhawks were seen at both locations and reasonable numbers of Swallows were passing through. A Kingfisher was on the River Wear at Escomb.

9th August, 2008 – Greenside
Juvenile Black Stork in field near Greenside. Nothing else seen other than a single Kestrel, a reasonable number of Swallows and two House Martins.

20th August, 2008 – Bishops Park
A Common Sandpiper and a Grey Wagtail were on the River Wear. Swift (1), House Martin (10+), Swallow (1), Willow Warbler (10+), Chiffchaff (2), Long–tailed Tit (4), Blue Tit (4+) and Great Tit (2) were in a small wooded area on the outskirts of the park. A Sparrowhawk was also seen.

21st August, 2008 – Low Barns
Spent a relaxing hour in the west hide this afternoon hoping to see and hopefully photograph Kingfisher. Plenty of fish in the pond, but the vegetation was far too overgrown for any decent photographs and the viewing poles for the kingfishers have strangely been removed.  Two Mute Swans, several Mallards and a Tufted Duck were on the water, with Moorhen (2+) and Coot (3+) also seen. A Green Woodpecker, two Grey Herons, upto five Swallows and the regular Hooded Crow (hybrid) showed briefly. The Hooded Crow appeared to have something wrong with it’s right eye.  A single Kingfisher was seen on the small pond (south of the hide), before flying off towards the River Wear.

22nd August, 2008 – Etherley Moor
House Sparrow (20+), Tree Sparrows (4+), Great Tit (2+), Blue Tit (2+), Coal Tit (2+), Long–tailed Tit (4+), Chaffinch (1) and Greenfinch (3+) are still visiting the feeding station. Not heard or seen Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer or Song Thrush for over a week now, so they have probably moved on for the winter.  The recent spells of sunshine has at last brought some butterfly activity into the garden. Three days ago there was counts of at least twelve Small Tortoiseshell, three Large Whites and a Green–viegned White. This morning there was no Small Tortoiseshells, but instead there was at least ten Peacocks, two Red Admirals and a Small White.

22nd August, 2008 – Dersingham, Norfolk
The start of a family holiday in Norfolk, hopefully spending 2 – 3 hours each morning, birding in the immediate area of Snettisham and then Great Yarmouth.  On arrival at the van site, we quickly establshed that area was good for Green Woodpecker (up to four heard) and Grey Partridge (at least seven in the field next to the site).  Woodpigeons are obviously doing well in the area with over a hundred seen in the immediate area. At least five Pheasants were in the same field as the Grey Partridges. A Tawny Owl was heard as darkness approached.

23rd August, 2008 – Wolferton – Snettisham Beach
An early morning visit to Wolferton Triangle in the hope of finding Golden Pheasant proved to be very frustrating (obvious signs of human disturbance). No sign of any Golden Pheasants, but I did manage to get good views of Muntjac Deer and Brown Hare  An hour was spent looking for the pheasants before deciding to move further south, where I found no fewer than thirty three Stone Curlews at a not so well known site just out of the county.  A family visit to Snettisham Beach provided distant views of waders. Knot (3000+), Black–tailed Godwit (30+), Curlew (30+), Whimbrel (1) and Dunlin (50+) were soon found and I am sure there could have been other species, but time was against me for this one. All the usual gulls were to be found, including Great Black–blacked Gulls, Lesser Black–backed Gulls, Herring Gulls and Black Headed Gulls.  During the course of the day, the vansite at Dersingam provided Common Buzzard (1), Marsh Harrier (2), Mistle Thrush (3), Dunnock (1), Robin (1), Grey Partridge (6), Red–legged Partridge (10+), Jackdaw (4), Swallow (10+) and House Martin (1).  Brown Hawker (3+) and Common Darter (4+) dragonflies were also seen at the vansite, along with Brown Hairstreak (4+), Large White (3), Small White (10+), Red Admiral (6) and Meadow Brown (2) butterflies. Brown Hare (7+) and Rabbit (50+) were also seen in and around the vansite.

24th August, 2008 – Snettisham RSPB
Whilst the family visited the beach, I decided to take advantage of the situation and quickly visit the RSPB reserve at Snettisham, which is arguably best visited from late Autumn to early Spring for the large numbers of geese that visit the area during these months.  Several Little Egrets were soon found, favouring the southern end of the reserve. A single Greenshank, at least one Spotted Redshank and three Ringed Plover (3) were seen amongst Lapwing (35+).  A Northern Wheatear was seen south of the hide, along with a small group of Meadow Pipits (7+), Goldfinch (10+) and Linnet (4+).  Good numbers of birds on the wash included Marsh Harrier (1), Golden Plover (100+), Grey Plover (10+), Shelduck (20+), Curlew (20+) and Black–tailed Godwits (20+).  Butterflies seen at the reserve included five Common Blue, two Small Tortoiseshell and five Meadow Brown. A male Sparrowhawk was seen at Dersingham.

25th August, 2008 – Titchwell RSPB
An early morning visit to this popular RSPB reserve produced some excellent birds, but low water levels made photography very hard.  A female Mandarin and an Egyption Goose were amongst the numerous Greylag and Canada Geese. Two Spoonbills, several Little Egrets and a Grey Heron were seen at the same location. Two Curlew Sandpipers, a probable Wood Sandpiper, a single Greenshank, two Little–ringed Plovers, one Spotted Redshank and at least forty Ruff were the pick of the waders. Two Marsh Harriers and a possible (distant) juvenile Montagues Harrier were seen north of the reserve.

26th August, 2008 – Norfolk
Four Montagues Harriers (including one male) were seen at a secret location in the county. A family of four Common Buzzards, a Turtle Dove, a Common Whitethroat and a Northern Wheatear were also in the area.

27th August, 2008 – Vauxhaul Holiday Park, Yarmouth
A surprise find of a Sedge Warbler hunting insects in the canopy of the hallways in the main building.

28th August, 2008 – Breydon Water & Burgh Castle
An early morning visit to Breydon Water was timed just right. High tide meant that there was a variety of birds to be seen at a relatively close distance.  Four Common Sandpipers. a Whimbrel and a Little Egret were seen from the footpath that leads under the bridge from Asda car park.  Finding the hide shut due to vandalism, I found an elevated position and watched a variety of birds, including Golden Plover (500+), Black–tailed Godwit (50+), Common Redshank (50+), Curlew (30+), Ringed Plover (20+), Dunlin (50+), Avocet (150+), Common Tern (10+) and Shoveller (2).  Two Marsh Harriers were seen close to Burgh Castle. At least thirty three Egyption Geese were also at this location and several warblers were very briefly seen in the reed beds and remain unidentified.  Butterflies included Gatekeeper (10+), Speckled Wood (2), Small Tortoiseshell (3), Peacock (2) and Large White (5).

29th August, 2008 – Hickling Broad
The reported Marsh Sandpiper showed very well. Several Green Sandpipers, three Greenshanks, three Ringed Plovers, ten Common Redshanks, twenty Dunlin, fifteen Black–tailed Godwits and at least fifty Ruff were also there.

30th August, 2008 – Great Yarmouth
Three Mediteranean Gulls were seen on the beach at Great Yarmouth and a Common Lizard was seen from the Asda car park.

31st August, 2008 – Breydon Water
Pick of the birds this morning were Black Tern (1), Little Tern (3), Whimbrel (1), Greenshank (3), Grey Plover (1) and Spotted Redshank (1+).

September 2008

Picture:  Greater Sand Plover at Dunbar, 20th September

7th September, 2008 – Teesside
An afternoon visit to Teesside, hoping to locate some of yesterdays fall of migrants was very enjoyable.  First stop was Hartlepool Headland, where there was still plenty of activity. The ringers had nets out in most locations, giving observers the opportunity to view birds in the hand. Missed the opportunity to see Icterine Warbler (2 caught & ringed earlier), but did get good views of Northern Wheatear (1), Pied Flycatcher (1) and Robin (1).  Checking the trees and bushes, it soon became apparent that most of yesterdays birds were still to be found. Icterine Warbler (1), Willow Warbler (10+), Garden Warbler (4), Blackcap (5), Common Whitethroat (4), Lesser Whitethroat (3), Wood Warbler (1), Common Redstart (4), Pied Flycatcher (10+) and Spotted Flycatcher (4) were all found in the area.  At least twelve Northern Wheatears were in and around the Jewish Cemetery. No sign of the reported Wrynecks at Seaton, but there was plenty of other activity on the walk. Grey Partridge (4), Common Redstart (2), Pied Flycatcher (2), Northern Wheatear (1) and Willow Warbler (3) being the pick of the bunch.

8th September, 2008 – Escomb
Several Chiffchaffs were with a small group of titmice that were working their way around the heavily flooded lake. At least one Willow Tit was also in the same area.  A Great Crested Grebe, a Cormorant and eighteen Tufted Ducks were on the lake.

10th September, 2008 – Bishops Park
50 – 60 Swallows and several House Martins over during this very quiet visit to the park.

11th September, 2008 – Cresswell, Northumberland
Two Pectoral Sandpipers were with the reported Buff–breasted Sandpiper. Several Curlew Sandpipers, a Ruff and a Little Stint were with reasonable numbers of Dunlin.

13th September, 2008 – Bishops Park
Six Grey Partridges and a steady movement of Swallow (50+) and House Martin (10+).

14th September, 2008 – Teesside
A first winter Red–backed Shrike was at the southern end of the long drag. A Little Egret flew towards Dormans and a female Sparrowhawk made a brief appearance. The highlight here was a Honey Buzzard that slowly drifted above us, heading in a southerly direction (one of at least twenty reported over the weekend).  Three Ruff, a Greenshank, three Common Redshank, ten Dunlin and a Wood Sandpiper were seen on the Calor Gas Pool. At least ten more Ruff were on Back Saltholme, where two Little Stints were seen with a group of at least twenty Dunlin. Two Black Terns were seen on East Saltholme.  A second Red–backed Shrike was seen in the grounds of the old putting green, along with three Pied Flycatchers, one Spotted Flycatcher, two Willow Warblers and a possible Icterine Warbler. A Common Redstart and two Whinchats were at the end of Zinc Road.

18th September, 2008 – Low Barns
Three Common Teal were on the West Pond with three Tufted Ducks and several Mallards. A Jay was seen flying over the pasture.  A Grey Wagtail was seen on the river before moving on to the South Hide.  Three Little Grebes were on Marston Lake. At least ten Cormorants were in the trees and a further four on the raft. A fourth Teal was seen on one of the islands in front of the hide.  Still a few Swallows moving through and still no sign of an photographable Kingfishers.  Plenty of Dragonflies and Butterflies on the wing. Speckled Wood (1), Red Admiral (2), Peacock (1) and Small Tortoiseshell (1) were the butterflies. The dragonflies were probable Common Darter (5), Ruddy Darter (1) and several others that remained unidentified.

20th September, 2008 – Dunbar
The reported Greater Sand Plover was watched for nearly an hour before lunch. Five female Goosanders were in the bay and thirty five Pink–footed Geese flew in from the sea.  The reported Yellow–browed Warbler was seen outside of the hide at Cresswell. Thirty minutes birdwatching from the hide produced good views of Curlew Sandpiper (5), Common Sandpiper (1), Common Snipe (3), Dunlin(20+), Curlew (3), Bar–tailed Godwit (9), Greenshank (1), Little Stint (1), Golden Plover (10+), Lapwing (50+) and Water Rail (1).  A tip off from one of the locals took us to Druridge Pools for a Red–backed Shrike. The shrike wasn't found, but we did see at least ten Red–throated Divers offshore.  A quick stop at Newbiggin gave us good views of at least five Mediteranean Gulls (including three adults).

21st September, 2008 – Escomb
A late evening visit produced no fewer than thirty three Tufted Ducks were on Escomb Lake. Four Coot and two Moorhen were also on the lake.  A decent sized group of birds were working their way around the lake, which included Chiffchaff (5), Blackcap (1 male & 1 female), Goldcrest (2), Long–tailed Tit (5+), Blue Tit (4+), Great Tit (4+) and Willow Tit (2). A family of Greenfinch (6+), several Chaffinch and a Jay (1 flew over) were also there.

24th September, 2008 – Campfield Marsh, Cumbria
The reported Stilt Sandpiper was quickly found during this afternoon visit to the north cumbrian coastline, but was just out of range for any decent photographs. A Peregrine Falcon was seen resting on the rocks by the shoreline.  Had a quick look around langdon Beck on the return journey, finding no fewer than twenty Black Grouse.

25th September, 2008 – Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire
An afternoon visit to see the Brown Shrike was very rewarding, with the birds colours / markings showing superbly in the afternoon sun. With this being only the second recorded Brown Shrike in Britain, I knew it was going to be hard (if not impossible) to get any sort of photograph (over a hundred people viewing the bird whilst I was there).  Bonus bird was a first winter Red–backed Shrike in the same hedge row.  A quick stop at Bempton Cliffs produced three Collared Doves, two Goldcrests, a Wren and a Robin. Twenty – thirty Gannets, two Fulmar and a Kittiwake were seen during a ten minute view of the sea (very dissappointing).  Good views of three megas in a week (fantastic).

27th September, 2008 – Hartlepool Headland
A Yellow–browed Warbler was seen with two Goldcrests opposite the old putting green. Whilst trying to photograph the warbler I heard that the local ringing group had caught a Red–breasted Flycatcher in one of their nets and quickly headed off to see and photograph the bird before it was released.  A drake Common Scoter, a juvenile Shag, three Eiders and at least two Guillimots were seen off the headland.  Waders included good numbers of Turnstone (50+), several Purple Sandpiper and a single Common Redshank.

October 2008

Picture:  Short-eared Owl at Seaton Common, 11th October

5th October, 2008 – Low Barns
A Kingfisher showed briefly from the west hide, but once again failed to come close enough for a decent photograph. A Tufted Duck, several Mallards and at least two Moorhens were on the water. A Goldcrest, a Treecreeper and a Willow Tit were with a group of at least five Long–tailed Tits in the wooded area outside the hide.  The regular hybrid Hooded Crow was seen by the boardwalk, where two Reed Buntings were also seen.  Four Common Teal, two Little Grebes and at least thirty Mallards were on the main lake. Nine Cormorants and four Jackdaws were in the trees.  I decided to walk back the way that I came finding a Dipper and a Grey Wagtail on the River Wear. No fewer than nineteen Pied Wagtails were on and around the wires by the boardwalk (most I've seen at Low Barns).

9th October, 2008 – Low Barns
Highlight this afternoon were a small group of Lesser Redpolls (10+) and Bullfinches (4+), which were amongst a larger group of Goldfinches (80+).

11th October, 2008 – Teesside
After missing the chance to go and see the Alder Flycatcher (1st for Britain) I needed a pick me up, so I decided to go and see if I could photograph the Short–eared Owls that had recently been reported on Teesside. They didn’t disappoint.  The first Short–eared Owl of the morning was seen hunting Greenabella.  Other birds seen at Greenabella included Little Egret (1), Grey Heron (1), Curlew (30+), Common Redshank (50+), Black–tailed Godwit (3), Common Snipe (3), Common Teal (30+), Mallard (2), Shoveller (1), Shelduck (10+) and distant views of could have been Twite (9 possibles).  Three more Short–eared Owls were displaying perfectly along the road to North Gare. Two Merlins and at least one Kestrel were also in the area. Two Stonechats were seen along Zinc Road. Approximately 400 Pink–footed Geese were seen flying in a southerly direction mid–morning and the regular wintering Yellow–legged Gull was at the Tees Barrage.

12th October, 2008 – Low Barns
Another visit to the reserve and another failed attempt at photographing the Kingfishers.  A very frustrating two hours spent in the West Hide. I say frustrating as a Kingfisher was on the pond, but remained out of range for the full two hours.  A Mute Swan, a Common Teal, two Tufted Ducks, two Moorhens, three Grey Herons and several Mallards were there.  A Water Rail put in a brief appearance as it swam from the nearest island to the waters edge in front of the hide, not to be seen again.

12th October, 2008 – Etherley Moor
Plenty of visitors to the feeding station this afternoon with Tree Sparrow (3), House Sparrow (10+), Great Tit (3), Blue Tit (2), Coal Tit (2), Robin (1), Dunnock (2), Wren (1) and Blackbird (3) visiting.  Woodpigeon (30+), Jackdaw (20+), Rook (30+), Carrion Crow (3), Magpie (2), Starling (35+) and Collared Dove (1) in the fields.

18th October, 2008 – Hartlepool Headland
Decided to head for Hartlepool Headland to do 2 – 3 hours of seawatching, visiting various locations along Marine Drive, Heugh Battery and the sea breaks.

19th October, 2008 – Low Barns
Another attempt to photograph kingfishers at Low Barns proved worthwhile this morning as a single Kingfisher was actively fishing the west pond from a distance, then bringing it’s catch to the poles to feed. Poor light limited the photographs to good record shots.  A Water Rail was seen working it’s way round the small island in front of the West Hide.  Several Common Snipe were flushed from the meadow by a Grey Heron, with one of the Snipe appearing to be smaller and shorter billed indicating that it could have been a Jack Snipe. A Mute Swan, two Tufted Ducks, a Common Teal and a dozen Mallards were on the pond. Two Black–headed Gulls put in a brief appearance.  Two Goosanders flew up the River Wear, were a single Grey Wagtail was seen feeding. Five Cormorants, two Little Grebes, a Coot, several Mallards, three Common Teal and a Moorhen were seen from the South Hide.  Three Redwings, two Blue Tits, a Great Tit, a Siskin, a Bullfinch and a Greenfinch were seen whilst walking around the reserve. Still no food being used on the feeding station.  Highlights included Red–throated Diver (5), Whooper Swans (2 south), Velvet Scoter (6 drakes & a single drake heading north), Common Scoter (30+ females heading north & a single drake on the sea), Wigeon (two small groups adding up to at least 25), Teal (1 south), Razorbill (3 on the sea), Guillimot (5) and Puffin (1 north & 1 south).  All the usual waders were seen, but no sign of any Purple Sandpipers today. An adult Mediterranean Gull was on the rocks with other gulls. Four Rock Pipits, a Pied Wagtail and a House Martin were also seen.

26th October, 2008 – Low Barns
Decided to head for Low Barns, hoping to improve on last weeks photographs of the Kingfisher that frequently visits the west pond. A single Kingfisher showed twice, but the light was poor on both occasions preventing the chance to improve on last weeks photographs.  A Tufted Duck and at least twelve Mallards were on the pond. A couple of Jays, several Magpies and a Wren were seen from the hide. A female Sparrowhawk was seen flying across the West Pasture and then flushing at least three Common Snipe before chasing them in a southerly direction.  Cormorant (2 over), Nuthatch (1 heard calling), Goldcrest (1), Blue Tit (3), Great Tit (2), Long–tailed Tit (at least 2 heard calling), Pied Wagtail (3) and Grey Wagtail (1) were seen from the car park.

28th October, 2008 – Etherley Moor
A Great–spotted Woodpecker visited the feeders early pm.  Blackbird (10+), Collared Dove (2), Woodpigeon (1), Tree Sparrow (4), House Sparrow (10+),Dunnock (2), Robin (2), Long–tailed Tit (4), Coal Tit (2) and Blue Tit (2) still visiting on a daily basis.

28th October, 2008 – Bishops Park
Spent a couple of hours walking round the outskirts of the park this afternoon (a cold breeze in the bright sunshine).  Two Grey Herons and a Moorhen were on the pond, but no sign of the Green Sandpiper that usually winters at this location. A surprise here was a brief visit of a single Kingfisher.  A reasonably sized group of garden birds was found to the north of the park, which included Long–tailed Tit (6+), Blue Tit (4), Coal Tit (2), Robin (1), Goldcrest (2), Siskin (1) and Goldfinch (2).  Redwing (10+), Blackbird (7+), Song Thrush (at least 2), Carrion Crow (10+), Jackdaw (10+), Jay (2), Woodpigeon (25+) and Herring Gull (1) were also in the area.

29th October, 2008 – Escomb
Good numbers of thrushes seen during this 90 minute visit to Escomb with several Blackbirds, two Song Thrushes, one Mistle Thrush, at least forty Redwing and a decent sized group of what we believed to be Fieldfare (probable 50+) being seen as the light slowly began to fade.  Great Tit (4+), Blue Tit (4+), Coal Tit (1), Long–tailed Tit (4+), Dunnock (2), Robin (3), Wren (2), Chaffinch (5+) and Bullfinch (1) were seen in the hedge rows. Starling (30+), Magpie (2), Carrion Crow (7+), Rook (1) and Cormorant (1) were also seen in the area. Three Mute Swans circled before one landed on the small pond.  At least twelve Mallards, several Tufted Ducks, three Coots and a Moorhen were seen on the water.

31st October, 2008 – Reighton Sands
A single Waxwing was seen during a family holiday to the holiday park. Not much else seen during this 3 day break other than four Red–throated Divers on the sea and a single Fieldfare in the touring area at Blue Dolphin.

November & December 2008

Picture:  Steppe Grey Shrike at Grainthorpe, 8th November

8th November, 2008 – Lincolnshire Twitch
The reported Steppe Grey Shrike was seen and photographed as soon as I got out the car at Grainthorpe Haven, Lincolnshire. The shrike came within reaching distance of one lucky individual and at one point, I was forced to take three steps back to get the bird in the frame. Not very often a rare bird such as this gives views as good as what was on offer today.  I watched the shrike for 20 – 30 minutes before heading off to Nosterfield, where a drake Canvasback had been reported. Other than a ten minute walk from the car park, the bird was found quite quickly. A single Pochard, ten Coots, two Great Crested Grebes and a Little Grebe were seen whilst watching the Canvasback.  A Red Kite was seen whilst heading for Nosterfield (junction 47, A1).

9th November, 2008 – North Yorkshire Twitch
The reported Two–barred Crossbill showed nicely during the mornings visit to Bilsdale.  Greenfinch (5+), Chaffinch (3+), Coal Tit (2+), Blue Tit (4+), Great Tit (2+), Robin (1), Dunnock (1) and Blackbird (1) were seen before the Two–barred Crossbill showed itself for a second time. The bird stayed for several minutes on this occasion giving good views (shame about the light being the wrong side of the bird). Pheasants (20+) and Red–legged Partridges (10+) were in the surrounding area.

15th November, 2008 – Northumberland Twitch
The reported Red–flanked Bluetail didn’t show during this short visit to Holy Island (had been showing very well during the past week), but still managed to do some half decent birdwatching as there were still a few bits and pieces around.  Up to three Chiffchaffs and several Goldcrests were seen in the area where the Bluetail was last seen. House Sparrows (50+) and Collared Doves (10+) appear to be doing well on the island. Peregrine (1), Greenfinch (1), Chaffinch (2), Robin (4), Dunnock (2), Wren (1), Starling (10+), Blue Tit (4), Great Tit (1) and Jackdaw (2) were in the surrounding area.  Plenty of Brent Geese (50+) and waders seen from the causeway before visiting Budle Bay, where Mute Swan (6), Grey Heron (3), Redshank (30+), Bar–tailed Godwit (7), Black–tailed Godwit (2), Curlew (20+), Grey Plover (3), Golden Plover (100+), Lapwing (150+), Dunlin (3), Oystercatcher (20+), Shelduck (20+), Wigeon (50+), Teal (50+), Eider (2) and Mallard (4) were seen.  Next was Stag Rocks which had Red–throated Diver (7), Great Crested Grebe (2), Common Scoter (50+), Eider (100+), Mallard (2), Cormorant (4), Shag (2), Redshank (50+), Turnstone (10+), Purple Sandpiper (50+, which is the most I have seen here), Knot (10+) and Rock Pipit (3).

16th November, 2008 – Teesside
First stop this morning was Saltholme Pools where there was a good variety of wildfowl, including Wigeon (100c), Common Teal (50c (no sign of yesterdays Blue–winged Teal)), Pochard (20), Tufted Duck (10+), Gadwall (10c), Mallard (4) and Shoveller (6). Two Little Egrets were on Back Saltholme, but there was no sign of yesterdays Cattle Egret. At least three Grey Herons were seen on West Saltholme.  A Short–eared Owl, at least two Little Egrets and approximately fifty Twite were seen on Greenabella. Seal Sands held it’s usual selection of waders with Grey Plover (10+), Little–ringed Plover (40+), Dunlin (20+), Curlew (20+), Black–tailed Godwit (15+), Common Redshank (50+), Oystercatcher (1) being seen. A single Brent Goose was seen whilst returning to the car.  Approximately fifty Snow Buntings were seen at North Gare and the regular wintering Mediterranean Gull was at Newburn Car Park.

22nd November, 2008 – Bishop Auckland
A recent influx of waxwings prompted me to check a selection of local sites. No joy at the first two locations, but at least fifteen Waxwings were seen commuting between the rowans at the front of the car park and the taller trees towards the rear of the car park.

23rd November, 2008 – Low Barns
The feeding station provided good views of Nuthatch (2+), Robin (3+), Blue Tit (2), Great Tit (4), Coal Tit (2), Marsh Tit (2), Willow Tit (1) and Blackbird (2).  At least ten Mallards, five Common Teal, one Wigeon, one Tufted Duck and three Common Snipe were seen from the west hide (no sign of any Kingfishers). Herring Gull (1), Black–headed Gull (10+), Tufted Duck (2), Mallard (2) and Goldeneye (1 female) were on Marston Lake.  Two brief visits to Bondgate car park for yesterdays Waxwings proved unsuccessful, although one birder has stated that sixteen were there today (local sightings page). Still the same amount of berries?  A quick visit late afternoon found several Blackbirds, but no sign of any Waxwings. There were still plenty of berries on the trees, so it may be worth another look tomorrow.  A male Sparrowhawk was seen at our feeding station (twice this morning), probably explaining the lack of birds over the past few days.

26th November, 2008 – Lanchester
At least five Waxwings were seen whilst driving through Lanchester.

28th November, 2008 – Hartlepool
The reported Great Northern Divers (2) were seen at Jacksons Landing. Three Red–breasted Mergansers (1 male and 2 females), a juvenile Shag and a female Eider were also there.  Seven Ring–necked Parakeets were at Ward Jacksons Park. Plenty of the usual garden birds, but there was no sign of the reported Firecrest.

29th November, 2008 – Teesside
First stop was a second try for both Firecrest and Black Redstart, both of which were unsuccesfull. The next stop was Jacksons Landing where Great Northern Diver (2), Red–breasted Merganser (3 males and 2 females), Shag (1 juvenile) and Cormorant (3+) were seen.  A quick drive along the road to North Gare produced Wigeon (30+), Mallard (4), Teal (4), Grey Partridge (7), Pheasant (1), Lapwing (10+), Golden Plover (10+), Common Redshank (3+), Curlew (50+), Black–tailed Godwit (1), Kestrel (1), Goldfinch (2) and the usual crows, gulls & starlings.

30th November, 2008 – Northumberland
We arrived at Cresswell soon after daybreak and found a half frozen pond containing it’s usual variety of birds.  A Jack Snipe and at least three Water Rail were soon found whilst scanning the reeds and a Common Buzzard was observed sitting on a fence post to the west of the hide. A Bittern was seen coming out of the reeds and sunning itself for a few minutes before flying into the ditch to the west of the hide. Grey Heron (5), Mute Swan (2), Whooper Swan (6), Greylag Goose (10+), Canada Goose (10), Pink–footed Goose (1500c flying in from the north & landing in surrounding fields), Wigeon (30+), Common Teal (30+), Mallard (20+), Tufted Duck (10+), Golden Plover (50+), Lapwing (50+), Common Redshank (3), Common Snipe (8+) and Dunlin (7) were also seen.  We then went to East Chevington where a Snow Goose (white morph) was seen with good numbers of Greylag Goose (100c), Pink–footed Goose (80c) and Whooper Swan (25+). The second Bittern of the day was found whilst scanning the north pool, which held all the usual wildfowl including several Goldeneye.  On the return journey we visited Blyth Harbour where we found a 1st winter Iceland Gull (reported yesterday) and a male Black Redstart was at Seaham Harbour (reported at lunchtime).

6th December, 2008 – Thornley Woods
Two Red Kites (1 was tagged), several Lesser Redpoll and at least eighteen Siskin were seen. A female Sparrowhawk put in a brief appearance clearing the feeding stations in a split second. Other birds seen during this short visit included Blackbird (2), Blue Tit (10+), Great Tit (15+), Coal Tit (10+), Chaffinch (7+), Bullfinch (5+), Dunnock (1), Robin (2), Nuthatch (2), Woodpigeon (15+), Magpie (2), Jay (1) and Carrion Crow (2+).

7th December, 2008 – Low Barns
Pheasant (3 – 4), Moorhen (2), Mute Swan (1 over), Bullfinch (3), Chaffinch (10+), Siskin (20+), Blackbird (2), Blue Tit (4), Great Tit (2), Coal Tit (4+), Willow Tit (1), Long–tailed Tit (15+), Nuthatch (1), Dunnock (2), Robin (4) and Jackdaw (4) were seen at the feeding station.  At least ten Mallards and approximately fifty Common Teal were on the west pond. Moorhen (1), Bullfinch (3), Chaffinch (3), Treecreeper (1), Wren (2), Robin (1), Blue Tit (3+), Great Tit (2), Magpie (2), Jay (1) and Woodpigeon (3) were also seen from the hide. A Great–spotted Woodpecker was heard calling in the distance.  The walk from here (round the reserve) was quiet, with very few birds seen.

14th December, 2008 – Etherley Moor
A female Great Spotted Woodpecker was in the tree to the rear of the feeders. Other birds seen included Blue Tit (4), Great Tit (2), Coal Tit (2), House Sparrow (15+), Dunnock (2), Robin (3), Wren (1), Blackbird (1), Redwing (10 over), Fieldfare (15 over), Woodpigeon (3), Common Gull (25 over), Goldfinch (3), Starling (5+), Rook (2 over) and Jackdaw (2 over).  Other visitors that were seen during the afternoon included Tree Sparrow (1), Sparrowhawk (1), Herring Gull (5+), Black–headed Gull (1), Collared Dove (2), Magpie (1) and Carrion Crow (2 over).  Other bits & pieces during the week has included Tree Sparrow (3), Long–tailed Tit (5+), Weasel (1 on Saturday) and Rabbit (1 on Wednesday).

20th December, 2008 – Escomb
A late afternoon visit to Escomb proved to be very quiet with Little Grebe (1), Goosander (15c), Tufted Duck (8), Mallard (1), Coot (10+), Moorhen (3), Mistle Thrush (1), Blackbird (3), Wren (1), Coal Tit (1), Magpie (20+ going to roost) and Sparrowhawk (1) being the only birds seen.

24th December, 2008 – Low Barns
A Barn Owl was seen hunting the West Pasture and a single Water Rail was heard from the board walk. Goldeneye (1 male & 3 females) and Tufted Duck (10+) were on Marston Lake.

25th December, 2008 – Etherley Moor
A Stoat was a surprise visitor to our feeding station. All the usual visitors, including House Sparrow (10+), Tree Sparrow (3), Long–tailed Tit (7+), Blue Tit (4), Coal Tit (2), Great Tit (2), Dunnock (2), Robin (2), Wren (1), Blackbird (3) and Starling (3+).

28th December, 2008 – Bishops Park
A good selection ofthe usual birds were seen during this lunchtime walk around the outskirts of the park.  Grey Heron (3), Greylag Goose (10 over, heading in an easterly direction), Green Woodpecker (1), Jay (2), Nuthatch (1 heard), Redwing (7), Mistle Thrush (5), Blackbird (10+), Blue Tit (2), Robin (3), Wren (4) and Reed Bunting (1) were seen. There were also plenty of gulls, corvids and pigeons.

29th December, 2008 – Low Barns
An hour was spent at the feeders providing good views of Great–spotted Woodpecker (1), Nuthatch (2+), Treecreeper (2+), Chaffinch (10+), Goldfinch (1), Bullfinch (1), Jay (1), Jackdaw (2), Magpie (1), Redwing (7), Mistle Thrush (1 heard), Blackbird (3+), Blue Tit (6+), Great Tit (2+), Coal Tit (2+), Marsh Tit (2+), Long–tailed Tit (9 near the visitor centre), Robin (2), Wren (1) and Siskin (1 over).  Mute Swan (1), Mallard (4), Teal (3), Tufted Duck (1), Moorhen (2), Blue Tit (2) and Treecreeper (3) were seen from the west hide.  Goldeneye (2 drakes & 2 females), Pochard (1 drake), Tufted Duck (24c), Mallard (10+), Cormorant (2), Herring Gull (1), Common Gull (2) and Black–headed Gull (20+) were seen from the south hide (Marston Lake).  The walk round was very quiet with Long–tailed Tits (5+) and Coal Tit (2) being the only birds seen. Nothing on the river.