August/September 2021

A period that saw my youngest start his sixth full season at the NUFC Academy and a post-covid resumption of full training schedule and games programme. Inevitably when combined with work and life birding once again became a little sporadic over the late summer/early Autumn.

A short trip to Aberlady Bay with the kids early in August was relaxing with (too much) good food. Odd moments of snatched birding produced a few Little Egrets and a reeling Grasshopper Warbler. Enjoyment came from warm evening walks filled with House Martins and Wall butterflies, the latter apparently on the increase along the East Lothian coast I later read. Lazy afternoons found us on the North Berwick beaches and rock pools with the odd Gannet and Shag passing the Bass Rock vista as we explored.

It was 20 days into August before I managed some sea-watching though a juvenile Long-tailed Skua south off Newbiggin Point went some way to compensate for the lack of activity in previous days. An adult Little Gull and a northbound Sooty Shearwater added further interest. Later that day Castle Island produced a decent count of 19 Little Egrets my highest ever count in Northumberland (others have had larger counts at Lindisfarne NNR), two Red Knot and six Ruff were the pick of the waders and two Mediterranean Gulls, always welcome here as relief from the 120 strong Great Black-backed Gull flock.

Back to Newbiggin on 26th a Black Tern and 10 Sooty Shearwaters were the best from three hours of gazing east. Another two and half hours on 2nd September produced a single Balearic Shearwater and two Sooty Shearwaters.

On 5th I travelled to an away game for the kid at Burnley so I used the journey to drop in to Swinsty Reservoir, North Yorkshire and Foulridge Reservoir, Lancashire during the journey down. Two Red Kites at the former and a single Ruff at the latter was scant reward for the effort.

Sunday 12th I took my daughter and a friend to Amble for the afternoon, I left the girls to enjoy some shopping and ice cream and had a short wander along the Coquet Estuary. Scanning through the regular low tide gull roost I managed to pick out Amble’s regular adult yellow-ringed (PKCS) Caspian Gull whilst further up river a colour-ringed Common Gull was above the weir. This individual turned out to be from Loppa, Finnmark, the first recovery of 88 ringed indivduals from that site. Seven years old this individual had managed a cool 2000km post-breeding journey to the Coquet, pretty impressive in my book.

Mid-September saw me off on a trip with my partner in a VW campervan around the Scottish coast loosely following the NC500 route. Not ostensibly a birding trip I did my best to pick out any quality from stops along the way. A 2nd-winter Iceland Gull on the river at Thurso was probably as good as it got (I toyed with thoughts of Kumlien’s Gull but the lack of tail band, at least some dark inner primaries and the shade of the emerging mantle all point to glaucoides to me) though an early morning Merlin making a low pass at the local Linnet flock at Murkle in the crisp northern air livened up the morning coffee and several Black-throated Divers still in summer plumage from high above Gruinard Bay on the southbound journey in the afternoon sun are always evocative.

Back to basics by 20th a Northern Wheatear at Bothal Pond was probably my last at an inland site in 2021. The following day an adult Avocet was among the Lapwings in the north-east corner and again almost certainly the last I’ll see inland this year. A Northern Pintail was also a decent duck for the local pond.

Two days later at Castle Island a drake Scaup lurked in the Tufted Duck flock and a swarthy juvenile Common Goldeneye was the first of winter and along with 167 Eurasian Teal a reminder that time marches on.

A good couple of hours around Newbiggin Moor on 25th brought little by way of rarity, 2 Northern Wheatears hung around the golf course boundary and 235 Pink-footed Geese made their way noisily south. Best bird was a hybrid Hooded x Carrion Crow; presumably not a first generation hybrid as it just has the ghost of the Hooded plumage pattern which despite me fluffing the images can still be seen.

A short stop to check field-feeding gulls near Longhirst Flash through up (another) adult Mediterranean Gull increasingly a regular sight in any local gull flock.

Back to Newbiggin on 28th three Northern Wheatears were the passerine highlight whilst a search through the thousand strong Golden Plover flock had me briefly excited with the bird below, which whilst head-tucked and half-hidden had me hoping for an American but turned out to be a pale European when it eventually revealed itself.

Later that day I called into the Hospital Pool, now partially drained due to the ongoing building work I suspect that 2021 will see it’s final demise and it won’t see another Spring. Disappointing as the Med Gulls have taken a bit of a liking to it since late summer.

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