Friday 30 December 2011

The beast of Whitley Bay

Ringed Plover

Low tide at Whitley Bay meant plenty of waders at the North end. Sanderling, Dunlin, Redshank, Oystercatcher, and this obliging Ringed Plover.

Unfortunately there was also an idiot with no control over his dog. The beast chased every bird on the beach for 20 mins, while the f'wit owner stood 300 yards away on his mobile. It was a only when the dog started on me that he bothered to call it back, probably because he saw a large vets bill coming his way if my tripod made contact!

Tuesday 27 December 2011

Harwood Hike

A walk from Harwood Village up to Tutehill Moss was a great way to blow away a few crimbo cobwebs. No shrike this year, so far, but plenty of Crossbill action.

Along the track into the forest I saw large flocks of Coal Tits, the ever present Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Kestrel, Fieldfares flying over, a single Grey Heron, and Goldcrests.

On returning to the village at dusk, a Starling roost of a few hundred birds was 'exploded' by a Sparrowhawk, adding a bit of drama.

Monday 26 December 2011

Blyth Harbour Tranquility

Red-throated Diver
To escape the Boxing Day crowds at the coast, bolstered by unseasonably mild temperatures, I went to Blyth Harbour. Fantastic, just me, three Red-throated Divers, and a few Eiders.

Eider Duck

Thursday 22 December 2011

Big Waters

Took a trip out with my mate Mick to photograph a couple of target species today, namely Dunnock and Tree Sparrow. Despite a sortie from the local Spuggiehawk, all went well.

Thursday 15 December 2011

Bitterns, Berries & Ice

There were up to three Bitterns at Gosforth Park Nature Reserve today.  Not the attention seekers that others have seen, strutting naked in front of the hide, wings akimbo. Oh No! These were the coy shy type, hiding amongst the phragmites like their supposed to.

The lake was frozen, bar an area opened up by the Wigeon. Further holes appeared as several swans 'crash landed' on the ice, only to be turfed off by the resident pair.

On the way home a large flock of Fieldfare and Redwing were found by the roadside, so a quick park and camera out the window..............

Friday 9 December 2011

A new camera lens combo!

Tried out a new combination of the Canon 7D + Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS II USM + Canon 2 x Extender III. The yanks rave about this combo, and I can now see why.

Very portable compared to hauling around the Canon 500mm f4, so a good option for foreign trips, or where there's a hike involved. And the Canon 70-200mm at f2.8 is superb for low light, and good to hand hold.

Could this be the end of the road for my Canon 100-400mm?

Monday 5 December 2011

Newbiggin by the Sea - it's mainly rubbish!

Having spent 10 million on a new breakwater and beach, you'd think the local community would take care of their new asset. The beach is covered in rubbish, tons of it. Shame on you Newbiggin.

Anyhow, I did manage to get one shot of the Desert Wheatear without a pop bottle, or plastic bag spoiling things.

Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti

Monday 28 November 2011

It's not over till the fat lady sings

There's still time to register your objection to the housing development that threatens Gosforth Park Nature Reserve.

I popped there this afternoon and found this chap.

Red Squirrel
To give your objection use this link for more information.

Saturday 26 November 2011

Gosforth Park - Friends round for dinner

I'd hoped for a view of the Bittern yesterday, but horizontal rain coming in through the hide led to a hasty retreat to the comfort of the feeding station, for a pleasant hour 'shooting' the visitors and putting the world to rights with Paul and Morgan.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Introduction of offence of vicarious liability for raptor persecution in England

Scotland, recognising that those who persecute birds of prey frequently do so at the direction of their employers or others with vested interests, has introduced an offence of vicarious liability, the purpose of which is to bring those parties to justice. This petition calls on the government to introduce an offence of vicarious liability to bring to justice those who direct or turn a blind eye to raptor persecution in England. As an indication of how bad thing are, in the last year only four pairs of hen harriers successfully reared chicks in England, fourteen peregrine falcon territories failed on grouse moors in Lancs forest of Bowland, and only one successful goshawk nest was recorded in the Derwent Valley, Derbyshire. Current legislation is not enough to deter those who break the law and destroy our heritage; the introduction of vicarious liability would hit those directing the slaughter.

Sign the petition here:

Sunday 20 November 2011

The Prestwick Carr Owl Show

I arrived at Prestwick Carr about an hour before sunset, and the Short-eared Owls had apparently been up for a couple of hours in good light and had just gone down. This happens to me a lot.

My luck soon changed though, and having spied a Long-eared Owl roosting in thick cover, the Short-eared Owls came out to play :)

Thursday 17 November 2011

East meets West!

East meets West!

A phone call from Tom last night, "You seen anything on your pager?"

"Er, no Tom. It's in the van. Two minutes...........*/@!..........I'll pick you up at 7.30 tomorrow."

We arrived at Holy Island, in glorious sunshine, and headed for the beach where a couple of birders had already found the Eastern Black Redstart. What a stunner!

Eastern Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros phoenicuroides

Eastern Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros phoenicuroides

It was joined a while later by an equally stunning male Black Redstart.....

Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros

The day just got better as we headed to The Chare. We had Hen Harrier, 14 White-fronted Geese, Merlin, Sparrowhawk and a good laugh with a 'heavyweight' (in expertise and dimensions) group of birders trying to turn a juvenile White-front into a Bean Goose. The best decision was to go find a nailed on Bean Goose which we did in a stubble field at Dunstan near Embleton, several in fact, with Pink-foots, Barnacles and a couple of Ross's Geese just to add colour.

"They're talking b******s Tim. It's a juvenile White-Front. Let's go find a real one"

More photos of Eastern Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros phoenicuroides are on my website.

Sunday 13 November 2011

Greater Yellowlegs - First for Northumberland

Greater Yellowlegs Tringa Melanoleuca

Having dipped yesterday, an early start paid off with gripping views at Hauxley Nature Reserve. At one point the Greater Yellowlegs, accompanied by a Grey Phalarope, came within 10 feet of the hide.

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Down by the swings

A pair of Ring-necked Parakeets are setting up home in Churchill Playing Fields, Monkseaton, Whitley Bay. The nearest know colony is Hartlepool. Present since last Friday.


At Prior's Park in Tynemouth. Song Thrush, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Fieldfare and Blackbird all together.

Also a couple of Blackcaps but no Isabelline Wheatear, yet.

The lone camper is still there.

Here's for at least 3 days. Each day the tent has moved. No resident spotted yet.

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Laugh or Cry

Went to Shetland for a Siberian Rubythroat and saw....

Twitchers at the front
Ponies round the back

And the toon win 3-1 on the telly on the ferry.

Friday 28 October 2011

MEGA - Tynemouth

Black Redstart
This morning, just before connecting with this fine Black Redstart at Priors Haven in Tynemouth, a Jay flew over! A patch tick for me, the Jay that is, a real mega for the coast.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Firecrest - St Mary's

Firecrest Regulus ignicapillus
2 Firecrests were reported at St Mary's today. A tricky chap to photograph, being very active in very poor light.

Thursday 20 October 2011

Urgent - help stop plans to destroy wildlife at Gosforth Park

I received this today, from the Natural History Society of Northumbria:

Dear Natural History Society Member

We need your help to save the fields surrounding Gosforth Nature Reserve from being turned into 600 homes by the end of the decade.  This would have a devastating effect on wildlife and the nature reserve.

Many of you will know that these fields are home to otters, roe deer, badgers, bats, owls and songbirds and are an important wildlife corridor and part of the Green Belt. The reserve is one of Newcastle’s last remaining wildlife areas and is home to rare birds, plants and animals including England’s last urban population of red squirrels.

Newcastle City Council is setting out its latest development plans which they are calling their “One Core Strategy”, this includes a “Strategic Land Review” in which they have identified potential sites for new development.  They are proposing that 8,000 new homes are built in the Green Belt, including 600 new homes in the fields next to Gosforth Park Nature Reserve, which they are calling Salter’s Lane Neighbourhood Growth Area – the fields are conveniently owned by Persimmon Homes. You can see maps of the proposed development area on the attached flyer.

The fields that would be destroyed provide essential foraging habitat for wildlife that lives in the nature reserve.  Without this habitat this wildlife will be lost forever.  This includes families of badgers and roe deer, brown hare, several species of bats and birds such as barn owl, kestrel, and buzzard. Other wildlife in the reserve that would be badly affected by this development includes otters, red squirrels, voles, shrews and small birds.  The area is also attractive and peaceful countryside that is well used and loved by local walkers, nature enthusiasts, dog walkers and cyclists.

This areas is so valuable for wildlife that 10 years ago Newcastle Council designated this area as a Strategic Wildlife Corridor linking Jesmond Dene to the wider countryside.  Further developments since then make this wildlife corridor even more important today.  The Government’s Environmental White Paper, published in June, highlights the importance of creating buffer zones around important wildlife sites and retaining wildlife corridors – the Council’s proposal clearly goes against this Government advice.

The Council is consulting people on their views of these plans.  You have until 18th November to tell them what you think.

YOUR VIEWS WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE. You can stop the destruction of our wildlife and countryside by telling the Council that you object to their plans.  The more people who object the better the chance we have to stop this terrible proposal and to save our wildlife and open spaces for future generations.

You can view the Council’s full plans at

If you want to give them your views on their plans to build houses next to the nature reserve then the policy that you are objecting to is Policy CS3 1a Salter’s Lane Neighbourhood Growth Area.

To give your comments online go to and follow the instructions.  Alternatively send your comments by email to planning& or write to Harvey Emms, Director of Planning, Newcastle City Council, Civic Centre, NE1 8PD.

Local residents, the Natural History Society of Northumbria and Northumberland Wildlife Trust are encouraging people who live, work or visit Newcastle to contact the Council and object to these plans and ask the Council to protect this important wildlife area for future generations.

To demonstrate our opposition we are holding a public walk-about of the area at 11am on Sunday 30th October (meet at the entrance to the nature reserve and there will be a public meeting with Newcastle planners held at Gosforth Civic Hall, 7pm on Tuesday 15th November. Please come along to these events to show your support.

Please forward this email to neighbours, friends or colleagues and ask them to give thier views as well or help to circulate on Facebook and Twitter - I attach a flyer which you may wish to use to help spread the word.

This type of threat to Gosforth Park and other nature reserves is set to become more common if the government's planning reforms go ahead.  We would encourage you to write to your MP asking them to influence the Government's reforms so that they benefit the natural environment not just the development industry.  The Wildlife Truts have a web-page to help you do this,1WPE,ZLI4G,1OEK7,1

The wildlife at Gosforth Park really needs your support at this critical time. We really hope that you will take a few minutes to contact Newcastle City Council to object to their plans, and if possible join us on the 30th October or 15th November.

Kind Regards
James Littlewood

Natural History Society of Northumbria
Great North Museum: Hancock
Barras Bridge
Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 4PT

Saturday 15 October 2011

Late departures

Today's late departures
The causeway that joins St Mary's Island to the mainland is covered quickly on the incoming tide, and everyday people leave it a little too late to leave.

Bar-tailed Godwit

Monday 10 October 2011

Lesser Scaup - Tynemouth Boating lake

Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis
I thought I would be blogging about the Turtle Dove at Big Waters and the Hen Harrier at Prestwick Carr having bagged both early this afternoon, but the reported Lesser Scaup was re-found in Tynemouth.

Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis
Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur
Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus
A cracking start to the week.