Wednesday, 27 July 2011


The weekend just gone proved to be an extremely busy one for me at Whitburn Coastal Park. Both Saturday and Sunday had early 5.30am starts but it was very quiet both mornings on the mound and we only Ringed a handful of common birds. I Ringed another Wren on the Saturday which is usually an absolute nightmare but this one was as good as gold! This species remains the only one that has escaped from my grip so far. If the nets weren't coming up with the goods, the birds passing out at sea more than made up for it. There was a superb variety of birds going past the coast, and we had some excellent close up views of some of our scarcer species. A steady stream of Manx Shearwaters were joined by a handful of Sooty Shearwaters, and a couple of Arctic Skuas were joined by a single Great Skua and even a superb Long Tailed Skua (below). It was only the second of these majestic birds I'd seen. Maybe even better though was the small flock of Storm Petrels that were feeding just offshore. As small as they are, at times they were surprisingly easy to pick up.
The bird nets may have been disappointing, but the moth trap was absolutely terrific. It had the largest amount of moths that I'd seen in the few months that I'd been visiting. There were over 100 Dark Arches alone! There were over 20 different species, my favourite being this Orange Swift Moth (below).
Paul Hindness from the Durham Bird Club had asked if our Group would be willing to help him out with a task he'd been meaning to do for a little while, so on Saturday afternoon 6 of us found ourselves giving the Whitburn Bird Observary a much needed makeover. It was a couple of hours of good honest hard work, but after a good clean and a lick of paint we had that place looking fantastic (below).

And finally, because there had been such a good passage of sea birds over the weekend we decided to have a try to catch some Storm Petrels on the Sunday night. We started to put the nets up at about 9.30pm and for the first couple of hours got nothing but a cold! Then eventually we started to see a bit of activity, and before long we had our first catch of the night. Its incredible to see these remarkable little creatures so close in the hand. They look so delicate yet must be so robust to survive all their life out at sea. Despite only Ringing two birds there were quite a few flying around and a few near misses. I'm sure in the coming weeks we'll Ring a lot more birds.

Thanks to Steve for the photo's!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011


Well, despite the fact that we agreed we wouldnt be having a holiday this year because we were concentrating on doing up the house, it seems we've only gone and sneaked a little holiday in after all. In the first week of september we'll be going to Portugal for our anniversary. Its somewhere neither of us have been to so we're both really looking forward to it. As its a nice romantic break I know I wont be seeing a huge amount of wildlife, but theres one creature that I am DESPERATE to see and its the above species of bird - the Azure Winged Magpie. Even if this is literally the only bird I see I'll still be delighted. If I get the chance to do a bit of wildlife watching I'll be very happy but the main focus of the trip is to spend time with Maria.

Saturday, 16 July 2011


Myself and John were back Ringing at Whitburn this morning after a couple of weeks doing different things. It was good to be home!!! Apart from a re-trapped Blackbird and a new Goldfinch they were all Warblers in the net today. Obviously getting ready for the long trip back to Africa. Seeing as we were back at Whitburn I was able to see what moths had been trapped overnight. Not a huge total but still seven new species for me; Dun-Bar, Orange Swift, Marbled Beauty, Lemke's Gold Spot, Straw Underwing, Coxcomb Prominant and a gorgeous Ruby Tiger Moth (below).

Sunday, 10 July 2011


This weekend I've had a very VERY rare weekend off from Ringing and Conservation work. It seems like ages since I've had the weekend to myself. Not that I'm complaining mind! Yesterday I had a lovely relaxing day with Maria. We didnt do a thing, just enjoyed each others company. Today though, I decided to make the most of things and had a bit of a mixed wildlife watching day. I started the day at Hurwurth Burn. As it was a lovely sunny morning there were quite a lot of Butterflies about. Seven different species were seen in total including my first Ringlet of the year. Birdwise it was pretty quiet. All of the Hirundines were flying over the water. On the water itself were quite a lot of families of birds including Shelducks, Coots and Great Crested Grebes. Waders were very few. A pair of Common Sandpipers were on the far shore and a single Green Sandpiper (below) was on the creek.
From Hurwurth I had my yearly visit to Wingate Quarry. As ever the target here were the Marbled White Butterflies (below). I was pleased to see that once again there were lots of these gorgeous creatures on the wing. Other species present were Large & Small Whites, Ringlet, Common Blues, Large Skippers, Meadow Browns and loads of Small Heaths.
I then had a drive to Saltholme. I cant even remember the last time I was down here! As expected a lot more birds were on show here, including 3 new birds for the year - Wood Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plovers & 3 Ruffs (below).
A quick look over at Dormans produced another new Butterfly for the year, a Grayling (below). Surprisingly there were absolutely no Dragonflies at all. On the pool there were three Little Egrets. Amazingly they were the first ones Ive seen in Durham this year!
I then went to an undisclosed site to see a creature that Ive never ever seen before, the Great Crested Newt. As I started searching the ponds I was very surprised at how quickly I spotted the Newts! At first it was just the juveniles on show but eventually an adult was spotted and I gleefully watched this for a good half hour. In total I spotted at least 6 juveniles and the single adult. This was an absolute thrill for me as Ive always wanted to see one of these creatures.
From here, I had actually planned to head home but a call from Steve put paid to that! He was at Lizard Point when he rang me, watching something that again I'd never seen before. He was watching a small pod of White Beaked Dolphins, and I had to go and see them!!! And so, possibly breaking a few driving laws on the way, I was at Marsden in no time at all. I quickly scanned the sea (theres a lot of it!!!) but couldnt see any cetacean action anywhere. Cack! But I didnt panic. These things sometimes require a bit of patience. And thankfully, my patience was rewarded. After around half an hour a Dolphin broke the surface, quickly followed by a second. Magnificent!!! I was absolutely ecstatic. I was getting superb views of a brand new species and it was right on my doorstep. This is why I love what I do!!!

Sunday, 3 July 2011


Souter Lighthouse was the host of the Countryside Festival today and our own Coastal Conservation Group had been invited to take part and put a stall out. Naturally, we jumped at the chance! It was a superb chance for us to get our ideas, plans and projects out to the general public in a fun, relaxing setting. The weather was extremely kind to us, as we were bathed in luxurious sunshine all day. I have to say, our little corner was decked out beautifully and we looked an extremely professional organisation. We'd gotten some banners printed off and made up a large notice board and we were all delighted with how it all looked. We adorned the notice board with all kinds of printed material explaining who we are and what we are up to, and this proved extremely popular with the public. It was a great interactive visual aide which myself and particularly Dougie used to great effect. We also took the opportunity to sell a few things to raise some funds for the group. We'd hand built over 80 bird nest boxes and bird feeders and sold them at a ridiculously cheap price. We also sold handy sized bags of bird seed, and a couple of us brought in some natural history books to sell. In total we made over £120, which we were really pleased with. Another thing we did was promote the work done by our local moth lads, and between Peter, Nick and Andy we had over 30 species of moth on show for the public to look at. Most people enjoyed the experience but some of the ladies were not too keen! Although there wasnt quite as many people as we were expecting we managed to get our message out to loads of locals and many visitors to the area, which was exactly what we wanted to do. We all thoroughly enjoyed the day and the experience and look forward to where this adventure takes us next!