Sunday 28 February 2010

Wot. No Green-winged Teal?

Er no, but I had a nice walk from Whitley Bay along the Waggonway to Holywell Dene and then onto St Mary's Wetland and home along the beach for Sunday lunch at the world famous Cottage Kitchen. I got home just as the heavens opened - perfect timing.

I saw 43 species including my first Treecreeper of the year and my first on patch Bullfinches. And that Med Gull again (Brierdene car park)- whereas a few weeks ago I couldn't find it, now it seems to be stalking me.

Pied Wagtail in 'paddy field' along the Waggonway

Holywell Dene - White water rafting anyone?

Robin singing in Holywell Dene. Another sings further down the track and a Wren joins in.

PS. If I can shake a leg early tomorrow there maybe some Green-winged Teal action tomorrow :)

White-winged Black Tern - Holywell Pond

Another tape found in the Wildupnorth archives has revealed previously unseen footage of a White-winged Black Tern that was present at Holywell Pond 8th - 19th August 2002.

Saturday 27 February 2010

Bay Watch 27/02

The highlight of today's walk from Whitley Bay to St Mary's Island was an adult Med Gull by the causeway, with its black hood well developed. This looks like a different bird to the one that has been seen nearby throughout the winter.

There are still two Bar-tailed Godwit present, roosting on the rocks on the south bay at St Marys along with a flock of around 30 Knot and a single Purple Sandpiper.

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Nine for Hell

In Druridge Pools blog yesterday the issue of Magpie control was raised which led me to unearth a couple of videos showing how nature's own pest controllers, Sparrowhawks, deal with Magpies.

Not for the faint hearted!

Yesterday I had a Sparrowhawk in my garden. Today I have Magpies nest building. I see trouble ahead!

Further Reading

Why are magpies so often hated?

Monday 22 February 2010

Hardcore Science

No relaxing Sunday morning at the Wildupnorth ranch yesterday, it was an early start and off to Amble (Meadow Well by the sea) to catch a boat to take part in a marine survey looking for cetaceans and birds. The 3 metre swell that had scuppered the survey on Saturday had dropped to 1.5 metres so we left the harbour at 8.40am with four souls on board.

While the sun came out to see us off, the temperature on land was -5 deg C, and as we headed 35 miles out, the horizon to our south grew darker and darker. And the sea got rougher and rougher! Eventually a blizzard hit.

The good news is that the weather cleared after half an hour and the survey continued.

Species seen:

Red-throated Diver - 2 leaving the harbour and 1 about 25 mile out.
Guillemot - numerous
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Common Gull
Black-headed Gull
Gannet - numerous
Carrion Crow (heading out to Coquet Island)

One possible dolphin - a blow and a fin were seen by the skipper.

 Martin 'Pelagic' Kitching hastily writes his Last Will and Testament.

Sunday 21 February 2010


While sorting 'my room' this morning I found a DV tape. On it I found some video of Waxwings in my street last March (09), filmed from the attic 'hide'.

Wonder what else I'll find?

Friday 19 February 2010

Another Couple of Ticks

Headed north today for a snowy scenes at Ross Back Sands and another Blogger tick - The Liverbird. He had more luck than me,  all I found was this dead Gannet. Still, it's another tick on the corpse year list along with Little Auk, Woodcock, Magpie, Pheasant and Woodpigeon. Only the last two joined me for dinner.

If you google Ross Back Sands there's an entry for it in The Naturist Fact File - and there are trip reports!

Trip Report - August 2003

"This beach is one of the best in the country, with fine golden sand and excuisitely beautiful views of Holy Island to the north and Bamburgh Castle to the south. Even in high summer there are only around a dozen or so people on this massive beach, which stretches for about a mile to the south of the access track and about two miles to the north. Apart from some serious walkers, most textiles don't venture far along the beach, and those who do don't seem to mind seeing naturists. Naturists (usually just one or two but on a good day as many as four or five) gather about 0.5 mile to the north of the track."

Would you Adam & Eve it? They do :)


Got along to Ashington's Nursery Estate yesterday and managed to get the Waxwings on Video, but no for long! Everytime they landed either a pair of Mistle Thrush would chase them, a car would come round the corner or a postman would pass by. Good crack with the other birders who had made the effort to see these beautiful birds. If only they were in my garden like they were last year (50 on 30th Mar 09).

If you hear a Thrush Nightingale singing in the video, don't burn rubber to Ashington, it's just my phone :)

And finally, a beautiful and uplifting set of photos put to music by fellow blogger Tyne to Tweed:

Thursday 18 February 2010


It appears that the people of Whitley Bay and indeed most of Western Europe now accept a level of ugliness in their daily lives which is almost without precedent in history. Our rivers, lakes, trees, hedgerows, road side verges, and streets have become swamped with rubbish; plastics of every kind. Noise is everywhere, almost unavoidable — but it does not uplift, nor even tranquillise - it claws at the ears. The night sky which for millennia inspired philosophers and scientists is now hidden by light pollution.

When shown the ideas and proven technologies that can solve these problems, most people retreat into implacable passivity. Have we become not only ugly, but impotent?

The ugliness of 'the patch'
(Where the Brierdene meets Whitley Beach was
 last cleaned 3 years ago according to a council employee)

It's time to act.....and here are a couple of web sites that have helped me take some positive actions:

Litter Heroes
Needless Light Pollution

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Nest Building at the Heart of Charming City

A Blackbird was nest building in Leazes Park in Newcastle city centre yesterday. It may not be getting any warmer but the extra daylight seems to be getting things started.

A charm of around 30 Goldfinches provided the background music.

There were up to 5 Goosander on the lake including a handsome drake.

Tuesday 16 February 2010

Is this your Knot - Update

The colour ringed Knot I saw in January in the Brierdene car park has now been identified. I submitted details on the Euring website and today I got the following email.

Dear Tim, Dick, Brian, Sara and Henk
Sara, many thanks indeed for forwarding the reports of the colour-marked Red Knot seen at St. Mary's Island/Whitley Bay, UK - the sightings were made by Tim Sexton on 16 Jan 2010, Dick Gihlespy on 28 Jan 2010, and Brian Robson on 31 Jan 2010. Since the three sightings all appear to involve the same bird, I hope you will not mind if I reply to all three of you (and Sara and Henk) in one email.
The combination reported was Fw,SL:m,YY (white flag upper left, grey over light green on lower left: metal upper right, yellow over yellow lower right), which is clearly identifiable as a knot that was captured during our banding operations at Alert, Ellesmere Island, Canada - details as follows:

Red Knot
Colour bands: Fw,SL:m,YY (white flag upper left, grey over light green on lower left: metal upper right, yellow over yellow lower right)
Metal band: 1313-59882
Adult male (plumage, sex confirmed by DNA analysis)
Captured: 10 June 2007, Alert, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada 82 30N 62 20W
The bird was caught using rocket nets at the sewage outfall stream near the weather/military station at Alert. It weighed 128g when captured - it had presumably arrived some time in the past week to ten days and had not yet developed a brood patch (which is usually developed a little closer to when they start incubating).

Some notes: (1) Tim - thanks for the video - it was really clear, and I am confident the colours on the lower left are grey over light green - really nice to see the bird "in action"! (2) Dick - thanks for the detailed note and description. (3) Brian - looks as though the colours on the lower left were grey over green, with the other observations and video clearing up any uncertainty.

Once again, thanks to everyone for sending in these very interesting observations. It is very nice to get information on how long a bird stays in a certain area, and if you are able to make any further observations of the bird, please let us know.

Best wishes
Guy Morrison

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Monday 15 February 2010

A Sound Day

Sunday was perfect for trying out my new toy, an Edirol R-09HR Wave/MP3 Recorder. Perfect because there was no wind and the birds were singing. The results are further down this blog - best with head phones. The heavy breathing and slobbering is Dill my Golden Retreiver, not me.

I started my walk of the patch from the start of the waggonway in Monkseaton and headed north as far as the Brierdene where the fields to the north had 200 geese, mostly Greylag and 30 or so Pink-Foot.

The waggonway was alive with birds, Great Tit, Robin, Magpie, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Dunnock, Robin, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Blackbird.

I took a turn east at the start of the Brierdene and headed across to St Mary's Wetland.

The Brierdene

 Greylag & Pink-Foot Geese

St Mary's Wetland

Here's a few recordings I took along the way.

Blackbird in my neighbours garden.

A flock of Long-tailed Tit pass along the waggonway.

A Magpie is nearby as a Greenfinch sings.

A Blue Tit sings.

A Robin in full song.

Great Tit sings as the Brierdene flows by.

The sound of St Mary's Wetland. See how many species you can pick out.

Sunday 14 February 2010

Wilson's Petrel Uncut

This is it folks, previously unseen and uncut video from the legendary pelagic out of North Shields on September 1st 2002 when a Wilson's Storm Petrel was found - the first North Sea record. Listen to the disbelief, the cries of joy and expletives from the lucky dozen.

If the Wilson's wasn't enough we also had Sooty Shearwaters galore, Manx Shearwater, Storm Petrel, a couple of Sunfish (Mola mola) and all the Skuas; Great, Pomarine, Artic and Long-tailed. The weather was perfect, warm, sunny, and calm.

It does not get any better than this.

A couple of lads were catching Mackerel and the Sootys were taking fish off the hooks as they reeled the fish in!

Saturday 13 February 2010

Another Mystery Fish

Found this handsome looking beast on Whitley Bay beach. I think it maybe a Blue Wolf Fish. Anyone know for sure?

Thursday 11 February 2010

Bay Watch 11/02

I picked up two patch ticks today; a Kingfisher at the mouth of the Brierdene and a Med Gull in the adjacent car park. The latter has evaded my gaze for the last 3 months and I was starting to think it was an elaborate wind-up.

The tide was high so the last leg to St Mary's was along the cliff top. Not the safest of routes as it is retreating at an alarming rate.

My patch is shrinking by the minute!

The south beach at St Marys had 3 Purple Sandpiper, a number of Knot and 2 Bar-tailed Godwit.

The wetland had 3 snipe showing well, a pair of Mute Swan, Mallard, Teal, Gadwall and a Fox.

The fields to the west by Feathers Caravan Park were populated by over 200 Golden Plover, a good number of Curlew and a solitary Grey Heron.

The tide had started to recede on the way back so I took the route along the bottom of the cliffs. This wasn't too safe either with a couple of landslides witnessed. It can only be a matter of time before the council extend the sea defences as the loss of the pitch and putt could be the final nail in the coffin for Whitley tourism :)

Monday 8 February 2010

Goosey Goosey Gander

A visit to Druridge Pools included an hour scoping some 1200 geese for the possibility of the Bean geese reported on Sunday. All I could pick out from the Pink-foot flocks were 2 White-fronts and 5 Barnacles. The Bean geese may well be in there somewhere but many were taking a nap so no legs or bills to go on. The White-fronted geese views were restricted to a couple of heads popping up from the throng so couldn't get a race.

The geese were in the fields to the north of the road between Cresswell and Druridge pools, about a quarter of a mile before the pools.

4 Smew were still on Druridge pools, along with a couple of male Goldeneye. Other birds included a single Buzzard and a male Bullfinch at Widdrington.

Saturday 6 February 2010

Bay Watch 06/02

A Friday night fixture for the Toon, and the resulting 5-1 drubbing of Cardiff, meant a rather late start to Saturday. I vaguely recall some bright spark getting a round of Sailor Jerry in. Thanks Dave!

Anyhow, the light was fading fast when I eventually headed for St Marys from Whitley but managed to pick up a couple of Goldeneye at the north end of the beach and 4 Bar-tailed Godwit. A couple more Rays Bream on the beach.

Thursday 4 February 2010

Greenland White-Fronted Goose Video

Popped up to Woodhorn flash for a quick twitch yesterday, arriving just as the White-fronted Geese were settling down for a snooze. Here's the results. Enjoy.

Wednesday 3 February 2010

“Scarlet Macaw, Tick”. Listing revisited.

Listing means different things to different people; a challenge, motivation, competition, research, or a complete waste of time. My philosophy is simple, if it works for you then good on ya. Just don’t ask to see mine – one of us might be disappointed :)

Over the years various note books have been filled with species seen on my travels. And ticks have been scribbled in the margins of field guides. But until recently I’d never worked out how many species I’ve seen. I didn’t even have a UK list. More worrying is that I’m sure some trip notes have gone a stray! Having decided to take my birding more seriously this haphazard approach has to come to an end. Indeed why write down what I’ve seen if I’m not going to put these records in some semblance of order?

So I’ve jumped in the deep end and invested in some listing software - Wildlife Recorder Professional World Edition (£99.99). Working as I do in IT I could have put together a database myself, but life’s too short to re-invent the wheel. And having entered all my species sightings in just one night I’m so far suitably impressed; species entry is very fast when all you need to do is talk into a mic, “Scarlet Macaw, Tick.”

As I get more familiar with this software I’ll post a review, in the meantime questions are welcomed.

And the count is in – let’s just say I now know where my efforts need to be focused. Less blogging, more birding perhaps?

Monday 1 February 2010

Blyth Harbour/South Beach 31/01

The Iceland Gull was seen about an hour before I got to Blyth Harbour, perched on top of the Port Authority building. All I found there were around 30 Ringed Plover roosting. Elsewhere there were plenty of sights and sounds on a beautiful last day of January.

HMS Illustrious was offshore on exercise and, according to the harbour master, the billowing black smoke suggested it was having 'engine problems'.  This ship was launched from Swan Hunters in 1978.

Less polluting craft included three gents in kayaks fishing just off the harbour mouth.

There were a number of Shag in the harbour looking very dapa with crests aloft.


Two Eider pairs were very vocal with the males making their pleasant "ah-ooo" call and occasionally 'scrapping'.

Lastly I came across two herring gulls showing a nice contrast between a 3CY (second winter) bird on the left and a 2CY (first winter) bird on the right. You may note that the 3CY bird appears slightly smaller than the 2CY bird and has a thinner bill - possibly male and female birds or just down to size variation.