Sightings 2015

Welcome to my sightings page for 2015, 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 2015

Picture:  Harlequin Duck, Aberdeen

1st January, 2015 – Fraisthorpe
First bird of the year was the reported Little Bustard at Fraisthorpe (a Grey Partridge was also seen at this location). After getting the car out of a mud hole I made the short journey to Grindale, where I was 95% sure of seeing the long staying Rough–legged Buzzard through the binoculars (unfortunately the bird moved out of site before I could get a better view through the scope). Other birds seen on the day included Tawny Owl (heard before setting off), Common Buzzard (2+), Sparrowhawk (1), Kestrel (1), Fieldfare (30+) and a handful of common birds.

2nd January, 2015 – Redcar and South Gare
The wind wasn’t much better at the coast, making birdwatching very hard work. No sign of the reported Black Redstart, but I did manage to see a Long–tailed Duck and five Velvet Scoters close to the wind farm. South Gare was also quiet, but three roadside pools of freshwater offered good photo opportunities where Linnet (10+), Starling (20+), Black–headed Gull (4+) and Herring Gull (3+) made regular visits.

3rd January, 2015 – Teesside
The regular Green Sandpiper was seen at Portrack before heading off to Redcar (Regent Cinema) for another attempt at seeing the Black Redstart (this time it proved worthwhile as the bird was seen within five minutes of arrival).  I then set off for Hartlepool Headland and got excellent views of a second winter Glaucous Gull in the Fish Quay. Other birds at the Headland included Purple Sandpiper (4), Rock Pipit (1), Knot (200+), Common Redshank (10+), Curlew (4+) Cormorant (10+), Eider (10+), Great–black Backed Gull (10+), Herring Gull (30+), Black–headed Gull, Starling (10+) and House Sparrow (10+).  Eight Ring–necked Parakeets were seen at Ward Jackson Park. At least one Mediteranean Gull was at Newburn Bridge. Sanderling (10+), Ringed Plover (10+), Common Redshank (10+) and Oystercatcher (10+) were also at Newburn.

8th January, 2015 – Aberdeen
I made a late decision to go for the Harlequin Duck that had been at Seaton Park, Aberdeen since the previous Monday (5th).  Arrived at the River Don soon after daybreak and got excellent views of not only the target bird, but also Dipper (2), Goldeneye (3+) and Goosander (1). Grey Heron (2), Mallard (2) Black–headed Gull (20+), Common Gull (10+) and Herring Gull (5+).  During the return journey we decided to have a break at Musselburgh, where 1–2 Slavonian Grebes and at least six Velvet Scoters were found.  Surprise bird at this location was a Bittern that flew low over the sea heading north (just wish that one of the others had spotted it). Other birds seen during the course of the day included Barn Owl (1), Common Buzzard (10+), Kestrel (4+), Carrion Crow (10+), Jackdaw (20+), Rook (100+), Canada Goose (50+) and Mute Swan (10+).

17th January, 2015 – Teesside
The two reported Shorelarks were seen soon after arriving at Hartlepool Headland. Didn’t want to get too close, so I watched the birds for 5–10 minutes and then headed for Seal Sands and Greatham Creek.  It was nice to see a pair of Stonechat and a Greenshank on the walk to Seal Sands. No sign of the wintering Whimbrel, but I did get good views of a Black–throated Diver, several Red–breasted Merganser and two Great–crested Grebes.  The Greenshank was seen again on the walk towards Greatham Creek, where Spotted Redshank (1), Common Redshank (10+), Grey Plover (2), Lapwing (50+), Black–tailed Godwit (1), Bar–tailed Godwit (1), Curlew (7) and Whimbrel (1) were seen during a quick ten minute scan of the area.

23rd January, 2015 – RSPB Saltholme
Good numbers of geese were at Back Saltholme, which included Barnacle Goose (80+), Greylag Goose (100+) and Canada Goose (150+). Water Rail (2), Pintail (4), Red–breasted Merganser (2), Tree Sparrow (10+), Greenfinch (10+) and Goldfinch (50+) were seen amongst the regular birds that can be found on the reserve.  The best bird of the day was a single Long–eared Owl that was showing very well at Haverton Scrub.  The bird was only 10–20 feet away from the path, so was pleased to see it hadn’t been flushed.

February 2015

Picture:  Laughing Gull, New Brighton

1st February, 2015 – Low Barns & Escomb
A quick walk around both sites produced a good number of the usual birds including Willow Tit (1), Marsh Tit (2), Lesser Redpoll (3+) and Siskin (20+).

7th February, 2015 – Low Barns
A late afternoon visit to the reserve proved to be interesting. Gadwall (23), Wigeon (1), Goldeneye (4 drakes & 2 female) and Teal (43) were the pick of the birds on an almost fully frozen Marston Lake. Other birds on the lake included Mute Swan (1), Tufted Duck (10+), Little Grebe (2), Coot (10+), Moorhen (2), Cormorant (20+) and Mallard (10+).  The West Pond was also nearly fully frozen but still managed to see Mute Swan (1), Mallard (10+) and Moorhen (4) on a small patch of the pond that wasn’t frozen. Long–tailed Tit (4), Blue Tit (2) and Jackdaw (2) were also seen from the hide. The feeding station was quieter than usual with Coal Tit (2), Blue Tit (4), Great Tit (2), Dunnock (1), Robin (2), Nuthatch (1), Blackbird and Moorhen (2) being the only birds seen.

8th February, 2015 - New Brighton Twitch
A very cold and foggy visit to the west coast for the reported Laughing Gull proved to be rewarding with the gull showing well for 15–20 minutes before going out of view in the thick fog. Other birds seen here included Herring Gull (10+), Common Gull (2), Black–headed Gull (50+), Common Redshank (5), Turnstone (10+), Purple Sandpiper (2) and Sanderling (2).  Once the gull went out of site I decided to have a look for two Snow Buntings that had been reported only five minutes drive away.  They were seen soon after arriving at the location, but were deliberately flushed by a couple who were walking their dogs (amazing how the ignorance of 2 dog walkers can spoil the enjoyment of dozens of others).  I then decided to head home via Leighton Moss, Warton Crag and Sizergh Castle.  Unfortunately, the fog didn’t lift and Warton Crag was a waste of time.  I made the decision not to go to Leighton Moss and decided to spend 1–2 hours at Sizergh Castle in the hope of seeing Hawfinch. There was no sign of Hawfinch during the visit, but I did see Nuthatch (1), Coal Tit (1), Blue Tit (2), Great Tit (2), Robin (1), Dunnock (1), Chaffinch (20+), Bullfinch (7), Greenfinch (1) and Blackbird (4).  Nice day, but would have been better if the fog had cleared.

10th February, 2015 – Etherley Moor
A Tawny Owl was seen when driving along Wigdan Walls Road towards Escomb.

14th February, 2015 – Teesside
A Kingfisher was seen at Hartlepool Fish Quay whilst looking for the Black Guillimot that had been seen earlier in the day. After 1–2 hours, I decided to head for Steetley where a male Sparrowhawk and the long staying Shorelark was seen. I decided to stop off at Saltholme on the way home and picked out the male Green–winged Teal on West Saltholme in the fading light.

21st February, 2015 – Haverton
A Tiaga Bean Goose was seen with seven Pink–footed Geese. Barnacle Goose (2), Canada Goose (30+) and Greylag Goose (30+) were also in the area. The Green–winged Teal was on Dormans.

21st February, 2015 – Etherley Moor
Whilst watching Mars, Venus and the nearby crescent moon at 6.20pm tonight, the International Space Station also passed (couldn’t have timed it better if I tried). Jupiter was showing nicely in the opposite direction. Now there’s something you don’t see everyday. Just wish I had the camera set up.

March 2015

Picture:  Great Grey Shrike, Stanhope

6th March, 2015 – Etherley Moor
Bit of activity on Etherley Moor over the past week or two with Lapwing (1), Skylark (1), Song Thrush (1), Mistle Thrush (2), Yellowhammer (1), Kestrel (2) and Tawny Owl (1) either heard or seen.

7th March, 2015 – Escomb, The Batts and Low Barns
Nothing out of the ordinary seen during a full days patch birding. Best birds of the day included Willow Tit (2 pairs at Escomb), Great Crested Grebe (1 pair pushing a third G.C.G. off there territory & displaying), Dipper (a pair on the Wear at Low Barns), Curlew (5 over Low Barns heading inland) and Goldcrest (1–2 at each of the three sites).

8th March, 2015 – Darlington, Escomb – River Gaunless
Four Waxwings were seen behind Boyes in Darlington. A Buzzard, a Kingfisher and two Dippers were on the River Gaunless. A quick check of Escomb Lake in the hope of seeing Whooper Swans with no joy (a number of Whoopers were reported moving north earlier in the day).

14th March, 2015 – Far Pasture
Red Kite (3+), Willow Tit (1) and Water Rail were seen during a 10 – 15 minute visit to Far Pasture. Frogs were very audible.

15th March, 2015 – Teesside
A Snow Goose was seen close to the pipeline at Haverton. My first Wheatear of the year was seen close to North Gare car park, where Skylark (3+), Meadow Pipit (2) and Reed Bunting (3) were also seen. Two Stonechat were by the sub–station at Greenabella.

15th March, 2015 – Bishop Auckland
Good to sea a pait of Common Buzzards still on the patch. Good evidence that the local badgers are doing well.

21st March, 2015 – Escomb
Pick of the birds today included Goldeneye (1 drake), Kingfisher (1 on the Wear), Curlew (2 heading west), Cormorant (7 on Woodside Lake), Treecreeper (1) and Nuthatch (1).

21st March, 2015 – Low Barns
Pick of the birds today included Gadwall (2 on Marston Lake), Tawny Owl (1 heard), Dipper (1 on the Wear), Green Woodpecker (1 heard) and ChiffChaff (first of the year).

22nd March, 2015 – Lower Teesdale
Nine Black Grouse and three Red Grouse were seen. Checked a few local sites for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Adder with no joy.

28th March to 2nd April, 2015 - Weardale
On the 28th I visited Weardale and successfully twitched the White–tailed Eagle (near Bollihope) and the Great Grey Shrike (Stanhope) that had been seen earlier in the day/week.  The following mornings were spent checking not only Bollihope and Stanhope, but also a selection of other nearby sites. Five Black Grouse, a Raven and a Common Buzzard were seen at Rookhope. A Goshawk and a Red–legged Partridge were seen at Knitsley Fell (no sign of Lesser–spotted Woodpecker).  Birds on the moors between Bollihope and Stanhope included Red Grouse (10+), Common Buzzard (1), Kestrel (2), Sparrowhawk (2), Little Owl (1), Common Snipe (3+), Common Redshank (1), Curlew (10+), Oystercatcher (6), Lapwing (numerous), Song Thrush (1), Mistle Thrush (2), Fieldfare (100+), Blackbird (10+), Pied Wagtail (numerous), Grey Wagtail (1), Meadow Pipit (numerus), Skylark (numerous), Chaffinch (2), Goldfinch (2), Goldcrest (2), Starling (50+) & more (no sign of any swallows, martins, warblers, ouzels, etc.).

April 2015

Picture:  Egyption Goose, Rutland Water

4th April, 2015 – Rutland Water & Bedfordshire
Made a last minute decision to go for the Lady Amherst’s Pheasant that had been seen at a site in Bedfordshire and set off soon after 6.30am. Knowing that the bird wasn’t being seen until the end of each day we decided to stop off at Rutland Water for an hour or two.  Rutland Water produced Great White Egret (1), Greenland White–fronted Goose (1), Egyption Goose (8+), Pintail (3+), Black–tailed Godwit (1), Osprey (1), Buzzard (10+), Red Kite (4+), Sparrowhawk (1), Goshawk (1 possible), Kestrel (1), Sand Martin (10+), Swallow (10+), Lesser Black–backed Gull (1), ChiffChaff (10+), Green Woodpecker (1) and more.  We departed for Bedford after dinner and arrived at the site at about 2pm. The Lady Amherst’s Pheasant was heard calling at 7.30pm and continued to be heard until it got dark without coming into view. Birds seen whilst waiting for the target bird included Buzzard (2), Red Kite (1), Sparrowhawk (1), Robin (2), Dunnock (1), Blackbird (2), Song Thrush (1), ChiffChaff (2), Goldcrest (1), Blue Tit (2), Long–tailed Tit (1), Chaffinch (1), Green Woodpecker (1) and Great Spotted Woodpecker (1).

6th April 2015, Weardale & Low Barns
The sun was out today so I decided to head to Weardale to check a selection of sites for adders, Ring Ouzel and Wheatear. No joy with adders or Wheatear, but did manage to see a single Ring Ouzel near Bollihope. Other birds in the area included Red Grouse (10+), Common Buzzard (2), Little Owl (1), Grey Partridge (2), Curlew (2), Lapwing (2+), Song Thrush (2), Pied Wagtail (2), Grey Wagtail (1), Meadow Pipit (numerus), Skylark (2), Chaffinch (2), Lesser Redpoll (2) & more.  The good weather continued into the afternoon, so I decided to spend 2–3hrs at Low Barns during the late afternoon sunshine. Seven Common Teal and three Tufted Duck were on west pond. A Grey Wagtail was on the River Wear. Marston Lake was the most productive with Shoveler (3), Gadwall (6+), Goldeneye (7), Great–crested Grebe (1) and Little Grebe being the pick of the birds.

7th April, 2015 – Hartlepool Headland
Was departing to do a photoshoot when I got a report of a Firecrest at Borough Hall. The Firecrest was seen soon after arrival and managed to obtain a handfull of record shots before continueing with the photoshoot that we went there for. Cracking little bird.

9th April, 2015 – Bedfordshire
Another unsuccessful attempt for the Lady Amherst’s Pheasant today, but did get Blackcap (1 male and 1 female), Pied Flycatcher (1 male) and Treecreeper (1).

10th April, 2015 – Escomb
Blackcap (1 male), Sand Martin (2+), ChiffChaff (10+) and Nuthatch (2) were the pick of the birds during an hours walk round Escomb. A Barn Owl was sunning itself nearby.

22nd April, 2015 – Bishops Park
My first Common Redstart of the year was seen during a 6–7pm visit to the top of the park. Other birds of note seen during this visit (& a 7.30am visit to the bottom of the park) included Kingfisher (1), Green Woodpecker (2+), Great–spotted Woodpecker (1), Grey Wagtail (2), Dipper (2), Sand Martin (6+), Swallow (1), Blackcap (3 males & 1 female), ChiffChaff (10+), Willow Warbler (4+), Treecreeper (2), Nuthatch (2) and Long–tailed Tit (2).

25th April, 2015 – Teesside
A Wood Sandpiper was on the Fire Station pool and a Dunlin was seen from the Phil Steed hide. My first House Martin (5+), Sedge Warbler (3+), Reed Warbler (5+), Common Whitethroat (3) and Grasshopper Warbler (1 heard) of the year were sen at Dormans. Other birds of note at Dormans included Blackcap (1), Willow Warbler (5+) and ChiffChaff (2). Two Little–ringed Plovers, two Ringed Plovers and a Common Sandpiper were on the Calor Gas Pool.

26th April, 2015 – Teesside
Best birds during a quick mid–afternoon visit to teesside included Wood Sandpiper (1 in front of the Phil Steed hide) and a male Whinchat at the end of Zinc Road. Still to see the Garganey’s and Yellow Wagtails.

May & June 2015

Picture:  Red-throated Pipit, Derbyshire

2th May, 2015 – Somerset
The Hudsonian Godwit was seen with at least twenty Black–tailed Godwits and a single Ruff soon after arriving at Meare Heath. Great White Egret (1+), Garganey (1), Marsh Harrier (1 male), Hobby (1) and Cettis Warbler (1) were also in the area.  A quick walk round the nearby Ham Wall RSPB reserve produced Great White Egret (3), Little Egret (2), Bittern (at least three heard booming), Hobby (14+), Common Buzzard (1), Marsh Harrier (1), Cuckoo (1 heard), Swift (20+), Cettis Warbler (5+), Garden Warbler (1+), Blackcap (10+), Common Whitethroat (1+), Reed Warbler (10+), Sedge Warbler (2+), Willow Warbler (2+), ChiffChaff (1+) and a good number of the more common birds.

4th May, 2015 - Chisworth & Leighton Moss twitch
The reported Red–throated Pipit was seen soon after arriving at Ludworth Moor, Derbyshire. Other birds seen in the area included Meadow Pipit (10+), Northern Wheatear (4+) and Pied Wagtail (2). Once we were happy viewing the pipit we decided to head for Leighton Moss.  Two Peregrine Falcons and a pair of Ravens were seen at a well known site close to Leighton Moss. Soon after viewing the falcons and ravens, we headed for Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve, where we quickly found the reported Pied–billed Grebe (seen from the public hide). Other birds of interest in the reserve included Whimbrel (1), Dunlin (1), Black–tailed Godwit (50+), Ruff (6), Garganey (1 drake), Marsh Harrier (2), Common Buzzard (1), Cettis Warbler (1) and more. No sign of any Bearded Tits during the 2–3 hours that we were there.

9th May, 2015 – Low Barns
New arrivals during a mid–afternoon walk round the reserve included Common Sandpiper (1), Pied Flycatcher (1), Garden Warbler (1), Reed Warbler (2), Sedge Warbler (2), Swift (10+), House Martin (1), Swallow (10+) and Sand Martin (20+). Other birds of interest included two Greenfinch (becoming a but of a scarcity in the area).

10th May, 2015 – Seaton Common
A Red–throated Pipit was seen from the road to North Gare (two in a week).

11th May, 2015 - Norfolk Twitch
An early morning report of a Citril Finch that was seen the previous day prompted me to have a day off work. The earlier reports dried up, so we decided to stop off at Fairburn Ings for a Ruddy Shelduck that had been at the reserve for a few days/weeks. We were just about to return home when the report of a Moltoni’s Warbler at Blakeney was received and we were soon heading for Norfolk.  It took 30 minutes to walk the 3+ miles from the car park to Blakeney Point, seeing Sandwich Tern (10+), Little Tern (10+) and Whimbrel (7+) along the way. The Moltoni’s Warbler proved to be very elusive and was lucky to get a record shot of the birds head. At least four ChiffChaff were in the same area. Whilst walking back to the car, an Avocet was seen on the beach. A Barn Owl was seen as we were travelling back through Norfolk.

16th May, 2015 – Lower Weardale
Visited 2–3 well known sites for warblers, flycatchers, redstarts, etc. and got most of what I was searching for. Wood Warbler (2) and Green Hairstreak (3) were the highlights. No sign of any Tree Pipits.

23rd May, 2015 – Knitsley Fell
Highlights during a mid–morning visit to Kitsley Fell included Tree Pipit (2), Cuckoo (1 seen and another heard), Common Buzzard (3), Kestrel (1), Green Hairstreak butterfly (1) and Slow Worm.

24th May, 2015 – Northumberland
Another unsuccessful vist to Northumberland for Kentish Plover. This bird was reported at Fenham–le–Moor, which is close to the last bird that I dipped on 2–3 years ago from the causeway leading to Holy Island. To be added to my list another day.  Other birds of interest seen during the visit included Common Buzzard (3), Kestrel (1+), Grey Plover (10+), Golden Plover (10+), Ringed Plover (75+), Dunlin (50+), Bar–tailed Godwit (1), Ruff (1) and Curlew (10+). Also good numbers of Little Tern, Arctic Tern and Common Tern.

25th May, 2015 – Teesside
A family visit to Teesside park gave me the opportunity of stopping off at West Saltholme for the two Little Stints and the Short–eared Owl that had been reported earlier in the day.

26th May, 2015 – Low Barns, Escomb & Bishops Park
Surprisingly quiet on the patch today. Spotted Flycatcher (1), Pied Flycatcher (1) and Common Whitethroat (1) were the pick of the birds at Low Barns. Best birds at Escomb included Common Whitethroat (1) and Garden Warbler (1 heard). Nothing out of the ordinary at Bishops Park.

30th May, 2015 – Teesside
This was my second visit to Teesside in three days, hoping to see the Spoonbill that has been at Port Clarence for 3–4 days. Didn’t see the Spoonbill, but got good views of Garganey (pair) on the fire station pools.

July to December 2015

Picture:  Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Waskerley

5th July, 2015 – Waskerley
Very quiet birdwise over the past month, so my latest outings have been in search of butterflies, dragonflies and orchids. Brown Argus (20+) butterflies were seen at Bishop Middleham (no sign of any Northern Browns or Bee Orchids). Blue–tailed Damselfly (10+), Common Blue Damselfly (20+) and Large Red Damselfly (2+) were seen at Hamsterley (at a spot that I used to regularly visit for Emerald Damselfy (not seen today)).

3rd October, 2015 – Teesside
At least one Yellow–browed Warbler was seen at Hartlepool Headland (a further ten were also in the area), a Mediterranean Gull was at Newburn Bridge and two Great White Egrets were on West Saltholme.

4th October, 2015 – Etherley Moor & Low Barns
Three Common Buzzards circled over Etherley Moor early afternoon. A single Little Egret and two Gadwall were amongst the regulars at Low Barns. Very frustrated in viewing a picture of an otter on the back of a photographers camera (missed it by 30–40 seconds).

16th July, 2015 – Wingate & Bishop Middleham
Used my remaining flexi–time to finish early and start my two weeks summer holidays to go hunting for butterfies. First stop was Wingate where Marbled White (10+), Common Blue (10+), Small Heath (10+), Small Tortoiseshell (5), Meadow Brown (30+) and Ringlet (20+) were seen. Bishop Middleham was much quieter with Brown Argus (3), Common Blue (2), Ringlet (2) and Meadow Brown (6) being the only butterflies seen.  Today (5th), I decided to go in search of some butterflies that I haven’t seen for a while. The first target species was Small Pearl–bordered Fritillary (5+) and Dark Green Fritillary (2), which were seen soon after arriving at a very breezy Waskerley. Other butterflies here included Common Blue (10+), Small Heath (20+), Meadow Brown (20+), Ringlet (10+) and Red Admiral (1). Birds during the visit included Oystercatcher (2), Lapwing (1), Curlew (1), Skylark (1), Meadow Pipit (2), Pied Wagtail (2+), Willow Warbler (1), ChiffChaff (2 heard), Common Kestrel (1) and Barn Owl (1 seen hunting at 4.35pm). The weather took a turn for the worse at around 5pm, which unfortunately stopped me going for Marbled White and will have to be planned for another day.

17th July, 2015 – Blacktoft Sands & Wykeham Forest
Arrived at Blacktoft Sands at 9am and managed to see just about everything I was hoping for by 11am. A male Montagu’s Harrier showed very well (at a distance), at least six Marsh Harriers and one Bearded Tit were the pick of the birds from Singleton Hide. Other birds of interest on the reserve included Green Sandpiper (3), Ruff (3), Spotted Redshank (19), Avocet (17), Black–tailed Godwit (33) and Cetti’s Warbler (1 heard).  A Red Kite was seen whilst driving to Wykeham, which was not as productive as I had hoped. In two hours, I only managed a 2–3 second glimpse of a single Buzzard (didn’t get enough to say it was a Common or Honey). Only other interesting sighting here was a Golden–ringed Dragonfly (unfortunately, no camera).

30th July, 2015 – Low Barns
Two enjoyable visits to the reserve today (10am–2pm and 8–9pm). Pick of the birds included Kingfisher (1 from the west hide), Lapwing (c140 from the south hide), Golden Plover (1 from the south hide) and Starling (c350 over the west pasture at 9pm before going to roost towards the north of the reserve).

29th August, 2015 – Haverton
Redhead Smew on the allotment pool.

17th October, 2015 – Teesside
Decided to go for a Great Grey Shrike that had been reported near Newburn Bridge late morning, which unfortunately wasn’t seen again after the initial sighting. I then decided to head for Hartlepool Headland, where a Pallas’s Warbler and a Yellow–browed Warbler were seen amongst good numbers of Goldcrests. A quick drive down North Gare and Zinc Road produced Short–eared Owl (1), Stonechat (4+) and Curlew (2).

29th October, 2015 – Hartlepool Headland
Very good afternoon visit to the headland with Red–breasted Flycatcher (1), Brambling (1), Blackcap (1), Woodcock (4+), Redwing (10+), Song Thrush (1), Blackbird (20+), ChiffChaff (2+) and Whooper Swan (2 over) being the pick of the birds. Missed the Great Grey Shrike by ten minutes.

31st October, 2015 – Hartlepool Headland & Seaton Snook
Resisted the temptation of going to South Gare for the reported Grey Phalarope and Slavonian Grebe or to Whitburn for Pallid Swift to enjoy some time on the north shore of the tees estuary.  The headland was very quiet with three Rock Pipits and a Redwing being the pick of the birds. Four Stonechats and a Short–eared Owl were seen from Zinc Road. Seaton Snook produced at least ten Twite, five Snow Buntings and a single Northern Wheatear.

1st November, 2015 – South Gare
My resistance to head for South Gare to see the reported Grey Phalarope and Slavonian Grebe lasted one day. Arrived early afternoon and the Grey Phalarope showed very well in the bright sunny weather offering the opportunity to try the 1.4 extender with the 100x400 Mk2 zoom. Have to say that I am quite impressed, but I have noticed the images are showing obvious noise at ISO800. A Red–throated Diver was seen to the north of the wind turbines and the reported Slavonian Grebe was seen in the estuary.

1st November, 2015 – Low Barns
Very quiet late afternoon visit to the reserve with Siskin (50c) and Lesser Redpoll (1+) being the pick of the birds.

3rd November, 2015 – Marsden Quarry & Washington WWT
Managed to get an early finish from work to go for the Arctic Warbler, which was at Marsden Quarry for it’s second day. seeing as though I was passing Washington WWT, I decided to pop in and have a look at the unringed & unclipped Ferruginous Duck that’s been seen there for the previous week. Looked good to me, but not too enthusiastic on acceptance.

14th November, 2015 – Chesterfield
A Barn Owl was seen between Bishop Auckland and Shildon (5am). On arrival at Chesterfield, the first bird we observed was a Peregrine Falcon that was eating prey on the lead flashing of the spire (couldn’t see the prey and 1–2 people began to show concerns that it might have been the target bird). Whilst waiting, at least thirty Fieldfares and a group of approximatley eighty Pink–footed Geese flew overhead. We were beginning to think we had dipped when a handfull of us spotted the Crag Martin flying behind the spire (10.48am). This was soon followed by 100+ birders showing signs of relief at seeing the bird (smiles and cheers of joy).

6th December, 2015 – Hartlepool Headland
A Surf Scoter had been seen off Parton Rocks at around 9:45am, but wasn’t seen during the two hours that I was there. Pick of the birds included Velvet Scoter (1 south), Common Scoter (7), Red–throated Diver (5+), Guillimot (2) and Rock Pipit. Surprised not to see any Purple Sandpipers.  Other birds of interest that were seen in the area included Black–throated Diver (1 at Jacksons Landing), Mediterranean Gull (1 at Newburn Bridge) and Green–winged Teal (1 at Dormans).

19th December, 2015 – Teesside
A Surf Scoter (1) and two Velvet Scoters were with approximately fifty Common Scoters off Seaton front. Seven Whooper Swans were seen at West Saltholme.

20th December, 2015 – Low Barns
Two visits to a very damp/wet Low Barns this afternoon. Obvious signs that the river had burst its banks during the recent wet weather. Nothing different seen, but it was nice to get out for 2–3hrs.  Both feeding stations were quiet with Nuthatch (2), Jay (1), Great Tit (1), Blue Tit (1), Coal Tit (1) and Chaffinch (2) being the only birds visiting the feeders during the time I was there. Several Siskins flew over the west hide when returning to the car. Mute Swan (3), Cormorant (1), Tufted Duck (2), Common Teal (1), Moorhen (2) & Coot (2) were on the west pond. Pick of the birds on Marston Lake included Pochard (3), Gadwall (4) and Little Grebe (1).

29th December, 2015 – Billingham
Had a quick run over to Charlton's Pond in Billingham for the reported female Scaup, which was favouring the middle of the pond and didn't come close enough for decent photos. Other birds of interest included 5 Goosander (4 drakes), a Treecreeper and a Kingfisher.