Early August took me and two of the offspring out of the UK on a grand low carbon train adventure through Brussels, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Uppsala before retracing our steps back via Berlin. Ostensibly a family holiday and opportunity to acquaint my twin teens with independent travel by rail at the same time as visiting several European capitals that were new for us.
Whilst not a ‘birding trip’ I’m always birding, I’m normally a bit city-averse but I stuck the Leicas in my rucksack and just kept my eyes open from the train and whilst we did all the tourist-stuff. My trip list was nothing to write home about but i have some snapshot avian highlights committed to memory.
A lone Great Crested Grebe on the Binnenalster, Hamburg, oblivious to the Gay Pride celebrations surrounding it. Watching over 100 Common Swifts at eye level hawking at dusk from a balcony overlooking the Amagerbro district of Copenhagen and discovering an adult Red-necked Grebe on a local park pond nearby. A Sparrowhawk calling loudly in flight over big cannabis bushes in the Free Christiana commune (again Copenhagen).
Stockholm’s Baltic Gulls and feral Barnacle Geese the backdrop for a trip down memory lane in the Abba Museum. White Storks, Common Cranes, many Red Kites, single Osprey and Marsh Harrier and two early morning silhoutted divers on a mist-covered Swedish lake that were probably Black-throated all among the snatched moments imprinted on memory from the hours spent moving between destinations on the trains.
Packing a month’s work into the final two weeks meant that it was the 25th before I was next in the field back in the UK. A leisurely 1.5 hour seawatch that afternoon produced Arctic Skua, Roseate Tern and 31 Med Gulls as well as an obvious southbound passage of Shag. Four days later I finally caught up with a Cory’s Shearwater at Newbiggin as another individual was tracked up the coast and lingered distantly in a feeding flock a couple of km offshore. Hassled by two Arctic Skuas it was repeatedly forced into short flights that afforded scopable viewing opportunities.
September started well with a Wood Sandpiper at Bothal Pond, followed by decent counts of Black-tailed Godwit (52) and Little Egrets (11) at Castle Island on 2nd. An hour’s seawatch on the afternoon of 3rd afforded splendid views of a pale morph juvenile Long-tailed Skua skipping north at Newbiggin; seven Arctic Skuas and a Roseate Tern in the same hour plus a lone Northern Wheatear briefly in the churchyard.
Later on 3rd Bothal Pond had a mini-wader influx with Ruff and two Greenshanks joining the Wood Sandpiper. Back at Newbiggin in the evening I counted 150 Sanderling towards Beacon Point and scored another Northern Wheatear. Along the ash lagoon banks singles of Spotted Flycatcher and Pied Flycatcher and a Common Swift were all notable.
Two juvenile Curlew Sandpipers fed amongst 54 Dunlin at Castle Island on 4th, a small part of a good autumn passage for the species, locally and nationally. The ash lagoon banks held several common migrants that afternoon including 2 Pied Flycatchers, Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler and two Whinchats.
At Beacon Point on 7th four adult Roseate Terns in the roost, the following morning same site added another juvenile Curlew Sandpiper and a Whimbrel as well as my first couple of southbound Pale-bellied Brent Geese of the Autumn. I also nipped up the road to Cresswell Pond for the Great Egret just before the heavy rain early afternoon.
A couple of visits to Woodhorn Church/Pool between 10th and 12th produced three each of Spotted and Pied Flycatchers, 2 Common Redstarts and a Garden Warbler but the highlight by far was a huge passage of c 1,100 per hour of Swallows and House Martins moving south over Woodhorn on 12th. This movement was sustained over a couple of hours and included five Common Swifts.
A break away on the Angus coast between 13th and 15th was a refreshing change. Always birding there was a trickle of sightings such as Curlew Sandpiper, Osprey, Whooper Swan, three Little Egrets and Peregrine in the Montrose Basin area and a nice Red-necked Grebe off St Cyrus along with hods of Red-throated Divers.
Back at Newbiggin on 19th a four-hour seawatch produced 13 Arctic Skuas, single Velvet Scoter and Sooty Shearwater plus a deceent duck day with 600+ noted including a Pintail. Arrivals on 21st added Yellow-browed Warbler for the year at Newbiggin, another Pintail offshore and a pulse of 230 Pink-feet over south.
Two days later on 23rd I found a juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper at Bothal Pond, only lingering briefly before being flushed by an arrival of big gulls. The final week was quiet, several Sparrowhawks during journeys whilst ferrying the kids about and a half dozen House Martins still about Bothal Pond on 28th.