Sunday, 23 January 2011


Well, this year myself and Maria (erm, ok, mainly Maria!!!) have decided to re-do some of the rooms in the house, mainly the bathroom & the kitchen. Unfortunately this means we are unlikely to have any holidays this year. As much as I love going abroad I love Maria more, so if a new kitchen & bathroom keeps her happy then so be it! At least I've got the week on Mull to look forward to. And if we have any spare money left after the decorating who knows what might happen? So anyway, this weekend has been mainly spent looking for tiles & bathroom suites, BUT I did get an hour or so this morning to go down to Crookfoot Reservoir to hopefully see the female Smew. Last year, a female Smew (possibly the same bird?) was also at this site at the same time of year so I decided to look in the same place and sure enough after just 10 minutes it came out from the far channel and started feeding with a small flock of Goldeneye. It was great to catch up with this relatively scarce species. It would have been nice to see an adult drake as they are stunning birds but hey, beggars cant be choosers. It was very nice to see the Goldeneyes displaying. Spring must be just round the corner!!!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011


Had a drive down to Roker Pier on my lunch break today and was very lucky to catch the Iceland Gull thats been hanging around the area. Although the Gulls are really quite distant this bird was very easy to spot. It was a very welcome addition to my slowly rising 2011 Sunderland List.

Sunday, 16 January 2011


Had a pleasant couple of hours out today, taking advantage of the recent milder weather. I finally went down to Cowpen Bewley to see the drake Ring Necked Duck that has been in the area the last few weeks. On arriving I scanned the flock of Tufties and quickly picked out their American cousin. It was very active and giving very frustrating views, as it dived, surfaced, then dived again the whole half hour I was there. Other birds of note were a flock of Pochards, a single Little Grebe and a pair of Goldeneye - my first of the year. From here I visited a site a lot closer to home and somewhere I hardly ever go to, Doxford Park. I had a lovely, slow, relaxing meander around the place. It was fantastic to hear the glorious sound of birdsong all around the park. The place seemed alive! The birds were reveling in the warmth. A lot of common birds were seen like Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Robin, Blackbird etc. I scanned a small flock of Goldcrests in the hope of a rarer Firecrest without luck. A nice surprise was my first Grey Wagtail of the year on the small stream. A Kestrel watched me as I left the park. I scanned the fields opposite the park in the hope of a day hunting Owl. There were none today but the area looks perfect. A quick check of Silksworth Lake didnt produce much, but there was a big roost of Gulls. Something to keep an eye on in the future.


Wednesday, 12 January 2011


I got up nice and early on Sunday morning (7.00 am to be precise) to be greeted by a sight I genuinely wasn't expecting - SNOW!!! Where the hell did that come from? (yes, I know, the sky!). Of course being made of stern stuff there was no way it was going to put me off the days challenge, so I headed off to Trow Quarry to meet up with my team mates. This year the Dream Team had been split up to help another team, so myself and Dougie were joined by a new lad called Bill. Lets just say he was an 'interesting' character! Some less polite would say he was a nutter!!! But anyway, it was now 8.00am and the competition had officially begun. We had a walk around Trow and picked up several of the commoner species, but our main target (Little Owl) was proving to be very elusive. We checked all of the favourite haunts but it was proving to be fruitless. There were no Owls anywhere. This wasn't the start we were hoping for. But, this was the Bird Race. We didn't have time to dwell and sulk, we had other places to go! So off we went, destination Whitburn Steel. But! We had a quick stop off at the famous Marsden car park to tick Med Gull - hopefully. We need'nt have worried. Med Gull in the bag, we continued on to the Steel. Here we boosted our numbers nicely, with plenty of waders and a few species of duck going onto our list. What we didn't do was a sea watch. It was a gamble, a gamble we hoped we wouldn't regret come the end of the day! From here we drove to Marsden Quarry for a second attempt to see a Little Owl. Thankfully, we hit lucky this time around. Westoe Cemetery next, and a visit to the feeder station that Steve had created a couple of months ago. It was alive with activity when we arrived with lots of Tits and Finches, but before long everything scattered as a Sparrowhawk whizzed in but was unsuccessful in its attempts to catch a meal. We had a quick walk around the cemetery itself which was a good move as we picked up our only Redwings of the day, and also had a great bonus with three Waxwings flying overhead. Next stop was Marine Park. This site proved to be quite disappointing, as we only picked up 4 new species. We really wanted Great Spotted Woodpecker but we couldn't find one anywhere. We then walked over and had a look over the pier at Sandhaven. This proved to be a disaster! The weather at this point was horrendous, and there was no sight of our target bird the Purple Sandpiper - in fact there were no birds whatsoever! Feeling a bit sorry for ourselves, we decided to head inland. Our first stop was Boldon Flats. The pond was completely frozen over which was expected but the feeders definitely came up with the goods. Yellowhammers and Tree Sparrows were good, but a single Brambling was even better! Pleased with ourselves we were about to head to the car when a Peregrine soared overhead - another excellent bonus bird! Tilesheds produced nothing, not even a Reed Bunting. Jarrow Slake was hit and miss. Some nice birds were seen eg Bullfinch & Shelduck, but some others were badly missed eg Little Grebe & Kingfisher. We did have a nice view of a Fox on the far river bank, amazingly in the exact same place we seen it last year! A quick walk around Jarrow Cemetery got us 2 new birds, Treecreeper & GS Woodpecker (thankfully!). As time (and light) was fading, we had one last stop to make - the Academy Pools. Here we finally picked up Reed Bunting. We also saw a nice flock of Fieldfares in the field, with a single Mistle Thrush for good measure. This proved to be our final bird of the day. As we pulled into the carpark of the Whitburn Lodge the sky was dark and the stars were out. All the teams had gathered and handed in their totals for the day. Our total was a relatively disappointing 67. This got us into 3rd place in the competition. We were 8 behind the winning total of 75. By a cruel twist of fate the winning team was captained by mr Steve Egglestone, the third member of our original Dream Team! Typical. But despite that, once again it had been a superb day - one of my favourite days of the year. And I'd managed to raise £100 for the Conservation Group, a figure I was amazed at. The money will certainly be put to good use. Roll on next year!


Thursday, 6 January 2011



For the first day of the New Year, I decided to stay local and see what birds I could get for my Sunderland Year List. First place was Cox Green, where a Long Tailed Duck had been seen for the last couple of days. I picked it up fairly quickly, along with a nice pair of Goosanders. Three Jays were in trees on the opposite side of the river, and a nice selection of common birds were picked up in a half hour stay. Next stop was Chester-Le-Street park, where unfortunately I missed the Mandarin thats been around lately, but a Scaup in amongst the Tufties and a Whooper Swan with the Mutes were a nice consolation. Off next to Sedgeletch, which was very quiet. The bright spot (apart from a male Great Spotted Woodpecker flying just over my head!) was easily the outstanding views of the resident Kingfisher hunting just yards away from where I was standing. The final port of call was the now world famous Rainton Meadows! Its been in the spotlight recently because of the big mixed flocks of Redpolls that are wintering, including possibly up to four ARCTIC REDPOLLS! When I arrived there was already a small gathering of birders, including the Foghorn and Paul Hindness. They had seen the Redpolls just minutes beforehand and confirmed that a couple of Arctics were still around. Shortly after my arrival Derek Charlton arrived and within minutes the Redpoll flock returned. All eyes busily scanned. Lesser Redpolls were abundant, and a nice amount of Mealy's very easily stood out. And even better, a single ARCTIC REDPOLL was picked out, surprisingly easily! This was my very first Arctic Redpoll, so I was absolutely delighted. I was enjoying great views through my bins when Derek gave me the chance to look through his scope. What a little stunner it was!!! The flock came and went three or four times in the hour we were there, giving us all satisfactory views. A nice bonus was a flock of 20+ Waxwings flying overhead. Myself, Derek and Micky Heron then decided to see if any Long Eared Owls were in their usual spot. After a brief search we found one individual roosting and had nice views. At this point it was getting dark so we decided to call it a day. The only real disappointment was missing out on the resident Bittern(s), but hey, theres the rest of the year to go!



Well the New Year got off to a very frustrating start when my computer picked up a nasty virus and had to be taken away to be repaired! But I've finally got it back and things can go back to normal.