Notice Board: the Honey-buzzard Season in Northumberland 2010 as it happened – Nick Rossiter

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Significant events in the Honey-buzzard season as it unfolds in Northumberland are given here. Seeing Honey-buzzards in their breeding areas is facilitated by reading about their jizz, knowing their calls and digesting the three recent BB papers updating Honey-buzzard identification (bottom of page). Listen to these wise words from a former prophet: “to try and identify them from plumage I think is a loser to begin with … you’ve got to identify Honey Buzzards from their shape and structure”. The Honey-buzzard is rapidly increasing as a migrant in Britain with particularly major movements in 2000 and 2008. Analysis of the latter is still to be finalised but a continental origin for the migrants appears very unlikely. The breeding status of the Honey-buzzard in Britain is surely less controversial than it was. Migration totals in the UK have soaredin the past decade and attempts to attribute these movements to a Scandinavian origin are in conflict with both 1) the underlying physics of broad-winged raptor migration, and 2) the actual details of the movements. The status of Honey-buzzard in the UK has been highly politicised, as in the climate change debate. The extreme secrecy of nesting Honey-buzzard was doubtedin the UK by the conspicuous birds at a site in Norfolk. Now these have been shown to be non-breeding birds, observers who thought they could simply go out and see one opportunistically will need to rethink their position. Reports by anybody (to nick.rossiter1 at btinternet.com) can be included: these will be strictly anonymous and will not be conveyed to any records committees.

You are welcome to the current season’s notice board at 2011.

January 31st 2011: the totals for 2010 for all raptors in the study area are shown below

Species

Study Area in SW Northumberland

Elsewhere in Northumberland

Tyne & Wear

Tetrads

Records

No birds min

Priority (1=highest)

Tetrads

No birds min

Tetrads

No birds min

Common Buzzard

73

154

188

6=

8

13

0

0

Kestrel

65

104

110

6=

4

6

0

0

Honey-buzzard

46

127

141

1

2

2

0

0

Sparrowhawk

24

39

35

6=

2

2

0

0

Hobby

14

16

21

2

0

0

0

0

Goshawk

13

19

19

3=

0

0

0

0

Red Kite

7

14

14

3=

0

0

0

0

Merlin

3

4

4

5

2

4

0

0

Hen Harrier

3

3

3

6=

0

0

0

0

Osprey

2

2

2

6=

0

0

0

0

Peregrine Falcon

0

0

0

6=

0

0

0

0

Analysis of Records for Raptors collected by NR in Northumberland in 2010: ordered by number of tetrads in which found, then by number of records, then by number of birds.

Kestrel strongly rebounded from their poor season in 2009 to almost become the most widespread raptor for the first time. Common Buzzard numbers have been very stable over the last few years. Honey-buzzard continued their slow increase but Hobby, the other recent colonist, apparently continued to struggle to make any further advance but coverage in May was less complete than in recent years; numbers in autumn appeared to be normal. The Red Kite was the major disappointment of the year with low counts matched by evidence of poisoning incidents with carbofuran. For the first time no Peregrine Falcon were recorded, a tribute to the zeal with which ‘keepers pursue this proscribed species.

Slaving away on anpa paper – trying to resolve it tomorrow in Durham; should be in Hexham for t. Will make W for quiz nite provided editor doesn’t put on immediate guillotine! Evidently Burns’ nite didn’t attract many diners so quiz could have gone ahead last week. Did make Hexham for lunch: as ever the gfff looked very beautiful!3 Booked Cleo in for vaccination on Friday afternoon in Hexham. So that’s the end of ‘2010’; ‘2011’ starts 2moro.

January 30th: good walk from 11:30-16:45, repeating 11/12 Beldon Burn from Baybridge to Heatheryburn and back, a distance of 12km, climbing from 280-430m asl. Got quite a lot of piccies to catch up with. Weather was bitterly cold near the top but not so bad at base. Had 13 species in Baybridge area, 10 at Middle Plantation and 8 at Riddlehamhope, showing effect of altitude. Only raptor today was a 1w female Sparrowhawk at 10:00 charging spectacularly through garden at Ordley. Processed Kestrel data for 2010 today – much up on previous year; tomorrow it’s Common Buzzard to complete matters. Fascinating and inspirational conclusion to day!7Will sleep well! Tomorrow it’s lunch in Hexham; Tuesday to Durham to see Mike; Wednesday walk with Nick at Chipchase and Thursday unn for meetings. But schedule’s not that punishing! faswtgo!3

January 29th: almost completed final results for all raptors in 2010 in study area; most startling result is the zero score for Peregrine with not a single one seen the whole year, a ‘tribute’ to the zeal with which they are sought by ‘keepers. Have seen one this year though so that one must be first in area since 2009. Hoping to wrap everything up for 2010, other than annual return to Natural England and Tanzania trip, by 31/1; then can start a new notice board with a much smaller file size. Well football match did not go as hoped but very amused to see Crawley described as giant-killers. Perfect weather for winter hedge-trimming this morning and almost completed internal hedge. Had lunch at A’s as reward – there’s another very fine pair there!2 Pleased didn’t book up stay in Morocco, had been on my mind! Tomorrow forgetting the hedge and it’s a long walk up the Beldon Burn, doing 2 atlas squares. Should make N for t and will definitely make G for g as nitecap!2

January 28th: well 1.5 days work this week at unn is quite a strain! But managed to sort out final corrections for Libyan student so he can resubmit final version on Monday. The gffflooked very desirable, wonder what’s she’s thinking!3Exchanged some tickets at Sage for period when away and had lunch at Baltic. W was good, 5 of us out and must say cdoes have a beautiful pair!2Added part 4 of review of review to main index page, concerning suppression of my techniques for running the Honey-buzzard survey. After a furious exchange of opinions in spring 2006, post-review matters stalled as had many other things to deal with as partner was diagnosed in May 2006 with aggressive mantle cell NHL. Tomorrow it’s hedge-trimming in morning, A’s for lunch and then it’s the big match with the Gulls at home to conference side Crawley for a place in the 5th round of FA Cup! Neither side has got that far before. Investments flat on year so far; far from an increase in interest rates, think we’re awaiting QE2 to fend off serious further slump. The recovery in mid-2010 must have benefited considerably from QE1. Still purchasing the odd share in Ireland on dips (now have 440,000 shares in one property company) but main thrust remains junk bonds with virtually nothing in UK equities.

January 27th: very busy day at unn and also going in tomorrow afternoon for further meetings but will make N mid-morning!Much later to W. Great concert at Sage with Tchaikovsky 3 which completes his 6 symphonies in live performances for me. Good to meet j on late train!2Made A’s late-on – it’s a hard drinking den!But cheapest g in normal haunts!Day ended on a high!7 xxxxxx!!

January 26th: sombre funeral with Abbey packed. Fitted in an hour of hedge-trimming in afternoon; 2 more such sessions will complete the internal hedges around the orchard and veg bed. Then there’s the roadside. Quite a lot of work on anpa paper this evening and into unn tomorrow for meetings all day followed by MP/Sage in evening with Nick. 2 lovely dark-haired beauties, gfff and rhb, in the town showing well in 2 visits!2 Hope to get back to raptors on Friday.

January 25th: busy working on anpa paper for which deadline for final submissions is 31/1 – always last minute, seeing Mike on Thursday at unn and at Durham next Tuesday (know it’s 1st February but there’s normally a little lassitude!). Did start hedge trimming but rain stopped play conveniently after an hour – good exercise! So went into Hexham where gfffwas looking good with radiant dark hair-style!! Further good exercise was obtained later!6Tomorrow going to Paul Beniams’ funeral at the Abbey at 11:00: never good to appear on p.2 of the Courant – had many great chats with him on birds of prey at the library. Perhaps more hedge trimming in afternoon but definitely G for g at t.

January 24th: completed table below summarising migrant Honey-buzzard seen in 2010; always very interesting seeing how they move! Next up is summaries for 2010 for all raptors other than Honey-buzzard, Hobby, Red Kite and Goshawk, that is Common Buzzard, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk and the rarer species, such as Peregrine Falcon, and ones I don’t study directly, such as Merlin. Made Hexham at lunchtime – the fascinating gfff‘s very, very s.xy!! Not quite so confused after little more analysis! 2moro into Hexham in the afternoon some time after hedge trimming; no quiz nite at W so might make G instead! Thursday nite sees clash of 3 things: concert at Sage, JLAF and t&s; think choice is Sage but will be back for late drink in Hexham at A’s!

January 23rd: added below final totals for 2010 for Honey-buzzard in text form and started on migrant observations with those for 3 male and 2 female done below and details for 6 juvenile to follow. Had good walk at Killhope doing 10km in 4 hours over the 2 tetrads NY84-B and NY84-G; there was an exciting concentration of Siskin (110 birds) and Common Crossbill (12) in an area of forest with many Sitka Spruce cones. Only raptor today was a Sparrowhawk over Hexham Abbey as finished shopping at Waitrose at 12:20. Good to see aagain at N; G saw some lively crack! Pretty confused by another matter! Tomorrow got to give some feedback on PhD corrections but should make Hexham for lunch!

Date Time Locality Age/Sex Count Movement
August 25 11:40 Ordley (Devil’s Water) Adult male 1 Soared on and on effortlessly up into the clear blue sky and then drifting S
August 26 13:10

 

Dotland (Devil’s Water) Adult male 1 Came off a nearby wood and did not think it was going to emigrate as while it was very steady, it did several hangs looking down, but finally it soared on and on, eventually drifting off S. He’s put on a lot of weight as usual in pre-emigration mode, perhaps losing half his weight by time he reaches the wintering grounds. These departures are done solo – no calls or interaction with the family below! Always think it’s rather moving as they make the last turn and finally push off, passing through the base of the clouds: Africa here I come!
September 3 14:50

 

Bywell

(Tyne Valley W)

Adult male 1 He took off and very patiently soared on and on and then glided off high to SW. Once he’s got going in a thermal he does not do a single wing flap for over 4 minutes
September 16 14:55 Barhaugh

(upper South Tyne)

Adult female 1 floating very high just under the cloud cover to S; certainly not a male as relatively heavy and presumed to be a female on flight ability; possibly a Scottish migrant
September 17 14:50 Dukeshagg

(Tyne Valley E)

Adult female 1 After lunch made Dukeshagg from 14:05-15:20, where waited 15 minutes for a female Honey-buzzard to emerge and fly high above the site. After a lot of encouragement, 2 quite weak-flying juveniles finally came out of the canopy and did some practice flying from 14:40-14:50 with the female still well-up. Satisfied with their progress the female then proceeded to leave, soaring on and on into the clouds and disappearing to the S

September 25

13:45 Slaggyford

(upper South Tyne)

Juvenile 1 anticipated the sunshine moving SW at moderate altitude; because of the moderate N wind behind, it periodically circled to keep control of its speed, finally disappearing over the Grey Nag. Birds are wary of being carried away in strong following winds.

September 25

15:30 Eals

(upper South Tyne)

Juvenile 1 another found, first flying on the edge of the moor and then briefly lifting above the canopy, mobbed by a Raven. This bird was not advanced so doubt it was bred locally (as they were fledged a while ago) and consider it a migrant on a feeding break (resting). This site, the first colonised in the county, is very rich for the species and does support migrant birds deep into the autumn (twice into November).

October 2

14:35 Bywell

(Tyne Valley W)

Juvenile 1 coming in at moderate height from the N over Newton and moving low-down into Short Wood, Bywell, presumably to rest and feed. Didn’t see it again.

October 10

16:40 Eals

(upper South Tyne)

Juvenile 1 arriving high from the N, greeted by a reception committee of 2 Jackdaw. Unperturbed it slowly turned and, losing height gradually, moved towards Lambley Viaduct. So think this is a Scottish bird which may have been held up by the poor visibility of the last few days but was now decisively moving S

October 23

12:45 West Dipton Burn

(Devil’s Water)

Juvenile 1 mobile flying E at low altitude for c2km before coming down in woodland by the Devil’s Water. The birds from here will have migrated long ago. So suspect this is yet another Scottish migrant from a late breeding attempt resting on passage.

October 30

15:20 Eals

(upper South Tyne)

Juvenile 1 The bird soared to a moderate height but did not emigrate – thought to be a late-bred bird from Scotland resting on passage.
Summary/

Comments:

         
Aug: 2

Sept: 5

Oct: 4

11-12: 1

12-13: 1

13-14: 2

14-15: 4

15-16: 2

16-17: 1

upper South Tyne: 5

Devil’s Water: 3

Tyne Valley W: 2

Tyne Valley E: 1

 

Ad male: 3

Ad female: 2

Juvenile: 6

11

 

IN: none

OUT: 6 S, 2 SW, 3 resting

Most records are for migrating juveniles, hence late in season from 25/9-30/10; but also 3 males 25/8-3/9 and 2 females 16/9-17/9 Most records this year in afternoon, particularly 14:00-15:00 but this may reflect observer activity upper South Tyne was most rewarding this year; it does appear to be a popular route for Scottish-bred juveniles Juveniles are weaker fliers, so more obvious A typical total In autumn birds went mainly S with 2 SW; this year 3 resting juveniles were found including 2 in upper South Tyne

Visible Migration Movements noted for Honey-buzzard in SW Northumberland in 2010

Final totals for Honey-buzzard for 2010, with 12/12 nests done in round 3/3, 41/41 final site visits for fledging and all checks made, are: Allen 8 sites, 14 adults (7 male, 7 female) 2 nests (Norway Spruce, Oak) 5×2 2×1+ 1×1 juv fledged; Devil’s Water 6, 10(6,4) 3 nests (Norway Spruce, Scots Pine x 2) 3×2 3×1+ juv fledged; Tyne Valley west 7, 13(8,5) 3 nests (Scots Pine x 2, Norway Spruce) 5×2 2×1+ juv fledged; Tyne Valley east 4, 7(3,4) 1 nest (Scots Pine) 2×2 1×1+ 1×1 juv fledged; upper South Tyne 6, 10(6,4) 2 nests (Birch, Norway Spruce) 3×2 2×1+ juv fledged, 1×0+ juv but occupied fledging; lower South Tyne 4, 6(4,2) 3×2 1×1+ juv fledged; and Derwent 6, 9(4,5) 1 nest (Scots Pine) 3×2 3×1+ juv fledged; giving grand total 41, 69(38,31) 12 nests (Scots Pine 6, Norway Spruce 4, Birch 1, Oak 1); juv fledged: 64+ at 40 sites = 24×2 14×1+ 2×1. Also 1×0+ where breeding activity apparently noted into fledging period but no juveniles seen/heard. Confirmed breeding 40, probable 1; site at probable level in upper South Tyne. Presumed migrants 11: 3 male 25/8-3/9, 2 female 16/9-17/9, 6 juvenile 25/9-30/10.

January 22nd: piccies from upper South Tyne on 19/1 include views of Thinhope Burn from Kitten Tom, Barhaugh Burn from W and Slaggyford from Kitten Tom. Access land entrance was not easily navigable; you can see the back of the sign on the gate. But then it’s a confused situation as I wasn’t on a marked public footpath getting to the moorland edge. Climbed over another gate to get onto the access land and a little while further on found these traps. They’re legal if run properly but not very savoury. This is a crow ladder trap which works by allowing the birds to close their wings and drop in though these wires; the bird is then trapped as it has to open its wings fully to escape back up. The traps are often baited with carrion, usually lots of dead rabbits, shot by the ‘keeper. The risk is that a bird of prey will get trapped and be shot or die through the trap not being checked regularly: the traps are then being operated illegally. This is a Larsen crow trap: when a bird lands on the perch it sets off a trigger to slam the door behind it. Again not legal if catches birds of prey, which are not speedily released. It has to be said though that the local population of Common Buzzard is very high (although only one seen today but not good time for visibility) so there are no indications that the traps are being used in anything other than a legal way to catch corvids (Carrion Crow/Magpie mainly), which after being trapped are (sadly) despatched. But what happens to Raven? Felt rather uneasy particularly with access restrictions, which are always a bad sign. Walkies on the moors, anyone?? Today went to Wylam from 12:15-13:50 to look for Red Kite – none found. But did get an adult male Kestrel and a 1w Sparrowhawk, plus a flock of 35 Fieldfare. Wonder if Red Kite got through the bad weather OK but also did not see any Common Buzzard and they’re hardy enough. Could view 2 Honey-buzzard sites both on N side of Tyne: established and new in 2010. Think there’s scope for a 3rd site S of river, even quite close to Prudhoe as for example this wood matures. Black ip song came to mind!! Piccies to follow. Then got back to Hexham – met the attractive gbs showing well!! Finally A’s for late lunch, which always enjoy, and catch-up with the FT! Sadly no sign of gsff!! About to publish part 4 of review of review: these things (turning the knife!) are best taken slowly. 2moro doing 2 atlas tetrads in Killhope area on the moors followed by t at N and later g at G!

January 21st: finally checked out unresolved October video, resulting in this one of Mandarin Duck at Black Park (Pinewood Studios with Ring-necked Parakeet calling in background) on 15/10 and another of juvenile Honey-buzzard at Eals on 30/10. Latter is much more important for these pages though the Mandarin are prettier! The material (748) and account for the Honey-buzzard is given below on 30/10. Result is to increase total for Honey-buzzard migrants to 299 for the year; can now publish summary of 2010 migration in Northumberland. Quite a sociable day – met l and j in N at lunchtime and the gang (+c) at W later. Discussed at W internet charges abroad. Checked out the Orange dongle before left and quoted €3 a MB – scandalous since even normal surfing without any downloads can use 0.5-1 MB a minute and no default usage limits applied. Hotel in Berlin charged €3 an hour on broadband wireless connection: not bad as on own laptop within the limit can several times pre-prepare messages and other material offline and then login, paste everything in, send, refresh pages and logoff again. Five hours purchased lasted whole stay. 2moro it’s walk at Wylam/Prudhoe mid-morning for kite followed by A’s for late lunch.

January 20th: timed train perfectly at Riding Mill, coming down onto platform as it rolled in, much to admiration of waiting passengers. Actually hard frost overnight, took ages to clear car and forced through Hexham by icy conditions so not entirely planned! Pleased to see rhbbetter organised and on time!! Next trip is to Andalucia, my favourite part of Spain: wild and beautiful! Have been pressed hard to go on an even longer trip to America in May but declined: is it the counter-attraction of Honey-buzzard in display or of other delights in the Tyne Valley?? Had Common Buzzard at Widehaugh, Hexham E, this morning and Tawny Owl late at night at Loughbrow, plus Song Thrush singing at unn. Evening exceeded expectations: she’s so utterly inspiring!!!!! 2moro lunch in Hexham, luxury f&c+mp for tea at Priestlands and nitecap at W!

January 19th: long walk today in Barhaugh Burn, near Slaggyford, walking to the wood at the top of the burn. Weather was very good for time of year with sunshine that you could actually feel, only a light W breeze and no snow, ice or frost. Not many birds around though, just 17 species in all but including 2 Black Cock, a displaying Red Grouse, an adult male Peregrine Falcon hunting last named and a Common Buzzard. Did find a rather sinister bird trap and entrance to access land has deteriorated further. Piccies to follow. Having early nite after long soak in bath – Berlin is catching up with me! It’s 4 weeks to the big trip. The rhbis a sensuous licker!! The gsfflooked very beautiful!! Tomorrow back to t&s as usual!

January 18th: on main site added national Honey-buzzard migrant counts from 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000 under Trends. These were extracted from the Birdwatch/Birdline system that preceded the Birdguides initiative; 1997 is omitted as I did not have the Birdwatch magazines to hand; 2000 has benefited from the very close examination of this major movement. Clearly it is useful to plot count against year to see what trends emerge. Five plots have been produced to date as in this pdf. A is a simple plot of annual total against year without any transformations; B shows a break-down of the count by season as spring (April-June), summer (July) and autumn (August-November); C is an attempt to put a smooth line between the annual counts, including the two exceptionally high counts in 2000 and 2008; D shows an 8-year moving average of the counts, the figure 8 being chosen to include just one peak year in each average; E shows a 3-year moving average of the counts with the peak years 2000 and 2008 ignored. The count for 2008 is subject to revision when the analysis is completed. The trend in numbers is clearly upwards and some more discussion will follow. For the moment though note the steady pattern (2000 and 2008 excepted) both annually and by season, much more indicative of a species breeding in the UK than a passage migrant where much more erratic figures would be expected. Good lunchtime with rhblooking very appealing and gsff very stimulating!! Went to quiz nite much later at W: ended up at Slaley with rural entertainment! No quiz nite next week as Burns nite. 2moro it’s walk on the moors for atlas and G for g at t! Into unn on Thursday as usual.

January 17th: back in Edinburgh from Berlin late afternoon: Ryanair are very punctual and flight came up over Derwent Reservoir and winking lights of Hexham! Earlier today went to DDR (old East Germany) Museum at Alexanderplatz, which was rather subtly facetious suggesting for instance that Germans were so law abiding that if they wanted to invade a railway station in a revolution they would buy a platform ticket first! Went to Berlin Zoo yesterday before the opera: animals were fortunately in fairly considerate surroundings and saw Tiger, Lion, Jaguar, Polar Bear and much else. Weather was very good for time of year at 8ºin sunshine. Tannhäuser at Deutsche Oper was epic and that gives full set of Wagner’s main operas live: the music and singing were very moving. The 1st act set in Venusberg has much dancing in the nude, but it all seemed very natural, which it is of course!! Ending was the norm for Wagner with the lovers both dying but gaining redemption in the process, clip here. A marvellous audience: not many go to Wagner’s operas to be seen — they go to enjoy the entertainment. Wine at Deutsche Oper was half the price of that at Staatsoper: €4 for 0.20l against €4 for 0.10l; don’t know whether these are special Wagner prices! Back to Schiller Pub to finish things off. Finally on 17/1 made Hexham at 22:20 where some signs of activity! 2moro it’s Hexham for lunch and W for g and going to start preparing annual returns for Natural England for Honey-buzzard, Hobby and Goshawk. Also prepared some more historical migration totals for Honey-buzzard from 1996-2000 and some statistical analysis which will publish soon.

January 15th: busy day learning all about the tragic and harrowing history of a people at Jüdische (Jewish) Museum, Berlin, and making one of the 2 main opera companies, Staatsoper at Schiller Theater, in the evening but for an orchestral concert. Music was very good including Beethoven’s Eroica but atmosphere a little rarefied. Think we’re regarded variously as bohemian or greens, both of which are strong radical groups. Found great pub after concert at back of Schiller, which was very bohemian: indeed still going strong when left at 01:30! 2moro kick off is 17:00 with 3:30 running time and perhaps 4:30 elapsed: flyer here! Wish us luck! Speedy return follows: looking forward to seeing the gorgeous ones again!! xxxxxx!! Think the gwshas something of the teutonic about her!! Here’s a bit more from African trip in February 2010, covering the Kenyan hub:

25/2: made final trek N on train from London KX at 11:00, getting home at just after 15:00. Quick visit to Hexham, which showed what I’d been missing!! Might try a bit of Guinness later: been missing that as well but alternatives are more obvious. Indeed did make t&s to meet colleagues including leader; very good chat! Uploaded from Africa trip 253 HD clips and 39 stills from Sony camcorder totalling 25.0 GB and 1916 stills from Canon 400D camera totalling 6.68 GB. Both the camcorder and camera performed brilliantly during trip under harsh operating conditions at times in terms of dust, heat and humidity. Elderly laptop I suspect was affected by power fluctuations; fortunately all active files were backed up on a flash drive (aren’t computing scientists boring!).

24/2: taxi driver who’d driven me in on 17/2 said he’s be there to pick me up at the hotel and he was! Had an African Goshawk on way out of Nairobi to the Airport. Sacred Ibis were breeding in colonies in Acacia trees on the main road to the Airport. Plenty of Yellow-billed Kite around but obviously could not say whether new birds or not. Tense wait as on stand-by for boarding flight VS672 but joy when not only put on but upgraded to business class. So could really relax, eat well and sleep on way to London Heathrow. Came in mid-evening and went to stay with my elder sister in Ealing, which was very handy and could tell her all about it.

Sacred Ibis, Nairobi, stills 1  2  3.

23/2: early start for return trip from Ngorongoro to Nairobi; up at dawn to capture dawn chorus from lodge veranda including gruff calls of Verreaux’s Eagle Owl. Raptors were scarce in cool of early morning on section from park to Lake Manyara with just 3 Yellow-billed Kite and a Eurasian Hobby; on the road there was one dead Grant’s Gazelle. Raptor numbers were much higher mid-morning on next section to Arusha with 4 Wahlberg’s Eagle, 2 Black Eagle, a Brown Snake Eagle and 4 other types. We stopped at Snake Park where saw hundreds of snakes, not so keen on them really, give me the creeps! On this section there was a run-over adult Spotted Hyena and a squashed thin grey snake, where we stopped for a short break. At Arusha parted from my excellent guide and his 4wd, gave him a just reward and got on the Riverside Shuttlebus for return to Nairobi. Tinted windows didn’t help the search and no more raptors in heat of day from Arusha to Namanga, just on Kenyan side of border. Not much better from Namanga to Nairobi with just an Augur Buzzard and another Brown Snake Eagle but look-out may have been a little jaded as whole trip from Ngorongoro to Nairobi took 14 hours! Dark when made Nairobi and a fleet of taxis met us, insisting we did not try walking across the city even though hotel only a few blocks away. Only too happy to take the comfort and a few minutes later arrived again at Sixeighty Hotel, where had good dinner and catch up with Internet at café. Kenya had very good Internet facilities with 3G services even out in the countryside in some places. Tanzania had very extensive 2G facilities, reaching just about everywhere but no 3G even in towns.

Dawn chorus including Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, Rhino Lodge, Ngorongoro, video 1.

Augur Buzzard, N of Namanga, video 1.

18/2: early start for Riverside Shuttle bus from Nairobi at 07:00; took taxi from hotel to bus station. Bus itself was very smart but road was terrible, full of potholes, and it was a right bone-shaker taking about 7 hours in all to Arusha in Tanzania. Added Wahlberg’s Eagle, Pale Chanting Goshawk and Eurasian Hobby (yes our own Hobby!) to list before stop at Paradise, still in Kenya but near border, where had a Honey-buzzard flying into trees in montane woodland with much exposed rock and lush vegetation. The bird, thought to be a rusty-brown female, was gliding down into thicker shrubs/trees, rather like in Kruger Park in South Africa. Another Honey-buzzard, a male, was overhead at Paradise. The countryside on the Kenya side was non-park so not protected and no wild animals seen; bird-life was also much sparser than in parks. The 2 transits in Kenya had yielded 72 raptors of 10 species, including 2 Honey-buzzard, with one more visit to come. Running total for trip is 630 raptors of 39 types. Before Paradise and about half-way from Nairobi-Namanga, had a scare as road blocked by bus stuck in mud but after break of 30 minutes journey resumed as the other bus was hauled out! Border at Namanga did produce a scare: they insisted on US dollars for the visa fee and I didn’t have enough but a couple of lovely Aussie girls exchanged some of their dollars for my pounds, albeit (deservedly) getting the better part of the bargain! On Tanzanian side struck by rush of Eurasian raptors: Hobby, Common Kestrel and Montagu’s Harrier. Some good views were had of mountains N of Arusha, particularly of Mount Meru (4,565m asl, 9th highest mountain in Africa). Once in Arusha bus station met by tour company with safari vehicle and taken to Hotel Jacaranda in lush surroundings. Still recording overnight with an owl calling with clear tooting at 02:00, thought to be an African Wood Owl. Next day the safari started, with a long visit to the soda lake, Lake Manyara.

Honey-buzzard, male, Paradise, N of Namanga, still 1.

Honey-buzzard habitat, N of Namanga, video 1, stills 1  2  3  4  5  6.

Bus off-road, halfway Nairobi-Namanga, stills 1  2  3.

Bush habitat, halfway Nairobi-Namanga, stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7.

White-browed Sparrow-weaver, N of Namanga, stills 1  2  3  4.

Peak N of Mount Meru, Arusha, stills 1  2  3.

Mount Meru, Arusha, still 1.

African Wood Owl, Arusha, calls (wma) 1.

January 14th: son arrived yesterday evening and today visited a place with some very old things in it (Paragon Museum, much very early stuff from Babylon), a bar in the lively Potsdam Platz with over 120 beers on the menu including g and a restaurant in same area. Added 3 species to list: Rook, Goldfinch and Wren. A little warmer, up to 10ºbut rained softly all day; almost all ice melted now and some birds such as Hooded Crow quite fruity, celebrating end of very cold spell. 2moro sees warm-up event at 20:00 leading to the massive one! Honey-buzzard and Hobby do both breed around here, indeed the latter is a speciality, but none back yet. Love to all, particularly those that matter!! xxxxxx!!

January 13th: here are the results for the big one and the main focus of the study: Honey-buzzard. This is simply a tabulation, with some limited summarisation, of last running totals below. It was again a very successful season with at least 64 young raised by 40 pairs confirmed breeding. The aim for 2010 of covering 2 more sites intensively, one in Derwent and the other in Tyne Valley E, was achieved with single nests found in each area. As these were both in Scots Pine, this has now become the favoured tree, being used in 6/12 sites. The habitat, largely maintained by game interests, is thought to be perfect for Honey-buzzard and once again there was no evidence for human interference. All areas were equally productive. Note no post-breeding gangs were seen in 2010, rather surprising perhaps after the large number in 2009 but think I was concentrating mainly on mopping up last few upland sites for fledged juveniles. Most would-be observers fall short on the all-important jizz! Today dawn at 08:10 local time, 8ºmaximum, dull but dry, ice slowly thawing. Walk in wild animal garden (Tiergarten) produced 30 species, with 5 tits including Crested and single Goshawk (first-winter) and Common Buzzard. Crows are mainly Hooded but the odd one looks like Carrion. Toured local parliament offices (Reichstag, arguably the ruling house in Europe) and a gate (Brandenburg, very symbolic). Son is joining this evening. Keep fit!! xxxxxxxx!! faswtgo!!! Just say all meant entirely!!!

Area

No. sites

No. adults

No. nests

Breeding Category

Number young fledged

Gangs of juveniles post-breeding

Nests found in

Conf

Prob

Poss

Devil’s Water

6

10

3

6

0

0

9 (3×2, 3×1+)

0

Scots Pine (2), Norway Spruce

Allen

8

14

2

8

0

0

13 (5×2, 2×1+, 1×1)

0

Norway Spruce, Oak

Upper South Tyne

6

10

2

5

1

0

8 (3×2, 2×1+)

0

Norway Spruce, Birch

Lower South Tyne

4

6

0

4

0

0

7 (3×2, 1×1+)

0

Tyne W

7

13

3

7

0

0

12 (5×2, 2×1+)

0

Scots Pine (2), Norway Spruce

Tyne E

4

7

1

4

0

0

6 (2×2, 1×1+, 1×1)

0

Scots Pine

Derwent

6

9

1

6

0

0

9 (3×2, 3×1+)

0

Scots Pine

Total

41

69

12

40

1

0

64 (24×2, 14×1+, 2×1)

0

Scots Pine (6), Norway Spruce (4), Oak, Birch

Results for the Honey-buzzard Breeding Season in Northumberland by area in 2010

January 12th: worked up annual totals for Hobby and Red Kite as shown below. At Edinburgh by 09:30; snow still lying here even close to coast. Hexham was very quiet at 06:00. Arrived 17:20, snow lying to 4-5cm, some ice flows on river, temperature 4ºC, dusk falls about 15:20 GMT. Just 2 species so far: Carrion Crow and Jackdaw. Missing the lovely duo already!! xxxxxxxx!! Red Kite data below is from my own records with 3 sites occupied in the breeding season at Wylam, Stocksfield Burn and Styford. The Wylam birds bred successfully but evidently nested just over the border into Gateshead: I’ve counted them still as Northumberland birds because they spend a lot of time hunting here and do not want to indicate that they’ve disappeared. As published earlier the Stocksfield Burn birds were confirmed as breeding by others but were poisoned before the chick could fledge. The fate of the birds at Styford is unknown but a pair were over the wood there on 10/5. I saw just one bird in the Devil’s Water but 2 birds were found poisoned here. A very depressing picture: let us hope that the game interests are sufficiently embarrassed by the incidents to stop using carbofuran and other illegal poisons.

Area

No. sites

No. adults

Breeding Category

No. Juveniles fledged

Post-breeding sites

Conf

Prob

Poss

Devil’s Water

1

1

0

0

1

0

0

Allen

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Upper South Tyne

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Lower South Tyne

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Tyne W

2

3

0

2

0

0

1

Tyne E

1

2

1

0

0

2

0

Derwent

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Total

4

6

1

2

1

2

1

Breeding Data for Red Kite in SW Northumberland by area in 2010

The Hobby is such a difficult species to survey, capable of keeping a very low profile and apparently being quite mobile from year to year in site selection. This year the number of sites was down slightly but productivity appeared to rise with at least 8 juveniles fledged and breeding confirmed at 7 sites, including 2 where food was seen being carried in by adults. The number fledged is undoubtedly an underestimate as the Hobby sites are covered less systematically than Honey Buzzard sites. Mobility is shown with only 7 sites being apparently used in both 2009 and 2010. The preference of the Hobby for moorland fringes was again more marked this year with 9 of the 13 sites situated very close to heather moors. The stronghold remains the upper South Tyne where 5 sites occupied and at least 4 young fledged. Tyne Valley W was the next best area with 3 sites occupied and breeding confirmed at one. I’ll give a back-handed compliment to game interests here: the Peregrine is on the black list and few are seen but at least the Hobby are recognised as such and indeed flourish on the edge of their range in ideal habitat. Many birdwatchers really struggle with separating Hobby and Peregrine, because they are fixated on plumage. There would have been more sightings in spring I think if I had not been absent so much in Devon with ailing mother.

Area

No. sites

No. adults

Breeding Category

Juveniles

Conf

Prob

Poss

 

Local-fledge

Also seen

Devil’s Water

1

1

0

0

1

0

0

Allen

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Upper South Tyne

5

5

4

0

1

5

0

Lower South Tyne

2

1

1

0

1

2

0

Tyne W

3

4

1

2

0

1

0

Tyne E

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Derwent

2

2

1

0

1

0

0

Total

13

13

7

2

4

8

0

Breeding Data for Hobby in SW Northumberland by area in 2010

January 10th: here’s the piccies from walk to Asholme Common on 5/1. First deep snow high-up to W/SW on views to Cold Fell and Grey Nag; second deep snow to S/SE on views to top of Whitfield Moor and Coanwood Common; third Glendue Burn and nearby Honey-buzzard site; and fourth looking back to car from Asholme Common. A rapid thaw today with rain tonight washing all the lying snow away. A Common Buzzard was up in territory over West Dipton Burn at 14:00 – marvellous, sensing milder conditions ahead! Also had a flock of 10 Brambling at Ordley. So it’s Torquay v Crawley for a place in the last 16 of the FA Cup: at least they’ll understand each other! Busy tonight reading German student’s final PhD draft – hope he’ll be 3 in a row and no.10 in total. Finishing off minor corrections for Libyan student at unn tomorrow afternoon. Met Kevin at optimum place in Hexham: moving mother over from Cork! N was good, met jand a! But favoured one, on new schedule, topped the bill: wer inspiriert dich am meisten!!! 2moro Hexham for lunch and G for t but latter a little late as have to organise the mouse-catcher.

January 9th: doing now annual totals for raptors in study area starting with Goshawk below. Yesterday’s trip to Newcastle with Nick was very good. Leisurely meal at MP where s.xy Russian unn student wants to see more of me! Girl of the Golden Westwas very compelling, more a music drama following Wagner than a traditional opera with staged arias. The work was premièred at New York Met exactly 100 years ago so it was quite an emotional event particularly as it is one of the few top-line operas with an American story (the gold rush in California). The lead role Minnie was played by Deborah Voigt who’s pretty busy as she’s also doing Brünnhilde in May in Wagner’s Walküre in same series. She has a fantastic voice: she used to look like the classical Brünnhilde but has lost half her weight after medical treatment! Came back on late bus through Prudhoe; thank g.d someone runs a late service. Wonder whether we could meet ½ way!!! Freezing rain last night so ice all over the place and 4-5 cm of snow at Ordley by breakfast (10:30!). Some of my mates will not be happy with the Gulls knocking one-division higher Carlisle out of the Cup! Liked this comment from Carlisle supporter: “Rubbish! Beaten by Torquay sums it all up”. Today catching up with various things but will make N for t and G for g! Thought for today: are nightdresses really essential? But love the wild hair!!!!! 2moro it’s Hexham for lunch; making G for t next day this week only as W too late for plans! xxxxxx!! faswtgo!!!

Summary of Goshawk data by area for 2010 is shown below. Pattern and results are (depressingly) similar to 2009 with confirmed breeding at only 3 sites in vicinity of Eals, Blanchland and Wylam. The species is very secretive but the recent poor results in the Tyne Valley do give an indication of the uphill struggle faced by Red Kite. It’s an ill wind that blows no-one any good and the low population of Goshawk is a claimed asset to Honey-buzzard, upon which the hawk preys. But Honey-buzzard bred successfully at all 3 sites at which Goshawk bred!

Area

No. sites

No. adults

Breeding Category

Juveniles

Conf

Prob

Poss

 

Local-fledge

Also seen

Devil’s Water

1

2

0

1

0

0

1

Allen

1

1

0

0

1

0

0

Upper South Tyne

1

1

1

0

0

1

1

Lower South Tyne

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Tyne W

3

2

0

1

2

0

1

Tyne E

1

1

1

0

0

1

0

Derwent

1

1

1

0

0

1

0

Total

8

8

3

2

3

3

3

Breeding Data for Goshawk in SW Northumberland by area in 2010

January 7th: here’s some stills, taken with the Canon camera, from 704 visit, including 3 to show preferred habitat with secluded access through overgrown glades and much bracken underfoot; and mature timber giving space between trees for ease of navigation. Six down feathers were found near nest 1  2  3  4  5 as well as a tarsal feather, 8 patches of splash 1  2, a Woodpigeon kill and a number of other Woodpigeon feathers. Also here’s a still of the star butterfly in recent local colonisations – Speckled Wood. Added 704 visit to Birdtrack – great relief, all nest visits documented now! Visit to Hexham was very rewarding: gr8 to see the ultra-dynamic gsff!! Celebration lunch lasted from 14:00-17:00 at an Arab restaurant in Fenham – not a bad way to spend a raw January afternoon! 2moro it’s Newcastle again at New Tyneside Cinema, preceded by MP. Should make Hexham for lite lunch. Next additions will be stills from atlas walk on 5/1. Almost final revision to season totals with 704 analysis showing 2 juveniles present rather than 1+ in the Tyne Valley west site:

Totals for Honey-buzzard to date, with 12/12 nests done in round 3/3, 41/41 final site visits for fledging and no visits left on which to complete analysis on computer, are: Allen 8 sites, 14 adults (7 male, 7 female) 2 nests (Norway Spruce, Oak) 5×2 2×1+ 1×1 juv fledged; Devil’s Water 6, 10(6,4) 3 nests (Norway Spruce, Scots Pine x 2) 3×2 3×1+ juv fledged; Tyne Valley west 7, 13(8,5) 3 nests (Scots Pine x 2, Norway Spruce) 5×2 2×1+ juv fledged; Tyne Valley east 4, 7(3,4) 1 nest (Scots Pine) 2×2 1×1+ 1×1 juv fledged; upper South Tyne 6, 10(6,4) 2 nests (Birch, Norway Spruce) 3×2 2×1+ juv fledged, 1×0+ juv but occupied fledging; lower South Tyne 4, 6(4,2) 3×2 1×1+ juv fledged; and Derwent 6, 9(4,5) 1 nest (Scots Pine) 3×2 3×1+ juv fledged; giving grand total 41, 69(38,31) 12 nests (Scots Pine 6, Norway Spruce 4, Birch 1, Oak 1); juv fledged: 64+ at 40 sites = 24×2 14×1+ 2×1. Also 1×0+ where breeding activity apparently noted into fledging period but no juveniles seen/heard. Confirmed breeding 40, probable 1; site at probable level in upper South Tyne. Presumed migrants 10: 3 male 25/8-3/9, 2 female 16/9-17/9, 5 juvenile 25/9-23/10. Still a few checks to be made!

January 6th: last clip from 704, showing male Honey-buzzard floating over site, seeing me off, before triumphantly gliding back into site. This is a feature of the males: let the females defend the nest and I’ll escort the intruders off the premises once all is sorted! Calls are adult Common Buzzard. Derived stills are here 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10. A nice bird on which to finish the processing of breeding season video. Full day at unn with a lot of progress on paper with Mike from Cambridge meeting last August. 2moro will make Hexham for coffee before going into unn for lunch. Will be back later for W! Absolutely amazing!!!!!

January 5th: yet more on 704, honest just one more batch to do on the adult male. These clips shows the nest in Scots Pine with a little down blowing, a few more calls (audio file) and in turn a sequence of adult Common Buzzard, juvenile Honey-buzzard and female Honey-buzzard. Derived stills are for female Honey-buzzard 1  2  3  4  5  6  7, juvenile Honey-buzzard 8  9  10  11  12 and adult Common Buzzard 13  14  15  16. Did do winter atlas walk from 13:30-16:05 on Asholme Common, Whitfield Moor, getting up to 447m asl: absolutely perishing in bitter W wind with the odd snow squall. Think it was 0ºC in air with wind chill making it more like -5ºC. Had just one species – Red Grouse; the grouse were very upbeat and counted 31 of them! Only raptor was a Kestrel at Melkridge. Piccies 2moro. Recovered after good crack and infusion of g at G and hot bath with inspiration from the walk through Hexham!! The rhblooked very delectable and lovely to see the beautiful gsffagain!! Into Newcastle 3 days running with Mike tomorrow and Libyan student’s celebration on his PhD success on Friday, both at unn, and opera HD transmission from New York Met on Saturday with MP before. Last is Puccini’s La fanciulla del West known better as The Girl of the Golden West. Bound to be tragic! Out on the town of Hexham tomorrow evening!

January 4th: a lot more calls from 704, this time an audio clip with almost a perfect alternation between calls of Common Buzzard adult and Honey-buzzard juvenile. The Common Buzzard calls are much sharper than the Honey-buzzard ones, which are more whistled and mellow. Also from the same original video, here’s a short clip showing in turn the angry Common Buzzard adult close-up (with angry exchange with Honey-buzzard half-way through), the 2nd juvenile Honey-buzzard in brief appearance (with derived stills 1  2  3  4) and the nest in Scots Pine, complete with recent addition of vegetation. A longer clip shows the Common Buzzard continuing in anger mode, with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14; stills 1-3 show fine barring with 5-6 thin bars across the remiges, short tail and the state of moult with P1-P7 new and P8-P10 growing or missing. This next clip shows the female Honey-buzzard gliding back into the site with clear juvenile call just after she exits from view, with derived stills 1  2  3. Almost finished now for 704 but there’s at least one more clip to process of a close-up male Honey-buzzard. Did a lot of work on bathroom with filler, looking better! Hexham was sociable at lunchtime and good to see the rhbagain!! Made W for quiz nite – very chatty; staff complaining about revenue, need more teams that knock it back!! Looked for shooting stars after pub, getting nice warm feeling!! Just past Newbiggin on way home had a strange animal on road like an enormous stoat, think it was a pine marten. Had a flock of Curlew (perhaps 10) moving NE at home at Ordley in dark at 19:00 – perhaps another group of birds returning to regular wintering area. 2moro planning atlas walk on Whitfield Moor for midday with G later for t. Thursday back into unn for full day, seeing Mike in afternoon with lunch at Baltic!

January 3rd: here’s first three clips from visit to Honey-buzzard site just W of Hexham on 31/8 (704). First shows juvenile flying over canopy and trying to hide behind it, a very common Honey-buzzard ploy; derived stills including 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12 show yellow bill and 2 bars on remiges. Second (audio) is a recording of juvenile Honey-buzzard anxiety calls. Third shows 2nd juvenile with shorter P10, greyer head with absence of brown on upper chest and more pronounced carpal mark, with female floating overhead at end; derived stills including 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12 show 2nd juvenile in stills 1-5 and female in 6-12. Hope to see more of the most lovely gsffthis week!! Shopping was again enlivened by the attractive gbs!! Lively visit to N with both aand lpresent, latter showing me her Japan album!! 2moro looking forward to Hexham for lunch and maybe W later!! xxxxxx!!

January 2nd: did do winter atlas tetrad at Carrshield from 14:00-16:30, getting 9 species, including at dusk hunting Barn Owl and Woodcock out to feed. Also had a Common Buzzard sitting on the same perch at Smallburns through the entire visit. Moors were frozen hard with some drifts; here’s view to Killhope Law from Wellhope Moor, a shot of the old Wellhope mine, a still of lying snow on the moor and view of Cross Fell from Wellhope Moor. Good exercise, shaking off lethargy from cold spell! In addition had other owls during the day — 2 Tawny Owl (Ordley 07:15, Sele 18:25 and 24:15 (3/1)) and a Barn Owl (Stublick at 16:45) – and a Kestrel at Catton. So day total was 6 raptors of 4 species: 2 Tawny Owl and Barn Owl and single Common Buzzard and Kestrel. A sizeable flock (50?) of Pink-footed Goose flew NW over house in Ordley in dark at 19:00, presumably not off to Iceland but restoring wintering position after easing of conditions. Video 704 is proving to be interesting, showing 2 juveniles present rather than 1+. The main message is that, for maximum excitement, you have to approach the nest from every angle!!!!!

January 1st 2011: Happy and Prosperous New Year to all, particularly the s.xy duo!! Last raptor of 2010 was a Tawny Owl on the Lamb Shield interchange at 19:50 last night on way to d&c in New Ridley Road where, in good company, saw 2011 in. Today p&j were doing the honours in Riding Mill – their bird tables are amazing with 6 Tree Sparrow and 3 Brambling the highlights; we went for long walk to Row House, Broomley, getting 32 species in mild weather including 2 Common Buzzard and a Kestrel close to location of the poisoning incident. Pleased to see the former surviving! Discussed area with bee-keeper who keeps some hives; good for bees and other insects because of extensive oil seed rape plantings; such plantings must benefit Honey-buzzard as well whose site is shown here with rape in foreground. Oil seed rape is a popular crop in the Tyne Valley and may be an important ingredient in the success of birds at lower altitude. A new private sign — justified as long as they don’t mean me! Another very good day socially. Missing a couple j&i who’ve been virtually snowed in in their house above Allendale since 18/11! Suspect that country properties at the end of long tracks might not be so saleable this year though suppose they will still look idyllic in May. We’re now in 2nd winter atlas period so may do a tetrad tomorrow on the moors at Carrshield, returning to Hexham for t and much later to G for nitecap! xxxxxx!! faswtgo!!!

December 31st 2010: end of calendar year but not end of raptor year, which goes on another month or so to collect annual totals. A Sparrowhawk at Houtley on way in at lunchtime was last diurnal raptor of year. Really, final data from 686: found near nest 3 body feathers, 31 down feathers 1  2  3  4  5  6  7 and 4 patches of splash 1, plus view of site 1. It’s time for stock-taking on investments — realisable total value up 45k on year, roughly 10%, not counting inheritance which more cautiously putting into OEICs; not bad but hung on too long to UK financial equities and lost some of gains at half-time in second half. Go into 2011 banking on very slow recovery continuing, hence high-yielding bonds preferred, but with some play on a financial recovery in Ireland. Basic investment strategy is that of a vulture circling distressed assets: can never be accused of buying at the top. Actually hold 0.063% of an Irish property company with total assets of €240m and liabilities not much less: might get on the board soon! Anyway DYOFR! The gorgeous rhb looked very smart on parade!! Still one site visit to process — 704 on 31/8 to wood W of Hexham; hoped to do it today but no time!

December 30th: quite a lot of mopping up for 686 (21/8, further information below on 22/8, 23/8 and 25/8) but very useful in that it yields sound recordings 1  2 of juvenile anxiety calls, the juvenile in a further extensive flight clip with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12 and the juvenile in flight with anxiety calls and one derived still. The capture of these calls appears to be original! There’s also a brief clip of the female following the juvenile away from the nest site and a short clip of the nest in Scots Pine with one derived still. Some down did fall from the nest during the visit as can be seen in the clip. Finally there’s a short sound recording of the hunger cries of juvenile Common Buzzard. Still some stills to process from here. Today went in afternoon to Prudhoe to Dukeshagg where still taken of Honey-buzzard site. Had 22 species here including 2 Common Buzzard and a Tawny Owl. Later did Stocksfield Burn where had heartening spectacle of a pair of Dipper with one singing S of Guessburn and another Tawny Owl calling. Yet another Tawny was calling at Ordley later when getting fuel in. Good to see the lovely rhband a!!Mates did not go out in evening but can’t stay in on Thursday night so late-on went to t&s and A’s: amazed in latter to meet the very motivating starting priceswith a beautiful pair from a local store!! Hopes were raised elsewhere but very sadly did not materialise! Think leggy brunettes are my fetish!! Year-end tomorrow – going to Stocksfield for supper and to see 2011 in! But earlier will be in Hexham!

December 29th: here’s clip of Honey-buzzard juvenile at Eals flying over heather near Towsbank (734, 25/9). Many stills have been derived 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21 with 1 and 2 showing broad barring on secondaries. Other features are the pale plumage on the underside of body and wing, dark head, long tail and a missing inner primary on each wing. Completed analysis of 685 (Wylam, 20/8) with no new multimedia material but added totals of signs below the nest to account below on 21/8: 27 down feathers, 4 heavy patches of splash and 3 Woodpigeon kills found. Also clarified Honey-buzzard records as: 2 adults, both calling with anxiety calls, and female seen coming off nesting area; 1 chick calling from nest with chicken call. There is though one important result: the chicken call of the juvenile confirms that at least one juvenile fledged here so that increases the Tyne Valley E to 6+ juveniles raised at 4 sites and, also taking into account change at site near Stocksfield (6/12 below), updates totals as follows:

Totals for Honey-buzzard to date, with 12/12 nests done in round 3/3, 41/41 final site visits for fledging and 2 visits left on which to complete analysis on computer, are: Allen 8 sites, 14 adults (7 male, 7 female) 2 nests (Norway Spruce, Oak) 5×2 2×1+ 1×1 juv fledged; Devil’s Water 6, 10(6,4) 3 nests (Norway Spruce, Scots Pine x 2) 3×2 3×1+ juv fledged; Tyne Valley west 7, 13(8,5) 3 nests (Scots Pine x 2, Norway Spruce) 4×2 3×1+ juv fledged; Tyne Valley east 4, 7(3,4) 1 nest (Scots Pine) 2×2 1×1+ 1×1 juv fledged; upper South Tyne 6, 10(6,4) 2 nests (Birch, Norway Spruce) 3×2 2×1+ juv fledged, 1×0+ juv but occupied fledging; lower South Tyne 4, 6(4,2) 3×2 1×1+ juv fledged; and Derwent 6, 9(4,5) 1 nest (Scots Pine) 3×2 3×1+ juv fledged; giving grand total 41, 69(38,31) 12 nests (Scots Pine 6, Norway Spruce 4, Birch 1, Oak 1); juv fledged: 63+ at 40 sites = 23×2 15×1+ 2×1. Also 1×0+ where breeding activity apparently noted into fledging period but no juveniles seen/heard. Confirmed breeding 40, probable 1; site at probable level in upper South Tyne. Presumed migrants 10: 3 male 25/8-3/9, 2 female 16/9-17/9, 5 juvenile 25/9-23/10.

Tomorrow hope for a bit more stimulation from another angle!! It’s N for lunch and t&s for nitecap!! Saw son off this afternoon – will see him next in Berlin! Must book the cat in.

December 28th: analysed trip to Slaley Forest on 14/8 (681). Here’s video 681, already published below on 14/8 giving full details of visit, with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6 of female Honey-buzzard in lively flap-flap-glide action; she gave a faint long call at 17 seconds in. Another clip, not previously published, was taken of the nest in Scots Pine. The Common Buzzard were interesting at this site, nesting close to the Honey-buzzard in Norway Spruce. Here’s a clip of the nest on 26/6 (644) with derived stills of a marching juvenile (a young bird not yet flying but which is on the branches outside the nest) 1  2  3  4  5  6. Plucking posts 1  2 were found nearby on roots of fallen trees, containing much rabbit fur. A still was also taken of the nest showing the down and splash around it: Common Buzzard are less hygienic than Honey-buzzard! By the visit on 14/8 the plucking posts still showed some remains 1  2 but the nest was looking a little neglected with few signs of splash and down. At this stage the Common Buzzard will have been fledged around 4 weeks while the Honey-buzzard still have 7-14 days to go typically giving a 5-6 week difference in the timing of fledging. Also, as part of mopping up for year, processed video of 2 Sparrowhawk juveniles at Parson Shields, upper South Tyne, on 25/9 up in playful active flight. Next up is visit to Wylam on 20/8 (685) where most of work already done (21/8 below) and close-up video of juvenile Honey-buzzard at Eals on 25/9. Meal at W with son was good! He’s off tomorrow so it’s G for t! xxxx!!

December 27th: another trip analysed, that to Eals, upper South Tyne, on 15/8 (682). The young hadn’t fledged yet so the site was still very quiet: it’s not a gradual change from mid-season secrecy to late season conspicuousness but a very rapid change about 1-2 days before fledging when the adults start patrolling nervously. Did get 2 anger calls on second pass through site on way back to car, presumed from female as defending nest, plus one other call (below). Very agitated Jay were also calling at this time. Nest is quite small, in a birch tree with some oak nearby which have been used instead on occasion. Think the birds would prefer the oak in some respects, such as height from ground, but the canopy of the wood at 180m asl is quite exposed. Here’s clips of nest, the wood, an owl-like Honey-buzzard call followed by that of a Jay and a Common Buzzard adult soaring over the wood. Stills include picture of part of wood used by Hobby and, near nest, some Honey-buzzard splash and two body feathers 1  2.

Visit to other site near Eals on 22/8 (687) also analysed. At least one Honey-buzzard juvenile was giving chicken-like calls but became silent when close enough to record them. Signs near the nest included splash 1  2  3, three tarsal feathers 1  2, two down 1  2, some further larger feathers to be analysed and a pigeon kill. Nest in Norway Spruce was very well hidden but visible with care from one angle. Also found in the area were these Common Buzzard primary (P5, emarginated, 320mm long) and tail (225mm long) feathers and this Sparrowhawk tail feather (190mm long). A video was taken of distant Hobby doing a spectacular dive back into the site opposite and mobbing a Common Buzzard. Pictures were also taken of two of the woods in the area – Towsbank and Parson Shields, both favoured by Hobby. At Ordley on 22/8 Cleo was looking very contented after doing in a Stoat on 19/8; pictures were also taken in the field at home of butterflies Wall, Small White, Painted Lady and Peacock. So that’s 4 visits left to process now from August.

Son arrived in good shape on Christmas Eve by train. Christmas Day was very indulgent – perfect! With daughter did go to church at Whitley Chapel in morning and for walk in afternoon to look at frozen Devil’s Water. Daughter grabbed this pony and burn was incredibly iced over 1  2  3 for a fast running stream. Went to Haltwhistle yesterday to see some old friends: had single Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Common Buzzard on the way. Booked up Berlin trip with son – nice to go somewhere warm soon (-10ºC maximum forecast this Thursday 30/12) – flying from Edinburgh. Flights, concert/opera seats and hotels very reasonable: it’s less expensive than going to London! Daughter left today to fly to LA tomorrow, son staying until Wednesday. River at Tyne Green, Hexham, above bridge was completely frozen over yesterday (26/12) and took some photos today: 1  2. Had 32 species on the walk but no raptors. Going to Welli tomorrow with son for meal and Wednesday will be back to old habits! xxxxxx to the gorgeous duo!!

Interesting poster publication from Meyburg added to references compilation. From satellite tracking of adult Honey-buzzard they confirm the SW route taken across Europe from Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, towards Gibraltar and Costa del Sol, keeping well away from North Sea coasts. They also show, on limited sample, that birds are site faithful both for breeding and over-wintering, latter with 4 in Nigeria and one each in Gabon, Guinea, Cameroon, the Congo and Liberia. So west Africa is favoured with just the one bird further S. Movements in both wintering and breeding areas, once settled, were restricted with maximum recorded distances from nests being 5.0km and 6.2km respectively. Home ranges of neighbouring pairs overlap to a great extent and aerial territorial conflicts are common. Over Germany a male was recorded flying at 190-271m asl making 343km in a day, 31/8, starting 2 hours after sunrise. Another male flew 7,610km to its winter quarters averaging 167km a day over the whole route. Yet another male in 2010, crossing the Sahara, reached 1,703m asl at a flight speed of 60 kph with fastest times over the desert of 72 and 76 kph.

December 23rd: hope to publish 689 clips later – an interesting set with close views of both adults and 2 juveniles (pale + dark). That will leave 6 trips in late August to go; aim to finish by end of year. So here they are: first clip from 689 at Warden on 25/8 of male in fast glide showing typical jizz with derived stills 1  2  3 (this one already published below 30/8); second clip of same male flying over and in hanging mode with derived still 1, the hanging mode is very characteristic with the bird alternately spreading and closing its wings; third clip of female in powered flap-flap-glide mode with derived stills 1  2  3  4; fourth clip of pale juvenile hanging low-down over site with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8 showing some hint of broad barring over remiges; fifth clip of dark juvenile floating over site with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7. Think the dark bird is the younger one. For comparison purposes this Common Buzzard juvenile flew past during the visit, with derived stills 1  2. Just admiring bathroom (although few odd finishing touches needed) and bloody hot tap for bath delivers just a dribble. So tried dismantling it but completely seized up so into Hexham and Matthew Charlton to get new taps; after a little cursing new tap installed (and it works!). Lively pedestrian near Beales and like the hat!! Then to N where good to see aback! Daughter is driving up today and son is arriving by train tomorrow evening so not sure about plans. But expect to get out for the odd bevy! Still missing the gsff!! Think have got some of the right attributes for plumbing: strong wrists and a love of rummaging around in dark crevices! Daughter arrived safely, even after coming up A68! So 2 Fox now – how sweet! Some suggestions that I could be better organised so it’s extra shopping tomorrow morning but think should make N for lunch!

December 21st: had late walk from 14:45-16:10 on S side of Dipton Wood with 2 Honey-buzzard sites in vicinity 1  2. Had 21 species in all including 2 raptors, a Common Buzzard near home at Peth Foot and a Kestrel near Marley Cote Walls. Made Hexham late afternoon where the good-looking rhbwas stuffing herself!! Bought frozen turkey from Iceland and stuffed it into ‘fridge: it’s a carefully planned Christmas dinner! Made W much later and then did a bit of an owl survey: some signs of territorial activity!! Tomorrow will make Hexham for lunch with another walk in Bywell area later for kites! Working up rest of video 689 from lower South Tyne on 24/8. An interesting aspect of recent colonists of SW Northumberland is that of the Raven, which has a much more tenuous hold than say the Common Buzzard. Here’s the map from Birdtrack for records to date nationally for 2010 showing also an absence from the E of the county. xxxxxx to the gorgeous ones!! faswtgo!!!

December 20th: updated national totals for Honey-buzzard migrants for 2010; total of 23 for October gives 298 for year, the 4th best on record after 2008, 2000 and 2009. So 3 of 4 best years have occurred since 2008. Success in viva today for Libyan PhD student with award of degree subject to minor corrections – well deserved and very pleased for him! So that’s total of 9 successful PhD supervisions now with one more, from Germany, submitting very soon. Might take on 1-2 more in new year. Going into unn to see him tomorrow; think will have lunch on Quayside (Baltic). Today made Hexham for lunch – temperatures well below freezing all day – but lovely to see rhb!! The s.xy one’s still working away apparently!!

December 19th: scored with Red Kite at Bywell – still going with one bird looking territorial. Also really pleased to see someone else!! Report below – had 2 spells of fieldwork with break in the warm at RM – ideal; we’re meeting in W on Tuesday nite but visit to G now imminent! Interesting drive in, particularly down from Loughbrow estate where even automatic cadence braking was having no effect and car coming up, so steered onto verge to recover – no problems! Indeed road was covered with track marks all over the place on way back but a little softer. Booked Spanish holiday from roughly mid-February for 3 weeks: chose Estepona at end and moved up to 4 star hotel for half-board as seemed much better value. Flying from Newcastle-Malaga. Also got car – yes think it really is a Ka! But it’s a double bed so plenty of room for those with the right credentials!! Today was in vicinity of 2 Honey-buzzard sites 1  2. River Tyne had some ice flows on it 1  2, more to come over next 2 days at least. Privacy in area seems almost obsessive as witness this sign. Excessive privacy and illegal raptor persecution usually go together as there is something to hide. Will continue to visit the area to keep an eye on things! Had 23 species including Kestrel totalling 3 in Bywell area, a good count looking at the weather, and a Tawny Owl at Loughbrow so 5 raptors of 3 species for the day. Tomorrow it’s Hexham for lunch; need to celebrate the shortest day at 7 hours 9 minutes with altitude of sun 11.5º. Every day after 22/12 is now longer for the next 6 months: bloody marvellous! Wonder what those credentials were!!

December 18th: processed video 688 for Honey-buzzard site near Riding Mill on 24/8. Here are 2 clips: one of nest and the other of the male (with derived stills 1  2  3) doing a very quick spin just above the canopy mobbed by Carrion Crow. I’d forgotten that I’d taken this very short clip showing the actual bird; this pair is one of the most secretive in the study area. Three anxiety calls were heard during visit, none recorded and presumed to be from more timid male as bird was keeping distance from nest. Stills taken with Canon are for down below nest 1  2  3  4, a chick contour feather and the entrance glade to the site. Total findings below the nest in high Norway Spruce tree were 21 pieces of down, a chick contour feather, a larger white feather, 6 lots of splash and a Woodpigeon kill. The most dynamic clip from this visit was of the Hobby female and juvenile with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5 as published below (30/8). Earlier in the morning of 24/8 this Wall Butterfly was snapped at Ordley. Had lunch at Ant’s, cut down Christmas tree from far end of garden (Sitka Spruce) and removed old silicone from bath seal. Temperatures were below freezing all day but road is gritted well. Tomorrow afternoon going to see Philip in RM and will have a look in Bywell area for kites and the like! Much later it’s G for nitecap!

Fascinated by article on seasonal biology. Doesn’t actually underpin astrology but does suggest that there are different traits for people born in different seasons with babies born in winter having a higher susceptibility for winter depression, bipolar depression and schizophrenia. I’m a Capricorn!

December 17th: processed video 683 for visit to Honey-buzzard site near home on 16/8. Here’s clips of nest including approach and of anxiety calls (7 in all during visit). Stills include this one of the nest taken with the camcorder. Further stills, taken with the Canon camera, include nest, tarsal feather, down feathers 1  2, and splash (not to be confused with jizz!). The nest in Norway Spruce has been used for a number of years and is now vast, being built out along a large branch towards the bottom of the canopy. What appears to be a piece of chewed wax comb is on the side of the nest. Feather count on ground was 8 down, 4 contour and single tarsal and larger feather. Some splash was also found in same area. Suspect from evidence over next few days that this nest fledged young the following morning. This leaves just 8 visits to process now, all from the hectic fledging period 14/8-31/8. Enjoyed today; rhb fidgets enticingly!! Made MP at 17:30 where we were fetched out of long queue to table as befits regulars! Suspect that area’s gain might be my loss!! Sage concert included Elgar’s Cello Concerto, a very mellow piece movingly played by Steven Isserlis, who even had some groupies in the audience! But highlight for me was The Fencing Masterfrom Richard Strauss’ Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme – ott oom pah pah. Then for good crack to W which did not escape from until 00:30. Only a little new snow but amazingly cold (not very scientific!). faswtgo!!!

December 16th: here’s clips 701 for Honey-buzzard at Kellas on 29/8 comprising approach to nest, nest itself in Scots Pine and very brief views of juvenile up above canopy. It was very windy and juvenile did not last long up in the air; the pair of adults had been above it but also went back into the canopy. The nest shows what looks like a piece of chewed comb on side and the bark has been chewed off the trunk above the nest. Most obvious effect of the wind was the scattering of fledgling down with 44 small pieces on the ground close to the nest as recorded on stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8. A number of larger feathers were also found as was 7 lots of splash. More snow this morning to 5cm: turned over and had extra hour’s sleep. Into unn for practice viva from 12:00-14:00; all set! Back into Hexham just before close of play where dorsal views of the rhb!! t&s was very enjoyable – 5 of us! Tomorrow it’s lunch in Hexham, concert at Sage with Nick in evening preceded by MP and finally the W! Friday’s always busy. xxxxxx to the lovelies!! Common Buzzard hunting at Shilford in snow this morning was a welcome sight, very close to the Red Kite poisonings area.

December 15th: brisk walk of c8km in Killhope area (upper Weardale) from 11:30-15:30, climbing from 420m near Mount Pleasant to almost top of Knoutberry Hill at 669m. Did winter atlas count with grand total of just 5 species: 41 Red Grouse, 13 Jackdaw, 7 Pheasant, 2 Mallard and a Raven. Was originally going to Nag’s Head but didn’t look too promising and settled for Knoutberry Hill as could follow a ridge blown clear of snow almost all the way up. This was view from near top towards Nag’s Head and of ground towards summit, where stopped! Red Grouse were everywhere and quite perky! Didn’t see a soul – think this was due to the weather, not the inevitable misleading sign (it’s access land) which ignored. Back to Hexham for t at G: very good atmosphere with Christmas approaching! It’s the eyes that have it for the rhb!! Tomorrow it’s unn – just viva preparation for Libyan student at 12 but will be in before to Coffee Trader and after for leisurely lunch as Mike not coming in. Back to N for t and t&s much later. Pussy bought in Weasel on Sunday (12/12) – seems to have a great dislike for mustelids; think they’re in competition!

December 14th: not sure comments below (13/12) will be visible to people without Birdguides account so here they are as screen shot. Provisional total for raptors in Ethiopia from 7/2-17/2 is 558 of 35 types: incredible! Here’s the table with counts for each type by area. All the data will be added to the African Raptors page in due course. Running total by 17/2 would also include 60 raptors of 4 types in Nairobi with one type not found in visit to Ethiopia, Long-crested Eagle. So that’s 618 raptors of 36 types, including 2 Honey-buzzard, more of which were to be found later in the trip. Into Hexham after s&l came! Good to see the appealing rhb!! Perhaps need a change of policy!! It is G later and tomorrow doing final 2 atlas squares near Killhope (6-hour trip) in 1st winter period before getting into Hexham. ‘Kids’ are staying here for Christmas so that’s very nice! Forgot another trip next year – north Wales in early May for week with elder sister’s family; must find some Honey-buzzard there.

December 13th: diversion to the Red Kite situation in the Tyne Valley. Recent press releases Journal   Courant confirm that 3 birds found dead – 2 at Steel, Hexhamshire; 1 at Hindley, Stocksfield – were poisoned, with the 2nd bird at Hindley almost certainly in the same category. I had hoped that the poisoning could be attributed to misuse of rat poison because that’s easier to sort but an exchange at the end of the Birdguides article (under comments, exchange between NR and Mr Dick, retired RSPB crime investigations officer) shows that the poison involved carbofuran is illegal and is sometimes used by renegade gamekeepers to poison animals such as foxes by lacing a bait with it and throwing the bait in the open near where the animal patrols. It’s illegal because of its high toxicity and history of misuse: dogs and children are all highly vulnerable to it. So this was a shock. Red Kite are the most vulnerable to poisoning this way because much of their food is carrion. Honey-buzzard are the least vulnerable because they do not normally eat carrion. Common Buzzard are vulnerable to some extent but fortunately prey mainly on live rabbits and voles. The birds were found on land managed by Allendale Estates. A publicity scheme is planned for the Hexham area in January. Missing a lot the gsff!! Hope I always use abbreviations consistently!! 2moro no quiz nite so may go to G! Notes on movement back to Nairobi below and about to prepare totals for raptors found in Ethiopia.

17/2: had leisurely breakfast and then took car to Addis Ababa Airport for flight by Kenya Airways to Nairobi. Emptied pockets of birr so that son could get some lunch before his late flight to London via Jordan. Quite a lot of raptors around the airport: 10 Yellow-billed Kite, 3 Black-shouldered Kite, 2 Rüppell’s Vulture and a Western Marsh Harrier. Flight was smooth and landed in Nairobi late afternoon. Had booked into Sixeighty (680) Hotel, which was midrange. Taxi driver asked if I’d stayed there before and when I said no he laughed but refused to give anything away. It was a gaming hotel with the whole ground floor one big casino. So much night-life and plenty of bars but comfortable with good food. They had an armed guard outside the lift on each floor and when you wanted a taxi outside, they called one and checked it over before letting you in! Notwithstanding did go out for a couple of beers and locals were very friendly! On drive in from Nairobi Airport had 33 Yellow-billed Kite. Laptop collapsed overnight: didn’t think it a good idea to just ditch it so carried it around for rest of trip – what a bind! Slept well in middle of bustling city. Next day was bus trip to Arusha in Tanzania with start of safari the following day.

December 12th: working up video 701 (Kellas 29/8) where clear views of nest but baby down was the major find. Postponing field trip until Wednesday as onset of next blast from the Arctic delayed and want to keep spaced out! Almost finished bathroom floor – just one tile left, but what a sod that one is. Waitrose was packed at 16:00 so needed recovery time in N where good chat to aagain! Off to G for nitecap!

December 11th: healthy exercise today walking from 12:05-16:30 up Beldon Burn from Baybridge to Heatheryburn and back, a distance of 12km, climbing from 280-430m asl. Today was sunny and dry; snow has thawed very rapidly after heavy fall of last 2 weeks, but there were some residual snow drifts and ice. Came back in dusk and final walk down track was treacherous as it was glazing over again! Purpose was to do 2 tetrads for winter atlas on Durham border. Very familiar with area as it’s hot for Honey-buzzard. Had 20 species altogether in the valley including 11 Red Grouse, 2 Common Buzzard (clip of adult with 2 derived stills 1  2; I’m not having a pee while taking the clip!), and 6 Common Crossbill. Here’s views of 2 Honey-buzzard sites: first in Northumberland and second in Durham at twilight. Property spot is of fine old hunting lodge, in need of slight attention, but in beautiful setting. Tops near Heatheryburn looked very bleak. Keeping an eye open for Rough-legged Buzzard on every trip to the moors. 2moro aO in Hexham but may try and sneak last 2 winter atlas tetrads near Killhope on Monday. Invited to philosophy conference in Japan (Tokyo) at end of September: might well go, it’s timed just after end of our Honey-buzzard season and never been there before; may be some good raptor passage including Oriental Honey-buzzard! Flight takes 12 hours and costs c£740 but may be able to go standby! Feeling very stiff tonite!!

December 10th: completed processing of video 699 and here are 4 clips, first of female and male floating together, second of juvenile in low-level flap-flap-glide, third of male in flap-flap-glide followed by female and juvenile circling and fourth of male soaring followed by female and juvenile circling and one very rapid dive by male. All rather distant but typical behaviour with effortless floating, flap-flap-glide and one quick dive. Blanchland is on tomorrow: need some exercise and thaw has been very rapid! Today made N for lunch where good to see the gpsand had dinner at Philip’s in Riding Mill where sorted a few device drivers! Later the W where 7 of us and great to see chas escaped the sharks!!

December 9th: working up video 699 from Close House area near Wylam on 27/8 of 3 birds (male, female, juvenile). This is a new site and the closest to west Newcastle. Full day at unn: with 2 other PhD students finishing soon, chatting to colleagues about other ventures and dinner with a professor week after next. Made t&s as usual with 3 other workmates: good chat! Improving weather so planning trip to Blanchland on Saturday to cover 2 tetrads for winter atlas.

December 8th: pretty indulgent day with lunch at Angel in Corbridge with Nick, tea at G with the gang and dinner at W with m&s! All very good! Next quiz at W is 4/1. Coldest day so far with -9ºC the maximum at Carlisle, Tyne beginning to freeze over at Corbridge and no races at Hexham. But tonight wind is getting up, snow is blowing through the farm gates and it’s feeling a little milder already.

December 7th: catching up on recent trips, today went for walk along Tyne from Prudhoe-Wylam and back; had 32 species including no raptors but a star Lesser-spotted Woodpecker, first of year, in the willows along the Tyne. The inevitable Honey-buzzard site was near Wylam with fine views over the Tyne. Prudhoe was covered in snow: here’s N side of town and, culture spot, Prudhoe Castle where Umfravilles lived. Quite a few hungry Common Gull feeding around the town on the west road out! Yesterday 6/12 in walk late afternoon could see another Honey-buzzard site at Swallowship and this was view of Lea Grange, group of 3 houses where live, with mine on right. On 5/12 took this video of singing and feeding Dipper on Tyne Green, Hexham, with this view of the road bridge over the Tyne. St John Lee near Acomb at 60m asl is an old eagle site, dating back to 7th century AD when the monks occupied it. White-tailed Eagle is the likely candidate as the species. Did make Hexham for late lunch – id not sure of gpsin brief views but long, slender black legs and nice b.m support a positive view!! Had a shock when looked elsewhere but realised that was a very clear id error! Not even pre-migration stuffing could explain that! Pity dipped on the gsff!! W tonite! Quiz did go ahead but not many there. Tomorrow if Hexham Races are off going for lunch with Nick in Corbridge, then later G and W for meal with seditious Honey-buzzard team! Thursday it’s back to unn as usual with lunch out somewhere, maybe Grey Street!

December 6th: second clip from site near Stocksfield on 29/8 (702) shows much dynamic action with a family party of Honey-buzzard twisting, turning and diving and some fast action through the tops of the trees. Close inspection shows there are actually 4 birds involved – male, female and 2 juveniles (1 pale, 1 dark) and a Hobby also briefly passes through the action. The juveniles are advanced with feathers fully grown: not surprising as this is one of the first sites to fledge young. So this adds one to the number of juveniles known to have fledged this year, raising total to 62. Near the end a Jackdaw interloper is finally scared off with a steep diving chase. Stills were derived for male and pale juvenile 1  2, male and 1-2 juveniles 3  4  5  6  7  8, pale juvenile 9  10  11  12, 2 juveniles 13, female and juvenile 14  15, juvenile 16  17  18 and male 19. So HD video very useful for recording what was going on in hectic action. Taken a few stills off Stephen Fry’s Wagner programme: the two clips shown near Zurich are the same I think, with 1 and 2 from 1st clip, 3 and 4 from 2nd clip and 2 the same as 3. Still bemused that 2 of my strong affinities, Wagner and Honey-buzzard, should have an intersection like this! Had local walk in the snowfields today out to Dotland from 15:30-16:30, with one raptor a Tawny Owl calling at dusk and 15 species in all. Lunch in Hexham was very sociable. Tomorrow going to Wickes, W Newcastle, in morning to get some floor tiles, then having a walk near Prudhoe before returning to Hexham for late lunch. Should make W much later!

December 5th: first clip from secret site near Stocksfield on 29/8 (702) shows male diving, gliding and twisting, then same bird coming in from high and rousing female and then juvenile from the canopy below. Latter is very common pattern for post-breeding display. Derived stills are 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14. The male in the dive (stills 1-4) shows typical silhouette with long thin tail trailing behind and primaries at 90 degree angle to inner wing and typical plumage features with grey head and broad dark subterminal band to tail. Also posted some derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6 from video 697 below (taken 27/8, published 28/8) at same site. Walked along Tyne Green today in very cold weather but no ice on the river and had 23 species, including a male Kestrel and a singing Dipper. Made N where the delightful avery talkative but did some heavy lifting for her! Big day for Wagner with programme by Stephen Fry on BBC4 in which he presents an enthusiastic but reflective programme with some angst as he is of course a Jew. There are 2 shots of Honey-buzzard: interesting correlation! Watched it earlier on YouTube as now off to G but will have a look on iPlayer tomorrow. N for lunch tomorrow!

December 4th: still completing videos 697/702 for site near Stocksfield. So here’s another one (27/8, 698) with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6 of a juvenile flying down the Tyne Valley near Corbridge coming closer and closer. Primaries P7 and P8 appear to still be growing. The long neck, small head and tail are obvious as are the broad wings pressed forward. The bird initially is in the popular flap-flap-glide mode with the action becoming a more effortless floating as it comes closer. Steady thaw today and travel much easier. Made Ant’s for lunch and going to Queen’s Hall this evening for fur coat and no knickers, or something to that effect! Good evening in Hexham – play was very funny and also made t&s where met a few mates, including old boss AS and wife. Signs of dynamic life continued!! Road very icy on way back: anti-lock braking system on Fox is a definite advantage downhill in such conditions. With Ka you never knew what was going to happen! Wound down a trust fund yielding £11k each for sisters and myself. Added stills from Lalibela flight on 16/2. Tomorrow into Hexham for t and G for nitecap!

December 3rd: in initial trawl some good footage of Honey-buzzard family party near Stocksfield on 29/8, will publish soon (702). The last 10 days of August were so hectic with trying to locate the broods that some more good material may still be lurking. Made Hexham for lunch: roads softening up a bit but parking is a problem and chose Loosing Hill park, cleared well by council, over m&s. Delighted to see the lovely gps, hard at it!!! Where’s the gsff? Did make Welli – good to see jthere!! Slight thaw tonight. Back through Hexham where more signs of dynamic life!!

December 2nd: now processing material for Honey-buzzard from 29/8 including family party near Stocksfield. There are 11 trips to analyse now, all in Northumberland in August, including this one. Snow, 34cm deep yesterday, is now 45cm deep but intensity of fall is declining a little. Spent some time knocking icicles off gutters. Great concert tonight at Sage with BBC Philharmonic – all Russian music with Rachmaninov’s Symphony 2 the highlight. This symphony is subtitled Isle of the Dead but in true Tchaikovsky style while it has very sombre passages emerges triumphant: like most Russian composers Rachmaninov wears his heart on his sleeve. Again attendance down, even N didn’t go, but very enthusiastic support helped to balance things. ‘Shire road slightly better than yesterday, going straight up bank with no need to tack but it was very frosty coming back. Skipped mp as on own and went to old haunts O’Neill’s and Centurion! Guinness in former is £2.80, a bargain compared to G £3.10, W £3.25 and Centurion £3.30. Trains were almost on time; met j from RM going in – very good to see her again; she’s a soprano!! Received 1st instalment of £50k from solicitors in used fivers; not all assets including house realised yet. Tomorrow hope to make Hexham for lunch and Welli for supper. Continuing with Ethiopia:

16/2: culture tour finished, we went to Lalibela Airport to catch small plane back to Addis Ababa. It was all very leisurely in beautiful weather taking the whole morning (09:30-12:30) to get there and take off; met the French people again, dark-haired student c was the best looking women seen on the trip I think! Not a single raptor was seen at the Airport. The route was back through Aksum to Addis so we saw a bit of the countryside. Most was fairly treeless plain but there was one big forest, suitable for Honey-buzzard, as we came down into Addis. We got a courtesy car from Addis Airport back to the classy Jupiter Hotel for our 3rd night there. To make the most of the daylight we had a good walk around the Piazza followed by an Italian meal; might be surprised at latter but culture of Addis is quite Italian as it was occupied by them for a while when it was Abyssinia. Raptors included 41 Yellow-billed Kite, 11 Rüppell’s Vulture (8 to roost) and more surprisingly an Osprey flying low at dusk up the main river. Had 60 Nyanza Swift over the city and 2 Hadada Ibis. Then a marvellous soak in the bath dreaming of nice things from home!! Finally caught up with the internet both on hotel machines and on own laptop; latter was working for the last time, dust and vibration had presumably knackered it. Tomorrow son would be returning to England and I was flying back to Nairobi en route for Tanzania.

Lalibela Airport, stills 1  2  3.

Lalibela-Aksum-Addis Ababa, scenery from plane, stills 1  2.

Butterfly, Lalibela Airport, still 1.

December 1st: completed processing material from 26/8. Video already published (693, 26/8) shows a male Honey-buzzard exiting. Here are some derived stills from the video 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10. The structure of long tail and small head is classical and plumage is as expected with the grey head, complete solid black envelope to the wings, black confined to fingers and outer edge of hand and black subterminal bar to tail. Two new videos show birds at distance but jizz is unmistakable. Video 694 shows a male Honey-buzzard over Dipton Wood soaring to a moderate height, floating around a bit and then diving back into site. Video 696 shows a weak-flying juvenile up low-down over a wood near the West Dipton Burn with attendant male; after the juvenile goes back into the trees, the male flies off high to the E into the breeze, returning in triumphant flap-flap-glide towards the juvenile. This has gone down as 1+ juveniles raised; it’s quite possible the female is with another juvenile but did not of course see this. Didn’t pass the finger length test with index finger 82mm and ring finger 91mm indicating high testosterone level; actually whatever they say the literature as a whole is inconclusive and testosterone does have a lot of plus points but know this is a family weak point. On a more cheerful note La vendetta è un piatto che si serve freddo: part 3 of review of review is imminent! Did make G as usual in the car; took 40 minutes to clear drive and car, forced to zig-zag up hill from Newbiggin to Loughbrow to get traction but arrived safely and surprisingly journey back was easier. Well worth it for the crack: amazing how many offices (and N) closed in Hexham. faswtgo!! shgana!! 2moro hopefully going with Nick to concert at Sage with mp beforehand; will pop into Hexham on way through catching train from there for a change. No t&s anyway as lads away/won’t travel.

November 30th: processed material from walk at Warden on 23/11; here are 2 Honey-buzzard sites, first to W of Hexham is one where nest found and many recordings made this year (free tours available next year for some!), second on lower South Tyne is in deciduous trees. This still (from Nick) shows the territories they are using for food: typical continental habitat for the species with extensive woods on higher ground and fields below. Culture spot is Warden Church. Snow gets worse (30cm lying by early evening) but in cooperative effort with neighbours cleared drive to our 3 properties, made N in Hexham for lunch and bought a lot of supplies at Waitrose; alas not so stimulating though with shortage of the beauties!! This was view from front door this morning. Looks now like peak of snowfall is not over but will be reached tomorrow. To be done properly vengeance is quite a skill: don’t just kill them, make them suffer as you did! Dumas is well worth reading. Not going anywhere tonite; may walk in tomorrow to G to keep fit!

November 29th: completed material for 15/2 at Lalibela; next day 16/2 it’s flying from Lalibela Airport back to Addis Ababa. Had to admit defeat by snow today with depth reaching 24cm and no road clearing here. Rear of house looked like this mid-morning, field is unlikely to look green again anytime soon and conifers (on small moraine on edge of field) were spectacular! But line of snow does appear to be moving S at last so respite is surely at hand. Lack of distractions is good for bathroom (papered and ½ floor done) and for processing Ethiopia material but bad for stimulation such as the duo in Hexham!! Had 2 long chats on ‘phone with sisters to catch up with news. Got 5 trips planned abroad now for next year — Berlin (January, opera with son), Tarifa (February, any takers?), Greece (April, visiting Dimitris PhD), Tuscany (late July, nephew’s wedding) and Liège (August, cybernetics conference). First instalment from solicitors is imminent: hope it’s in time for Hexham races. Latest video from Gjs is Count of Monte Cristo: interested in vengeance!

15/2, Lalibela is one of the great wonders of the archaeological world with its 12th-century rock-hewn churches under the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian faith. We did a tour of the 11 churches and remembered the names of most of them but got confused at end so 2 shots are not attributed. Guides were very informative. Had another endemic Rüppell’s Black Chat and close-up views of Hemprich’s Hornbill, Greater Blue-eared Starling and Fan-tailed Raven at the Seven Olives Hotel where we had an excellent lunch (and a much needed rest from the churches!). Footwear has to be taken off in each church so you get scenes like this: the French lady is an archaeology student with whom we had a good chat at the airport the following morning. A flock of 20 House Martin feeding near hotel was interesting. Stills are given below:

Yellow-billed Kite, Lalibela, stills 1  2  3  4.

Rüppell’s Black Chat, Lalibela, stills 1  2  3  4  5  6.

Hemprich’s Hornbill, Lalibela, stills 1  2  3.

Greater Blue-eared Starling, Lalibela, stills 1  2  3.

Fan-tailed Raven, Lalibela, stills 1  2  3.

Sign to churches outside Lalibela, still 1.

Biet Medhane Alem (church), Lalibela, stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12.

Church of St George, Lalibela, stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7.

Biet Gabriel (church), Lalibela, stills 1  2.

Church (name not known), Lalibela, stills 1  2.

Biet Emmanuel (church), Lalibela, stills 1  2.

Abba Libanos (church), Lalibela, stills 1  2 .

Church tour, Lalibela, yours truly and son, still 1.

November 28th: finished identification of churches (and raptors!) from stills taken at Lalibela on 15/2 and hope to publish these tomorrow. So getting close to finalising Ethiopia totals. Did make Sage, but on own as BBC news channel put off N. Do think they’re over-cautious. True there was slush on streets of Newcastle, only one usable lane on A69 for long stretches and patches of freezing fog on way back but it wasn’t that bad and driver behaviour was spot-on: NE drivers are stars in winter weather! Concert was marvellous – like Brahms and 2nd piano concerto was brilliantly played. G was good – nice to have s.xy s on!! They were very pleased to see me arriving at 22:30 – thought I’d given them a miss! See the Gulls have got Carlisle at home; well it is a N/SW clash!

November 27th: still catching up – entered data from visit to Thetford Forest on 11/8 (video 680, 12/8 below). Habitat is interesting, basically heathland with Scots Pine at both suspected sites – typical 2.5km apart — Santon Downham (1  2) and east of Brandon (1  2). The Little Ouse valley, which contains the sites, is rich in wildlife and must be good for high insect populations. Even on a brief visit there are some similarities between Thetford Forest and Dipton Wood in that we have a large area of trees with a rough edge habitat. Don’t think the Little Ouse can be absolutely compared to the Devil’s Water as former is a lowland sluggish river and the latter a faster mid-latitude burn but in terms of insects they’re both productive. Bet Thetford Forest also has Honey-buzzard sites around the edge at 2.5km spacing! Comma butterflies were very common along the Little Ouse and abundant bird species included Green Woodpecker and Chiffchaff. Sedge Warbler are a rarity for me, Kingfisher is always good to see and to the W of Brandon had 3 Turtle Dove, an additional species for the year list, which now stands at 176. Heavy snow overnight with 12-14cm on ground this morning. Here’s house/yard and house/hedge/road (that’s my bedroom windows!); gritting was good and made Ant’s for lunch! But really minor snow shower at 15:00 set everything freezing again and journey back home was a little slow with a few slides! Gulls continue to impress – hope we’ll (draw number 56) be playing the Magpies in 3rd round of FA Cup. Tomorrow supposed to be going to Sage with Nick in evening but forecast is really bad so we’ll see. Whatever hope to make G! xxxxxx!!

November 26th: getting withdrawal symptoms from Honey-buzzard so here are some more clips from the very satisfying visit up the East Allen on 28/8 (700), where 2 juveniles already shown, one with clear wing barring (29/8 below). First with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5 the older juvenile, still growing P6, in close-up with views of sparse broad bars in still 1. So both juveniles obviously Honey-buzzard on the barring across their remiges. Second with derived stills 1  2  3 an adult (full-winged) presumed female, keeping expertly out of direct view. As she approaches you can hear the Jackdaw scatter. Third with derived stills 1  2  3 the presumed female again, keeping even more hidden by the canopy. Fourth the nest in oak, well hidden from the ground in spite of its size. Fifth some anger and anxiety calls, not delivered as close together as this! Loved the temptresses at lunchtime!! What a pair of beauties!! Looking forward to my pressies! Quite a social day, making N for lunch, G for t and W for supper. Got to get your priorities right! Just got out of the W in time at 23:00 as the snow finally started, so got back an hour earlier than usual in time for BoS! Not sure about tomorrow – depends on weather but Ant’s most probably beckons for lunch. Completing Lalibela material (stills for 15/2) is next step.

November 25th: 1st snowfall of the winter settling to 4-5cm at Ordley. Skipped visit to Newcastle as could communicate corrections to paper by email. But did make Hexham late afternoon. Lovely pair of Willow Tit!!! Very classy!! Still getting used to new car in the snow but need to keep things moving so it’s the t&s tonite as usual! Just 2 of us, indeed pub amazingly quiet. Tomorrow it’s Hexham for lunch at N and t at G! Trying to finish material from Ethiopia now: stills from Lalibela and final stay in Addis Ababa; incredible raptor total looming. Added below stills of scenery en route from Mekele-Lalibela and of Mountain View Hotel, Lalibela, with also 3 stills of son and yours truly on the trip (15/2, 14/2, 10/2).

November 24th: videos now processed from Lalibela and results below. Stills to process! Today made Hexham twice – gpslooked stunning in first visit, nice pins!!! Sadly gsffgone walkabout!! First snow of winter falling this evening but pretty light; made G as usual – very entertaining! Tomorrow into unn but Mike’s got flu so will be back late afternoon. Started repapering bathroom – making progress. Fitting new halogen filament to outside security light was a challenge in the snow – had to fiddle with it live to get the connection while up a ladder!

14/2-15/2, Lalibela is fantastic; besides the famous rock-hewn churches it has a very friendly culture and the Mountain View Hotel did have just that, very atmospheric views over the mountains to the W/NW and the plain below with a real Out of Africa feel. Certainly would recommend this hotel – location is ideal with staff and service to match! Many raptors just cruised around the cliffs on which the hotel is built as you can see below. They could be watched from the rooftop bar! Goodbye to driver – had 6 days of 4wd hire from Gondar-Aksum-Lalibela. We were deposited here on 14/2 late afternoon as he wanted to get back to Addis Ababa and we could manage on our own locally until catching plane back from Lalibela to Addis on 16/2. There was no point keeping him for local trips at $160 a day. Scenery was fantastic today on the drive here with steep mountains and gorges always in view. Some terrain around Mekele is quite like that of Fuerteventura in the Canaries with bleak moorland. It is noticeable how the number of winter visiting raptors has increased in this area compared to SMNP with Pallid and Montagu’s Harrier, Steppe Eagle, Booted Eagle and Steppe Buzzard for instance. Terrain does not look suited to Honey-buzzard. It’s been a good trip for the kestrels with 3 new species so far: Greater, Fox and Grey. Indeed falcons are performing very well with some long sightings of African Hobby in SMNP. We were lucky to get into hotel as it appeared to be full with large Chinese party but our 4wd guide put in a good word for us – we were good spenders (and tippers) – and miraculously we were in!

15/2 Lalibela around Mountain View Hotel:

African White-backed Vulture, Lalibela, adult video with derived stills 1  2  3  4; juvenile video with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6.

Booted Eagle, Lalibela, pale phase video with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6.

Black-shouldered Kite, Lalibela video with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7.

Yellow-billed Kite, Lalibela video with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13.

Hooded Vulture, Lalibela, see still 6 under Booted Eagle.

Wattled Ibis, Lalibela, see stills 9  10  13 under Yellow-billed Kite.

Pied Wheatear, Lalibela, video with derived stills 1  2.

Fan-tailed Raven, Lalibela, video; see also stills 1  2 under Yellow-billed Kite.

Mountain View Hotel, Lalibela, scenery, stills 1  2  3.

14/2 Lalibela from Hotel Mountain View veranda:

Steppe Eagle, Lalibela video with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5.

Booted Eagle, Lalibela, pale phase video with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6.

Augur Buzzard, Lalibela, pale phase video with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10.

Steppe Buzzard, Lalibela video with derived stills 1  2  3  4.

Yellow-billed Kite, Lalibela video with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6.

Mountain View Hotel, Lalibela, scenery, stills 1  2  3  4  5; yours truly, still (against light but shows priorities!) 1.

Scenery Mekele-Lalibela, stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9.

10/2 SMNP yours truly and son, still 1.

November 23rd: nice walk with Nick around Warden/Fourstones area from 10:30-15:00; rain stopped after 3 days of an almost continuous fall and weather was not too bad though noticeably cooling through day. Major wintry spell looms! Had 3 Common Buzzard and a Kestrel and 30 bird species in all. Was in vicinity of 2 Honey-buzzard sites with piccies to follow. Welli was very good even if red-nose day influence was a bit of a pain but took chashome!! Into Hexham 2moro for lunch and tea!! Hope to get Lalibela material posted tomorrow, moving quickly towards grand totals for Ethiopia.

November 22nd: completed processing data for visit to Haldon in Devon on 12/9 (see below) and for year as a whole for Honey-buzzard; results for this species for 2010 were 4 sites occupied (2 to SW of Exeter (1 moved), 2 to E of Exeter (1 new)) with 4 adults and 3 juveniles seen and breeding confirmed at 2 sites. Coverage was more intensive this year with more frequent visits to visit ailing mum. Over last few years 2 sites in Haldon area have been pretty reliable but one appeared to move 2km S this year to a quieter area. 3 Hobby were seen (2 adults and a juvenile) with breeding confirmed at one of the Honey-buzzard sites near Haldon. Obviously I still expect to see my younger sister (and Mike) regularly but coverage in Devon will be less keen next year. Also documented records from long trip up M5/M6 on 15/9, including Honey-buzzard juvenile in Staffordshire (see below), so now only have (considerable) backlog for August. Next is Lalibela! Lunch was good in Hexham, seeing very s.xy gpsand gsff!! Wondered a bit last night about cardinality (and then identity!). Tomorrow going for walk with Nick around Warden if rain finally stops or pub lunch same area if keeps going. Will make Hexham on way back and Welli later!! Great news from Greek PhD student – he’s passed – my 8th!

November 21st: last visit to be processed for July (667, 25/7) near Riding Mill did not result in much Honey-buzzard footage. Here’s a clip of the nest in Norway Spruce followed by a single whistled call from the male Honey-buzzard who was in attendance (see 25/7) and calls from Common Buzzard juveniles. Further calls of the last named, who were very vocal, can be found here. A video of the juvenile Goshawk flying over Stocksfield the same day has also been produced. Gloomy weather continues so no fieldwork today but did take some heavy items to tip and finish painting wood and ceiling in bathroom. G was good and night did have its moments!!! Tomorrow might make Hexham for lunch!

November 20th: finalised bird data from trip with Nick to south Cumbria, north Lancashire and West Yorkshire from 3/7-10/7. Very rewarding and enjoyable trip with 58 raptors of 9 species: 21 Common Buzzard at 15 sites, 16 Kestrel at 12 sites, 7 Marsh Harrier at 2 sites (male, 2 female, 4 juvenile), 4 Honey-buzzard at 4 sites (2 male, 2 female), 3 Peregrine at 2 sites (including 1 juvenile), 3 Tawny Owl (including 2 juveniles), 2 Hobby at 2 sites and single Osprey (first-summer) and Sparrowhawk (female carrying food). The closest Honey-buzzard at Warton Crag (Silverdale) in Lancashire has already been documented (658, 21/7 below, female showing wing-bars). Here’s 3 more videos for Honey-buzzard, one each for the other 3 sites found, all in Cumbria. First (657, turn volume down to avoid boat noise) is on Lake Windermere near Bowness with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10; the female almost appeared to be following the boat and shows typical jizz including some energetic flap-flap-glide action. She appears to be moulting an inner primary on her left wing (stills 1-2). Second (654) is at Arnside on Morecambe Bay with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8; this male was very mobile in a fresh breeze, patrolling rapidly to W. Third (656) is also on Lake Windermere near Lakeside; this bird thought to be a male is very distant but shows typical buoyant floating jizz. Getting more set on Tarifa for February – think it’s got a lot going for it, being the meeting point of the Mediterranean and Atlantic, with a very long, wild beach! Would fly to Malaga and hire a car and apartment; I’ve driven a lot of lhd on the rhs. Have been to Andalucia several times before and it’s got a lovely atmosphere (as well as many raptors!). Ferries run the short distance to Morocco (Tanger) if want a change and of course Gibraltar is only just down the road, not to mention the gem of Algeciras! Enjoyed lunch in Ant’s: chef has a nice pair! Terrible wet day so cleared out son’s room of some junk and did some more painting in bathroom. xxxxxx!!

November 19th: final material from 663 is a clip for an adult Common Buzzard showing it flying over low with derived stills 1  2  3. This bird shows 5-6 thin bars across the remiges and the calls are very strident. Two butterflies, both recent colonists, were also photographed: Small Skipper and Speckled Wood. Just one more trip on 25/7 to document now for July in Northumberland plus some mopping up on the Lake Windermere trip on 7/7. Then it’s one trip in Devon in September and the Lalibela material from Ethiopia. But there’s a stack of stuff in August for Northumberland (14 trips) and Cambridge (2), plus all the Tanzania material from February. gpslooked very desirable today (so dynamic)!! gsff looked gr8 in favourite top!! Pleased out of mainstream banks but have got the odd flutter on Irish banks: investments up £50k on year now even after deduction for car. 60% is in bonds and 11% in cash; trend is ever more defensive I’m afraid.

This afternoon did atlas survey at Coalcleugh (555m) from 13:55-16:10 in lovely sunshine. Had 5 species: 33 Red Grouse, 2 Stock Dove and Pheasant and single Black Grouse (cock) and Mistle Thrush. Also a Kestrel male hovering over Dryburn Moor on the way there. November is fairly quiet bird-wise on the high moors but it’s good exercise! Coalcleugh is at the top of the West Allen; if you want some seclusion this place is still for sale according to a chatty neighbour or if you’re more ambitious you could try this. The high moors peaking at Killhope Law (673m) contain this pond, which teems with wildlife in the breeding season (see 16/6 below). Car is slightly closer here! Finally this person ran out of road. Made Welli as usual, 5 of us this week, good chat and Nick is back – we’re going for walk on Tuesday. Think someone else is in the land of the Pharaohs! 2moro into Hexham for late lunch at Ant’s and if can be a.sed LD AGM. Sunday may go looking for Red Kite in Prudhoe/Wylam area if weather better in E or upper South Tyne for Rough-legged Buzzard if better in W but anyway Hexham for t.

November 18th: another clip from 663 showing the male Honey-buzzard gliding N over the site when I was on the walk out. He’s taken a while to get back; leave the combat to the females! Jizz is very kite-like. Hope readers are enjoying the review of a review. Like all the humbug about the Irish bailout: neither the UK nor USA are actually in a much better position. Still NYSE:IRE recovering 41% by 18:50 EST and NYSE:AIB 34%. Busy day at unn, journal paper in final stages. Almost bumped into gorgeous lady in red but she’s very fast!! gpslooked very serene!! 4 of us at t&s – good chat! 2moro no vf so lunch in Hexham followed by walk on moors for atlas if dry. Will be up early looking for opportunities on ise.

November 17th: here’s another clip from 663 with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8. The first part of the clip shows the female Honey-buzzard returning to the nest area, with still 8 showing the slim appearance. Then an angry Common Buzzard adult appears calling loudly followed by a long call from the Honey-buzzard and both birds together for comparison (stills 1,2), showing the kite-like Honey-buzzard against the buteo Common Buzzard. There’s more to come! Had good crack over t at G but no sightings of the lovelies!! Tomorrow into unn as usual but should be aO in Hexham late afternoon and at t&s much later.

November 16th: here’s one clip from 663 in the ‘Shire on 17/7, with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13. The calls at the very start are Common Buzzard but the loud ones soon after are Honey-buzzard female anger calls, the first one followed by an omgfrom yours truly! The stills show 3 broad wing bars across the remiges, grey bill, extensive dark area on wingtip and brown head, with structural features of long tail and small head. Stills 2-4 perhaps show off the structural features best. Stills 7-8 show the topside of the bird with its brownish-purple sheen. The bird is not in obvious moult but there is a hint of a missing inner primary on its left wing (still 11, for instance). At this site a just-fledged juvenile was videoed at close range as shown below on 23/8 (visit 21/8, 686). More to come from this visit. No Welli tonite for complex reasons I’ll not go into here but will make G for t 2moro!! Meeting with Mike went well; we’re well on with a 2nd paper from the Cambridge meeting in August. Re-invested some cash from Friday in bonds: if the bond investors rule the world then deflation here we come. Don’t agree with it but no point in going against the masters of the universe! Mike is moving to Devon next spring and Nick is spending a week a month in Northampton. If I did move anywhere London would be the obvious place but don’t think I could stand that.

November 15th: another atlas square this afternoon, getting to 490m, doing Humble Dodd on Whitfield Moor from 14:10-16:50; weather not bad, quite sunny but very wet underfoot. Here’s another shot of the car, a view of deep interior of the moor from Brown Rigg to Pike Rigg and snow on Northumberland/Cumbria border at The Dodd (614m). Not species rich – 73 Red Grouse and single Kestrel (first-winter, video of it hunting over moor) and Feral Pigeon; that’s just 3 species! In last 24 hours had 4 raptors of 3 species: 2 Kestrel and single Sparrowhawk and Barn Owl. On the way this afternoon also had 3 Black Cock by side of railway line near Staward: grand sight! But not as good as gsffand gpsin Hexham at lunchtime – s.xy b.ms certainly!! Latest dvd from Gjs is Three – looking for ideas for a threesome!! Enjoyed this one, good tensions, though it didn’t end very well with only one rescued from the desert island, the woman, and for the men — one dead and one abandoned! Tomorrow it’s Durham to see Mike but should be back to Hexham later! Met old colleague from ncl in N; Judith H lives in Wylam and says the Red Kite from near the Gateshead border are regularly seen over her house in north of village, though not every day. That’s reassuring. Also the area around Close House has become much more private recently, which may be a factor in the colonisation of the area by Honey-buzzard. Working up video from visit to lower part of Devil’s Water on 17/7 (663). Fantastic clip found of female Honey-buzzard, yet another with lovely wingbars!

November 14th: here’s more clips of Marsh Harrier from Leighton Moss on 8/7. First the adult male beating around the mere, with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7. The shape is close to male Honey-buzzard, particularly the lightweight appearance and long tail but the wings are narrower and usually held distinctly raised. Female Honey-buzzard are more stocky than Marsh Harrier. Of course male Marsh Harrier have very different plumage to Honey-buzzard, so different that confusion is unlikely to arise. A juvenile appears towards the end of the clip, with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5. This is darker than the female and weaker flying. Second the adult female sitting in a tree with a darker juvenile flying around the reeds below, with derived stills 1  2  3  4. These are closer to Honey-buzzard in general plumage colour but the cream top is very conspicuous and should prevent confusion; in addition the carpal and wingtips are not so contrasting with the remiges. With the difference in flight attitude as well, Marsh Harrier should not be confused with Honey-buzzard but I’m sure they are. Here are the derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  from clip below (12/11) for the female on S side of reserve: the bird in the dead tree (stills 6,7) looks like an Osprey; didn’t notice it at the time (oh dear!). There was one around at the time. Another good jizz distinction is the steady floating flight of Honey-buzzard and the wayward flight of the Harrier. Hard at it today, finishing painting windows outside and getting bathroom straight for re-papering of walls. But off to G very soon for a bit of relaxation! xxxxxx!!

November 13th: finished processing the Marsh Harrier material at Leighton Moss – very interesting, will publish tomorrow. Walked on Wellhope Moor today, starting from Carrshield, doing winter atlas survey from 14:45-17:00. Got up to 560m with ground very wet. Nine species was as expected with moorland birds including Red Grouse, Meadow Pipit and Golden Plover. This shows the new car and yes there was snow on Cross Fell. Earlier made N where good to see aand l! Later sorted out leak on input to cistern and did some filling on bathroom walls. Tomorrow it’s hoped to complete outside painting and do last messy job in bathroom – sanding the wood and one wall – before giving ceiling its 2nd coat. But will make Hexham late afternoon and for nite-cap!

November 12th: processing material from week in Dentdale with this clip of adult female Marsh Harrier on 8/7 near Leighton Moss on S side of reserve. Think the jizz of Marsh Harrier is quite close to Honey-buzzard but the narrower wings are held more raised in the harrier; also Britain’s resurgent strain of Marsh Harrier breeds only on lowland marshes. Always been surprised at the number of claims of Marsh Harrier in SW Northumberland in wooded habitat or moorland, much more suited to Honey-buzzard. Of course Marsh Harrier used to breed in 18th and early 19th century on rushy moorland in such areas, when they were known as the Moor Buzzard. But there’s no chance of that being permitted today by the game estates. Terrible storm here last night – very windy and driving rain — still windy now (19:00), quite amazing! Worried about outlook for markets with G20 failing and eurozone a shambles and busy on interactive dealing screens of ii at 08:05 selling £80k of equities (half of total equities and around a fifth of total investments); still waiting for probate funds but trusts should have been sold by now. Think world leaders from the west, particularly Obama but also Cameron and Merkel, are up against it! Too many similarities to the 1930s now. Afraid I’ve become a bear, having been a bull since autumn 2008! But if I knew what was going to happen I’d be a millionaire! Didn’t the gsffand gpslook marvellous at lunchtime? Very s.xy b.ms!! Tonite it’s the Welli for a change. Convinced that chas got a very nice pair!! Tomorrow will do more atlas work on moors as winds drop after very early lunch in Hexham. faswtgo!!!

November 11th: added to main index page the presentation given at Tynemouth on 2/11. There are 2 formats: odp and ppt. The former is for OpenOffice Impress which was used on the night and worked well with the videos loading and running as soon as the slide containing them is selected. The videos are not embedded in the presentation and the assumption is that they are contained in the same directory as the odp file. The presentation files are therefore quite small at about 1.5MB, containing text and the stills. The latter is in Microsoft’s presentation format, which was not used on the night as the videos do not load as naturally. All the videos are contained in the hbweb directory on the web server. I’m looking at loading automatically from the web but this is not ideal for everyone with current broadband speeds. Added final clips for 662 – anxiety and whimper calls, alarm calls, nest and splash. The whimper calls are very distinctive. Great to see the smart wheels etc.of the gps!! That’s about all for now as off to t&s: 4 of us this week, good crack! Tomorrow aO at lunchtime and maybe later!!

November 10th: 1st instalment of video 662 with clips on anger calls, anxiety calls, nest, splash. These birds were close when I was looking at the nest but they kept in thick cover out of view. More to come including another whimper call, a new call for the year, first heard at Ordley on 18/6. Still busy at home, putting 1st coat of gloss on external woodwork and painting bathroom ceiling, what a job, messy! Concert at Sage was more sophisticated than normal – Belcea Quartet, in Hall Two – but very enjoyable even if it is the antithesis of Wagner. Went on own, using Nick’s ticket as he couldn’t make it. Train was subdued on way home – not a good football result. G was fun in 2nd visit to Hexham after long chat with aat N in 1st. Good views of the tantalising gpsand gsff!! Tomorrow into unn as usual but will be back earlier as Mike not coming in.

November 9th: nothing yet to show for today’s work but much processing on video of calls at Wylam on 16/7 (662) and on raptors at Lalibela, Ethiopia, on 15/2. Hope to get some of these up tomorrow. Good trip to Hexham at lunchtime – green and black delights – s.xy parade!! Installed LD software on a computer in Riding Mill mid-afternoon after seeing s&l! Welli was good except for 2 sadly missing ladies!! Tomorrow it’s Hexham for lunch and tea and concert at Sage in evening – more intimate performance starting at 20:00!

November 8th: did go to Haltwhistle for lunch – got a shelf-full of Wagner books from a music lover who can’t stand him! Two Common Buzzard were up in the air near Haydon Bridge. Then back to Hexham where went to Queen’s Hall for coffee with Stan B, still talking about book publishing. A few skeletons in the cupboard are being excised in preparation for this; could include them as an appendix perhaps! Final clip for 690 is record-shot only of distant floating juvenile Honey-buzzard. Now working up video 662 from Wylam on 16/7 with plenty of calls and no sightings of actual birds; can’t have everything. In bathroom sanded floor and replaced damaged plasterboard – getting stuck in now. Well, purple and pink were beautiful colours today (as a synecdoche)!! Tomorrow into Hexham for lunch and Welli much later for the odd Guinness and quiz nite!! Expected in tr last Sunday by new mates but maybe the thrills are elsewhere!!

November 7th: further clip with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12 from 25/8 (690) at Ordley, showing female following same route as earlier (stills 1-5) but this time with 2 juveniles in tow; one juvenile is following through quite low (stills 6-9) and this bird appears to show sparse barring on the remiges; all 3 birds are captured briefly together as they soar to quite a height in practice for migration (stills 10-12). There’s one more clip to process. Did some painting today of external windows and started to sand bathroom floor – no fieldwork. Made G late-on: quite inspiring!!!! Tomorrow out to Haltwhistle for lunch seeing old friend, but back to Hexham later! faswtgo!!!

November 6th: did complete the 2 atlas tetrads in 4 hours walking on the moors at Killhope in Upper Weardale (yes in Durham, we’re helping them out!) in the afternoon. Nice sunshine and good exercise. They’re very feudal in Durham – this notice is wrong to put it politely. It’s open access land (in small sign) and not private (as claimed in big sign). Anyway went on and was intercepted: are you lost? No and I’m also a member of Access Forum for Northumberland and think your signs are misleading. He became friendly after that! Had 3 Kestrel in Allenheads/Weardale area but total number of species was, as expected for an upland area in November, low at 13, including Red Grouse of course. Bird of the day was very near the chambers of the gps in Hexham: a Waxwing resting in an alder tree after presumably feeding on Cotoneaster berries below. This is yet another new species for year, part of a major influx into the UK from well east in north-east Europe. They can eat so many berries that they get tipsy on the alcohol in them, pleasing for the local Sparrowhawk!

Processing video from Ordley on 25/8 (690). Below (25/8) is shown a video for male emigrating earlier in the day. Here’s a clip, with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7, of the female floating over my field trying to get the young up to fly. She succeeds later and have a clip still to post of this. The calls near the end are of a juvenile Common Buzzard. Very typical structural features are shown (small head, long neck, long wings sometimes pushed forward) and the jizz is floating, kite-like. Typical female plumage is shown in stills 6-7. The field is pretty wild, ideal for Honey-buzzard which are nesting close by, perhaps only 300m at closest. Have had Honey-buzzard in the field and they’ve certainly cleared out wasp nests in the area. Patter is with daughter who used to graze 1-2 ponies on it; the shelters were built by us, for refuge for the ponies in bad weather, using timber from nearby Dipton Wood. Tomorrow it’s a more domestic day, catching up with painting and hedge cutting but will take the odd break in Hexham at N&G!

November 5th: will publish some more Honey-buzzard material tomorrow including the talk on Tuesday which, although very stimulating, has disrupted the flow a bit. Concert with Nick was fine – Mendelssohn’s violin concerto is so lively and romantic and Tchaikovsky’s symphony 2 is very exciting. Enjoyed lunch in Hexham: great to see the beautiful gsff and gps!! Arrived late in Welli, mates had all gone to bed but always like service from c! Tomorrow early lunch in Hexham then starting winter atlas (last season) with walk on moor near Allenheads; might even keep fit!

November 4th: collated Holy Island totals for 3/11 – 57 species in day – including 9 Whooper Swan S, 9 Rock Pipit, 6 Snow Bunting, 3 Merlin (all 1w, 2 females and a male), 3 Long-tailed Duck and single Great Northern Diver, Little Egret and Chiffchaff. Today made unn as planned and it’s submission day for Libyan student tomorrow! Will still be going in on Thursdays though for other collaborations. ENRON was strong stuff; the bubble effect and trust were well portrayed. Later found out at 20:00 that we were all meeting at the Boat in Wylam: nice pub with lively barmaid! Very pleased to see gwsagain on train: really smart and such s.xy legs!! Made it back to Hexham late-on in heavy rain but spirits kept up!! Tomorrow Hexham for lunch, mp/Sage from late afternoon and Welli at end.

November 3rd: good day out with Nick in Fox to Holy Island making early start from Stocksfield at 08:15 to beat tide rising over causeway at 09:55. Came back late afternoon when tide fell again at about 16:00 with meal in Alnwick at Queen’s Head. First trip to Holy Island this year and quite a few additions to year list but still working that out. Raptors included 3 Merlin on the island and 1 Kestrel nearby on the mainland. Weather was as good as can be expected for this time of year with some sunshine and just a few spots of rain but quite a brisk SW/W breeze. Will add more details later. Further thoughts from chat after talk yesterday were that some think HD video will be better soon from the new still cameras than from camcorders as the lenses offer a greater range of apertures, with high aperture numbers giving more precise focus and better colours. But the still cameras do not offer as much storage capacity so there are as usual trade-offs. You can buy expensive software for disentangling the colour more in derived stills and overcoming some of the problems with interlacing (as in 1080i), where there are reference frames and frames recording changes. The audience were very enthusiastic during the talk – think birds of prey are very compelling subjects! Into unn tomorrow for last meeting surely with Libyan PhD student and telephone conference with German PhD student and local supervisor. Then going to see play on ENRON with Mike at Theatre Royal. Much later it’s t&s (or G if full) for the dynamic Hexham nite-life and its beautiful ladies!! No it looks like the Boat at Wylam, but may make Hexham later!!

November 2nd: talk to Tynemouth Photographic Society went very well, good audience – learnt a lot about video processing and they (hopefully) learnt a lot about birds of prey in the county. Took 90 minutes to get there in teatime rush and 40 minutes to get back! Made N for lunch: picked up a couple of likely chics but preferred the couple walking in style down the street!! Welli was great – quiz nite is always good for a social, no matter what the die-hard locals say. Had full car leaving – bi and 2 mates from Slaley!!

November 1st: preparing talk today using impress (OpenOffice’s powerpoint) to embed multimedia (videos, images, audio) in the slides. Will post a copy here of the Raptors in Northumberland talk after presentation and review. But suspect it will be rather large to download! Made G – unheard of on Monday – cheered through door! But it’s a substitute for Wednesday. Of course if weather is bad on Wednesday will be at G again! Looks like a slippery slope! The gsff has some highly desirable attributes: s.x on legs!! Unfortunately missed gps!! Tomorrow no hurry to get to Tynemouth, finalising talk in morning and visiting Hexham for lunch. Talk does not start until 19:30 so not sure when will make Welli but will try!! From family solicitors: “just a note to let you all know that the Grant of Probate has been issued so I am sending off the various closure applications”. Have completed filling and first coat of primer on outside windows over last few days; great weather for it today.

October 31st: 2 more clips from 22/6 (641) for Honey-buzzard. First, with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8, shows male coming slowly into nest site with effortless flight. Moult shows this is same bird as on clip posted yesterday with closer view showing he’s actually missing 2 outer secondaries on the right wing and P5 and a tertial on the left wing. Tail is actually long but very thin at end because feathers are missing on the right side. He appears to be carrying in some prey. Second, with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5, shows female briefly up and floating over the site. She has a long tail, broad at the sides, and appears to be missing P1 on each wing, thus quite likely a moult condition. I don’t mind admitting that this was a difficult set to analyse, which is why it’s the last one in the first part of the season to be done. Without the camcorder records don’t think it would have been possible to come to firm conclusions, which is what I’m going to be talking about on Tuesday. For light relief here are some Cuckoo feathers 1  2  3 found as a kill close to the Honey-buzzard nest in the same visit, not sure by what, could be Goshawk or Sparrowhawk. (Another) Cuckoo was calling during the visit! Got off final version of journal paper on category theory after reformatting and making a few changes suggested by editor. Very nice – first major paper published on ct in vf duties! G was very good – everybody celebrating the Magpie’s win! Thinking of the s.xy one!! Re-thinking February 2011 – may go to Tarifa in Andalucia for 3-4 weeks for winter sunshine, wonderful Costa de la Luz (coast of the light) and start of raptor migration over Straits of Gibraltar. Could rekindle interest in Atlantic Yellow-legged Gulls (another book!). It would also signify something else. Tomorrow preparing talk but expect to make Hexham late afternoon for N&G; going with Nick to Holy Island on Wednesday for a walk and meal.

October 30th: at last some Honey-buzzard from 22/6 (641). The male did one brief rising up into the sky and diving down again as captured in this clip with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7. He’ s not in great feather condition missing some of his tail and at least P5 on his left wing and an outer secondary on his right-wing. But irregular nature suggests it’s not moult. Jizz is good with broad winged, effortless floating, small head and very angular appearance in the steep dive. The black on the wingtips is restricted to the fingers, the head is a dark grey and the upperside is mainly grey with a slight reddish tinge. The deep flapping when he comes down near the wires is kite-like. There’s a bit more on this bird to come as he was also sighted later. Today did make Eals area from 12:50-15:40 and thought at the time no Honey-buzzard. But later examination in January 2011 of video taken of an interesting bird near end at 15:20 showed the presence of a juvenile Honey-buzzard. A presumed very late migrant, different in plumage to that seen here at end September. The clip (748) is shown here with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6; structurally the tail is long and the head small and pointed, there are hints of 2 broad bars across the middle and inner primaries. The bird soared to a moderate height but did not emigrate – thought to be a late-bred bird from Scotland. So in revised total had 11 raptors of 4 species: 6 Common Buzzard, 3 Kestrel (all first-winter) and Honey-buzzard (juvenile) and a Sparrowhawk (female). Got extra hour in bed – wonder what I’ll dream about – gpsor gsff!! Tomorrow into Hexham late morning and much later for G. btinternet working OK again – but a serious outage for the company — golden rule when no connection is not to change anything until you’re sure the fault is yours alone!

October 29th: interesting clip from Eals area 22/6 (641) is this one showing 2 first-summer (1s) Common Buzzard in active flight. Many derived stills: 2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  22  23. Interesting because on brief views or analysis it is more likely to confuse these with Honey-buzzard than the adults as they have slightly longer tails, typically 80-90% of wing width, a more floppy flight and often later moult with innermost primaries shed at this time (perhaps matching female Honey-buzzard though not male). Between Honey-buzzard adult and Common Buzzard 1s you can rely on the bill colour, grey in former and yellow cere in latter. These Common Buzzard are both in tail moult which is characteristic but of course a Honey-buzzard could be missing a tail feather. Besides the bill other good differences are the tail subterminal band and trailing edge which are fainter in 1s Common Buzzard, particularly the former. The trailing edge tends to be fainter on the inner primaries than on the secondaries and the whole of the inner primaries shows as a pale patch. If close the barring on the remiges is useful of course being finer on Common Buzzard (stills 3,12,19). The plumage is quite ruddy on one bird (still 14) just like a number of female Honey-buzzard. These two 1s are quite conspicuous; normally they are very retiring, perhaps because of potential attack by adult Common Buzzard. Made Hexham for coffee at Nero followed by lunch at Miggins with Stan B. Wanted to talk to him about publishing books as planning one with Mike on category theory applications and another on Honey-buzzard. Very interesting – it’s not difficult if you’re up with latest document processing techniques and can put the money up front; don’t think either will be a problem. Of course you’ve still got to put a lot of time into the actual writing! Tonite it’s f&c+mp and the Welli. Spies at latter say quiz nite is not secure as emphasis is now on diners and the participants are too bloody tight! Giving a talk next Tuesday nite in Tynemouth to a photographic society but should be there roughly in time. btinternet had an outage last night from around 18:30 after a very blustery early evening. Telephone line still worked for voice but that’s less demanding technically. Managed to keep going with dongle and Orange wireless network on laptop: speeds are poor in my part of ‘Shire but if you press dongle against a window it keeps you going. Could work better outdoors! Hadn’t envisaged that as a use. Welli was good in new comfy chairs! Tomorrow off to upper South Tyne.

October 28th: now onto 641 (Eals area 22/6). First clip (with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7) is of a first-summer Common Buzzard (see 29/10 above): it’s instructive seeing them in videos for comparison purposes. The clip shows a Common Buzzard rising from the wood and then gliding back down again. This bird is discussed further above. Great time at G with 3 workmates – we moved from t&s as too full. As expected very busy day at unn. Tomorrow looks like re-run of Wednesday!

October 27th: processed material from wood between Riding Mill and Stocksfield on 21/6 (642). These birds were quite reticent as noted in account below. Added a clip of walk-in showing the sort of rough glades you get in woods favoured by Honey-buzzard. Any prospective helpers should see what they’re letting themselves in for! Also posted a clip of signs on the ground (splash) and of the nest in Scots Pine. Got just one more visit to document fully for records for June: 641 in the upper South Tyne on 22/6. But plenty of only partially published multimedia to get through. Still definitely catching up! Same with house where treated a few defects in wooden timber frames with preservative, prior to filling and painting. Did make Hexham twice – like sophisticated hair style of gsff, would be good in new motor!! N was too full, had to sit upstairs where the lively akept me company! G was a little quiet but lots of crack and a very stimulating exit!! Tomorrow it’s unn full-time, perhaps just making N and Waitrose. Then it’s t&s! A juvenile Honey-buzzard was in Cornwall this afternoon, taking year’s total to 298! Planning trip to upper South Tyne at weekend to check the area, which is obviously an important part of the route out of Scotland. Determined to get to 300 even if I have to find them myself!

October 26th: two more clips for 646. The first has more anxiety calls from Honey-buzzard and Common Buzzard with concentration of those from former in the middle. You should be able to distinguish these very easily now! There’s also some splash at the end!! The second also shows the Honey-buzzard nest in Scots Pine; the calls are mainly Common Buzzard but the Honey-buzzard has the last word. This completes the videos for the afternoon. Here’s a still taken with the camcorder of the nest and a downy/body feather on the side. Ka made it into Hexham – what a relief! It’s been a very good car, never let me down but maybe its best days are behind it. New car is brill: it’s same colour as gsff’s top; a good maxim is to buy cars based solely on colours you like! Had problems last 2 days with desktop booting – disk boot error – but booted OK from system CD. Found bios for some reason had been set to boot from wrong hard drive – now fixed. Carrying on catching up, with leylandiicuttings swept up and all paths and yard treated with weedkiller. Next job is to patch up a few window frames outside before winter: think will soon replace them with uPVC. But off to G very soon! Warm feeling in the area!! Tomorrow N for lunch and G for tea!

October 25th: still working up 646; it was an incredible afternoon on 30/6! Here’s a clip of the female Honey-buzzard doing some dives with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6 and another of her crying angrily as she flies over the nest, also with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  22  23 (some out of focus but show general structure). In the dives, the more slender silhouette of Honey-buzzard becomes obvious and there’s one long flight call at the top of the last dive. The former prophet actually said categorically that Honey-buzzard never do a sequence of dives! The multisyllabic calls of the Honey-buzzard are characteristic. Here’s a clip of the pair of agitated Common Buzzard (with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11) and another of their nest (with video stills 1  2); Honey-buzzard usually nest in the crown of trees while Common Buzzard nest lower down, perhaps because of the greater potential weight of their nest with up to 4 young. This clip shows the pair of Common Buzzard circling and diving with a distant Honey-buzzard alarm call about halfway through. Final clip for today (yes, there’s more!) shows the Honey-buzzard and Common Buzzard taking it in turns to call for the first half; Honey-buzzard call is more of a whistle, more plaintive, while the Common Buzzard is sharper and more strident. Then a low-flying plane comes over which temporarily silences the Honey-buzzard but not the Common Buzzard. Not a reliable id feature! The nest, high in a Scots Pine, is shown and it’s a sad Honey-buzzard call as stills are taken with the camcorder (creaking mechanism). Walked into Hexham today – very good for autumnal fitness – got a lift back from Brian M, who met in library! Had nice cappuccino outside Nero in welcome autumnal sunshine. The gpslooked exciting and the gsfflooked very beautiful!! Just one Common Buzzard seen on way in at Lairds Wood. Two Sparrowhawk over the past week, a male at Stocksfield Station on 21/10 and a female at Ordley yesterday 24/10. Another Honey-buzzard in Kent today taking month’s total to 22 and year’s total to 297. Would expect any remaining to exit after last night’s hard frost. In spite of the joys of fitness will be glad to collect new car at 14:00 tomorrow; problem in the evening – re-opened Welli or G but no quiz nite at former so with attractions reduced maybe it’s the G!!

October 24th: working up 646. Here’s a Common Buzzard clip and derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7 to compare with Honey-buzzard female clip and stills below (1/7). The calls are characteristic with the Common Buzzard a sharp disyllabic call and the Honey-buzzard a more quavering multisyllabic call. The Common Buzzard also shows 5-6 finer bars on the remiges against 2-3 for the Honey-buzzard and a shorter tail at about 80% of wing-width against 100% for the Honey-buzzard. The Common Buzzard is missing P6 on its left wing. The Honey-buzzard appears to be missing P1 on its left wing, perhaps through moult. When posted on the videos page the comparison will be more immediate! Today cut the leylandii hedge – before and after! Not my favourite job as I’m allergic to its sap but recent research on people who suffer from allergies is a lot more positive: the hyperactive immune system can keep people fit, good if you’re visiting say Africa or India. Looked up a bit on René Pape who played the title role yesterday; he’s a great bass, soon to be singing Wotan in Wagner’s Die Walküre at La Scala, Milan. He’s obviously good at playing tormented males who are doomed through the tensions arising from their earlier unethical antics to secure or retain power. Sounds relevant! Very soon we look at the torment of running whelk stalls! Into Hexham tomorrow on foot; should get there by lunchtime. Would be nice to see the very impressive duoagain!!

October 23rd: did walk of just over 3 miles into Hexham from Ordley and rewarded at 12:45 with yet another Honey-buzzard juvenile, this time in the West Dipton Burn which is a breeding area but the birds from here will have migrated long ago. So suspect this is yet another Scottish migrant from a late breeding attempt. It was mobile flying E at low altitude for c2km before coming down in woodland by the Devil’s Water. Also had a Common Buzzard adult calling, 13 Redwing and a Brambling. Enjoyed Borisdidn’t realise how relentless it was and how bloody the end would be; it certainly kept the attention. Slight hiccup with German subtitles at start (to Russian script) but soon corrected and complimentary drink as compensation happily accepted. Tyneside Cinema is quite classy! As the curtain came down last train left for Hexham but we’d anticipated this and caught 22:00 no.10 bus, which made an interesting change – always see more of the local colour this way, particularly in Prudhoe!! Took taxi back to Ordley from Hexham, a bargain at £10: it’s 2 hills up and one down on way back! Tomorrow going for local walk in ‘Shire – may make Hexham later but not if it’s p.ssing down! Started preparing video 646 (30/6, nest visit, Tyne Valley W) for main videos page.

October 22nd: another Honey-buzzard in Kent, making 20 this month and 295 for year. Rough-legged Buzzard influx is very good to see, should get some moving N to over-winter in the North Pennines. Sorted out new-car insurance and road tax so all set for Tuesday. Registration number is easy to remember — starts NichoLas60! Resting Ka until then so am going to get fit! In morning stripped down internals of multi-fuel burner, cleaned it out and replaced fire-bricks and baffle with new ones – jit! Also covered back-step with anti-fungal mixture, prior to painting. So catching up with tasks now season is virtually over! Major task is to redecorate downstairs bathroom throughout. Someone (gsff)looked very desirable!! gpshas a beautiful forehead!! Concert at Sage was good, particularly Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin. Made Welli later: very impressive, much brighter; but sadly no quiz nite next Tuesday! Tomorrow it’s another opera at Tyneside Cinema on HD relay from the New York Met: Boris Godunovby Mussorgsky. Going with Nick with late lunch at mp before the music. But expect to make Hexham a bit after midday and maybe much later!

October 21st: yet another Honey-buzzard in Kent; are the birds of the last few days exiting rapidly with the first real frosts of the autumn? That’s 19 now this month and 294 for year! Will we make 300? Another busy day meeting PhD student in unn from 10-11:30 and attending jlaf at Eastpark, Hexham, from 13:00-20:50. But did get enjoyable relaxation at t&s with workmates after this. Tomorrow will be in Hexham in afternoon to collect registration details (for 7-day cover note) and then go into mp and Sage on Tyneside for meal and concert with Nick, followed much later by Welli. Missed gpsand gws on travels!!

October 20th: busy day getting metaphysics paper off to Liège, now accepted for publication in IJCAS. Thought might be useful to add recorded extract from talk on difficulties in using plumage for identifying Honey-buzzard – see lines 2-3 in first paragraph above. Two Honey-buzzard reported today on BirdGuides, one in Kent and another in London. Doesn’t surprise me – juveniles fledged in mid-September in Scotland and Northumberland will still be around in a few localities. Indeed if you’re running late there may be more wasps around again as nests which have escaped predation continue to thrive until the first frosts. There were 3 active nests in Pitshanger Park last Friday 15/10. Spent 2.5 hours in afternoon, sorting out new car, to be exchanged for Ka and cash (mostly latter!) next Tuesday 26/10. Tomorrow it’s unn, jlaf and t&s, without much break!

October 19th: added formally 2 last videos to 684 2010-684g  2010-684h; going to add to videos page as priority all videos where barring on wings is obvious (and there are a lot of them after this most successful season!). Trip to Durham in day was rewarding: Mike and I sorted out final draft though still the odd diagram to draw. Made Hexham late-afternoon and good to see the gsff standing and the gpsin deep thought!! Later to G: very relaxing and s very appealing!! Tomorrow it’s Hexham for lunch, car dealers in afternoon and G for tea.

October 18th: back from Ealing on 11:30 train from Kings X, all on time. Large raptor yesterday was a juvenile Honey-buzzard migrating to E; here’s the video (745) with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5. Jizz looks good with kite-like easy action and long tail and neck; as noted before tail shape of juveniles is textbook-like once fully grown as the feathers are without wear – this one shows narrow tail with rounded corners and bulging sides. Plumage-wise the wings do have the expected broad dark border and extensive black on the wingtip and the head is dark. Suspect this bird is one of the northern Britain late-bred juveniles, working its way down the country, feeding in the Chilterns and now departing. Red Kite were everywhere and this video is a compilation of a number of encounters with different birds. The jizz is very interesting – other than the forked tail quite close to Honey-buzzard. Took this photo of family: sister is closest to me (has similarities financially!) and my ‘kids’ are at the end (near the wine bottles!). Might get a photo from sister to upload. So trip total was 33 raptors of 4 species: 28 Red Kite, 3 Common Buzzard and single Sparrowhawk and Honey-buzzard. Two trips E this week – Durham tomorrow to see Mike and unn on Thursday for meetings. But for latter it’s jlaf in Hexham at National Park hq in afternoon and evening so will need to get back smartly. Made Hexham late on, good to see the gsff!! Sadly no quiz nite again tomorrow but Welli reopens very soon! No further trips planned – honest!

October 17th: elder sister’s birthday so out to The Tree at Cadmore End in Chilterns for lunchtime bash with her, my nephew, his wife and son and my son and daughter who had just flown in from Jo’burg. Some piccies later. All went very well. Followed by walk in area in nice autumnal sunshine. Red Kite dominated with total of 28 but there were also 3 Common Buzzard and an interesting large raptor, flying high to E at 16:30, which will analyse more closely tomorrow on the big screen. A good number, 14, of Rough-legged Buzzard were reported today, all in typical east coast localities from East Yorkshire to Essex except for one in Orkney. Why am I interested in these? Well hope to see one on the local moors but also think some early reports (and late ones in May) of Rough-legged Buzzard in unlikely western areas are really Honey-buzzard. Rough-legged Buzzard are longer-winged and longer-tailed than Common Buzzard and generally more eagle-like, hence more than a passing similarity to Honey-buzzard. On 16/10 went to British Museum (and 2 pubs!) with elder sister and son, very interesting to see Ethiopian section and Byzantine silver spoons complete with hallmarks from c500 AD. It’s been a very good family meeting. Tomorrow it’s back to the north. Looking forward very much to that!!

October 15th: as promised below started publishing videos for 2010 more formally on videos page with 684 (6 clips, 2 more to come). Today visited with elder sister Pitshanger Park and Black Park. Noticeable feature is rapid spread of Ring-necked Parakeet with 83 at latter site, where also had 30 Mandarin Ducks. Only raptor in dull conditions was a female Sparrowhawk hunting parakeet at Pitshanger. No Red Kite this far east. Thought Black Park looked very suitable for Honey-buzzard with mixture of tidy and rough woodland, lake with streams, mature Scots Pine in secluded areas difficult to get at, surrounding pastures and even a bit of heathland. Filming opportunities are good with nearby Pinewood! Signed papers for sale of assets once probate granted and sold some bonds from own shares in preparation for new car. Rides available to test it out!! xxxxxx!!

October 14th: dynamic concert at Southbank with Teresa Carreňo Youth Orchestra of Venezuela playing a very dynamic and emotional Tchaikovsky 5. Good to see son and elder sister again. Made Newcastle earlier than usual to fit in meeting with PhD student and went into Orange in Newcastle to discuss options on mobile now contract expiring; wanted to keep 3G but not fussed about changing ‘phone; decided to do SIM-only deal + unlimited internet for £20 a month and also rent a dongle for £5 a month for roving internet access for the laptop. Dongle installed very easily and using it a few hours later on train. Looking for Red Kite shortly. xxxxxx to the beauties!!

October 13th: hard at work today on casys paper on category theory but also about to publish first collection of videos (684, 17/8, Allen) on main videos page; these include a lot of additions to material published below. The idea is to move across much of the material from here to better indexed pages, merging in previously unpublished material. New clips for 684 to be added are 2010-684c  2010-684d  2010-684e   2010-684f. 684c shows briefly the stronger-flying juvenile flushed from near the river; 684d shows the female in low-level soar; 684e shows the female patrolling over an area where the stronger juvenile has retreated, locating the juvenile and having a brief flight with it; 684f shows the female flying aggressively into site and then floating over it. There will be some derived stills on the videos page as well as analysis of calls. Still 2 more clips to process. Enjoyed visit to Hexham late afternoon: will miss the s.xy duo!! Concert at Sage was very good with Houston Symphony Orchestra playing the Planets to superb HD video of the planets themselves as photographed by NASA. A Honey-buzzard in North Yorkshire today and, over last 2 days, 2 further Rough-legged Buzzard where you would expect them.

October 12th: today’s unlikely Rough-legged Buzzard is a single in Somerset – most unlikely that first immigrating Rough-legged Buzzard will occur in SW England but a perfect location for late Honey-buzzard juveniles from Scotland. Nice and sunny today but no real fieldwork as helping LD with database installation at Ponteland and sorting out final submission for paper at Liège. But did make Hexham for lunch where good to see the dynamic pa (not pi… ar…) in action!! After much thought went to G in evening where England football match sickened a few. Met a few Austrian engineers from Egger and told them what a good job they were doing; think they’re just getting to grips with Hexham at nite! Didn’t realise that quite a lot of the G crowd are Haltwhistle bred: really enjoyed my drinking days at the Spotted Cow! Enjoyed the nite air: very arousing!! Tomorrow it’s N mid-afternoon, train to Newcastle, MP for meal with Nick, followed by another high-tech concert at Sage.

October 11th: added further video (735) for Honey-buzzard brood up on the watershed between Devil’s Water and Beldon Burn on 26/9. Derived stills comprise 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10. Stills 1-3 show what might be taken as a Marsh Harrier by some but the wings are very flat and loose, so it’s the wrong family! Most Honey-buzzard identification can be simply performed by assigning the bird in question to the right family. Gamekeepers don’t seem to have a problem in separating harriers and Honey-buzzard, in that the former survive 5 minutes and the latter are left alone. Very interesting! Do they do their id mainly on jizz? Obviously advanced! Stills 5-7 show the long wings and tail. Stills 8-10 shows a more buzzard-like appearance but small protruding head and broad wings are characteristic. Well, very stimulating visit to Hexham: don’t know why the lovely duo need the products on the shop sign of SD!! Jizz certainly does something to me when the gsff and gpscome into view!!! Almost finished September record compilation now. Another Honey-buzzard today, at Budleigh Salterton, brings monthly total to 12 and annual total to 287. Caught up with grass mowing and outside painting this afternoon. It’s a mystery where to go tomorrow with Welli closed! But will make Hexham for lunch!! Concerts on Wednesday and Thursday are 270 miles apart; but after this fling I’m more stationary for a while, which is good!!

October 10th: finally escaped the murk by getting into upper South Tyne this afternoon at Eals from 15:10-17:50. It wasn’t sunny but there was some blue sky and cloud level was higher than around Hexham. Had 9 raptors of 4 species: 5 Common Buzzard, 2 Kestrel and single Sparrowhawk and Honey-buzzard. The last named was a juvenile arriving high from the N at 16:40 and being greeted by a reception committee of 2 Jackdaw. Unperturbed it slowly turned and, losing height gradually, moved towards Lambley Viaduct. So think this is a Scottish bird which may have been held up by the poor visibility of the last few days but was now decisively moving S. Skipped morning at Bywell as low clouds and decided to repair 2 loose power sockets in sitting room, which involved turning off power, cleaning out back plates and re-fitting: all sorted! G was good, plenty of pals there, but excitement mounts later: she’s such a beauty!! Found 2 good clips of Rheingold on YouTube: first shows finale where what should be totally triumphant scene is counterbalanced by the wailings of the Rhinemaidens about their loss of the gold (for which read environmental loss); second shows Rhinemaidens at start of opera in the nude, obviously s.xy (but can also read as innocence of nature). Wagner in the power of his music often appears to be supporting the ruling classes but his words are much more socialist – a very complex brew! Tomorrow lunch in Hexham and more of the same in the afternoon!!

October 9th: another gloomy day weather-wise so very pleased to be going to opera on HD link from New York Met at Tyneside Cinema from 18:00-21:00. The Met’s production of Wagner’s Rheingold is very controversial, using extensive high-tech features to improve the dramatic side, such as real bridges across the sky to Valhalla, a long stair case down to the Nibelung and many tricks with computers and lighting. More conservative fans don’t like it but personally found it very absorbing. Of course the music and singing have to be good and they were brilliant, including Bryn Terfel who did give a message in Welsh before the main performance to the HD viewers, including a few who might have understood it at a cinema in Prestatyn! Wagner would have definitely been impressed by the performance. As Max Steiner, composer of the score to Gone with the Wind, said: “If Wagner had lived in this century [20th] he would have been the number one film composer”. Well think he would also have embraced computer technology to move into the 21st. After all he did construct his own theatre at Bayreuth to try and get the effects he wanted. There’s a very funny review of the New York performance – love the references to contract law; but I don’t think the Rhinemaidens are tarts: they’re the personification of nature (but like a good time)!! Flosshilde had the most appeal!! Back to earth on last train (21:22) with 3 policemen on board, followed by takeaway in Hexham! Tomorrow weather looks better and expect to make Bywell in morning, Hexham for lunch and South Tyne in afternoon for search for lingering Honey-buzzard. Might even make the G later!! There was a Honey-buzzard today on Guernsey, the 4th on the Channel Islands this autumn.

Good company at Welli last nite; it’s a s.d that it’s closed for 10 days including 2 quiz nites! Will miss those!! Ought to arrange some more intimate quizzes as replacements!! Booked up concert and opera in Berlin for mid-January; going with son – a few hours running time of Tannhäuser completes my live Wagner operas, of the main ones performed anyway. Some people think it’s a funny time to be going to Berlin – very cold – but always enjoy visits there! Here’s one more video (715), from visit to area where Allen meets lower South Tyne on 7/9. Clip 1 shows the female up briefly at 14:15 in flap-flap-glide mode, obviously trying to get the young up but she didn’t succeed and it was 15:10 when the family party of 4 birds (pair, 2 juveniles) got up for 10 minutes as shown in clip 2. All is at distance, which is sometimes the case so as always the jizz is important. In the latter clip the male is up first from start to 1:10; then the young come out of the trees inspired by calls at 1:10 and 1:18 to do some action; at 3:36 all 4 birds are in the frame together; at 4:52 there’s some diving interaction between male and female; at 5:43 there’s a couple of gunshots from the gamekeeper and a delayed reaction (or measured reaction, after surveying area carefully when safe at height) at 6:15 when the birds rapidly retreat back into the trees. I don’t think the gamekeeper had anything at all against the Honey-buzzards but on reflection perhaps he thought I’d overstayed my welcome – you need to be thick-skinned in such areas! Whatever, the cloud formations are fantastic, there were strong thermals and a thunderstorm ensued about an hour later.

October 8th: most gloomy day for ages, no fieldwork! But did catch up on analysis for Honey-buzzard of September 2010 counts on BirdGuides and total is 91 as itemised on web page for national monthly counts; still need to add some comments but SE England was clear winner with 35 birds. Migration was amazingly steady through the whole month. So running total to 30/9 was 275 exactly equal to the count for the whole of the 4th best year 2006. So far in October there’s been 10 more birds so running total is 285! Hardly justifies its status as a scarce migrant, does it? Also sorted out jlaf report for WG2, making it a little more diplomatic. Visited Hexham for 1st time this week and liked what I saw in green and in purple!! In second row in Nero, perhaps better next week!! Markets have been pretty flat recently and not a lot to report overall: portfolio up 0.5% on week and 14.2% on year with ftse catching up a bit, now up 4.5%. Financial stocks have underperformed market since April but don’t see the main markets getting far without a financial recovery! Have fed in a small amount of £4k from funds that managed for mum but most of such funds have not been sold yet; gather that dossier is coming my way for signature on release of main investments in anticipation of probate being granted soon. Mother-in-law’s house is almost sold in Shaldon; having put some backbone into the negotiations by raising the stakes now persuading brothers-in-law to accept improved cash offer. Off for Friday treat of f&c+mp and later the Welli; tomorrow it’s Hexham for lunch and Newcastle in the evening for opera, which is very short for Wagner, just 2.75 hours non-stop, so should be back in Hexham on last train!

October 7th: 4 Honey-buzzard on BirdGuides today with 2 in East Sussex and singles in London and Kent, no doubt northern British-bred juveniles getting into their stride! Not worked out totals yet for September but 10 for October, even excluding stringy Rough-legged, would I suspect make this 4th best year for annual totals with 3 of the 4 highest counts having occurred in the last 3 years. Maybe work out totals more formally tomorrow! Spent all day at unn, making final suggestions on Libyan student’s thesis in morning; one more meeting next week may be the last. Mike’s definitely off to Devon but needs to sell his house in Durham first and Nick’s going to be spending more time in Northampton. I’m still standing!! Met the other glorious Pole!! Good thing is they get up very early and bring you a cup of tea in bed! Here’s some more video (730) from Sinderhope on 20/9 of juveniles: clip 1 with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 and clip 2 with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7. t&s was very good company! Back to business with the lovely gpson road this morning and the gorgeous gsffin thoughts tonite; wonder if they’ll bring me a cup of tea!!

October 6th: did walk around St John’s-in-the-Vale, starting at Castlerigg stone circle. Weather changed every 5 minutes from strong sun to blustery showers with many rainbows during the day: very atmospheric! No raptors today except for Kestrel at Southwaite Services. Total raptors for Lake District National Park from 3/10-6/10 was 18 of 5 species: 11 Common Buzzard, 3 Kestrel, 2 Tawny Owl and single Sparrowhawk and Peregrine. Not bad but feel that densities of raptors are now probably higher in SW Northumberland than Cumbria for those species tolerated by game interests. Improved Anglo-Polish relations!! Late back as walk took longer than expected but instant turn-around at Ordley at 17:30 and made Globe for a swift couple almost one hour later than usual. Tomorrow it’s unn all day and t&s much later! Friday sees things return to normal in Hexham for a little while! To amplify comments about stringy Rough-legged Buzzard, think records on 4/10 at Amberwood, Hampshire, and at Seaforth, Lancs, are from localities where you would not anticipate early migrants of this species but you may well anticipate late Honey-buzzard. The bird at Seaforth had probably by-passed the Lakes! Today 2 more Honey-buzzard reported: one in Hampshire and another at Fair Isle, a rather daunting time to be at the latter!

October 5th: poured down all morning but then sun came out and had shorter walk around Elterwater. Common Buzzard were conspicuous on change in weather with 7 today plus a Kestrel. First Redwing was calling overhead at 15:45. Some walks are much more crowded than in Northumberland, mixed feelings about that! But once off the beaten track, it’s very beautiful. No Honey-buzzard yet but suspect with amount of cloud over the mountains, any birds will have gone down the western coastal fringe of Cumbria and Lancashire. Missing quiz nite!! But back very soon!! xxxxxx

October 4th: good walking weather and did 13km in large circle around Rydal Water. Although much sun the tops were shrouded in mist and not much passage with just a single House Martin seen. Raptors comprised 5 Common Buzzard, 2 Kestrel and a Peregrine (male). Last-named is of course a treat if you live near the grouse moors. Think Rough-legged Buzzard on BirdGuides are probably Honey-buzzard; if it’s October some observers (wrongly!) discount Honey-buzzard. Hospitality is very good at the Lion, particularly if you’re a hearty! Looking forward to excursion to Globe including the stars!!

October 3rd: in land of Wordsworth (Grasmere) at Red Lion with Nick! Faired up this afternoon. Had 2 Tawny Owl and a Sparrowhawk but no Honey-buzzard, though situation is perfect for Scottish migrants with valley along N-S axis and with plenty of woods. One Honey-buzzard at Isles of Scilly today; should avoid Atlantic in SW winds. xxxxxx to the fancied ones!!

October 2nd: actually made Tyne Valley from 11:35-15:45 in better weather (weak sun, light SW wind): very productive, details later. And the next challenger to the Allendale Estates has arrived – here’s the clip from Bywell, with another bird further over between Short Wood and Ovington. Let’s hope these Red Kite do better, surely the Allendale Estates will be revising their rat poison regime – they cannot afford any more scandals. Bywell is better than Hindley Hall, which seems to be completely devoid of raptors at present. My thinking is that the poisonings are not deliberate but due to poor (and illegal) practice with rat poison, leaving it either in the open or insufficiently covered so that poisoned animals can escape into the open and be eaten by birds of prey. Red Kite and Barn Owl, both of which seem to have great problems in the area as a whole, would be the main victims as they will hunt much closer to buildings than say the more timid Common Buzzard. And Honey-buzzard and Sparrowhawk are not affected as they don’t usually eat carrion. The jizz of the Red Kite in the video is very similar to that of Honey-buzzard: if British birdwatchers realised that the Honey-buzzard is a kite, bird of prey observations would be more accurate. It’s not being careful misidentifying Honey-buzzard as Common Buzzard: it’s sloppy and inaccurate! Visited Kiln Pit Hill (with mausoleum, church), Stocksfield mound and Bywell Home Farm. Total raptors were 18 of 4 species: 13 Common Buzzard, 2 Red Kite, 2 Sparrowhawk (both juveniles at Bywell, clip) and a Honey-buzzard. The last named, a juvenile migrant, arrived at 14:35, coming in at moderate height from the N over Newton and moving low-down into Short Wood, Bywell, presumably to rest and feed. Didn’t see it again. There were 2 Honey-buzzard today on BirdGuides, both in Suffolk, one at Lakenheath near Thetford where found the 2 pairs in mid-August. This is one of local Honey-buzzard sites, near Stocksfield. Catching up with neglected tasks around the house: painting front door and clearing multi-fuel stove for an overhaul of fire-bricks and throat plate. A few days luxury beckon! xxxxxx!!

Here’s last material from Devon on 30/7. Clip (670) shows the female Honey-buzzard floating around the site, accompanied by an adult Common Buzzard for some of the time. The calls are all Common Buzzard, angry at presence of Honey-buzzard, which seems to be quite unflappable! Many derived stills for this long video (7 minutes): 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  22  23  24  25  26  27  28. Stills 2-5 show the bird stalled in a vulture-type pose with alula pushed out on 3-5; 6-10 show the Honey-buzzard in direct comparison with the Common Buzzard, latter showing narrower wings of more uniform width and of course looking much scruffier with its moult; 11-14 show typical silhouette for female with small head, long neck and long tail with rounded corners; 15 shows twisting of long neck; 2, 16-18 show broad barring across secondaries. That’s great – can now complete the paper work for that day!

October 1st: here’s clip of juvenile at Bywell on 3/9 (708) with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15. These young juveniles are not easy to identify. This one does have all the fingers showing on the outer primaries and the tail almost equal to the wing width so is not as young as some shown below. But the plumage is very variable. The topside is a rather neutral brown (stills 5-8), the underside is quite pale (stills 9-10 for instance), the head is dark and there is extensive black on the primary tips running well inside the fingers. Fortunately this one does show a large and clear pale yellow bill (stills 1-4 in particular) and some broad barring on the secondaries (still 1, with some indication also on still 15). The trailing edge and tail show broad dark bands so if this were a Common Buzzard it would need to be an adult which it is not as there is no moult. Juvenile Common Buzzard normally show more indistinct trailing edge and subterminal tail band. The secondaries do bulge and the calls are shrill and thin, hence Honey-buzzard not Common Buzzard. The calls will be analysed in due course. Today it is lunch at the Angel, returning to Nero and much later the Welli. Tomorrow may get a chance to look for more migrant Honey-buzzard in the upper South Tyne or Kiln Pit Hill if there’s a break in the weather. Lunch at Angel with Nick was very good – more like a bistro than a pub; good place for entertaining!! Hexham was very wet but not to worry as good to see the gps!! About to add some more material from Devon on 30/7.

Devon material includes further derived stills 7-14 for floating female Honey-buzzard on 30/7 (670, video 1 below) 7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14. Stills 9-10 show the female in distinctive gliding mode with pointed head and long narrow tail and 7-8 show the long flexible neck when the head is turned. Broad barring across the inner primaries is shown on still 11. Common Buzzard adults in moult are shown on this clip. The Common Buzzard on this clip is more interesting: it has a long tail and think it’s a first-summer bird in moult. The jizz is right for Common Buzzard with very erratic flight control, stiff wing beats and raised wings. Derived stills include 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15. Stills 1-2 in particular show fine barring, typical of Common Buzzard, with perhaps 5 bars visible on primaries and up to 10 bars on tail. The fineness of the bars is probably a better measure than the count of the bars as the number counted depends on wear of feathers and particularly of the coverts. This is an aspect of id that plan to investigate over the winter. More material from this visit to add on Honey-buzzard. Welli was good, will be there next Friday but obviously not during tart-up from 11/10-20/10.

September 30th: about to work out month’s count for migrant Honey-buzzard; 4 on BirdGuides today, presumably exiting juveniles, keeps year on course for 4th place. Preliminary figures are 75 reports on BirdGuides as primary species plus 9 as notes but need to check for duplicates and multiple counts and also look for reports on Trektellen and this Notice Board. Would expect passage to continue steadily for another week. Busy day in unn with Libyan student due to submit his PhD in 2 weeks. But after lunch at Baltic did make it back early into Hexham where good to see the gsff!! Indeed saw all 3 of the lovely Rhinemaidens today: nice jizz, nice legs and nice b…..s, respectively!! Had LD meeting at 19:30 discussing targeted seats for gains – top secret but Bywell is no.1! Then made t&s with couple of colleagues: very chatty and imaginative ending!! Tomorrow Hexham Races is not appealing with rain and may be Angel with Nick for lunch! Seeing Rhinemaidens ‘in real life’ at Tyneside cinema on 9/10: Wagner’s Rheingold transmitted live in HD from Metropolitan Opera, New York. First part of Ring cycle – looking forward to it! Might reveal a little more on the plot: the Rhinemaidens are an exciting part of the early story but not exactly innocent!! Latest DVD was Ghosts of Mars, not that impressed – rather like a cowboy/indian film, not pc now, with aliens replacing the indians. And no romance!

September 29th: adding material from earlier visits. Here’s clip 706 from visit to Nookton (Beldon Burn) on 1/9 showing male Honey-buzzard soaring to a great height. He could have been starting migration but doubted it at the time as he had just been on a feeding trip and he appeared to move off N at end of soar. Looking at evidence from 26/9 it would appear very unlikely for him to emigrate some 2 weeks before young fledged. In the soar the wings are pushed forward, the wing is very full on the inner part with the secondaries bulging and no flaps are made once the initial take-off is over. Added more material from Bywell visit on 3/9 (708), firstly derived stills from video below of the emigrating male 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11. The structure of this bird is entirely as expected: long wings with bulging secondaries, long tail equal to wing-width, long neck, small head and short legs. The bird is not in moult: the gap on his left wing is due to feather displacement, not feather loss. Plumage-wise he has pale remiges, obvious broad dark edges all around the outside of the wing and black on the fingers of the outer primaries. The topside is brown-grey and the head appears dark grey. The tail has a broad dark subterminal band. Still 1 shows a thinner inner tail band and traces of a bar across the outer remiges. To follow, video and derived stills for a juvenile Honey-buzzard from the same visit. G was very good – greeted like a long-lost friend – only missed 2 Wednesdays there! Stunning walk through Hexham to get there: nice jizz!! Tomorrow it’s unn all day but back in Hexham early evening and t&s for supper! Booked up trip mid-October to London to stay with elder sister and see rest of family. Did some plastering today upstairs restoring wall which had to be opened to get access to the pipes. Needs a skim to finish it.

September 28th: a Honey-buzzard free trip – must be getting near the end! Went to Blenkinsopp, the one probable site, from 15:30-17:25 but dipped, just seeing 3 Kestrel and a Common Buzzard. So think this site will stay as the one that got away. Last sighting here was a male in a hunting trip on 30/8 so it’s probably been successful. Weather was dull with low cloud but dry and much warmer. Made Hexham late as s&l arrived just as I was getting ready to go out and wanted to catch up on a few things! It was warm enough to sit outside Nero! Well need some new interests now!! Certainly some ideas from the Welli!! Need to stiffen the resolve!! See it’s going to be closed from 10/10-20/10 which means next quiz nite is 26/10! Got collared tonite by the LD who were having a select meeting: is anywhere safe? Tomorrow it’s the G as usual for tea; might start redecorating the downstairs bathroom to keep focused. Enjoyed last nite: very sweet dreams of somebody!!

September 27th: late broods yesterday 26/9 were in the Derwent valley. Weather was unpromising with drizzle as set off but slowly brightened during visit from 11:55-15:10; it was very cool though and gloomy overall with full winter battle-gear clothing, which seemed a little incongruous when looking for summer visitors. If the juveniles had fledged 10 days ago (16/9) that would place the egg laying around 85 days before at c24/6, around midsummer day! Obviously this altitude is right at the limit of the bird’s ability to breed successfully, perhaps only facilitated by the heather moor which does hold many insects into September. The first brood at 12:35 was on the Northumbrian side right on the top in coniferous copses at 400m when first seen, moving back slowly towards their nesting site. A female was escorting the 2 juveniles, steering them clear of me. The other brood was on the Durham side from 13:55-14:05. These were up over the nest site in typical post-fledging display with the female up above one juvenile, encouraging it higher and occasionally diving at it. The other juvenile was quite weak-flying, joining them later and not fully participating. Hence rather similar to the birds in the upper South Tyne on 5/9, 3 weeks ago. Indicates that observers should certainly not discount migrant Honey-buzzard in early October; indeed such very late-reared juveniles in northern Britain may not clear the country until mid- to late-October. Total for trip was 11 raptors of 4 species: 6 Honey-buzzard, 3 Common Buzzard and single Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. Not bad in the gloom for a hard game area! Two Raven had set up territory in what they probably think is heaven: hope they’re not disappointed. Some piccies to follow. Draft PhD thesis was not as easy to read as hoped and only up to Chapter 2 with lots of marks! Today not one for raptors – drizzle! Made Hexham for lunch – nice to see the beauty in green!! Continuing to catch up with paper work, even added Breeding Birds Survey data for Wark Forest this evening. Here is a clip from Starcross, Devon, on 13/9 of a Hobby (probably juvenile on short tail, timing) with Common Buzzard (derived stills 1  2  3  4) and another of Common Buzzard taken in the same visit. The latter includes a juvenile (full winged) being chased by an adult (moulting outer primaries) and a juvenile calling. Tomorrow fieldwork depends on the weather. Only certainty is will make Welli later!!

Totals for Honey-buzzard to date, with 12/12 nests done in round 3/3 and 41/41 final site visits for fledging, are: Allen 8 sites, 14 adults (7 male, 7 female) 2 nests (Norway Spruce, Oak) 5×2 2×1+ 1×1 juv fledged; Devil’s Water 6, 10(6,4) 3 nests (Norway Spruce, Scots Pine x 2) 3×2 3×1+ juv fledged; Tyne Valley west 7, 13(8,5) 3 nests (Scots Pine x 2, Norway Spruce) 3×2 3×1+ 1×1 juv fledged; Tyne Valley east 4, 7(3,4) 1 nest (Scots Pine) 2×2 1×1 juv fledged 1×0+ juv but occupied fledging; upper South Tyne 6, 10(6,4) 2 nests (Birch, Norway Spruce) 3×2 2×1+ juv fledged, 1×0+ juv but occupied fledging; lower South Tyne 4, 6(4,2) 3×2 1×1+ juv fledged; and Derwent 6, 9(4,5) 1 nest (Scots Pine) 3×2 3×1+ juv fledged; giving grand total 41, 69(38,31) 12 nests (Scots Pine 6, Norway Spruce 4, Birch 1, Oak 1) juv fledged: 61+ at 39 sites = 22×2 14×1+ 3×1. Also 2×0+ where breeding activity noted into fledging period but no juveniles seen. Confirmed breeding 40, probable 1. One site at probable level in upper South Tyne. Presumed migrants 7: 3 male 25/8-3/9, 2 female 16/9-17/9, 2 juvenile 25/9.

September 26th: some stills from the last 10 days. Here’s new Honey-buzzard site on East Allen near Allendale Town on 22/9, an area that is rapidly becoming more raptor friendly; more established Honey-buzzard site at c300m on East Allen near Sinderhope on 20/9; recent Honey-buzzard site near Vindolanda on 21/9; established site near Eals on 25/9. All of these sites are near heather moor, which certainly seems to attract the birds, presumably because of the high insect populations. The picture of the last shows all the ingredients for a successful site: diverse woodland, open in parts, with some mature trees; heather moorland; river with unkempt sides; low-intensity pasture. But they are adaptable breeding at lower levels with intensive grain cultivation if there is sufficient diverse woodland and rough areas. Definitely an affinity with game rearing so benefited enormously from reduction of persecution of raptors. Finally here’s a skein of Pink-footed Goose arriving high from N, probably from Iceland, at Derwent Reservoir on 17/9.

Today did make the watershed between Derwent and Devil’s Water. And found 2 late (new) broods in Derwent of Honey-buzzard from the highest sites in the study area at about 350m each. Marvellous – details later! Lot of grass cutting late afternoon. Tea in Hexham was very good with long chat to ‘Shire lass a!! Always like Sunday evening in the Globe and very romantic thoughts as leave!! One of drinking mates in Globe lives right opposite Sele – how convenient! Reading 1st 5 chapters of PhD thesis now – back to Honey-buzzard soon!

September 25th: what a day out west – highest number of raptor species this season with 7 found from 11:30-16:30 and a total of 32 birds – 19 Common Buzzard, 6 Kestrel, 2 Honey-buzzard, 2 Sparrowhawk (2 juveniles together) and single Hobby (juvenile), Goshawk (juvenile) and Hen Harrier (ringtail). The walk was northwards from Williamston to the Bog and it was on this stretch that the juveniles above were found. This is the golden mile for raptors in the upper South Tyne (and maybe in the county!). The Hen Harrier was found near the Cumbria border. Weather was cool and often cloudy but there were sunny intervals and one quite long sunny spell when many of the raptors were seen. A Honey-buzzard juvenile anticipated the sunshine moving SW at moderate altitude at 13:45; because of the moderate N wind behind, it periodically circled to keep control of its speed, finally disappearing over the Grey Nag. Birds are wary of being carried away in strong following winds. At Towsbank another juvenile Honey-buzzard was found, first flying on the edge of the moor at 15:30 and then at 15:40 briefly lifting above the canopy, mobbed by a Raven. This bird was not advanced so doubt it was bred locally (as they were fledged a while ago) and consider it a migrant on a feeding break. This site, the first colonised in the county, is very rich for the species and does support migrant birds deep into the autumn (twice into November). Unlike last year there are very few wasps around now so suspect birds will be trying to get out quickly. Tomorrow again on the moorland edge, in Harwood Shield/Riddlehamhope area: where the ‘Shire meets the Derwent! But Hexham later for tea and the Globe!

Here are the Hornet clips from Starcross, Devon, on 13/9. The first shows the Hornet in hunting mode, flitting around the ivy flowers looking for unwary insects, finally catching one. The second shows the Hornet dismembering the hover fly, finally flying off with it in oven-ready mode, presumably to the nest. If you think the prey is a bee then ‘fraid you’ve been fooled by mimicry. Superficially the colour is that of a bee but the structure is that of a fly with flat, inflexible abdomen and 2 large protruding eyes. Genetically bees (Hymenoptera) and flies (Diptera) are a long way apart. Very relevant to Honey-buzzard versus Common Buzzard where the former appear to mimic the latter and can look superficially similar. But the underlying structure and jizz are different as the Honey-buzzard cannot hide its underlying kite affinities. With bee versus hover fly you can try out your skills by picking them off flowers with your fingers! If you’re a real naturalist you’ll get it right every time. If you’re a modern birdwatcher best to wear leather gloves!

September 24th: finally got around to looking at video from 16/9 in upper South Tyne. Here’s clip 723 for juvenile Honey-buzzard with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7. It was moving very quickly but small head and long tail were captured. Also from the same visit found this Osprey moving S at 14:30 on another clip. The initial flight jizz suggests a black-backed gull but closer the narrow, angular wings and 4 visible fingers in the primary tips are visible as shown in these derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10. So that was 6 species of raptor in that trip! Late into Hexham as involved in lengthy discussions on sale of mother-in-law’s house in Shaldon. Getting to grips with Hornet clips now! Marco Polo was good – staff always very friendly there and one like me loves visiting Africa! Didn’t have that high expectations about the Sage concert as find Tippett a bit dry but his Child of our Timewas very moving with spiritual undertones, 4 excellent soloists and the Northern Sinfonia Chorus in fine form. Then it was the Welli where mwas doing the honours! Sadly Nick’s mother died a few weeks ago and he’s been down in Northampton a bit. But next week we’re going to Hexham races on the Friday and then a little later going to the Lakes for a few days. Tomorrow it’s the upper South Tyne to see what the remnants of our Honey-buzzard population might be doing but back to Hexham later.

September 23rd: busy sociable day in Newcastle and very strange weather with at lunchtime Quayside dry and Monument wet. Later everywhere got soaked and road was closed from Riding Mill-Corbridge, fortunately just after Dipton Wood turn-off. Think some of remaining juvenile Honey-buzzard will be tempted to move tomorrow and Saturday with cold front clearing after a deluge and with dropping temperatures. The promised N winds will also provide an easy exit. 2010 is now past the 257 annual count for 2003 so guaranteed 5th place. Therefore 4 of the highest annual counts have occurred in the last 5 years. Boat was good fun – didn’t realise that Hexham residents were regarded as posh! 5 of us this week; we’ll be going there once a month probably when t&s have music nite. Tomorrow it’s Hexham for lunch, some fieldwork either side, first concert of season with Nick at Sage in evening, preceded by meal at mp, and finally the Welli!

September 22nd: added below derived stills (730) for juvenile 2 at Sinderhope. The long neck is shown very clearly on stills 1-4. But of course they don’t fly with the neck extended the whole time – that’s a nonsense aerodynamically. They extend the neck to look around! Is this really so strange? What absolute rubbish has been written on this feature by others! The tail shape is perfect on this one with rounded corners; it’s interesting that juveniles once their tails are fully grown and fresh may show this feature better than adults, whose tails are often worn. This second juvenile is of the pale type with white head with mask. Again the bill is very pale (still 5 for instance). Off to Allendale soon for check on potential new site. Then will pop into Hexham late afternoon, drive to Rothbury and return to Globe for recuperation!! Tomorrow evening unn team is breaking out from Hexham with new recruit in Wylam and going to Boat for a change! Did make East Allen from 13:30-15:40 and landed site no.41 with a juvenile Honey-buzzard coming up from wood above Studdon Park at 13:35 and floating down towards the valley. Amazing how the East Allen, a very hard game area, is now so raptor friendly, at least if you’re not a Hen Harrier or a Peregrine. Day total was 5 raptors of 3 species: 3 Common Buzzard and single Honey-buzzard and Kestrel. Had tremendous pressure to make LD conference in Blackpool but had other priorities and relieved didn’t go after seeing Cable’s anti-business rant! Made Hexham late afternoon and delighted to see Ireland now enviously taking the strain!! Then off to Rothbury where had over 2-hour meeting discussing how JLAF should cope with changed political situation. On way back jumping frogs in rain were all over the place with a Barn Owl seen near Kirkharle. Finally made Globe where had very good chat with people don’t normally meet at this time! Above all though sweet dreams!!

September 21st: added stills below for yesterday’s first juvenile — pride of the East Allen! Warmer outside today; gsff looked stunning from that angle!! With 4 Honey-buzzard on BirdGuides by 13:50 think juveniles have started their long trek S – how many will be recognised? Some will leave weighing significantly more than 1kg, to allow for the odd spot of bother on the way! Bon voyage! Anyway back to the field out W mid-afternoon. Fascinating afternoon from 14:55-17:25 – area around Bardon Mill is all rather new to the survey; it used to be a black hole for raptors! But today realised there are now 2 Honey-buzzard sites near it, one in a large wood on southern side of South Tyne and the other just S of Vindolanda, the famous old Roman site near heather-covered Thorngrafton Common. At each site, regulatory distances (2.5km) apart, there were 2 juvenile Honey-buzzard up together, the first from 15:00-15:05, the second from 15:50-16:00. No adults at either, think nearly all females have gone now. Total for day was 8 raptors of 3 species: 4 Honey-buzzard, 2 Common Buzzard and 2 Kestrel. 105 Swallow were near Willmontswick. A male at the garage just W of Bardon Mill in the summer (20/6) had been assigned to the site S of the river, but it was closer to the northern site and flew back in that direction so re-assigned. Nice to know there’s a Roman flavour now; wonder if they bred there when the Romans ruled OK. So that’s 40 sites now (37 confirmed, 56+ juveniles), not counting potential new site in East Allen. At end of trip went to Blenkinsopp, W of Haltwhistle, for another go at this site, which is still at probable level, but no joy in rather gloomy conditions. Tomorrow chairing WG2 of JLAF at Rothbury at 18:00 and weather looks uncertain, so not plotted yet! Back to unn on Thursday as usual. Enjoyed Welli – targets looked so very appealing, particularly in light of Spain’s sporting successes!! Hope cars got on well!! Other new ‘pal’ was picked up by a rather aggressive husband! Takes all sorts!

September 20th: trip up the East Allen from 13:05-15:35; NW wind was in my view a little too fresh for raptors to be out but still managed to score with 9 birds of 3 species: 4 Honey-buzzard, 4 Common Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk. The first Honey-buzzard was a female up in rampant fashion over Parkgates about 1.5km S of Allendale Town. She was clearly testing the water and decided against any practice flying, presumably because of the wind. Strange thing is that this is a new site, with some suitable woodland in valley below at Studdon Park and heather moors all around. So this could be site number 40 but will pay it another visit if have time to check it out again. Spacing from Sinderhope, subject of visit today, is 2.5km downstream so well within regulations! Was somewhat lucky with the other 3 Honey-buzzard. Was leaving at 15:15 as thought wind too fresh for any soaring but when just 500m on road back to Allendale Town saw 3 Honey-buzzard in affectionate display over Garrett’s Hill with female above 2 juveniles. It’s not easy stopping on that road but managed to find a wee pull-in, walked back and got some very close-up video of the 2 juveniles. Both glided back into the wood right over my head. Video (730) of the first is here with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9. Still 1 shows 4 broad bars across the inner primaries, perfect for juvenile Honey-buzzard. This bird is ready for emigration with primaries all fully grown, except perhaps for P10, which looks a little short, and high body weight. The tail is fully grown, with length equal to wing width, rounded corners and notch at end. The bill is pale and fine and there is extensive black on the outer primaries. Video of the second is here with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18. So still some birds to move S! Did make Hexham – some lovely eyes!!! Tomorrow will make Hexham for lunch before getting back to see lovely cleaners s&l; then it’s off to Bardon Mill. Much later should be at Welli where there’s a rumour that I’m deserting them for the Globe, where Guinness is 1p cheaper! Hardly likely!! More to follow! Intrigued by Honey-buzzard reported today on BirdGuides at Exminster Marshes in Devon; surely a locally bred juvenile from Powderham or Haldon.

September 19th: wedding reception at Regency Hotel, Leicester, went very well; good to catch up with everybody again on that side of the family and to see daughter again. Not the easiest place to get to by train, needing 4 different trains between Hexham and Leicester on way down, 3 on way back but with 1-hour wait at Sheffield. Some very tired but contented runners on the train back to Corbridge. Steady flow of reports of Honey-buzzard on BirdGuides continues with the passage occurring on NW winds, not exactly good conditions for drift migration from Scandinavia! Now up to c63 for September and c247 for year, making this already 6= best year. Ranking of years to date is 2008 ≈ 2000 > 2009 > 2006 > 2003 > 2002. So if 2010 becomes 4th which looks quite possible, then 3 of the 4 highest annual totals have occurred in the last 4 years, which is significant. Globe later though think have had enough Guinness this weekend! Well glad went, keep my feet under the table! And there’s always the proximity to others!! Tomorrow it’s a lie-in followed by trip up the Allen and maybe Hexham later!

September 18th: updated totals below. Almost there! Productivity is better than expected with x2 now predominating and overall total of 50+; don’t think there is any difference between one area and another and lowland and upland sites have both performed well. In a few days in some areas expect juveniles to be grouping together as females leave. Welli was very good though people seemed to think I was already off to the wedding! Hexham was eerily quiet at 08:30 as left but not used to seeing it at that time; hope dreams were sweet!! Back very soon! xxxxxx!! faswtgo!!

Totals for Honey-buzzard to date, with 12/12 nests done in round 3/3 and 37/39 final site visits for fledging, are: Allen 7 sites, 13 adults (7 male, 6 female) 2 nests (Norway Spruce, Oak) 4×2 1×1+ 1×1 juv fledged; Devil’s Water 6, 10(6,4) 3 nests (Norway Spruce, Scots Pine x 2) 3×2 3×1+ juv fledged; Tyne Valley west 7, 13(8,5) 3 nests (Scots Pine x 2, Norway Spruce) 3×2 3×1+ 1×1 juv fledged; Tyne Valley east 4, 7(3,4) 1 nest (Scots Pine) 2×2 1×1 juv fledged 1×0+ juv but occupied fledging; upper South Tyne 6, 10(6,4) 2 nests (Birch, Norway Spruce) 3×2 2×1+ juv fledged, 1×0+ juv but occupied fledging; lower South Tyne 3, 5(3,2) 1×2 1×1+ juv fledged; and Derwent 6, 8(4,4) 1 nest (Scots Pine) 1×2 3×1+ juv fledged, 2×0+ juv but occupied fledging; giving grand total 39, 66(37,29) 12 nests (Scots Pine 6, Norway Spruce 4, Birch 1, Oak 1) juv fledged: 50+ at 33 sites = 17×2 13×1+ 3×1. Also 4×0+ where breeding activity noted into fledging period but no juveniles seen. Confirmed breeding 34, probable 5. Two sites in Allen and lower South Tyne are priority for final visit; four sites with 0+ comprise 2 in Derwent and singles in Tyne Valley east and upper South Tyne. Presumed migrants 5: 3 male 25/8-3/9, 2 female 16/9-17/9.

September 17th: hectic pace continues. Made Derwent Reservoir (Ruffside) from 10:05-11:30. It was very autumnal – cold NW wind and to fit had 2 skeins of Pink-footed Goose totalling 90 (50,40) flying S/SW at 11:13 and 11:27. Quite a few Pinkfeet arrived today (presumably from Iceland or Greenland) – interesting series of records on Birdguides! A Honey-buzzard juvenile called on arrival and that was that; also had 2 Common Buzzard (ad, juv), 2 Kestrel and a Goshawk (very impressive, adult female). After lunch made Dukeshagg from 14:05-15:20, where waited 15 minutes for a female Honey-buzzard to emerge and fly high above the site. After a lot of encouragement, 2 quite weak-flying juveniles finally came out of the canopy and did some practice flying from 14:40-14:50 with the female still well-up. Satisfied with their progress the female then proceeded to b….r off, soaring on and on into the clouds and disappearing to the S! Then went to Airport to swap Corsa for Ka; becoming more tempted to get a new car at end of season. Ka’s a very good runner (to coin a phrase) but shall we say the gear changing has become rather personal, the power steering fluid needs topping with wonder gunge and it’s almost reached 80k miles! Weather improved during afternoon so decided to have another go at Hyons Wood from 16:30-17:15. Here had to wait 20 minutes before 3 Honey-buzzard came up from the top SW corner of the wood and flapped towards Hedley. The female then split off going S and the 2 juveniles glided back to N, all at low level. So day total was 12 raptors of 4 species: 7 Honey-buzzard, 2 Common Buzzard and Kestrel and a Goshawk. The 2 sites near Prudhoe at last sorted! Very sad but no Red Kite! In last 2 days done 5 out of outstanding 7 sites. Marvellous, just 2 to do, one in upper reaches of East Allen, the other near the roadworks at Bardon Mill on A69. Then a check for post-breeding juvenile gatherings and a mound of data entry and web publication to catch up with. Wedding of nephew (in-law’s side) is on tomorrow, staying overnite in hotel and coming back in train on Sunday afternoon. In Hexham’s eminent business circles 2 sightings of gsff and 3 of gps!! Need to be hardy to enjoy Nero’s latest facilities!! Portfolio looks flat on surface, down 0.3% on week, but this masks an increase in bonds slightly outweighed by fall in banking equities (Basel proposals ultimately a worry), so bonds now up to 53% of total, highest yet. Increase on year is 14.0% against +1.8% for ftse. Remain cautious but looking for little more optimism by December. New funds expected in 4 weeks.

September 16th: made Tyne Green, Hexham, in morning and Barhaugh Hall, near Slaggyford, in afternoon. Good weather for raptors with sunshine and brisk NW wind and lots seen: 26 birds of 6 species with 12 Common Buzzard, 6 Honey-buzzard, 5 Kestrel and single Hobby, Goshawk and Osprey. The Honey-buzzard comprised 3 birds (female and 2 juveniles) at Hexham; at 10:55 at least one of the juveniles was in trees near the caravan site where suspect they bred c2km from Hexham Abbey; from 11:05-11:10 a family group was up in the air over the N side of Tyne with the female so high at one point and leaning to SE that it looked as if she was leaving but she came back. At Barhaugh Hall from 14:05-15:20 2 juveniles were fairly conspicuous, continually raising flocks of Jackdaw, but no adults seen at low level. The birds here are completely impervious to the Robinwood kids’ adventure centre: think they can stand human disturbance but not if it’s specifically aimed at them. A migrant Honey-buzzard appeared at 14:55 floating very high just under the cloud cover to S; certainly not a male as relatively heavy and presumed to be a female on flight ability; this one, on BirdGuides, is possibly a Scottish migrant. The Hobby was a juvenile mobbing a Honey-buzzard juvenile at Barhaugh Hall. The Goshawk, also a juvenile, was hunting up the Barhaugh Burn. The Osprey was a migrant – see 24/9 above. Tables outside Nero offer much better views of the catwalk!! And brilliant sightings of the gsff and gps!!! Could add a bit more!! To pub later, abandoned t&s as too full and went to Globe instead (for a change!). Après is very stimulating, high point!!! Tomorrow it’s Derwent Reservoir in morning and Dukeshagg in afternoon as move back towards Airport to swap cars. Should make Hexham for lunch and Welli much later!! Expecting to go with daughter to Leicester on Saturday to a wedding, back on Sunday.

September 15th: no fieldwork yesterday but completed clearing house and signed the probate forms – all rather poignant really. Stayed at mum’s old house but that is going on the market very quickly so may be last visit (or not if it doesn’t sell!). Had to do swearing in Teignmouth at a time coinciding precisely with end of Tour of Britain cycle stage – chaotic! My younger sister still lives in the area of course. Posted this first part today at Stafford around 14:30, having done 203 miles since setting off from Dawlish at 09:25. xxxxxx!! Completed drive at 19:45, arriving in Hexham for a couple at the Globe for recuperation! Whole journey is 402 miles and time was pretty even with 09:25-11:00 Michael Wood, Stroud, 102 miles, 64 mph; 12:00-13:35 Stafford, 101 miles, 64 mph; 15:10-16:45 Burton, Kendal, 104 miles, 66 mph; 18:05-19:45 Hexham, 95 miles, 57 mph. Quite impressed with Opel Corsa 1.2l 5-door hatchback– seemed fairly rugged and easy to drive: got it to Friday teatime. But then not much to compare it with! Had long stops to do it in one day, including diversion in Stafford area to Cannock Chase, where looking for Honey-buzzard but none found there. Did though find a Honey-buzzard juvenile flying above Whitmore Wood, ancient woodland, just before Stoke-on-Trent. Think the whole stretch between Cannock and Newcastle-under-Lyme looks promising for Honey-buzzard with quite extensive areas of forest and woodland, some of it ancient, some on old coalfields. Know the latter are acceptable from Liège. Did inevitably notice the odd raptor on journey: 18 of 4 species — 9 Common Buzzard, 7 Kestrel and single Sparrowhawk and Honey-buzzard. Decided to skip unn tomorrow. Full day tomorrow in field but should make Hexham for lunch and much later at 21:00 for t&s!!

September 13th: out in grey but dry weather to Honey-buzzard site near Starcross from 11:40-12:40 where pair of adults earlier in season. Had a noisy family party of 4 Common Buzzard, a juvenile Hobby and a juvenile Honey-buzzard, the last-named coming out of nesting area and flying high to SW, presumably on a feeding trip. Very interested to see a number of Hornet workers near the wood containing the raptor territories. Got some video for them, including a rather brutal capture of a hover fly and its dismemberment. Reminded me that I’d had a single Hornet worker in the wood W of Hexham on 31/8, the first I’d seen in Northumberland; this northern one ‘buzzed’ me shaving my forehead which is quite common; never flap at a Hornet if it does this, just ignore it. Hornet have always been fairly common in the Haldon area but are very rare in Northumberland, though Wallis in 1769 wrote about a nest near Chipchase. Yet another instance of an insect moving N in its range. When at school in Teignmouth I was ‘official’ capturer (and releaser) of queen Hornet, which had got stuck in classrooms in autumn. The queens are pretty formidable but not dangerous if you avoid panicking them! Honey-buzzard will tackle Hornet nests – they must be f…..g crazy! Tomorrow in afternoon signing probate forms on oath and completing clearance, prior to putting house on market. Solicitor charges are £6k so far, well under half of what Lloyds AMS would have charged. Looking forward to return xxxxxx!! Hope favourite pussy’s OK!! About to add stills of the marvellous columns at Aksum, Ethiopia, below (8/8) for 13/2, including some nice erect examples! Also to add Common Fiscal and Speckled Pigeon.

September 12th: this morning checked Haldon for migrant and any locally-bred Honey-buzzard before going to younger sister’s for lunch and bashing through 50 pages of probate forms. House clearing is tomorrow afternoon. Did not have long on Haldon, 10:40-11:50, but in brilliantly sunny weather on light NW wind had 2 juvenile Honey-buzzard up together to W and at least 8 Common Buzzard in same general area. Honey-buzzard were practising soaring, not migrating. Think site found may be a new one or move by an existing pair. Watched the Gulls yesterday (11/9) storming back to top of the table with a 0-0 draw: both sides could have won it in last few minutes but award for man of the match to Gulls’ keeper gives some flavour of game. Gulls almost stole it in last 5 seconds with a scorching header scraping the cross-bar. Having flown down, currently driving a black Opel Corsa, which taking back to Hexham with effects for late visit to Globe, swapping in due course for a Ka at Newcastle Airport. Updated national totals for Honey-buzzard with August counts: grand total of 62, just one less than last year’s very high total. Some migration on BirdGuides today – 9 birds including 2 in Scotland. Suspect it was a good practice day for juveniles with some adults in northern Britain taking the chance to slip away! Would not expect many adults to be left at breeding sites in southern Britain. Running annual total for national counts is 225. xxxxxx to to the fancied one!!

September 10th: flying visit to Dipton Wood site from 11:00-11:20 in steamy sunny weather; immediate success with a pair of juvenile Honey-buzzard up playfully just over the canopy and a male Hobby in territory above them. Changed strategy at site, viewing from Lamb Shield, which is more distant but can get a much better view into the Devil’s Water (E end of Linnels really). Think I’ve been looking more at the Wood itself on its SW corner. It’s important really as indicates there are no sites at all in Dipton Wood itself but rather the birds form a ring around the main wood, nesting in steep-sided, densely wooded valleys. This species certainly teaches you humility. Made Hexham later before rushing off: gsff looked very sophisticated; will be missed!! Will the gps be back next week? Think remarks Wed eve did not go down well! xxxxxx

Totals for Honey-buzzard to date with 12/12 nests done in round 3/3 and 32/39 final site visits for fledging are: Allen 7 sites, 13 adults (7 male, 6 female) 2 nests (Norway Spruce, Oak) 4×2 1×1+ 1×1 juv fledged; Devil’s Water 6, 10(6,4) 3 nests (Norway Spruce, Scots Pine x 2) 3×2 3×1+ juv fledged; Tyne Valley west 7, 12(8,4) 3 nests (Scots Pine x 2, Norway Spruce) 2×2 3×1+ 1×1 juv fledged; Tyne Valley east 4, 6(3,3) 1 nest (Scots Pine) 1×1 juv fledged 1×0+ juv but occupied fledging; upper South Tyne 6, 10(6,4) 2 nests (Birch, Norway Spruce) 2×2 2×1+ juv fledged, 1×0+ juv but occupied fledging; lower South Tyne 3, 5(3,2) 1×2 1×1+ juv fledged; and Derwent 6, 8(4,4) 1 nest (Scots Pine) 1×2 2×1+ juv fledged, 2×0+ juv but occupied fledging; giving grand total 39, 64(37,27) 12 nests (Scots Pine 6, Norway Spruce 4, Birch 1, Oak 1) juv fledged: 41+ at 28 sites = 13×2 12×1+ 3×1. Also 4×0+ where breeding activity noted into fledging period but no juveniles seen. 7 sites are priority for final visit: 2 in Tyne Valley E and singles in Allen, Tyne Valley W, upper South Tyne, lower South Tyne and Derwent.

September 9th: busy day at unn, making good progress with Mike on latest paper. Again exhilarating lunch at Baltic on Quayside! Got back at 17:30 into Riding Mill and dashed off to S, picking up 2 juvenile Common Buzzard by the Shilford roundabout. Spent an hour at Minsteracres from 17:35-18:35. Had call of juvenile Honey-buzzard at 18:00 but decided to stay and rewarded with 2 juveniles on edge of newly-cut wheat field, a large dark one and a smaller rufous one. So these fields are popular as expected. Will give update on totals tomorrow but think now have visited 32/39 sites in fledging period and have found evidence for activity in all of them with minimum 39 juveniles counted and 12 broods of 2. There’s plenty more to resolve but end is very much in sight! Tomorrow it’s a bit of a rush but in morning plan to start razing Dipton Wood if don’t get a result and of course see the beauties of Hexham!! Tip for Honey-buzzard passage: a cold front clears the country on Saturday night 11/9 and a ridge of high pressure builds on Sunday 12/9 – classical conditions for raptor passage! Maybe worth an evens bet! t&s from 21:00 was very entertaining: like Hexham at nite!! Really joining Cameron’s BS now with £46k of iht to pay in spite of a number of manoeuvres: value of some assets exceeded those expected in planning. But we’re on an instalment plan to soften the blow. See this Honey-buzzard home page is number 5 on Google now – very gratifying. The Notice Board is not rated though (perhaps just as well!), but of course it’s work in progress and much of material will be put into main pages over the autumn.

September 8th: made from 13:15-15:45 2 sites in Allen with total of 7 Honey-buzzard, 2 Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk. Weather was quite sultry, looking threatening at end but maybe seen too many old films recently! Soon after arrival had a family party of 3 birds (pair, juvenile) up over Parmentley on Whitfield Moor in a very intensive game rearing area. The young here was a good flier joining its parents in hazy clouds over the nest site. The birds at the nearby site by Whitfield Hall were much less forthcoming but over the watch period had a male dropping in at high speed, a juvenile flying from one wood to another low-down and another juvenile calling from a different part of the wood. Although in West Allen picked up another Honey-buzzard 4km to the E in the East Allen over heather moor – enormous, presumed female. Globe was very enjoyable – all the gang out! Revealing walk through Hexham: such a beautiful pair!! Tomorrow it’s unn, maybe all day, but t&s for nightcap!! Friday late-on sees meeting with sisters: probate and final house clearance is imminent. May be on M5 instead of Globe in a week’s time (but not in Ka, which resting)! See this Honey-buzzard home page is number 2 on Bing now: glad to know Microsoft get some things right! What a triumph for the internet over ‘green’ record committees!

Here’s 3rd clip (713) of family party of 4 Honey-buzzard and intervening Common Buzzard adult in the upper South Tyne on 5/9. Stills have been derived for Common Buzzard adult 1  2  3  4 and Honey-buzzard female 5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15. The Common Buzzard is the calling bird, indeed the only bird that called in over 15 minutes of observation. It’s in full wing moult, with perhaps on its right wing P1-P6 new, P7-P8 missing, P9 growing, P10 old. The barring is fairly broad with 4-5 bars across the inner primaries. There’s a lot more variation in the barring in Common Buzzard wings than is sometimes acknowledged. The Honey-buzzard shows typical fine structure with small head and long thin tail, bulging on the sides and with rounded tip. She is obviously anxious about the Common Buzzard and drops down to protect the young; the male makes way for her! Basic impression – all important jizz! –is of a powerful inelegant buteo versus a buoyant elegant kite! Here’s 4th clip (713) of male Honey-buzzard in fast flight across the valley with a derived still 1 showing small head and long tail. faswtgo!!!

September 7th: here’s 2nd clip from 5/9 (713); much the same as 1st but at one point the female does join the weaker flying juvenile to give it some moral support! Today made Allen Banks area from 13:30-15:30. Rather sporadic action early on with juvenile up at 13:55, male up at 14:00 and 14:05, female up at 14:15 and finally family party of 4 birds (pair, 2 juveniles) at 15:10 for 10 minutes. Video (715 above) shows the birds silhouetted against fantastic cloud formations, which became a thunderstorm at 16:30, curtailing the visit while at Willmontswick, near Bardon Mill. Had several amicable chats with gamekeeper who was going up and down road on his quad. Think he thought I was harmless until he spotted me videoing the Honey-buzzard at range: showed him part of the clip and he seemed worried that such detail could be captured at such distance! Not that there was any shortage of raptors in the area with trip total of 4 Honey-buzzard, 4 Common Buzzard and 3 Sparrowhawk, last unusually high count for the study area. Earlier made Hexham for Nero and Sele, latter from 12:35-13:05, but no Honey-buzzard and even more sadly no gsff!! Tomorrow it’s a major assault on 3 upland sites in the Allen, returning to Globe for tea! Welli was very good: gsffis perfect combo of desired properties!!! Bemused by reaction to Bob Diamond’s appointment as chief executive to Barclays (in which do have a substantial interest): do you appoint a slightly risky wealth generator or a boring savings bank type? I’ll go with the former!

September 6th: here’s 1st clip from yesterday 5/9 (713) showing the family party of 4 birds up together over their nesting area. The bird at lowest level is a juvenile, very recently fledged, with P6 apparently missing, P5 still growing and tail 90% of wing width (derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7). It’s not very confident and shows a very wary landing later on, typical of birds that have only been flying a few days. Higher up there are 3 birds, the paler and unusually larger male and darker female, both full winged and another juvenile, stronger flying, but still with P7 and P8 growing (derived stills 8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18). The male and female have some friendly interaction from which the juvenile is spared presumably because its power of flight is not yet good enough. Classical Honey-buzzard jizz is shown with small pointed head, long neck, long tail and effortless floating like kites. Indeed there’s nothing buteoabout them at all! Note the absence of calls – Honey-buzzard do call of course but nothing like Common Buzzard. Further clips will show more jizz and a cross Common Buzzard passing through which provides a very useful comparison.

Common Buzzard movement at some east coast sites particularly from 3/9-4/9 was very interesting. The fascinating reports are shown here from BirdGuides. The passage is too early to have a Scandinavian origin and this page from Trektellen shows very little movement on the Benelux coast from 28/8-4/9. These movements only started in such a manner after the Common Buzzard re-colonised eastern England in the 1990s so it would seem likely that they are of eastern England populations of Common Buzzard, perhaps moving to exploit the harvesting as post-harvest fields are very attractive to raptors. There’s some significance here for another raptor, but can’t quite think what it is at the moment! Would be nice to know the age of the birds as adults are still in heavy wing moult, so should be clear if birds seen properly. Scandinavian Common Buzzard typically migrate in October, for obvious reasons, when wing moult complete.

Today went for walk S of Dipton Wood in blustery conditions from 14:30-16:30 and had a juvenile Honey-buzzard up over the March Burn for about 20 seconds getting some flying practice – not sure it had been out in such winds before. Also had a male coming into the March Burn from near Prospect Hill, really coping with the wind very powerfully. They have to cope with very strong winds on migration across the Mediterranean and the Sahara Desert. No other raptors seen. Earlier after having burglar alarm serviced by Swanson spent 30 minutes at the Sele from 12:45-13:15 but no sign of any birds from the nearby site. Swallow have had a very good breeding season with 20 at the Sele and 120 in the S Dipton Wood area. Missed the gsff!! Tomorrow rain might finish by lunchtime so might be out in field in afternoon after lunch in Hexham! Just watched another film on DVD from Gojo – The Day After Tomorrow – kept the interest! Got over allergy; also get hay fever – so live in ideal position — thinking of moving to Byker! Should make Welli tomorrow evening!

September 5th: great day out in Mecca for Northumbrian raptors, the upper South Tyne around Eals, with from 12:00-15:00, 21 raptors of 6 species in sunny weather with fresh SE breeze. Raptors comprised 7 Honey-buzzard (3 adults, 4 juveniles, at 3 sites), 5 Kestrel (adult, 4 juveniles), 4 Hobby (family party 2 adults and 2 juveniles), 3 Common Buzzard and single Goshawk (juvenile) and Sparrowhawk (juvenile). Lovely dust-free area with no harvesting and the smell of the North Pennines moors. More details later including video of family party of 4 Honey-buzzard in the air together. Therapy continues at the Globe! Good time there plus sensuous exit!!! Tomorrow more local again including lunch in Hexham!

September 4th: feeling lethargic with acute sinusitis! May be allergy to dust from harvesting, which is going on 24-hours a day everywhere. Weather remains rather airless and we need rain to settle the dust. Still out in the field though with highlight a visit from 16:00-16:55 to near Hexham Egger where at Beaufront had 2 juvenile Honey-buzzard including another one with clear broad bars and pale small bill! Would have stayed longer but was getting mixed up in muck-spraying operations and glint in tractor driver’s eye was becoming more obvious! Also had here an adult Common Buzzard which tried to see off one of the Honey-buzzard but the latter kept climbing above the former, and the Common Buzzard eventually gave up. So a Honey-buzzard that has been flying perhaps 2 weeks possesses more climb ability than an adult Common Buzzard, though the Common Buzzard was admittedly still in primary moult. Also here were an adult and juvenile Kestrel. In the morning made the NW Slaley Forest site from 11:50-13:30, getting a juvenile Honey-buzzard hanging over the site and a female which came up for 5 seconds and then dived down again. Also here was a juvenile male Goshawk. A quick trip to Dotland up to 14:00, where 1+ had been the score, produced very quickly 2 juveniles flying at low-level between the trees. So day total was 10 raptors of 4 species: 6 Honey-buzzard (5 juvenile, 1 female), 2 Kestrel, a Goshawk and a Common Buzzard. Note how juveniles are beginning to clearly predominate over adults, at lower sites anyway. Made Nero in Hexham for enjoyable late lunch! Treatment is evidently fluid (Guinness!), rest (but who with!) and decongestants (amazingly found in cupboard). Hope it clears up by Friday! Should get that video with the barred-juvenile and derived stills up later. About half-way through final site checks with end of season around 25/9 (for those who are wondering if it will ever end!). Hoping to do upper South Tyne tomorrow, returning to Hexham late afternoon.

Here’s video 712 from Beaufront today with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15, showing up to 4 broad bars across the inner primaries, which is diagnostic for juvenile Honey-buzzard. Structural features and overall colour are more compelling for this bird. The tail is still growing but is already c95% of the wing width. The primaries, while all present, also look a little stunted at the tips suggesting a recent fledging. The bill is very fine and pale on top, the legs are short extending just under half the length of the tail and the head is small. The secondaries are bulging and P10 is as long as P5. The end of the video (derived stills 16  17) shows that this is a rufous-phase bird, Kestrel-coloured, perhaps a Steppe Buzzard to some! The tail has a narrow subterminal dark band and on the left outer tail feather there appear to be 3 more bands as in still 1 (from above list) but would not want to bet on this! Steam bath has improved matters: xxx!!

September 3rd: busy afternoon visiting 4 sites in Tyne Valley from 13:30-17:50 in warm, hazy, calm conditions. One, near Bywell, turned up trumps for Honey-buzzard with 4 birds present: male, female and 2 juveniles. A juvenile was seen early-on coming in from W, moving towards its noisy sibling and female in the trees but finally veered off to N. Male was located 30 minutes later in a field near Peepy that had just been harvested for wheat (as good as gold in current shortage!). Such fields are popular with raptors as all sorts of wildlife are left exposed in a pretty uneven contest (just what they like!). He took off and very patiently soared on and on and then glided off high to SW, all captured on video here (708). Yes at 14:50 he’s started his trek to Africa. Once he’s got going in a thermal he does not do a single wing flap for over 4 minutes. Then of course the glide also is very economical, rather like downhill skiing with the occasional steadying flap. The main problem the bird has in the fast glide is again similar to that in skiing: controlling the stresses and making sure he emerges at the bottom in one piece! But he’ll also be looking ahead to the next soaring spot. It’s on BirdGuides along with a few other reports from Yorkshire: they think theirs have crossed the North Sea, I think they’ve come from Scarborough! Anyway it’s good reading for local colour!! The other juvenile and female were not seen but were very vocal. The larger brood than at the Stocksfield site probably explains the lateness here: it seems to take an extra week to raise 2 young rather than 1. At other 3 sites around Prudhoe and Corbridge, no Honey-buzzard were seen and indeed only other raptors were a Common Buzzard sitting in a tree at Bywell and a juvenile Kestrel at Hyons Wood. Lunch in Hexham was great: the gsff looked fantastic!!! Very stimulating!! Beginning planning winter’s long trip: crossed Angola off list, not much wildlife and pretty dangerous; Namibia and Botswana capture the imagination with base in Jo’burg. Best week on markets for a while with shares up 3.0% taking year’s gain to 15.2% compared to ftse’s +0.3; yes the ftse is back in the black! Went to Welli to meet the gang, all very good, given apologies for next week! Tomorrow will get out in the ‘Shire in the morning, have late lunch in Hexham and then who knows! Sunday will do the upper South Tyne in improving conditions with more breeze.

September 2nd: busy day at unn seeing Libyan student in morning and Mike in afternoon. Rather shattered by news that Mike, who comes from Somerset, is intending to move to Devon. He’s my main collaborator in category theory. Think he thought that I might like to return there but the birds are better up here!! Booked up with Nick today some operas to be shown at Tyneside Cinema on live link from New York Met, including Wagner’s Rheingold in October and Walküre next May. Also planning to go to Berlin this winter to see Wagner’s Tannhäuser, the only one of his major operas that I’ve not seen live. And have subscribed with Nick for 20-concert series at the Sage and 3 opera performances running through to next June. Was near Sage this afternoon having lunch at Baltic café, nice atmosphere in sunny weather! Missed seeing gps on way in but the lady in mauve looked very sophisticated!! Tonite it’s the regular trip to t&s and tomorrow return to the joys of Hexham!! Very much enjoyed t&s and après!!

September 1st: no rest today – long walk in Derwent up Beldon Burn and tour of a couple of other sites from 11:00-16:15. Weather was brilliant and heather moors looked beautiful but there was very little wind and raptors were hard going. First had checked a potential site in SE Slaley Forest where there is a gap but no birds were seen. The 2 sites targeted in the walk are both at high altitude, 350-400m asl. One, in Durham in Nookton Burn, had a male soaring over it at 14:55 going up high but not migrating, instead hanging over site as if to encourage some action below. But none came! Earlier at 14:05 the male had been seen coming off the heather moor at Riddlehamhope and moving down the valley to this nest site. At the site up the Beldon Burn on the Northumberland side no birds were seen but an alarm call, given at 13:55 as walked along a track, indicated it was still occupied. Highlight was when just leaving Baybridge car park at 15:35: to the E a juvenile Honey-buzzard appeared, climbing a little and then floating back to Blanchland. Finally checked Ruffside near Derwent Reservoir on Durham side of border where no birds seen. Total for day was 3 Honey-buzzard and an adult Common Buzzard, calling from near Middle Plantation. So from breeding success perspective, which is current priority, have for Derwent another 1+ young and 2 more sites occupied during fledging period. Back for very welcome refreshment in Globe! Might post some piccies later but am sorting out some papers for tomorrow’s trip to unn. Think will have lunch on the lovely Quayside: when worked there never found time for such luxury! Friday will have another go at gaps in the ‘Shire and the Tyne Valley!! On BirdGuides 3 of yesterday’s Honey-buzzard were in Lancashire and there were 4 today nationally.

August 31st: great weather, great day!! Last site visit made (12/12) in round 3/3 to wood W of Hexham from 14:05-17:00; this wood was also visited on 30/6 and it’s great for action but very confused at times because of the closeness of the Honey-buzzard and Common Buzzard nests. Thought leaving it this late that the Common Buzzard would have lost their territoriality but no, a Common Buzzard adult insisted on screaming at me through much of the visit. At least this brought the male Honey-buzzard into action and he was visible close to the nest as well as seeing me off the premises, like last time. The female and at least one juvenile Honey-buzzard spent much of the time in a neighbouring wood, calling frequently. So still sorting video but breeding has definitely been successful. Here’s the man of the woods at the end of this stage! Have a few more but may not publish them all! Made Hexham for lunch, including Nero, where thought the fflooked very s.xy!! Think could change her name but definitely suits!! So what happens now? Well off to Welli now. Tomorrow doing trip up Derwent for much of day to check for broods and later it’s the Globe. Thursday it’s unn all day I think since Mike’s not coming in until 14:30. Will update totals for season later. 8 Honey-buzzard on BirdGuides today: think not many have left Northumberland yet with males still mainly on site. Welli was very good: above performed exquisitely!! Took new mates back to Slaley: tr surely beckons if had a spare slot!

Totals for Honey-buzzard to date with 12/12 sites done in round 3/3 are: Allen 7 sites, 12 adults (7 male, 5 female) 2 nests (Norway Spruce, Oak) 2×2 1×1+ juvs fledged; Devil’s Water 6, 10(6,4) 3 nests (Norway Spruce, Scots Pine x 2) 1×2 3×1+ juvs fledged; Tyne Valley west 7, 12(8,4) 3 nests (Scots Pine x 2, Norway Spruce) 2×1+ 1×1 juvs fledged; Tyne Valley east 4, 6(3,3) 1 nest (Scots Pine) 1×1 juvs fledged; upper South Tyne 6, 10(6,4) 2 nests (Birch, Norway Spruce) 1×2 juvs fledged; lower South Tyne 3, 5(3,2) 1×2 1×1+ juvs fledged; and Derwent 6, 8(4,4) 1 nest (Scots Pine) 1×1+ juvs fledged; giving grand total 39, 63(37,26) 12 nests (Scots Pine 6, Norway Spruce 4, Birch 1, Oak 1) juvs fledged: 20 at 15 sites = 5×2 8×1+ 2×1. Breeding activity noted at 2 more sites into fledging period.

August 30th: cool night certainly seemed to inject a note of urgency into Honey-buzzard proceedings. Very fine today and visited South Tyne around Haltwhistle from 15:30-18:10, having total of 10 raptors of 4 species: 6 Honey-buzzard, 2 Hobby and single Osprey and Kestrel. The Honey-buzzard comprised 3 just S of the town (2 juveniles up together at 15:15 followed by female coming in over site at 16:50), a male up over Blenkinsopp moving SW on long feeding trip, a juvenile at Plenmeller out near edge of moor and, on way back, a juvenile near Cupola Bridge. Video was taken of the juvenile Honey-buzzard at Plenmeller with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12: it perched first of all, standing erect with small head; in flight it showed primaries were still growing with now familiar gap between P9 and P5; its tail was still growing, now 90% of wing width. The Hobby comprised 2 juveniles out playfully near Plenmeller (one being intercepted by angry Kestrel near end) and the Osprey, obvious migrant, was powering S over western end of Haltwhistle at 16:35, an impressive sight. Here’s video of Hobby from near Riding Mill on 24/8 with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5 and today’s. Daughter rekindled interest in films from Gojo: watched this morning “The Day the Earth Stood Still”; Jennifer Connelly’s a star! Maybe things are looking up elsewhere!!! Tomorrow it’s lunch in Hexham and final nest site visit in afternoon near Hexham: both should be fascinating! Looking at BirdGuides today the Osprey sighting was just one of many while 3 Honey-buzzard were reported in southern England and the Midlands. Also added clip from video 689 at Warden on 25/8 of male in fast glide showing typical jizz with derived stills 1  2  3.

August 29th: videos from yesterday (700) include this one of fly-over, with derived still 1, and another with a longer sequence including more calls, trees and the fly-over but at lower quality. Analysis and more material to follow but must dash into the field! It’s game, set and match!! Further derived stills from hq clip are shown here 5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  22  23  1  2  3  4 with 5-23 showing the younger bird and 1-4 the older bird. The older bird is apparently just missing P6 while the younger bird has P1-P5 fully grown, P6 growing, P7 apparently missing, P8 fully grown and P9-P10 growing. Secondaries are fully grown on both birds but the younger bird has an uneven tail edge suggesting feathers are still growing. The tail pattern on the younger bird shows a broad subterminal band and four further narrower fairly evenly spaced bands up to the undertail coverts but the tail is not fully grown. The remiges show a broad trailing edge and 2 further broad bands up to the coverts. The tail is c70% of the wing width, reflecting the fact that the secondaries are fully grown and the tail is still growing. Much still to learn from birds this young! Today weather was again cool with blustery breeze. Went to site in Derwent area near Kellas for nest visit 11/12 from 13:20-16:00 and had 3 Honey-buzzard up in air on arrival – male and female up at moderate height and juvenile staggering around just above the trees, latter hence just fledged. But once in site birds disappeared! Nest was very large and much down was found in vicinity, obviously blown off nest in strong winds. Had one anxiety call but birds left me to my own devices. Then visited a number of sites in Tyne Valley from 16:10-18:20 — 4 in all – but only action was at site near Stocksfield where outcome already known with adult pair and juvenile very active, being up for long spells above the site and giving lively action shots. Male will surely leave tomorrow: 2-1 on! Total for trip was 10 raptors of 4 species: 6 Honey-buzzard, 2 Kestrel and single Common Buzzard and Sparrowhawk. Explored area around Stocksfield – much potential!! Later to Globe for a lively couple: intrigued by something!! Tomorrow will make Haltwhistle in afternoon after late lunch in Nero and then take it from there.

August 28th: very autumnal day up the Allen with blustery cool N wind and frequent showers. At Cupola Bridge from 14:55-15:30 had sweet fa! At Monk from 15:40-17:15 had a male Honey-buzzard out at 16:16 but he soon decided conditions were too poor for any soaring and dived back down again. Also here had 3 Common Buzzard (all juveniles) and a juvenile Kestrel. So onto main business for day of site visit 10/12 from 17:20-19:00. This was fantastic but had to wait. After one hour little to show except a well built-up nest in an large Oak tree, some splash and a few down feathers. Then birds started calling angrily and 3 Honey-buzzard were noted: female and 2 juveniles. The juveniles flew low just over the canopy and for one of them in particular got revealing close-up shots of underwing, showing 2 broad bars and feathers still growing. This was the younger one but the older one, presumably by 2-3 days, was still a bit short on the primaries. Piccies to follow. Supporting cast included another juvenile Kestrel so total for trip was 9 raptors of 3 species: 4 Honey-buzzard, 3 Common Buzzard and 2 Kestrel. Have the upland sites done better than the lowland ones? Not clear yet but might be clearer tomorrow after visit to Derwent including site 11/12. Will get to Tyne Valley later as need to check a few things!! Gulls continue to amaze: 10 points clear now of Barnet and Stockport and sharing 100% record with Chelsea! Will be watching them in 2 weeks. Almost got Ka written off by mad lady driver in ‘Shire: not many people think the Lamb Shield interchange has priority over anything!

Yesterday 27/8 1st Honey-buzzard was at Ordley at 07:30, female calling sweetly to its young: beginning to think they’re waging a campaign against me by interrupting my sweet dreams!! Three Honey-buzzard (adult pair, juvenile) were in post-breeding display well below the bridge at Wylam around Close House: new site for Tyne Valley E and only 12km from centre of Newcastle. Suspected they bred here but nice to have it confirmed. Wonder if they’ll make Leazes Park! Another 3 Honey-buzzard (adult pair, juvenile) were near Stocksfield, very opportunistic find as had only stopped for 10 minutes as cloud cleared and up they came. The male came up first and flew very high. The female and juvenile are shown in the video 697; the juvenile is kept below the female and near the end there is some diving by the female at the young bird, play maybe but presumably does help to improve the agility of the juvenile. Such interaction reveals very typical kite-like jizz of Honey-buzzard with broad flappy wings. Floating seems to be the first skill learnt – a very economical form of flight – and like in swimming an aid to survival. Last but not least a juvenile Honey-buzzard came out of the ponds at Farnley and put on some power flight to go downstream. Don’t think it was migrating as primaries still growing but the birds of the year are rapidly growing stronger. Today going to Ant’s for lunch and then the Allen for a nest-site visit and some recce. Markets were gloomy nearly all week and down 1.0% taking year’s gain down to 11.9% (ftse -3.9%) but Friday evening sentiment was improving and maybe decline that I expected for September has largely happened already. Expect QE2 in the US!

August 27th: saw daughter off at Newcastle Airport – she was on standby but no problem! Seeing her again in 3 weeks for wedding of nephew on her mother’s side in Leicester. Planned times at unn did not fit in well with prayers so off into the field at Wylam from 11:00-14:40 including Sled Lane and Spetchells, latter walking in from Prudhoe. Weather was very eerie with hot sunshine on S side of Tyne Valley and heavy clouds on N side which eventually went into heavy rain around Wylam while Prudhoe kept almost dry! Red Kite appear to have bred at Sled Lane but possibly 100-200m into Durham: didn’t see any birds but heard what I took to be 2 young ones hunger-crying from a copse on the wrong side of the boundary. Also had adult and juvenile Common Buzzard here and a female Sparrowhawk, again just on Durham side. Off to Welli now, where enjoyed service from c! gpslooked very fit while on way to Nero!! ffis being very tantalising!! Retreating up valley mid-afternoon covered profitably area between Stocksfield and Corbridge from 14:50-15:30. Total for day was 8 Honey-buzzard as 3,3,1,1, details to follow. Some interesting reports on BirdGuides from London area today. With males making the journey from northern England-London in 2-3 days, the London reports might just include a Northumbrian bird!

August 26th: another male Honey-buzzard off, this time from adjacent site of Dotland in the ‘Shire at 13:10. Altogether had 5 Honey-buzzard in the area from 11:10-14:00 with a gap for lunch in Hexham from 11:30-12:50. Not bad! Weather was again good with plenty of sunshine but perhaps even better today with more breeze. The exiting male came off a nearby wood and I did not think it was going to emigrate as while it was very steady, it did several hangs looking down, but finally it soared on and on, eventually drifting off S. He’s put on a lot of weight as usual in pre-emigration mode, perhaps losing half his weight by time he reaches the wintering grounds. These departures are done solo – no calls or interaction with the family below! Always think it’s rather moving as they make the last turn and finally push off, passing through the base of the clouds: Africa here I come! Video 693 of much of the ascent is here, more details to follow. Research in Hexham sadly stalled but it was a Thursday!! Going to Welli for meal and maybe t&s for nightcap. Welli meal was very good – steak all round! Then indeed onto t&s for a couple of Guinness to chat about the world of computing! Honey-buzzard today included male (above) and calling juvenile at 11:25 at Dotland, male actively up over Dipton Wood site at 13:30 and 2 birds (male, weak-flying juvenile) up over West Dipton Burn at 13:40. Also had an adult Common Buzzard calling at Dotland. We’re obviously into the break-out phase. Tomorrow hope to get some juvenile counts from the Tyne Valley, E and W, before making Globe!

August 25th: male Honey-buzzard departed Ordley for Africa at 11:40, soaring on and on effortlessly up into the clear blue sky and then drifting S; placed on BirdGuides as Slaley. There are 3 Honey-buzzard on BirdGuides today: note the one in South Yorkshire with identical behaviour, another breeding site perhaps! Why are such birds migrants? It’s basically a difference in behaviour. The male yesterday was fooling around, using vast amounts of energy – good for getting fit but inappropriate for energy budgets on the long migration. The male today, as in video 690, was in maximum economy mode, not a single flourish or extravagance. His life depends on minimal energy use over the next 3-4 weeks, using the soar-glide technique. And at 12:10 female up with 2 juveniles for a spot of training! Same again at 13:20 – it’s a tough regime, getting the young fit – this time joined by a complaining juvenile Common Buzzard. Once the female goes there’s a distinct lack of activity by the young for a few days! So 7+ juveniles at 4 sites now, very promising for productivity but these are ‘top’ sites. Plenty of hirundines around this morning on migration. Made Hexham briefly – stretched my id on blouses! But very appealing!! Tomorrow no unn, leaving that to Friday midday as will be into Airport anyway, followed by quick check of a few sites for juveniles and catch-up in the Globe. Expect to make a trip to site in ‘Shire tomorrow followed by lunch in Hexham! Tonite daughter’s cooking a lovely spicy meal – marvellous – green Thai chicken! And plenty of chianti!

Added some more stills from visit on 21/8 (686). The large Honey-buzzard nest was in Scots Pine with an excellent view over the river, perhaps 40m below. You keep very fit getting to the sites: these stills 1  2 show the sort of glades used for approach purposes. The glades are very good for butterflies with 5 species noted including Peacock, Speckled Wood, Comma and Green-veined White. This Garden Spider was enjoying the abundance of insects.

August 24th: start was delayed by rain and decided to reverse proceedings, going for Fourstones area in the morning from 11:20-13:10 as activity here more dependent on weather, which suddenly went into brilliant sunshine for 2 hours. Keen on quickly getting a visit into the lower South Tyne site as it’s an early one, rivalling the Allen one as first to fledge. Not disappointed as had 4 Honey-buzzard here: 2 juveniles flapping home untidily against the moderate SW breeze, a male in flamboyant mode both over the site and about 2km to the NE and a female in watchful eye over the site with 2 expeditions out. The male will be off very soon: around 24/8 is when their exodus begins but later of course if the young are still weak fliers. The strategy seems to be to vacate the site early to leave the remaining food for the young and female but could be interpreted by some as slightly feckless! However that’s anthropomorphic! Also here had 4 Common Buzzard (2 adult, 2 juvenile, at 2 sites) and a Sparrowhawk (adult male). Next visit was to near Riding Mill to check the nest site. The birds are so secretive here but I go through the motions and from 15:30-17:20 had 3 anxiety calls from a Honey-buzzard (presumed male as kept distance) and found 9 down feathers and some splash below nest as well as a Woodpigeon chick as presumed kill. Nest in Norway Spruce was in fine condition and one piece of down came down as I watched it. Verdict was that fledging is imminent or has happened in the last day or two with the birds retreating to nearby cover. Just about to dash off to Airport when heard a Hobby calling with 2 birds then quickly appearing in close interaction. Need to analyse the video to check what was going on but it looked like a happy moment! On way to Airport had 2 Common Buzzard over Bywell Home Farm. So day’s total was 14 raptors of 4 species: 6 Common Buzzard, 5 Honey-buzzard, 2 Hobby and a Sparrowhawk. In between visits made Hexham where white top was the stimulating flavour of the day: dreamt of the green variety last night!! Then went home to chat to s&l! Daughter’s flight was on time and we had a grand meal with crack at the Travellers! Tomorrow will stay closer to base but expect more activity!!

August 23rd: total for yesterday’s trip to upper South Tyne was 14 raptors of 6 species – 8 Common Buzzard, 2 Hobby (adults at 2 regular sites, both mobbing Common Buzzard) and single Goshawk (adult male), Kestrel (juvenile on post), Sparrowhawk (tail feather) and Honey-buzzard (1+ chick). It’s a hot spot! So’s Hexham, which did make for lunch – lovely green blouse and parade of the gorgeous duo!! Met Nick in Nero, where it’s a make-over tonite with quite a change by Friday according to a, with attempts to attract raptor enthusiasts (or more realistically smokers!). Raining at moment so field trip plans on hold. Processed more material from Dilston visit on 21/8 and published below. State of denial (SoD!) on the status of the Honey-buzzard in the UK certainly reigns in some quarters:

Denial is a defence mechanism postulated by Sigmund Freud, in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence.

The Honey-buzzard juvenile at Dilston on 21/8 flew somewhat higher after our initial encounter and its jizz became more like Honey-buzzard with soft flaps, long tail, long neck and small head, and the bird stretching its neck and looking around. Tail flexing was pretty limited but wings were held level and power of flight was pretty impressive considering state of primaries and very recent fledging. Video 686 continues here with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12. The tail is mostly about 90% of the wing width, a smaller ratio than usual because of the still-growing tail feathers and the apparently fully-grown secondaries, the latter giving a distinctly bulging secondary feel to the bird. The longest tail feather is about 95% of the wing width, showing the trend. The neck appears to be more retracted than in adults but stills 6, 9, 10 and 11 do show emerging Honey-buzzard jizz with small head on extended neck.

Tomorrow it’s back in the field as weather looks better. Hope to visit site near Riding Mill in morning for 9th nest visit and Fourstones area in afternoon for fledged juveniles before fetching daughter from airport. She’s in Jo’burg at the moment! Expect we’ll go to Travellers for a meal. Hexham for lunch – any takers!! Weather’s again wet – playing by ear!

August 22nd: out to 2nd site near Eals, close to South Tyne Trail (just 50m off it) from 16:20-19:00, and collected so many feathers that I’ve got enough to build a Honey-buzzard now! Also a lot of splash (sh1t) around and will show some stills of this. The birds are enclosed here and so spend a lot of time close to the nest, giving plenty of signs. But didn’t see an adult today, just had chicken calls from young in the nest before entering the site, which stopped as soon as I got within decent recording distance! Been held up in analysis by the effort since Cambridge in checking Greek student’s PhD thesis, which has to be re-submitted tomorrow. But pleased to say that matter’s been resolved now with final suggestions off this morning. So might add some material later but that may be just a good intention as it’s now off to the Globe! Globe was very good – amusing really in that my motives for going there originally were not straight-forward but it’s become a favoured haunt!! Tomorrow more laid-back, taking a day off nest visits, into Hexham for lunch and a wander around looking for interesting raptors!!

Video 686 for yesterday 21/8 near Dilston includes this rather chaotic clip of a juvenile at very close range but the derived stills are very revealing. For instance 1  2  3  4  5  6  7 show 4 broad wing-bars, no pale breast band and pale cere and base of bill; 8  9 show pale cere and base of bill; 10  11  12 show 4 wing-bars and, on tail, 6 narrow bands plus a broad subterminal band; 13  14  15 show general profile with back-lighting off (mistake as cursed on clip!); others 16  17  18  19  20  21  22 are blurred in part but collectively give useful information on feather growth for instance. Overall the bird has for primaries P10 growing, P9 growing, P8 and P7 full, P5 and P6 apparently missing, P4 growing, P1-P3 full; for secondaries feathers look fully grown; for tail terminal edge is very uneven with most feathers still growing. Moult is out of the question, no bird would risk such a condition, the norm being for primaries during moult of 8 full, one growing and one apparently missing. Here we have 5 full, 2 growing and 3 apparently missing. So fascinating bird and presumption is just fledged, so really just one candidate species! Shots of juveniles in the literature are always of birds some 3-4 weeks older than this, usually on migration, so think this is pretty original! The 4 broad wing-bars and pale cere and base of bill is of course classical for juvenile Honey-buzzard as is lack of pale breast band. The bill should be more yellow but the strong light may have affected this. Each source in the literature seems to have a different story for the tail pattern of juvenile Honey-buzzard so don’t think this is conclusive either way. There’s quite a lot more material here to come.

Totals for Honey-buzzard to date with 8/12 sites done in round 3/3 are: Allen 7 sites, 11 adults (6 male, 5 female) 2 nests (Norway Spruce, Oak) 1×2 juvs fledged; Devil’s Water 6, 9(6,3) 3 nests (Norway Spruce, Scots Pine x 2) 1×1+ juvs fledged; Tyne Valley west 7, 12(8,4) 3 nests (Scots Pine x 2, Norway Spruce); Tyne Valley east 3, 4(2,2) 1 nest (Scots Pine); upper South Tyne 6, 9(6,3) 2 nests (Birch, Norway Spruce); lower South Tyne 3, 4(3,1); and Derwent 6, 8(4,4) 1 nest (Scots Pine); giving grand total 38, 57(35,22) 12 nests (Scots Pine 6, Norway Spruce 4, Birch 1, Oak 1) juvs fledged: 3+ at 2 sites = 1×2 1×1+.

August 21st: another good day with another site, another juvenile! Out to ‘Shire at lower end of Devil’s Water from 15:20-17:50 and at 16:50 had a juvenile, with many feathers still growing, mob me, before being escorted off by mum. Dad kept his distance once he saw things were in hand, seen drifting off to NE at end at moderate altitude! The bird is quite amazing with only P1-P3 and P7-9 fully grown, that’s 6/10 primaries, and with an uneven tail with quite a few feathers not at full length. But it flies and it’s got lovely wing-bars! And got the chicken call and juvenile anxiety calls, latter a new one for the collection. Suspected bird had left the nest by most of the down being c50m to the south of the Scots Pine in which it had been bred. Only appears to be one raised here but will check again later. Also had a Common Buzzard juvenile hunger crying and a noisy family party of Kestrel. Had good lunch at Ant’s where studied the form (FT)!! Gulls have now got 9 points towards their relegation battle! Tomorrow it’s looking good for the upper South Tyne. Piccies to follow from today.

Here’s material from Wylam yesterday 20/8 with video showing nest in Scots Pine with down blowing from it and derived stills 1  2, down below the nest 1  2  3  4 (27 feathers in all) and a Woodpigeon kill (3 in all). Just need to say that state of nest site is entirely consistent with that of a large raptor with very late breeding season! The ‘baby’ down is of course shed by the young birds as the feathers grow, prior to fledging. The amount of down here would show fledging is imminent. In spite of earlier torrential rain there was still some splash under the nest (4 heavy patches in all). Glades in the wood are very wild with 6 types of butterfly including Comma (10+) and Speckled Wood, both recent colonists in Northumberland. This still shows the imperfect view the Honey-buzzard have of the Tyne. Common Buzzard have also bred successfully in the wood with these 2 young hunger-crying (video). So total for raptors was 3 Honey-buzzard (2 adults, both calling with anxiety calls, and female seen coming off nesting area; 1 chick calling from nest with chicken call) and 2 Common Buzzard (both juvenile). This is an intensive pheasant-shooting area in the winter: a credit to all concerned. This is the first season that I’ve covered this wood intensively and think it shows that a person familiar with Honey-buzzard habits can track down the nests fairly quickly in spite of the secretiveness of the species. Had more encounters with Honey-buzzard during the day. At 07:30 my sweet dreams were again interrupted, this time by calls of Honey-buzzard from the home site: long soft calls encouraging the young, not alarm calls. And 15 minutes later had a single wailing call, which is a nest greeting call. At 14:00 at the same site had the adult male up in flap-flap-glide to E of nest, so things look very positive here. At 15:35 had a male Honey-buzzard up briefly at Shilford, near Stocksfield: typical anxious behaviour of adults prior to fledging. Now off to Ant’s and then to a site near Dipton Wood. Can’t relax!!

August 20th: did make Wylam in the eastern extreme of the study area for nest visit 6/12 on round 3/3. Very windy but heavy showers were over by time got there from 15:50-17:50. Nest was still going and indeed the wind was blowing the down out of the nest, as shown in this video, so there was quite a lot on the ground around the nest. There were 3 Woodpigeon kills below the nest: don’t think they catch them in flight but can see them pouncing on them while they’re sitting. Honey-buzzard are quite agile at flying under an open canopy. As for the birds, well had the female once flying low over the nest, a few anxiety calls at some distance from pair of adults and a chicken-like call from one of the young in the nest, when it forgot its mother’s instructions! More to add later including piccies. Hexham paddock was interesting at lunchtime: 10/11 ff (f), evens gps (s), 10/1 the field!! ff alias sophisticat!! Off to Welli soon. Markets pretty sad this week, indeed wonder if Americans have lost it with their sick income distribution. Have nothing directly in US, more confidence in Europe which is better balanced. Anyway down 1.3% as against -1.5% for ftse but still up 13.1% on year against -4.0% for ftse. Looking forward to daughter staying from next Tuesday until Friday. Have a nice weekend!!

August 19th: well not enough time for nest-site visit today in the evening and weather closing in so left until tomorrow when trip to Wylam planned in the afternoon as E looks best. Also no t&s as everyone away so managed to process more video from the 17/8 visit. Totals for trip from 15:50-19:00 were 14 raptors of 3 species: 7 Honey-buzzard (family party of 4 on-site, single males at 2 neighbouring sites and the male near Lowgate), 5 Common Buzzard (2 adult, 3 juveniles) and 2 Kestrel (adult, juvenile). Also visited the nest but no activity as birds of course had left. Below the nest in Norway Spruce found 9 white downy feathers, 2 Woodpigeon kills and a pirated Woodpigeon egg. Interesting coincidence that on BirdGuides there’s been a sudden increase in Honey-buzzard reports nationally with 12 birds at 7 sites from 17/8-19/8. Suggests they’re coming out of the woodwork on some scale. A lot of video (684) has been looked at. This one shows the weaker flying of the 2 juveniles; derived stills are here for female 1 and juvenile 2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11. The female makes 3 long flight calls at about 13, 25 and 53 seconds and is first in view in the video. When they make their maiden flights and this one may well have only started today, they remind me of people learning to swim: they stick their wings straight out but daren’t try any serious manoeuvres in case they lose their balance! This one is still growing feathers with on left wing P7/P8 not evident yet, on right wing P8 and P5 sticking out from very truncated primaries and on tail some unevenness. Such is the rush to get flight experience before migration. The tail is long though, equal to the wing-width, and the head is small on a long neck. Juveniles cannot be sexed. The female was very protective of this bird as we see at the start of the video and in subsequent videos. Interesting day in the big city: love walking along the Quayside!! Train journey in was enlivened by gwsand had long chat with ain Nero before seeing the gpsgracefully depart!! Missed the ff!! Forgot cat food and Cleo took her revenge by bringing a Stoat into the house and letting it go under the settee! It’s lovely living in the country! So it was a rare visit to Tesco, where also got some ‘cheap’ print cartridges.

August 18th: don’t normally believe in touching up stills but bit of brightening on yesterday’s shows the wing bars very clearly as here on 1 and 2. The inner primaries show the bars most clearly because they are translucent allowing light in from the top. If the tail is closed no light will enter from the top. Reflected light from the ground is very low in dense woodland so underlighting is extremely poor. That is why most raptor shots in books are taken over deserts and rocky terrain where underlighting is much better. Set off at 10:20 with Nick to Carlisle Races where 8 races from 13:30-17:35, very exciting and personally made a net profit of £55.50 with 3 winners — Comptonspirit 9-1 on-course bookie; Amethyst Dawn 11/4 1  2; Jenny Soba 11/4 1  2 – in the 6 races on which bet. We did study the horses closely in the paddock, think you can see there which look calm and fit. Used to help keep horses for daughter to ride so do understand them a tiny bit, but not much at this level. Comptonspirit’s race is shown here and you can see she’s a very fine filly 1  2  3!! Even the bookies were friendly! But not planning on any more activity here! We had a good meal at Howard Arms, Brampton, on proceeds on way back. Raptor total for trip was 4 Common Buzzard near Bardon Mill and 3 Common Buzzard and 2 Sparrowhawk near the Races. Tomorrow it’s unn, then back to Hexham!! Maybe then even a nest site visit before t&s much later.

August 17th: very exciting day with first juvenile fledged Honey-buzzard up above the canopy at the nest-site visited in the Allen and birds becoming much more conspicuous elsewhere – we’re into the fledging stage of the season! Promising start at 06:30 woken up by tremendous din of Carrion Crow and Green Woodpecker from site 400m from my bedroom! Didn’t investigate closely – not my finest hour — but such noise at this stage of the season indicates adults nervously patrolling as young get ready to leave the nest or young actually leaving the nest with aggressive adults protecting them. Details of visit to Allen later but trip to Welli might slow things down!! After visit to Nero in Hexham went out SW. Surprised to find a male Honey-buzzard flying in a straight line S at Lowgate from site visited on 30/6: feeding bird, not emigrating as not in soar-glide mode. When got to Staward area realised things were happening with female up to E of site patrolling purposefully. Once close into site female actually mobbed me coming very close as you’ll see in the video (684) and language is unmistakeable: f off! They’re quite large close-up with wing span of almost 6 feet. Anyway she’s got lovely wing bars as shown in these derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 but the message undoubtedly is: I’m not going to have 15 weeks of hard work rearing the young spoiled by you mate! Views of those who still don’t think Honey-buzzard breed in Northumberland are summed up here! Much more to come from this trip including clips of 2 juveniles up in the air. Welli was good – great to meet sagain, even if she’s in a different team!! Missed the duo and sadly ffhas gone walkabout again!! Tomorrow it’s the big day out gambling!

August 16th: added videos and derived stills (under 8/8 below) for 14/2 from the marvellous Mountain View Hotel, Lalibela. These were all taken while having a beer on arrival. Raptors shown are Steppe Eagle, Booted Eagle, Steppe Buzzard, Augur Buzzard and Yellow-billed Kite, the first 3 of which are visitors from Asia/Europe. Still got some more to process from this session. Amazed at 11:40 when getting into car to see a male Honey-buzzard in very positive flap-flap-glide flight down the Devil’s Water near my house: the first sign anywhere this month of birds starting to come out of the woodwork. Indeed I’ve not seen the birds here since last nest visit on 18/6. Thought it might be my day but it wasn’t!! Anyway visited local site later from 16:30-18:00 splashing through the burn to get to the site and managed to get a series of anxiety calls to show, not surprisingly, that the site was still in action. Nest in Norway Spruce is now colossal and found quite a few feathers of various sorts (secondary, body, tarsal of adult and ‘baby’ down) in the site as well as quite a lot of splash. You get more signs when the birds are rather enclosed, as at this site, than when they’ve got a lot more habitat around them. Plan to analyse all the feathers found this season and publish results when I get time in the autumn. Also got lots of calls to process. Have made much progress this season. Tomorrow weather looks better than expected so will hopefully do another site in the afternoon, that would then be 5/12 in round 3/3. Wednesday it’s the races at Carlisle – Nick’s taking it very seriously! And Thursday it’s unn.

August 15th: made pioneering site near Eals from 14:50-18:20 and had 8 raptors of 5 species: 3 Common Buzzard (all adults), 2 Hobby (male out first, then female bringing in food to nest), a Kestrel (juvenile), a Goshawk (adult male) and last but not least a Honey-buzzard (2 anger calls, presumed female as defending nest). The calls of the last named were the only real contact, right at the end, in almost 3 hours. Clambered down the bank to the nest, walked around the nest site looking closely for signs (few feathers including secondary, small amount of splash, nest built up), out of the wood to sit by the South Tyne for a recce of the whole wood, back to the wood and then finally got these calls. But decided not to press further as there are definite limits as to what is valid disturbance. Two species of butterfly only but not complaining as had a Purple Hairstreak at the top of the oak wood in beautiful sunny weather; the hope is this will spread east as it’s very rare in the county. Anyway not much video to come from today but might add later some of the Lalibela material. Gastronomic delights continued with bcm+fr from the New Golden Rice in Hexham, followed by blackcurrants with ice cream but skipped the chianti as on the p.ss later at the Globe! Tomorrow it’s Hexham for lunch and another site in the afternoon. faswtgo!!! Two obvious migrant Honey-buzzard, perhaps young non-breeders, reported on BirdGuides in last 3 days at Dungeness and Hengistbury Head. Northumberland birds are still at the active rearing stage, don’t expect them to leave yet.

August 14th: went to site in ‘Shire in Slaley Forest this afternoon from 15:40-18:30. As is quite common at this stage of the breeding season the birds were very laid back and after 2.5 hours had just an obviously kempt nest in Scots Pine, some food remains (now in freezer!), one downy feather, noise of angry corvids as the bird retreated through the forest and 2 wailing calls. There was no sign of the Common Buzzard who had obviously bred successfully and moved on. Although having the Common Buzzard present is a nuisance in some respects, because of their noisy and persistent mobbing, the general melee does encourage the Honey-buzzard to be more prominent. The site was very wet underfoot and the heavy rain yesterday will have washed away quite a lot of evidence. So left the site and back-watched it from a farm nearby – no sign; moved back one stage further and a Honey-buzzard came straight out of the site in powerful flap-flap-glide mode, did some triumphant flapping about (seen him off again!) and then moved back into the site on a very devious circuit, moving through glades and flapping low across fields, never rising above sky-line and entering home wood some 300m from the nest and going through the tree tops. So after almost 3 hours got the bird! Might get some footage processed for later. Yes here’s video 681 with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6 of female in lively flap-flap-glide action. She gives a faint long call at 17 seconds in. The Honey-buzzard in videos 680 and 681 are both full-winged with no moult. The only Common Buzzard in such a state are juveniles and no juvenile Common Buzzard is going to have the ability to fly like these birds for a while. Did make Ant’s for lunch and had fortifying f&c+mp for supper, washed down with chianti and followed by red currants and ice cream. Talking about Tuscany a nephew is getting married there next August and I’m invited to a villa there with 28 other family members. Sounds good – like the Italians: they’re attractive, dark and lively!! Should be breeding Honey-buzzard there for a change. Aren’t the Gulls doing well: top of League 2. Six points to help in the ensuing relegation struggle might be the pessimistic view of some supporters! Give tust £10 a month to encourage them. Tomorrow west is best so looks like the upper South Tyne for another nest visit after some cutting of the grass which is now growing healthily.

Added video 666 of Honey-buzzard female at Blanchland on 24/7 with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7. She’s a bit tatty, missing on left wing an inner primary perhaps P1, on right wing 2 inner primaries perhaps P3/P4 and many secondaries, and on tail multiple feathers. Not convinced any of it is moult but would be nice to know how birds get so damaged: late in winter quarters, migration or in Northumberland? She can still fly very buoyantly but not sure such damage would be welcome for a bird about to emigrate.

August 13th: yes early return today as always planned, catching 08:00 Cambridge-Peterborough and 09:21 Peterborough-Newcastle! Done my bit for the world of metaphysics! Sorted out quite a lot of video from Lalibela in Ethiopia for 14/2 on train. Wanted to get back early to see my pussy and she soon showed up!!! Here’s video (680) of Honey-buzzard from Thetford Forest with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10. Isn’t he smart! No plumage details with light strongly against, even with back-lighting set-on on camcorder, but shape (long thin tail with narrow base, long neck, small head) is very clear. Not sure what status of Honey-buzzard is in this area. Surely must be well-known as a regular! But Suffolk’s account of the Honey-buzzard movement in 2008 does take some beating for vacuousness. As expected poor week on markets, down 2.9% as against -1.1% for ftse, but this includes some significant dealing costs in increasing bonds to 52% of portfolio: expecting long slow recovery now with low interest rates for quite a while, good news for fixed-interest stocks. Made Nero where great that a‘s made the grade and later the Globe. Final trip was to Welli where met the gang again – very good! Tomorrow it’s back to the nests in the study area with lunch in Ant’s! Not going anywhere away for the rest of the month.

August 12th: gave paper, went well – here’s ppt if you like ct! Talking to yet another glider pilot about flight at the dinner last night. He has great admiration for birds of prey: if you’re in the same thermal as a raptor you consider you’re doing very well. He thinks they must be able to see the thermals in the air, rather like we see heat shimmer, as they find thermals so easily. I’d add this applies to adults but juveniles don’t find thermals so easily sometimes spending a long time floating upwards in the wrong place. So there’s a skill to be acquired. He also mentioned that on coming down from a glide the birds enter very choppy air close to the ground, which is a major challenge in competitive gliding events. You’ll see from a few of my videos that the birds tend to bounce when they get close to the ground: maybe this is riding the less predictable air currents. Finding the Honey-buzzard yesterday was easier than expected seeing how vast is Thetford Forest. Walked out to forest from Brandon station arriving in forest at 12:30. Spent some time in quite dense woodland, which decided was not too promising, and went to more open areas at Santon Downham. Then at 13:20 had a bird, heavier than one seen later and presumed female, very briefly up W of village. So moved onto Little Ouse and had a male overhead for almost 3 minutes at 13:50, eyeball to eyeball. Then closer to Brandon on heathy area at 15:05 had a male flying in low presumably with food. Waited for bird to exit and at 15:14 a female came out and flew in exactly the same line as the male. Finished walk at 16:20 after also seeing Kingfisher, Willow Tit and Sedge Warbler by the river. Had Kestrel past Ely on way back. Thetford Forest seemed to me on brief visit to be like Dipton Wood with most action on the edge. Early start tomorrow!!

August 11th: updated the national totals for year with data for July, very steady picture in comparison with last few years but interesting series of records in Yorkshire. Broke out from meeting today and took a train to Brandon. Good walk of 12km into forest, coming back along Little Ouse where had 2 pairs of Honey-buzzard! One bird was obliging spending a while circling over me, thinking no doubt “here comes trouble!”; now on video. So another area conquered! Tonite it’s the dinner, tomorrow my talk and then it’s back to see the gorgeous duo xxxxxx!!

August 9th: totals for Honey-buzzard to date with 1/12 sites done in round 3 are: Allen 7 sites, 11 adults (6 male, 5 female) 2 nests (Norway Spruce, Oak); Devil’s Water 6, 9(6,3) 3 nests (Norway Spruce, Scots Pine x 2); Tyne Valley west 7, 12(8,4) 3 nests (Scots Pine x 2, Norway Spruce); Tyne Valley east 3, 4(2,2) 1 nest (Scots Pine); upper South Tyne 6, 9(6,3) 2 nests (Birch, Norway Spruce); lower South Tyne 3, 4(3,1); and Derwent 6, 8(4,4) 1 nest (Scots Pine); giving grand total 38, 57(35,22) 12 nests (Scots Pine 6, Norway Spruce 4, Birch 1, Oak 1). Added some further details of Ethiopia trip for 13/2, now working on stills for 12/2 and 13/2 and video for 14/2. Also looking for further video to publish from epic visit on 30/6 near Hexham. Trying to keep mind on imminent paper but keep thinking of other things xxxxxx!!

August 8th: yesterday at site near Stocksfield, Honey-buzzard nest was found to be progressing well with quite a number of small downy feathers around the nest, which is now very large in the Scots Pine tree. Some splash was also found in the immediate vicinity of the nest. A few anxious piping calls were heard while I was near the nest but the birds were only seen once, the female coming over the top of the trees right over the nest on one occasion. They seem to do this sometimes — think they’re giving instructions to the young: shut up!! Also had 3 Common Buzzard, an adult calling in the wood occupied by the Honey-buzzard and 2 (adult and juvenile) out to the west of Riding Mill, which was a relief after the Red Kite problems nearby. On train for spaced-out meeting! Back for Nero/Globe double like last week!! Love to all particularly those with the nicest b… xxxxxx!! Red Grouse season looks promising as expected; see this well-balanced Guardian story which also points out some of the problems.

13/2: spent morning in Aksum looking at the very weird ancient columns constructed in the town. Had a guide who was very attentive and made sure we saw an Eastern Orthodox style church service outside in the sunshine. It was very high church with much ceremony and the bishops dressed up in real finery! We also went to see a few out of town excavations which were pretty spectacular showing underground tombs and the like. Start was delayed by son deciding to cash some travellers cheques and being held up by someone apparently withdrawing his life savings in tiny birr notes. But got the shots of the female Tacazze Sunbird below while waiting outside. Added White-headed Vulture to raptor total while looking at the monuments. Piccies to follow of the culture. Then we were off fast to Mekele via Adigrat. The scenery from Adigrat to Mekele was very plain-like, rather like in Fuerteventura, Canaries, or perhaps to over-wintering birds like the steppes of Asia. They’d booked us into a more luxurious tourist hotel – said we could not rely on booking at short notice – think they thought our choice was not to be trusted after Aksum! It was OK – better plumbing – but lacked that lovely African edge! Mekele was just an overnight stop-off, the main attraction was ahead of Lalibela and its old rock-hewn churches and a marvellous hotel for viewing raptors, the Mountain View.

Aksum, stelae (columns), erect, stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  29; site workings, including fallen stelae, stills 8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16; with son, still 17.

Aksum, Church of St Mary of Zion, stills 1  2  3  4; excavations, still 5; stone inscription, still 6; chandelier, still 8; paintings, stills 9  10  11  12  13  14  15; tapestries, still 16; stained glass, stills 17  18; ceremony outside, stills 19  20  21  22; congregation at service, stills 23  24; tree, still 25; old church where Ark reputed to be held, stills 26  27  28.

Aksum, tomb of Kaleb, stone inscription, still 7; sign, still 1; entrance 1; wood, still 1; countryside, stills 1  2  3  4  5  6.

Aksum, Dungur ruins, stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9.

Tacazze Sunbird, Aksum, female, video with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5.

Hooded Vulture, Aksum, video with derived stills 1  2.

White-headed Vulture, Aksum, video with derived stills 1  2  3  4.

Yellow-billed Kite, Aksum, still 1.

Common Fiscal, Aksum, stills 1  2.

Speckled Pigeon, Aksum, still 1.

Aksum-Adigrat, mountain, stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14.

Adigrat, view, stills 1  2.

Adigrat-Mekele, steppe, stills 1  2; storm, stills 1  2  3  4.

August 7th: videos from the Exe (670) on 30/7 now done! Video 1 shows the female floating with derived close-up stills 1  2  3  4  5  6 showing 3 thick bars on right wing. Video 2 shows the female in close up aggravation with a Common Buzzard in heavy moult, with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5; the stills show the Honey-buzzard likes to keep above Common Buzzard and there’s a few verbal exchanges and talon waving but no actual contact. Bit like Hexham on Saturday nite! Video 3 shows further tension at an increased level with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9. Still 1 shows the alula (bastard wing) raised as the bird increases lift without stalling. Video 4 shows the male drifting out to hunt with derived stills 1  2  3; again he’s left the female to do the nest defence. This is not uncommon with raptors as the females are usually larger than the males, perhaps for this purpose. Made site between Riding Mill and Stocksfield today from 15:40-18:50 – progressing well, report later. Added a few more old family photos below. Also added below findings up Beldon Burn for 4/8 and video 677 showing a bird in classical dive. Here are urls for recent press: dead pair of Red Kite at Hindley in Hexham Courant and Journal; better news for Red Kite in Cumbria and with welcome support from the local farming community.

August 6th: prepared most of video (670) from visit to Honey-buzzard site in Devon near Starcross on 30/7 with clash between female Honey-buzzard and Common Buzzard, male floating off to feed and close-up showing dense wing-barring of female. Will publish these tomorrow along with video taken in Beldon Burn of diving bird (677). Banking results-season went very well with gain of 4.4% on week taking year’s gain to 18.1% against fall of 1.5% for ftse. Conscious of the May mini-crash and early this morning got up early to sell entire holdings of LON:LLOY (50k shares) and LON:SVS (nothing personal, honest!!). Still got £100k in LBG’s bonds and plan to purchase bonds in other banks with proceeds. Remaining defensive: sounds strange with recent gains maybe but don’t want to go right down again! Think September will be difficult but year will end on better note. Also ‘phoned solicitor in Ottery St Mary and she said final documents had arrived this week and probate submission was now being finalised in the large as some IHT is due. Good chat: she hammered LBG for their investment in an offshore fund with original capital £10,000 now down to £9,976, income received of £34 and probate fee for Jersey now due of £150! What unbelievable and unnecessary complexity. Out in the field again tomorrow afternoon with one site visit in Tyne Valley – start of round 3, after lunch in Ant’s! Hexham was so good today: great to see the gps and ff looking so lovely!! How will I manage next week!!

Elder sister is doing a full scan of all family photos – marvellous! Did snap a few more before she took them away. Family on father’s side were jewellers in this corner shop in Teignmouth from 1880s to 1940s. My great-grandfather Ebenezer started the business; he was born in Weston-super-Mare, 7th child of Elizabeth (Jefferies) and John Rossiter, who was co-founder with brother George of the jewellery business Rossiter & Sons, still going today and evidently now largest independent jewellers in SW England. Also found this photo of my parents and this one of mum when she was on the farm (centre) with her 2 sisters, mother and unknown man. Didn’t know they had mobiles then! This one shows where lived in 1950s in Teignmouth – it wasn’t really built on a tilt! Could adjust it but can’t really be a…d! Jewellery has rubbed off on me a bit as am a keen collector of early silver spoons (pre-1730, rattail and earlier), held in bank!

August 5th: added further clips to video 676 for 3/8 below; first on male shows its first flight of the session with an amazing dive at the end; the second shows the female going out to feed. Into unn today so no fieldwork but did get 40 page journal article submitted on NLP for software requirements. Like the polska!! Journey in was stimulating with gps and gws on show!! Actually later saw gps again and think she’s a f…..g fidget!! Sadly no sign of ff!! Weather looks bad for tomorrow so will catch up with paperwork but might well make Hexham for lunch and tea (Globe)! 7 of us at the t&s including js!

August 4th: very good walk with Nick up Beldon Burn from Baybridge to top of watershed from 10:00-16:10, just past Riddlehamhope. Still analysing material but after 5 hours 30 minutes finally got decent views of a Honey-buzzard, with video (677) of a male here. Nick commented that it looked like a Golden Eagle in its agility in air and in its profile and speed in a spectacular dive. Very good!! This was a Durham bird but cannot have everything! Total for trip was 5 Common Buzzard (at 3 sites, adult and 2 hunger-calling juveniles at one), 3 Kestrel (2 adult at one site, juvenile at another) and 2 Honey-buzzard (male in video 677, female high up the Burn in Northumberland over heather moor for 5 seconds). So that’s 2 Honey-buzzard sites in Durham; there’s just about room for another site near Newbiggin Hall, between the 2 sites today and sites further downstream but no birds in 2 visits this season and distances are less than regulatory 2.5km. We’re off to Carlisle races in 2 weeks – think I’ll bet winnings made on LBG! Still fuming about Red Kite situation in the Tyne Valley! It appears that no birds are left in the county S of Stocksfield now. Both poisoning incidents (Steel, Hindley) were on land where Allendale Estates have the sporting rights. But that doesn’t mean they did it: could be a tenant or even a raving miscreant. Wonder how much other wildlife (in particular Barn Owl) has been affected and of course dogs and cats (and even kids) could also pick up the baits. Baits will not affect Honey-buzzard as they do not generally eat carrion but could affect Common Buzzard if left out in the open away from buildings. So want to do some checks very soon on the buzzard population around Stocksfield and also look for kites in the Wylam area. Added second part of video from yesterday in upper East Allen. Made Hexham rather late but in time for Nero, where good to meet a, and Globe, where took opportunity to learn some racing vocabulary! Favourite blouse, or is it the contents!! Tomorrow it’s unn as usual, then Nero for tea and t&s for nightcap!

August 3rd: back on the beat! Liked Hexham’s prize duo, particularly the flash of the legs!!! Off to the wilds now! Mission accomplished with a little bit of patience, getting Honey-buzzard at site no.38 several km upstream from Allendale Town. Arrived 14:40 but it was 16:35 before a bird finally got up – marvellous! The male got up briefly and then dived right back again as captured on first clip of video 676. He then came up again shortly after to fly out to feed, as shown in this clip. In-between the male’s flights the female comes out to hunt as shown in this clip, with a flight call at 29 seconds. Think as with many raptors they like newly-cut fields because of the lack of cover for the small rodents. This is a high moorland site at 300m asl and was surprised when first occupied but it seems to be thriving. Wasn’t that quiet with farmers frantically getting 2nd crop of hay in and met a Duke of Edinburgh awards team; latter had been truly exercising open access rights on Allendale Common, great to see, so many people just keep to old footpaths. Many moorland birds were on upland pastures: 180 Lapwing, 13 Curlew, 2 Twite and a single Golden Plover. Then onto 2nd and last site in round 2 from 17:00-18:10, some km downstream from Allendale where male started screaming at me as soon as I approached nest; typical male, then retreated into thick cover to watch me. Prefer the more direct tactics of the females! Got a Hexham Courant and relieved I did with a story of yet another poisoning of a Red Kite pair, this time at Hindley, near Stocksfield. The article does appear to confirm the Whittonstall pair bred successfully. As you will see from my comments on 19/7 and in my review of the 2009 breeding season, I’m not happy at all with the poor progress of the Red Kite in the Tyne Valley. Will do another sweep of the Tyne Valley on Saturday and if no joy then think this issue needs escalating. HC web page is not loading so can’t give you url now. Back in Hexham for shopping, just missing someone! Welli was very good: great to see the ffand gpsin such good form!! Actually came back through Slaley, taking snowball winners home, one of whom works at Travellers; she thought I ought to make it my local! Tomorrow, after walk with Nick, should make Globe as usual!

August 2nd: back from Devon by train, left Dawlish at 07:46, reached Corbridge 15:30; good to be back, made Nero and Globe, could see what I’ve been missing in the ff!! Uploaded a lot of material including the videos (646) from near Hexham on 30/6. Train journeys are by no means all bad: you get a power point on Cross Country so can do lots of work on the laptop such as preparing my talk in Cambridge next week. Did get an adult Red Kite flying over the Tyne just downstream from Wylam station. Tomorrow it’s back (?) to Honey-buzzard in the East Allen in the afternoon, weather looking better then. Maybe lunch in Hexham before and Welli much later! Going for walk with Nick on Wednesday (Honey-buzzard area!) and into unn on Thursday. With respect to the latter I’m already in Cameron’s BS!

August 1st: a rather cloudy day but had 2 walks with sisters, surprisingly both in good Honey-buzzard areas on Ideford and Aylesbeare Commons! But only raptors found were 2 calling juvenile Common Buzzard at the latter though some video of a distant raptor still needs to be processed. The site near Starcross is the one with by far the best evidence for occupation by Honey-buzzard this year, which is not the same as saying the others are unoccupied. A very productive weekend with amicable agreement on division of possessions and, with the ashes, a kind of closure on the events of the past few months. Another visit will be needed in September; don’t seem very close to probate. Processed stills from the climb of the Corbett, Ben Damph, in the Torridon (888m asl) on 7/5. Summit and views from the summit are shown here 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8 with pictures also of nephew and niece on summit and approach to summit and of nr with niece and nephew half-way up. Views of the boulder-strewn summit from below are shown here 1  2  3 with those of the mountain during the climb here 1  2  3. Large numbers of Ptarmigan droppings were found 1  2  3  4  5 as were a few white spring-moulted feathers 1  2; typical habitat is shown here 1  2  3  4. We also had a frog on the middle more heathy section.

July 31st: processed one long clip (646) of 7 minutes 51 seconds for male Honey-buzzard in display near Hexham at end of nest site visit on 30/6. Think this display was a mixture of relief and triumph after I’d been seen off! It involved much diving, rearing up and long flight calls in excellent light conditions. The video is split into 3 roughly equal parts: 1  2  3 with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9. These show very typical structural features with small head, long neck and long thin tail. The head is grey and the bird is a pale morph. Two tail bars can be seen on some of the stills. The dive, probably the most characteristic pose of all those for Honey-buzzard, shows the small pointed head, like an arrow head, the carpal joints pushed well forward, the wings held completely swept back in parallel with the body and the long narrow tail trailing behind. It’s obviously a very efficient pose aerodynamically and enables the birds to dive very quickly when alarmed or if conditions on migration deteriorate. Also added Hooded Vulture and White-headed Vulture video and derived stills for 13/2 in Aksum. Today with 2 sisters sorted out possessions and scattered the ashes on Teignmouth Golf Course at Haldon moor followed by meal at Elizabethan, Ideford. Had male Cirl Bunting on edge of moor and Kestrel at Ideford. Spent much of yesterday cataloguing items of value including jewellery. Sisters didn’t altogether trust my ranking, getting some items valued! Reviewed results from round 1 of nest-site visits and think only one more, in oak in East Allen, needs a round 2 visit, which can be combined with check further up valley on sole remaining site active last year and no birds seen yet this year. Then it’s onto round 3 at all 12 sites. Looking forward to migration N on Monday!!

July 30th: updated monthly national C of Honey-buzzard for May and June 2010 from Birdguides data. Running total for migrants is a little below last year’s figure but it’s really amazing how similar the detailed seasonal pattern is over the last few years, suggesting a stable immigration pattern rather than an erratic drift migration. Have obtained possession of some jointly-held assets under rules of survivorship. Need to be shared with sisters and not merged yet into own portfolio, which has had a good week up 4.9% on strong bank shares and bonds (satisfactory stress test results and relaxed Basel regulations) against ftse down 1.0%. Gain on year is now 13.2% against fall of 2.9% in ftse. Walked yesterday along the dunes at Dawlish Warren with elder sister, getting 11 species of butterfly but no raptors. Did however add Mediterranean Gull (adult, 2nd summer) and Sandwich Tern to year list. Had female Honey-buzzard from train on 28/7 at Morralee at entrance to Allen. Can’t get away from them! Pity cannot say that for the beauties!! This morning near Starcross on the Exe had pair of Honey-buzzard interacting with pair of Common Buzzard with 2 newly-fledged young: so close that had to zoom out a few times! Honey-buzzard and Common Buzzard can nest quite close together, simply because there is not enough spare habitat for them to be spaced out more. When they do there seems to be frequent low-key irritation but no serious encounters. Today the birds had one or two gentle swipes at each other and were keen on escorting each other around but no actual physical contact took place. Also had 2 Kestrel (both juvenile), a Hobby and 12 species of butterfly. Love to the fancied ones!! xxxxxxxx!!

July 29th: added some more video with derived stills below taken at Aksum in Ethiopia on 12/2 of Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, an amazing large bird seen on approach road to the town. Travelled down to Dawlish yesterday by train. Prefer flying but prices at peak holiday times are extortionate with cost of £500 for flights, car hire and airport parking, compared to £100 for train alone. Took 7 hours 15 minutes from Hexham. Area round West Clyst, near Exeter Airport, and close to St David’s Station looks fantastic habitat for Honey-buzzard. Met up with elder sister and had very nice meal at Mount Pleasant. Sorting out mum’s possessions and meeting solicitors tomorrow. Mum was a fantastic record keeper particularly with photographs: some obviously though are rather poignant. Hoping to sort out later today material from 30/6 visit to Tyne Valley W to show more comparative material on Common Buzzard and Honey-buzzard. Also getting around to analysing Birdguides reports for Honey-buzzard for May 2010. Missing the lovelies!!

July 27th: did complete atlas work in 2 tetrads (Morleyhill Fell, Lord’s Rigg) on Whitfield Moor from 15:20-19:20 walking 11km, doing a transect on the high moor followed by a transect further down. Not many birds were left on high moors with 2 hours fieldwork finding: 41 Red Grouse (post-breeding flock 17, broods including female of 7,6,6,4, 1 calling bird, viable for shooting), 4 Meadow Pipit, 2 Swallow and single Golden Plover, Grey Wagtail, Pheasant and Feral Pigeon. Lower levels produced incredible numbers of Red-legged Partridge as released birds, some 510 counted but many more if checked every release pen. Thought might meet the odd gamekeeper but some pens are on open access land so free to visit them. Further moorland birds recorded in lower part included 4 Skylark, 3 Meadow Pipit, Golden Plover and Curlew, 2 Lapwing and single Black Grouse (moulting male) and Hen Harrier (ringtail, presumed migrant from Scotland). All the waders were agitated, defending territory. So very good exercise and interesting results to show what’s still around late July on the moors, when some workers think all birds have left. Quick bath and supper and off to Welli for quiz nite! The See You … were very clever, coming 3rd, much better than my ‘team’! Found it difficult to concentrate on the questions: the gps looked so alluring and the ff showed off her finer points!! Will be there next week but maybe not so obvious in-between. xxxxxxxx!!

Totals for Honey-buzzard to date are: Allen 6 sites, 9 adults (5 male, 4 female) 2 nests (Norway Spruce, Oak); Devil’s Water 6, 9(6,3) 3 nests (Norway Spruce, Scots Pine x 2); Tyne Valley west 7, 12(8,4) 3 nests (Scots Pine x 2, Norway Spruce); Tyne Valley east 3, 4(2,2) 1 nest (Scots Pine); upper South Tyne 6, 9(6,3) 2 nests (Birch, Norway Spruce); lower South Tyne 3, 4(3,1); and Derwent 6, 8(4,4) 1 nest (Scots Pine); giving grand total 37, 55(34,21) 12 nests (Scots Pine 6, Norway Spruce 4, Birch 1, Oak 1).

July 26th: into unn for meeting with a PhD student. Need to shorten abstract of 40-page paper before submission to a journal: task passed to me! Enjoy visits to Newcastle – like the Polish dimension!! The gps looks stunning on the road and the ff has a really lovely pair!! Busy evening with domestic chores: 2 loads of washing including 6 shirts to be ironed by s, dish-washing load, mowing front grass, trimming shrubs in front and general tidy-up inside for s tomorrow. Then cat brings in something from outside and is sick on the carpet! So hurl it (cat and dismembered remains) outside and while talking to younger sister on ‘phone overlooking back garden at dusk, out comes a badger and eats said remains! Lovely story: cat’s asleep on sofa now. Daughter ‘phoned me in Nero to say she’s visiting on 24/8 for a few days: wants to see how the estate is coming on! Completed addition of Devon records to BirdTrack for May and June and updated totals below. Had 3 Honey-buzzard so far this year there but views have been brief and hoping for better evidence very soon. Also have to sort out 3 site visits in SW Northumberland for June. I like to go through all the video and stills before formally recording the results. This helps in deciding whether a visit in round 2 is needed. Turning point in season is approaching with end of breeding atlas visits for 2010 on 31/7. Hoping to get 2 tetrads on Whitfield Moor done tomorrow afternoon, taking 5 hours including car journeys. But before that it’s lunch in Hexham and later it may be the Welli!

July 25th: busy day doing visit no.2 to site near Riding Mill from 12:10-14:40. Had more action from the Honey-buzzard than last time (not difficult!) with the male in attendance; male was seen twice, once in thick cover on opposite side of burn mobbed by 4 Jay, the other flying through the tree tops in a relaxed fashion when I was exiting site. He would not have been seen from the road: marvellous creatures at avoiding detection! Males do keep a close eye on what you’re doing but are not prepared to get into close combat like the females! Sounds like the Grapes! Also had 2 alarm calls from him. Last time on 28/6 there were 2 possibilities for the nest: one new in Larch, the other old in Norway Spruce. I favoured the Larch. Well I was wrong: photographs show that the Larch nest is unchanged from the previous visit while the Norway Spruce nest has been built up significantly. Also here had 5 Common Buzzard (at one site 2 juveniles upset at my entering their territory, at another site adult plus 2 hunger-crying juveniles), 5 Kestrel (3 juveniles and adult at one site, juvenile at another) and the female Honey-buzzard who I disturbed on 23/7 in the distance; hope she’s forgiving! Then to Stocksfield mound from 14:50-16:50 where had lunch on nice bench provided! Walked up the burn via Guessburn to the fords. Total for this part of trip was a Long-eared Owl (single juvenile hunger-crying), a Tawny Owl (calling), 2 Common Buzzard (adult at one site, juvenile calling at another) and a Goshawk juvenile (hunting a large corvid flock). Then on to pretty Prudhoe from 17:00-18:00 where had a Kestrel juvenile over the old hospital. Common Gull immigration was obvious here with 11 adults to SW with a juvenile over a nearby field; passage started on 21/7 for me with small numbers moving SW now being found on every trip. Had an adult Common Gull at the Spetchells on 2/6 so the juvenile is interesting. So raptor total was 18 of 6 species: not bad for a day with persistent low cloud but it was not cool and there was a decent breeze to get them airborne. But sadly no Red Kite even though this is a good area of the Tyne Valley! Think earned a pint at the Globe!! Tomorrow it’s unn with normal routine: must remember to get up early even though it’s Monday!

July 24th: did make Blanchland from 15:20-17:10 and 4 o’clock soar lived up to its name, even in overcast conditions, with 8 raptors of 5 species – 4 Kestrel (family group) and single Hobby (male whizzing past carrying prey), Common Buzzard (alarm calling), Goshawk (juvenile male out hunting) and Honey-buzzard (female over territory twice). This is new Honey-buzzard site for season, 37th, leaving just one known site to find, high up East Allen past Allendale. Have heard one or two interesting comments indirectly from Northumbria Ringing Group (NRG) members who seem to have changed their tune (in unison!) to “No one else sees them [Honey-buzzard]”. Might help if they actually got out in the field in the right areas, spruced up their raptor id skills and took some video so what they were seeing could be discussed! Would be happy to collaborate on a few sites but not on the whole study area. Generous offer considering the vast effort needed to get to grips initially with the species. And why is Northumberland one of the very few counties without a Raptor Study Group, bringing ringers and fieldworkers together? Helping with Butterfly Conservation weekend: 6 Small Tortoiseshell on buddleia in m&s car-park in Hexham (plus surprising number of bumble bees). Liked lunch in Ant’s. Hope to catch up on a few things this evening! Tomorrow it’s east for round 2 looking at Honey-buzzard site near Riding Mill for more evidence, followed by looking for Red Kite in Tynedale from Styford eastwards. There’s only 2 months of the Honey-buzzard season left now but perhaps a little premature to say we’re in the closing stages.

July 23rd: much better day, sun’s out and really liked gps shopping!! Out for last nest site visit in round 1, then will need to come back for shopping and f&c; Welli later. Hope to produce another Honey-buzzard video this evening. Mission accomplished at first nest-site in Derwent area. Huge nest found in Scots Pine in visit from 14:50-17:40, including walk-in. Once in wood took about 60 minutes to find nest, located in glade near edge of wood, helped by female giving distant alarm calls. She was wary and would not come overhead but sat in a tree at some distance, angrily calling from time to time, and did one fly-pass W-E and back again in power flap-flap-glide mode. Found one remige feather, some downy feathers and splash scattered around and beneath the nest tree. Also had 2 juvenile Common Buzzard calling from another wood and a juvenile Kestrel out hunting. Glades were good for butterflies with 7 species: Speckled Wood, Small Skipper, Ringlet, Small Heath, Large Skipper, Green-veined White and Meadow Brown. The first 3 are all recent movers into the area, first 2 from the S and third from W. Still working on that video! Markets are a little better with gain of 8.0% on year now against -1.9% for ftse. Bonds up to 44% as determined to conserve capital while tone is so pessimistic. Eking out the odd % is vital – for instance, difference between portfolio and ftse performance is worth 40k. Welli was good – 5 of us today – with many campers in. Glow from Dipton Wood in N sky at 00:10 was faint but still clearly visible. Saw 2 badgers on drive home!

Video (661) is of nest in East Allen on 14/7 with stills taken on camcorder 1  2  3  4. This nest in oak was very difficult to spot, being picked up on 2nd traversal of area. The foliage, oak sprays, deposited on the nest can be seen. This is one of the sites that will need an extra 2nd visit to confirm the progress. Tomorrow may go to Blanchland area mid-afternoon, after lunch in Hexham, to check on progress in Derwent area in general as not been there for a while.

July 22nd: good day out on JLAF meeting with field trip in Coquetdale near Hepplewoodside and indoor part in Elsdon. Used to drive through upper Coquetdale in the 1990s when visiting Caistron Nature Reserve but not been there for a while. Quite a transformation with stronger presence of National Park and Army and lower presence of game interests. We went for almost 3 hours of walks from 14:00-16:50 including almost to Darden Lough and then in the opposite direction down the valley to see problems of creating walks in sensitive terrain such as heather moor. Raptors were much more plentiful than 10 years ago with 4 Common Buzzard at 3 sites (adult, 2 juveniles hunger calling, 1+ juveniles hunger calling, respectively), 4 Kestrel at 2 sites (adult at one, adult and 2 juveniles at another) and the inevitable Honey-buzzard (female in flap-flap-glide power flight). Habitat is perfect for Honey-buzzard with heather moors, much birch-alder scrub in valleys and some larger areas of conifer woodland with some deciduous on the edge. Had 3 Whinchat – first seen this year, very scarce in the SW. Bus left East Park at 12:30; met 2 very smart ladies as went to collect car!! Not back in Hexham until 22:00 when to t&s with m for enjoyable couple! Tomorrow more typical laid-back day with leisurely lunch in Hexham but aiming in afternoon for nest no.12 at Kellas: will not be easy as it’s a large wood and no previous experience in it.

July 21st: doing delayed atlas work today in upper South Tyne and will also take opportunity to look for a few Honey-buzzard in the air, though it’s not a very good time of year for this. Did just that with walk on Ayle Common from 12:40-15:30 getting up to Kip Law at 500m asl. Waders were still present with 16 Curlew in presumed family groups and 6 Golden Plover at 4 sites, with distraction display. Also had a brood of Red Grouse, 37 Meadow Pipit, 2 Skylark, a Wheatear and 4 Raven. Only raptor was a male Kestrel out hunting: no Honey-buzzard seen at this altitude 250-300m asl in the valleys but enough woodland around out-of-area Alston to be tempting perhaps. On way back stopped at Monk Wood and in 20 minutes from 15:40-16:00 had 5 raptors: 3 Kestrel (adult, 2 juveniles) and single Common Buzzard and Honey-buzzard. The last named was a female coming out quickly from the wood, hanging a bit and then going straight back in. Possibly she was disturbed. Anyway this is a new site for the year, the 36th site! Only 2 known sites not ticked for this year now. Always reckon 15:30-17:00 is good for raptors, what I call the 4 o’clock soar, when the birds come out again after their afternoon nap! Later back to Globe for tea – good to see mates again! The gps looked so fit: high potential for brightening up the lives of they country folk!! Tomorrow not into unn (moved to next Monday) as have JLAF meeting in Elsdon with bus leaving at lunchtime from National Park office in Hexham. Will though make t&s but a little later than usual. Friday’s a more relaxing day!!

Another Honey-buzzard video (658) has been processed, showing expected plumage features for a female overhead but this time from Silverdale in Lancashire on 8/7. Stills derived are: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11. Stills 1-6 show the brown head, grey bill and cere, all-dark fingers and long tail (equal to wing-width) with subterminal and inner band. Still 7 shows the long neck and small head. Stills 7-11 show the sparse broad barring (2-3 bars) along the inner primaries near the gap in the wing. The bird is not in moult but is missing 2 inner primaries on its left wing, inner secondaries on both wings and possibly a tail feather. In addition the tip to P8 on its right wing is damaged. It’s very interesting how missing feathers are aiding the identification through letting light onto the underside of the wing. Lighting conditions at Silverdale were probably better anyway than in SW Northumberland with limestone rocks and clear conditions that you get more often on the coast. Wonder how many Honey-buzzard breeding pairs are known in Lancashire and how many observers on the nearby Peregrine watch have identified this bird!

July 20th: completed addition of stills from Simien Mountains for 11/2 with shots of camp, hut, yours truly, precipices, Lammergeier, Gelada Baboon, Moorland Chat, 2 Seedeater species and Groundscraper Thrush. Left early next morning for drive to Aksum and will document this next, before giving raptor totals on trip up to this point. Hexham was very good: do like ff’s sophisticat hair-style!!! Good chat with a in Nero! Not so sure about walk now – don’t like getting soaked 2 days in row. Might stay in and chat with s&l: did and very enjoyable, s‘s coming on her own next week! Went to Welli much later – good to see gps in such good shape!!! Think ptpa is a bit of a pain really! Will be there next week but shortly after off to Devon to meet sisters and solicitors to try and get matters resolved. Last Saturday, mum’s birthday, was a difficult day. Added urls for Hexham Courant material cited on 19/7. More Ethiopian material for 12/2 when drove from Simien Mountains to Aksum:

12/2: up at the crack of dawn 05:45 for flying start back to Debark with vehicle and team. No time for breakfast even. We dropped off guide, cook and scout in Debark, gave them appropriate tips for their great support and finally had breakfast with 4wd driver in a café in the main street. Then it was off to Aksum. Reason we left early was the need to cross a very hot valley near Inda Selassie before the intense heat of the afternoon set in. So route was a very long descent from Debark down a long winding road, through spectacular countryside, built by the Italians to Addi Decal; then across the very hot valley with vehicle gauge showing 42º outside temperature at 13:00, where there were some fantastic salt works, to late lunch at Inda Selassie (appropriately also known as Shire!) where an enterprising lad polished and repaired my shoes and finally along the Eritrean border into Aksum where arrived late afternoon. We stayed at the Africa Hotel, which raised a few eyebrows from the driver as he clearly thought it was a dive! Not at all and lovely to have a shower, albeit rather primitive. Had dinner a bit more upmarket at Yeha Hotel. Tomorrow it’s more culture! A few piccies taken en route to follow.

Total for raptors in Simien Mountains (start Gondar, end Addi Decal) was 274 of 22 types. Commonest raptors were Yellow-billed Kite (135 birds), Rüppell’s Vulture (47), Augur Buzzard (19), Hooded Vulture (18), Lammergeier (13) and Tawny Eagle (11). Winter visitors comprised Common Kestrel (7) and single Honey-buzzard, Montagu’s Harrier and Booted Eagle. Of the rest 5 African Hobby in territory will remain long in the memory. Total for trip, also including Nairobi and Addis Ababa, as left Simien was 343 raptors of 24 types. Isn’t Africa wonderful!! Fuller details are given here.

Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Aksum, video with derived stills 1  2.

July 19th: have had drier walks; went to Kielder to walk up to Whickhope Nick for 2nd part of BBS. On way up sun was shining through light drizzle and it was like a warm shower with 4 types of butterfly out including Ringlet and Common Blue. Once on top though the rain became heavier and colder and was glad I’d brought all my gear! Raptor total was 6 of 2 species: 5 Common Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk (female). Most of the Common Buzzard were right on top in BBS square NY6781, comprising a family party of 2 adults and 2 juveniles, latter just on wing and calling frequently. The BBS square has been almost completely clear-felled and there were just 8 species present. The only moorland species that returns in numbers under clear felling is the Meadow Pipit: no Skylark or waders for instance. This is a long trek in and out, about 12 km in all including 2 x 1 km transect and was out most of afternoon from 12:00-17:00. Then went to Leaplish to see if Osprey around but no joy in deteriorating conditions so settled on fish and chips and a pint before coming home. Made Hexham earlier for a fix: the ff was as gorgeous as ever!! Tomorrow it’s an atlas trip to SW near Ayle after lunch in Hexham. Maybe quiz nite later!

Hexham Courant readers will have noted tension between the Forestry Commission (FC) and the game estates in recent articles and correspondence. The FC thought that high raptor numbers supported their land management style over that of the grouse moors. The moorland lobby replied with 2 letters 1  2. It’s certainly not so simple now as you’ll see from the data below with sporting estates, on which I do almost all my fieldwork, having much higher raptor numbers than 20 years ago. But if you love Hen Harrier you’ll hate the grouse moors! The idea of sporting estates actually benefiting wildlife is also anathema to some! Of course recently to add to the argument we had confirmation that the 2 Red Kite found dead in the ‘Shire at Steel had been poisoned. Very sad: I’m not convinced the Red Kite is having an easy time in Northumberland though there was good news from Apperley Dene last week from David (HC photographer) with what sounded like an adult and a juvenile out together. There’s also news of our latest breeding raptor – Eagle Owl, though it’s not actually in Northumberland and of course it’s not very natural.

July 18th: processed material from 2/7 at Blenkinsopp. Honey-buzzard comprised a very ragged male overhead (video with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11) with some calls and a female coming-in from afar (video with derived stills 1  2). The male has damage to left side of tail and is missing inner secondaries and at least 3 primaries on left and right wings. Might have been in a few scraps. The damage to the tail has let more light in and one of the inner tail bands shows well on stills 1,2,4,6. The tail damage has reduced the extent of the subterminal tail bar but even so the tail length approximates to the wing width. This bird also has a broad bar across its remiges (still 4) and a grey head. Stills 8-9 show the feather damage clearly: there’s no way this can be moult, it’s irregular and far too risky in proportion of wing/tail cover. However, the bird still seems to fly well – it will be interesting in a second visit to see whether the damage has been repaired. The very cross Common Buzzard was also captured on video with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5. Still 1 shows 5-6 narrow bars across the inner primaries. This bird now seems to recognise me 2 km away and immediately starts calling and getting agitated. This is not a site scheduled for nest visits: I was mobbed from the road. No trips today, hope to catch up on grass and make Globe later. Hexham’s apparently not as interesting at weekends as it was! But maybe it just needs a different strategy in searching for the eyrie!! Tomorrow it’s up to Kielder for 2nd BBS visit: quite a long trip including 2 hours walk-in and -out! Just booked up Sage season for next season from September 2010-June 2011: not planning on an early exit from NE with so many lovely s…s!!

Totals for Honey-buzzard to date are: Allen 5 sites, 8 adults (5 male, 3 female) 2 nests (Norway Spruce, Oak); Devil’s Water 6, 9(6,3) 3 nests (Norway Spruce, Scots Pine x 2); Tyne Valley west 7, 12(8,4) 3 nests (Scots Pine x 2, Norway Spruce/Larch); Tyne Valley east 3, 4(2,2) 1 nest (Scots Pine); upper South Tyne 6, 9(6,3) 2 nests (Birch, Norway Spruce); lower South Tyne 3, 4(3,1); and Derwent 5, 7(4,3); giving grand total 35, 53(34,19) 11 nests (Scots Pine 5, Norway Spruce 3, Birch 1, Oak 1, Norway Spruce/Larch 1).

July 17th: did make site visit no.11 (663) from 15:00-17:20 to start of Devils’ Water, close to Tyne Valley, but not quite right yesterday. Got some exciting piccies and calls; have a backlog of these now but going to put some up soon to show what a marvellous season it’s been. This was another Common Buzzard/Honey-buzzard dual act with the former having 2 young just fledged and the latter with a new nest in Scots Pine, as last year with splendid views over the Devil’s Water. Had lunch in Ant’s; food there is actually quite good and can catch up with the FT while watching the world go by! This weekend is a musical feast with the Proms starting. Watched Mahler’s 8th on iPlayer this morning and tonite on BBC4 it’s the great one (Wagner) with Meistersinger for 5 hours from 19:00, performed by Welsh Opera; this is the opera that son and I saw in Barcelona. Always good to hear the overture! And son is also going to this one at Albert Hall – well he is ¼ German! Loved the opera: soo romantic!! And quite a number of (understated) jokes.

July 16th: added below video (643) and stills from visit to Allen on 25/6 showing distant male, nest, prey remains below the nest and a secondary feather. Still copying onto new drive! ff looked very beautiful at lunchtime!! Bit baffled about one or two things!! Did make Wylam in afternoon from 16:00-18:10 and found first Honey-buzzard nest in the east Tyne Valley (Prudhoe eastwards). Winter work on 20/1 paid off with quick search finding the nest in a Scots Pine tree about 70m to SE from last year’s presumed nest, not too far from the chimney! Birds were very vocal and close at times but didn’t actually see them as they kept well hidden in the canopy. Still have many sound recordings of anger, alarm and piping calls, and there was quite a lot of splash in the vicinity of the nest. One bird actually saw me off the premises by mournfully calling even as I got into the Ka. Wood was very quiet – didn’t see a soul. Also had a juvenile Goshawk flying low over the canopy; not entirely welcome as Goshawk can kill Honey-buzzard but think there’s enough Woodpigeon to keep the Goshawk occupied. Butterflies of 5 types included Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary and Speckled Wood. After yesterday’s work car is a real smoothie now: starts, goes, stops and suspension is quieter after work on links and bushes of anti-roll bar. What more could you want? Anything other than a Ka perhaps! Off to Welli soon and tomorrow will have to catch up with a bit of gardening; still expect though to visit Hexham and do nest site visit no.11 to Tyne Valley west. Welli was good with 6 of us there. At 00:30 in Dipton Wood glow in sky to N was very much reduced: northern summer is sadly past its peak, at least in terms of daylight!

July 15th: new 2-TB disk arrived today, so now saving everything (600 GB) onto it, which will take hours (81 days (!!) was its last estimate but think it’s copying a lot of small files at present). Cannot process any new videos while this is going on. Lecturers involved in multimedia teaching were very interested yesterday in my experience with HD video. Think it’s the obvious way forward in identification of raptors (or any moving objects) but suspect many record committees will not be up to the pace (like FIFA!). Finalising 30-page journal article for Libyan PhD student today on automated generation of class models by natural language processing of user requirements (or something like that!). Also presentation at Cambridge accepted on local cartesian closed categories for software engineers (this is more spaced out!) so perhaps more productivity on vf front! Got lots of kisses on my leaving card; women in computing are much more exciting than popularly imagined!! Added video 628 below for visit to upper South Tyne on 11/6 with birds in 3 areas: Eals, Lambley and Parson Shields. The Honey-buzzard are at moderate distance with some very typical flight poses. Tomorrow weather looks better in afternoon so will do site visit no.10 then to the new nest near Wylam which should be straightforward as found good nest in winter visit, but you never know! They’re a flighty lot in Wylam!! Expect a lazy lunchtime in Hexham!! Beginning to think about next winter’s trip – Namibia, Botswana and Angola appeal. Any takers? Back to earth it’s now the t&s! Very good tonite with 4 colleagues and excellent folk music!

July 14th: nest site visit no.9 was made to a site on East Allen from 12:00-14:10 in-between early morning murk and torrential downpours later. It was very humid and the wood is quite a challenge with fallen branches and steep sides, which were slippery today. To help overcome these problems the local landowner has driven a track right through the wood, presumably to help access for pheasant rearing and shooting, quite close to last year’s Honey-buzzard nest. Thought the birds would be perturbed but not at all – nest has been moved to the top of a very tall oak tree slightly removed from the track but in same vicinity. It’s not easy to see and only spotted on second traversal having found signs (splash) only in this area on first one. So where were the birds? None seen today. Suspect female was sitting tight on small young and she will likewise have had to sit out the downpours in the evening (with moral support from the male!). Made Nero for very quick coffee – they’re putting tables outside soon to keep smokers happy! Could be useful with such talent in Hexham!! Leaving do in staff bar at unn was very good – got a card with so many names on and a present, plus great to meet workmates again. Volunteered a short speech and of course continue as vf! It’s all very confusing of course because I really left last August: don’t worry about it! Tomorrow it’s unn again to meet PhD students; must remember to take car to garage in Hexham, not to Riding Mill!

July 13th: out to Willyshaw Rigg on Whitfield Moor this afternoon in fair weather before the deluge from 13:40-16:20 for atlas visit. Lesser Black-backed Gull colony has been cleared (presumably by the gamekeepers) so that was a disappointment but not totally unexpected as they are not entirely welcome on grouse moors. Only birds on the high moors were 10 Golden Plover (including family party of 4), 13 Meadow Pipit (including one carrying food), 2 singing Skylark and a Red Grouse. But on Ouston Fell had an exciting pair of Merlin, clearly with young in the heather nearby but I don’t have a disturbance permit for this species so that’s as far as it goes. My permit covers Honey-buzzard, Hobby and Goshawk. Also had a brood of Pheasant, reared in the wild. Total raptors for trip were 4 birds of 2 species: 2 Merlin and 2 Kestrel. Piccies to follow. Plenty of gorgeous inspiration in Hexham earlier, particularly at 13:04!! Welli was missing a few stars!! Flushed Tawny Owl in Dipton Wood at 23:40. Tomorrow morning unless weather still bad going to do a nest site visit in Allen followed by train into Newcastle for do at unn. In-between hope to make Hexham sometime!

July 12th: working hard today in Durham with Mike, sorting out abstract for a paper and a title for a metaphysics conference at Cambridge University in mid-August that I’m attending. Mike persuaded me to do some circuit training at the gym with him: piece of p.ss really compared to walking on Whitfield Moor but never did fathom out hula hoops – not a clue — think they’re really for the hips of young women! Sorted out material from Staward visit on 21/6 (643) but not published yet. One or two observations: the gws is a very kool katt and the gps looked just that!! Sadly no sign of the ff! So did make Nero and library late-on: a was in good form and StW is risking a tick infection! Tomorrow it’s Hexham for lunch, followed by atlas visit to Willyshaw Rigg on Whitfield Moor to see the vicious Lesser Black-backed Gull at their colony and maybe much later the Welli quiz nite! Wednesday morning it’s back to Honey-buzzard for site visit no.9 and Thursday will be usual visit to unn.

July 11th: made site near Eals in upper South Tyne from 12:20-15:50 in cool blustery conditions with little sunshine. Raptors were scarce with 3 birds noted of 3 species: single Common Buzzard, Hobby and Honey-buzzard. The visit (no.8) to the Honey-buzzard nest site showed it was occupied with splash and 2 feathers in adjacent glade and female making one flight low over trees, passing right over nest in Norway Spruce. But then she b……d off! Met 2 friends from ncl. Evidently it’s the worst tick year for a long time. Never wear shorts as you get bitten by everything but even then they go for your mid-riff where cosy and lots of blood! Today only problem was a few midges. Made Nero later where good to meet a again! Continued to enter records into BirdTrack – trying to complete compilation of June data within the next 2 days – and reviewing video from various visits. So added below for visit to Plenmeller on 14/6 clips for Merlin, Short-eared Owl, strange gull thought to be Caspian Gull 1s, and long-range clips (630) of Honey-buzzard floating and displaying on edge of the moor. And reviewed but not yet published material from upper South Tyne on 11/6 (628) with revised view that Honey-buzzard at Parson Shields, in-between sites, should be attributed to the site upstream, which is considerably closer (and adds one to site total!). Also corrected error in account of video 2008-325 mentioned below and tidied up one or two other things as a peace offering! Finished videos for 11/2 in Simien Mountains with last Rüppell’s Vulture. There’s certainly more exciting material that could be published but ‘fraid going to do it more systematically as I’m a boring scientist! Globe was good – made it half-way through extra time — think most people supported Spain and j was in good form. Tomorrow it’s Durham but won’t be there all day! Wednesday afternoon have been invited to leaving do at unn – think it’s partially mine, though continuing as vf. Will go anyway as might get the odd beer! Thursday sees Ka in again for anti-roll bar fitting – must be last of the big spenders!

Totals for Honey-buzzard to date are: Allen 5 sites, 6 adults (4 male, 2 female) 1 nest (Norway Spruce); Devil’s Water 6, 8(6,2) 2 nests (Norway Spruce, Scots Pine); Tyne Valley west 7, 12(8,4) 3 nests (Scots Pine x 2, Norway Spruce/Larch); Tyne Valley east 3, 3(2,1); upper South Tyne 6, 9(6,3) 2 nests (Birch, Norway Spruce); lower South Tyne 3, 4(3,1); and Derwent 5, 7(4,3); giving grand total 35, 49(33,16) 8 nests (Norway Spruce 3, Scots Pine 3, Birch 1, Norway Spruce/Larch 1).

Technical update! HD video demands on computer system are vast at about 10 GB a week – just ordered 2-TB external drive (that’s 2,000,000 MB) from Amazon for £120 to keep going with current external only having 17.7 GB left from 596 GB. Internal drives are also both very stretched with only 32 GB free of 232 GB on C and 210 GB free of 698 GB on E but can ship some working (intermediate) files off these onto new external to at least survive until the end of the season. External hard drive is essential for back-up purposes. Video is certainly resource intensive: even on BT web server am now using 10 GB, mostly of compressed video (wmv), under their business web deal. Might add that compressed videos can only be played over the net if the client machine has up to date software to handle the compression (codec). For example older versions of Windows Media Player may not have the necessary codecs.

July10th: back in ‘Shire at 12:20 after drive back in Ka from Dentdale with Nick. We stayed at a cottage between Sedbergh and Dent. All went very well with the only bad weather on Sunday, when still got out in evening, and this morning. Managed to visit every pub in Dent and Sedbergh! More details soon. Pity to miss the excitement in Rothbury – have been aware from the start of the study that Honey-buzzard nest sites are in good areas for fugitives! Would have had some difficult decisions to make if his whereabouts had continued to be unknown. Feel a new force in the Hexham area! Catching up with a lot of records for June today, entering them formally into the database. Going to Durham on Monday to see Mike. Has been a very good week for markets with gain of 4.5% in portfolio taking gain on year to 7.1% compared to fall in ftse of 5.2%. Put proceeds from bonds bbp into UK’s fastest growing bank bnc.l at start of week (actually bought more for BRICs exposure) so some move back into equities but portfolio is still rather defensive. Tomorrow it’s the upper South Tyne for nest visit no.8 to a wood SW of Eals. Then back to Hexham for tea and much later to the Globe! Looking forward to the sights of Hexham!!

July 9th: we completed exploration of Dentdale with long walk of almost 6 hours around Dent itself from 11:10-17:00. Had 4 raptors of 3 species: 2 Common Buzzard and single Hobby and Sparrowhawk. The Common Buzzard were carrying food and hunting along the ridge at Kirk Bank near Backstonegill. The Hobby, in the same area and 2nd site in the dale, caused a lot of aggravation with Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. The Sparrowhawk, a female carrying a kill, brought the number of raptor species seen in the trip to a remarkable 8. Dentdale is good for insectivores with many Swallow and Spotted Flycatcher seen and Hobby at the top of the insect food chain at 2 sites but apparently no Honey-buzzard, perhaps because there’s no single really good area of woodland. Evidently there are a lot of schemes to improve the environment in the dale such as preventing spraying before mid-July.

July 8th: another trip to south of area in hazy sunshine, this time to Lancashire, taking in Warton Crag, Silverdale and famous RSPB nature reserve Leighton Moss. Had 18 raptors of 5 species: 7 Marsh Harrier at Leighton Moss (2 family parties — one female and 2 juveniles near salt-marsh, pair adults and 2 juveniles north of causeway), 5 Common Buzzard, 3 Kestrel (including juvenile at Leighton Moss), 2 Peregrine (male and female juveniles at quarry) and (yes!) a Honey-buzzard. The last was a female right overhead from 12:02-12:05 in Warton Park area, giving good views, captured on video. This is the first I’ve seen in Lancashire, in perfect wooded habitat on SE side of Leighton Moss. I can see how some people mistake Honey-buzzard for Marsh Harrier as the proportions of wings and tail are similar but there’s no real excuse as Marsh Harrier fly with their wings raised, even more so than Common Buzzard, and have some distinctive plumage features. The site found today is about 5-6km from Arnside in Cumbria so there’s scope for another site in Yealand Stone area of Lancashire on NW side of Leighton Moss. Whole walk was 6 hours 40 minutes of which just 2 hours spent at Leighton Moss. It’s a very well run reserve but find the atmosphere a little too jolly!

July 7th: real grockles today going all the way on Lake Windermere steamer from Lakeside-Ambleside and back. Nefarious purpose might be to use it as vantage point for Honey-buzzard! And so it turned out with single male from 12:12-12:17 near Lakeside, floating over area south of Blake Holme Plantation, and single female from 13:35-13:40 at northern end of superb wooded habitat on western bank opposite Windermere and Bowness, going out to feed to north. 3 birds were found displaying in the middle section of the latter site in June 2008 so that’s 3 sites now on Windermere altogether. The southern part of Lake Windermere from the town of Windermere south is perfect wooded habitat and calculations based on 2.5 km spacing between nests indicate a possible 6 pairs on western bank and 3 on eastern bank, giving 9 in all. Total for day was 10 raptors of 3 species: 6 Kestrel, 2 Common Buzzard and 2 Honey-buzzard. Not bad for a day off! Not forgetting the beauties of course: ff/gps!! xxxxxx

July 6th: spent morning in upper Dentdale around Dent Station, highest in England at 1,150 feet, with additional 2 Common Buzzard and a Kestrel. Then 5-hour walk on Yorkshire side at Oughterside where large upland coniferous forest and grassy moors at around 500m asl. Had many Skylark and Meadow Pipit, 5 Wheatear and a Reed Bunting, but waders were scarce with just 3 Curlew located. Raptors comprised 3 Common Buzzard, nice to see in a county where the press is often very bad for landowners and gamekeepers. No Honey-buzzard but the enormous forest looked just too uniform and dense to appeal to them. There was some heather in one corner on the edge of the forest, which would, however, be an attraction. Grand total now 22 raptors of 6 species: 11 Common Buzzard, 5 Kestrel, 3 Tawny Owl and single Honey-buzzard, Hobby and Peregrine.

July 5th: sampling a bit of Yorkshire Dales in Cumbria! After 3 days in Dentdale 8 raptors of 4 species: 3 Common Buzzard and Tawny Owl and single Peregrine and Hobby (at Hewthwaite). Today went to Arnside overlooking Morecambe Bay and after 5 hours finally got the big one: a male Honey-buzzard at 16:40 flying out to feed and captured on video. Butterflies at Arnside were also brilliant. It’s a marvellous coastal wood with mixture of large expanse of deciduous timber, open areas for the insects and taller trees on eastern side. But it’s very maritime in aspect and was not sure of success. Quite a significant result for western areas I feel. Others today included 4 Kestrel, 3 Common Buzzard and (non-raptor!) 21 Black-tailed Godwit. Love … Nick xxxxxx

July 2nd: different day with car service hindering flexibility. But shouldn’t be too dependent on car so took train out to Haltwhistle and did Blenkinsopp area for 34th site of season with worried male over me on the road and later a female coming in from afar presumably with food. Video to follow. Also had 5 Common Buzzard here, including a very angry pair which started mewing as soon as I came within range, and a female Honey-buzzard near Morralee. I’m sure I now have a certain notoriety with the local big birds of prey! Got back to Hexham at 14:20 just in time to agree to garage also replacing 2 front tyres and front brake pads: they don’t seem to last very long! Also discussed the clutch, the original one, which they don’t rate too highly after 76k miles: performs quite well but not very well! Whiled away a couple of hours at Nero and the Library with splendid views of the lovely ff!! Stocks continue to plummet but still holding positive with 2.6% gain on year as against fall of 10.6% in ftse. Wondering when to switch back from bonds to equities – no great conviction yet for this but time must come! Went round to Philip’s for supper and sorted a problem with adware (maybe even malware) on his computer which was affecting ie8 on exit, perhaps in attempting to write out record of browsing to a network address. Zapped a few programs through control panel, used wtm to brutally stop a few tasks, restored ie8 settings to default and problem solved! Welli was good; still marvellous glow in sky in Dipton Wood looking N at 00:30 but no Nightjar this week. Note comments yesterday on ease of separating Common Buzzard and Honey-buzzard from video evidence applies, as stated, only to adults. Young birds are more difficult because, compared to adults, Common Buzzard up to first-summer have a higher tail/wing-width ratio and Honey-buzzard up to first-summer have a lower tail/wing-width ratio. Aren’t they sods? xxxxxx

July 1st: well here’s one of the clips (646) from yesterday (30/6) with many derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  22  23  24. Stills 1-3 show a close-up of the female Honey-buzzard’s face with grey bill and cere; Common Buzzard have a prominent yellow cere (fleshy base of bill). Stills 4-10 show 2-3 broad bars across the remiges. Stills 11-15 show typical Honey-buzzard flight jizz. Brilliant!! But as ever note the tail length – think long tail >= 95% of wing width is almost guaranteed way of separating the adults of the species with Common Buzzard mainly in range 65-80%. Perhaps for safety just one other Honey-buzzard feature required for safe identification, such as small head, long neck or shape of tail. But statement on tail length would ideally need video evidence to support it; otherwise it’s very subjective. It’s a female because of ruddy-brown head and evenly spaced bars. She’s not in moult with complete set of feathers. Interesting how the females seem to be involved in hand-to-hand combat defending the nest while the males do the victory rolls over the site after you’ve exited! Many more clips to follow. Had a full day’s work at unn from 09:50-17:20, quite a sweat! gwslooked very desirable on inward trip and missed on return!! Chatting to Nick on return – he’s going to have more leisure soon, courtesy of unn’s diminishing empire! And later in t&s heard of few similar cases in my School. Tomorrow it’s Haltwhistle by train with later events depending on how long garage takes.

June 30th: excellent trip in lovely hot sunshine from 13:20-16:30 to wood west of Hexham with agitated display from both Honey-buzzard and Common Buzzard and nests found for both in angry part of visit from 14:00-15:00. This was nest site visit 7 so 5 more to do as raising number to 12 this year with extra ones at Wylam and Kellas. But maybe reduce number of visits from 3 to 2 for sites where it is very obvious what is going on. Material still to be processed but some good close ups of both species obtained as at Slaley Forest and plenty of calls. Not sure why I’m suddenly striking it lucky with close-ups of Honey-buzzard. Suggest the birds seem more active in hot weather, I’m taking a bit longer over the visits and the video camera is performing well. Golfers in Globe said ‘buzzards’ only over course for last 2 years, often very high and mobbed by crows. So suggests colonisation of Sele area by Honey-buzzard started last year, as picked up by survey. Very reassuring! Visited Hexham twice, before and after nest-site visit. soh looked a very good s…g both times!! gps silhouette is a turn-on!! Tomorrow it’s unn and may be back later than usual as seeing Mike at 14:30. Friday sees 12-month car service before trip to Yorkshire. May go out to Haltwhistle on train while it’s being done and then who knows: maybe I’ll get the car back! Evidently neighbours think I’m bohemian: what bloody cheek – nouveau bohemian I hope! Should really edit this I think but well say what you think!!

June 29th: here’s some of the shots from 26/6 in Slaley Forest. The female Honey-buzzard provided some close ups as she was very anxious about my presence. The video (644) comprises numerous fly-overs at low level with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5. She also got high up over the nest for a bit of floating: video with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11. They’re much easier to identify by jizz at height than close-up on plumage! The female has a gap on her left wing between P6 and P7: no feathers are missing but either the end of a feather is damaged or the feathers are lying unevenly. She has 2-3 broad bands across the remiges: again not bad for Honey-buzzard! Nearby a Common Buzzard was nesting and got similar recordings for this bird. Video at low-level, with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6, shows P4 is missing on left wing and there is a hint of a tail feather missing. There is also a characteristic series of 5-6 narrow bands across the remiges. At high level the video, with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13, shows the obvious shorter tail of Common Buzzard and its less graceful flight. I think you can see the difficulties in identification if you’re relying solely on plumage and are simply viewing the birds through binoculars and telescopes. A number of the birders in Northumberland who put a lot of effort into finding the birds and did not succeed need to show a bit more modesty in their skills at raptor identification! Name them? Yes, starting tomorrow, one per day!

Took quite a lot of time today preparing the above material but needed to give it priority: it’s very critical for the cause! Reproduced here is one of the stills with lines to indicate the features that are 100% conclusive for Honey-buzzard. Remiges are the flight feathers (primaries and secondaries). Also did a lot of gardening with lawn mowing: think neighbours are muttering about state of garden (and late nights!) but not doing anything about latter! Completed repairs on front door and put on first coat of primer. Went to Welli for quiz nite: good chat with o but elsewhere s.xual interest lacking!! Tomorrow Hexham for lunch, top end of Tyne Valley for nest visit and Globe for tea!! Added below videos for Rüppell’s Vulture and Red-billed Chough (same species as on Isle of Man) atSankaber on 11/2.

June 28th: rain stopped play at site in March Burn for nest 6 after about an hour’s searching and waiting in a total visit time from 15:40-17:20. This is one of the most difficult sites because the birds are so retiring and undemonstrative. All you can do at this stage is photograph from many angles the candidate nests, to compare with more photos later on and see how they’ve changed. Honey-buzzard build up their nests right through to late August long after most species have finished breeding so it is possible to determine whether a nest is occupied or not. There are 2 candidate nests – one in good condition in Norway Spruce from last year and a new one in Larch. Money’s on new one! This is the closest site to the Welli! You have to get out quickly of course if it starts to rain as eggs/small young could be exposed, cool off quickly and die. Had hovering adult female Kestrel on arrival and, a real rarity this year, 2 agitated Marsh Tit in the burn. A Speckled Wood was the only butterfly seen but a Fox gave splendid views as it almost ran into me! Spent morning sorting out a trust portfolio jointly held with mum for transfer to my name as first step. Also ordered dad’s Letters of Administration, to try and avoid IHT altogether. Solicitors are not impressed with Lloyds Wealth – they’ve delivered filing cabinets full of computer printouts but not the essential information they need! Thank g.d we removed the will from them. In yesterday’s stills (27/6) from 645 5 is the most interesting in some respects as it shows 2 bars evenly spaced across the secondaries on the bird’s left wing and a thick bar across the outer primaries, not bad for female Honey-buzzard! She’s missing P2 and a secondary on her left wing but this looks like damage rather than moult. Got some more like these from Slaley Forest. Added below some more video from Chenek for 11/2: 2 pan view videos of the stunning mountain scenery and one of Gelada Baboon and our trusty vehicle!

Totals for Honey-buzzard to date are: Allen 5 sites, 6 adults (4 male, 2 female) 1 nest (Norway Spruce); Devil’s Water 6, 8(6,2) 2 nests (Norway Spruce, Scots Pine); Tyne Valley west 7, 12(8,4) 2 nests (Scots Pine, Norway Spruce/Larch); Tyne Valley east 3, 3(2,1); upper South Tyne 4, 5(4,1) 1 nest (Birch); lower South Tyne 3, 4(3,1); and Derwent 5, 7(4,3); giving grand total 33, 45(31,14) 6 nests (Norway Spruce 2, Scots Pine 2, Birch 1, Norway Spruce/Larch 1).

June 27th: well there I was walking nicely through this wood near Prudhoe in steamy weather at 12:30 when mobbed by this lady Honey-buzzard without any pretext on my part. Peter Rock, who’s studied nesting Lesser Black-backed Gull in Bristol, reckons that the birds can sense when your interest is out of the ordinary and respond accordingly. Peter used to be mobbed in Bristol on the streets by the gulls as soon as he got in sight of a colony! Hyons Wood is rich habitat with 7 species of butterfly today: Small White, Meadow Brown, Green-veined White, Small Tortoiseshell, Wall, Painted Lady and Large Skipper. It’s also a good area for some species scarce further west such as Lesser Whitethroat (one song-flighting) and Willow Tit (anxiety behaviour). Prudhoe is so good for gorgeous willowy tits!! Anyway star of day was this female Honey-buzzard with video 645 complete with anger calls and derived stills: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15. Number 5 is the most interesting (see 28/6). Whole visit time was from 12:00-15:00 and the Honey-buzzard was the only raptor seen. Not too surprised about England’s exit from football competition but gratified to see calls for using video evidence to resolve difficult decisions. I’m not sure you can even do scientific raptor recording now without video evidence. Globe was very good, will miss it next week! Quiz is postponed — it was going to be too difficult but some very good material to come out of the day. Tomorrow it’s dealing with solicitors and catching up with the garden in the morning followed by late lunch in Hexham and a nest visit somewhere!!

June 26th: great day in the field in lovely hot weather with visit to Slaley Forest (nest 5) from 11:40-14:20 producing some interesting raptors. But I’m not going to say what the result is yet as going to set a quiz tomorrow, based on video, to see how you’re getting on! Should be a piece of p.ss! Made Hexham at tail end of parade for good lunch at Ant’s. Then had a spot check on Tyne Green again and nailed the b.ggers with a male Honey-buzzard flying low at 16:00 across the Tyne from the N and coming into woods near the railway line, just 1.2 km from Hexham Abbey. So it’s third time lucky – persistence pays. This must be the origin of the family party over the Sele last September. Closest sites are regulatory 2.5 km to W but 4 km to SE, S and E, the distances to south and east being affected by the great conurbation of Hexham. There is room for another site to the N of Hexham, an area which I don’t really check. Think I’ll go to Hyons Wood tomorrow morning at back of Prudhoe as not sorted out that site yet. Can’t spend all my time in impenetrable jungle! Might watch the football in afternoon at home – very pleased that Ghana won tonite – come on Africa! Then later it’s the Globe!

Done some processing of video today. Here’s rest of Kellas video (635) from 15/6 showing male Honey-buzzard floating over wood with derived stills 1  2 and a video of an adult Common Buzzard taken the same day with derived stills 1  2  3  4. Also processed 2nd part of calls from site in ‘Shire near home (640) with wma file here (times for wma = those for wmv + 11 seconds) and associated spectrograms for piped calls 1  2  3 and whimpers 1  2. The piped calls are close to long flight calls. The shorter ones at 19 and 20 seconds are deeper than normal. The longer ones at 30, 47 and 50 seconds are typical in pitch with a maximum of 2.5-2.6 kHz. All have weak upstroke and stronger downstroke which is as expected. The ones at 19 and 50 seconds are disyllabic, the others trisyllabic. The whimpering calls from 52-59 seconds have a little more upstroke than the ones on the 1st wma file; since they comprise one harmonic only they are closer to the calls 1,2 in that file rather than 3,4.

June 25th: site visit number 4 to the Allen from 14:40-18:20 in rather dull and sultry weather. Had male Honey-buzzard at distance over site on arrival (video 643), spiralling up to a great height before drifting off to W to feed. Went into site itself from 16:00-17:00, finding an amazing number of adult Woodpigeon kills (9 in total, video with stills 1  2  3  4) plus one Woodpigeon egg, one dead and intact Stock Dove and Pheasant feathers, from a bird perhaps which may have just wandered in and died. Suspect pigeons are an important source of food through much of the season for some pairs. The pigeons had obviously been dissected on the ground, presumably having been caught beforehand by ambushes on nesting or roosting birds. Nest (video) was located high-up in a Norway Spruce near all the kills but adults did not seem to care about my presence and no calls. This feather (stills 1  2  3) was found on the edge of the occupied wood: it’s 155mm long so presumably an inner secondary. Too few bars for Common Buzzard, right number for Honey-buzzard but no inter-bars. I’ve had a few of these in the study over the years. On leaving spent some time on Brünnhilde’s rock and was rewarded with the rusty-brown female flying through the top of the trees carrying food into the nest site. Also had 4 Common Buzzard in the area. So that’s good progress: the calling activity on 18/6 was very exceptional and totally unexpected, probably the most dramatic event in the season to date. sohwas showing well at lunchtime!! She has some characteristics of Honey-buzzard! Think the gpshas been promoted!! Made Welli later and good crack! One sad omission compared with last week!! On way back at 00:30 stopped in Dipton Wood to look at marvellous glow in northern sky and had a Nightjar hunting down the glade, the second this month in the area, with also a Tawny Owl and a Badger near the road. Tomorrow it’s another nest site visit in the ‘Shire with late lunch at Ant’s! Then a lot of paperwork to catch up on, including bringing the analysis of the 2008 county bird reports up to publishable standard.

June 24th: well main news from the NE is that our most famous export Cheryl Cole has become Cheryl Tweedy! Into unn today for meeting with PhD student and end of term trip to the Cluny in Byker with 6 colleagues including the 2 I meet at t&s each week. Always liked the Cluny – used to meet students there; some excelled at being barmaids! Had a civilised lunch including food (ploughman’s) and a couple of Guinness. But no Honey-buzzard of course! Back to Hexham an hour later than usual, just in time to see soh striding beautifully down the pavement!! About to do some Fourier transforms on the calls from the ‘Shire and also compile some more video from the trip to see whether you’re up for it!! Plenty more to do and not out tonite! Tomorrow should make Hexham for lunch and then out for another nest site visit to Costa d’Allen!

Getting the spectrograms (sonograms) is a little fiddly. In Windows Movie Maker the clip is copied onto the audio timeline and the result published as a wma file. The wma format is then converted by NCH Software (Sound File Converter) to wav format. Finally the Fourier transform is applied to the wav file using Visualization’s Spectrogram 16 to obtain image files in jpg format. The Fourier transform can be viewed as converting the sounds recorded into sheet music format with y-axis the frequency and x-axis time. So ‘chords’ (multiple harmonics) would appear as multiple lines in the output. The loudness of a harmonic is indicated by colours (red loudest). For video 1 below (640), the wma file at 1.6 MB is more compact than the video (wmv) file at 9.73 MB as the pictures are omitted. For the spectrograms, times in seconds shown are for wma file, which is about +14 seconds on wmv because of the way the wma file is created. The spectrograms for the piped call are shown here as images 1  2; the call is a whistle with just one harmonic, typical of Honey-buzzard and not of Common Buzzard, which would have several harmonics at range to bird of about 30m. The upstroke is not explosive (strongest part of call), indeed quite weak in the second, again typical for Honey-buzzard and not right for Common Buzzard. The whistle is trisyllabic with inflexion on long downstroke, again quite common for Honey-buzzard and rare in adult Common Buzzard. This call is a slightly deeper variant of the long flight call. The spectrogram for the single wailing call is shown here. There is no counterpart for this call in Common Buzzard. This call is really out of Africa! Most interesting is the whimpering call, which is a new one for me. At the start (1) this is a very short simple call with hardly any upstroke and steep downstroke. Later (2) the calls have slightly more harmonics at higher frequency and the extent of the downstroke has increased. Near the end (3) the calls become more impassioned and the frequency goes off the top of the default scale set at 6 kHz. Setting the frequency scale to a maximum of 10 kHz (4) shows the whole call clearly. The structure is complex with an upstroke starting at 5.5 kHz rising to over 6 kHz and leading into a complex note with many harmonics all the way down from 6.5 to 4 kHz, then a gap and a ‘smudge’ around the 2 kHz mark. The closest call in the ones documented already on the calls page is the ticking call which has harmonics from 0-8 kHz with a gap from 2-4 kHz. But the ticking call is more metallic so the whimpering call is new. The sonograms suggest that maybe the whimpering calls can be further subdivided. This just processes the sound on one video of the 6: more to come!

June 23rd: broken up main video taken at Honey-buzzard nest visit in the ‘Shire (640) on 18/6 into 6 clips: 1  2  3  4  5  6. The main interest in these clips is in the calls so they’ve been reduced in size to about 10 MB each to ease downloads. The clips contain the following calls: 1 – whimper wail anxiety (wail at 37 seconds is very characteristic nest call), 2 – anxiety whimper, 3 – anxiety whimper anger, 4 – anger, 5 – anger whimper rally, 6 – anger rally. The birds start off with melancholy restraint, gradually becoming wilder and rather losing their cool near the end. At this point I left to let the birds get back onto their nest, which is now enormous 1  2  3. I was trying to get a photo of the birds as they crossed a small gap in the canopy but they’re wary and declined; did however capture one of the birds above the canopy on clip 5 with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6. There’s a lot of material to add to the calls page from this visit: very remarkable range of calls, at least one (whimper) new to me. Today spent some time at Hexham from 12:45-15:00 in the Park and at Tyne Green, looking for Honey-buzzard as sure there’s a site somewhere in this area but no luck. Indeed no raptors at all! Nero was good with ain lively form and of course the football match shown in the Globe went the right way! Tomorrow it’s into unn, including end of term trip to the Cluny!

June 22nd: made upper South Tyne in Eals area later than expected from 12:50-15:20 but was ‘greeted’ by 2 first-summer Common Buzzard up over the site. They both gave very close views with some contention between them. About 30 minutes in, the male Honey-buzzard was briefly up above the site. Spent about an hour in nest site itself with nest appearing to be a re-use of one in birch from last year. While in there much aggravated corvid activity, always a good sign for raptor occupation and when leaving rather scruffy male Honey-buzzard came in apparently carrying food. On exiting wood, female was hanging over me at some height. There’s a possibility that these birds have very small hatched young, perhaps the same in the ‘Shire last week, which would indicate an early breeding season. But we’ll see! Had a total of 6 Common Buzzard (4 adult, 2 first-summer) and 2 Honey-buzzard (adult pair). Flying visit to Lambley did not produce anything. Made Hexham about 16:00. The alluring gps has got a different perch!! Made Nero where saw j for the first time for a while!! Later to Welli twice. Met Philip for LD pep talk at 18:00. We do have a very common interest in bees although he keeps them and my ‘pets’ eat them, well anyway the bumble bee nests! At 18:50 sitting outside amazed to see male Honey-buzzard soar up over the Glebe, mobbed by Jackdaw, and move slowly up the March Burn. New site for the year and on the nest-visit programme, the bird will be pleased to hear. Later came back for quiz, where soh looked very appealing (and with a beautiful pair)!! Tomorrow it’s Hexham for lunch and planning to make Globe at 15:00 for England football match to show a bit of patriotism! in-between may well visit Hexham Tyne Green to try and find the elusive Honey-buzzard in this area. Budget was OK – can live with CGT at 28%.

June 21st: did 2nd nest site visit in Tyne Valley west from 15:40-18:50 including walk-in and coffee supping on edge of territory! These birds were a lot more reticent: getting close to nest, the female Honey-buzzard moved off into a neighbouring wood and the male went off into the stratosphere to watch me, which gave me a few worries as the wood is right under the flight path to Newcastle Airport! I moved out of the site a bit to enable the female to resume sitting and at this point the female Honey-buzzard from the adjacent site at Bywell was seen floating slowly over towards Newton. Returning to the nesting area, located the nest in Scots Pine. It appears to be a new nest and had 2 whistled calls while studying it. The wood’s location is of course top secret but it’s somewhere between Riding Mill and Stocksfield! Midsummer day! Hot stuff in Hexham from the lovely duo while having yet more coffee!! Really need a PA to help me in the field: otgona!! Tomorrow it’s the upper South Tyne in the morning for another nest visit and an attempt on 2 sites to show occupation through the birds getting up so will be into Hexham a little later. Visiting Welli twice: 18:00 to see Philip to discuss LD matters and later for quiz!! Video from Kellas (635) on 15/6 is of female Honey-buzzard being mobbed by 2 Carrion Crow. Could have edited out short dashes to relocate bird after my view was blocked by bushes but left in to show what it’s like on the ground. The derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12 show the small head, long neck, long narrow tail, long wings (compared to crow) and small head held up in level flight. This bird does appear to have started moult with an inner primary missing on its right wing: Honey-buzzard females do moult some inner primaries in midsummer.

June 20th: bit s…..d out after long walk on Whitfield Moor! Normally go up from Eals but wanted to do atlas square NY75-D Asholme Common so went over this common from Asholme village. But weather was great with sunshine and light W breeze. And it was almost 7 hours of challenging walking from 10:10-16:50 across thick heather and juncus so keeps you fit. Few photos of yours truly taken on top 1  2  3; did try a sign but didn’t come off, 2 back in alphabet from last!! Wader breeding season looks as if it has been very good with saturation agitated display by adults, some distraction displays and the first flying young of the year. Counts for 120 waders of 6 species were 45 Golden Plover, 45 Curlew, 23 Lapwing, 3 Redshank, 2 Snipe and 2 Common Sandpiper. So that’s 8 species on the moors since 14/6. Red Grouse broods seem promising with 44 young flushed in 7 broods (4,10,7,6,5,8,4). But ducks are not having good season with just 1 Wigeon duckling at the Lough and a switched-off Teal female. Showing power of modern communications got text on moor from daughter in Hong Kong wishing me best for Father’s Day! Might have to wait a little longer for son’s! Raptors were scarce but of good quality. Had a female Merlin soaring on Asholme Common and a male Honey-buzzard doing flap-flap-glide power display over Bardon Mill almost coming into the garage with me! A freshly-moulted Common Buzzard primary feather was found near Whitfield Lough so they are around there still. Also had a female Sparrowhawk over Loughbrow on final leg home. Updated page Map of Honey-buzzard routes in North Sea area from 13-14 September on main web page. The new map shows clearly the pincer movement with no arrows in conflict with known Honey-buzzard migration strategies. Closure is approaching! Need soak in bath now, then off to Globe and may resume later! Last videos (617) from Minsteracres on 28/5 of male Honey-buzzard include the final descent and within that a bit of hovering. Of course Honey-buzzard do not hover that often but to deny the birds an aerial manoeuvre as some field guides do is over-draconian! Will publish Kellas material next as that shows a female for a change. Tomorrow it’s catching up with things in the morning, making Hexham for lunch and a nest site somewhere in the afternoon!!

June 19th: more video (617) added with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7 from Minsteracres on 28/5 of the male Honey-buzzard gliding slowly across the sky (in-between climb and dive). Also added below African Hobby from Chenek on 11/2; they’re similar to our Hobby, which had later as winter visitor in Tanzania, with main difference being the lighter body in colour of the African Hobby with a chestnut tinge. Updated 2008 movement pages, in particular The Honey-buzzard did Cross the North Sea: from England to Benelux, incorporating pincer movement on Benelux from UK and Denmark/northern Germany as outlined below. Next stage is to add to the map the movement from the NE across to northern Holland and bring together the information from the county bird reports. Then bring together the information on the ages of the birds, estimate the numbers involved and it’s done! Been working hard today on the computer but did have decent break for Ant’s for lunch and for grass-cutting and restoring some woodwork. Tomorrow planning long walk to Whitfield Lough from Asholme doing an atlas square on the way: should be great! Back to Hexham later (twice!) and Honey-buzzard nests on Monday. Incidentally the new Honey-buzzard call is a whimpering call rather like a puppy’s when you’ve trodden on its foot – their repertoire as a whole is quite broad around the nest and somewhat African in flavour. Close your eyes and you could be in Kenya!

June 18th: added Augur Buzzard video with derived stills to Simien report for 11/2 below. Grand day with trip to Hexham and first nest site visit. Close encounters good in Hexham and especially later in Welli: she’s fantastic!!! Lovely cleaners s&l came in morning. Here’s some more video (617) from Minsteracres on 28/5, of the initial climb: the power flight of flap-flap-glide at low altitude is very impressive and popular with Honey-buzzard. This sort of flight is perhaps more often associated with Goshawk. The soar is very rapid: Honey-buzzard are very dynamic fliers. Markets getting more confident again: portfolio up 3.4% on week and 8.5% on year compared to drop on year of 3.0% for ftse. Getting cash 15.5k from bbp debt tender on Monday for 7.5k tax-free profit as qcb! Nest visit to site near my house in the ‘Shire was surprisingly reactive with impassioned reaction by both adults to my presence: so that’s 3.60 GB of video in 16 HD clips and 21 pictures of the nest! Hard disk is taking the strain! Actually had some new calls, rather plaintive anger: incredible! Details to follow. But highlight of the day was soh!! Tomorrow not sure on programme but likely to try for another ‘new’ Honey-buzzard site for the year with late lunch in Hexham.

June 17th: pressing on with Ethiopia with diary for 11/2 below, last full day in Simien Mountains.

11/2: so even higher in the Simien Mountains going to Chenek. Weather was very sunny but cool in the shade. We were ostensibly looking for the Walia Ibex (kind of wild goat!) but didn’t see any. Someone we met said should have been there about 2 hours earlier at 09:00 (instead of having another lie-in!). We drove through a moorland-style habitat to get to Chenek before stopping to view over a very steep precipice. We were then dropped off to walk a few km into Chenek up a slope. Again we were panting very quickly at the high altitude. Walking on the flat or up a slight slope is fine but steeper climbs are not so easy. Scenery was fantastic with enormous gorges cutting into the mountains. We made it into the village (3,600m asl), which looked rather like a wild-west encampment from a movie, and then had a walk onto a promontory which had marvellous views over the mountains followed by a walk along the edge of cliffs, still looking for the ibex. Not a place for vertigo sufferers! Again no luck so had our packed lunch on the hillside overlooking the village. Here joined by some cheeky Gelada Baboon, one of which managed to steal son’s rucksack complete with lunch. The guide chased the baboon and at least got the bag back but minus some food! After lunch back in the vehicle and drove up the mountain further to 3,800m asl (12,500ft), where the scenery was definitely becoming quite bleak. At these heights altitude sickness is of course a possibility but we didn’t suffer any headaches, the commonest symptom. However, the effect of exertion on breathing was certainly noted. You can hear the heavy breathing on an African Hobby video! Raptors of course were again very good. Came back to Sankaber for final night there with meal and raging camp fire and very early start looming for next day! Climbed local hill at Sankaber for final scan: had clearly given scout kittens as he was so relieved when he caught up with me! Birds (other than raptors) seen in Chenek in addition to those below included Wattled Ibis (6), Red-breasted Wheatear, Grassland Pipit, Thekla Lark, White-collared Pigeon, Rock Martin and Ercick’s Francolin (calling).

Simien Mountains, Sankaber, stills of camp 1  2, hut 1, kitchen/vehicle 1.

Simien Mountains, Chenek, yours truly 1.

Simien Mountains, Chenek, scenery, pan video from promontory 1, of gorge before village 1; stills of gorges and cliffs 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9.

Augur Buzzard, Simien Mountains, Chenek, video of bird in sky 1 with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8; of bird in rugged scenic setting 2 with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10.

African Hobby, Simien Mountains, Chenek, video 1 of female with derived stills 1  2  3  4;  2 of male with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10. Video 1 shows effect on observer of altitude!

Rüppell’s Vulture, Simien Mountains, Sankaber, video 1 with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5; video 2 with derived stills 1  2; video 3 with derived stills 1  2  3.

Lammergeier, Simien Mountains, Chenek, stills 1  2  3.

Red-billed Chough, Simien Mountains, Sankaber, tumbling bird video 1.

Moorland Chat, Simien Mountains, Chenek, still 1.

Groundscraper Thrush, Simien Mountains, Chenek, stills 1  2.

Brown-rumped Seedeater, Simien Mountains, Chenek, still 1.

Streaked Seedeater, Simien Mountains, Chenek, stills 1  2.

Gelada Baboon, Simien Mountains, Chenek, video including vehicle 1; still 1  2  3  4.

Lichens on shrubs, Simien Mountains, Sankaber, still 1.

No raptors again today but not too surprising as into unn for vf. It’s a good time to travel am with gps‘s fine wheels and gws‘s fine legs!! soh showed many further fine attributes in addition to those recently discussed!! To t&s very soon! Tomorrow may make Hexham for lunch and check a nest later.

June 16th: a raptor-free day. If that’s what you want go to the upper reaches of the Allen and do an atlas square (NY84-C) on the moors. But there’s no doubt that the grouse moors are in splendid condition with fantastic flowers in the dry weather of Cotton Grass, Cloudberry, Cowberry, Bilberry, Pansies and Water Avens. Today from 13:00-16:00 went to Coalcleugh Moor at 645m, counted the Black-headed Gull colony (42 aon, 140 birds) and found a pair of Teal with 2 ducklings. Had 6 species of 71 waders: 32 Curlew, 28 Golden Plover, 8 Lapwing and single Snipe, Redshank and Dunlin, making 7 species in all over last 3 days, plus just one adult and juvenile Red Grouse. Red Grouse are very secretive at this stage of the breeding season. Star passerine was a Ring Ousel. Very hard walking over thick heather with many ditches and hags so recuperation in the lovely Globe was very welcome.

June 15th: trip to Kellas from 14:30-17:00 was surprising in that a late-running pair of Honey-buzzard were found, obviously still a little way from laying eggs as both male and female were up together. They were obviously not used to people looking at them as had good close views of female when walked close to the wood. Think this could be my wood for nest-site visits in the Derwent area. I’m sure they’ll be delighted: after initial surprise you could see that they thought I might be trouble! Also had 4 Kestrel (pair + intruding female at one site, adult female at another) and 2 Common Buzzard (at 2 sites). Did not make earlier trip – one’s enough really! And needed to fit in lunch in Hexham to see the lovely duo!! But anyway target of 30 sites has been reached. Going to do a bit of atlas work next but first nest site visit is imminent. Added below final piccies for 10/2 in Simien Mountains: African Harrier Hawk, Fan-tailed Raven and Dusky Turtle Dove. Getting there – slowly! Made Welli for quiz nite – good to see it’s not been affected by football. Exciting! Must say soh is so lively; and has the best b…..s in the land!!! Tomorrow it’s out to the moors followed by the Globe for tea. Thursday into unn for vf. faswtgo!!!

Totals for Honey-buzzard to date are: Allen 5 sites, 5 adults (4 male, 1 female); Devil’s Water 6, 7(6,1); Tyne Valley west 5, 8(6,2); Tyne Valley east 2, 2(2,0); upper South Tyne 4, 4(4,0); lower South Tyne 3, 4(3,1); and Derwent 5, 7(4,3); giving grand total 30, 37(29,8).

June 14th: marvellous afternoon out on Plenmeller Common from 13:00-16:20 – it’s like visiting a seabird colony with the continual noise of gulls and waders! Raptors total was 10 of 6 species: 3 Honey-buzzard, 2 Common Buzzard and Kestrel and single Merlin (video of female over heather with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6), Short-eared Owl (video of bird out hunting) and Hobby. Waders total was 138 of 5 species: 64 Lapwing, 41 Curlew, 16 Oystercatcher, 11 Golden Plover and 6 Snipe. Wildfowl included 8 Canada Goose (+broods 8, 3), 5 Tufted Duck (all drakes), 2 Wigeon (both females, +brood 1) and single Teal (agitated female) and Mallard. Gulls included 1400 Black-headed Gull (6 young already out on pond), 7 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 2 Common Gull (both 1s) and single Yellow-legged Gull (2s) and Caspian Gull (video 1s with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12), the last showing classical long drooping bill for the species with absence of gonydeal bulge. Passerines included 23 Skylark, 21 Meadow Pipit and single Raven and Reed Bunting. Gamebirds included 3 female Red Grouse (plus at least 13 young). Of course it’s the last that it’s all about. And there weren’t any harriers: there have been Marsh Harrier reported here from time to time but cannot believe it, they must be Honey-buzzard! But there is a marvellous concentration of wildlife – far more than you’d get if it were sheep-grazing fields. The Honey-buzzard comprised a pair up in display to the NE (mobbed briefly by a Hobby) and a male soaring up from Unthank area. Video (630) for the Honey-buzzard to the NE included the pair displaying and the male floating alone. Weather was dry, cloudy and cool for the most part but sunnier from 14:10-15:10 when the Honey-buzzard were up. Here’s first video in 617 series taken at Minsteracres on 28/5 of plunging male Honey-buzzard with some derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8. The structural properties of Honey-buzzard are very evident in dives and you can also see the plumage better as the bird turns on its side; the first still shows at least 2 tail bars and the last 2 stills show the bird as he prepares to dive. The bird is not in moult but does have extensive damage to the middle primaries on its right wing. Portfolio pretty steady now with almost 50% in bonds, maintaining gain of 6.1% on year compared to ftse loss of 4.0%. No direction at the moment but feel that euro bad news is being slowly worked through. Not involved with BP in any obvious way as even unit trusts held are ethical, thus avoiding oil shares; pleased sold the holding of BP in family trust in 2005. Did make Hexham late on: sohlooked very alluring in plotting mode!! Think gps has gone to the World Cup to distract the opposition!! Tomorrow’s last day for first phase of Honey-buzzard study for the year. Will try a smash-and-grab somewhere with lunch at Hexham in-between and much later the Welli. One more site tomorrow gives 30 sites!

There’s quite a lot of use of Star Wars metaphors in the City at the moment, particularly on the dark side. Thought could make own adaption: fear is the path to the dark side; fear of not being able to identify Honey-buzzard leads to anger; anger leads to hate of those that can; hate leads to suffering in the UK birding community.

June 13th: weather was bad so caught up with a mass of outstanding tasks such as data entry of May 2010 records to BirdTrack, preparing Minsteracres Honey-buzzard video for publication (nice dives!), adding diagrams to category theory paper, reviewing modifications to a PhD thesis, writing to solicitors over trust fund investments held by late mother and assembling new Qualcast electric rotary lawnmower (GLM 4000) bought at Argos, Hexham, which can only test on carpet at present! IoM is full according to Nick so we’re going to Yorkshire Dales instead. But about to go out now (18:00) to Hexham Tyne Green as rain has stopped. Yes did this but although evening was dry and brighter got no raptors at all. Did have a brood of 4 Goosander ducklings + redhead duck. Then later made Globe for nightcap! Always enjoy Globe on Sunday night, plenty of good crack and j was looking after us! Tomorrow it’s Plenmeller Common but looking forward to being back in Hexham mid-afternoon!!

June 12th: brief trip out today making Morralee where Allen meets lower South Tyne from 12:50-14:00 in cloudy but warm weather. Had male Honey-buzzard over moorland edge to N of South Tyne for much of visit. He was very slowly circling and floating over the territory below. I’ve seen them do this before at this stage of the season; think they’re working out best feeding areas while female is sitting and before food demands rise. Also had 5 Common Buzzard and a male Sparrowhawk carrying food in the Allen plus a Common Buzzard drifting over my house. Common Buzzard are becoming much more visible again now that they’ve got small young to feed. Had late lunch at Ant’s – missing some of former staff at Nero! Sleeping on the request to go to Greece — not sure I want to spend so much time away from Hexham, and it’s not just the Honey-buzzard!! Planning to stay in hotels in IoM. Added a little more on the ceremony below. Tomorrow a longer trip again, this time to Plenmeller Common for raptors, gulls and waders; but will make Hexham late afternoon somewhere and late evening for Globe! If weather forecast is right, field trip will go into Monday and will catch up on paperwork instead. Watched the football tonite! Don’t think there’s any truth in the rumour that Scott Bevan will be an emergency addition to the England team.

As sequel to review of Durham report on 2008 movement of Honey-buzzard, have now sorted out 19th century breeding in the county. Temperley (1951) provides the authoritative documentation with a nest found with 2 young in a beech tree in 1897 at Gibside in the Derwent Valley; adult and newly-fledged bird were killed and stuffed. The same nest was repaired but no eggs laid in 1898 and breeding was suspected at nearby Shotley Bridge in 1899. The map in The Historical Breeding Atlas for 1875-1900 (Holloway 1996) at pp.102-103 shows that the NE was a significant area for Honey-buzzard at this time. Selective amnesia has affected both Durham and Northumberland CRC in recent years!

June 11th: to the upper South Tyne in much better weather, indeed perfect weather for raptors with clear skies, strong sunshine and moderate W breeze following on from a number of poor days for flying. Had a Sparrowhawk female on the road going there at Staward and 2 Common Buzzard coming back in the Haydon Bridge area. In the upper South Tyne had 10 Common Buzzard and 4 Honey-buzzard, so total for day of 17 raptors of 3 species. The Honey-buzzard comprised 2 males in the Eals area in dispute over territory with some fast chasing and diving around 13:40 (video 628 with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6) and a wailing (calling) male (video with derived stills 1  2  3  4) at a wood near Lambley at 15:25, with the same bird seen 25 minutes earlier floating overhead. A bird seen earlier at 12:05 floating and diving over Parson Shields (video with derived stills 1  2) , some 3 km upstream from Eals, was presumed to be downstream by 1.5 km from its site in the Barhaugh area. So that’s 3 more sites in the upper South Tyne with the Lambley bird confirmed as breeding since such calls are only given close to an occupied nest. Next video to be developed (617) is that from Minsteracres on 28/5 with quite close up views of a male Honey-buzzard. Going to Isle of Man with Nick in first part of July for 6-7 days. Also PhD student in Greece wants me to visit him there for a holiday at his house at start of July to help finish his thesis. Not sure can fit everything in! Tea at the Globe and nightcap at Welli were good social occasions. soh looked really lovely: ideal I’m sure!! Tomorrow it’s shorter field trip, perhaps to Plenmeller area, returning to Hexham for late lunch!

June 10th: up at 05:00 this morning to catch 07:20 flybe from Exeter to Newcastle – marvellous, home by 09:30! Did not get that much time in the field in Devon and disappointingly just one Honey-buzzard alarm call at Aylesbeare Common on 6/6. But other raptors included 10 Common Buzzard, 6 Kestrel (occupied nest near Starcross) and one Sparrowhawk (carrying food at Aylsebeare Common) and butterflies included Brimstone and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, also at Aylsebeare Common on 6/6. Cheered up in Hexham by the lovely sights of the soh/gps!!! About to add some multimedia on Honey-buzzard from Haltwhistle on 1/6 and Prudhoe on 2/6; Common Buzzard, butterflies and scenery from Devon and a little more information from the ceremony. The Honey-buzzard video (621) at Haltwhistle was filmed in the early evening with many insects around as is usual in Honey-buzzard areas. The Honey-buzzard on S edge of Prudhoe at Dukeshagg on 2/6 was free of insect contamination in middle of day! He was mobbed first by Jackdaw and then half-heartedly by a Hobby. The video (622) is here with derived stills showing Hobby 1  2  3 and typical tail- and head-shape 4  5  6  7 for the Honey-buzzard. The Prudhoe area on 2/6 with 5 raptor species is very good for birds: this view shows from the Spetchells where the Red Kite was seen, near the Castle. This Whitethroat 1  2  3 showed well at the Spetchells. Added a little more on ceremony below. Note that male Honey-buzzard are not in moult at all at this time. Female Honey-buzzard may be starting to shed an inner primary but Common Buzzard should now be firmly into moult of inner primaries and inner tail feathers. Are we in to wash-up yet on the 2008 movement? Not quite – need to bring together county bird report reviews in one page, document what was happening in SW Northumberland study area in early September and to review the ages of birds involved in the movement. But conclusions are not in doubt now! Tomorrow it’s the upper South Tyne but back to Hexham for tea at the Globe. t&s was good but missing one or two other things!!

June 9th: spent much of day with daughter at Dawlish Warren– beat her twice at pool at Mount Pleasant (pub!), take anyone on! Put her and son up at Langstone Cliff. Return is imminent to the NE; no vf tomorrow but expect to be back in Hexham for lunch and much later t&s. Looking forward to getting back to the beautiful sights!! xxxx

June 8th: sad day but a proud one with funeral of mum at St Peters Chapel, Exeter & Devon Crematorium, at 14:00; eulogy went down well with mixture of humour and tribute. Good to see so many relations but next time let’s hope for better circumstances. Here is the cover page for ceremony, p.2 of programme attributing the eulogy and back cover giving administrative details. Family photographs from the 1940s included 1  2: she was one of 3 daughters of a Devonian farmer and a Cornish lady, farming at Eastdon, Cockwood.

June 7th: more detailed look at paper: Mark Newsome, The Honey-buzzard Passage in Autumn 2008, Birds in Durham 177-186 (2009). As said before the unsaid hypothesis in the Durham paper is that the Honey-buzzard is a drift migrant in the same way as passerines. There’s no evidence for this in the literature. Going through the paper page by page. On p.177 it is said that the passage in 2000 was then rightly described as once in a lifetime. No, it was wrongly described as once in a lifetime as we’ve had 2 major movements in 9 years from 2000-2008. It is claimed that the species has never bred in Durham. Yes it has in the Derwent valley around 1900. The downward trend in Swedish migration counts is noted but then ignored as presumably it does not help the hypothesis.

A very useful summary of the sightings accepted in Durham is given on pp.178-179 totalling 55+ from 13-24 September with 27 (3 ad, 13 juv, 14 unaged, total apparently 30 but presumably obvious duplicates removed) on 13th, 13 (1 ad, 6 juv, 6 unaged) on 14th, 1 unaged on 15th, 4 (2 juv, 2 unaged) on 17th, 4 (3 juv, 1 unaged) on 18th, 5 (1 ad, 4 juv) on 20th and 1 unaged on 24th. So total is 5 ad, 28 juv, 25 unaged. Quite a number of claimed sightings were not supported by documentation from observers – 25+ according to p.56 for Honey-buzzard in systematic list. So the movement, which easily exceeded the 25 birds in 2000, could quite possibly have been significantly greater than the 55 quoted as the official total. Quite rightly the difficulties of raptor identification are stressed on p.179. In-off claims included 3 on 13th, 1 on 14th, 1 on 18th and 1 on 20th. The total of 6 were all in the Hartlepool area except for 1 at Marsden. There is a big headland at Hartlepool with a bay to the south. A coasting bird, finding itself out in the North Sea as the headland turns sharply W, would correct its course westwards, that is back towards the land, and give the impression that it had crossed the North Sea.

Much of the article (pp. 180-183) looks at the weather patterns. While these show a prevailing E wind during the Honey-buzzard passage period there is nothing unusual in the patterns observed to tell us why these 2 large movements occurred in 2000 and 2008 and at no other times in the 20th/21st century. The weather conditions have been repeated many, many times and no Honey-buzzard have been seen moving down the east coast of England. Further it is not pointed out that the winds on the western side of the southern North Sea were actually W on the morning of 13/9 at the start of the movement so that birds moving down the North Sea coast of England could easily travel eastwards for the start of their journey across the southern North Sea into Benelux, as supported by the time difference between the movements in East Anglia and Benelux and the lack of a significant follow-through movement into SE England from East Anglia. There is an error in reviewing Génsbøl’s work: Génsbøl used his own observations to specifically reject the idea that Honey-buzzard would move W across the North Sea from Denmark as they actively resisted drift over the North Sea in easterly winds. The idea that the large number of birds in NE England had crossed the North Sea on a 600km journey is very fanciful: it is contrary to all that is known about Honey-buzzard migration and there are no observations to support it.

There was an early movement in Holland at Ketelbrug of 146 birds mainly from 11:00-12:00 CEST (not 10:00-12:00 as cited by Newsome), which may have resulted from a very early movement in England on 13/9. But another explanation is that the birds in northern Holland were those that had crossed from Sweden into Denmark on 11th. Some 801 Honey-buzzard were recorded in Denmark that day, mainly in Sjælland, having presumably crossed at Helsingør, taking a more northerly route than the normal one at Falsterbo. Maps on 12th/13th on rather limited data on Trektellen show small numbers travelling SW from northern Germany towards northern Holland but very few birds on the North Sea coasts themselves. Other birds from Sjælland on the E side of Denmark will have gone due S on the normal route into southern Germany. Newsome takes the view that the birds moving into northern Holland were the ‘lucky’ ones who had escaped a crossing of the North Sea. My view is that this was normal overland migration from Denmark but drifted slightly to the W by the E winds and concentrated by blocking weather fronts.

There has been a publication from Flanders — Desmet, Emmanuel, & Faveyts, Wouter, Toptrek boven de Lage Landen: Hoe bijzondere weersfactoren leidden tot buitengewone roofvogeltrek boven Nederland en Vlaanderen op 13 en 14 september 2008, In Het Veld, Natuur.oriolus 75(3): 73-78 (2009), available here. The English abstract reads: “Top migration over the Low Countries: Unusual numbers of raptors migrated on 13 & 14 September 2008 over the Netherlands and Flanders. They were mainly Honey Buzzards Pernis apivorus, Marsh Harriers Circus aeruginosusand Ospreys Pandion haliaetus. Specific meteorological circumstances, which created a bottleneck in time as well as in space, were the cause of this phenomenon”. The paper deals in detail with the weather patterns over the continent in Benelux and northern Germany and the southern North Sea from 11/9-14/9. It mentions the numbers over Falsterbo in the first ten days of September: only 842 Honey-buzzard, 170 Marsh Harrier, 3053 Sparrowhawk and 6 Common Buzzard. It then considers that the weather systems over Benelux on 11/9 and 12/9 blocked the birds until the sudden clearance on 13/9 enabled them to continue their movement in spectacular fashion. The narrow corridor (50-75km wide) of movement of both Honey-buzzard and Marsh Harrier through Benelux is highlighted but no particular explanation is given for the concentration on the coast around The Hague. Pretty-much mixed groups of adult and juvenile Honey-buzzard were noted whereas adult Honey-buzzard had already left western Europe. In Flanders counts were for Honey-buzzard 285 on 13/9, 539 on 14/9 (together 54% of autumn total for 2008), Marsh Harrier 387, 582 (52%) and Osprey 68, 72 (25%). The largest movement was therefore on 14/9, in time from dawn to shortly after noon. The parallel movement in the UK is mentioned but no attempt is made to analyse it. However, the blocking weather patterns identified from 11/9-12/9 also applied to the eastern parts of the UK. So the spectacular movement on 13/9 in UK could have arisen as well from the end of the blocking weather formation.

The paper from Flanders is still being checked for further information. But the current thinking on these web pages is that there was a pincer movement on Holland and Belgium with a rush of late-breeding Honey-buzzard migrant flocks arriving from both the NE (Denmark/northern Germany) and the W (East Anglia). This is still under investigation but there seems to be the right feel in that the pincer movement explains the observations in Benelux, Denmark, northern Germany, Sweden and even indeed the UK!

In the section on ringing data (p.183-184) Newsome does acknowledge that no continental-ringed Honey-buzzard were recovered in the UK in September 2008. He does rightly indicate that in the European ringing scheme since 1940 only 345 dead Honey-buzzard have been recovered compared to 26,451 Kestrel but in a major displacement such as that proposed by Newsome for 2008 the chance of a recovery should be higher. The number of Scandinavian-ringed Kestrel and Osprey recovered is interesting but the relevance to Honey-buzzard migration is not clear.

It is always interesting to look at other species involved (pp.184-185). Marsh Harrier, Osprey and Hobby may have been involved in greater numbers than usual but all have thriving and increasing UK populations which we might expect to result in increased passage over the years. Nowhere is this clearer than for Common Buzzard which has had a vast increase in range and population size in the UK while it has always been common on the continent. So recent rapid increases in Common Buzzard migration are surely of UK-bred birds. When Common Buzzard was absent from eastern England and eastern Scotland up until the early 1990s, east coast passage was on a very much smaller scale. It is interesting to record that the Common Buzzard passage ran later than that of Honey-buzzard: this is normal on the continent and probably reflects the Honey-buzzard diet of insects, whose numbers decline rapidly through September.

In reviewing the past (p.185) it seems most unlikely that Honey-buzzard invasions have gone undetected in the past. Indeed this suggestion might be greeted with incredulity! Numbers were higher in the 19th century when migrants would have been shot but then the Honey-buzzard was still breeding in the UK, managing to survive to some extent the first onslaught from the guns. For the great majority of the 20th century the Honey-buzzard was a very rare breeder in the UK and reports on the east coast declined. Now it’s back breeding and passage numbers are increasing. The correlation is obvious! As an example of a species well-recorded in the 20th century and less common now, look at the Rough-legged Buzzard, where a number of invasions were recorded using what might be regarded as more primitive alerting techniques.

So I enjoyed reading Mark’s paper. It encourages a constructive debate to find the truth. But I think the paper is too predicated on a continental origin for the UK birds and as a consequence suffers in places from a lack of credibility. So when, for the Honey-buzzard, will it be ‘thrice in a lifetime’?

Getting ready for big day tomorrow with gathering of the clans. It’s raining all day. Seems very strange staying at family house without mum. But still inspired by the lovelies of the Tyne Valley!!! xxxxxxxxx

June 4th: out today to south of Dipton Wood from 12:30-14:20 in hot sunshine and light W wind. Honey-buzzard in good supply with singles near Todburn, Prospect Hill and Dotland. All were males, which seems to be the pattern at the moment, suggesting females are remaining close to the nest sites, perhaps nest building or even incubating, while the males float over the sites, declaring occupancy. I never go into sites at this stage of season: let’em settle! To disturb the pattern of nest sites would be disastrous, not only for the birds but also for me as would need to start over again in finding nests. Also had female Kestrel near March Burn. Provisional totals for Honey-buzzard to date for 2010 are: Allen 4 sites, 4 adults (3 male, 1 female); Devil’s Water 6, 7(6,1); Tyne Valley west 5, 8(6,2); Tyne Valley east 2, 2(2,0); upper South Tyne 2, 2(2,0); lower South Tyne 1, 1(1,0); and Derwent 4, 5(3,2); giving grand total 24, 29(23,6). Not bad but not complacent! Need more females!! And South Tyne is neglected. About to go into Hexham – no Globe as Welli later. Enjoyed visit: sohlooked stunning and gpsis obviously a glamorous scholar!! Sad trek for wake looms. Just been told by sisters, don’t bother to write anything for the eulogy, just do as we say! Aren’t women bossy? Portfolio’s had better week but markets remain tense: up 2.3% compared with ftse fall of 1.3% and up 6.0% on year compared to ftse fall of 5.3%. Cleaned up on ‘quality’ stock BBP which has had cash offer at 25% with 15/6 deadline and 18/6 pay! But it’s hard going overall! Yesterday (3/6) no fieldwork as in Newcastle, seeing PhD students and RG leaders; was good to see the gpstwice and it’s gr8 to keep fit!! xxxxxx!!

More Warden footage from 24/5. After initial skirmish between Honey-buzzard male and Common Buzzard, both birds climb with the Common Buzzard getting above the Honey-buzzard; then there’s a prolonged confrontation (derived still 1) with both birds circling each other followed by an actual battle (derived stills 1  2) with the Common Buzzard diving onto the Honey-buzzard and some prolonged talon grappling; there’s then a short spell of further aggravation; followed by a long close (derived still 1) which is rather confused – suspect there are now 3 birds involved in total and the Honey-buzzard pair are doing some follow-me display. So who won? Well the Common Buzzard seemed to win the immediate scrap but the Honey-buzzard just carry on unperturbed. If the Honey-buzzard were perturbed there would be nowhere to nest as all the woods are saturated with Common Buzzard. This video shows a close-up of the moulting Common Buzzard taken a few minutes later. Also here is a female Sparrowhawk, mobbed by c30 Swallow.

June 2nd: Honey-buzzard migration reported from 28-31 May included 216 in Sweden, 7 in the UK, 4 in Holland, 3 in Germany and 2 in Belgium. Went E instead of W today as realised E Tyne Valley had not been covered well. So from 11:20-14:00 on the Spetchells, then quick sandwich in Prudhoe and 14:40-15:30 at Dukeshagg. Sunshine was very strong and breeze was light westerly so good conditions and had 10 raptors of 5 species: 5 Kestrel (commoner in E part of study area), 2 Honey-buzzard and single Common Buzzard, Hobby and Red Kite. The Honey-buzzard included single males at each site, the first doing some display before being attacked by a Carrion Crow, the other drifting back to base just like the one yesterday but this time being mobbed by a Hobby. The Red Kite was right on the edge of northern Prudhoe near the Castle. Butterflies included Dingy Skipper. So very rewarding! Visited Hexham twice, first for assault on hair, second for Nero/Globe. Green blouse definitely brings out the best in soh and lady in black looked very appealing!! Tomorrow it’s unn for vf duties, back to Nero for tea and t&s for nightcap!

June 1st: was damp for all of day but went out to Haltwhistle early evening to start a session from 18:10-19:20 at North Wood where in gloomy dry weather with promised clearances which never came had a male Honey-buzzard at 19:10 slowly climb up from a wood to the W and pass right over North Wood to go to feed on the E side. Also had a female Kestrel on the Haydon Bridge by-pass. Good day all round with lunch in Hexham: looking forward to fun cards from the dynamic duo!! Welli quiz nite was exciting: soh with favourite blouse; actually won snowball coming closest in question on how many words in Old Testament but no cash, what a swiz: i was gutted as thought his drinking money was secure! Stopped in Dipton Wood on way back: it’s so atmospheric at this time of year with still some light at 23:30 (and 2 Tawny Owl calling).

Did make comments to BTO on Honey-buzzard and statement modified to:

Late May / early June is a classic period to look for Honey-buzzards as they display at a few localities or drift over from the Continent; several reports have already come in to BirdTrack in recent weeks. Raptor identification is not without its pitfalls; (Common) Buzzards have already begun to moult wing and tail feathers, which can alter the appearance of the wings in relation to the tail, potentially resulting in the tail appearing longer (a feature often used to identify Honey-buzzards). It is therefore important to look at the full range of both structural and plumage features, with particular focus on the detail of the tail and underwing pattern.

Cannot argue with this if precision is required in records, which seems to be current emphasis. But accuracy may suffer as the birds may not be close enough for all plumage details to be seen. Overall very pleased with responsiveness. Touché: an error on my web site for 2008-325c was pointed out where Curlew should be substituted for Hobby. Thanks!

Processed video (616 part 1) of Common Buzzard – Honey-buzzard fight at Warden on 24/5. It’s really quite an extraordinary encounter. At low-level a Common Buzzard in moult 1  2, slightly advanced with inner primaries and tail feathers missing, and 2 Jackdaw make a determined effort to see off a male Honey-buzzard 1  2, which is full winged. The Jackdaw take the Common Buzzard side and try to see off the Honey-buzzard. There are 2 calls around 40 seconds which I’ll analyse. This is the initial skirmish, more to come including talon grappling. Tomorrow it’s hair cut at JG at 09:30, then South Tyne and finally the Globe!

May 31st: leisurely walk in glorious sunshine with Nick along Tyne riverbank from Riding Mill to Corbridge and back from 10:00-15:50. Walk took us through Farnley, where 3 Honey-buzzard already seen this year. Today had the male up on his own at 12:30 and 13:10; he’s lost one or more primaries on his left wing, not due to moult. Female not showing so perhaps she’s incubating: this is one of the earliest sites in the study area fledging-wise. Total for day was 11 raptors of 5 species: 4 Common Buzzard, 3 Kestrel, 2 Hobby (pair briefly up together over riverside site) and single Honey-buzzard and Sparrowhawk. Also had a remarkable 7 species of butterfly: Wall, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Orange Tip, Green-veined White, Small White and Speckled Wood. Last-named is a very recent colonist and good to see it’s survived the harsh winter with 3 individuals seen. Main attraction for most on the day was the County Show, where quite a few of the fitter ones walking there were very familiar from the Welli, including the particularly fit soh and sw!! Perhaps the former needs more country pursuits!! We didn’t go in but watched from the top of the flood defences: cheapskates! Will add more material later but for the moment grass-cutting calls. Tomorrow is going to be damp much of day so will greet cleaners s&l in the morning, have lunch in Hexham and then go W where clearing may be a bit earlier. faswtgo!!! xxxx!! And here is the answer to last week’s quiz!!

May 30th: out today to Towsbank from 12:20-14:40, in upper South Tyne near Eals, where it all began. Had 3 Common Buzzard and one Honey-buzzard male there, plus Kestrel on way at Clarghyll, but nothing showing very well in cool weather with sunny spells. However, passing Dilston turn-off on way from Hexham-Stocksfield at 16:35 in cloudy, cool conditions had marvellous sight of male Honey-buzzard beating the bounds in flap-flap-glide surrounded by corvids. Just a little later had a Common Buzzard at Shilford. Went to MP/Sage with Nick and another sublime Bach concert but a little disappointed that Adrian couldn’t be arsed to do no.6! Dropped Nick off and went to Globe for a couple – good to see j back!! Tomorrow walking from Riding Mill-Corbridge. Would be nice to see gps/soh again!!

Surprise on BTO BirdTrack pages with Buzzards, Common or otherwise, 28 May 2010. Verbatim:

Late May / early June is a classic period to look for Honey-buzzards as they display at a few localities or drift over from the Continent; several reports have already come in to BirdTrack in recent weeks. Raptor identification is not without its pitfalls; (Common) Buzzards will have begun to moult primaries, tail feathers and perhaps even secondaries by this time of year, often giving a narrow-based, pushed-forward look to the wings and a longer and more rounded appearance to the tail, all features that are frequently used to identify Honey-buzzard.

This statement is without foundation! Common Buzzard are indeed beginning to moult inner primaries but these will show as small gaps mid-wing not as narrower wings. The only way the wing would become narrower is through moulting P10 but as is the last feather to be moulted, around October. Inside tail feathers are moulted first so moult would show as gaps in the tail not as slimmer tails. How on earth does the tail appear to become longer through moult? This would need the tertials to be shed differentially. Also cannot see why tail becomes more rounded in moult. Secondaries are not normally shed until P4/P5 moulted, which is certainly not the current state. Head and neck structure, both important for Honey-buzzard identification, are ignored. It is a pity that the hyper-link in the original provides no justification for the moult statements, just standard information. Perhaps it might be better to say if something has 100% of the structural properties of Honey-buzzard, then it is very probably a Honey-buzzard! State of denial is producing an enfeebled UK birdwatching community. Will expand on comments here with recent examples.

Further thoughts. Another factor used to identify a Honey-buzzard is its lower wing loading (less weight per unit area of wing). This shows up in a more buoyant flight. A Common Buzzard in moult would have an even higher wing loading than a full-winged bird so would appear more laboured. This makes its confusion with a Honey-buzzard even more unlikely.

May 29th: lots of work today on processing of videos. Besides doing some Honey-buzzard videos from 26/5 also processed much Ethiopia material from 10/2 (below) including media on Lammergeier, Rüppell’s Vulture, Common Kestrel rufescens, Yellow-billed Kite, scenery, shrubs and lichens. Know it looks as if I’ll never get through the African material but after one more day on Simien trek, going even higher, much less material until get to Tanzania. Result to Eurovision Song Contest was well thought through: since the Germans are going to bail-out much of Europe it’s good to humour them! Like the sp at Waitrose! Building up for walk tomorrow with Fish and Chips and mushy peas from Priestlands: going W as weather looks better that way.

May 28th: passage of Honey-buzzard continues to be reported with, in last 5 days from 23rd-27th, 203 in Sweden, 18 in Germany, 15 in UK, 10 in Holland and 7 in Belgium. Started processing video at 2nd site from 26/5, Dotland, with first one published below. It was well worthwhile going out in the light rain as have got shots of the characteristic flapping mode of Honey-buzzard, which in good conditions is much more rarely used as the birds use thermals to reduce energy use. Today made 2 sites before lunch in cool but bright weather with moderate NW wind. In the Tyne Valley had a male to the east of Shilford in Broomley Wood on a few occasions from 11:28-12:00, coming up briefly and diving back again, obviously not too keen on the blustery conditions. A short trip to Minsteracres from 12:10-13:00 was more productive with a male showing well in an extended patrol of his territory from 12:50-12:55. Also this morning had 3 Kestrel, more active now catching food for broods, and a Hobby dashing over Shilford at 11:00, an impressive sight! Sage was sublime with 1st evening of 2 on Bach’s cello suites and Brandenburg concertos; Adrian Brendel was superb on the cello. Rerun on Sunday with Nick including MP! Made Welli off last train. Tomorrow is going to be dull so catching up on documentation but Sunday fieldwork resumes in the upper South Tyne and on Monday going for walk with Nick in the Tyne Valley.

May 27th: no fieldwork today as into unn for a couple of meetings – enjoy these half-days in Newcastle with more leisurely life-style than when at work including visits to coffee bars such as Coffee Trader. Train journey in was somewhat lacking in interest! But car journey was good!! As was walk through Hexham late afternoon!! Had first chat on ‘phone with family solicitors in Exeter early evening. Estate is in good order with most money in iht-proof trusts and rough value 800k. Sisters have decided that I give the eulogy but they’ll write the script: will need a hair cut next week I think! Emotions are somewhat up and down at the moment. Made t&s later than usual for drinks this evening: colleagues had been marking. Tomorrow will do a site in Tyne Valley before lunch, maybe another afterwards and it’s Marco Polo and Sage later with Nick. There’s a backlog of video to publish but did do short one from Slaley Forest on 26/5.

May 26th: a great day out in the ‘Shire. Light rain in the morning but a male flew past at low level near Viewley, Slaley Forest, at 12:10 in a watch from 11:20-13:10. Video is here (619) with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6. It’s relatively easy to spot a Honey-buzzard in such a movement: long tail as usual but long neck is emphasised, wing beats show greater amplitude than in Common Buzzard (i.e. flight is more flappy, like a crow) and small head is held up above the rest of the body, protruding markedly. It rained in the early afternoon in another walk at Dotland, starting at 14:50, but it all magically cleared up at 15:30 and another male came out straight away for 15 minutes activity, first perching in a tree followed by extensive mobbing by corvids as it climbed, much floating and a few dips. Video: dip/perch (620) with derived stills 1  2  3  4, the head is very small on the perched bird; mobbed/climb (621) with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10, the male is mobbed first by Jackdaw and then by Carrion Crow, the latter looking quite small compared to the Honey-buzzard, which shows obvious kite-like features when evading the corvid; power flap (622), this mode of flight is often part of display. More piccies to follow. Globe was excellent – much good crack and stayed a little longer than usual.

May 25th: rather grey today, not good for raptor activity, but made one site in ‘Shire near Dipton Mill in the afternoon from 15:30-16:50. Better than expected with a male Honey-buzzard, 2 Common Buzzard and a Tawny Owl, last unusually calling in daytime. The Honey-buzzard was floating overhead from one copse to another: always very economical in energy use; here’s video with derived stills 1  2  3  4. Finalised totals for Scottish raptors in visit from 1/5-8/5: 13 Common Buzzard (10 Skye/Lochalsh, 2 Borders, 1 Tay), 3 White-tailed Eagle (all Skye) and single Sparrowhawk (Tay), Kestrel (Torridon), Hen Harrier (Skye), Honey-buzzard (Tay) and Tawny Owl (Lochalsh). That’s 21 individuals of 7 types. So Skye is good for White-tailed Eagle but dipped on Golden Eagle this time. Added nominate Common Kestrel video and derived stills to Ethiopia account for 10/2 below. Just one vulture video to process now for that day. Welli later – all very good – bought hard-up ia couple of ciders and a very good investment it was: more tales of the unexpected!! Tomorrow back in the field for most of day but Globe for tea. Next day it’s unn again!

May 24th: finally sorted out the video from visit to Farnley on 19/5. Don’t know what I’d do without the video record in sorting out such confused encounters with a total of 3 Honey-buzzard soaring together (2 males, 1 female) and 2 Common Buzzard sticking their oar in. But still to publish it! Visited the lower South Tyne this morning and had, from 11:30-13:40, 3 Honey-buzzard at 2 sites, a Common Buzzard in interaction with one of the Honey-buzzard, a female Sparrowhawk and a female Kestrel with another Sparrowhawk over Hexham town centre at 14:00. The Honey-buzzard display is getting more vigorous with dives and interaction. Close-up videos (615) of male at Warden include for display start  climb  dive/rear  float/descent, with stills derived from start1  2  3  4  5. The diving and rearing display is of course a characteristic Honey Buzzard activity. The highlight of other birds was a pair of Kingfisher clearly nesting on the river bank. In aborted visit to Whitfield Moor yesterday had a male Honey-buzzard briefly in Parmentley area but none at Monk’s Wood site. Weather was not that good: while warm it was very hazy so difficult to pick out raptors in the air. Also think raptors prefer polar air to tropical air when it comes to soaring as visibility is much better while sun is still hot. Other raptors seen were 2 Common Buzzard and a female Kestrel. Funeral arranged at Exeter in just over 2 weeks time with reception at Langstone Cliff Hotel and yours truly giving eulogy. Expecting about 75 attendees including mum’s 3 children, 7 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren. Going to be very short of female confidants – not sure sisters count! Added 2 videos for 18/5 showing Common Buzzard at Dilston (adult) and Staward (first-summer). Also added below Lammergeier material (videos/stills) from Ethiopia for 10/2. Tomorrow more normal lunch in Hexham sandwiched between visits to sites in ‘Shire. Think I need a marketing co-ordinator!!

May 23rd: mum died at 12 noon today, peacefully at Dawlish Hospital. Was on Whitfield Moor when text came through – knew it would be bad news as already had had an earlier update from sister. She was 55 days short of her 91st birthday.

May 22nd: over-slept up to 10:10 and whole day tilted late! Too many sweet dreams!! In very warm weather went to Derwent from 12:30-16:20 to visit the Beldon Burn, where had 4 Honey-buzzard at 3 sites and a completely berserk male Hobby, the first of the year for the NE. The Honey-buzzard at the two high sites were singles in feeding movements, at some distance. But the other 2 were a pair near Ruffside, Derwent Reservoir, which were in display at 16:00. This pair is actually in Durham but I might as well monitor them as nobody else is. Here’s a video (610) and some derived stills 1  2  3  4. The male shows first with the larger female appearing underneath him later on. So why, with so many clear areas of the sky, do they go and display in the gloom of a large grey cloud? Well according to my glider friends, that’s obvious: the darker the cloud the stronger the thermals so less energy is consumed in active display. Before the action recorded here, the male had been briefly up with some spectacular dives, presumably to excite his partner! Also had on the moors single Stonechat, Wheatear and Twite. Later made Nero and had a stroll in the Sele. Completed estimate of Honey-buzzard population in Tay Valley. Assume pairs every 1.5km in broad wooded valley from Bruar to Waterloo and pairs every 3km in more patchy habitat to S from Waterloo to Moncreiffe. Then population of main valley would be 34 pairs. The broad upper valley enables pairs to zig-zag along the valley nesting on both sides and increasing the overall population. If we also include wooded tributaries to the west, then the population would surely rival that of SW Northumberland. Today reported Honey-buzzard migration was 68 in Sweden, 4 in UK and Belgium and 2 in Holland. At last got back to Ethiopia material and added African Harrier-Hawk videos and derived stills for 10/2 in Simien Mountains with incidental shots of Pied Crow and African Hobby. Next to be added is Lammergeier. Tomorrow it’s back to the atlas on Whitfield Moor (Parmentley), later to Hexham for Nero and much later the Globe!! Better news from Devon in that mum’s appetite has improved.

May 21st: very warm day, ideal for getting garden sorted and tidying up/liaising with lovely cleaners s&l! Honey-buzzard migration figures included 27 in Sweden and 6 in the UK. Mum’s rallied again: will visit Devon whatever happens for bank holiday weekend. Made Hexham for tea in Globe – stimulating sights on way!! Then off with Bill to a church in Monkseaton to see a Newcastle College art exhibition at which his wife was showing off “Out of Darkness”. Most interesting: think some of the people there thought I was an art critic, rather than a piss artist! Had Italian in Tynemouth on way back, finally making Welli via Hexham at 10:50. Yet another bad week for markets – it’s called a correction, long overdue with long rise from March 2009 – but it’s painful with shares down another 4.9% on week, leaving year gain at just 5.6% compared with ftse loss on year of 6.5%. Quite happy with the bank controls being introduced in US; anything to check the freedom of traders to potentially bankrupt their company is surely a good idea. Tomorrow back on the Honey-buzzard trail, making Hexham mid-afternoon and perhaps later.

May 20th: early evening bulletin – no field-work today as into unn for vf duties, including 3 research meetings, and catch up with the gossip! Did still manage a Honey-buzzard while driving back into Hexham at 16:35: a female over Widehaugh, presumably from Beaufront. Did get fantastic views of the gws, gps and ghs!!! Should be at t&s later. Another rush of Honey-buzzard into SE England today. Frequent bulletins from Devon: expecting the worst in the next 24 hours. Update late evening: Honey-buzzard migration from 19/5-20/5 included 94 in Sweden, 10 in Germany, 7 in UK and singles in Holland and Belgium. t&s was good: surely not sc:=sc-1! Tomorrow life is rather uncertain: will take it as it comes!

May 19th: derived stills from video 601 of flap-flap-glide Honey-buzzard female taken on 9/5 in ‘Shire: small head, long tail pinched at base, dark wing tip and trailing edge 11  10  9; long wings with broad tip, long tail 4  5  6; long wings and tail 3  2; deep flaps 7  8  1. And here’s the video (605) of the male Honey-buzzard at Staward yesterday (18/5) with derived stills: grey head, grey bill, subterminal and at least one inner tail band 5  6  7  8  4; upperside with 2+ tail bands, small head, grey bill 1  2  3; typical soar silhouette at height 9; typical gliding profile with carpal pushed well forward, long thin tail with narrow base, S-shape to trailing edge, small head on long neck 10  11  12  13  14. Back-lighting was turned on manually 20 seconds into the video. The change of jizz between soaring and gliding modes is very marked: from buzzard-like to kite-like! Some piccies from Blaven (3/5): nephew and myself on top ; the mountain from near Loch Slapin – we went up the gully between the twin peaks with the one on the right the true top; the top of the gully; nr half-way up the gully; nr on the edge of the top; the Black Cuillin ridge from the top; nr descending the gully. All of these photos from John – I’ve also got some to put up. So what happened today? Well good trip from 12:50-15:20 to Farnley in Tyne Valley near Corbridge and still analysing a lot of video taken! I’m trying to work out actual number of Honey-buzzard seen. Being a creature of habit then made library, Nero and Globe. Last was good with Bill inviting me to art exhibition in Monkseaton after Globe on Friday! Love walking through Hexham — not seen enough of them lately!!

May 18th: talk was fine – Honey-buzzard videos (446,477) went down well! Much concern (rightly) about Hen Harrier but insisted that game interests should not be vilified: things have improved so much in general over past 20 years. The new data projector and laptop worked well. Grand day – shortly out to the Allen. Back to Hexham for late lunch and then to Tyne Valley. Should make the Welli tonite!! Into unn on Thursday. Update: a very good day in the field with strong sunshine and light SW wind with a total of 3 Common Buzzard, 2 Honey-buzzard, 2 Sparrowhawk and a Kestrel in the Allen at Staward (from 10:50-13:30) and the Devil’s Water near Dilston (15:30-16:30). The Honey-buzzard comprised, in the Allen, a close-up male at Staward and a distant female at Oakpool. No birds at the site where the male was seen in April nor down towards Allen Banks nor at Dilston, so still many birds to arrive. There’s no display yet as there’s a lack of partners and the birds seem to be concentrating on feeding. The Common Buzzard comprised a first-summer bird and an adult in Staward Gorge and an adult at Dilston, last-named showing raised wings, short tail and much less angular carpal in glide. The first-summer shows short tail, pale inner primaries including tips and flatter wings than adult. The Sparrowhawk comprised a soaring female near Dilston and a soaring male at Staward Gorge. Piccies to follow. Mum is still critical but has fortunately perked up a little. Welli was enjoyable with lots learnt in the quiz nite!! A pity so quiet with only 20 people taking part and even the c u . . s missing!! Today migrating Honey-buzzard included 66 in Sweden and 1 in Holland. Tomorrow a similar pattern of survey work but it’ll end in the Globe!

May 17th: mum was very poorly and can certainly see concerns: very sad decline over 2 weeks. Had 2 long visits to Dawlish Hospital to see her. Can only hope that she manages to rally. At lunchtime today sitting on train approaching Birmingham! Journey down by plane with Flybe was fine but not quite so good on way back which was scheduled for 18:15 yesterday. Checked situation on TV at 16:00 and mobile at 16:30, dropped off hire car, checked in and was sitting in departure lounge at 18:10 when they said it was cancelled! Bit of a sod really as both Exeter and Newcastle airports were open but there was a belt of ash in-between which would have forced us E over the North Sea. So went back to Dawlish Warren, had tea and a few pints in the Mount Pleasant with elder sister and decided to go by train in the morning. It takes 6 hours 40 minutes from Dawlish-Newcastle and then need to go to Airport by Metro to collect car. But at least I’m getting there! Can’t really avoid Honey-buzzard: had 2 in the Exeter area with a male up for 5 seconds over a wood near Starcross on 15/5 and, best of all, a new site near Exeter Airport (to NW, West Clyst probably) with a female in powered flap-flap-glide mode at 18:40 as sat in bus waiting to go back into Exeter on 16/5. Every cloud has a silver lining! Also had single Kestrel and Common Buzzard in the trip. Think good numbers have returned now with also a male over a wood N of Bywell on way to Newcastle Airport on Saturday morning 15/5 at 11:00. Anyway looking forward to return!! May re-enact Sunday night! Giving talk on raptors to wildlife group earlier. Honey-buzzard pouring in now with 114 in Sweden, 73 in Holland, 34 in Belgium, 11 in Germany, 8 in UK and 5 in France reported during 3 days from 15/5-17/5.

May 14th: migration of Honey-buzzard continued apace today with 15 in Sweden, 13 in Belgium, 8 in Holland and 2 in UK, including another bird in Cleveland, obviously taking the scenic route to Scandinavia! No fieldwork today in the rain. s&l did a good job, keeping me straight! Visit to Hexham was a tonic, well needed in current circumstances!! Better week for markets, even with today’s plunge: 3.9% up taking year’s gain to 11.0% as against ftse fall of 2.8% on year. Psychology though is almost maniac depressive with wild mood swings so hold on tight! Yet more into bonds and cash as defensive measure. Concert was superb with masterful performance on piano of Lars Vogt in Beethoven’s concerto 4 and inspired opening to Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances. Went to Marco Polo before with Nick. Later made Welli and stayed until 00:40 in aftermath of an Australian wedding party: m was working heroically! xxxxxx!!

May 13th: migration of Honey-buzzard speeds up with over last 2 days (12th/13th), 13 reported in Sweden, 9 in UK, 6 in Belgium and 2 in France. A lively day, liked train journey in, should be making 5 minute appointments to fit everyone in, know who would squeeze in last!! Thought the sisterhood looked very appealing in a couple of encounters!! Made t&s for drink with colleagues late-on: most enjoyable. But on a much more sombre front, making plans for emergency trip to Devon as mum’s health continues to deteriorate. Indeed doctor has said she is slipping away. Like me she is fiercely independent: don’t think even at almost 91 she’ll tolerate an institutionalised existence. Update: here tomorrow but away for much of weekend. Awaiting s&l, Hexham later before Sage and Welli.

May 12th: did BBS today in Kielder, whole walk to Whickhope Nick and back taking from 10:30-15:40, leaving no time for Osprey. It was very bleak at 420m asl and it even snowed for a little while. The whole area has been clear-felled exposing the raised mire and perhaps preserving it better through removing transpiration from the trees. Actually flushed a Red Grouse from the mire but counts were otherwise low with no Wren on the higher ground, no Stonechat anywhere, just 4 Goldcrest and no Coal Tit. Such has been the effect of the bad winter. Willow Warbler were clearly stressed with the 9 birds on the higher ground feeding in ditches like migrants: no song, no territory-holding. No insects were to be seen, even in the walk across the raised mire. Raptors included 2 Common Buzzard on the top and, yes, a Honey-buzzard male in the valley. The latter has been seen here before and looked fairly comfortable in the conditions, making a very long glide from presumed feeding at the top of the valley to an area further down. Don’t think the density of Honey-buzzard in the Border Forests approaches that in the SW but this is not the best habitat in the area. Pictures to come. On the road had a female Kestrel at Chollerford. Planned rise in CGT will not please the Tories (or me!): glad did not go ahead with 2nd home purchase in anticipation of this as may well affect values. Nick sent me news from the IoM, sad for Jeremy but good for walkers! Globe was good and nice to see work goes on in Hexham!! Tomorrow it’s vf activities at unn.

May 11th: data projector duly arrived at 17:15 having left Carlisle at 08:55 according to Amazon’s tracking service. But it still arrived very quickly on the right day and, better still, immediately put it together with laptop and the laptop’s image was displayed with no hassle – great! Tomorrow off fairly early to Kielder for BBS – it’s a long walk in, survey work takes 2 hours and want to look for Osprey and be back for the Globe! More Honey-buzzard on the pages today: 11 in Sweden, 3 in Belgium and singles in Germany and UK, the last being a single in Cleveland at 05:15, an interesting early bird. Processing some more material from yesterday to add below.

May 10th: made middle of Tyne Valley from 15:40-17:40, looking for returning Honey-buzzard but none seen in cool weather. Did though have 3 Red Kite: 2 together at Styford, including this one one in distance at low-level, and 1 at Stocksfield Station. Nick also had one over Bywell Home Farm yesterday (9/5) so after last year’s disappointments the picture is looking much brighter now. Good! Also had a Sparrowhawk over Shilford and a Kestrel at Ordley. This baby Blackbird was near the Tyne. Have sorted 5 Honey-buzzard videos (code 601) from yesterday at Ordley: female low-level flap-flap-glide,   male medium-level glide,   male high-level glide,   male shake and pair follow-me   (male shakes wings, male leads female in follow-me, then roles reversed) and female soar glide. Will get some stills from the clips using PMB. The aerial ability of the birds with low temperature (about 8ºC) and grey sky is quite remarkable. I wonder whether it was their first meeting of the season as they don’t over-winter or migrate together. Quiet day for migrating Honey-buzzard: 3 in Sweden, 1 in Belgium and 0 in UK. Monday’s a poor day for migration reporting though as many observers are at work. Wanting to visit Kielder to do Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) tomorrow but have to wait in for delivery of a mobile data projector from Amazon: such projectors have really come down in price. So will see how events unfold. Going into unn on Thursday for vf: nice to keep in touch!

May 9th: and they’re back in the ‘Shire with a pair of Honey-buzzard up near the house at 13:40 and 15:05, a marvellous sight complete with flap-flap-glide flight by the female at low-altitude and follow-me display higher up. Some video was taken. Did a walk in the ‘Shire to check other sites but no more Honey-buzzard seen although 3 Common Buzzard were at Dotland. You can sense when the Honey-buzzard return by the behaviour of other birds with a Lapwing up in exaggerated flight high over the Water, a Curlew at high altitude looking very anxious and 3 Carrion Crow making angry cries. Went to bird atlas meeting at Barrasford Arms at 17:00 to discuss progress and problems: after 2 years we’re doing well in the fieldwork but there are more declines than increases (not our fault!). Went for recce at nearby Haughton Strother, which appears to be the only known Honey-buzzard site in the North Tyne. Looks to be very good habitat. Crack at Globe was good! Elsewhere 9 Honey-buzzard in Sweden today, 2 on BirdGuides (Norfolk, Derby) and 2 in Belgium on Trektellen. So excitement is mounting!

May 8th: back from week in inspiring NW Scotland today taking my time through Tay Valley checking sites for Honey-buzzard. And success: a male, up over Hermitage at 14:25, flying very high before diving down into the distance. This site was also checked on way up on 1/5 with no signs of occupation so it seems to have arrived since. Did look at the habitat throughout the valley in the light of Northumberland experience and think estimate of number of Honey-buzzard pairs needs to be raised. The valley is wide with suitable habitat on both sides so it is quite possible for pairs to zig-zag down the valley rather than breed in a line so they may breed say every 1.5km of linear valley length while still maintaining a 2.5km distance between each pair. Will think further about this. Weather was superb for the week as a whole with lots of strong sunshine though rather cool when the sun went in! Was there with elder sister’s family including niece and nephew and partners, sister’s sister-in-law and one baby! We rented a house in Dornie, near Kyle of Lochalsh, but spent a lot of time on Skye. All went very well – still sorting out photos and counts. Meanwhile here is a short video of highlight, walking onto summit of Blaven, after climb from sea-level!! Guy in video is an extra! Don’t talk about the markets – disastrous week for banks with portfolio down 10.8% and ftse down 7.8%, taking shares back to position on 5/3, still up 6.8% on year against fall of 5.4% for ftse. He who lives by the sword dies by the sword! No predictions, just a hope that Merkel will get Germany’s act together after their regional election tomorrow. Honey-buzzard have reached Sweden with 14 birds noted on Dagens Fågel för Mobil from 2/5-7/5 and 2 were reported today on BirdGuides in Cornwall and Guernsey, perhaps forerunners of the ones that moved into Spain from 1/5-3/5. Tomorrow have to reclaim cat and cut grass but will find time to check a site or two, visit Nero and end up much later in the Globe. The Gulls broke a club record today – 691 minutes without conceding a goal – amazing; and Exeter City survive in League I thanks to a goal in the 82nd minute. So it’s just Plymouth down when at one time it looked as if all 3 might go down.

May 7th: just one Honey-buzzard on Trektellen in last 3 days – one at Prisenpark in Belgium on 5/5; another returned to Great Ryburgh, Norfolk, today – will they breed here this year? Another hill conquered today, this time the Corbett Ben Damph in the Torridon range (888m asl, climbing from sea level). Weather was a bit grey on the way up but cleared on the summit and fantastic views were had over the rest of the range with even the Cuillin in view. This is a 3-boot climb (scale 1-5, 5 most difficult) with Blaven rated as 4-boots! Most difficult section was the summit which was covered in boulders. Never yet met a Scottish mountain which is entirely straight-forward! Went with niece and nephew and everything went well. Birds high-up included Ptarmigan with 2 heard and numerous droppings from 650m-870m, Golden Plover with 3 sites from 550m-750m and Meadow Pipit present up to 650m. Only raptor today was a Kestrel near Loch Damf, the first of the trip. Yesterday 6/5 had a good day for raptors in strong sunshine in the south of the island in the Loch Cill Chriosd area with 2 displaying White-tailed Sea Eagle and 4 Common Buzzard. Tomorrow back to business on the A9 and looking forward to return S!! Pleased to see LD moving into 2nd place in Hexham – maybe all our targeted mailings from the database had some effect! But also liked national result.

May 6th: weather yesterday 5/5 not so good, more mist and low cloud but still mainly dry. So left Cuillin tops and did Fairy Pools walk, which takes you right up to base of Sgurr an Fheadain in the Black Cuillin. Saw a Red Deer and Cuckoo, Raven, Snipe and Wheatear, all in classical moorland scenery. But the Cuillin were covered in mist. Bird of the day was a male Hen Harrier flying over the moors just as we started journey back. Sligachan Hotel, placed well for walkers, was good for recuperation! No significant Honey-buzzard migration on the news pages. Birds arrived in Spain on 3/5 could take 4-5 days to cover the 1750km to London but 7 days is more likely so fitting in well with plans!! This morning the sun’s out again and it all looks lovely! xxxx!!!

May 4th: no Honey-buzzard migrants today on Trektellen or Birdguides. Weather a bit overcast but some interesting migrants at Lower Breakish, including Great Northern Diver, Grey Plover, Greenshank, Dunlin (seen moving off NW), Whimbrel, Northern Wheatear and White Wagtail. Nearly all going to Iceland! Also spotted White-tailed Eagle in general vicinity but Common Buzzard are by far the commonest raptor. Tomorrow going to try a Cuillin of the red variety with niece as better weather is possible in afternoon. Enjoyed lunch in Kyle: local lasses do look somewhat familiar! Pity missed quiz nite: kisses to all!!

May 3rd: Honey-buzzard now pouring into Europe with, at Punta de Calaburras in southern Spain, 76 through on 1st and 1,231 today [Trektellen]. Success at 3rd attempt with the big one – start off very easily, then pick up pace on middle section ending with fantastic climax on the summit – yes, it’s Blaven!! With nephew made summit at 928m asl (3048 feet) during 7.5 hours walk with mighty scramble near summit and fantastic views over surrounding countryside. Wheatear and Meadow Pipit were found up to 700m and Raven were nesting at about 750m with Hooded Crow the only other species seen in the central area. Think we had a rather direct route but maybe a little ambitious, rated as moderate scrambling: trousers are a write-off! Added page for monthly summary of Honey-buzzard totals in UK to main pages, starting with April 2010 when 9 seen as against 7 in April 2009.

May 2nd: added some stills of the peat hags on The Dodd below for 24/4. More serious challenge tomorrow! Results for first week of Honey-buzzard survey in SW Northumberland ending today are: Allen 1 site, 1 adult (1 male, 0 female); other areas 0 birds yet, so total 1 site, 1 adult (1 male, 0 female). Nice and simple! Very low rate of return is consistent with the small number of passage migrants noted for April of 9. Of course I’ve only surveyed a small number of sites so far and none in Derwent so this figure is a minimum one. Final total for raptors in Devon trip during April was 21 of 4 species: 17 Common Buzzard, 2 Sparrowhawk and single Kestrel and Hobby. About to kick-off 2010 monthly totals for Honey-buzzard across the UK.

April 30th: into unn today – met so many people that it became more of a social event but did have formal meetings with Libyan PhD student and Mike. Train journey in was very much up to expectations!! Voted by post today – secret but you can get the drift below! Needed strong nerves in the markets this week with the Greek tragedy and UK election uncertainties. Shares were down 2.5% reducing gain on year to 19.7% but ftse was down even more by 3.0% and its gain on year is now only 2.6%. Did sell some building shares (TW) at top of market on Monday morning and re-invest in bonds. Now 120K in bank bonds and 59k in Ireland, giving some diversity. Austerity moves are already underway! Fancy who I met with Cleo at 18:00: used to keep me in order at the Welli when it was almost a family business with her delightful daughters!! It’s difficult to do anything undetected. Very pleased with review of late wife’s book on front page of second section of Courant. Added below (2/4) from Ethiopia for 10/2 video and stills for Rüppell’s Vulture, African Hobby and Common Chiffchaff. Still a lot more to add here though for this day. Welli was good – always nice to see the talent! xxxxxxxxxxxxx!!

April 29th: from 15:00-18:10 did do atlas square NY75-D today on Asholme Common in the NW corner of Whitfield Moor. The common overlooks the upper South Tyne around Eals with potential Honey-buzzard sites here and at Blenkinsopp. It’s not particularly high at 447m but it’s pretty rough underfoot and there are some quite high crags 1  2 on the W side (at least in a SW Northumberland context!). The wilderness further into the moor is vast. Access is interesting; this narrow gateway 1  2, the official access to the high moors where you have the right-to-roam, is so easy to miss. Indeed I couldn’t find it on first drive-past so just went through this gate and ended up in some splendid bogs before finally getting on the open moor. Once up there could see quite quickly where the official route was back through the inbye but they’re obviously deterring some walkers and not everyone will go on an unmarked route to suss things out. Waders were very common (5 species), a pair of Grey-lag Goose were in territory, a Merlin was flushed on the high moor from crags and a Common Buzzard was calling from near Yont the Cleugh, a popular watering hole with the locals, reputedly having a caravan set aside for recovery purposes! Then made Waitrose; exit was good with the stunner looking super-fit!!! Later t&s and tomorrow it’s unn.

April 28th: in warm weather with gusty breeze had a walk in the ‘Shire from 14:20-16:00 and again found no Honey-buzzard but did see a 1s male Goshawk over the Devil’s Water and a Sparrowhawk. So return to study area appears to be very slight as expected for end of April. Nationally another Honey-buzzard was seen in Norfolk and in Holland the first was reported on Trektellen at Noordkaap. None have yet been reported in Sweden. A good spring passage is to be expected in the UK with juveniles bred in the successful 2008 season returning to Europe for the first time. But how many will be seen depends on the weather (gentle adverse winds are best for viewing the birds) and the extent to which peak passage days fall at the weekend (when more observers are about). Welli from 19:30-22:00 with m&s was good: got plan for season mapped out; also able to catch up on a lot of stories! Cost at £71 for 3 courses for 3 persons not too bad. Tomorrow afternoon it’s the upper South Tyne, perhaps including atlas work.

April 27th: made Bywell area from 14:30-16:30 and had no Honey-buzzard in rather calm overcast conditions at 2 potential sites 1  2. However, did have 2 Red Kite, one at Styford and the other near Stocksfield Station, presumed to be different birds; also had a Common Buzzard perched on a tree by the A68 at Styford. Some interesting migrants were noted: 24 Swift drifting W and a calling Cuckoo. Welli quiz nite was pretty uneventful!!! Tomorrow will do another area in the afternoon, then it’s the Globe and the Welli!

April 26th: mid-evening bulletin! They’re back!! A male Honey-buzzard was up for 30 seconds over Staward at 14:20 this afternoon and for a further 20 seconds at 16:10. Video to follow of the first instance. With perfect timing someone else – the ghs— put in a return!! Great to see the pair of lovelies out together again!! More to follow.

Later: so this bird (video with derived stills 1  2  3  4) has presumably returned only in the last day or two, perhaps yesterday (25/4) looking at national pattern. On first arrival birds usually do not appear tired — they’re presumably pretty fit after flying c5,500 km – but must need to restore some body weight which can halve on migration. They actually appear to be more active in the air in the afternoon, perhaps after feeding and resting all morning, so this can be a good time to see them. This bird does manage a frisky flap-glide sequence so apparently was pleased to see Northumberland again! Also had a 1s male Goshawk and 3 Common Buzzard, one of which was not happy with the new arrival, calling loudly at it. This also is a regular occurrence but the Honey-buzzard ignore the hostile reception and move in anyway! Other birds seen on the trip from 14:00-17:00 included a Raven and Common Sandpiper and a small colony of Sand Martin on the banks of the Allen below, near the Costa del Staward where it was very warm out of the breeze; could start a deckchairs business there! Nationally another Honey-buzzard in Essex today brings the total for the month to 7, which is close to normal. Tomorrow much the same in the Bywell area in the afternoon; then later the Welli, where also going Wednesday for a meal to discuss the coming season with m&s.

April 25th: 2 migrating Honey-buzzard today, in Essex and the Channel Islands at Guernsey. Also 3 Swift at Corbridge this evening so will check one of the local areas tomorrow afternoon, perhaps Staward. Caught up a lot with paperwork today, including local inspiration!! LD meeting was not too bad, just a few database critical tasks which come within my remit. Back on Planet Earth went to my favourite pub in Hexham, the Globe, for a nightcap. This week would like to see more of the Rhinemaidens before another trip, to N. After that it’s down to business in SW Northumberland for season, part 1!! Should be in unn on Friday; electricity man is coming on Thursday morning in another attempt to sort out the meter and my burgeoning credit.

April 24th: 3 Honey-buzzard migrating across England today with 2 E in Norfolk and 1 in Staffs. To the woods will soon be the cry! Should have added to yesterday’s entry that a male Goshawk flew over Riding Mill station at 08:45 with a very agitated Curlew in (distant!) attendance. Today in warm sunshine and light S winds went to the high moors of The Dodd at the head of the West Allen for atlas work. This moor is at 614m asl (little over 2000 feet) and is very rough in places, being full of hags 1  2  3 (peat ones, that is!). At this altitude there was still a little snow left 1  2. The area was once extensively mined and these ruins of the Wellhope Mine remain. Highlight was 2 Dunlin in 2 territories but also had 3 Wheatear, 5 Golden Plover, 13 Curlew, an Oystercatcher, 4 Red Grouse (quiet now, on eggs), 4 Lapwing, 12 Skylark and 25 Meadow Pipit. Lots of video to add. Out for 3 hours from 12:00-15:00 so good work-out in very rough terrain. Only raptor was a Common Buzzard with one more on way back at Stublick. A Kestrel was over Corbridge at 18:20 when going to Sage at Gateshead. Concert had 2 requiems so could have been a little gloomy but singing was ethereal. Preferred the one by Duruflémore angst and lovely solo by Madeleine Shaw, who’s sung as the Rhinemaiden Wellgundeto the Goodall one, which was a little treacly. Northern Sinfonia Chorus is very good, in finest northern England tradition. Made t&s later and met the gang! Amused at LD’s bank plans: it appears that we should break them up into small regional banks with no investment banking. So we have more Northern Rock (arguably the biggest banking disaster) and no Barclays (arguably the most successful bank through the crunch). Mind is almost made up! Watching marathon (25/4) while doing this – shows why you don’t try doing a runner in east Africa, even the women are fast! Later tomorrow into Hexham on way to LD meeting in Corbridge at 18:30 to see out my duties (provided they’re not too strenuous!) and Globe much later. Added piccies below for 20/4 trip to Whitfield Law.

April 23rd: into Newcastle again for spot of vf. Managed to get quite a lot of writing done on metaphysics paper – less distractions than at home! Good to see the gws looking s.xy and the gps beautiful!! Lovely walk along the Quayside at 15:30 after a bit of gentlemanly work; Kittiwake are very much a feature now of the area rather than a nuisance. Going to Sage there tomorrow evening for a concert, back to Hexham afterwards. Went to Nero later and had long enjoyable chat with j; skipped Globe but will make Welli later. Another good week for shares, up 2.2% making 22.8% gain on year. House builders and banks did well but getting out of former now as think recovery may be slow. Now got 56k in Ireland as think they’ve already taken some of the tough measures so may end up a bit ahead of the curve. But you can’t say for sure! Might be voting Tory for 1st time since 1979; anguishing a bit over it but not got over LD’s tax plans. I will continue to run the LD’s database as did agree to do this and anyway they’re not going to win Hexham (Tories are 50 to 1 [on] in Hexham Courant today!). I can see that increased CGT on 2nd homes may actually be a very good idea socially as it will increase focus on rents, driving yields up and prices down (as tenants are unlikely to pay more) and enabling more young people to buy the flats themselves. But I don’t want to be part of the experiment! CGT on investments and businesses is another matter as it’s a tax on capital formation, depressing business activity.

April 22nd: day dedicated to JLAF spending interesting afternoon from 12:30 in Kielder Water and Forest Park visiting Leaplish, Lewisburn, observatory, Bakethin, Calvert and Leaplish again for evening meeting. Paper from working group 2, which I chair, was well received and accepted. Work at Calvert Trust with disabled visitors is pretty inspiring! Weather was cloudy so not so good for raptors: just 2 Common Buzzard and 1 Merlin, but also 3 Common Sandpiper seen. Did make t&s late-on at 21:55 for chatty drink with colleagues. First Honey-buzzard reported today, a possible from Lancashire, and Hobby in North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. It’s hotting up!

April 21st: looking at various papers on Honey-buzzard migration by Agostini and Bruderer to see to what extent they mention drift migration and the ability of the species to fly at night, 2 critical questions for understanding what was going on in 2000 and 2008. The unsaid hypothesis in the Durham paper is that the Honey-buzzard is a drift migrant in the same way as passerines. I’ve not found anything yet in the literature to support this hypothesis but am looking hard. It does appear though that Honey-buzzard can fly at night, making very early starts or late finishes if necessary: this could explain the relatively early arrival at Ketelbrug in Holland from E England on 13/9 from 11:00-12:00 CEST (not 10:00-12:00 as given in Durham paper). Quite a number of the birds in Benelux were adults, which fits well with the British population, where my own studies showed many family groups of 4 present right up to 6/9, before I went to Poland. Looking to wrap this up fairly quickly now. Enjoyed Globe! Tomorrow into Hexham late for t&s; earlier long JLAF field trip and meeting at Kielder.

April 20th: did make Whitfield Law from 11:40-14:20, excellent vigorous walk in bright, bracing conditions over the high moors, with snow still on Cross Fell. Only raptor was a Kestrel hunting. There’s interesting habitat changes with drains now being blocked by diggers to preserve the peat; this benefits wildlife by making the moor damper and the environment by avoiding erosion. 35 birds were back at the Lesser Black-backed Gull colony video on Willyshaw Rigg but it’s too early for nest building. They’re not as appealing as Kittiwake and later in the season dive-bomb you! Chaired JLAF working group 2 in Beaumont Hotel, Hexham, from 17:30 – all finished quickly, no dissent allowed! No quiz nite but made Welli anyway for a couple – no excuse needed – good to see rthere! Earlier gpswas highlight of the day!! Going off flat idea – CGT changes are major threat and really rather p….d off with treatment by mortgage company who’ve made the repossession: could sell securities (which costs) only to find bids again being taken off the ceiling! Prefer integrity over p…..g about for the odd thousand! Waitrose was good this evening, stock management is very interesting!! Tomorrow it’s the Globe as usual. Hope to make unn on Friday for more scholarly activities!

April 19th: now on train from London to Newcastle, packed as no flights to Edinburgh or Newcastle. Will be at home for a little while – next trip is to the western highlands of Scotland with elder sister’s family; need to keep fit on the moors before then as a few serious walks planned with nephew. Looking forward to the joys of Hexham and quiz nite x2!! In process of adding to videos page the Honey-buzzard family party found on the Durham moors last year; should be fairly obvious why this is next move. Tomorrow doing an atlas square on Whitfield Moor followed by late lunch in Hexham.

April 18th: diamond wedding bash at Lyndhurst in the New Forest. A little early for Honey-buzzard to return but interesting to look at the habitat. There’s a lot of mature timber around which is good for the species, plus clearings to encourage food supply. The area though must be difficult to survey as it’s very flat with no obvious vantage points, hence rather like some of the Dutch breeding areas. Party was very lively and great to see so many cousins again; did take some photos. Stayed with elder sister in Ealing. Had 5 Common Buzzard and 2 Sparrowhawk on journey from Ealing-Lyndhurst.

April 17th: Welli last nite was good for crack! Next trip S, not to Devon, will be a brief one for a diamond wedding of an aunt (mum’s sister); comfortably back for early next week with JLAF meetings on Tuesday and Thursday and Welli quiz nite. Mum unfortunately will not be at the do but she’s progressing well at the RD&E. In Hexham this morning had first House Martin over Battle Hill in Hexham and good to see j and a at Nero, where also met former student: she’s now working at ncl. Then down to London by train. xxxx!!

Piccies from Devon include shots at 3 heaths – Ideford Common, Aylesbeare Common 1  2 and Fire Beacon Common 1  2, all suitable Honey-buzzard habitat; swans: Black with cygnets at Dawlish, Mute landing at Exminster (Turf); Mallard with 6 ducklings at Dawlish; Dawlish sea front and Exminster marshes 1  2, including view to Haldon, another Honey-buzzard area. Also here are shots of former family farms on the Exe – Eastdon near Cockwood where mum was brought up and Blackheath near Powderham where her elder sister farmed with an uncle. Interesting birds included Dartford Warbler (at 3 heathland sites), Cetti’s Warbler (Exminster) and Little Egret (Exminster, Exeter), as well as of course the Hobby at Aylesbeare Common on 13/4. Not a single Stonechat was seen on the inland heaths – nearly all perished in the bad winter evidently. But Wren were in general a lot commoner than in the Hexham area so weather a little kinder.

April 16th: right, the Suffolk report, with Honey-buzzard account ¾ page by Chris Gregory. If the purpose of a county bird report is to document unusual bird-events in a county for the purpose of posterity then this report for Honey-buzzard is a failure. In spite of the Suffolk CRC carefully compiling acceptance figures for 105 Honey-buzzard (2 adult, 2 juvenile, 101 no age information) and 0 not proven from 13/9/2008-04/10/2008 there is no mention of this total in the annual report. Instead we are given the 250-270 total for East Anglia. We are told that this is about half the number estimated in 2000. This may be so for the region but the distribution by county is very different between 2000 and 2008 with most passing inland in 2000 and concentrating in Essex, where they were blocked by adverse winds. We are indeed told that about 50 birds passed through Suffolk in September 2008 but, while it is very difficult to work out precise figures it would have been useful to give the total for accepted birds as an absolute maximum figure for analytical purposes. Since 18 alone went through Minsmere on 13/9 prior to 13:30 the figure of 50 might seem a little low and it would be interesting to know how duplicates were removed. For instance on 13/9 a total of only 25 birds is estimated which seems very low when the CRC accepted 51 birds including the 18 at Minsmere: surely the other 33 birds counted throughout the day at other sites does not boil down to just 7 extra birds! Publishing the whole CRC dataset, which includes times, is an obvious tactic to let people perform their own analyses. We are given a story about the cause of the movement. This is given verbatim with my comments in blue.

The 2008 movement was on a smaller scale than the largest-ever recorded influx in 2000 evidence?, but still involved an estimated 700-800 birds nationally source?. It was caused when large numbers of birds (mostly juveniles only 4 birds are aged in the Suffolk dataset – 2 adult, 2 juvenile), about to embark on their long journey to Africa, were delayed by adverse weather conditions in Scandinavia weather was fine at Falsterbo – steady emigration there, no blocking. When they did finally set off, easterly winds forced them to drift across the North Sea any evidence on North Sea itself or on E seaboard of North Sea? and hundreds poured into the UK passed through. A large number of these misplaced evidence? migrants passed down the eastern side of England; between 250-270 were reported in East Anglia (about half the number counted in 2000) see above. Other species involved in this major passage movement included Marsh Harrier yes – on 13/9 10 moving S at Orfordness and 4 at Landguard, Common Buzzard no passage data in report, Osprey yes – on 13/9 3 moving S at Minsmere and 5 at Landguard and Kestrel yes – on 13/9 7 moving S at Landguard.Nice to see documentation of movements of other species, except there’s nothing for Common Buzzard.

Two in-off records are claimed at Lowestoft and Corton on 13/9 in NE Suffolk. These could represent birds that had crossed the Wash and were skirting the coast on the S side before making landfall. Records itemised are, on 13/9, 18 passing Minsmere, 9 at Southwold and 5 S at Landguard; on 14/9 all moving S, 6 Boyton, 3 inland over Thetford and 2 at Landguard; fewer reports from 15/9-19/9; on 20/9, 4 over Bawdsey; on 28/9, 4 over Landguard; towards end of month, single birds still evident; 3/10, 1 Brettenham; 4/10, 1 Hollesley.

It was good to see the ringing recovery documented. A 3cy Honey-buzzard, ringed as a chick in Drenthe, Netherlands, in July 2006, was found dead on railway lines near Ipswich, Suffolk, in August 2008. This was only the 3rd foreign-ringed Honey-buzzard found in the UK, the others being from Germany (July 1973, hit wires in Kent, injured) and Sweden (October 1976, hit wires in Yorkshire, dead). None in September 2000 or September 2008 – well, how surprising!

Place spruced up this morning by s&l; off to Globe for tea and Welli much later; not happy with LD proposals for CGT, will not support them if they persist: they’re not fair to me! Another week of progress for portfolio but severe dip late today on SEC charges against GS reduced gain on week to 1.1% giving rise on year of 20.1%, against 6.1% for ftse. ‘Phoned by yea on a matter I’d largely written off: said I’d think about it over the weekend! Hiatus has been useful as money set aside has been profitably re-invested. Very nice to see j in Globe but other talent not so obvious!! Handed 3 copies of Hexham in the Seventeenth Century, written by late wife – marvellous publication effort by Hexham Local History Society – on sale soon.

April 15th: well, lucky flight was yesterday! Today saw all 3 Rhinemaidens – the gws with her lovely legs and culottes, gps with her lovely b…..s and ghs with her lovely gaze!!! Did make Newcastle where saw PhD student and discussed a paper with another researcher. Had such a nice walk along Quayside where Kittiwake very much in evidence! Later did make Hexham: County for a couple and appropriate stimulation après!! A good day in all respects. Had first Blackcap singing at Riding Mill station this morning. Hope to write about the Suffolk report for 2008 tomorrow.

April 14th: back on 07:20 Flybe from Exeter to Newcastle – all on time and very efficient, actually collecting cat from cattery in the ‘Shire at 09:30. Made Nero for lunch – good to meet a again — and Globe for tea. Like the sights of Hexham!! Meeting work mates later at t&s in change of day – don’t know why! Good crack, and sweet dreams to the beauty xxxx!! Have now read an article on the 2008 Honey-buzzard movement in Birds in Durham. Well it’s very nice to see such a detailed account, particularly with the coincidence of our sources (?), but the article does make a lot of assumptions and does not even admit that the ideas presented are a hypothesis, rather than fact, which is a pity. When will it be thrice in a lifetime? But still it’s very useful to have the continental-origin camp make a determined argument for their case! Into unn tomorrow for meetings, out for the odd pint later somewhere!!

April 13th: very good news that mum’s round 2 this afternoon was successful; we visited her this evening and she’ll be in RD&DE for a few days. She may miss big family bash in Hampshire on Sunday. Returning N as planned on early plane tomorrow. Had first Hobby of year in UK at 11:00 and 12:30 on Aylesbeare Common; marvellous sight up above the heath. Some Hobby had been seen earlier on their wintering grounds in Tanzania. Indeed had 4 species of raptor this morning: 5 Common Buzzard, 2 Kestrel and single Sparrowhawk and Hobby. Added directions of flight to comments on Northumberland report for 2008 below (12/4).

April 12th: update to yesterday – mum admitted to RD&E Hospital in afternoon for emergency treatment, younger sister and myself in attendance; she’s seeing consultant early this morning. Following yesterday’s emergency, round 1 of angioplasty this morning was successful and keeping fingers crossed for round 2 tomorrow. We did have a walk on a common this morning in fine weather but spent afternoon at the hospital.

Let’s look at the Northumberland report for 2008 for Honey-buzzard, which I think is informative. Also congratulations on recognising that there are historical breeding records. The autumn report opens: “One of the highlights of the autumn was another influx in September (cf that of 2000)”. Records comprised 9 on 13th (4 adults, 4 juveniles, 1 unaged), 2 on 14th (2 juveniles), 1 on 16th (juvenile), 1 on 17th (juvenile), 1 on 18th (juvenile), 1 on 19th (juvenile), 1 on 20th (juvenile) and 1 on 21st (adult). So total is 17 birds (5 adults, 11 juveniles, 1 unaged). Comment: well can just about live with the word ‘influx’ provided Scandinavia is not mentioned! The totals include 4 birds from the Farne Islands, already discussed using the account in the annual report for the islands which is thought to contain too much hyperbole (Noticeboard 2009 19/10). Directions of flight are in general omitted and got these from Birdguides’ unchecked records, which do not include the Farnes. On 13/9 8 flew S, 3 W and 4 E; from 14/9-28/9 4 flew S and 1 W. This suggests a strong S bias. On 13/9 I had 4 going E at Bywell from 11:38-13:17, obviously following the Tyne Valley but as they disappeared from view they appeared to be turning SE towards Newburn and Blaydon. The birds moving W were 2 in the Earsdon/Wallsend area on 13/9 and 1 at Corbridge on 19/9. The ageing is very interesting as it supports a working hypothesis that the very start of the movement involved quite a mixture of adults and juveniles, with the adults rapidly progressing out of the UK into Benelux, leaving the weaker-flying juveniles to make their own way S through SE England to Normandy. Some stronger-flying juveniles may have been able to accompany the adults on the sea-crossing to Benelux. Linked with this hypothesis is the view that the ‘influx’ was a sudden exodus of birds from their breeding grounds in the UK as the weather cleared after a long spell of persistent rain.

April 11th: another 2008 bird report – Sussex – and this one I can readily praise: informative with details of breeding birds and migrants, and no spin or unsubstantiated statements. The group which monitors Honey-buzzard in SE England reported for Sussex 5 breeding pairs (all-known breeding pairs), 4 of which were successful (3×2, 1×1) with one unsuccessful. Casual records were received of birds at a maximum of 6 inland localities from relatively early date of 11/5 through to 22/7, including 4 birds at one site. Comment: so colonisation of Sussex seems to now be well established. Good, that means a significant area of SE England from Hampshire to Sussex is now Honey-buzzard territory. And I think Kent has some pairs as well. There’s certainly at least one pair in the Chilterns (Bucks) from my own observations. It’s good to see the birds in Sussex are breeding successfully; the nonsense in Norfolk has badly set back the understanding of Honey-buzzard in the UK (see above). A number of regular breeders are back in Northumberland in early May so don’t think 11/5 is an early date for returning birds.

In Sussex there were no spring migrants on the coast but ‘there were a good number of autumn migrants’ with three adults (male, female, ?) at Beachy Head on 30/8, adult male on 1/9 and adult on 8/9. During the major UK movement, 2 adults were at Seaford on 14/9, single dark phase juveniles in Beachy Head area on 20/9, 21/9, 26/9, 27/9 and 28/9 with a further bird in same area on 21/9. Comment: so was one of the birds seen crossing on the 21/9 the marked NE Scotland bird? Always nice to cross-check! Most migrants this year went from East Anglia to Benelux so it’s not surprising that many fewer were recorded in Sussex in 2008 than in 2000. Next report is home county of Northumberland – better be polite! Best to warn that the Suffolk report, to be reviewed after that, is the worst bird reporting I’ve ever read.

Yesterday 10/4 found broods of Black Swan (3 cygnets, which interestingly are white) and Mallard (6 ducklings). Expected a tight football match against division leaders but we romped home 5-0! Think the heat might have got to the men from the northern dales! My presence is obviously a good omen: 3 wins out of 3 against 10/41 for season to date. Next round of drinks is Globe mid-week as usual: very sorry to miss the session before in Welli with the gorgeous one!!

April 10th: more 2008 bird reports: North East Scotland. A paragraph is given on the satellite-tracked female juvenile Honey-buzzard from Spey/Moray, bred presumably near the north coast to the west of Aberdeenshire. She was tracked along the N coast to Tore of Troup on 25/8 and was in the Braemar area from 29/8-3/9 before moving to near Airdrie on 6/9. The bird moved down through western and central England to Sussex and crossed the English Channel on 21/9. She moved through western France and eastern Spain, crossing into Morocco on 30/9. The last signal came from central Morocco during October-December, suggesting that the bird had died there. Comment: looking at the Inverness web pages for Honey-buzzard (Highland Foundation for Wildlife) we see that quite a lot of detail is omitted in the NE Scotland report. This juvenile was near Castle Douglas in Kircudbright, SW Scotland, on 7/9. On 14/9 the juvenile had travelled only a little way to the very north of Lancashire, near Kendall, on 17/9 she was near Manchester, on 18/9 and 19/9 near Coventry, before more decisively moving to near Beachy Head, Sussex, on 20/9. Well I’m not a conspiracist but this detail is actually vital as this bird of known UK origin is following very closely the schedule of the large UK movement with birds passing though NE England in strength on 13/9 and 14/9. The Scottish bird is further to the W but this is a result of the geography of the Highlands. Exodus of juveniles from Sussex peaked in 2008 from 20/9-28/9. So this marked bird is in pace with the main movements of Honey-buzzard in the UK! The bird may not have died: its satellite transmitter may have dropped off.

Also in the report 5 juveniles were recorded, 4 in the Aberdeen/Ythan area on the coast from 12/9-17/9 and one 11km inland on moorland at Lyne of Skene on 14/9. Indeed 3 of the 5 birds were seen on 14/9 with singles on 12/9 and 17/9. Breeding-wise single birds were found inland in the breeding bird atlas in 2005 and 2006. Comment: the movement coincides precisely with that in NE England but is on a smaller scale. The movement would be expected to gather pace as the birds move S, passing over other breeding areas. The picture shown on the plates between p.80-81 of a Honey-buzzard at Ythan (12/9 or 17/9) is not a juvenile as claimed in the text. It’s an adult female with dark bill, evenly spaced bars across remiges, 3 bars on tail and black on wingtips restricted to the fingers. It seems unbelievable that an adult Honey-buzzard would cross the northern North Sea from Norway to Aberdeen. Hope people don’t think I’m contrary.

Some trading the past week on the markets with 7 transactions, building up Ireland stake to 43k (11%) mainly from cash but also from sale of a stake in a UK house builder; after dealing expenses still gained 0.9% on week giving rise of 18.9% on year, best to date. Bank bonds, now up to 113k even after LBG exchanges, give some ballast to the portfolio. Put a lot of time last weekend into researching the Irish scene. Took mum shopping today; interesting experience knocking down a large pile of discounted toilet tissues!! Showed some talent as a stacker! Weather fantastic; tomorrow it’s my home town for lunch followed by a nail-biting afternoon. xxxx!!

April 9th: looking at more bird reports for 2008, first Devon (topical!), the first autumn Honey-buzzard was on 16/9, a dark-phase juvenile at Start on 20/9, 3 different juveniles (including 2 dark birds) W over the Haldon Ridge on 21/9, one E at Prawle on 25/9 and another dark juvenile at Start on 26/9. The birds at Start came in from the E across Lyme Bay and on reaching land gained height and headed out due S. Breeding-wise Honey-buzzard bred on Haldon 1979-1995 and at other sites 1996 and 2004. A further observation at Start was of 10 Common Buzzard heading straight out to sea on 19/9. Comment: this confirms the lack of migrants in western Britain in September 2008. Perhaps over-provocative but it is possible that the birds at Haldon on 21/9 were locally-bred juveniles, grouping together just like the birds in SW Northumberland after fledging and pre-migration. These post-breeding groups are very mobile and can give the impression of being long-distance migrants: they even do mock movements practising their departure. In my view the breeding figures are a clear underestimate: 5-10 pairs in the area around Exeter seems a more realistic estimate. Also the Common Buzzard record raises the familiar question: why did Common Buzzard not migrate in the UK before the Honey-buzzard re-colonisation? Better watch my back near the cliff-tops! Borders (Scotland): very straight-forward this one with just one Honey-buzzard record all year, in June. I’ve never seen a Honey-buzzard in the Borders in spite of many journeys on the A68 from Hexham-Edinburgh. So no counter-evidence! Weather is absolutely beautiful – out today on heathland, tomorrow it’s a marsh. Mum might be frail but she’s still bossing me around as if I’m 12! Staying with younger sister in a few days. xxxx to the fancied!!

April 8th: added some stills below for Whitfield Moor on 6/4 and pending is some video and derived stills for Honey-buzzard in Simien Mountains, Ethiopia, on 10/2 (in process of uploading). Visiting mum and giving sisters a break: she’s very frail. Missing bright lights of Tyne Valley and its associated beauties!! Yesterday’s silhouette in the farmers was inspiring!!

April 6th: energetic walk on northern side of Whitfield Moor from 12:20-15:10 visiting Laws Fell, Brown Rigg, Humble Dodd and Three Knights for BTO breeding atlas work in NY75I. It’s a bleak area as shown by this shot from Brown Rigg to Pike Rigg, near where heather burning was in progress. Wind was very fresh from S but fairly mild and rain held off so not bad for early April even though the ground was saturated. Red Grouse have survived the winter well and 2 species of wader – Curlew and Golden Plover – were displaying. Wildfowl featured well with pairs of Canada Goose and Greylag Goose (agitated individual) and a nest of 10 Mallard eggs (site  nest-cover  eggs). Meadow Pipit were fairly widespread and the first Wheatear was seen. But no Merlin which is a breeder in this area although did get 5 Common Buzzard on the road at Stublick and Lipwood. Spent ages sorting out LD mailings, delaying piccies. Evening confirmed she is such a stunner!!! Off to my roots for a while tomorrow afternoon!

April 5th: added stills below for the tame Thick-billed Raven in Simien Mountains on 10/2. Now been through all the video for 10/2 and there’s a Honey-buzzard on one of the clips; as with that recent record from Tanzania altitude, even 3,500m, seems to be no barrier and upland woodlands are attractive to the species. Will publish the video soon: it’s an exciting discovery! In addition got some close-ups of African Harrier-hawk and Lammergeier. Also added some stills from yesterday’s moorland trip. Checked the European news sites for any early season records: no Honey-buzzard in Europe yet including UK and Sweden, but 6 Hobby records in southern counties of England from 27/3-5/4. We’re almost off!! Weather permitting, planning to do another breeding atlas square tomorrow morning on Whitfield Moor followed by late lunch in Hexham. And much later the Welli!! Next foreign trip looks like New York, perhaps with daughter, at end of July.

April 4th: proper Sunday lunch for a change – roast lamb with all the trimmings! Daughter left on 17:50 BA to LHR, all went fine; she very much enjoyed her stay. So then difficult choice of LD executive meeting or start of breeding atlas. Moors were absolutely beautiful in strong evening sunshine from 17:50-20:00 with this view to Ouston Fell; there was still a little snow around and there was a cold wind but waders were certainly into action already! At Ninebanks on edge of Dryburn Moor had 3 Common Buzzard, 2 Kestrel and 2 Raven. Black Grouse featured well with 3 cocks at a lek and 3 other cocks flying over the moors at 2 other sites. Had 4 species of wader — Curlew, Lapwing, Redshank and Snipe – and Meadow Pipit and Skylark were also back in territory to some extent but no Wheatear or Ring Ousel. 41 Fieldfare were seen at dusk including 11 emigrants flying high to NE. These desres 1 2 are relicts from when this was an important lead-mining area. Later made the Globe from 21:30-23:10 with lovely service from j and a, who’s got another job, coming in for a chat!! But exit was very stimulating: Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!! Will add some piccies tomorrow.

April 3rd: added stills and video below for African Hobby on 10/2 in Simien; an exciting falcon in territory and a new species for me. Relief at a football result for the Gulls – there’s hope; indeed we scored all 3 goals! Will be seeing their next home game. Daughter has had 2 runs of 7km each (40 mins a time); some recuperation this evening with 3 courses at Diwan where food (Madras curry) was excellent but heating seemed to be off! Wonder who paid the £80! Made Nero this afternoon where good to see j! Was in trip out to do some exotic shopping at Waitrose for Sunday lunch. Tomorrow weather may be better so may look for raptors in morning and will make Globe as usual in evening!!

April 2nd: very heartening stats on the web page. March was a record in all respects with daily average of 190 visits and 871 hits (file accesses) and over the month 16.3 GB of data downloaded. Think making first page on Google for Honey-buzzard helped. Updated Sony PMB on notebook to latest version and can now do frame-by-frame processing, which is so valuable for analysis. You might think that technically frame-by-frame processing is a doddle but in the AVCHD 1080i format used for HDD by Sony, there’s no such thing as a simple frame for the computer to handle: the data is interlaced. Finding some problems in browsers reading properly Weather Underground .mht (web archive) files. In Firefox you need to install UnMHT add-on and it works well; in ie8 I cannot get it to work over the web but no problem on a local copy and Opera only appears able to save them – will need to rethink strategy here. Did do some work yesterday; Mike’s giving a paper of ours on process category theory at Edinburgh University next Tuesday. Made Welli as usual on Friday and good to meet r again!! Daughter is enjoying visit — tomorrow going out for a curry in evening. Added diary for 10/2 in Ethiopia below.

10/2: support team thought we would set out at dawn but we finally settled on an 08:30 start as we wanted to catch up on our sleep and did just that with 12-hours! Had a bonny camp fire outside our hut in the evening before which was very cosy in the coolness of the night. Pity the people who had lit the fire were so tight with the eucalyptus fuel: we didn’t get through it all and this morning the remainder had been confiscated! No running water at the camp: latrines in order out in the bush, don’t get caught short in the night! Anyway we had a 6-hour walk, escorted by guide and scout (with gun), from 09:00-15:00 down to a waterfall and back with temperature starting at around 5º and rising to 20º. But the sun was very powerful and it felt a lot hotter midday. The walk down was along the top of a steep ravine with fantastic scenery through rather thin woodland. The waterfall itself was rather low but the valley bottom was amazing with denser clumps of trees, undulating ground with steep edges, a few flatter meadows with scant vegetation and plenty of birds around. We had packed lunch there, attended by a very tame Thick-billed Raven who knew the score! There were plenty of Common Chiffchaff everywhere: most were calling from bushes but two did actually sing. Also had 2 wandering parties of White-rumped Bulbul, a pair of Hemprich’s Hornbill, a calling Ercick’s Francolin and a Common Fiscal. Walking back up from the waterfall was a challenge! The climb was steep along a track and in the altitude you had to develop a deep heavy breathing to keep going. Still was exhilarating exercise after all the sitting around in the travelling and good to keep in practice!! Got back and chilled out. Son managed to get second lunch, seems to have hit it off with the cook! We controlled the camp fire in the evening and got it really blazing in true Northumbrian style: no fuel left! The next day we were to go even higher in altitude.

Simien Mountains, Sankaber, scenery, pan video 1; cliffs, stills 1  2  3; valleys, stills 1  2  3  4  5.

Honey-buzzard, Simien Mountains, Sankaber, video 1 with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9.

With such a wide range to choose from did also consider Wahlberg’s Eagle and Booted Eagle. But tail is square-cut in both these species. This bird has a perfect tail for Honey-buzzard with length equal to wing-width, narrow base, bulge on sides and rounded corners at end. In glide wings are held depressed with carpal pushed forward and outer wing pointing straight behind. Head is small and bill is fine. The bird is well fed with full crop. If it’s an adult, it will have completed its moult and be in ‘textbook’ condition before wear sets in.

African Harrier-hawk, Simien Mountains, Sankaber, adult, video 1  2  3  4 with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12; stills 1  2  3; mobbed by Pied Crow, video 2 with derived stills 1  2  3; with 2 African Hobby, end of video 3 with derived stills 1  2.

African Hobby, Simien Mountains, Sankaber, stills, adult in territory, 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12; video 1 with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6. See also African Harrier-hawk.

Common Kestrel nominate, Simien Mountains, Sankaber, adult male, video 1 with derived stills 1  2  3.

Common Kestrel rufescens, Simien Mountains, Sankaber, female/immature, still 1.

Rüppell’s Vulture, Simien Mountains, Sankaber, adult video 1 with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7; unaged, video 1 with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10; immature, video 1 with derived stills 1  2.

Lammergeier, Simien Mountains, Sankaber, video 1 with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13; stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15.

Yellow-billed Kite, Simien Mountains, Sankaber, stills 1  2.

Thick-billed Raven, Simien Mountains, Sankaber, stills, adult in territory, 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15.

Fan-tailed Raven, Simien Mountains, Sankaber, stills 1  2  3  4  5  6.

Pied Crow, Simien Mountains, Sankaber. See African Harrier-hawk.

Dusky Turtle Dove, Simien Mountains, Sankaber, stills 1  2.

Common Chiffchaff, Simien Mountains, Sankaber, video of calls 1.

Rose sp, Simien Mountains, Sankaber, still 1.

Shrub sp, Simien Mountains, Sankaber, still 1.

Lichens on shrubs, Simien Mountains, Sankaber, still 1.

April 1st: daughter arrived at 17:35 on BA flight from LHR, very good to see her again! She’s staying until Sunday evening. Apologies to t&s mates and Rapunzel!! Thought Ka was not going to be ready in time as ‘phoned by garage to say courtesy car was going to be offered but then miraculously they did finish the work by 17:00. Earlier a rather unusual day as blessed by Bishop at Durham Cathedral’s Sung Eucharistfor Maundy Thursday! Mike took me along – not that religious but do love high mass with all its ceremony and music and of course the setting is fantastic. Girl Choristers did the singing very beautifully, particularly Franck’s Panis Angelicus. It’s only in the last year that girls have been allowed in the cathedral choirs there. Mike prefers the boys! Must say the gwshas nice legs!! Got 2 annual bird reports for 2008 from Sussex and Suffolk. The Suffolk accounts are fairy tales throughout but more on this later. Expected profit-taking in banks after their recent sharp rise and so it proved with a 0.6% fall in the 4 days reducing gain on year to 17.8%. But fall mitigated by BBM still showing it’s got legs and some buying of Irish banks, including BKIR, in the panic selling at the start of the week. Got 26k in Ireland now! Pity no time to see the gps!!

March 31st: very cold N wind with heavy snow on top of Hexhamshire Common but none in low quarter. Spent quite a lot of day amending paper to discuss with Mike in Durham tomorrow. Also important is trip to Globe Wednesday teatime! Walked in from 15:10-16:10, collected some supplies from m&s, went to Nero where j in good form, then Globe where very nice to see normal crowd and taxi back to Shire for rendezvous!! Several recent sightings of Red Kite in Slaley area from Stewart. So minus the car keeping fit but shall not be too unhappy when it comes back into use!

March 30th: start of monsoon season with heavy rain most of day and streams and fields flooded in places. Well Welli on Tuesday counted as important, walking in from Ordley-Hexham 19:20-20:20, having a Guinness for recuperation at County, catching 21:14 train from Hexham-Riding Mill, having a few more Guinness than usual, then back on 22:59 train to Hexham and taxi to Ordley, home by 23:20. Lady in red and green caught my eye – she’s a stunner!! What else is important? Well we’ll see!!

March 29th: finished analysing multimedia for 9/2 Gondar-Simien below. Got stills/videos of 9 species of raptor in this area; already up to 20 types of raptor after a day of quality, rather than quantity. Then it’s onto 10/2 where we did a long walk in the mountains to a waterfall. Took Ka into Matt Clark and they said the voltage regulator had gone giving overcharging, which had damaged the battery. So need both new alternator and battery on Thursday and also advised against driving the vehicle, other than home now and back to garage in 3 days time. What a sod! There’s also a spring which needs replacing from hitting a pothole at speed. The garage said that, through the winter weather, they’d never been so busy: it’s an ill wind that blows no-one any good! But will keep up important engagements through taxis, walking and trains. Going to Durham on Thursday to see Mike, which will go ahead as planned. Daughter’s room is being spring-cleaned by s&l tomorrow. Took 3 sacks of books into Oxfam – clears some shelves for computing books — they seemed quite pleased. Had lunch in Nero where good to see j. Breeding atlas resumes on 1/4 when back to the moors!

March 28th: added comment in running header above about the oh so critical realisation that the frequently reported Honey-buzzard in Norfolk are non-breeding birds. How many times have I been asked: why don’t we see your birds when they’re seen in Norfolk every day? Answer: ‘my’ birds behave like normal continental nesting birds – very secretive between display and fledging! Of course you also need to identify them on their brief rises above the canopy and this does require a lot of practice. Added a lot more material to Gondar-Simien for 9/2, including Red-billed Chough, Cape Rook, much scenery around Sankaber including potential woods for migrating Honey-buzzard and a number of stills of Tawny Eagle against the cliffs. One more session will complete 9/2. Today made another trip to Dipton Wood – it’s close! Report to come. Enjoyed Globe: the lovely a in wunderland in control!! Tomorrow got quite a bit to sort in Hexham, including garage (8-year old battery now chief suspect), donation of a lot of books to Oxfam and getting some diy materials. Hope to meet someone interesting!! Expect to make Welli for next 2 Tuesdays!!

March 27th: out in Dipton Wood from 13:30-15:30 for work-out in rough woodland. This is very suitable habitat for Honey-buzzard with large timber, well spaced with much heather growing below, and a number of clearings. Hence it’s a mosaic of woodland and heathland 1  2  3  4. However, Honey-buzzard do not actually nest in the middle of the wood but in 5 sites in peripheral areas 2.5km apart, that is a circle of about 12.5 km circumference. This distribution probably reflects the layout of the river valleys more than woodland blocks but it does enable a larger number to use the resources of Dipton Wood than if one pair territorially held the centre of the wood. Spring is progressing quickly with Meadow Pipit on their spring run with a flock of 40 near Ordley yesterday 26/3 and 4 in Dipton Wood today. Wood Ant are also swarming on their nests in the stronger sunshine. Raptors were not that conspicuous but there was a nice pair of displaying Kestrel; numbers of Kestrel seem to be promising, suspect they moved well out of the area in the cold weather in order to survive. This singing Common Crossbill male was one of 9 seen and was probably breeding. Coal Tit and Siskin were also common and a few Wren were heard (commoner than in more open places) but not a single Goldcrest, which are vulnerable to long cold spells. Added below still of Honey-buzzard site near Wylam on 21/3. Got a reasonable price for filleting the roof from a mate in the Globe which will accept; stripping down bathroom floor, taking out 2 layers of tiles, to allow it to air and be sanded – as cleaner ssaid, you don’t do things by halves! Ka’s range at night limited, taking it in on 29/3 for diagnosis, but will get priorities right and tomorrow nite make Globe, which manages to stay open later than most pubs on Sunday because it has an extension until 11!! Installed Open Office, Sony’s PMB, Firefox, Opera (main browser) and MiKTeX (technical paper formatter) on notebook. Not using it for POP mail, EARS or Black IPs! Added 71 GB of video to test it out; current version of PMB is not as good as version on desktop – notebook is 32-bit addressing not 64-bit as desktop – but can certainly upgrade it to some extent. Daughter’s coming up on Thursday for a few days – will be very nice to see her again!

March 26th: added to 9/2 report stills of Hooded Vulture in Debark and Fan-tailed Raven in Simien Mountains. Now fully charged-up but will it last? Maybe, back on intermittent discharge rather than continuous. Another fair week for portfolio with a 4.5% rise, second best of year, taking rise on year to date to 18.6%, against 5.3% for ftse. Not a lot of trading this year – taking profits on some of Savills and re-investing proceeds in Punch Taverns – estate agents driving me to drink!! But significant new investment around turn of year was on the horses BBM/BBP from the B&B stable, where 112k nominal of pibs purchased; think grandfather would have approved! Did make from 16:00 Nero (good to see a!), Globe (great service from j!), Beaumont (good dinner, won bottle of wine in quiz!) and Welli (good service from m!). Quite busy really. Tomorrow hope to get some raptor watching in and may well be at Bridge for buskers in evening. More interesting news from African Raptors:

From: birdatlas
To: tanzaniabirds
Cc: Africanraptors
Subject: [africanraptors] Fw: Honey Buzzard
neat bird, not a plumage we see very often but these are known to be highly variable.
Neil

—– Original Message —–
From: Paul Oliver
To: ‘tanzaniabirdatlas’
Sent: Wednesday, March 24, 2010 2:21 PM
Subject: Honey Buzzard
This bird had us going for a while! Seeing it at a distance didn’t help. March 6th 09:20 am – 03-867/35-107 at 4453 ft asl Yeada [Yaeda] Valley

Two pictures are here 1  2. It’s a pale-phase first-winter Honey-buzzard, complete with dark eye-spot and extensive yellow base to bill. Pictures in flight would have shown its moult status. Yaeda Valley is near where I was in Tanzania, high-up near the Ngorongoro Crater and yes I did see some Honey-buzzard in the area. General impression is that many Honey-buzzard in Africa must go unidentified because of poor documentation in European field guides.

Still looking at county bird reports for 2008 and have ordered 3 more, from Durham, Suffolk and Sussex. When picture more complete, will complete report on the large 2008 movement. The report for Cumbria gives the status for Honey-buzzard as rare passage migrant, breeds in very small numbers. In 2008 a pair was in residence throughout the breeding season for the third successive season at a new breeding location but it was not clear whether breeding was successful. Autumn movement included one bird on 27/7 and 2 more from 14/9-28/9 so very light. Previous history indicates that 2 separate breeding sites have been occupied in recent years, the first such records since breeding finished in the early 20th century. So the report confirms the light passage on the western side of the UK: this is the normal situation as birds appear to have a SE/E orientation for their trek. I’ve found 2 breeding sites in Cumbria on Windermere and Ullswater without that much effort. But maybe the breeding population is considerably less than that in Northumberland because the habitat is less suitable. For instance the Goshawk population is quite small with just 5 records in 2008 in the breeding season.

March 25th: busy time at unn – 2 long meetings either side of lunchtime. Nice to see the Kittiwake on the Quayside and train journey in had its moments! Ka’s giving problems – think alternator has failed and garage cannot fix it for a week. So bought battery charger today and car in usage has become more like an electric car! It only just made it home from Riding Mill late afternoon with lights and ignition almost failing and put it on fast charge. But should be better after overnight trickle charge. Enjoyed visit to t&s – only one more to go before Easter; local talent is really exciting!!! Tomorrow will make Hexham after cleaners come but they’re doing extra with window cleaning. Then it’s Globe for tea, Beaumont for dinner (LDs) and Welli for nitecap! Booked up Devon trip: evidently mum is smarting at being packed off to home, even if for only 2 weeks! faswtgo!!

March 24th: added stills below from 9/2 for Rüppell’s Vulture (close-up in flight) and for Gelada Baboon, the endemic baboon found only in the Ethiopian highlands, together with their wooded habitat, which might well attract Honey-buzzard on migration. Will add next some pictures of the impressive mountains and of a few members of the crow family. Globe was very entertaining – back in pole position! Also made Nero where good to meet j again! Starting to redecorate downstairs bathroom after the leaks. Booking up Devon trip for shortly after Easter with another one not long afterwards to a big family bash in Hampshire. Tomorrow to unn and much later t&s.

March 23rd: added video material below from 9/2 for Lammergeier, Hooded Vulture and Yellow-billed Kite. Most material collected this day was on stills so that’s next batch to add. Concert was very lively again with violinist Julian Rachlin, born in Lithuania, starring in Shostakovich’s marvellous violin concerto 1; mishaps continued with string broken in cadenza, causing pause in performance, but soloist resumed unabashed! Nick and I agreed that Russian music dominates the 20th century with Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Rachmaninov and Stravinsky all following very well in Tchaikovsky’s footsteps from the 19th. Working on Liège paper on category theory at home – at last concentrating on such matters with deadline looming at end of month. Tomorrow waiting in for Parcelforce to collect a 30kg parcel of books to go to son in London. But expect to make Nero and Globe later!!

March 22nd: concert at Sage was brilliant; went with Nick and we had meal at Marco Polo before, coming back on last train to Corbridge. Prokofiev’s piano concerto 3 was played very flamboyantly by Freddy Kempf, so much so that piano needed running repairs after 1st movement with a broken wire! Shostakovich’s symphony 5 is electrifying: amazing how at one point a xylophone can produce such a pungent sound above a large orchestra in full flow. Tomorrow’s a repeat, including restaurant, except that Shostakovich provides the concerto and Prokofiev the symphony. Russian music is so lively! Had enjoyable lunch with catr at Nero, where good to see j back! Have another vf day in Newcastle on Thursday.

March 21st: added below footage of Red Kite at Apperley Dene on 15/3 together with a few stills and pan video of habitat. Also have started looking into possible size of African population of Honey Buzzard with starting point the EBCC atlas (18/3); there are other views. Today went to the Spetchells, moving to Wylam Bridge at end, and had a very good raptor list from 12:00-15:30 of 5 species and 13 birds: 5 Common Buzzard (2 pairs in Horsley Wood), 4 Kestrel (at least 3 sites), 2 Red Kite (pair soaring very high over regular site at Wylam S) and single Goshawk (Horsley Wood) and Sparrowhawk (Stephenson’s Cottage). Honey-buzzard site looks in fine fettle! A Sand Martin over the Tyne was a lovely sight: first hirundine and a sure sign of early spring! Also had a Goshawk over Dipton Wood on drive in. Globe was good fun but gently reproached for not staying on Friday. Afraid I have an innate dislike of horse racing: my grandfather on maternal side, a skilled farmer, was addicted to it and lost a bloody fortune! I’m supposed to take after him but not on this point! Hope the ghswas having sweet dreams!!

March 20th: added below account for 9/2, journey from Gondar to camp in Simien Mountains. Poor weather today so no fieldwork but looks better tomorrow and mid-day will re-visit the Spetchells, Horsley Wood and Ovingham to look for Red Kite! Actually watched the Titanic tonite on C4: a very moving story and the disgraceful correlation between class and survival is shown all too clearly. Keener on cooking since Africa – casserole this evening – think it’s healthier doing your own! Globe beckons tomorrow evening and it’s the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra on Monday/Tuesday at Sage playing 2 gorgeous pieces by Shostakovich. First Hobby will be back in 3-4 weeks and Honey Buzzard in 4-5 weeks.

9/2: amazingly driver and Toyota 4WD were outside hotel at 07:30 but we had to delay departure until after Dashen Bank had opened at 08:00 and we’d got out another sackful of birr to pay for the hire as we’d withheld some of the cash to encourage attendance! Slight misunderstanding with hotel manager as he thought we were doing a runner as we walked down the main street but ended all smiles and a nice tip for our charming Nubian waitress! Roads out of Gondar do not have a metallic surface so it was rough driving all the way but no potholes, hence slightly better than in the ‘Shire. Went through some dramatic mountain scenery on the way to Debark, with the highlight a Lanner in territory, angrily calling, on one of the high passes. Also had single Black-shouldered Kite, Black-chested Snake Eagle, Tawny Eagle and a Common Kestrel (winter visitor, pale underparts). Yellow-billed Kite continued to be common near villages with a total of 18 seen. Made Debark at lunchtime where at HQ of Simien Mountains National Park we paid park fees and accommodation charges and hired guide and scout, latter complete with shotgun, for a total of $140 for 4 days. Debark is a wild-west style frontier town with typical town scavengers of 16 Yellow-billed Kite and 4 Hooded Vulture plus 5 Augur Buzzard on the edge. On leaving after lunch and buying supplies for everybody, to our surprise a lady jumped into vehicle – she was our cook, friend of the guide, bypassing the official hiring scheme – some scam! We’re obviously doing our bit for local employment! Decided to stay in a rather basic lodge (bunk house in Scottish terms but with no electricity or gas, cooking with charcoal fire) at Sankaber for 3 nights at the very high altitude of 3,230m. We had a 2-hour training walk at end of day, going along edge of cliff, and could already see the altitude giving heavy breathing! Scenery is absolutely magnificent – rather like the Grand Canyon. Although sun was very high in the sky, temperature was only around 22º midday and plummeted at night to just above freezing so beds had good supply of blankets.

Gondar-Debark mountain pass, stills 1  2  3  4; site where Lanner in territory 1  2.

Debark town, stills 1  2.

Simien Mountains National Park, Sankaber, camp 6; cliffs 1  2  3  4  5  6; moors 1  2; signs 1  2; precipices near camp 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9; flowers 1.

Rüppell’s Vulture, Simien Mountains National Park, Sankaber, stills, adult 1  2  3  4  5  6.

Lammergeier, Simien Mountains National Park, Sankaber, video with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6.

African White-backed Vulture, Simien Mountains National Park, Sankaber, still 1.

Hooded Vulture, Debark, stills 1  2  3  4  5; video with derived stills 1  2  3.

Yellow-billed Kite, Debark, video with derived stills 1  2 of perched bird.

Tawny Eagle, Simien Mountains National Park, Sankaber, still, immature 1  2  3  4  5  6  7.

Booted Eagle, Simien Mountains National Park, Sankaber, stills, 1  2  3  4.

African Fish-Eagle, Simien Mountains National Park, Sankaber, still, adult 1.

Honey-buzzard, see comment below under Gelada Baboon.

Lanner, see comment above under Gondar-Debark mountain pass.

Common Kestrel rufescens, Simien Mountains National Park, Sankaber, stills, 1  2  3.

Fan-tailed Raven, Simien Mountains National Park, Sankaber, still 1.

Cape Rook, Simien Mountains National Park, Sankaber, stills 1