Tuesday, 2 October 2012


"Of or relating to the open sea" - Collins dictionary definition. Does a few miles off Flamborough Head on the Yorkshire Belle qualify? Well, it was good fun anyway. The recent easterly storm might have been expected to leave a few interesting birds in the North Sea, even though a westerly was blowing. However, it wasn't to be. A distant flock of Common Scoter, and about 16 Manx Shearwater were the highlights. Someone reported a Sooty Shearwater, and a Black Tern, but neither were announced over the tannoy, so I didn't see them. Chrys Mellor was throwing plenty of "chum" over the stern, which only attracted a multitude of Herring and Greater Black-backer Gulls. Skuas were remarkable by their complete absence. A few Manxies came within shooting distance, but even with a 500mm lens on a 1D Mk IV, it was pushing it a bit. The only compensation was the light, which remained good throughout the three and a half hour trip. If you want gull photos, this trip is for you (courtesy of the RSPB).

Juvenile Greater Black-backed Gulls (Larus marinus).

Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus).

Monday, 1 October 2012


Just had a few days on the Northumberland Coast, staying near Holy Island. I've good memories of birding there in my youth, so it was nice to have a chance to re-visit some sites and find some new ones. The wind was westerly at first, and Holy Island was quiet, but then all hell broke loose with the intense depression causing heavy rain and strong easterlies for a couple of days. I visited Hauxley where the sea was pretty rough. Three Bonxies and two Arctic Skuas in about five minutes, with plenty of gannets and Auks constituted a brief seawatch. An adult Little Gull was on the main pool, and a nice male Common Redstart was skulking in the undergrowth keeping out of the gale. Cresswell and Druridge were quiet. On Holy Island there had been a moderate fall of migrants, with Redstarts, Spotted and Pied Flycatchers, Robins and Song Thrushes in good numbers. Rarities included Wryneck, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Hawfinch and Yellow-browed Warbler, none of which I saw. Staking out an Arctic Warbler at the Lindisfarne Hotel proved fruitless the first time, but next day (after a cloudy night), it was still there, and good views were had by several birders. I got one or two poor photos of it.

Arctic Warbler (Phylloscopus borealis).

The whole coast is good. Bar-tailed Godwits were the commonest wader, and there were plenty of Curlew, Golden and Grey Plover, Knot, Dunlin, and even a few Sanderling. Three Short-eared Owls circling together overhead on Holy Island was a bonus, as was an Osprey perched on one of the posts along the old pilgrims causeway.

Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus).

Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata).

Pale-bellied Brent Geese (Branta bernicla).

Curlew (Numenius arquata).

I've always found Curlew difficult to photograph, but on a rising tide at Budle Bay, it's possible to park your car by the estuary edge and get quite close without disturbing them, using the car as a hide.

All photos were taken with a Canon EOS 7D and Canon 500mm F4 EF IS lens.