Northumberland gallery

Brother Rob and his wife Gi are over from Australia, stopping with us for a few days prior to their trip to Iceland (the country not the frozen food store!) – we’re joining them for a few days at the end. We’ve come up to Northumberland to meet up with other brother Bryan and his wife Anne, from Scotland – we’re staying at the quirky but charming country house B&B at Budle Hall. On the way up we drove through Teesdale and yesterday we did the castles – Alnwick, Warkworth, the iconic Dunstanburgh and Bamburgh. Today, weather permitting, we’re going over to Lindesfarne. As the primary purpose of the trip is a family re-union, there’s only been limited scope for birding but we have managed to see a few bits and bobs:

Black Grouse, at the same spot in upper Teesdale as last year, but only two and distant


Red Grouse, easier to see, but still nice


On the cliffs at Dunstanburgh, Rock Dove


Kittiwake, in the rain




and Fulmar


Finally a rather chilly Barn Swallow, probably wishing it had waited a while longer before migrating


We’re hoping for much better views and photos of sea birds and ducks when we get to Iceland in just over a weeks time



Temminck’s Times Two


Two Temminck’s Stint, Cley NWT, May 2014

Yesterday was my first ‘duty day’ at Cley NWT since returning from our GPOG holiday on Lesbos. I was relieved to discover that,  whilst we were away, the weather had been pretty foul and that I’d not missed any really good birds, except perhaps Temminck’s Stint. However I was delighted to find that the two birds were still present, on Pat’s Pool , when I started my morning rounds. Temminck’s Stint is a scarce passage migrant in England with occasional breeding, away from their regular summer haunts in the Scandinavian tundra, in Scotland. Longer and squatter than the more common Little Stint, summer birds show a distinct pectoral band, blotchy black scapulars and yellowish coloured legs – they have a preference for feeding on drier, grassy ground. It seemed slightly strange that only a couple of days before we’d been watching another pair of these birds on the beach pool at Faneromeni!

The bird in the centre, flanked by two Little Stint for useful comparison, was a very dark looking thing – possibly due to oiling


The second bird was a much more typical example, showing the longer ‘rear end’, distinct pectoral band, black scapular feathers and ochre legs



Late Spring in Lesbos

We’ve just got back from a weeks holiday in Petra, Lesbos, with GPOG (Greater Peterborough Ornithological Group – a rather grand title for a bunch of birding/drinking mates!). We stayed at the excellent Niki Michael Studios booked as a package with Thomas Cook, used vehicles from Costa rentals and based our itinerary on Steve Dudley’s excellent book and our accumulated knowledge from previous trips. We deliberately chose a May week to catch the later arriving migrants and resident breeding species. We managed to notch up nearly 150 species during the week and several members of the party got a ‘life tick’ or two!

Some of the birds we saw:

Subalpine Warbler, male


Black Stork, this one in the centre of Kalloni!


An obliging Eastern Olivaceous Warbler


Cirl Bunting


A female Blue Rock Thrush, feeding young at Ipsilou monastery


Lesbos speciality, Cinereous Bunting


Another Lesbos speciality – Isabelline Wheatear, one of a couple of pairs seen


Roller, one of a small influx on our last day – we saw four birds, there were probably more


Another special Lesbos bunting – this one is Cretzchmar’s


Olive-tree Warbler, difficult to see and near impossible to photograph!


Red-rumped Swallow collecting mud for nest-building


Rufous Bush Robin, also nest building.


Broad-billed Sandpiper, one of three seen. This cooperative individual was at Faneromeni Beach pool


Great Spotted Cuckoo – a poor picture of a great bird, well actually one of a breeding pair


One of this year’s target species, a superb male Black-headed Bunting


Red-breasted Flycatcher, this one was in a roadside ravine on the old Sigri to Erossos road


Another Lesbos speciality – Kruper’s Nuthatch


Alpine Swift, odd birds seen on several days – this one was over West river


Red-backed Shrike – there was a large influx towards the end of the week, mostly males


Little Bittern at the lower ford, Faneromeni


Rock Nuthatch – reasonably common and widespread in sparsely vegetated areas


and lastly, Spanish Sparrow – near the old Sanatorium


A great weeks birding with lots to find and some really superb ‘celebrity’ species.

We’ll be publishing a complete annotated & illustrated trip report shortly.. watch this blog for details.

The Early Bird gets the.. grainy photo!


Nightingale, Salthouse Heath, 1st May 2014

Having woken early – at 4.50am to be precise, I thought I’d make the best of it by going to Salthouse to see if I could hear Nightingale – a difficult species to pin down in Norfolk. I arrived on the heath soon after it got light and as I pulled the car off the road I immediately heard a Nightingale blasting it out! Hampered by the early morning mist and the fact that these birds like to sing from deep cover, I set about trying to see it. Eventually it showed briefly in the more open canopy of a birch tree and I managed to get a couple of record shots – taken at 6400 iso and 30th sec!

Nearby another Norfolk ‘year tick’ – Lesser Whitethroat


and down on the coast, a fine male Wheatear