Friday, 31 December 2010


So then, its New Years Eve, and we bid farewell to 2010. Its been a terrific year for wildlife. I saw a total of 228 different species of birds, a record total for me, my previous best being 223. I saw 8 birds for the first time in the UK ; PTARMIGAN, CAPERCAILLIE, CRESTED TIT, BLACK THROATED THRUSH, LESSER YELLOWLEGS, SPOTTED CRAKE, SHARP TAILED SANDPIPER & SQUACCO HERON. I had 3 new species of mammal; HARBOUR PORPOISE, MOUNTAIN HARE & a MOLE! 4 new dragonflies; 4-SPOTTED CHASER, EMPEROR DRAGONFLY, BLACK TAILED SKIMMER & COMMON HAWKER. And a single new butterfly; SMALL PEARL BORDERED FRITILLARY. With two fantastic holidays abroad this past year I've also had the chance to see lots of new things away from home, whether it was in the forests of Jamaica or the desert of Egypt. Both holidays were superb.

So, what of 2011? I absolutely love seeing something new, no matter what it is. I particularly want to see more butterflies, and with a little help from Deggsy I hope to get the chance to do just that. Bird-wise, I've currently seen 293 species in the UK. I must admit, I wouldnt mind getting to the 300 milestone if I can. Its not hugely important but its not something I would turn down! But I have set myself 2 definate tasks for 2011. The first is to try and see 250 species of bird in the UK. With trips to Norfolk & Mull, I reckon I've got a fighting chance. The other challenge, and the one I'm most excited about, is to see as many species of bird as possible in the City of Sunderland. Its not something I've tried before so I'm quite looking forward to it. And it all starts tomorrow!!!


Friday, 17 December 2010

Sunday, 12 December 2010


I was talking to Steve last night, and he was telling me that after his fall on the ice the other day he hasnt been very mobile as it was very painful to move around. So, I offered to take him through to Gateshead as there are a number of hides that we could sit in and we wouldnt have to do much walking. It had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I hadnt seen any Red Kites yet this year! Honest!!! So, the first place we went to was Barlow to see if we could see any, erm, Red Kites. It was his idea!!!!! Annoyingly, and quite surprisingly for this place, we didnt see a single one! We did though get a nice flock of around 20 Brambling fly over us. Next, we went to Far Pastures. Or at least we ATTEMPTED to. The approach road was still incredibly icy, and having spun a couple of times we decided we wouldnt risk going any further so we gave it a miss and went instead to Thornley Wood. Thankfully, we had no trouble getting there. It was very nice to bump into Derek B again, although hardly surprising as he practically lives in that hide! The birds were very active around the feeders today, with highlights being Yellowhammers, Nuthatch, Jays, Bullfinches, and a handful of Stock Doves. There were also lots and lots of the commoner birds such as Robins, Dunnocks, Tits, Chaffinches, Blackbirds etc etc. At one point a Sparrowhawk glided through, putting everything in panic mode. But best of all a single RED KITE put in an appearance, soaring gently quite low down giving excellent views. On the way home we had a quick look at Shibdon pond where the only bird of note was a Water Rail briefly, and then we had a look at Lamesley where there were NO birds of note! Still, an enjoyable couple of hours in an area I very rarely go to.
RED KITE - one of my favourite birds of prey.


So, everytime I go away on holiday people usually say something like 'ooh I bet the birds over there are really colourful!'. Well, some of them are, yes. But then again, so are some of ours....... BULLFINCH


The humble ROBIN

All of these birds were seen within the space of 30 minutes at a feeder station in a typical english woodland. Our birds are as colourful as anywhere else!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Planet Earth - Hoppipolla song by Sigur Ros

This is a great video to one of the most beautiful pieces of music I've heard in a long time. The music and the images go perfectly together. The band are called SIGUR ROS. And I love them to death.

Sunday, 5 December 2010


Had a visit to the infamous 'freezer hide' at Rainton Meadows today to hopefully get a look at the current star attractions - a pair of Bitterns. I've only ever seen one before, up at Cresswell last year, and it wasnt the best of views so I was hoping for a lot better today. When I arrived at the hide I was quite surprised that there was only one person there (Shaggy/Glen), seeing as Bitterns are extremely scarce in our area! Thankfully Glen was already on one of the Bitterns and he quickly put me onto it (cheers mate!). It wasnt out in the open but it was quite easily seen in amongst the thin area of reeds it was foraging in. Then after about twenty minutes RokerMartin arrived, but just as he was setting himself up the bird went further into the reeds and out of view. To be honest he neednt have worried because a further ten minutes later the bird came out right into the open and onto the frozen pond, giving outstanding views. We were all very happy. But, it was about to get even better! From out of nowhere, the first Bittern was joined by a second bird. And unbelievably they were both out on the frozen pond giving simply stunning views. This isnt meant to happen!!! These are one of the most shy and skulking species of bird and yet here was two of them practically waving at us and jockeying for our attention! It just doesnt get any better than this.


The Coastal Conservation Group have an extremely healthy, productive and more importantly friendly relationship with the National Trust, and in particular Mick Simpson. We have a lot of things in common and our group can learn a lot from the Trust, and they have been extremely helpful and welcoming since our inception just over 6 months ago. AND LONG MAY THIS CONTINUE!!! And so in the spirit of friendship, the members of the Group were treated to an excellent presentation and tour of the iconic Souter Lighthouse. It was conducted by Nick Dolan whose passion and enthusiasm was extremely infectious, and more importantly he made the evening interesting! After a brief history of the National Trust, he moved onto the Lighthouse itself. It was designed by a guy called James Douglass and opened in 1871. It was the first lighthouse anywhere in the world to use electricity, and at the time was a modern marvel! Its powerful light could be seen for upto 26 miles. Interestingly, although its called Souter Lighthouse its not actually at Souter Point, its at Lizard Point. It was originally to be placed at Souter Point but it was decided that Lizard Point would give better visibility. BUT, they didnt call it Lizard Lighthouse because there was already a lighthouse called that at Cornwall and they didnt want people to be confused! Apparently the lighthouse used to be painted black and white, but now it is painted a far superior red and white. Although it was decomissioned in 1988, the lighthouse is still in full working order. Wow, I'm amazed at how much info I've remembered!!! Anyway, the tour included a look at the engines and mechanics and all the stuff that keeps the lighthouse working, which I know absolutely nothing about but I smiled my way through it! More excitingly though we got to go to the top of the lighthouse which is a lot higher than you might think (76 feet I think?). The views were fabulous, and were further enhanced by the gorgeous deep snow, giving it a beautiful picture-postcard feel. It was a really good night, and we as a group were extremely grateful to Nick for making it a pleasant and enjoyable experience.