Notice Board: the Honey-buzzard Season in Northumberland 2009 as it happened – Nick Rossiter

Back to: Honey-buzzard Home Page  Home Page on BT

Blogs: 2013   2012   2011   2010   2009   2008   2007

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). 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 finalisedbut a continental origin for the migrants appears very unlikely. The breeding status of the Honey Buzzard in Britain remains hugely controversial. Constructive efforts to resolve the position by local raptor study groups and the rare breeding birds panel seem to be conspicuous by their absence! Reports by anybody (to nick.rossiter1 at btinternet.com, or 07837 957716) can be included: these will be strictly anonymous and will not be conveyed to any records committees.

January 30th 2010: this notice board will close. The new notice board will be available directly from the home page as the current notice board for 2010.

January 29th: summary of 2009 Honey Buzzard Breeding Season in SW Northumberland is given below

Area

No. sites

No. ad-ults

No. nests

Breeding Category

Number young fledged

Gangs of juveniles post-breeding

Conf

Prob

Poss

Devil’s Water

6

12

3

6

0

0

12 (6×2)

1 (6)

Allen

7

14

2

7

0

0

13 (6×2, 1×1)

1 (5)

Upper South Tyne

6

12

2

6

0

0

10 (4×2, 2×1+)

1 (6)

Lower South Tyne

3

6

0

3

0

0

6 (3×2)

0

Tyne

11

17

3

9

0

2

16 (7×2, 2×1+)

1 (6)

Derwent

6

12

0

6

0

0

10 (4×2, 2×1+)

0

Total

39

73

10

37

0

2

67 (30×2, 6×1+, 1×1)

4 (23)

Results for the Honey Buzzard Breeding Season in Northumberland by area in 2009

It was yet another record-breaking season for Honey Buzzard in SW Northumberland. All the main measures increased with 39 occupied sites, 37 confirmed breeding pairs and 67 young fledged. Productivity was very high with 30 of the 37 successful sites raising 2 young; at 6 of the other 7 sites it is also possible that 2 young were raised but evidence was lacking for any more than one juvenile raised. Additional sites were found in 3 areas: Tyne Valley (2), lower South Tyne (1) and Derwent (1).

Fieldwork was performed continuously in the study area from end April – late September, except for the following absences in other parts of England, Isle of Man and Scotland: 16-19 May, Norfolk; 23-30 May, Isle of Man; 12 June, North Yorkshire; 17-22 July, Devon; 29-31 August, North Yorkshire; 30 September–3 October, Perthshire, Scotland.

Coverage was similar to previous years except in September when retirement from university on 31 August meant that more time could be put in to determine breeding success with more certainty. This extra time may have contributed to the higher figures for breeding success this year but of course the higher figures from better coverage will be a more accurate portrayal of the underlying picture. The extra time was also used to monitor more closely the gangs of post-breeding juveniles which form after the adults have left. Four such gangs were found this year, comprising 23 juveniles in total. Monitoring migration is more of an opportunistic activity than a serious vismig study. This year only 7 migrants were noted at 5 sites.

Some sites were colonised early in May but the main arrival was later. The season seemed to start on time but fledging was late with many birds not rising above the canopy until early September. The weather was fine in May but for the rest of the breeding season was wet with some very heavy downpours at times. The poor summer weather may have delayed fledging but has not affected breeding success. Another factor in delaying fledging may have been the high productivity itself with 2 young raised in nearly every nest stretching the adults’ foraging ability.

In the target area 10 sites were searched for nests with 100% success this year. Scots Pine and Norway Spruce are the most popular trees with others in Oak and Birch. Nests are much easier to find in Scots Pine than in Norway Spruce because of the structure of the crowns of the trees with Scots Pine being open and Norway Spruce closed. This year a series of photographs was taken from the ground of each nest in each site visit. Comparison of the photographs between visits showed a clean nest and an expansion of the structure between June/early July and late July/August confirming that the nest was in use. This comparison supports the nests being assigned to Honey Buzzard as a species because it is exactly what would be expected with a tidy late nesting species. Common Buzzard nests always appear very much more used near fledging in early July and are indeed already starting to decline in structure at this point.

Next season the plan is similar except that the number of nests to be found will be increased from 10 to 13. The populous Tyne Valley area is to be split into two: Tyne Valley west and Tyne Valley east. There will then be 3 areas in which no nest has been located: Derwent, lower South Tyne and Tyne Valley east. The intention is to find a nest in each of these 3 areas. Work in winter of 2009/2010 is involving looking for old nests of Honey Buzzard in these areas and last year’s nest has already been found in Tyne Valley east. Besides the size of the current Tyne Valley area, another reason for the split is the difference in habitat with the eastern part being more built up and closer to the sea, both factors which warrant investigation as they might reduce breeding success on current knowledge.

Printing results now for sending to Natural England as part of disturbance license condition.

January 28th: might well wrap up this year’s Honey Buzzard season tomorrow when send in report to English Nature and reproduce important points here. Then this page will close and a new notice board will start for 2010; links will be given here. Made meeting in Stannington at 14:00 and did not get away until 21:00. Appointed chair of Working Group 2 – permissive access – maybe poacher turned gamekeeper! Got to t&s to meet colleagues – all very enjoyable chat, if you’re into IT! Afters was a real turn-on!!! Hope for repeat next week when … Earlier inspired by the magical duo!! Tomorrow should make Hexham for lunch but then into Newcastle later for concert at Sage with Nick, preceded by meal at Marco Polo. Much later the Welli!

January 27th: did another atlas square NY75W at Ninebanks; had 16 species in much milder weather and the first displaying Common Buzzard of the year – what a fine sight! Did make Hexham late-on and entered the drugs trade with a bargain from Boots on Malarone tablets at £75! Booked 2 nights at hotels in Nairobi, either side of trip to Tanzania, and sent off booking form for shuttle bus from Nairobi-Arusha and back. Negotiations on safari are almost complete. Also ordered book on birds of Ethiopia. Almost done, hope it all works out – there aren’t any split-second connections, they don’t understand them in Africa! Globe was very good with jserving! Much inspiration from the ghs/gps!! Tomorrow it’s JLAF at Ridley Arms in afternoon and early evening but expect to make Hexham for lunch and t&s much later about 21:30.

January 26th: must write Honey Buzzard account tomorrow of 2009 breeding season in study area. Made Hexham for lunch where good to see j; dinner was very tasty though, as soon as dessert spoon grounded, given computer to download printer driver and check performance and security profile – all sorted! Anyone else want their machine fixed? Anything done, Black IPs a pleasure! Welli was very good: prefer people when they let themselves go, particularly if they’ve got the right assets, like theghs!! Managed to park next to gps’super-wheels for the second week!! Lamb Shield interchange is now fully restored as a major highway. Tomorrow may do yet another winter atlas square midday followed late afternoon by visit to Hexham for Malarone, ordering 3 more county bird reports for 2008 (Cleveland, Cumbria, Norfolk), sorting out special delivery of some certificates for transfer to nominee account and more excitingly the Globe!

January 25th: further analysis of Honey Buzzard from Hampshire Bird Report 2008 and its quoted 41 autumn migrants shows the following seasonal pattern: 6 in August (22nd-30th, includes 2 adults), 2 in early September (1st-7th, 1 adult), 22 in mid-September (12th-20th, 5 juveniles), 8 in late September (21st-29th, 3 juveniles, 1 adult) and 2 in October (2nd-8th). That makes 40 actually but maybe the one displaying bird on 22/8 has been discounted! Number initially reported on Birdguides for Hampshire was only 20 (1 August, 11 mid-September, 5 late September and 3 October) so this is one area where Birdguides has substantially under-recorded. It does surprise me in county reports how many accepted individuals are not aged. But juveniles do appear to feature relatively well from 12th September. Feeling is that adults in the UK movement crossed the southern North Sea moving SE while many juveniles plodded on S passing over the south coast, because that is where their instinct takes them. The peak Honey Buzzard passage as usual coincided with large hirundine movements: 95% of migrating Swallow were recorded in September, with 73% in the middle third of the month and 64% from 13th-17th alone. Real exodus of House Martin began on 12th September but with a later peak from 23rd-26th September. Autumn passage for Meadow Pipit started on 13th September. So the peak Honey Buzzard movement coincides with strong movement of other UK-breeding insectivores, as in 2000. This report has much good analysis in it: very useful. I’m not going to be so complimentary on another report, from RBBP, which we’re going to look at next! Went to primary care centre and discussed vaccinations: do I need Hepatitis B? No I’m not that f..king crazy in sub-Saharan Africa! No jabs as vaccinations all still valid. Anti-malarials are a problem as some of areas to be visited are low risk and others very high risk. Think will take them throughout though they can cost £3 a pill. About to conclude safari arrangements in Tanzania with own driver for 5 days. Very sorry to hear of Ethiopian Airlines crash – they’ve a good record overall. Got 6 flights currently lined-up: 2 Virgin (long-haul, London-Nairobi return), 2 Kenya Airways (medium-haul, Nairobi-Addis Ababa return) and 2 Ethiopia Airlines (short-haul, Addis-Gondar, Lalibela-Addis). Going by bus from Nairobi-Arusha return. Lunchtime in Hexham was lovely: the fanciable one looked very beautiful!! In afternoon did tetrad NY75S for winter atlas. This is in the West Allen valley just upstream of Whitfield Hall. Had 3 Common Buzzard (video), which were obviously escaping for a bit of peace from shooting parties and their long lines of vehicles. Just before the close season starts (2/2) there’s an explosion in shooting activity! Had 18 species overall with snow retreating to the high moors. Near Stublick chimney 2 greyhens were feeding on birch trees: it’s been a very good week for Black Grouse with 5 seen – 3 greyhen, 2 black cock. Tomorrow going to Hexham for lunch and Riding Mill for dinner, so might pop into the Welli later!! faswtgo!!!

January 24th: very interested in Hampshire Bird Report 2008, which I’ve purchased. Can make interesting comparisons of New Forest in 2008 with SW Northumberland in 2009, for instance Goshawk 10 pairs raising 21 young, + 2 single adults in New Forest (10 sites in SW Northumberland in 2009, breeding confirmed at 2, raising only 3 young); Common Buzzard 70 territories with only 18 successful raising 21 young (75 tetrads in 2009, much higher productivity, rabbits are a plague species in game rearing areas as their predators are eliminated); Honey Buzzard 8 pairs located of which 5 bred raising 9 young, other 3 did not attempt to breed, singles at 3 other sites away from the Forest (39 sites with 37 pairs in 2009 raising 67 young). On a broader basis Red Kite in Hampshire had 7 pairs mostly in the NW (3 in SW Northumberland); Sparrowhawk 13 sites in the New Forest with 41 confirmed/probable elsewhere (24 tetrads in SW Northumberland); Kestrel was confirmed breeding in 24 tetrads and was probable in 81 tetrads (41 tetrads in SW Northumberland); and Hobby was 9 pairs confirmed with 7 raising 13 young, pairs in 30 further sites and singles in 32 (15 sites in SW Northumberland, confirmed at 2, probable at 7). Major differences are, from New Forest perspective, much better productivity for Goshawk, much lower productivity for Common Buzzard and lower population and productivity for Honey Buzzard. These differences might be attributed to the intensity of game management, which is surely higher in Northumberland. If you’re part of the in-crowd then your population can rise enormously as competing species decline and prey is freely available. If you’re on the outside, you’ve had it. Also thought table on p.83 summarising totals of migratory species by year was worthwhile. Honey Buzzard came in as 124 migrants in 2000 and 43 in 2008; the lower figure for 2008 is due to the large movement that year going E across the southern North Sea to Benelux. Spent ages at LD trying to get donated computer bits to work — failure to connect to Internet was found to be due to the TCP/IP cable not being plugged in! Printer was more of a challenge – downloaded driver from Internet but printer thinks it’s got ink and computer disagrees suggesting blocked jets – could save a lot of time by looking for a skip! Enjoyed Globe with lovely service from j and good crack; later romantic thoughts increase!!! Tomorrow collecting Malarone prescription early on from clinic which will cash in at lunchtime in Hexham. Then may do a bit more atlas work. Sweet dreams!!

January 23rd: did winter atlas square NY84C at Coalcleugh at top of West Allen from 12:10-14:30. Enormous drifts still at this altitude of 555m but managed 4 species: Red Grouse (14), Red-legged Partridge (2), Stock Dove (3), Starling (17). The snow clearance must have been a major problem with snow by side of road 2 metres high (1  2  3) in places. Did not leave the roads. Tracks were still deep in snow and there were very large drifts in places on the fell but bare patches meant the Red Grouse were coping. This house for sale might have looked quite magical in June but at least it’s close to the road! Allen is good for Black Grouse and had this greyhen (1  2  3) on a fence SW of Allendale and 2 black cocks on hawthorns near Stublick. Made Hexham later for Nero and to catch up on shopping; good to see jand a! Had a Sparrowhawk over Battle Hill. Later caught up on a bit of culture by watching Wagner’s Götterdämmerung Act I from the Met on DVD at home: it’s about 2 hours long so almost as long as some complete operas and there’s still 2 acts to go, making total time of just under 5 hours. Love the dark and brooding emotions of Act I punctuated by brief passages of great ecstasy: evidently such high creativity in the composer may well result from manic depression. Anyway it’s certainly the dark side! Booking up with Nick hotels in Isle of Man for late May: think we’ll stay at Glen Sulby and Langness; the latter has a lighthouse with a famous owner by the name of Clarkson who is in a very long-running dispute with dog walkers, with nobody backing down! Got receipt for game lodge, now need to arrange some transport. Tomorrow it’s official opening of LD campaign centre in Corbridge at 14:00 and much later will be at Globe. xxx!!

January 22nd: much more of a social day. Funeral had theme of celebration rather than sadness and enjoyed visit to Dipton Mill: suggested by gthat I should add this to my weekly tour! Went straight from Mill to the Globe where plenty of good company. After more informed view at 17:25 the answer to last week’s quiz is the ghs!! Did make Hexham for lunch, visiting library first, then Nero where good to see j. Walk past was so good; also pleased to see later that gpsis brushing up her Mandarin!! Don’t talk about the markets – shares down 2.7% on week but still 4.3% up on year, compared to -2.8 and -2.0 for FTSE for same periods. Getting more bearish – don’t like political point scoring by Obama on banks when main agenda should be to keep the recovery going – now up to 108k in bonds and holding more cash, having taken profits on 2 tranches of Taylor Wimpey in past 2 weeks. Liked this post on a banking forum. It’ll be halves this weekend! Welli was closed with plumbing problem so slummed it in the Dyvels. Seriously would like to vary Friday pub a little from Welli from time to time and Dyvels would be a popular choice. Tomorrow might do moorland atlas square before making Hexham later.

January 21st: after yesterday’s easy success, today was much more of the struggle typically associated with the species. Tried woodland adjacent to Plenmeller Common and searched all the way along moorland edge, such as here, without finding any nests of anything. This is not too much of a surprise as the moorland edge is exposed. Need to search the lower parts of the wood I think. Flushed a Woodcock from moorland edge and found another one as a kill. Also flushed 2 Woodcock yesterday at the wood near Wylam. Today the sun was shining and definitely stronger and it’s very shortly off to the Tap!! Met colleagues there for first time for a while. Enjoyed evening including exit: sweet dreams!!! Pounced on return flights from Lalibela-Addis Ababa: the web site of Ethiopian Airlines has been updated with just the flight we wanted. Saves hours on a dusty road. Tomorrow no field work, Hexham for lunch, funeral in ‘Shire of Denise Baxter, wake at Dipton Mill, tea at Globe and supper at Welli. Quite busy!

January 20th: great day in Tyne Valley east with last season’s Honey Buzzard nest found after 90 minutes search at 13:30 (1  2  3  4  5); an earlier nest was found nearby. The nest used last year is in fine condition, particularly as it must have been covered by 15-20 cm of snow. Situation is somewhat similar to that of a couple of nests in the Devil’s Water, being in Scots Pine perched up a little from a ravine. So piece of p.ss really! But of course I have watched the birds here over a few seasons and seen where they go. The ravines are useful to them as they can give approach routes to the nest well under the canopy. Access was a little more fraught than expected – it certainly isn’t a public amenity wood with shooting interests holding sway and had one or two close brushes with keepers, having to hide behind a tree at one point! Maybe it’s better outside the shooting season, which finishes on 31/1. Another challenge was cat vaccination; she led me a right dance in the kitchen but was charming with the male vet who thought she was very healthy and went ahead with the jab, which cost a bargain £46. Booster later on is free. So then rushed cat home and went to Nero followed by Globe for a very relaxing early evening!! Tomorrow will start looking for a Honey Buzzard nest in lower South Tyne. It’s vital to do such work in the winter as once the season starts, there’s no time.

January 19th: planning to visit Tyne Valley east tomorrow to walk through selected wood to try and find last year’s nest or at least where the big birds hang out! Visit to LBG went well, managed to get an hour discussing plans with sales and mortgage managers, with wealth manager duly dismissed. It’s better evidently to re-mortgage current house than take out BTL mortgage as latter is more expensive and more restrictive. With the former can basically do what I like with the flat, which suits! Need to get a fixed-rate deal before rates rise. So might start looking around soon – hope it doesn’t offend but not planning to deal with people who know too much about me: that’s not good business style. Taking cat Cleo in for vaccination tomorrow afternoon to Orchard Place; giving other cat Leo a free transfer as he’s 2- or even 3-timing me. Don’t know whether to take her to the Globe: she’s very cuddly! I’m being done next Monday but only for anti-malaria now – no jabs as evidently up to date on everything.

January 18th: still thinking about likely nest locations for Derwent and lower South Tyne. Former is rather strictly keepered and they’re only 3 sites in latter. Visited Hexham for lunch, preferred morning attire as that confirmed earlier view but always got a soft spot for green!! Know snow is boring now but documented peak day at Ordley on 7/1 with 2×4 Ka covered, high depth on undisturbed roof of shed and on house, extreme depth on tree tops and view of Slaley Forest. Nick sent me 2 photos from his area on 1/1 with one of Bywell and another of Stocksfield (turn right for paradise!!). Snowdrops are starting to peer through today – marvellous! Got meeting with LBG tomorrow at 11:00 to discuss BTL mortgages and need to visit Hospital to complete a travel questionnaire. Also have to get cats vaccinated before they go on holiday. Will make Welli for quiz – need to get on top of 1 or 2 things!! Don’t think Lamb Shield road is completely safe yet.

January 17th: decided against moorland walk on practicality and went down to the Spetchells to look for Red Kite and view possible Honey Buzzard nest locations. So this looks promising for a nest location in Tyne Valley east with fine river views: 1  2  3. Meets criteria below and added to the list for next season! Only raptor seen was a territorial male Goshawk so this looks a very promising area for this species this year. Globe was very good – superb service from a!! See they’ve got a surveillance camera on my exit from the Globe now – whatever next!! Still certainly enjoyed exit – very rousing!! Tomorrow cleaners are here sometime and need to make a number of arrangements; it’s t-19 and counting! But hope to make Hexham for lunch: with improved weather might get there a bit earlier. Made LD campaign meeting at new premises in Corbridge in Watling Street at 18:30. This is a regular date up until the election – I’m data manager responsible for EARS and things like mailing selections and Black IPs. Anyway it’s top secret! Actually went on Lamb Shield interchange to get to Corbridge, first time for a month, and it was still covered in sheet ice. faswtgo!!!

January 16th: back from week in Devon, seeing family. Very good to see them all again! Piccies to follow. Flew down with Flybe from Newcastle-Exeter, hired Chevrolet from Avis and stayed with mum from 9th-14th. She was very poorly at start but we finally appear to have sorted out medicines and changed those with very undesirable side effects so she was much improved by the end. Lady doctor from weekend service Devon Doctors was very effective. Afraid all too familiar in dealing with medical services. Flybe coped well on 9/1 but the roads early morning in Hexham area were very bad as council stopped gritting: had to take a major run at Newbiggin bank in ‘Shire and must have had at least 5 slides by time got to top. Fortunately had road to myself. Managed some time for birdwatching with trips to Dawlish sea front, Teignmouth and Aylsebeare Common. Weather was icy at start and was interested to see how Devon CC would cope with heavy wet snow on 12/1. Well I’ve noted before how Telegraph Hill does not seem to have any precautionary gritting and the same thing happened with drivers stuck for hours in jams on Haldon (pronounced halldun), stretching right back to Exeter. So they didn’t: absolute chaos! Did make Ideford Common on Haldon on 13/1 and quite large amounts of wet snow remained but did see 2 Dartford Warblers that had survived the cold spell. Weather was dull after the snow but temperatures quickly rose to around 8ºC. Days are longer down here at 8 hours 30 minutes with sunrise 8:08, sunset 16:38 and altitude of sun 18.4º. In Newcastle figures are 7 hours 50 minutes, 8:21, 16:11 and 14.1º respectively. Provisional total for raptors was 9 of 5 species with 3 Common Buzzard, 2 Kestrel and Peregrine and single Tawny Owl and Sparrowhawk. The best birdwatching trip was to the Turf on Exe Estuary on 14/1 where had 47 species. Stayed with younger sister from 14/1-16/1 and took family out for meal on evening 14/1 at Swan’s Nest, Exminster. Used Dawlish library and mobile for Internet access while at mum’s but sister has wireless broadband. Shares up 0.03% on the week (enough to pay for the meal!), not bad as main indices fell 1.5%. Share changes quoted are always unitised, that is based on changes in realisable value/amount invested, as amount invested varies. Strategy is to look for healing in the economy rather than a rapid recovery, hence interest in bank bonds with 101k now in these (30% of total). Been thinking about property a bit more; when time is ripe, why not buy 2 flats on 50% mortgages? Get some gearing! And lastly looking forward to being back in Northumberland with its beautiful ladies!! xx

Well back to Nero this afternoon!! Tomorrow expect to do some winter atlas work in the slush on the moors. But will make Nero towards sunset and the Globe much later. Looking forward to these!! Actually met j in her double life at the Airport!! Not seeing LBG on Tuesday – but I’ll try and stay on good terms. But really …

January 15th: final Honey Buzzard sites processed with Derwenttotals as 6 sites, 6 breeding; 12 adults (6 male, 6 female); no nests; juvs fledged: 4×2, 2×1+, total 10+; no post-breeding gangs or migrants. Incidentally notation _ signifies a wild character, well hopefully anyway, as in cards!! It’s a programming convention. Wondering what the answer is to last week’s quiz question!! Summary table for all areas is produced below. This table has also been added to the Northumberland page for Honey Buzzards. Next step is to write a brief commentary and update the introduction to the RBBP report. So era of 2009 draws to a close; wonder what 2010 will bring! Maybe not repeatable here!!

Area

No. sites

No. ad-ults

No. nests

Breeding Category

Number young fledged

Gangs of juveniles post-breeding

Nests found in

Conf

Prob

Poss

Devil’s Water

6

12

3

6

0

0

12 (6×2)

1 (6)

Scots Pine (2), Norway Spruce

Allen

7

14

2

7

0

0

13 (6×2, 1×1)

1 (5)

Norway Spruce, Oak

Upper South Tyne

6

12

2

6

0

0

10 (4×2, 2×1+)

1 (6)

Norway Spruce, Birch

Lower South Tyne

3

6

0

3

0

0

6 (3×2)

0

Tyne

11

17

3

9

0

2

16 (7×2, 2×1+)

1 (6)

Scots Pine (2), Norway Spruce

Derwent

6

12

0

6

0

0

10 (4×2, 2×1+)

0

Total

39

73

10

37

0

2

67 (30×2, 6×1+, 1×1)

4 (23)

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

Results for the Honey Buzzard Breeding Season in Northumberland by area in 2009

January 14th: 34 out of 40 processed now so almost finished, just Derwent to do. Latest area final total is TyneValley11 sites, 9 breeding, 2 failures; 17 adults (8 male, 9 female); 3 nests Scots Pine (2), Norway Spruce; juvs fledged: 7×2, 2×1+, 2×0, total 16+; post-breeding gang 1 of 6 juveniles, 1 migrant. Planning next season to divide Tyne Valley, current largest, into two areas: Tyne Valley West covering the Tyne from Tyne Meet west of Hexham to Stocksfield and Tyne Valley East covering the Tyne east of Stocksfield including Prudhoe and Wylam. Besides the size of the current Tyne Valley area, another reason for the split is the difference in habitat with the eastern part being more built up and closer to the sea, both factors which warrant investigation as they might reduce breeding success on current knowledge. On last season’s data Tyne Valley Westwould be 8 sites, 7 breeding, 1 failure; 13 adults (6 male, 7 female); 3 nests Scots Pine (2), Norway Spruce; juvs fledged: 6×2, 1×1+, 1×0, total 13+; post-breeding gang 1 of 6 juveniles, 1 migrant and Tyne Valley East3 sites, 2 breeding, 1 failure; 4 adults (2 male, 2 female); no nests; juvs fledged: 1×2, 1×1+, 1×0, total 3+; no post-breeding gangs or migrants. Tyne Valley East is also the focus of the Red Kite colonisation so more coverage would be useful and ideally a Honey Buzzard nest should be found in each area; this is done currently except for the lower South Tyne and Derwent. Choosing a wood in which to find a nest requires some thought: needs to be accessible, not too private and not too well policed with ideally a public footpath entrance at some point! Looking for some more inspiration in a couple of days from the g_s!!

January 13th: 26 out of 40 processed now and just minor adjustments made so far. Final area totals are Allen 8 sites, 7 breeding; 14 adults (7 male, 7 female); 2 nests Norway Spruce, Oak; juvs fledged: 6×2, 1×1, total 13; post-breeding gang 1 of 5 juveniles, no migrants. Lower South Tyne 3 sites, 3 breeding; 6 adults (3 male, 3 female); no nests; juvs fledged: 3×2, total 6; no post-breeding gangs, 1 migrant. Upper South Tyne 7 sites, 6 breeding; 12 adults (6 male, 6 female); 2 nests Norway Spruce, Birch; juvs fledged: 4×2, 2×1+, total 10+; post-breeding gang 1 of 6 juveniles, 2 migrants. Devil’s Water 7 sites, 6 breeding; 12 adults (6 male, 6 female); 3 nests Scots Pine, Norway Spruce (2); juvs fledged: 6×2, total 12; post-breeding gang 1 of 6 juveniles, no migrants. Ethiopia looked good on BBC4 programme last night: great history and vultures over Gondar! Great pity couldn’t make quiz, hope it happened this week and the C U Next Tuesdays did well!! Will make next 3.

January 12th: 21 out of 40 provisional results for Honey Buzzard sites now checked and Devil’s Water, the first area to be finished, confirmed for breeding as 6 sites,12 adults (6 male,6 female), 3 nests in Scots Pine x 2, Norway Spruce, 6×2 juvs fledged, total 12. While checking, am writing final report for RBBP as a condition of disturbance license.

January 11th: processed results for 10 out of 40 Honey Buzzard sites; one change from provisional results will be a reduction in sites in lower South Tyne from 4 to 3 as it looks as if an old site in the Allen cannot be safely separated from a new site in the lower South Tyne. So lower South Tyne becomes 3,6 (3,3), 3×2 juvs fledged and grand total becomes 39, 74 (37,37), 31×2, 6×1+ juvs fledged, total 37 broods of 68+ juvs fledged. This change had been anticipated a while ago and shows need for care in interpreting results at sites where only records are late in season. To the missed lovelies of the county xxxxxxxx♂♂xxxxxxx!!

January 9th: well spinning off to my roots! Processed results for 10 out of 40 Honey Buzzard sites; one change from provisional results will be a reduction in sites in lower South Tyne from 4 to 3 as it looks as if an old site in the Allen cannot be safely separated from a new site in the lower South Tyne. So lower South Tyne becomes 3,6 (3,3), 3×2 juvs fledged and grand total becomes 39, 74 (37,37), 31×2, 6×1+ juvs fledged, total 37 broods of 68+ juvs fledged. This change had been anticipated a while ago and shows need for care in interpreting results at sites where only juveniles seen late in season.

January 8th: very cold but no more snow until 23:00 when coming back from Welli, where met other LD activist Philip — others wimped off! Earlier in Globe which was very lively – Welli was same evidently with people choosing to go out earlier and come back earlier. Might make this a regular scenario with fish and chips in between from Priestlands to keep it healthy. Did make Hexham for lunch, where had lively company of jfor a while at Nero!! ghsand gpslooked very fit and intelligent!! But context of former may not have been ideal! Now to get down to Honey Buzzard breeding totals for Northumberland for 2009. Booked Addis Ababa-Gondar flights but return from Lalibela is a problem as connections available do not synchronise. Good start to investments in 2010 with gain of 7.2% in first week from 31/12/09 levels. Lloyds have made another effort at subscribing me to their wealth management by arranging a meeting for 19/1. Will think of some excuse – no point in paying people a lot of money to invest in SWIP (Scottish Widow portfolios), which in turn have their own charges. Lapses wx2. First post of the week received at 15:00 today – what a hero!

January 7th: greetings from ice planet Hoth. Snow lying on ground continuously now since 17/12, that’s 22 days, and quite unusually snow has fallen every day. Still Honey Buzzard like a continental climate! LD meeting cancelled this evening so things must be bad and staying in for a change. Salt works on the road by lowering the temperature at which water freezes. The colder the weather though the more concentrated the salt solution has to be to melt ice. Below 0ºFahrenheit salt will not melt ice, no matter how much is used (that’s Fahrenheit’s definition of 0º). For practical purposes the salt does not have the intended effect much below about 20ºF (-6ºCelsius) so roads will turn icy tonight even if gritted. Aren’t scientists boring? Really enjoyed visit to Hexham at lunchtime, after exhilarating digging out of drive and entrance. Difficult to say what’s the answer to the quiz with such impressive contenders: what a lovely parade past Nero!!! Laughed for 5 minutes, people in Caffè obviously think I’m insane. But who cares? Tomorrow to Hexham midday and may go to Globe early evening as not sure Welli crowd will turn up. Was hoping to watch Gulls but game is postponed already. Son has booked hotels (midrange), 4×4 vehicle hire (including driver) and 3-day trek in Ethiopia. I’m booking a couple of internal flights from Addis Ababa-Gondar and Lalibela-Addis Ababa. There’s not much more to do – just vaccination check (yellow fever needed I think), anti-malaria pills, cattery, hotels for transit in Nairobi and travel Nairobi-Ngorongoro and back. Visas can be bought at borders (for $). faswtgo!!!

January 6th: and now here are the Honey Buzzard migrant totals for 2009. Table below shows the visible migration noted in 2009, together with comments on the overall picture.

Date Time Locality Age/Sex Count Movement
14 Sept 15:30 Warden (lower South Tyne) Adult female 1 Drifting S under low cloud
17 Sept 13:15-13:25 March Burn (Tyne Valley) Adult female 1 soaring to great height eventually flying around in base of grey cloud and disappearing to sight to SE
20 Sept 12:54 Barhaugh Hall

(upper South Tyne)

Juvenile 1 on migration, coming high from N, reaching bottom of glide near observer and then gliding a short way S before soaring very high to SE
26 Sept 11:45 Bywell

(Tyne Valley)

Juvenile 3 total 6 in funnel of which 3 went high into sun S as migrants and never seen again; 2 moved W at moderate altitude to feed and did not apparently migrate and one went back into regular wood; at 12:00 this weakest juvenile was still over this wood
15 Nov 10:40-10:45 Snope Burn

(upper South Tyne)

Juvenile 1 up over Eals Fell gliding around, then flew off S purposefully up the upper South Tyne valley
Summary/

Comments:

         
Sept: 6

Nov: 1

10-11: 1

11-12: 3

12-13: 1

13-14: 1

15-16: 1

 

Tyne Valley: 4

upper South Tyne: 2

lower south Tyne: 1

 

Ad female: 2

Juvenile: 5

7

 

IN: none

OUT: 5 S, 2 SE

Most records are for migrating juveniles, hence late in season from 14/9-26/9 with late record on 15/11 Mid-morning is always a good time for aerial activity in this species Tyne Valley was again good this year; upper South Tyne is rewarding considering smaller amount of time spent there Juveniles are weaker fliers, so more obvious A much lower total than in 2008 In autumn birds tend to go S/SE

Visible Migration Movements noted for Honey Buzzard in SW Northumberland in 2009

This table is also on the Honey Buzzard Northumberland page as Figure 8. It obviously does not include the Cumbria migrant juvenile seen on 18/10. So that just leaves the Honey Buzzard breeding figures, which will sort out when watching the soaps in Devon! Then it’s into 2010 NB. Weather gets worse – snow up to 25cm now outside and had to dig my way into yard when coming off road tonight. The plough had pushed a lot of snow into the entrance – not grumbling, they’re doing a great job. Fortunately yard is only a few metres from the road: people with long drives may be regretting it. Both Newcastle and Exeter airports were closed today. Did quite a lot of shopping at Waitrose and posted a number of important documents. Very good to see gps at her post: such lovely is!! Didn’t see ghs but sensed she was around somewhere!! Globe was very sociable if depleted: windows steamed up alas. Tomorrow may get in earlier, weather permitting. There’s a LD exec meeting in Corbridge at new campaign office in evening. faswtgo!!!

January 5th: with the mystery bird out of the way, published final UK totals for Honey Buzzard for 2009. Summary reads:

Overall:the third best year to date with 335 individuals recorded, confirming the rapid increase in numbers of Honey Buzzard on migration in the UK. Monthly totals for May and August broke previous records and that for June equalledthe previous record. September usually gives the peak count for the year and this held this year with 117 noted, the fourth highest for this month. Regionally as is often the case (but not last year) SE England had the highest annual total of 99 followed by East Anglia (54) and NE England (41). Fourth place though was a new development with the Channel Islands recording 38 birds, mainly in August and September. The Honey Buzzard has increased dramatically in this area, presumably because of the increased frequency of birds crossing the Channel from Sussex/Hampshire/Isle of Wight to Normandy. In 2009 in Northumberland the breeding season was very productive, well synchronised and late, thus giving 3 of the 4 conditions necessary for a very visible exit. But the weather facilitated a clean exit of the birds, so visible migration was not as obvious as in 2008.

Made Durham to see Mike as planned: had a productive session, getting a presentation ready for a conference in Bulgaria. Journey in was very interesting for passing gpsin the car and seeing gwson the train! More snow overnight and a few slides getting up to Loughbrow: was brought up in the Haltwhistle school of 1970s. Broke New Year resolution at 16:40, well lasted 5 days!!! Later to Nero where good to see jand a! Durham was pretty chaotic – not much gritting in evidence. We get gritted twice a day on the relatively minor C road in the ‘Shire: think must be some influential people on the route (not me!). Made Welli later but quiz abandoned through bad weather! Pity as will not be there next week. Stopped for a couple and then back through Hexham in the slush: ..ddles!! Tomorrow more laid back: Globe looks likely as usual but will make Hexham mid-afternoon! Generally tend to monitor shares and financial affairs mid-morning from 10:30-11:30. Banks are doing well!

January 4th: a summary of the totals for all raptors in the study area for the 3 years 2007-2009 and any apparent trend is given below

Species

2007

2008

2009

Trend/

Total species

Tetrads No birds (min) Tetrads No birds (min) Tetrads No birds (min)

Common Buzzard

Buteo buteo

71

223

73

210

75

213

Stable

Honey Buzzard

Pernis apivorus

35

80

41

135

45

161

Increasing

Kestrel

Falco tinnunculus

55

90

55

109

41

83

Uncertain

Sparrowhawk

Accipiter nisus

36

54

28

44

24

30

Declining

Hobby

Falco subbuteo

19

30

17

23

17

25

Stable

Goshawk

Accipiter gentilis

19

22

17

17

12

14

Declining

Red Kite

Milvus milvus

5

5

14

28

10

18

Uncertain

Peregrine Falcon

Falco peregrinus

8

9

3

4

4

5

Uncertain

Merlin

Falco columbarius

5

5

8

11

3

3

Uncertain

Osprey

Pandion haliaetus

2

2

0

0

1

1

Migrant

Hen Harrier

Circus cyaneus

0

0

0

0

1

1

Almost extinct

Rough-legged Buzzard

Buteo lagopus

0

0

1

1

0

0

Irruptive visitor

Total species

10

9

11

Stable

(12 overall)

Totals

255

520

257

582

232

553

Stable

Analysis of Records for Raptors collected by NR in Northumberland from 2007-2009: ordered by number of tetrads in which found in 2009.

Of course 3 years is not long enough to produce reliable trends but the detailed studies described elsewhere for Honey Buzzard, Hobby, Goshawk and Red Kite, do provide a longer perspective. At present it appears that the Honey Buzzard is the only species increasing, but this is of course the top priority species. The figure do suggest that if you’re a ‘buzzard’ in game rearing areas, you’ll be welcome, or at least tolerated. Attitudes to other large raptors are more uncertain. It’s hoped that the Kestrel figure this year is a blip: figures have been low nationally for this species in 2009. The Sparrowhawk has become more restricted to suburban/urban areas in recent years. The Red Kite picture is one of disappointment after colonisationstarted so well in 2007/2008. Peregrine Falcon and Hen Harrier are proscribed, alas. The Merlin is very much understudied because its habitat has so little overlap with that of Honey Buzzard. Further details for each year can be found at annual totals. A link to this page has been set-up on the main index page under Other Raptors.

Visited Hexham where very good to see ghshard at it again and jat Nero!! Then to Haltwhistle to see old friend r: she thinks I ought to move back there! Then lock of Ka passenger door became jammed with the door open and couldn’t close it. What a sod! Tied it up and in the dark drove home where hot water, WD40 and pressure from 2 screwdrivers finally freed it. What elation at sorting it out! Yesterday back door became jammed and needed hot water and a plane to sort it out. The ice on the step was like permafrost. No sign of a let up in the icy weather but at least the light is very bright, which suits me. Paid for air travel and lodge, latter via SWIFT, costing a cool £20. Still suppose it’s a good cause – LBG in Hexham. So VF duties tomorrow but should be back in Hexham later in the afternoon and may even get to Welli in evening.

January 3rd: did make Wylam and had 4 species of raptor in the eastern Tyne Valley: Red Kite (2 in video), Goshawk, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. The Red Kite were at their base camp around Sled Lane and thought an adult and first-winter were hunting. The Goshawk was a male seen briefly over Wylam Station. Two other Red Kite sites around Wylam are shown here: Horsley Wood and Close House. People in Wylam seemed very excited about the snow – good to see! But of course the ones out and revelling in it are not a representative sample. At Ordley more snow fell but some compaction so depth reduced to 15cm. A lot of spin on Newbiggin bank this morning coming out! Days are getting longer: 7 hours 20 minutes today with sunset 15:51 out by 12 minutes (better) since the solstice and sunrise 08:31 2 minutes later (worse) than at solstice. The movements are not symmetrical: workers who curse the reluctance of mornings to get lighter are right! Angle of sun is 12.2º, too weak to do much. Booked flights from Nairobi – Addis Ababa return to give 12 days in Ethiopia and game lodge at Ngorongoro, Tanzania, for 6 days. There’s also 2 days in Nairobi to sort out and transfers between Nairobi and the game lodge. Fancy a visit to the Giraffe Sanctuary in Nairobi for one day, very good raptor list for Ngong Forest. Tonite in Globe was very good: ais very appealing!! Well worth the crawl through the icy wastes of the ‘Shire. Going to Durham to see Mike on Tuesday by train. Tomorrow will catch up with a number of things!

January 2nd: the totals for 2009 for all raptors are shown here

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

75

193

213

6=

1

2

1

1

Honey Buzzard

45

133

161

1

0

0

0

0

Kestrel

41

81

83

6=

0

0

0

0

Sparrowhawk

24

29

30

6=

1

1

2

2

Hobby

17

23

25

2

0

0

0

0

Goshawk

12

14

14

3=

0

0

0

0

Red Kite

10

16

18

3=

0

0

1

1

Peregrine Falcon

4

4

5

6=

0

0

0

0

Merlin

3

3

3

5

0

0

0

0

Osprey

1

1

1

6=

0

0

0

0

Hen Harrier

1

1

1

6=

0

0

0

0

Analysis of Records for Raptors collected by NR in Northumberland in 2009: ordered by number of tetrads in which found, then by number of records, then by number of birds.

Common Buzzard continue to prosper with no obvious gaps in their distribution or in their breeding success. So Honey Buzzard move into second place but would expect Kestrel to hold this position if it were the top priority species. Kestrel were definitely more difficult to find this year so the decline is real but whether it’s a trend is uncertain at this stage. It’s a bit more debatable whether there are actually more Sparrowhawk than Honey Buzzard. Because the former are recorded through the whole year and conspicuously at bird tables in the winter, I do not think they are so under-recorded. Hobby maintained their position but breeding success appeared to be poor. Goshawk declined further in numbers but there was some breeding success this year. Red Kite retreated back towards their core area around Wylam. Peregrine Falcon attempted to breed but failed: this is a very scarce bird in the area. Less summer visits to the moors lowered the numbers of Merlin found. Osprey must be a candidate for colonisationwith the success at Kielder this year. Hen Harrier is just about locally extinct. More details may be found for particular species at Honey Buzzard, Hobby, Goshawk and Red Kite.

Tried out new weapon today – hähnel Pro Remote Control — wireless control for Canon 400D. It works from quite a range, both for single shooting and more usefully for continuous shooting. Can leave camera set-up below a nest and when the bird returns, from around 100m away on remote give short press for focus and continual depression for continuous shooting to capture the bird as it lands on the nest. Well that’s the theory! Would need to turn shutter noise off I think. My daughter, who gave it to me, said it had many other uses but can’t think what! Made Hexham today by car at noon – best time for travelling as weak sun still makes some impression. Snow on road was a little soft so the mighty Ka could plough through it; depth on field at home is now 18cm. Good to meet dynamic j again in Nero! Think favourite group at moment is Black IPs – must be a codeword for hackers. Like some of the poses in Meet Me ½ Way. Will go looking for Red Kite tomorrow in Wylam; weather hardly suited for moorland visits. And then Nero and later Globe as usual.

January 1st 2010: Happy New Year and New Decade! Finalising 2009 records and have made a decision on the mystery bird in the upper South Tyne on 15/11. It’s a juvenile Honey Buzzard. The jizz in the video is perfect for this assignment, having buoyant flight with no real wing flaps in 5 minutes, long narrow tail, small head, long neck, fine bill, S-shape to trailing edge, carpal joint pushed well forward in glide and relatively long P10 (=P5). The very determined move S is also consistent with a migrating Honey Buzzard. It’s a juvenile as structural features are not as pronounced as in an adult and there is very extensive black on the primary tips and on the wing linings. This still (no 14 below) shows many of the features. The neck is fairly thick in some stills but this simply means the bird has a full crop and has not been fasting: it’s the length of the neck that’s diagnostic not its width. The timing coincides with the few days when the wasp population was finally capitulating for the season at Ordley: last seen 13/11, none present on ivy on 17/11. There is one other November record for Honey Buzzard in the study area on 8/11/1998 at almost exactly the same spot, which was the first site colonised in the 1990s so presumably a very good feeding area for the species. The videos and stills have been re-labelled as hb with serial number 520 and the links below adjusted. Snow has been heavy overnight and today, with about 15cm of new snow by 17:00 on an icy base. Road has been barely passable so New Year events = 0! But at least the power is on – that’s the real sod when that goes! Went for walk in afternoon to Letah Wood – very beautiful. Honey Buzzard sites 1  2 and feeding areas in Dipton Wood 1  2 contrasted well with snow. West Dipton Burn looked like a postcard. Reed Bunting are quite rare in the ‘Shire so this female was interesting. Also had first Common Buzzard and Kestrel of the year. Snow at home is illustrated by these 2 shots of Lee Grange 1  2. Watched all of Parsifal, a 5-hour opera by Wagner, tonight on DVD – that’s a good snowed-in activity. Will make Hexham tomorrow, even if I have to walk it – it’s only 5km. Answer, in Private Eye, to yesterday’s quiz perhaps not surprisingly is Terry Wogan, but the reason — he’s the only one witha banking qualification! New Year’s resolution is to stop being so fascinated by tits!!

December 31st 2009: end of the year – it’s been another very good one for Honey Buzzard in Northumberland (and UK as witnessed by migration totals – third highest). Not produced the final report yet – leave that to visit to Devon coming up soon – but around 40 sites were occupied and many raised 2 young. Fortunes for other raptors were mixed; the usual annual totals for all raptors will be published in the next few days. There is no doubt that Honey Buzzard find the study area very attractive. This I attribute to the game rearing, which provides a less-intensive cultivation and heather moorland, both suited to high insect populations and wildlife in general. The game interests do not persecute ‘buzzards’ so the Honey Buzzard have no real predators except for Goshawk, whose numbers are kept in check by said interests. Migration routes are straight-forward, with easy crossing due S in autumn from Sussex/Hampshire/Isle of Wight to Normandy, a journey well documented in the Channel Islands this year. So it’s a charmed life! Travel was also good this year with the highlight being an almost 3-week trip to India in January, delivering 1208 raptors of 27 taxon. The 2010 notice board will not start until after 2009 reports have been finalised.

Snow resumed today and quite a cover again early evening at Ordley, on top of residual frozen slush. Like grumbles in Courant about gritting in Argyle Street: I always find it a pleasure to walk down, like today!! Went to Nero, gave them annual tip for great service and pleased at a few other rendezvous! It’s a great pity some people have this week off!! Well, what a year financially – feeling that low interest rates and fall of the pound would prevent the housing market collapsing and would help the banks reduce their losses proved correct and personal investments rose 114% (i.e. more than doubled) on the year. Increase at end of August was even higher at 139% but risk aversion in the market has increased and have since re-positioned portfolio with a view to 2010/2011. Happy with recent data such as high savings rate (people are not spending but are not so badly off) and rise in commercial property prices, which will make the banks’ large losses here more manageable. So still going for housebuilding and banks but have moved some of the gains into bank preference shares for a punt over 2 years on restoring coupons. If Lloyds Banking Group goes bust, I’ve had it! But for the moment into 7 figures overall; do think that LBG is basically well run and will sort out the acquired HBOS mess successfully over the next 2 years. That’s the bet!! With reference to financials found this Hogmanay Quiz really funny. Who is the odd man out & and more importantly, why?

1. Lord Stevenson: former chairman, HBOS; 2. Sir Fred Goodwin: former chief executive, RBS; 3. Andy Hornby: former chief executive, HBOS; 4. Sir Tom McKillop: former chairman, RBS; 5. John McFall MP: chairman of Treasury Select Committee; 6. Alastair Darling: Chancellor of the Exchequer; 7. Gordon Brown: Prime Minister and former Chancellor; 8. Sir Terry Wogan: presenter of Radio 2’s Breakfast Show. Answer tomorrow!

December 30th: modified video 328 for Windermere on 13 June 2008 by 1) adding a new clip 328c showing a female Honey Buzzard gliding in typical pose, for example this still derived from it; 2) splitting the very long clip 328 showing 3 birds in territory into 2 clips 328a and 328b. There’s a bit more material to be added still from this visit. Can use Sony’s PMB to great effect in deriving stills from the HD clips at about 1MB each. Made Hexham for library, Nero and Globe; last named was as always very sociable. The gpslooked very efficient: she’d make someone a lovely PA!! Not sure what’s happening tomorrow evening – also invited to Globe. Will wait for a sign!! But will make Hexham for lunch.

December 29th: added number of videos and stills taken in Northumberland from 2008 and 2009 for Hobby and Goshawk to their respective pages. Family gone, last at 18:30 in blizzard. Indeed road conditions have been bad all day in the ‘Shire with accumulation of slush and ice, never coming to that much but also never relaxing its grip. Indeed late on passed 2 cars which were doing only 5 mph: it’s not good going that slowly, you get stuck! Did make Welli – must get priorities right – ghslooked marvellous and gps is very good at signalling in her smart car!! Might get there New Year’s Eve to celebrate a number of things but tomorrow it’s the Globe as usual! Fought off strenuously buying a flat in London – priorities are in the NE! That might disappoint a number of people eyeing up my bird of prey territories but …

December 28th: added data for 2006 for Red Kite in the study area to page for this species; just 2 sites were occupied at any time that year so much progress since then. Also added a number of videos and stills for Red Kite in Northumberland to the same page: very keen on consolidating material from this blog into a more classified form. Most of the material is for 2008 which is perhaps significant. Weather freezing all day in bright sunshine but remaining snow is reduced to about 4cm of frozen slush after yesterday’s partial thaw. Raging log fire brought this German Wasp queen 1  2 (no anchor or dagger mark on face) out of hibernation; put it in garden shed, don’t think it thanked me, but didn’t really fancy it crawling about on the floor! Went for walk in afternoon to Dotland with views of Honey Buzzard sites that would horrify their owners: 1  2. Lee Grange looked very wintry: house, trees and hedge on right are mine. To Travellers for another meal this evening – very enjoyable! Booked flights with Virgin from London to Nairobberi (and back!). Going for nearly 3 weeks. Next imminent stage is to book local return flights from Nairobi to Addis Ababa and game lodge in Tanzania.

December 27th: the worry for the Red Kite population in NE England is of course that it will become ring-fenced, as with the northern Scottish population, by hostile landowners. But it’s too early to think this yet; raptors do like to breed within wing-waving distance of each other so the concentration in the Derwent (Gateshead/Durham) is an obvious good start. New Red Kite page has been set up, accessible through home page. Snow started to thaw steadily midday but it then began to sleet in the afternoon. Made Nero at lunchtime: good to see j&a again! This evening made Globe a little earlier than usual as was collecting daughter later from evening out in Newcastle. Very good – nice service from j and free seasonal drink from landlord! Sadly the eyrie was empty!! Pizza Pizza seems to be centre of late-nite social life in Hexham.

December 26th: Red Kite is today’s story and after last year’s promise is a disappointment with a decline from 11 sites to 10, 19 adults to 13 and 4 confirmed sites to 2. On the plus side the concentration immediately around Wylam appears to have strengthened with 3 sites in the immediate area and a new site near Stocksfield at Apperley Dene was successful. But outliers have dissipated with no birds seen post-spring in the Allen or even in the Bradley Burn at the back of Prudhoe. The emerging Red Kite population in southern Northumberland is a spin-off from the Gateshead reintroduction programme.Northern Kitesreleased 20 kites in 2004, 41 kites in 2005 and 33 kites in 2006. 11 kites were born in the northeast in 2007, 10 of which have been wing-tagged. 22 kites were born in the northeast in 2008, 11 of which have been wing-tagged. At least 20 kites were born in the northeast in 2009, 4 of which were tagged. So the programme has been a success in the core area but to date only the Wylam area in Northumberland has been firmly colonised. It is probably fair to say that all raptor colonisations are protracted processes, partly because the new pairs are inexperienced and take time to be productive.

Area

No. sites

No. adults

Breeding Category

No. Juveniles fledged

Post-breeding sites

Conf

Prob

Poss

Devil’s Water

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Allen

1

1

0

0

1

0

0

Upper South Tyne

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Lower South Tyne

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Tyne

6

9

2

1

3

2

1

Derwent

3

3

0

0

3

0

0

Total

10

13

2

1

7

2

1

Breeding Data for Red Kite in SW Northumberland by area in 2009

Had very enjoyable Christmas with family: a white one with 15cm of lying snow and a few snow flakes falling in the evening. Went to church at Whitley Chapel in the morning – good for the soul and for meeting people! Today we walked the 1km to Travellers for long lunch. This picture shows looking back to Lee, where started from. Distance doesn’t sound much but it’s a steep dip into the Devil’s Water and sides were icy. Snow is still very picturesque and only slight thaw in weak midday sun. Bought new Sony DVD player in Argos in morning as range of tests showed it was the weakest link. Missing action elsewhere!!

December 24th: so higher Goshawk numbers in the nineties when coverage was poorer seems to say it all – Goshawk have definitely declined in the noughties, coinciding with an increase in Honey Buzzard and Hobby, partially driven by better coverage. Not sure what this week’s quiz is yet, but watch this space! Booked up trip to Devon for mid-January, one flight cost 0.64 but look at the total cost not their break-down. Expecting to book Ethiopia/Tanzania over the next few days while son is here. Family arrived and made quick visits to t&s and Globe with daughter in between trains. They’re staying until late on 29/12. Otherwise final shopping at Waitrose earlier on and right down to the wire stuff at Tesco at 18:59. Happy Christmas to all, particularly the g_s!! xxxxxx.

December 23rd: updated Goshawk data for 1998-1999. This confirms picture of rather erratic rise through 1990s to peak in 2001 and subsequent decline. Going through the notebooks confirms that coverage of the study area was much less thorough than now. My main interest then was gulls and I used to visit many roost sites each month, leaving less time for raptors. But I’m only making adjustments by re-interpreting the original written accounts in the light of current knowledge as to spacing and habits. No extrapolations are being made for deficient coverage. Almost cleared daughter’s floor of papers but not of the (tidier) books. Made Nero and Globe as usual. Glad to see wandering star returned in the former! Served by netball star jin the latter! And the answer to last week’s quiz, based on today’s showing, is the ghs!! Family arrive tomorrow evening by train (one via Carlisle, other via Newcastle) but may stray to the Globe, while waiting!

December 22nd: updated Goshawk data for 1996-1997 and 2000; numbers are similar to 2004-2006 giving an obvious peak in the foot and mouth year of 2001. Still need to add data for 1998-1999. Car duly repaired – routine as the rear silencers are always dropping off Ka evidently! Managed to do quite a lot of fiddly shopping while waiting for repair, picking up car again at 12:30 after a circuitous tour through Hexham seeing some of the local lovelies!! Then cut top off Spruce from far end of my field to get Christmas Tree: had to climb on steps to saw through and then jump off quickly as the branch came away. Welli was good – very high turnout seeing the weather; well, everyone important was there!! Came back through Hexham as Lamb Shield’s not a good route in current weather and stopped a while!! Freezing rain on way back over Loughbrow made it a little treacherous. But 2 owls at Riding Mill earlier (Barn, Tawny) were rewarding. Gave s&l a bottle of Chianti each: just reward for keeping the place straight. Tomorrow will make the Nero and Globe late afternoon.

December 21st: today’s the solstice, angle of sun 11.6º, sunset 15:39 (yes, gained a minute already), sunrise 08:29 (still getting later) and tomorrow’s day is 3 seconds longer – make the most of it! Psychologically it’s great though – every day for the next 6 months is longer than the preceding one and the time for breeding approaches!! Can see why the pagans get excited this time of year. Hair might have looked neat after trim but tousled again very quickly. The duo looked very fit!! Party at School was very good fun, stayed longer than expected and hope to be getting my unn email back. Into Hexham fairly early tomorrow morning to Matt Clark with Ka for work on exhaust: hope it doesn’t drop off! Will make Welli later if it’s repaired or they lend me a car.

December 20th: so basic question – is the inverse relationship between Goshawk and Honey Buzzard breeding populations causal or casual? I know in Wales that some Honey Buzzard workers might feel that it’s causal and in the Netherlands there is a feeling that Goshawk are a serious menace to virtually all raptors. If it’s causal then the large Northumberland population of Honey Buzzard is benefitingfrom both the ideal habitat and the elimination of their predators provided by the game interests. Yesterday completed floor tiling of upstairs bathroom and sorted out a few more sacks of old office papers. Just one shelf and a mirror to put up and then it’s done. Will be well pleased to get it finished later today! Heavy snow again in evening with lying snow back up to 15cm but road is pretty clear owing to prompt ploughing. Interested in graph of Hexham flat prices: while mix may not give a completely fair comparison and market is a little thin a collapse is indicated! It’s the same across many northern towns and cities – far too many built in the last ten years. Detached houses have fared much better. Today have to do do some of the base Christmas shopping as ‘kids’ are very wisely arriving on Christmas Eve (literally). Made it to the Globe in spite of rather icy roads, further snow showers over Loughbrow and failing rear silencer on Ka: very chatty and pleasurable afterwards!! faswtgo!!! Did do walk along the Tyne Green at Hexham in the afternoon from 13:50-15:20 and had single Common Buzzard and Sparrowhawk plus Kingfisher, 3 Goosander, 2 Little Grebe and a Goldeneye. Other birds noted were Goldfinch, Siskin and Black-headed Gull. Very scenic appearance with views to Tyne Bridge and Hexham Abbey from Tyne Green and north side of a Honey Buzzard site clearly visible from Hexham. Earlier Slaley Forest looked very wintry from Ordley. Tomorrow (rare) hair trim early on at JG and then into Newcastle for research group party over lunchtime.

December 19th: set up new Goshawk page and added data back to 2001. There is a worrying decline in this raptor over the noughties. Have data further back in notebooks so will add this. Contrast between 2001 and recent form is very marked and note the rather ironic comment made for 2001: “Best year to date. Gamekeepers found access difficult in spring. Also perhaps growing acceptance of this raptor: it does kill a lot of pigeons”. Over the last few years it is clear that although birds inevitably recolonise new areas each spring, breeding is not tolerated. The area is a classical sink for the species. It’s impossible not to notice that the Honey Buzzard population really took off as the Goshawk declined. Oh dear! Is there a conflict of interest?

Year

Number of localities where signs of breeding

Number of broods

Number of juveniles fledged

2001

15

10

15

2002

11

6

10

2003

16

8

11

2004

12

5

8

2005

9

5

6

2006

13

3

3

2007

14

1

2

2008

13

0

0

2009

10

2

3 (1×2, 1×1+)

Table 1: Numbers of Goshawk found from 2001-2009 in SW Northumberland

December 18th: re-organised Northumberland raptor pages so that Hobby is separated from Honey Buzzard and put in a new category ‘Other Raptors in Northumberland’. So obviously now set up indexing so that Goshawk, Red Kite and the others can be easily slotted in. Don’t know why didn’t think of this before! Further thoughts on Goshawks in 2009 include that SW Northumberland is still a sink area for the species with juveniles fledged from the Border Forests happily moving into the area with its abundant prey and then being shot. As in 2008 the Tyne Valley is the area where they seem to survive slightly better. As with the Hobby, there is greater confidence this year that fledged juveniles were not missed in September. However, 3 juveniles were seen at sites from August-October where no birds seen earlier. While these may represent local success, they could also have been fledged elsewhere so are in the Possible category. New dishwasher duly arrived early afternoon, thwarting lunch in Hexham! The gps was working very hard — on the ‘notepaper’ now!! ghs was running the office – I’ve set up a flat fund with preference shares, initially 69k 2 months ago, now 81k, to rise to 125k in 18 months and buy a property in a distressed sale. Well that’s the grand design!! Undisturbed snow reached 15cm this morning. To Welli tonite!

December 17th: Goshawk data compiled. It shows a continuing decline at just 10 sites, from 13 in 2008, but some resilience with confirmed and probable breeding at 4 sites. While the decline should be good for Honey Buzzard, I’m not sure it makes that much difference as the 4 sites with most evidence are all close to successful Honey Buzzard sites. Suspect there’s so much easier prey around for Goshawk (pigeons, corvids, rabbits) that they’re not interested in taking raptors the size of Honey Buzzard, which while they have a weak bill do have powerful talons (for digging). Goshawk figures might change for number of sites but not for breeding activity in remaining 2 weeks of the year. Summary of Goshawk data by area for 2009 is shown below:

Area

No. sites

No. adults

Breeding Category

Juveniles

Conf

Prob

Poss

 

Local-fledge

Also seen

Devil’s Water

2

0

1

0

1

2

1

Allen

1

1

0

1

0

0

0

Upper South Tyne

1

0

0

0

1

0

1

Lower South Tyne

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Tyne

4

3

1

0

3

1

1

Derwent

2

3

0

1

1

0

0

Total

10

7

2

2

6

3

3

Breeding Data for Goshawk in SW Northumberland by area in 2009

Will do a little more analysis on these results in the next few days. Quite a heavy snowfall in morning with about 10cm at Ordley by lunchtime. House was covered in snow. But did go into Hexham midday as needs must!! Not disappointed by the ghs!! Made LD executive meeting in Riding Mill and back to t&s for drinks with colleagues. Later thinking sweet dreams and c..dles!! Tomorrow to Hexham sometime in the afternoon, waiting for new dishwasher pm.

December 16th: added stills derived from Oriental Honey Buzzard video at Palolem on 12/1 to both this page (June 1st) and to Indian Raptors page. These show very typical fast glide jizz: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10. Going to add further details on Oriental Honey Buzzard from literature over next few days. Working on Goshawk data for this year; need to bring all of data for this species over the years into one place. Busy day in Newcastle with Libyan PhD student presenting School seminar: all went well and think line through research strongly established now. Made Hexham later and visit to Globe was good except for seating plan! S.xy duo are beautiful walkers!! Tomorrow into Hexham for lunch with LD meeting later in Riding Mill followed inevitably by the t&s.

December 15th: made the moors but late after heavy rain early-on and visit by electrician who formally declared dishwasher kaput after further mouse damage was revealed. Did atlas visit to tetrad from 14:00-16:00 on Lord’s Rigg, Whitfield Moor, a moorland-edge area. It’s very heavy for game-rearing so species list was not too surprising: Red-legged Partridge (67), Pheasant (30), Bullfinch (10), Woodpigeon (8), Stock Dove, Jackdaw (6), Red Grouse, Common Buzzard, Wren (2), Mistle Thrush, Chaffinch (1). So 11 species – better than some, boosted by the steep Hope Cleugh! Total for Common Buzzard for day was 4 as 2 more seen in walk-in and -out over Parmentley. Came off moor in gathering gloom, getting back to car at 16:30. Day length is now 7 hours 12 minutes with sunset earliest it gets at 15:38. Angle of sun is 11.7°, not much scope for thermals for soaring raptors! Mornings will get darker for a while – sad for those in work. But the solstice is very close, which surely merits a celebration! Back to Hexham covered in mud and ordered new dishwasher at 16:55 from Tynedale Electrics for delivery Friday. Soak in bath after a winter moorland walk is one of life’s luxuries! Later to Welli: very much enjoyed; the clever C U Next Tuesdays looked so much the part, even if they can’t count leap years!! Very nice to see stwagain!! Turn left when you’re on leave!! Tomorrow VF duty again in Newcastle but will make the Globe. Gulls hit another 4 tonite in the cup against a team from a division higher – whatever next! Hoping to join family from London for week near Kyle of Lochalsh in early May and regular trip to Isle of Man with Nick late May. Ethiopia planning is getting more detailed.

December 14th: very gloomy weather so carried on getting house straight – sorted another 4 sacks of office papers and delivery of floor tiles arrived promptly mid-afternoon from Wickes; then into Hexham to get some floor primer, which was applied in the evening. Tomorrow intend to do another atlas visit to Whitfield Moor, to NY75M. Going to the Welli in the evening!!

December 13th: added stills derived from Oriental Honey Buzzard video at Bandipur on 9/1 to both this page at bottom and to Indian Raptors page. Stills are interesting in how the appearance of the bird varies so much over just a few seconds: 2  9  4  7  8  5  6  1  3. Looking now at other Oriental Honey Buzzard videos. Nero was spot on: r in good form!! Globe was enjoyable, getting well ensconced there now with good service from j! Marie Curie service was sombre but that was not unexpected. Punctual trains made whole visit so efficient. The 2 main charities supported are Greenpeace and Marie Curie with quite a few further environmental, heroes and cat ventures. Had long chat with daughter on ‘phone, with some discussion on where the Christmas tree is coming from! She’s off to Dubai tomorrow on work: fortunately her close friend there rents rather than owns. With son she’s just visited Devon and was very pleased at how well my mother approaching 90.5 was coping in living independently. Not sure what’s happening tomorrow – depends on deliveries. But will surely make the delights of Hexham sometime!!

December 12th: added video of very angry Common Buzzard in the ‘Shire from 15/7 to accompany 446 on videos page. Main thrust at the moment is to push material from this page, where it’s going to be lost eventually, onto more formal pages which will endure better. Suddenly realised how close we are to Christmas and have started clearing and sorting vast amounts of material from my work office, which is filling floor of daughter’s room. Managed to sift through 4 sacks and fire was kept going all evening on old office memos! Still a lot to do here: daughter will kill me if it stays as it is. Mice problem in kitchen solved and cats have almost (but not completely!) forgiven me for abandoning them for most of October and early November. LD do was very sociable. Expecting to take on 3 more atlas squares for BTO atlas: NY74X, NY74Y and NY84C. Moorland squares are not that popular it seems. Gulls had a rare brilliant day winning 5-0 against NE side Darlo. Sources of inspiration may be changing!! Tomorrow going to Nero in Hexham, Marie Curie carol service in Newcastle at St Nicholas Cathedral and the Globe!

December 11th: added videos taken this year of Hobby from Devon and Isle of Man to main Northumberland web page. Added remainder of 446 videos, including a clip 5+ minutes long of a female Honey Buzzard floating without a flap over the Devil’s Water! The other shows a male over the nest site. Some close-up material of angry Common Buzzard will also be added from this visit. Made Hexham mid-day, liked what I saw!! To Welli late on and again good turn out and crack! Tomorrow it’s mulled wine at the LDs early evening in Leazes Terrace, Hexham. BT statistics perhaps surprisingly show that November 2009 was another record for use of this site with 156 visits a day and 12.3 GB of data transferred. December will surely not continue this trend: people might have other things on their minds!

December 10th: busy day in Hexham, Durham and Darlington with fog on drive back and detour to Durham to drop Mike. Talk at QESFC was very interesting: really! Two trips to Nero: Hexham and Durham, latter to see r! Got back to Hexham later than expected but colleagues were not out anyway and met up with s&j in t&s: slightly riotous, drove them home to the ‘Shire, leaving earlier than expected!! Great pity she didn’t stay in t&s: plenty of entertainment on hand!! Earlier the farmers appealed!! Tomorrow is more home-based.

December 9th: ordered county bird reports for Norfolk and Hampshire for 2008 so as to get official local views of Honey Buzzard and other raptor movements in autumn 2008; will also look out for reports from Suffolk and other eastern counties. Went into Newcastle in morning; VF role is stepping up a bit as getting more into Greek PhD student’s revisions. Later went to Nero and Globe: both very good, particularly latter which was almost full initially with Hexham racegoers! Do still get very much turned on by walk through Hexham: a lovely pair!! Tomorrow to Hexham late morning followed by trip in car to Durham to see Mike in afternoon. We’re then going on to Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College, Darlington, for talk in early evening on the physics of cells. Back for t&s!

December 8th: did another winter atlas square NY75G – Whitfield Law, 522m asl., in a 7km walk from 12:10-14:40. This peak is very much like a tor on Dartmoor and the ground around is also very boggy, completing the likeness. Species count even declined from last time, to 3: Red Grouse (87, abundant) and single Snipe and Jack Snipe. The waders were both flushed from saturated moorland, the Jack Snipe getting right up from under my boot and landing a short distance away. Barhaugh Burn, the other side of the watershed, was visible from the Law. Birds of prey are keeping a very low profile with an adult male Kestrel, when just getting on the road at Newbiggin, the only one. Tawny Owl are easier to find with 2 at Letah Wood yesterday at 16:00 and 2 waking me up at home at 02:00 this morning! Anyway the walk was very good exercise! Day length is now 7 hours 21 minutes, angle of sun 12.3ºand sunset at 15:39, just one minute off its earliest. I suppose we’re better off than a place I visited in June 1978: Ny Alesund, Spitsbergen, which now has no day length and angle of sun -11.7º but temperatures aren’t that different with 2º way inside the Arctic Circle at 78.9ºN, compared to 7º for Newcastle at 55.0ºN. No Welli tonight – aversion therapy of 3 weeks ago worked very well!! Looking forward to the big city tomorrow and later the Globe!

December 8th: reviewing some of Honey Buzzard earlier material, in light of current knowledge, as typing in from notebooks onto machine. So 1998 has gone from 4 localities, 8 adults, 3 juveniles to 6 localities, 10 adults, 5 juveniles. Reason for the change is that, in 2 cases, what are now known as adjacent sites were counted then as a single site: fortunately detailed notes were taken at the time to enable the revision to be clearly made. I’m also going to review 1999 and 2000 as feel these may suffer from the same problem. Been busy today with the Hobby data but did have an intriguing visit to Nero!!

Here is the first summary, that for Hobby in 2009. This has also been added to the Northumberland breeding data page, to which will also add soon some of the Hobby videos taken this year.

Area

No. sites

No. adults

Breeding Category

Juveniles

Conf

Prob

Poss

 

Local-fledge

Also seen

Devil’s Water

3

5

0

2

1

0

0

Allen

4

6

0

4

0

0

2

Upper South Tyne

4

4

2

0

2

2

0

Lower South Tyne

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Tyne

2

3

0

1

1

0

0

Derwent

2

1

0

0

2

0

1

Total

15

19

2

7

6

2

3

Breeding Data for Hobby in SW Northumberland by area in 2009

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 equalled the previous year’s record in number of sites at 15 but the species has advanced very little since the 12 sites in 2001. The number fledged is undoubtedly an underestimate as the Hobby sites are covered less systematically than Honey Buzzard sites. However, with so much time in the field this September, it was expected that more juveniles would be seen and it is possible that the northern edge of the species’ range is acting as a sink rather than as a spur to further colonisation to the north. Mobility is shown by 6 of the sites occupied in 2008 not apparently being used in 2009 and 5 of the 6 ‘new’ sites this year not being used in either 2007 or 2008. The preference of the Hobby for moorland fringes was less marked this year with 7 of the 15 sites situated very close to heather moors.

December 7th: found only November record of Honey Buzzard to date in study area as follows for 8/11/1998: “a very interesting ‘buzzard’ still at a wood near Eals. Very pale head with dark eye spot, long neck, small head, long tail, long wings pushed forward, top rusty-brown. Bold carpal underneath, dark tips to wing, pale elsewhere, languid in flaps, looked like very large crow, pale flecks at base of primaries on underside in flight, id as juvenile Honey Buzzard. Presumably not bred here as pale head not noted on 15/9 juvenile”. Not decided yet on mystery bird in exactly same area for 15/11 though can say leaning towards Honey Buzzard on feel from video and on overall behaviour of bird (powerful flight, trekking S). Also date coincides with final disappearance of wasps in local area. Yesterday 6/12 did make Grindon Lough and had 3 species of geese: Canada (420), White-fronted (8) and Greylag (6). There were heavy showers but light was good with vivid rainbows. Piccies to follow. Nero was great: very pleased to see r & a again! Globe had its moments, particularly on exit!

December 6th: have had a sneaky preview at totals for raptors in SW Northumberland this year. Looks like Common Buzzard and Honey Buzzard will be up and Kestrel and Red Kite down. The decline of the kite is real: they’ve only been reliably sighted in the Wylam area this year. It may be nothing to worry about with the birds simply filling in their core area rather than spreading out. But will check how they’re currently doing in the Wylam/Prudhoe area over the next month or so. Folk concert yesterday was really c&w/rock, performed by the famous Bridge End Buskers, playing far afield from their base in Ovingham, and Cathryn Craig/Brian Willoughby. Enjoyed the Buskers – very enthusiastic and good rhythm – and Brian’s guitar playing was fantastic. Debate in morning involved all 4 parliamentary prospective candidates – high standard, impressed by all but thought LD and Con performed best. This week VF activities include going into Newcastle on Wednesday morning and Durham/Darlington on Thursday afternoon. Today going to Grindon Lough for a change and more predictably to Nero and Globe. I’ve only 3 moorland atlas squares left to do before the New Year and one a week will see them off nicely.

December 4th: did atlas square at Willyshaw Rigg from 10:50-13:20 in clear weather with good views to NW, N and S, last showing county boundary on A686 and Ka park. Cold weather of past week has caused most birds to leave the heights and only got 5 species in just over 2 hours: Red Grouse (21), Pheasant (5), Coal Tit (4), Jackdaw (2) and Stock Dove (1). At least it doesn’t take long to do the data entry! Had single Common Buzzard and Kestrel in the Langley/Stublick area. Day length now 7 hours 29 minutes and angle of sun 12.7º. Better tits were found later in Hexham!! Welli was very good in evening – fuller than for ages, and tomorrow going to QEHS for debate in morning and Ovington for folk music in evening. Completed painting of bathroom so floor tiling is next.

December 3rd: processing Oriental Honey Buzzard stills from videos at Bandipur and Palolem. Earlier, archives transfer went very smoothly; it’s very good to have so many records preserved. Enjoyed visit to Hexham: yes, please stand-up!! Concert was very good with wistful playing of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony 1 Winter Daydreams; missed seeing the gang at t&s but no more concerts until end January. Tomorrow doing another atlas square on Whitfield Moor near Willyshaw, maybe Hexham mid-afternoon. Interesting perturbations at UEA on alleged misrepresentation of climate data: note it’s the lack of integrity that is the problem, not inaccuracy in the data.

December 2nd: tomorrow morning sees N&TBC archivist j coming to collect material for the bird club. I hold County Records Committee material from the 1950s through to 1998 with a major gap in the 1970s, owing to the then County Recorder not passing on the descriptions, correspondence and decisions. Also got minutes and agendas for the 1990s. Very pleased to see this initiative by the Club to collect together as much information as possible from previous officers. May then well make Hexham later. In evening going with Nick to Sage for yes another concert, coming back on last train. Today into unn in morning with plenty of interest on the train; Globe was very good as usual and maybe thinking of other things again!!

December 1st: busy day in Durham trying with Mike to finalise ideas on cartesian closed categories for conference in Lisbon next April. To Welli late-on for recuperation! Tomorrow morning seeing PhD students in unn and later the Globe! Train journey was very rewarding!! Nice wheels!! Next tasks will be to add remaining videos for 446 and produce some more stills from the Oriental Honey Buzzard clips in India.

November 30th: at last published full report for trip to India in January 2009. Total for trip was 1208 raptors of 27 forms: quite amazing!! It’s timely as now fixed dates for 2 weeks with son in Ethiopia in February, followed by another week at a Tanzanian game lodge. With transits will be away for a while! Yesterday Nero was good with r&aand jdid the honours well in the Globe! Think I’ll go to Durham by train tomorrow: roads could be nasty and really miss the trains! Record divi today: 1.04812k from llpd.

November 28th: did some tidying up to web pages, including the id page, to reflect changes made yesterday. No internal file names have been changed so all links should work as before. Opportunistically grabbed another tetrad visit in interlude to weather, making Kip Law (500m) on Ayle Common for atlas work from 12:00-14:00. It’s the first day of winter with snow on the tops at noon and from remnants on the ground at lower levels earlier on. It was also misty at times and this gave some interesting photographic effects with the valleys shrouded and the tops in the sun. Day length is all of 7 hours 42 minutes and angle of sun at midday 13.4º, not quite overhead (90º)! (Weather Underground). I do carry flask of coffee, compass, altimeter and mobile phone throughout the year; maybe someone should buy me gps for Christmas! Bird of the day was Black Grouse. Having seen none in Northumberland all year, saw 9: 2 black cocks at Kip Law captured on video and 3 black cocks and 4 greyhen feeding on hawthorn bushes on the Hexham-Allendale road across Stublick. In the surveyed area also had the moorland specialities of Red Grouse (15), Snow Bunting (2), Meadow Pipit (2) and Golden Plover (1). With cold air and virtually no wind, did not expect to see many raptors and the only one was a Common Buzzard on a wall. Made LD AGM 40 minutes late but a sinner repenteth … and re-elected to my position. Local delights continue!! Insects declining very quickly now. From checking the ivy on the road outside the house it looks as if wasps were present until 13/11 and flies until 17/11. Tomorrow does not look like a day for the moors so perhaps back to Nero and Globe! In coming week in Visiting Fellow (VF) role driving to Durham on Tuesday and going into Newcastle by train on Wednesday.

November 27th: well, what’s in a name! Re-labelled 2 pages: a) videos to videos with derived stills and calls and b) stills to earlier material. Been wondering how to steer users towards the much better stills on the videos page and this seems to be one obvious way. The content of the pages is unchanged. Completed processing of Lalit material and all the material is now in a new page – Indian Raptors – but it needs quite significant re-packaging before release. Concert at Sage with Hallé was brilliant. Very much enjoyed Richard Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra, better known to older film buffs as the theme music for 2001. There’s a lot more angstto the whole work than is often realised. Liszt’s 1st piano concerto was very well performed by the Russian lady pianist Polina Leschenko. People often think of these historical composers as being very stuffy but not so. Liszt was a philanderer and his daughter Cosima, not by his wife, had an affair with Wagner, leading to her divorce and re-marriage to Wagner. Cosima went on to play a major part in Wagner’s success, leading the Bayreuth Festival for 31 years. Earlier Marco Polo was good with smart service by nand s! Made Welli near closing time with mates going home for cocoa. Tomorrow doing atlas square near Ayle followed by LD AGM in Gilesgate, Hexham, mid-afternoon, timed alas to clash with football commentaries!

November 26th: well, anniversary of Mumbai terrorist attack last year. Have been through all of videos for 17/1 at Lalit and nothing to disturb totals so these will be confirmed tomorrow in final report. There are a few additional useful videos of Brahminy Kite, Oriental Honey Buzzard and Black Kite. Will be publishing soon some thoughts on the eastern Honey Buzzard complex and its relationship with that in the west. I’m particularly intrigued by the lumping of the migratory and resident forms and their differences. Two visits to Hexham: early afternoon to Nero where rand ain good form! Then to t&s as usual up to 23:30 – all very good with 4 of us there! Dishwasher needs new hose – eaten through by mice – going to fire the cats or perhaps more constructively leave bottom board of units off so that cats can get in! Tomorrow will be at home until early afternoon sorting out final India report and completing first coat on walls. It’s a welcome break in evening with Marco Polo and Sage (with Hallé), driving back later to Welli, with Nick! Dubai has come as a real shock to some: all fur coat and no knickers! Might actually do some good for the UK economy as investors realise that emerging markets can be very risky.

November 25th: updated Palolem report with videos and derived stills from 18/1 for Little Heron, Brown-headed Gull and a final pan of the bay. That just leaves 17/1 at Lalit Spa which promises to be quite heavy as spent some time scanning the hilly jungle behind the golf course. Then the final report can be published for the India raptors, to run alongside that for African raptors, which is a very popular page. Weather looks as if it is becoming less wild so hope to do some more atlas work on the moors over the next few days. Decorating continues with woodwork glossed, ceiling painted with 1st coat and plaster splash removed from exposed beam. Very good visit to Globe: nearly everybody there this week. Tomorrow hope to make Hexham for lunch provided dishwasher repairer’s been. Local situations are hotter than suspected!! Surprised but pleased that Supreme Court have put the hyphen in the right place in unauthorised overdraft charges i.e. unauthorised-overdraft charges, not unauthorised overdraft-charges!

November 24th: updated Delhi report with videos from 19/1 of Taj Mahal and 20/1 of inner city Delhi. Also finalised raptor totals for northern India in just 2 days at 266 individuals of 12 taxon, 3 new. It’s an incredible country for raptors. So that leaves Goa for 17/1-18/1 and made a start on latter. Did visit Hexham mid-afternoon with trip to Nero and library, former was very sociable with r & a! Made Welli in torrential rain in evening where no quiz nite but good crack and very friendly staff! Tomorrow to Globe as usual.

November 23rd: updated Goa trip report with videos from 15/1-16/1, mainly of White-bellied Sea Eagle; hope to complete 18/1 Palolem and 19/1-20/1 Delhi tomorrow, leaving just one day to do – 17/1 at Lalit, Goa, for which there are 25 clips! Dry window of opportunity at lunchtime did enable internal hedge trimming to be completed with roadside left to do. On ivy no insects at all. Later very good visit to Hexham including Nero with both r and n there, and one or two other aspects! No quiz at Welli for a while – but will keep up the tradition! Renewed tax on Ka at Hexham PO for one year as vote of confidence, despite 71k miles in 7 years. Weekly lovely sprucing up of house by s&l tomorrow late morning.

November 22nd: did manage the atlas work, going out to Whitfield Hall area from 12:00-14:00 for 2 hours survey work. This is the most sheltered tetrad that I have in NY75 so it was appropriate for the weather. The ground was saturated and the rivers were high as at the weir on the West Allen and the Blaeberry Burn. If we get a lot of rain in the north east through a depression tracking S it will be our turn! Had 2 Common Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk in the survey work together with 20 other species so results were not bad. Checked all the Palolem additions for 14/1. Went to Nero in afternoon and Globe in late evening: ais very smart! All very good. CRM is very stimulating but hard!! Did undercoat on woodwork in bathroom. Tomorrow must finish the hedge as it promises to be drier. Weather is very Devonian at the moment – wild and wet: feel very much at home! npower visiting tomorrow morning to look at electricity meter: it’s not recording anything! Won 11k in the great Lloyds debt lottery – option 3 for LLPE/LLPD — can put that back into their rights issue and other prefs!

November 21st: very productive day sorting out the Palolem videos for 14/1, which now done below but not tested yet. There’s some interesting material on Oriental Honey Buzzard included. Otherwise rain continues but hoping for interlude tomorrow and planning another trip to NY75 for winter atlas to survey Whitfield Hall. Washed down 2nd bathroom and left to dry in preparation for decoration!

November 20th: sorted out a number of videos from Palolem Beach, Goa, from 14/1, including Brahminy Kite, Brown-headed Gull and Booted Eagle. Didn’t realise I’d seen the last-named in Goa until going through videos, which is the kind of reason why final list is being delayed until all film processed. Hope to update this page with the new videos tomorrow, including further video of Oriental Honey Buzzard. Some surprising things have been happening on this site: experimenting with additional customer relations management (CRM) features, or something like that!! Got Ka back with increase in value of £210 (actually if you believe that, you’re the sort of person I’d like to do business with!). No hedge trimming as too wet for electrics outside but did some pointing on roof ridge instead. Soon off to Welli and tomorrow a rather typical random Saturday!

November 19th: altering priorities to do more video processing from India first as want to get that account finished. Will do some of this tomorrow. MOT went quite well but not very well with a couple of springs needing replacing. So Ka left with them until tomorrow lunchtime and Matt Clark have lent me a W-reg Punto. Used to own a Punto: fast but no guarantee you’ll get anywhere! Not too surprised really as Ka has made strange noises over the humps driving up to the fish and chip shop! It’s the 6th suspension failure the garage has handled this week, which says something about the road surfaces. Went to Marco Polo and Sage in evening with Nick. Liked the Schubert and Haydn but the middle piece by Elliot Carter was a bit weird! Second coat on upstairs landing today and expect to finish hedge trimming away from roadside tomorrow.

November 18th: added stills derived from video 446. The Sony PMB utility is proving very useful here with frames of 1MB easily derived from the HD video as here. Have some more video to work up from this visit and will then return to the mystery bird. Good visit to old school in unn: very chatty and did get some work done with 90 minutes with PhD student and over 3 hours with Mike. Globe was quieter than usual with some of the gang having taken the afternoon off for the races at Hexham. But these were cancelled and they’d already had a few and disappeared! Rain was very heavy last night and Tyne was in full spate with large tree trunks being washed down. Tomorrow have MOT for car and concert at Sage. Will miss t&s, coming back to Hexham on last train.

November 17th: added below some stills and more commentary for the Whitfield Moor trek. Tomorrow into the big city but back for Globe and Thursday sees annual MOT for the Ka: garage sounded pleased about that, suspect they think it must be time for some major work! s&l came late morning to get the place straight and did 90 minutes of hedge cutting this afternoon. In between visited Hexham: green and black are my favourite colours!! Wonder what the nite will bring!! Welli was very good – nice to see everybody again after missing quiz night for 2 weeks. Think my victory sign on Sunday was well timed!! On ivy plenty of flies are still around but no wasps today.

November 16th: added video and derived stills of mystery raptor seen yesterday. You can text me with your id if you know what it is! Spent all morning on ‘phone to brokers and writing out transfer forms for LBG! But enjoyed Hexham later with such a fine pair!! Tomorrow same again but will also make the Welli!

November 15th: marvellous walk, about 15km in all, from Eals to Whitfield Lough and on to Pike Rigg, and back. You’re never far from a Honey Buzzard site in this area with one near starting point and another over the watershed. Started at 09:50 and finished at 15:40, completing 4 hours of BTO winter atlas fieldwork on high moorland in square NY75. Bright sunshine was very welcome as got close to the plateau: so stimulating at this time of year. On the high moor it was mainly a Red Grouse and Common Buzzard story but also had a few Meadow Pipit, Stonechat and Snow Bunting with 2 Wigeon the only wildfowl at the loughs. Besides the main lough there are also 2 smaller loughs known collectively as Blind Lough, where Wigeon sometimes breed. The area is not for the faint hearted: there are no paths or tracks, the vegetation is very rough and the surface boggy. It’s more like north-western Scotland in some respects than the North Pennines. Probably not ideal for agoraphobia sufferers! Met farmer rand gamekeeper ain first kilometre but not a soul for rest of walk. Fortunately mobile reception is good almost throughout. Victory sign on top by yours truly on making the ascent! Raptors were very interesting with a mystery bird at 10:45 getting up and leaving to S just as the murk started dispersing (video 1  2, derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17; video 2 precedes 1 chronologically). These shots show the murk early-on and the feeding area of the bird. Raptor total, including the drive, was 15 individuals: 9 Common Buzzard, 5 Kestrel and the mystery bird. In the upper South Tyne valley there was a distinct Scandinavian feel with 225 Fieldfare, 50 Redwing and 4 Brambling. Did make Ant’s and the Globe for recuperation. Tomorrow might make Hexham for lunch!

November 14th: retrieved a few more items from visit to Allen on 15/8: added below short video of Hobby (also here) and on videos 2009-464 a pan of site and a short video of the nest. Three Honey Buzzard calls were heard on this visit but not apparently recorded: a single adult alarm call and 2 chicken-like calls from the young in the nest. The Hobby video is a typical wild and brief encounter! Good at the Welli last night but not sacked by LD: don’t think there are any other candidates to run their database! Upgraded Open Office with version 3.1.1 as is claimed to handle docx (latest MS Office format) and xml formats in general. Damp weather today, though nothing like further south, so got on for a few hours with some painting of the upstairs hall. Tomorrow going to Whitfield Moor for first winter atlas visit of 2009/10, perhaps in long walk to the Lough – will have to start early with day length now down to 8 hours 24 minutes (Weather Underground). Might make Ant’s after for recuperation, followed much later by Globe. Almost half-way through the month and no Honey Buzzard reports on Birdguides or Trektellen. Is it really the end? There is one Hobby this month on Birdguides: a single at Spurn, East Yorkshire, on 5/11. But none on Trektellen. Next week definitely into unn first thing by train on Wednesday morning: 2 appointments lined up now; and Sage on Thursday.

November 13th: added to videos over 20 stills derived from video 2009-464 starting with this one; this female has quite worn plumage, I wonder whether it’s possible to tell which feathers she’s renewed through moult in the breeding season. Doing a final check through the videos in this visit to see whether anything over-looked, then onto the stills for the next video 2009-446. For obvious reasons it is not intended to produce any final figures for the breeding season until the videos have been processed further. Yet another day as the gardener, wonder where Lady Chatterley is! Two stylish candidates in Hexham today — ghs and gps!! Bought some food for the blessed birds from the market and shortly off to Welli. Might (hopefully) be sacked by the LD, then can join the Greens. Feel more passionate about them. Good week for housebuilding shares of which I’ve 115,000. Next Friday it’s the Lloyds lottery for debt exchange. LBG published this exciting document which managed to read at mum’s (during the soaps!), lots of people sold and then Lloyds upgraded their offer which caused p….d off comments on message boards such as: “What is annoying is that Lloyds have only yesterday [11/11] published their intention re. the higher ECN funding. I am sure that many, like myself, will have already sold LLPC/D to avoid what they saw as likely to be a steep fall in value when, as seemed probable, not successful in the original ECN allocation. Anyone doing that on Monday, as I did, will have lost the next LLPD dividend and now finds it is too late to buy back in. If Lloyds had acted quicker in response to concerns from LLPC/D holders about what seemed an unfair allocation system, this situation would have been avoided”. German Wasp still around on ivy at Ordley today.

November 12th: working up stills from video 464 (Allen 15/8) and should publish these tomorrow. Checked India urls and fixed a couple of glitches. Cut another hedge, the hawthorn around the so-called vegetable patch. Getting fitter with all the activity, which is very useful at this time of year. Visited Hexham mid-afternoon where ghs was looking very studious: must have some good inside knowledge of the property market!! Late in evening visited t&s for good chat with former colleagues. Some move to switch date for next week to Tuesday but resisted. Tomorrow it’s more hedge cutting, visit to Hexham in afternoon and Welli in evening for first visit in 2 weeks. Sweet dreams!

November 11th: added video material from Palolem, Goa, for 13/1 to web pages below on 1/6. This adult White-bellied Sea Eagle, derived as still from video, was very obliging. The Oriental Honey Buzzard are at long range but the jizz is unmistakably Honey Buzzard with floating, mutual circling and diving displays. This pair was over the jungle on the north side of the bay at Palolem. Daughter is going back there soon for another stay, before Christmas. Cut beech hedge in front today and tidied up courtyard: property is looking more kempt! Hexham was very good; stayed longer than usual in Globe as billarrived late and missed LD meeting! Oh dear, but not sure science and politics mix. So good to see the ghsagain; like the head toss!! Sent son pictures from Barcelona in April 2009 on DVD (1.5 GB). We’re starting to plan safari in Ethiopia, with 2 possible areas of the Simien Mountains and the Rift Valley. Battling it out with the complex exchange offer on LBG preference shares at the moment – have 71.5k nominal riding on it – terms were improved this afternoon, after a lot of people sold out! Tomorrow into Hexham in afternoon and much later for t&s!! Meant it!!

November 10th: talk at Durham University by Peter Head on the ecological age gave much food for thought on how the human species can survive the coming pressures on resources. Doing nothing is not an option: current units of resources (food, energy, materials) per capita are declining rapidly. On a per capita basis Australia now shows the worst trends in sustainability and judging by his acerbic comments, he did not get a good reception there on his world tour! Strangely Australia has also survived the credit crunch better than other countries so lacking virtues may have had short-term rewards! Main impression was that Peter’s engineering approach would work in an ideal world but in practice we will need to move to much more dirigiste world structures if we’re going to stand a chance. A good day – worked with Mike on a paper in the afternoon and out for a pint in Durham after the talk. Working on material from India now; hope to add material from 13/1 later today. Will make the Globe as usual.

November 9th: updated 2009 totals for Honey Buzzard with data for October. You can take these as final totals for 2009 unless we get a November record. There are 2 historical records for November in the 1950s and 1960s in Northumberland; both are sight records. Started hedge trimming in earnest today with leylandii in the front the first target. It’s a good wind break but looking for an excuse to replace it with beech, particularly as I’m allergic to its sap! In evening went to Ridley Arms at Stannington for JLAF working group 2 meeting where we discussed surfaces and permissive paths. Globe was very good on Sunday; such lovely service from a! Tomorrow afternoon driving to Durham to see Mike and going to lecture in evening at the uni there.

November 8th: from N&TBC bulletin for September 2009 “one [Honey Buzzard] in conifers at Haughton Strother ([near] Humshaugh) on 14th was at the same site as a bird there last year (MR)”. In the September 2008 bulletin the entry was “On 13th … Single birds were seen … [at] Haughton Strother (near Humshaugh) (MR)”. Haughton Strother is c3km NW of Humshaugh, close to Nunwick. I would read this as Honey Buzzard are now clearly breeding in the North Tyne valley. No surprise really but I cannot easily extend my area to check on logistic grounds! Interestingly the other Honey Buzzard in the headlines for September 2009, at Gosforth, has disappeared in the detailed entries: conspiracy or cock-up! Always go for the latter — it’s the way of the world!! Had further chat with mum on finances. It’s all running quite smoothly at present with 800k of assets run as co-trustee. Completed staining dining room floor and repaired towel rail in bathroom. Got back into the swing of Nero, later the Globe and tomorrow the lovelies of Hexham!! Going into unn on Wednesday morning for a spot of supervision, or something like that!

November 7th: pity to miss Hexham’s Hallowe’en do on 31/10 but visit to Devon was pressing to see ailing mum, younger sister and other relations. Left Ordley that day at 08:30 with quick visit to Hexham to post hopefully some share certificates and have a quick walk! Then flew down by Flybe to Exeter at 10:35, picking up hire car from Avis, a Chevrolet Matiz, which was just the job for driving down narrow lanes. Got slightly diverted from relatives by ending up in Torquay and seeing the Gulls play Northampton, which we won 1-0 with a goal 7 minutes from the end. It was a tough game but we just shaded it: only 2 league wins since last saw them play at Wembley in the play-off final in May so my presence must be valuable! Stayed with younger sister at Sidmouth up to Tuesday 3/11 when moved to mum’s at Dawlish. Main social event was lively gathering of 10 relatives at nephew’s house in Teignmouth on 1/11. Interesting trips were 8km walk in Salcombe Regis/Sidmouth area on 2/11, Ideford Common on Haldon on 31/10, 3/11 and 7/11, Teignmouth on 4/11 and 5/11, Dawlish Warren on 5/11 and Turf in upper Exe Estuary on 6/11. Birds of the deep south included Black-tailed Godwit, Avocet, Dartford Warbler and Cetti’s Warbler. Raptor total was only 5 birds of 4 species: 2 Sparrowhawk and single Common Buzzard, Kestrel and Tawny Owl. Weather was wet and mild most of week but suspect they were keeping a very low profile, which is not unusual at this time of year. Opera Mini is good web browser for LG 3G ‘phone: gets much closer to emulating, particularly for input and complex displays, a desktop browser than the Google effort, which Orange bundle. Local libraries, as everywhere now, are very useful for the odd Internet session. Updates to main web pages are easy as much of the material is already sitting in this blog. Took mum out for meal and a few pints at Mount Pleasant, Dawlish Warren, on 6/11 in evening! She enjoyed that! Back today very punctually on 12:15 from Exeter to Newcastle by Flybe. Will add piccies later! No more trips planned until New Year when will visit Devon again.

Added video 2009-477 to videos from Tyne Valley on 2nd September, the one from wonderful Wylam where the female Honey Buzzard is mobbed by gulls. Honey Buzzard migrants still trickled through to end of October with, on Trektellen, one E at Durlston, Dorset, on 29/10 (also on Birdguides under notes). Provisional monthly total is 16, of which 4 on Trektellen, taking annual total to 334. Will we finally get one in November? Expecting to start hedge trimming tomorrow: it’s a big job! Will though visit Nero in afternoon and Globe much later.

November 5th: added video 2009-464 to videos from Allen on 15th August, the one used in the infamous quiz directly comparing Honey Buzzard and Common Buzzard! Getting quite a lot of videos added now to the main pages; must be less distractions!!

November 4th: added video 2009-420 to videos from Devil’s Water on 2nd June. Statistics continue to show a broad rise for usage of new BT site, with about 140 site visits a day and 11GB of data downloaded per month. Would expect this to decline a little over the close season but there’s considerable interest in the African and Indian raptor pages. Trust the c u were clever in the quiz last night!! Missed attending!!

November 2nd: added video 2009-474 to videos page (under North Yorkshire in 2009); again will add shortly some stills and more details. Watching Sky telly tonight: btvson sf did remind me of someone!! Lapses w*2.

November 1st: added video 2009-446 and shot of nest to videos page; will add stills and more detail of this visit shortly. Intend to move quite a lot of material from the blog onto the main pages over the next 8 weeks. Didn’t the Gulls do well? Always good to score so late on and there must be some happy omen about the circumstances!

October 30th: indeed starting to work through large number of videos from Goa with first posted below for Brahminy Kite and White-bellied Sea Eagle on 12/1. A number taken on 13/1 are under analysis. Welli was very good – almost full turnout. Met Stan in Hexham and went for lunch with him: not much I don’t know about rock art now! gps looked very impressive!! So it’s good wishes to the gorgeous duo, plenty of xxxxxxxxxxxxx and aaaarrrrrrgh!!

October 29th: drove to Durham to meet Mike at 10:00 for continued work on anpa paper, going on to Newcastle to meet Nick at Marco Polo at 17:00 and back across river to Gateshead for Handel’s Theodora at Sage, which ran from 19:00-22:20, so finishing too late to catch last train. Parked in Dean Street multi-storey, which is good value as is Marco Polo. Don’t find 18th century music that inspiring though some of chorus was very good. Hesitate to say that it’s like Parsifal but without the jokes! Tomorrow’s a lot more relaxed and will catch up with some processing of raptor videos from India as well as having lunch in Hexham and a couple at the Welli in evening!!

October 28th: into Newcastle to unn in morning to have chat with PhD student, bought Barbour jacket in Fenwick with unn gratuity, back for 6 rounds with the dental hygienist in Prudhoe in the afternoon, then into Hexham to visit Waitrose (1219!), library and Globe. Last was excellent: plenty of good crack and did spy the gorgeous duo in transit!! Many wasps noted on flowering ivy at Birches Nook, Stocksfield, while waiting at lights. Tomorrow driving in so can get back to Hexham a little earlier after the big sing!

October 27th: getting ready a lot of stills and diary for publication from Delhi and Taj Mahal part of trip to India in January. Should be finished this evening. Just entertained cleaners! They’re impressed by progress on dining room but had a good laugh when they saw daughter’s room with floor covered by books and papers from old office at work. The next task is moving that to the study, or I’ll be shot at Christmas! Will make Welli tonite. Indeed later did complete analysis of stills and diary from Delhi part of India trip from 18/1-21/1, with videos and compilation of totals still to be done. Will copy all Indian material to a separate web page, when it’s done, as well as videos of Honey Buzzard and the like. Tories bank bashing? Whatever next? Can’t see any coherence in Cameron. Discussed with younger sister letter to my mum, which I’ve not yet seen, from Lloyds concerning the Rathbone transfers. It appears mum is being retained by Lloyds as core wealth management. Well again, whatever next? Thought they’d take the opportunity to get rid of their awkward cases! Welli was good but not so many c u as usual, which was a pity!!

Wildlife

Egyptian Vulture — on Taj Mahal Mausoleum (sacrilege to some!) 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16 .

Black Kite – Delhi, included in this video taken from Hotel Ajanta .

Other birds: Rose-ringed Parakeet at Faridabad 1  2  3  4; Jungle Babbler at Agra 1  2 .

Subtotals for northern India from 19/1-20/1 are:

Delhi/Faridabad: Black Kite 87, Oriental Honey Buzzard 2, Shaheen 1, Changeable Hawk-Eagle 1.

Faridabad-Agra: Black Kite 11, Common Kestrel 4, Oriental Honey Buzzard 3, Brahminy Kite 1, Shikra 1, Steppe Eagle 1, Indian White-backed Vulture 1.

Agra: Black Kite 48, Brahminy Kite 2, Oriental Honey Buzzard 1.

Taj Mahal: Black Kite 41, Egyptian Vulture 4.

Delhi Airport area: Black Kite 52, Black-eared Kite 2, Oriental Honey Buzzard 2, Pallid Harrier 1.

Totals in this region:

Black Kite 239, Oriental Honey Buzzard 8, Common Kestrel 4, Egyptian Vulture 4, Brahminy Kite 3, Black-eared Kite 2*, Shaheen 1, Changeable Hawk-Eagle 1, Shikra 1, Steppe Eagle 1, Indian White-backed Vulture* 1, Pallid Harrier* 1. Total 266 raptors of 12 taxon, 3 new forms marked with *.

Grockels

Taj Mahal Mausoleum 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  ; inscriptions (see Egyptian Vulture above) ; inlaid stones 1  2 ; yours truly 1  2  3  4 ; finial 1 ; minarets 1  2 ; approach route 1 ; Great Gate 1  2  3  4  5  6  7 ; Mosque 1  2 ; Yamuna river 1 ; gardens 1 ; mosque from distance at Agra through mist 1  2  3  4  5  ; video of site 1  2 .

Agra Fort 1  2  3  4 ; museum shop 1  2 .

Delhi view from Hotel Ajanta 1  2; taken at dawn from Hotel Ajanta video .

Diary

On 18th two flights by Jet Airways, from Goa to Mumbai and then Mumbai to Delhi. Goa Airport was absolute chaos but Mumbai was serene and very well-organised. A female/immature Common Kestrel was hovering over grass near the runway at Mumbai, obviously unaware of recent bird-strikes! Travelling on stand-by but no problem with connections, making Delhi at 18:55 in the dark, where met by appointed car. However, have to say that daughter’s parking of giant suitcase in front of the main check-in desk at Goa was an asset in keeping us noticed! If you’re not careful you can easily find yourself by-passed in the final scramble for seats. Delhi is scam capital of the world: tourists looking for taxis can be told that their hotel is closed but the driver’s brother can help them out! Made Ajanta Hotel with great soak in bath after stay on beach and booked up trip to Taj Mahal tomorrow, beating them down by 40% in the cost after five-minute’s negotiation! Tactic was to pretend we didn’t want to go, but why were we here in Delhi in the first place! Daughter drove them harder than I would have and they threw in taxi back to airport as final act to secure the bargain. Then all smiles and bargain was kept very faithfully: we never found any attempts to rewrite bargains as claimed by some people. Taj Mahal means Crown Palace, built as A Tribute to Beauty of Love — how appropriate when you consider the name!! We stand out a lot more here: feel a bit exposed in the shortage of other foreigners but the hotel is looking after us very well. We thought suggestions that we should not leave the hotel on our own might be for the benefit of the hotel’s bar takings but evidently they’re justified: it’s a jungle out there, as in the film Slumdog Millionaire set in comparable Mumbai.

On 19th another early start at 06:00 for drive by personal transport to one or the 8 wonders of the modern world – the Taj Mahal at Agra, some 240km from Delhi. It’s a fantastic site with very impressive marble architecture. Agra itself is a real grockel trap – everything you touch costs – and the guide was a bit of a pain through being over intense, but the driver was marvellous and the monument itself was stunning. Weather was misty and about 21-23 deg C, hence similar to English summer but locals were dressed as if it were Siberia and my shorts stood out a bit! The driving style here on dual-carriageways is remarkable: they drive on the left as in the UK with slow short-distance traffic on the left but slow long-distance traffic on the right. So faster traffic goes in between these 2 streams but there are only 2 lanes so it’s a continuous weave down the middle for about 200km which gets quite tense at times! Raptor numbers were very high particularly in the urban and parkland areas of Delhi/Faridabad and Agra with total for day of 187 Black Kite (must be useful urban scavengers), 6 Oriental Honey Buzzard, 4 Common Kestrel (on wires in farmland) and Egyptian Vulture (actually perched on the marble of Taj Mahal, the guide would have had a fit if he’d known what I was photographing!), 3 Brahminy Kite (much scarcer here) and single Shaheen, Shikra, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Steppe Eagle and Indian White-backed Vulture (the last the first for the trip; it would have been seen at least in the hundreds 20 years ago). So that’s 25+ types of raptor now and 1,000+ individuals.

On 20th end of trip. Got taxi to Delhi Airport at 10:00 and flight Delhi-London took 9 hours, taking off at about 14:30. We were upgraded to business class (in both directions) which makes a great difference as you have a proper bed in which you can doze beautifully! Just as the plane was turning to speed down the runway, an adult male Pallid Harrier glided low over it and landed on the grass. What a fitting end to a wonderful trip! On the journey out from the hotel to the Airport also had 52 Black Kite and 2 Black-eared Kite and Oriental Honey Buzzard. Black-eared Kite were identified on their large, almost eagle-like form. On 21st got back to Ordley at 00:30 (06:00 Indian time) off the 20:00 train from London Kings X-Newcastle. And the station car park barriers were up! From the trip uploaded on to the desktop 18.0 GB of video (281 clips, about 2.5 hours) and 2.89 GB of stills (915 items).

October 26th: added videos of Red Kite (including calls with spectrograms), Common Buzzard and a panoramic view from visit to Chilterns on 10/10 (under 12/10) and a still Nick took of Carl Side, Bassenthwaite and yours truly on 17/10 (under 18/10). Steady progress on dining room: ceiling taped, floor repaired in corner and one wall touched up with paint; next job is re-staining the floor. Anyone know a plasterer? Must be one in the Globe! The whole of the BT web site crashed shortly after 21:00 today, both for browsing and updating. What a sod! Royal Mail may still have its uses! Site was back at 01:30 27/10. Into unn to see PhD student on Wednesday morning followed by trips to Prudhoe and Globe in afternoon. Handel piece on Thursday evening goes on for hours (quite Wagnerian) – so no Tap and will need to use car to get back as finishes after last train.

October 25th: did have walk in Bywell up the top near Home Farm. Studied closely the 5 buzzard present but they were all Common Buzzard – 2 adults and 3 juveniles. There were still some wasps around so presumably Honey Buzzard are not limited this late in October in the UK by feeding opportunities, but are the remaining nests inaccessible to them? These German Wasp were feeding on ivy flowers. At home had some wildlife encounters: 1) a queen German Wasp was hibernating in a sock I was putting on but fortunately it was drowsy and didn’t sting and was quickly flicked outside, much to its annoyance; 2) Cleo the cat brought in a mouse and dropped it at my feet while I was on the computer (this is affection, I gather); I didn’t take much notice until the cat started showing a lot of interest in my trousers (not normal affection for cats!) and realised the mouse was up my leg; so rapidly removed trousers and lobbed mouse still alive out of the window; cat was still there 3 hours later looking for mouse. It’s a great life in the country!! Did make Globe in the evening – very entertaining and good to meet aagain. Like being in Hexham late at night: something about the atmosphere. Would love matters to move forward!! Get the pen out! Cleared away rubble in dining room; will get some materials from Hexham at lunchtime 26/10 for ceiling and floor. Seeing Mike for full day in Durham on Thursday.

October 24th: relevant to ideas for understanding UK raptor migration patterns better is an article Red Kites – Updates and Comments by Mark Darlaston in Devon Birds 62(1) 23-25 (2009). Mark has looked at movements through Devon, in particular in late May 2003, May 2004, mid-May 2005, late April 2006 and spring 2007. These movements are associated with high-pressure dominating, often being pushed up from the S. Mark attributes the movements to the expanding British population although a few continental birds may be involved. This is surely right as the movements are recent and the main variable is the rapidly growing UK population. I would make the same argument for Common Buzzard in eastern Britain but counter-arguments can be made. For instance in the 2003 movement of Red Kite, good numbers initially appeared in SW Cornwall along with the odd Black Kite suggesting a French origin. Not sure I’ll be seeing the Eastern Crowned Warbler at South Shields. If it had been a raptor temptation would be irresistible! But I’m not a twitcher really. Finally got around to repairing the dining room ceiling by putting in 2 pieces of plasterboard. It wasn’t that easy battling gravity but the boards are finally clouted-in. Now need to fix jointing-tape, re-stain the floor and ask someone to dinner!! Otherwise went into Hexham for lunch at Ant’s and later takeaway from New Golden Rice. Couldn’t be a…d to cook! Tomorrow will need to clear up the mess on the floor but plan walk at Bywell in morning, late lunch at Nero and nightcap at Globe. Enjoy your extra hour in bed!!

October 23rd: now getting stuck into European-wide Common Buzzard records for 2008 and 2009; there’s something very subtle going on here and it’s impossible to be sure of what’s going on with Honey Buzzard until the Common Buzzard position is understood. Going to look at Trektellen, Danish and Swedish migration sites and UK county reports. They worked us hard at Northumberland’s JLAF yesterday with walk around the trails in Slaley Forest from 13:00-16:30 and formal meeting from 17:30-21:00 at Slaley village hall but fortunately there were very good refreshments in between. There’s a briefer mopping up meeting at East Park next Thursday to formulate policy on usage of such trails (which clashes with Handel) and meeting of group 2 working party at Ridley Arms on 9/11. Did make the Tap but a little late: good chat with 3 of us from computing, 8 from the ‘Shire players and 2 refugees from the Globe. We didn’t get out until 23:40 by which time the good citizens of Hexham had gone to bed!! This afternoon to Prudhoe Dental Practice for check-up – not changed where I go since lived in Stocksfield, some sort of inertia! No problems but seeing hygienist next Wednesday. Thought I’d had the last Honey Buzzard but today there was one over Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire, and another flying W at Hastings. Stocks are going all over the place at the moment – some up, some down – somewhat relieved to finish week only £450 down on direct funds (0.132%). Into both the drunken pubcos Punch Taverns and Enterprise Inns, former (Welli!) showing loss, latter (Tap!) showing gain. Thinking of putting some money into Irish banks! Don’t get too depressed by the economy; with the longer recession we may well avoid the dreaded double dip! Anyway off to Welli for first time on Friday for quite a while. Good to see everybody again – ’tis really one of major social meetings of week. Duty Manager looked very fit! Tomorrow will visit Hexham for lunch, might even make Ant’s!!

October 21st: today’s report looked at in detail is the bulletin for Cambridgeshire for September and October 2008. This shows 27 Honey Buzzard were reported from 13/9-9/10, on the surface similar to the 31 noted on Birdguides from 7/9-28/9. But the overlap between the records is far from perfect with the Birdguides showing +2 for 7/9, -2 for 13/9, -3 for 14/9, +10 for 15/9-25/9 and -3 for 2/10-9/10. Indeed the superset of records from the 2 sources gives a minimum total of 39 birds, with 2 on 7/9, 2 on 13/9, 10 on 14/9, 18 from 15/9-25/9, 4 on 28/9 and 3 from 2/10-9/10. There’s an interesting note: “As this passage coincided with large scale Common Buzzard movements, it will be essential that observers give good descriptions of the birds seen; also, precise time of observation, direction of travel, colour phase, any distinctive features of birds may help analysis of the true number of individuals involved”. Common Buzzard was also apparently common on migration: “Common Buzzard One hundred and seven records! Passage and resident birds noted in good numbers throughout the period but on 13th–14th Sept (when peak Honey Buzzard passage also noted) there were 25+ at Grafham Water with 22 in view at once, 25 at Ouse Fen, c. 25 at Paxton Pits and 6 at Castor Hanglands. Heavy passage was again noted around 20th–21st Sept with 15 Fen Drayton, 12 Magog Down and c. 10 at Paxton Pits and on Oct 6th with 20 at Elton and 17 Fowlmere”. So it looks as if Honey Buzzard passage here was rather light on 13/9, increasing to a peak on 14/9 with a steady flow then continuing up to 28/9. The presence of large numbers of Common Buzzard matches to some extent the London experience. Again analysis suggests that the Birdguides counts for Honey Buzzard understate the total claimed. Spent 2 hours sorting out computer after installing Windows Vista x64 Service Pack 2. All sound had gone, although speakers and mixer were not dead. Diagnosed as problem between Creativity software and drivers, tried re-installing Creativity, still didn’t work, uninstalled Creativity, still didn’t work, reset audio device to HD, restarted Windows and it worked! Sounds like typical MS ruse to drive out 3rd party software! Booked Devon trip with Flybe but it’s not that imminent +3xw. Mum’s perking up; we need to discuss proposed transfer of her Lloyds private banking to Rathbone. Might even see the Gulls play! Did make the Globe: good crack and great sights — the bblis very intelligent!! Tomorrow it’s JLAF quarterly meeting, starting with fact-finding trip to Slaley Forest at 13:00 and finishing with committee at 18:00. When that finishes, straight to tap! Earlier might grab a coffee. Wonder what will happen to the post.

October 20th: met Mike at 14:45 in Newcastle City Library, which is new base in the city as it has very good facilities for meetings and internet. Then went to Curtis Auditorium to hear a marvellous talk from 17:30 on glycobiology by Ole Hindsgaul, who is financed by Carlsberg! This was followed by a wine and buffet reception which got rather stuck into, meeting several former workmates! However, did get 20:10 back to Corbridge and had to go home to see my neglected pussies! So made Welli late and did I get some hackies: been accused apparently of letting my dog kill 2 sheep at High Plains. Only slight problem is I don’t have a dog! Anyway what’s a bit of controversy! Otherwise close presence of some very welcome: her writing is much neater than mine!! Could swap some samples. It was well worth escaping from Newcastle to be there. Tomorrow it’s the Globe as usual!! Working on finishing report of India trip, before go off again, to Africa.

October 19th: today’s report looked at in detail is Birds on the Farne Islands in 2008, published by the Natural History Society of Northumbria in 2009. This says (p.69-70) that “It was an outstanding year for this spectacular raptor with four records eclipsing all previous island records. An adult (probably female) was flushed off the north end of Brownsman on 6 July ….However, this was just the start of things to come, as a national east coast invasion involving up to 500 birds in mid-September brought no fewer than three, all dark-morph juveniles, to the islands. The first battled its way westwards from Staple Island on 14 September and dropped altitude as it approached Inner Farne. Amazingly it decided to land on the cemetery wall, with disbelieving observers only 20 metres away. After a three minute pause, the bird took flight and eventually flew west directly over Inner Farne. More followed as another flew west in mid-afternoon over the inner group on 16 September whilst the third juvenile of the invasion followed the same flight pattern over Inner Farne just after midday on 17 September. Putting this truly spectacular event into context, these four records doubled the Farnes overall total, as only four previous individuals have been logged with two during their last invasion in September 2000, a juvenile in September 2002 and a male in July 2005. It was an impressive year for an impressive raptor”. Comments by NR: it is interesting that all the Farne records have occurred since the recolonisation of Northumberland and the increased breeding population in Scotland. There are no Farne records in the 20th century when the Scandinavian population was much higher. While it may be tempting to equate the movement of the birds with that of Honey Buzzards freshly arrived from Scandinavia and moving W through the island group, a much more likely explanation is that these juveniles were coasting down the east coast of Scotland into Northumberland and strayed out into the North Sea. The juveniles were rather desperately trying to reconnect with the mainland. The exhausted nature of the first juvenile is not surprising if it had been over the North Sea for some time. Hancock in the 19th century thought Honey Buzzard found drowned on the Northumberland coast were UK-bred birds that had got lost over the North Sea, perhaps in mist. I’m not sure anyone has worked out yet any figures on the size of the 2008 movement total so the 500 birds involved in the ‘invasion’ can only be regarded as a rough number for the present. The Hobby account in the same report (p.72) is also interesting with 5 of the 6 records having occurred since 1998, shortly after the species began to colonise Northumberland. Visited Hexham this afternoon: 3*sightings of the beautiful business lady!! Tomorrow will be in earlier for lunch as going to Newcastle in afternoon to meet Mike and go to a talk early evening at Newcastle University. Will be back in time for the Welli!! Porting my old work web site to BT: will keep the category theory separate though from the birds!

October 18th: back early evening from great visit to Lakes with Nick and then off to the Sage but will make Globe before it closes! Very comfortable stay for 2 nights at Castle Inn Hotel, Bassenthwaite. Weather was fantastic on first 2 days (16/17) with continuous warm sunshine, deteriorating steadily through 18/10. Highlight of trip was a juvenile Honey Buzzard, seen close-up, drifting S over Caldbeck at 12:30 today (video with some discussion). While the camcorder was warming up, had already noted that tail was too long for any Common Buzzard. The white that the other Nick had noted was on the upperside of the tail. Nick’s getting much better at sorting out the Honeys now! That’s the 4th Honey Buzzard seen in the last 3 days in the UK with others in North Yorkshire, Hampshire and Surrey. The North Yorkshire one was at Harrogate, another Trektellen site. Is Trektellen through systematising migration counts going to lead to a real breakthrough in our knowledge of the patterns? Looks promising! So that’s 13 Honey Buzzard reported nationally in October now, taking annual total to 331. A Kingfisher was also a very welcome sight on 17/10 at Bassenthwaite as it’s the first seen this year. On 16/10 did a walk (7km) around the south side of Bassenthwaite from where Skiddaw looked very grand, taking in Sale Fell (359m asl) from where good views over the lake to Keswick. On 17/10 walked (11km) the north side of Bassenthwaite with good views to Skiddaw and particularly Carl Side. Nick took this photo of lake, Carl Side and yours truly. On 18/10 did a 7km walk around Caldbeck with interesting woods to the E where the Honey Buzzard was seen. This Dipper at Caldbeck was very obliging. Migration was a feature all weekend with a Brambling on 16/10, c1,000 total of Fieldfare, Redwing and Starling moving W/NW on 17/10 and 300 Greylag Goose moving E on 18/10. Total for trip in Cumbria was 20 raptors of 4 species: 12 Common Buzzard, 4 Kestrel, 3 Tawny Owl and a Honey Buzzard, with 3 more Common Buzzard in SW Northumberland on the way. Dashed off to Sage on own in evening where Royal Scottish National Orchestra was performing. Gate was reduced by their brave choice of Berg’s Violin Concerto for the virtuoso part, with Ilya Gringoits doing the honours in grand style. Sage audiences don’t like 20th century music, which is a great pity as while it’s discordant in places it does have its impressive moments and music cannot stay forever in the Mozart/Haydn era. Discordant music is anyway perfectly valid: Wagner for instance made much dramatic impact through its use! Did make the Globe: all very stimulating, particularly very near the end and just afterwards!!! Got home, lay on the settee and drifted off to sweet dreams!! No late IT session. Will need a fix in Hexham tomorrow afternoon!!

October 16th: another very relevant comment on the inadequacy of current field guides for raptor identification in the Report on Rare Birds in Great Britain in 2008 is found at p.549 of British Birds 102(10) 528-601 (2009) “they [pictures] illustrate that first-summer females [of Eleonora’s Falcon] can appear relatively stocky and robust. Not every individual of this species is quite as lean, long-winged and long-tailed as most field-guide images portray, it seems”. Is the problem that most raptor identification techniques have been developed at migration points where birds are lighter-weight? Or is it that the enormous variation in raptor weights with gender and over the year depending on food availability and survival strategies has been ignored? Probably a bit of both. Quick visit to Hexham this morning, very nice views!! Lapses wx1, gàg+1hour. Fond xxxxxxxxxx to the beauty!!

October 15th: today’s county considered in detail for 2008 movement is Cleveland, where their newsletter has some very interesting quotes: “The 13th [September] proved to be a remarkable day and this time it was birds of prey which predominated, especially Honey Buzzards. A record influx took place on this date involving 20 to 30 birds, with at least 14 passing through the North Tees Marshes alone. … During the following days [after 13th], more Honey Buzzards continued to be reported and the final total was probably around 50. To put this figure into some perspective, only about 40 Honey Buzzards had ever been previously seen in Cleveland. … [c20th] Honey Buzzards were still passing through and 3 Common Buzzards were over Greatham Creek”. The total on Birdguides was 21 for the 13th and 17 for the rest of the month, giving 38 in total for September, so quite a few records had not been submitted to Birdguides. Also of interest: “another Hobby in a record-breaking year [2008] for this species was over Margrove Ponds on 5th [October]”. Final total for year for Hobby in Cleveland was 9, with last on 12/10. Cleveland is of course perfectly placed to receive Honey Buzzard tracking SE from the Northumberland breeding areas so it is not surprising that it featured strongly in the movement. Have published on main web pages map of route of 2008 movement for 13-14 September, showing direction down east coast and across to Holland and Belgium. This map can be compared with that for adults in August and September 2009, which shows the routes preferred in better weather: from the number of sightings in Jersey, the Cotentinoheadland in Normandy looks as if it is a popular landing stage for adults on the journey south. This is not surprising as the distance from Portland Bill and Isle of Wight across the Channel to Cap de la Hagueis only 60km. Bit more to add – off for some fish and chips and mushy peas! Interesting trip to Hexham midday though depends what turns you on!! Another situation appealed!! Tonite it’s Hexham for a wee refreshment! In afternoon from 14:20-16:50 decided to get some exercise and went to Harwood Shield, at the top of the ‘Shire, where in the Scotch mist had 2 raptors of 2 species: a juvenile female Goshawk (not thought to be locally bred) and an adult male Kestrel at Riddlehamhope (desres!). Also had 3 Raven; this species has really advanced in SW Northumberland this year with, for instance, groups of 1-6 at 7 localities in September. Since 23/9 on the same moor Meadow Pipit have gone from 44 to 1 and Honey Buzzard from 6 to 0. Made Tap to meet ex-colleagues and just about everybody else in Hexham and the ‘Shire! Very sociable. Later, exciting!!!

October 14th: started thinking about wrapping up report on 2008 movement; think need some annual/official reports from critical county areas to complete. Meanwhile pages for county record committee decisions for Suffolk and Northumberland are very interesting. The former shows acceptance of 105 Honey Buzzard (2 adult, 2 juvenile, 101 no age information) and 0 not proven for Suffolk from 13/9/2008-04/10/2008, compared with 95 reported on Birdguides. The latter shows 20 accepted (6 adult, 12 juvenile, 2 no age information) and 2 not proven from 13/09/2008-21/09/2008, compared with 24 on Birdguides, with descriptions awaited for 7 more birds notified formally and 9 notified informally. So the Birdguides totals are very reasonable pointers to the numbers accepted but the situation in Northumberland does have its complexities! Highlight of day was trip to Hexham with the business woman showing her beautiful pair and lovely legs!! Globe was good as well: much fortification of my ideas for not taking on any commitments at present. Had another offer today of a 6-months grant contract, which would be paid but 40% tax is a bit of a turn-off, so no!

October 13th: looked at the new Trektellen post on Jersey in more detail and found more records in August and the first half of September. It really is a fantastic new venture, confirming that many UK birds fly over the south coast from Dorset-Sussex and come ashore in the Cherbourg/Channel Islands area. Most Northumbrian adults will come this way. I’ve updated the 2009 totals; the text shows why these birds are not continental bred. August goes up 10 to 63 and September 9 to 117. So year’s total is now 327 with the last at, yes, Jersey on 10/10. It’s hardly a scarce raptor now, is it? What a disgrace the national recording position is on Honey Buzzard. On a happier note Welli was superb: such sophistication, what more could you ask for!! Tomorrow it’s the Globe, well maybe not so sophisticated but there are plus points, generally in twos!! Next stop is Keswick, but not for long.

October 12th: Back from fairly long visit to London, where have more close relatives than anywhere else now. Think I’m regarded as a straw-chewing country cousin! Stayed with elder sister at Ealing, going down by train at 13:01 on 8/10, arriving in Ealing Broadway at 16:45. Went to 2 concerts at the Barbican: particularly noteworthy were, on 8/10, Beethoven’s violin concerto passionately played by Arabella Steinbacher and, on 9/10, the very moving Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss with Anne Schwanewilms, soprano. Went with son on 8/10 and 9/10 with sister joining us for the latter. Interesting pub in Barbican, Lord Raglan, where on first night large brawl broke out but police very soon in to lead a few away. Well the credit crunch does seem to have stretched nerves in the City! Hope it wasn’t my nudge on his snooker cue! Went for 6km walk in Chilterns at Radnage (pan video) in beautiful sunny weather on 10/10 and had on the day, including birds seen on M40/A40, 25 Red Kite, 3 Kestrel and 2 Common Buzzard. Red Kite showed very well as usual but this time got some calls recorded (video  wma  spectrogram for quavering long calls (1  2) and staccato long call (3) ). Always like to get these, they’re as much part of the bird as visual appearance. Videos included these 2 showing close-up birds (1  2). On 11/10 met son and daughter, who was just back from LA, and we visited a number of pubs in the Parsons Green-Fulham-Barnes-Hammersmith area with lunch at the Sun Inn in Barnes. Quite a pub crawl really! Certainly not a birdwatching trip but did get a Sparrowhawk over the Barnes Wildfowl Reserve! Daughter thinks I should buy her a flat in Fulham as an investment! Also on trip met niece, jet-lagged from trip to Australia, and nephew, arranging cottage in Skye, so very sociable. Bit of inter-sibling rivalry as it appears my elder sister has more assets than I: think I need some help with property management among other things!! Final walk on 12/10 am was to Horsenden Hill, the highest hill in Ealing with good views over Wembley Stadium and the City. Amazing number of Rose-ringed Parakeet around in the oak woods and also single Kestrel and Sparrowhawk, but no Red Kite yet. Mum is quite poorly; so that’s a worry and next significant visit will be to Devon. Back to Newcastle in afternoon from Kings X. Very pleased to meet karismatic kagain on train to Corbridge: hope her groin injury clears up quickly!! Total for trip was 33 raptors of 4 species: 25 Red Kite, 4 Kestrel and 2 Common Buzzard and Sparrowhawk. Piccies to follow. Christmas with family will be in Hexham. Going with son to Ethiopia in late January and, after a while there, I’d like to go on to Zanzibar. Should make Globe tonite: great to be back in Hexham with its delights!! Did make Globe: quiet on Monday night but still a good laugh. Enjoyed walk into park afterwards: such a sensuous atmosphere – what a star!! Tomorrow will have a look at the Tyne Valley but expect to be in Hexham for lunch and later at the Welli.

October 8th: should have added yesterday that I think in good weather UK-bred Honey Buzzard migrate inland taking advantage of thermals while in poor weather they migrate down the east coast, partly for navigation and partly because of the uplift provided by the onshore winds on cliffs, as used for instance by gulls. So in poor weather there is a concentration on the well-watched east coast while in good weather the birds migrate generally at higher altitude over less watched areas inland. This hypothesis seems to hold up well, looking at the data over the last 10 years. Rather sombre visit to Hexham this morning. Lapses tx1, wx1, gàg+1. Missing the lovelies xxxxxxx

October 7th: added September figures for UK counts of Honey Buzzard migrants to 2009 totals. These show the 4th best September to date with rather similar data to 2006 when the weather was also good in this month, allowing a relatively easy exit for the birds. The running total for this year was 299 on 30/9, and is now up to 306 after 7 in October to 7/10 including one today S over Cresswell Pond, Northumberland. So this is comfortably the best year for Honey Buzzard outside the 2 years, 2008 and 2000, when the birds encountered adverse weather conditions for the exit. The totals for the trip today to the upper South Tyne in beautiful sunny weather don’t include any Honey Buzzard! Totals for day (11:45-15:30) from Gilderdale on Cumbrian border to Haltwhistle were 19 raptors of 4 species: 12 Common Buzzard, 4 Kestrel, 2 Sparrowhawk and a Hobby. The Hobby, a juvenile, was at Parson Shields, where a bird was present on last visit. It will not hang about much longer I feel. 3 Swallow flew S at 13:10. At Ordley flushed a juvenile female Sparrowhawk from a rose-hedge where it was studying the local Greenfinch! Made Globe for tea as usual and all went very well, including the elegant stroll pass of the business lady!! Tomorrow is a little less settled, will make Hexham in the morning.

October 6th: added video below of Red Kite at Dunkeld on 30/9. There’s a lot in common with Honey Buzzard jizz: long wings and tail, effortless floating, floppy flight action and tendency for more flamboyant flight when well up. It’s easier in some respects to confuse Red Kite and Honey Buzzard at long range than Common Buzzard and Honey Buzzard. But then the Honey Buzzard is a kite in many respects. Property event on 1/10 was finishing off the mortgage with last regular payment of £31! Can see here route through property market from initial venture in Haltwhistle. Still may well buy a flat in Hexham but giving the shares wheel another turn at the moment as don’t think flat prices are going anywhere for a while. Later next year sometime, when unemployment finally starts to fall and interest rates start to rise, some fast footwork will be needed. Of course there might be other very good reasons for buying a flat! Made Hexham at lunchtime: ghs*3 and gps*2 looked gorgeous!! s&l came this afternoon. Turned down offer of part-time teaching at School: want more freedom! Sorted next trip. Went to Welli for later part of quiz night: lady in red was the star!! Tomorrow to upper South Tyne to look for very late migrants, but will make Globe later!

October 5th: added piccies below for trip to Scotland, mainly of Ben Vrackie walk but also of the ideal Honey Buzzard habitat in the area. Made Hexham this morning and pleased to meet c again in Nero. Into Newcastle for lunch and afternoon working on paper with Mike, followed by ie. meeting on sustainable development, which was a little dull! Didn’t get back until 20:40. Tomorrow looking for a bit more fun so, after entertaining s&l, into Hexham for lunch and the Welli later!! Getting withdrawal symptoms!!

October 4th: back for a bit from trip to lovely wild Scotland with main purpose of visit the Raptor Research Foundation Annual Conference at Atholl Palace, Pitlochry, from 29/9-4/10. Piccies to follow. There were 2 very relevant Honey Buzzard items:

A paper on moult in Honey Buzzard using African specimens was given by Michael Louette. He emphasised that Honey Buzzard juveniles are very different from adults, with shorter wings and tails, like a different species. On specimens the pale base to the bill and yellowish head spikes confirm the age as juvenile. Interesting conclusions were that juvenile Honey Buzzard do not moult many feathers at all until the start of the second autumn in their 2cy when their plumage is very worn except for the tertials and a few random retrices which have been renewed. They then moult rapidly in Africa, a strategy which is unlikely to be consistent with any returning to Europe at this age. Having completed the moult well before the next spring they are then ready to make their first migration N as 3cy birds. From 2 birds it is possible that a few 3cy birds do remain in Africa but the feeling was that nearly all do go N. Adult males moult very rapidly around December, some almost ‘falling to pieces’. Adult females, which go through a partial moult in Europe, moult at a more steady pace. Specimens found in Africa in the northern winter are predominantly adults, indicating a species in which the adults are long-lived. The start of the talk was very lively. He raised a few questions: why don’t Honey Buzzard just simply breed in Africa? There’s a better match there with their needs in wasps than over much of their temperate breeding range and they do really fatten up readily on wasps in Africa. In America there is a similar raptor Red-throated Caracara Ibycter americanus which preys on bee and wasp larvae but remains in the tropics all year. Why is so little known about the Honey Buzzard? Where do they go in Africa? If you go on field trips in the northern winter you are lucky to see one bird a day. Then said: I’m not going to answer these questions! A poster was presented by Anita Gamauf which gave the results in 2009 from the use of telemetry on 8 Honey Buzzard juveniles to study their dispersal from 6 nests in the National Park Donau-Auen, Austria. These showed that juveniles left nest at 43-45 days old, then remained close to the nest, with range of 2-6ha, for a further 14 days when fed 8-12 times a day by the adults. They started foraging on the forest floor near the nest from 53-55 days old, quickly became independent and starting dispersal (gradual at first) at 56-59 days old. Siblings were independent of one another prior to migration and on the first day of migration, in which they moved 8-11.5km, the young birds avoided non-forested habitat, did not soar and flew exclusively below the canopy. Migration directions initially were between SSW and ESE. Key factors like food finding, predatory avoidance and migratory tactics seemed to be developed very rapidly. There was no difference in behaviour between male and female juveniles. [Note by NR: is it the presence of predatory Goshawk that keeps juveniles beneath the canopy in some areas? Timings vary slightly between poster and abstract; those for poster included above].

References:

GAMAUF, A. Honey-buzzard (Pernis apivorus) telemetry: post-nuptial behaviour, dispersal and habitat selection. [poster]

LOUETTE, M. Moult of honey-buzzard (Pernis apivorus) in Africa. [oral]

There were many other great papers. One (Bierregaard & Martell) on tracking of Osprey showed the chaotic routes taken by juvenile Osprey down the eastern seaboard of America compared to the more orderly route taken by adults. Another (Smart) showed how persecution is limiting the Red Kite colonisation in the northern Scotland release area. On a similar vein the poor position of the Golden Eagle in north eastern Scotland was attributed to persecution (Weston and others). The very successful Bald Eagle and White-tailed Eagle and the more problematic Golden Eagle featured prominently in papers. The exciting new techniques for electronic tagging featured prominently in a number of talks. The conference was very well supported by USA, Scotland and Spain in particular with France and Norway also featuring. But there did not seem so much support from England or Wales. All in all it was an excellent conference with high standard of papers and posters throughout. Also had many chats with other attendees. The Red Kite colonisation in north east England was thought to be well on course. Evidently they do often switch sites at the last moment in spring, perhaps because they really like to breed near other kites but also because they are very easily scared. The Hobby colonisation of SW Northumberland was thought to benefit ironically from the gamekeepers who appear to be restricting the establishment of the Goshawk, which attack young falcons on the edge of woodland.

Drove up on 28/9 leaving home at 15:00 and arriving at Pitlochry at 19:40 after stops at Kinross Services and Dunkeld Hermitage. Stayed at Fisher’s Hotel in Pitlochry. Went back to great Honey Buzzard site of the Hermitage next day (30/9) from 11:10-13:20 and had one Honey Buzzard juvenile soaring high into the sky at 12:10 and a Red Kite flying W low-down. This area has perfect habitat for Honey Buzzard (1  2). Next day (1/10) went on a circuit from Pitlochry-Dunkeld-Aberfeldy-Pitlochry and had another Honey Buzzard juvenile soaring high into the sky at 13:10 in Glen Cochill. Both these Honey Buzzard appeared to be soaring high to continue their migrations but it’s difficult to be sure as they can soar high between one feeding area and another. Whatever both were in the mixed coniferous/heather area to the west of Dunkeld which seems to be a very popular habitat just before departure. Weather was very fine with light W wind on the first 2 days. On 2/10 the drizzle arrived but still decided to go out and look at the habitat in Loch Tummel area from Queen’s View. This area of the Tay Forest Park is rich in birch trees with a few extensive coniferous plantations and heather moors on the tops so eminently suitable for Honey Buzzard. Can see that I took one session off each day for a field trip – cannot sit all day indoors in such wilderness. On 3/10 we had more talks in the morning but then some hearty exercise in a SW gale, with c20 of us climbing Ben Vrackie (841m asl or c2,800 feet asl, 200 feet short of a Munro). This gave fantastic views of the Tay Valley and there are some great shots from the summit. The mountain looks quite dramatic from the edge of the tree-line. Getting closer it’s the final stretch that’s steep: Ptarmigan were heard from the rocks near the summit on its S side. From the summit you get good views to N, SE and S, and the lough below looks good in the sun from near the summit. These pictures (1  2) show me on the top. Going down the visibility improved and from Creag Bhreac this shot shows the mixture of habitats in the Tay Valley which attracts Honey Buzzard.

Socially there was a lively party with Scottish dancing at the really fine Blair Castle in Blair Atholl on 1/10. Local lasses were very bonny – reminded me of the dynamic duo – must surely be a common gene!! Indeed the lively hotel receptionist s did remind me of somebody!! In the evening of 3/10 we had a banquet at the Atholl Palace, complete with game pate, a chicken-haggis dish and plenty of wine, but the last disappeared very rapidly on my table, shared with delegates from Scotland and Norway! A band, with bagpipes and vigorous drums, completed the ceremony.

Drove back on 4/10 leaving Pitlochry at 10:40 and getting back at 14:50 after stops at services on the Edinburgh bypass and Carter Bar. All in all was very pleased I went. Learnt a lot about latest research on raptors world-wide, met lots of similarly crazy raptor enthusiasts, had some rewarding field trips in wild countryside, climbed a mountain and generally enjoyed revisiting Scotland. The area around Dunkeld is superb, second only to Northumberland!! Provisional total for trip was 27 raptors of 5 species: 18 Common Buzzard, 5 Sparrowhawk, 2 Honey Buzzard and single Red Kite and Kestrel. Got back into Nero in Hexham this afternoon – good to meet r again. Now must get back to the Globe and the Northumberland beauties!! Globe was fun! Magic number was drawn at 3*13!! Tomorrow into Newcastle in afternoon for visiting fellow duties but might well make Hexham in the morning.

September 29th: Nick from Stocksfield went for walk in Bywell on 27/9 and had a Red Kite and just one buzzard, so does look as if the gathering of Honey Buzzard did break up. Red Kite evidently reared one young near Apperley Dene this year but have since wandered off: they do seem very difficult to pin down. Did make Hexham midday and both ghsand gpsreally lived up to their names!! xxxxxxxxxx

September 28th: today to Durham by train to see Mike to progress paper for anpa and to attend a (secret) training meeting of ld. Very good to see 2/3 of Rhinemaidens on travels!! Date for your diaries is 26/06/11: start of concert performances by Opera North of Wagner’s Ringat the Sage in Gateshead with Das Rheingold, where you can find out all the subtleties of the maidens!! Each opera lasts one year. Might make Hexham 2nite to make up for lapses (wx2, gx1, tx1). Yes, indeed, went to County for a couple; like Hexham late at night, it’s very sensuous!! Tomorrow should make Hexham for lunch!

September 27th: well it’s getting near the end but still got another new Honey Buzzard juvenile this lunchtime (derived stills 1  2  3). The sites being checked at this late hour are those where adults present a few weeks ago but no juveniles seen, suggesting very late breeding. Today from 12:30-14:40 went to Kellas where had 6 raptors of 4 species: 3 Common Buzzard and single Honey Buzzard, Hobby (juvenile) and Kestrel. Also had 55 Meadow Pipit, 8 Swallow, 2 Yellow Wagtail and a House Martin flying S. Then to Hexham for shopping at Waitrose and late lunch at Nero – good to meet rand cagain. Suspect the post-breeding flocks will have broken up yesterday but there will be a steady trickle of Honey Buzzard juveniles out of northern Britain for the next month so not switching off yet by any means. And anyway if you can’t see Honey Buzzard you go and talk about them! Interesting property development on 1/10. Good to see Stan Beckensall from Hexham on Countryfile this evening talking about cup and ring marks, plus views of all that lovely heather moorland in Northumberland. Globe was great end to day, generates such sweet dreams!!

Current totals for Honey Buzzard after 38 broods of juveniles above the canopy and 4 post-breeding flocks found, are: Allen 7 sites, 14 adults (7 male, 7 female), 2 nests in Norway Spruce, Oak, 6×2 juvs fledged, 1×1+ juvs fledged, 1 post-breeding flock 5; Devil’s Water 6,12 (6,6), 3 nests in Scots Pine x 2, Norway Spruce, 6×2 juvs fledged; Tyne Valley 11,17 (8,9), 3 nests in Scots Pine x 2, Norway Spruce, 6×2 juvs, 3×1+ fledged, 1 post-breeding flock 6 juvs; upper South Tyne 6,13 (7,6), 2 nests in Norway Spruce, Birch, 5×2, 1×1+ juvs fledged, 1 post-breeding flock 6 juvs, 1 migrant; lower South Tyne 4,6 (3,3), 4×2 juvs fledged, 1 migrant; and Derwent 6,12 (6,6), 5×2 juvs fledged, 1×1+ juv fledged, 1 post-breeding flock 6; giving grand total 40, 74 (37,37), 10 nests in Norway Spruce x 4, Scots Pine x 4, Birch, Oak, 32×2, 6×1+ juvs fledged, total 38 broods of 70+ juvs fledged, 4 post-breeding flocks 23 juvs, 6 migrants.

September 26th: lovely strong sunshine on a moderate W breeze and the last b..gers start to leave! Went to Bywell from 10:40-12:00 a week after last visit and again found 6 Honey Buzzard juvenile present so presumably none have left since last time. Wasps were everywhere so that presumably is one of the attractions. Got more close-up video of the same bird but from different angles and the small head, long neck, dark eye mask and yellow bill are very evident (derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13; these two 14  15 show the Common Buzzard having a final swipe at the Honey Buzzard) together with a couple of soft calls. A Common Buzzard was also seen close-up (video) and you can see the difference in shape of head and tail and the finer barring on the underwing (derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7). Note also the much longer P10 on the Honey Buzzard, equal to length of P5. This Common Buzzard is an adult, with its dark trailing edge. This Honey Buzzard had a bust-up with some Common Buzzard, then crossed the road and helped to make up a funnel of 6 Honey Buzzard at 11:45 of which 3 soared high into the sun and disappeared, 2 (including bird on video) soared to a moderate height and then slowly glided down to W back to feeding grounds and the last bird was quickly back over its favourite wood as if nothing had happened. So it appeared half had gone on this burst. On past experience one or two of the others will leave the same day a little later. Then to Kiln Pit Hill from 12:10-13:20 where no raptor migrants seen but a juvenile Honey Buzzard came up for a spot of flying practice for a few minutes over Minsteracres. No less than 5 Wheatear were in the churchyard: had one here last time so the place must have some attractions for them. Total for trip was 23 raptors of 4 species: 10 Common Buzzard, 7 Honey Buzzard, 4 Kestrel and 2 Sparrowhawk. Then briefly into Hexham – quick gallop around important features, no time for coffee! Then into Gosforth. Having pressure put on me from various quarters to commit to demanding ventures on virtually a voluntary basis: database and web site manager for NERS; participant in uni grant helping people abroad master IT by lengthy secondments overseas. I’m resisting: want to spend time on things I’m passionate about – raptors, people I like, music, category theory, coffee shops, bars – not IT, which is a means to an end. Oh dear, put raptors first, you can interchange the first two if you’ve got perfect attributes!! Tomorrow back to the ‘Shire and Kellas to see how things are progressing there. Then into Hexham for coffee and much later Guinness at the Globe! Expanded on last night’s concert below.

September 25th: rewarding lunchtime in Hexham, going to library, Oxfam (to see about donating technical books) and Nero with very tasty sights on view commuting from SC; met t from Juniper, gave him a lift back and was rewarded with a Honey Buzzard juvenile near his house, being mobbed by Jackdaw. Then from 15:10-16:50 to site NW of Haltwhistle at Blenkinsopp where had 2 juvenile Honey Buzzard floating over fields, even landing on them and giving some close-up views. These were not strong fliers so must have been bred very late, like some of the others found in the last week. Also had another Honey Buzzard juvenile over Plenmeller Common, 2 Common Buzzard E of Haydon Bridge and another near Haltwhistle. Sage concert with Philarmonia was so stimulating. First item with inspiring brass was by Janáček, someone who I can very much empathise with but you’ll have to work it out for yourself from his biography! Second item was Ravel’s piano concerto for the left hand for which the pianist had to have her right arm amputated and the third was the whole of Stravinsky’s Firebird, the moving end of which is on my home page. Then made Welli where good to meet v again. If tomorrow really does see winds drop and the sun come out, then some of these juveniles will be off, but we’ve been promised an improvement for several days and it’s not arrived yet. The final exciting exit is not far off! Going to Durham on Monday to see Mike and to a party in Newcastle late afternoon tomorrow. It’s fairly critical this weekend to get things sorted!

September 24th: added an ‘armchair’ migrant from 17/9, will put up the video later; enjoyable day getting back to School – can concentrate far better on writing papers there than at home where there are so many distractions! Good to meet a lot of people again: think my presence probably depresses productivity! Nice train journeys – another perfect one!! And nice wheels on the road!! Tomorrow back to the field, perhaps Haltwhistle, but Nero for lunch and bit of culture later! 4 added to monthly totals on Trektellen and Birdguides from 22nd-24th brings the ton-up on the monthly national total with the annual total now at 291. Would expect juveniles to start moving out from Northumberland in the next few days – they’re fit enough! But will not hold my breath as to how many will be identified en route! Forsman (1999, p.31) says: “Adult and juvenile Honey Buzzards are rather different in plumage and proportions, almost like two different species. Adults are usually not difficult to identify if seen well, but juveniles are highly variable in plumage and are probably the most often misidentified raptors in Europe”. Indeed! I even think that the controversy over whether juvenile Honey Buzzard fly above the canopy over their nest sites is due to identification problems: the observers don’t realise how different juvenile Honey Buzzard are from adults and identify them as Common Buzzard. How well the mimicry can work! From the physical point of view though, how can a bird not practice flying before leaving for Africa? t&s was very good – 4 of us now!

September 23rd: added 3rd video from 19/9, showing 3 juveniles hanging over the wood, including a very acrobatic dive as one bird drops the material it’s carrying and tries to catch it before it hits the trees. Also added some stills from yesterday, showing the lovely moors. About to go out to upper reaches of the ‘Shire to see what’s happening there. Trip from 12:40-15:30 was a great success finding another gang of 6 Honey Buzzard juveniles in the woods where the ‘Shire meets the Beldon Burn. Suspect these were bred in the Beldon Burn, being young from 3 sites down to Blanchland. Some good video obtained with one close-up bird showing the 3 wing bars and a yellow bill. Also saw 2 Kestrel. Piccies to follow. Did make Globe for tea!! Always a delight, seeing the beautiful duo with their perfect b.ms!!! Tomorrow’s a full day in uni so no fieldwork but looking forward to commuting again and a day in the big city! Will make t&s in late evening. Got the cats sorted for absences in October – aren’t neighbours wonderful? Though I’m cutting their long high hedge in return: not too much bother with steps and an electrical trimmer! Shall be much more sedentary in November and December to try and settle down a bit more.

September 22nd: added 2nd video from 19/9 for another juvenile Honey Buzzard, a pale phase bird, perched temporarily on the top of a tree where it shows long tail projection and dark patch on head. As the bird hangs and peers down, its long neck and small head are obvious. The upperwing shows the dark transverse band on the middle of the wing. Above all the jizz is elegant, particularly the way the bird lifts off the branch. Spending ages clearing out the study in the house so that I can move in the books/papers from my office. Think I need to employ an archivist! Very windy this morning so going out (to Allen) this afternoon. Might make Hexham for lunch – did, enjoyed it!! Went far up the East Allen to Sinderhope, having good walk in wild weather (strong W wind) on edge of moors from 14:10-16:50 and seeing 9 raptors of 3 species: 7 Honey Buzzard and single Common Buzzard and Kestrel. The Honey Buzzard comprised a post-breeding group of 5 strong-flying juveniles slightly to the N (matching number raised in 3 sites downstream to N) and 2 juveniles in Sinderhope itself. The group of 5 were over more open habitat (1  2) than that used for nesting. This is usual as it gives them more scope for flying practice and perhaps also enables them to exploit fresh food resources. While the nest site might be around 300m in the valley bottom, most feeding will be done at 300-400m in the vicinity, particularly near the moors. Trying to think of a name for these groups: crècheI don’t think is right as it assumes a few adults still around for care; perhaps gangis the word! One of the 2 local juveniles was flushed very close to its presumed nest site and it was joined later on the moors by its presumed sibling. Also had a juvenile Honey Buzzard up over the house on return: great to live in this area! Last adults were seen on 17/9. Also had a group of 3 Twite (short video including call; stills taken on camcorder 1  2), another somewhat controversial species: does it still breed on the high moors in the Allenheads area? Yes! Need more birders in the county who get off their a…s! More piccies to follow. Trips arranged to Pitlochry, London, Keswick and Devon next month. January will be special!! Into Newcastle on Thursday. Can’t remember what’s happening tonite!! Finally did – it was the Welli for quiz night! Amazed by the clever c….!! Very good show all round!!

September 21st: added video and associated stills for one juvenile Honey Buzzard flying close-by at Bywell on 19/9. This bird is very instructive, with the three well-spaced bars across the flight feathers (remiges) clearly visible only when the bird is close-up. Relying on such features may give 100% precision (all records accepted are 100% correctly identified) but 1% accuracy (only 1% of birds in a population are identified). From the conservation point of view, 1% accuracy is not acceptable as the population size is effectively unknown. Identification criteria need to reflect field conditions. Thinking of changing name of target species to Honey-buzzard throughout much of web site as feel that too many birdwatchers are looking for a buzzard with certain plumage features rather than for a kite which superficially looks like a buzzard, presumably for the advantages of mimicking the Common Buzzard, a species perceived as stronger by other raptors. Still processing video from 19/9 and 20/9. Weather is dull today; hope to look tomorrow for further groups of juveniles.

Current totals for Honey Buzzard after 35 broods of juveniles above the canopy and 2 post-breeding flocks found, are: Allen 7 sites, 14 adults (7 male, 7 female), 2 nests in Norway Spruce, Oak, 5×2 juvs fledged, 1×1+ juvs fledged; Devil’s Water 6,12 (6,6), 3 nests in Scots Pine x 2, Norway Spruce, 6×2 juvs fledged; Tyne Valley 11,17 (8,9), 3 nests in Scots Pine x 2, Norway Spruce, 6×2 juvs, 3×1+ fledged, 1 post-breeding flock 6 juvs; upper South Tyne 6,13 (7,6), 2 nests in Norway Spruce, Birch, 4×2, 1×1+ juvs fledged, 1 post-breeding flock 6 juvs, 1 migrant; lower South Tyne 4,6 (3,3), 4×2 juvs fledged, 1 migrant; and Derwent 6,12 (6,6), 4×2, 1×1+ juvs fledged; giving grand total 40, 74 (37,37), 10 nests in Norway Spruce x 4, Scots Pine x 4, Birch, Oak, 29×2, 6×1+ juvs fledged, total 35 broods of 64+ juvs fledged, 2 post-breeding flocks 12 juvs, 2 migrants.

September 20th: what a day! Perfect raptor weather with cold front clearing, leaving moderate NW breeze, very clear skies and strong sunshine. Provisional total for day in upper South Tyne (Barhaugh-Haltwhistle) from 11:10-16:40 was 46 raptors of 4 species: 28 Common Buzzard, 9 Kestrel, 8 Honey Buzzard and a Hobby. This is of course the stronghold for Common Buzzard in the county. The Hobby was a juvenile at Parson Shields. The Honey Buzzard comprised a migrant, a juvenile on its own near Barhaugh and another post-breeding gathering of 6 juveniles near Eals. So much video has been collected over the last 2 days. Let’s start with the migrant, a juvenile Honey Buzzard gliding strongly S up the South Tyne at 12:54 before soaring high off to the SE. I was fortunate getting the bird at the bottom of the gliding phase as they are at their lowest altitude in the cycle at this point. The bird then has to climb again and it does this without a wing flap up to a great height, drifting to the SE. The whole affair is deadly serious: there’s never any exhibitionism in migrating birds. The bird has never made the journey to Africa before but it has the instinct to move S and to minimise energy use as much as possible in the glide-soar cycle. The soar slows the journey down but reduces very much the energy used, making it practicable. Can speculate where the bird’s from – at almost 13:00 it will have probably been travelling 2-3 hours so my guess is Scotland. The break in filming was when I had to jump off the road to escape a car! Don’t normally film standing on roads, even back ones like this (near Robinwood), but this was an emergency! This was 1 of 9 on Birdguides today, with a wide scatter geographically. Would get more videos done but off to the Globe!! Back from Globe and added video of locally-bred juvenile in Barhaugh area from around the 300m contour mark. This bird has not been fledged long with primaries still growing and weak flapping-flight against the wind: it will probably still be here in early October. Note though the kite-like feel to the bird with soft wingbeats and a generally elegant jizz.

September 19th: it’s also relevant to mention the adult female Honey Buzzard satellite-tracked from North Wales, which crossed the Channel on 25/8, way ahead I suspect of the breeding birds in Northumberland. It’s her second year of being logged. Weather today was warm, even a little muggy, very suitable for juvenile Honey Buzzard! Tyne Valley certainly did not disappoint with a single juvenile Honey Buzzard floating low-down over Prudhoe Hospital grounds at 12:20 (in a walk around the High Mickley/Durham Riding area from 10:50-13:30) and a post-breeding flock of 6 juvenile Honey Buzzard at Bywell, in view from 13:45-14:20. The latter gave close-up views, presumed to comprise the offspring of 3 breeding pairs in the area. They appeared to be playing with a light material such as wasp comb and were very agile. Honey Buzzard juveniles are fond of flying practice over woods on the crests of hills where they get more uplift from the wind. So the fledged broods may be found 1-2km from the nest sites which are nearly always in the valleys. Video of one intermediate-phase juvenile coming very close was taken with derived stills (1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12). Another video was taken of a pale-phase juvenile, perched and in flight, with derived stills (1  2  3  4  5  6  7). This video shows 3 juveniles hanging in the wind, including one performing an acrobatic dive, with derived stills (1  2  3  4  5). Also had a juvenile Honey Buzzard over the house at home when arriving back at 15:40 plus single Sparrowhawk and Common Buzzard in the Prudhoe area and 2 Kestrel juveniles at Bywell. Annual totals given yesterday were wrong. They’ve now been corrected and with 4 migrants on Birdguides reported today, 2009 is now 3rd best year after 2000 and 2008! Added videos (476) for Honey Buzzard and Common Buzzard near Bywell on 2/9. Tomorrow it’s the upper South Tyne for a Honey Buzzard site at high altitude and hopefully some Hobby.

September 18th: very gloomy weather so taking a day off field work! Interested in the 2 satellite-tracked Honey Buzzard juveniles from Moray. One crossed the English Channel on 11/9 or 12/9, the other crossed on 16/9 apparently from Wales to Galicia (NW Spain) directly. However, the claim for this direct route is dubious. Firstly the interval between the two signals (15/9 21:38; 17/9 14:50 BST) is effectively 2 days of migration giving the bird time for a more indirect route. Secondly the winds are misstated. Winds follow the cloud lines so cannot be NW and must be either NE or SW. With high pressure to N and low-pressure to S, the winds over the Bay of Biscay will be NE. A likely route is thus from Wales, through Devon and onto Brittany on 16/9, roosting to the S of here. Then on 17/9 following the coast down the eastern side of the Bay of Biscay and being drifted by the NE winds to Galicia. With the winds as they were, a direct route would have pushed the bird further out into the Atlantic and almost certain death. Keeping to controversial issues, a Rough-legged Buzzard reported in Norfolk twice today was later identified as a Common Buzzard. Good! Did make Hexham for lunch but went to Ant’s for a change where good to meet n again!! Slept so well last night – sweet dreams from late-night memories!! This evening to Tyneside where met Nick at Marco Polo (won bottle of wine in raffle!) and first concert of season at Sage with impressive Sibelius Lemminkäinen (quite Wagner like) and Brahms double concerto with amazing cellist. From last train made Welli for a couple! Tomorrow it’s the Tyne Valley in the morning to try and pick up one or two late broods with Hexham later. Sunday (20/9) is looking more interesting for migration patterns again with a weak cold front passing through early in the morning and giving clearer weather in the north later. Total for month nationally of migrants is now 81 giving year total of 272, 15 ahead of 4th best year to date 2003 and 3 short of 3rd best year to date 2006 [The 2009 figures were corrected (upped!) on 19/9].

September 17th: finally sorted the ‘Shire with a family party of 4 very high-up over SW Dipton Wood from 12:25-12:35 so results for the Devil’s Water area are 6/6 pairs fledging, each with 2 young. Otherwise no visible migration at Kiln Pit Hill in brilliant sunshine and light SE winds from 10:20-11:50 and no Honey Buzzard seen in 2 sites in the Minsteracres/Kellas area. A Wheatear at Kiln Pit Hill was a surprise. Did have some action in the March Burn though with a female Honey Buzzard soaring very high up into the base of the clouds from 13:15-13:25 but she failed to get the young into the air, although they were calling at her. Young are more rebellious than I thought! So that’s 7 Honey Buzzard, with 5 Common Buzzard also noted. Finally got official confirmation from VC of Visiting Fellow status, which enables me to secure research facilities and will start getting stuck into this with one day each week in Newcastle, probably Thursday. Not planning on more than one day a week in Newcastle but may also visit Mike in Durham on occasions, when Fridays are popular. Enjoyed visit to Hexham and Nero late afternoon: very stimulating!! Later it’s the t&s! Tomorrow the culture trail starts again but will be in Hexham for lunch. 32 broods now: could almost get complacent!

September 16th: didn’t know the Fire Service read my blog. Got back from trip at 15:20 to find large fire engine outside house and advisory team all waiting to inspect! They thought it was OK except that needed an extra smoke alarm at top of stairs which they fitted free! Mind you if you’re a cynic like some of my friends, you’ll think they’ve fitted a monitoring device right above my computer to look at the keystrokes! Trip went well getting new family party of 4 from 11:30-12:50 at yesterday afternoon’s site including close-up video of one juvenile floating without a wingbeat for 4 minutes, 1 juvenile at a site near Lambley Viaduct at 13:20 and 2 juveniles over a new site near Haydon Bridge at 14:30. The juveniles are now stronger flying and more independent. For the first time this season the pair of adults and 2 juveniles all ended up at a great height together. Total for day was 15 raptors of 4 species: 7 Honey Buzzard, 5 Common Buzzard, 2 Hobby (juveniles mobbing Honey Buzzard near Haydon Bridge) and a Peregrine (male). I did suspect that the lower South Tyne was under-covered so 2 new sites there this year is not a surprise. More videos to come. Bank manager ‘phoned from Lloyds in Hexham to ask if I was aware of large flows on the account and whether I would like their wealth management facilities: well, yes and no! Latter is a bit staid from experience as co-trustee with ongoing mother’s and late step-father’s schemes (and expensive). So onto the juggling! Made Ridley Arms at 18:20 just as chair said ‘right let’s start!’. Earlier stayed in Hexham for important parade of the lovelies!! So juggling worked out fairly well but sadly didn’t make the park! Meeting was of WG2, to decide response of JLAF to Forestry Commission discussion document and I was there to put the wildlife case. Weather has changed – cool and clear – a touch of ground frost will perhaps persuade a few of the Honey Buzzard to leave. Not sure of schedule tomorrow but expect to do some migration checking at Kiln Pit Hill (early start!) and searching for broods in the Tyne Valley. Now reached 40 sites and 30 broods.

September 15th: late out as did end up chatting with s&l: they even sorted out my toaster which caught fire last week and set off the smoke alarm! There were enough crumbs in it to make a couple of slices! s is a pheasant-shoot beater! Made site where Allen meets Tyne at 12:10 and was treated, as sun broke through, to 2 displays of family parties of 4 Honey Buzzard during the next hour. Display seems to be fairly standard with pair of adults up into the cloud base with mutual circling and 2 juveniles not far above the tree level also in mutual circling. Also had 4 Common Buzzard in the area. Had good chat to ‘keeper: he shoots rabbits to put down as food for Common Buzzard to keep them off the pheasants. Worst raptor is Peregrine followed by Goshawk but he likes the latter as they are such fantastic hunters. Like me, he was surprised at sudden disappearance of Red Kite at several localities this spring, including Plankey Mill, as estates had had no problems with them. Anyway then went to Plenmeller Common and had a brisk walk over the marvellous moors to East Unthank but no further raptors. Did make the Welli and pleased to see the C U Next Tuesdays in such fine form!! Such a fine pair!! Tomorrow west again perhaps – getting back my taste for moors – but Thursday may start migration watches at Kiln Pit in earnest as expecting some action then. Expect to make the Globe tomorrow but really should be at Stannington by 18:00 for JLAF: looks like a juggle!!

September 14th: very overcast today so limited visits to one to the site W of Hexham where in 2 hours from 14:00-16:00 had one juvenile Honey Buzzard flying low over the trees slightly to the W of the nest. Also remarkably had a female Honey Buzzard on passage at 15:30 coming out of the South Tyne near Warden and floating just under the low cloud cover decisively to the S. This was one of 5 reported on Birdguides today, the others in Fife, Cumbria, Cheshire and Dorset, so a little more movement in northern Britain. Again looking at Birdguides it is remarkable how many out-of-season Rough-legged Buzzard have been reported this year. There are 3 this month to date, 1 in August (!) and 6 in the second half of May. Of these 10, 6 are rightly marked as R or ?. Moving ‘buzzards’ from mid-May to mid-September are far more likely statistically to be Honey Buzzard but we’ll never know! It was a serious day in Hexham: like the specs!! Have doubled holding in lon:svs to almost 5k shares as a vote of confidence! Like the smile on the latest fb photo from downstream!! Tomorrow looks brighter and will go W after seeing lovely cleaners s&l: they even do all my ironing! It’s LD exec meeting tomorrow evening in the County: hope it doesn’t go on too long as want to make the Welli. Added video with associated stills of juvenile Honey Buzzard in the lower South Tyne on 19/8.

September 13th: as promised, added videos for 6/9 and a couple of views of the moors from 12/9. Well the cold front passed just after noon and as the sun came out shortly after, it was like a gun going off in the ‘Shire with every Honey Buzzard up in the air. I’d noticed the pending change at noon, got off the computer and was walking along the Motag road (Dotland-Peth Foot), hoping for 3rd time lucky. From 12:28-12:40 there were 3 family parties up (pair adults + 2 juveniles; female + 2 juveniles; pair adults + 2 juveniles) with much calling and display. Missing were my home pair but they finally got up from 12:45-13:00 with the pair of adults going very high, one juvenile low down and another juvenile, weak-flying (or rebellious!), still in the treetops! So back for lunch at 13:30 with the area sorted! Into Hexham later and went for a quick stroll in the Sele around 15:30. Absolutely flabbergasted when over the open part of the park, a female Honey Buzzard floated over low-down followed by 2 juveniles at tree-top level that she was clearly escorting around the territory. This group was too far from known sites: there must be a new site in a wooded area near the Sele, perhaps the Hermitage or somewhere near Tyne Green. Well 3rd-5th best beauties seen in the Sele this year!! Final visit was to Dipton Wood where picked up at 16:20 on the far east side another family group of female + 2 juveniles, which suspect were from the Corbridge area. So total for day was 21 Honey Buzzard, with only other raptor a Sparrowhawk. Six broods were seen of which 4 were new (3 males, 4 females, 8 juveniles) and 2 old (2 females, 4 juveniles). So the males in the broods found earlier have now left and may have been involved in yesterday’s passage across the Channel, meaning they left here around 9th-10th as it takes typically 2-4 days for adults to clear the country. Calls for a celebration! Duly done in Globe! Tomorrow is going to be gloomy early-on but hope to check site immediately W of Hexham before lunch and one or two sites in the Haltwhistle area, after lunch in Hexham.

Current totals for Honey Buzzard after 2nd round visits completed and 24 broods of juveniles above the canopy, are: Allen 7 sites, 13 adults (6 male, 7 female), 2 nests in Norway Spruce, Oak, 4×2 juvs fledged, 1×1+ juvs fledged; Devil’s Water 6,12 (6,6), 3 nests in Scots Pine x 2, Norway Spruce, 5×2 juvs fledged; Tyne Valley 11,17 (8,9), 3 nests in Scots Pine x 2, Norway Spruce, 4×2 juvs, 1×1+ fledged; upper South Tyne 6,13 (7,6), 2 nests in Norway Spruce, Birch, 3×2 juvs fledged; lower South Tyne 3,5 (2,3), 1×2 juvs fledged; and Derwent 6,12 (6,6), 4×2, 1×1+ juvs fledged; giving grand total 39, 72 (35,37), 10 nests in Norway Spruce x 4, Scots Pine x 4, Birch, Oak, 21×2, 3×1+ juvs fledged.

September 12th: movement has started in earnest, mainly in southern England, with 16 noted on Birdguides today, including 7 over Pagham Harbour in Sussex, plus 5 on Trektellen at Jersey (21 in all). In Northumberland a pale-phase bird was seen near Asda in Gosforth, moving W over Kingston Park (Tesco!): this was presumably an adult male. Total for UK for year moves to 227: this year is likely to rank at least 3 whatever happens! In the study area went from 11:00-14:00 to the Beldon Burn and had a family party of 4 at one site and a female and juvenile at the other. I walked through the latter site to get to the one upstream and there may have been more birds displaying when I was up the top of the burn. The juveniles here were looking stronger and more independent; this can be a signal for the males to b….r off! It was lovely to be up on the moors (1  2): sometimes wonder how I’ve got caught up in such unhealthy habitats in the summer! Then onto Kiln Pit Hill from 14:10-15:10 to get some practice in for watching the birds on passage: will it ever end? Noticed an adult pair of Honey Buzzard taking it in turns to soar near Minsteracres and on drive home went up the side road to Slaley and found 2 very weak-flying Honey Buzzard juveniles flying through the tops of the trees. A good day with 18 raptors of 3 species: 10 Honey Buzzard (3 more broods taking total to 20), 5 Common Buzzard and 3 Kestrel. Almost finished working up the close-up videos of the family party at Derwent Reservoir on 6/9; this will be good for those with maternal instincts! Tomorrow will be cloudier and will keep to the ‘Shire and Hexham, with trip to the Globe in the evening!!

September 11th: another very fine day, spending much of the middle of it (10:40-14:40) in the Haltwhistle area. Total for South Tyne was 19 raptors of 3 species: 12 Common Buzzard, 6 Honey Buzzard and a Goshawk (juvenile). The Honey Buzzard comprised a single male soaring near Bardon Mill, a family party of 4 just S of Haltwhistle at a long-standing site near here and a single male patrolling at a site in the Lambley area. So another brood found and males still seem to be very much on site. The juveniles kept a low profile, only becoming visible briefly above the canopy after some calling when the male bought in some food for them. Mind you the Goshawk as a potential predator would not have helped here. Video from the Haltwhistle site included male soaring and fast gliding (1  2) and female soaring to join her mate for a bit of display. The birds do display at very high altitude with a characteristic loose flapping action. Another common feature is the ambush of the lower flying bird by the male. It’s obviously part of getting fit for the long migration (and fun!). There’s a weak cold front crossing the country on Sunday from the east: it will be interesting to see whether the clearance of the cold front on Sunday/Monday sets-off any movement. To Welli tonight at the earlier time of 21:00 to meet somebody but you don’t leave any earlier! Tomorrow going to the Derwent again in the morning, back to the ‘Shire and Hexham in the afternoon. Not seen so much of the ghsthis week: a great pity as she is a knock-out!!

September 10th: managed a quick visit to Hyons Wood from 14:30-15:30 but didn’t see any raptors in very fine weather. This is not so unusual: clear still weather is not optimal, you need a breeze as well. No Red Kite have been seen here for a while – while they’re thriving in Wylam, the outliers in Northumberland seem to be withering. Started visiting fellow duties at unn with meeting to discuss PhD student’s presentation at a conference in Bulgaria next week. No replacement yet as PGR Director – it’s not very easy – you have to apply the rules and not apply the rules, if you know what I mean! Hoping to keep a place in my old office. Didn’t see everybody that I expected on my travels! Two coffee bars today – Coffee Trader in Newcastle and Nero in Hexham. They varmers be very excitable!! Arranging trip to London to see family in October. Tonight to the t&s late-on with colleagues: this was very sociable meeting, as well, Barry an old PhD student of mine from Ireland and some players in the Queens Theatre Club from the ‘Shire! Didn’t get out until 23:30. Tomorrow it’s the back of beyond (well Haltwhistle!) again and maybe Ant’s later.

September 9th: great day out in the upper parts of the Allen (West and East) in fine but coolish weather with much sunshine on a N wind. Total for raptors was 18 of 3 species: 10 Honey Buzzard, 6 Common Buzzard and 2 Kestrel. Honey Buzzard comprised 2 family parties of 4 and a pair of adults. It’s so good to see them on the edge of the grouse moors where the heather (really its insect life) is a major attraction. The pair of adults were acting as if they had young in the trees below but eventually soared to a great height for some mutual circling. This site, between Allendale and Allenheads, is a new one for this year but birds have been reported from here before by others. More details later. Sad to record though that, from chat with local farmer, the 3 Red Kite pioneers in the Whitfield area disappeared at the end of the last winter. Into Hexham soon, to see its glories!! Globe was good! And nice evening stroll in the Sele: marvellous to see the dynamic duo in their running gear keeping fit!! On Birdguides 6 Honey Buzzard migrants were reported today, including 2 in Yorkshire. There’s no evidence for any adults leaving Northumberland yet.

September 8th: winds were very gusty today and unsurprisingly not much was showing so in afternoon did last site visit to big wood between Riding Mill and Stocksfield. The birds here have been infuriating recently: just not getting above the canopy, so spent over 3 hours from 13:30-16:50 getting 3 alarm calls at 15:04 and finding lots of splash and pigeon feathers but no actual birds! Calls were not as sharp as those when they’re actually nesting. Site is obviously very much occupied though so will keep a watch. As is customary took a photo on last site visit to show the man of the woods! In Sussex 4 pale-phase birds (presumably males) were moving today so that may be an omen for tomorrow in the north as weather improves. Welli was very good: the C U Next Tuesdays put on a good show coming third and it was great to see the Rhinemaidens reunited: they all looked very fit for purpose, though one’s altered her hair style!! Tomorrow it’s a long day on the moorland fringes but will make my new local the Globe as usual. Thursday I’m into Newcastle on the train in the morning to do a spot as visiting fellow! And in the left corner …

September 7th: brighter today and it was very pleasant out in the sunshine on a light SW breeze. Covered 3 sites in Hexhamshire and one in the Tyne Valley, in the end seeing 10 Honey Buzzard and single Common Buzzard and Kestrel. In the ‘Shire there were 2 juveniles and an adult at one site in Slaley Forest, 2 adults at another near Whitley Chapel soaring high over the site but no juveniles emerging and 2 adults at the site furthest downstream in the Devil’s Water which went off to feed but again no juveniles emerging. At the last named site this male glided over in very characteristic fashion after a feeding trip to Dipton Wood. In the Tyne Valley not too far from Egger two adults flew over a wood for some time trying to encourage young into the air and eventually one juvenile got up about 5 metres before quickly collapsing back into the trees; this will count for the moment as 1+ fledged rather than 1 as obviously there could have been another juvenile which didn’t even take off! So totals move on and end of season looms! Added Peregrine and Kestrel videos to Yorkshire report (31/8 below); latter is very close-up. Made Nero for late lunch and library a bit later before getting back into the field: just one glamorous sighting!! Tomorrow weather looks better in the east: might do Tyne Valley in the morning with earlier lunch in Hexham, followed by last site visit to put the incumbents into action! Should make Welli later!! Thought you might like to see my pussies! Appropriately there are 2 of them; front line against hordes of rabbits and mice but looking a trifle complacent! There’s been no Honey Buzzard emigration noted in northern England in the last few days: will the males start leaving on Wednesday as high pressure builds?

September 6th: damp and gloom continued but could not deter Honey Buzzard family parties from getting up in the air: in the Derwent from 10:10-12:00 4 birds (2 adults, 2 juveniles) were at 2 sites, one near Blanchland and the other near Derwent Reservoir (actually in County Durham!). The family party near Derwent Reservoir were out in the drizzle. In the first video 2 juveniles are out on the heather and they are joined by the female. In the second video all 4 birds appear at some stage, at one time over the wood in which they were bred. In the third video the display finishes and the male goes out to forage (in Northumberland!), flying almost overhead. Characteristic calls are heard: less strident and purer (weaker entry, mainly one harmonic) than Common Buzzard. The main flying practice seems to be in learning to float, presumably because of its survival value in saving energy. A distant view of the site was taken on 12/9, showing archetypal Honey Buzzard habitat. It’s not generally appreciated how valuable heather is to this species, because of the high associated insect populations. They can, however, breed without heather as in the lower Tyne Valley where young pigeons appear to be the main prey. Such versatility has enabled them to become one of Europe’s commonest breeding raptors. So all areas now show very high productivity. Did visit the Tyne Valley in the afternoon at the back of Prudhoe and near Corbridge but the only raptors seen were 3 Kestrel. Reflecting their good breeding season, 38 Swallow were at Blanchland. Made Nero late afternoon, LD campaign meeting in Leazes Lane in early evening and Globe later on. Globe’s got a nice atmosphere – very well worth supporting and a superb location. Thought I ought to contribute my own digit pattern! Tomorrow looks like a good day in the field, but Tuesday is terrible and Wednesday sees a build of high pressure which might persuade some male Honey Buzzard to leave. Expect tomorrow to roam widely for Honey Buzzard broods with lunch in Hexham as a break!

Current totals for Honey Buzzard after 9/10 2nd round visits made and 12 broods of juveniles above the canopy, are: Allen 6 sites, 10 adults (5 male, 5 female), 2 nests in Norway Spruce, Oak, 2×2 juvs fledged, 1×1+ juvs fledged; Devil’s Water 6,12 (6,5,1 not sexed), 3 nests in Scots Pine x 2, Norway Spruce, 1×2 juvs fledged; Tyne Valley 10,16 (8,8), 3 nests in Scots Pine x 2, Norway Spruce, 3×2 juvs fledged; upper South Tyne 6,12 (6,6), 2 nests in Norway Spruce, Birch, 2×2 juvs fledged; lower South Tyne 3,5 (2,3), 1×2 juvs fledged; and Derwent 6,12 (6,6), 2×2 juvs fledged; giving grand total 37, 67 (33,33,1), 10 nests in Norway Spruce x 4, Scots Pine x 4, Birch, Oak, 11×2 juvs fledged, 1×1+juvs fledged.

September 5th: added below video from 18/8 showing further tension between Lesser Black-backed Gull and Honey Buzzard. Today out in the ‘Shire with walk down the Motag road from 10:10-11:50 in rather gloomy conditions. Could view 4 sites at varying distances but only one turned up anything, showing a group of 4 Honey Buzzard close together over the next hillside for a few minutes at the site which normally fledges first in this area. Did quite a lot of work later in the garden keeping an eye on things but saw no more action anywhere. So things do seem to be running late at many sites. Bringing in criteria for a conspicuous Honey Buzzard exit through the UK:

The extent of the visibility will depend on the success of the breeding season (number of juveniles produced), the extent to which the breeding season is staggered (bunched drawing attention to the movement), the timing of the breeding season (late forcing the birds to migrate in poorer soaring conditions, making them more visible) and the weather patterns (with adverse winds and rain slowing down the birds’ progress and following winds and clear skies speeding up the exit). uk 2008 totals

then we have the first three in place. The 4th, the weather at emigration time, could still give them a quick and clean getaway if we get clear skies on N winds. We’ll have to see! Otherwise booked up a hotel in Pitlochry for the RRF conference and ‘phoned mum to discuss various matters: another trip to Devon beckons sometime in October. Interesting fbphoto: very feminine, particularly the 2D:4D ratio!! What is she scheming? Very fanciable anyway!! Tomorrow will try the Derwent early on, moving to Tyne Valley if weather gets bad again as predicted. As promised added reported UK totals for August 2009, showing a new record count of 53.

September 4th: well this was a very interesting day. Weather was terrible in morning in Hexham but decided to get to the upper South Tyne sharpish to try and view the sites as the weather cleared as this is often a good time for raptors. So arrived at Eals at 12:40 with the rain still persistent but not so heavy and decided to do the 9th nest site visit while waiting for it to brighten up. By 13:40 I’d done this – nest in birch was still in good shape with many sprays of oak on the rim – and came out into a field by the swollen South Tyne to look for some action. The rain had eased off further but was still a fine drizzle: this did not deter the Honey Buzzard and for the next 40 minutes witnessed a rather chaotic but magnificent display by 2 family parties of 4 each with some spectacular interaction between a male Honey Buzzard and a Raven, which the Honey Buzzard seemed to win! Also had 2 Common Buzzard and a juvenile Hobby, the first of the season. Then as the rain stopped altogether around 14:30, the birds disappeared back into the wood! Honey Buzzard are of course very used to the rain, wintering in tropical jungle and breeding in temperate jungle. They’re also in a hurry – the adults must get their young fit before they can leave themselves for Africa. Later also had a Common Buzzard and single female Honey Buzzard at 2 sites in the Haltwhistle area, before leaving at 17:30. So exciting day with total of 14 raptors of 3 species: 10 Honey Buzzard, 3 Common Buzzard and a Hobby. Boss woman looked very impressive this morning: a real professional!! Welli was good tonight with full turnout, more sparse next week. Tomorrow expect to do some sites in the ‘Shire in the morning and go to Hexham in afternoon. Could try the Globe on Sunday evening for a change after a bash in the Derwent, weather permitting.

September 3rd: what a bloody day weather-wise – rain and strong winds throughout – so no fieldwork at this critical time but tomorrow looks better at least further west in the upper South Tyne. Added below video and stills of female Honey Buzzard being mobbed by gulls at Wylam yesterday. Lesser Black-backed Gull were also involved in the mobbing of a Honey Buzzard on Whitfield Moor on 25/7: they seem to have it in for them! Compiled national August total for Honey Buzzard and it comes to 52, the highest to date for any August, so this year the totals in May, June and August have all broken records. Details will be posted soon. Mind you, weather encouraged some activity at home including re-laying of floor disturbed by plumbing: only needs a couple of carpet joins and a bit of Polyfilla to finish it. Bought some shares in the Welli yesterday – nice to (hopefully) get some return! Went to Tap in evening to meet colleagues Mike and Adrian; good also to meet dean of school there. Always enjoy late night visits to Hexham!! Tomorrow it’s the Welli late on and perhaps Ant’s earlier!

September 2nd: added videos for female Honey Buzzard near Bywell on 27/8 below. The Honey Buzzard breeding season does look to have been very successful but need results from upper South Tyne, Derwent and the Devil’s Water before being sure. Have seen 7 family parties now, six with 2 juveniles, one with 1+ and no failures. The males seem to be on site still so very little emigration has occurred yet. Today in fair weather at the start with rain coming in later, did the Tyne Valley, getting 4 Honey Buzzard near Bywell where female videoed on 27/8. The first juvenile was out to the W of the site on arrival at 10:50 and had blundered into an angry Common Buzzard adult which caused a spot of bother! Its sibling was a very weak flyer, actually crash-landing into some trees and the female was keeping a very close watch on it. Later at 11:30 both adults got up in the air for some high altitude display, presumably practising for the return flight. Made the Spetchells from 11:40-14:20 for good views over the delightful Wylam area seeing 4 Honey Buzzard, 3 Red Kite and 2 Common Buzzard (adult, juvenile) and Kestrel. The Honey Buzzard sightings included a female heavily mobbed by Lesser Black-backed Gull as she went off to feed (video with stills 1  2  3  4  5  6) and a family group of male and 2 juveniles which went quite high, suggesting they’ve been fledged longer than the ones at Bywell, which were reluctant to leave the trees. Again the Red Kite appear to have at least 2 territories in Wylam, one north of the river, the other south. 3 Speckled Wood were also seen at the Spetchells. So total for day was 18 raptors of 4 species: 8 Honey Buzzard, 4 Kestrel and 3 Common Buzzard and Red Kite. Did make the Globe for usual good chat! Two sightings of the dynamic beauties!! Tomorrow it’s supposed to be raining in the morning so maybe a lie-in, lunch in Hexham and upper South Tyne later. Sweet dreams!! xxx

September 1st: great day out in sunny weather with 3 family parties of Honey Buzzard located in the Allen and 8th site visit done on 2nd round. In the Staward area from 10:50-13:20 there were 2 family parties of 4 (pair adults, 2 juveniles). At the first the female got up and called incessantly over the trees, finally getting the 2 juveniles up in the air when she was joined by her mate. The adults are very keen on improving the young’s flying skills so they can leave for Africa. At the second (one of the nest sites visited) the pair of adults did a vigorous display high-up with the juveniles below. Then from 13:30-14:40 visited a nest site further up the valley where flushed 2 birds (adult female, juvenile) from the trees containing the nest. These were seen up in the air later when the male turned up but no sign of any further juveniles. Total for the valley was 23 raptors of 4 species: 11 Honey Buzzard, 9 Common Buzzard, 2 Peregrine and a Kestrel. Videos to follow. Today was a rather special day – demob happy with retirement from Northumbria University. I’m carrying on there as a Visiting Fellow to do research for 1-2 days a week but will have much more time for other ambitions!! Also got a £150k pay-off taking, with recent stock gains, net assets into 7 figures! Welli was quiet for quiz night but very enjoyable until told of somebody’s woes! The ghs looked so appealing, as earlier when boss woman!! She’s lucky to travel home in style with the gps: would like a ride myself!! Tomorrow plan a similar day in the Tyne Valley before the rain arrives again, when will retreat to the Globe.

August 31st: back from quick foray to Yorkshire with Nick, staying at Clifton Hotel, North Bay, Scarborough. Main focal point was the nearby Wykeham Forest from where of course Honey Buzzard are regularly reported. Provisional total for trip, which also included 2 walks along the coast, is 24 raptors of 7 species: 9 Kestrel, 8 Common Buzzard, 2 Honey Buzzard, 2 Sparrowhawk and single Goshawk, Hobby and Peregrine. So very good!! See below for more detail on long walk around Wykeham Forest with close-up video footage of the ‘big one’. Tomorrow out for long visit to the Allen to look for fledged Honey Buzzard. Back in Hexham later and should make the Welli!! Did 12km walk in Wykeham Forest area on 30/8 starting in the Forge Valley and going through Everley to the viewpoint in Wykeham Forest and then moving N before returning slightly N of the outward path. It’s fantastic habitat for Honey Buzzard as this pan from the viewpoint shows. Had 2 Honey Buzzard, with a male (video includes id hints) at close range at 11:55 near Everley and a female up briefly at Broxa at 13:40. Suitable habitat stretches right the way to Fylingdales Moors and down towards Scarborough. At 2.5km spacing it’s quite easy to arrive at a local population of at least 10 pairs. Common Buzzard were more plentiful than I’ve seen before in Yorkshire with this adult flying earlier the same route as the Honey Buzzard at Everley and 2 family parties of 3 seen. If you did badly in the quiz, you should study both of the preceding videos carefully! The Goshawk, a male, put panic into all the Woodpigeon in a rapid fly pass. The Hobby was only found when reviewing the video footage, rather like at a site in Hexhamshire on 11/8. As usual it was mobbing a large raptor, a Common Buzzard in this case. On 29/8 did coastal walks at Filey Brigg and Flamborough Head seeing Peregrine at the former and Kestrel in this close-up at the latter.

August 28th: out this morning from 10:00-12:30 in the ‘Shire for a walk with many sites in view. But it was very breezy and only saw one Honey Buzzard, an adult female foraging at some distance. Only other raptor was a juvenile female Sparrowhawk hunting along the hedgerows. Had lunch in Hexham with Stan at the Queens Hall! Tiddly pip …

Current totals for Honey Buzzard after 7/10 2nd round visits made and first juveniles above the canopy, are: Allen 6 sites, 10 adults (5 male, 5 female), 2 nests in Norway Spruce, Oak; Devil’s Water 6,12 (6,5,1 not sexed), 3 nests in Scots Pine x 2, Norway Spruce; Tyne Valley 10,15 (7,8), 3 nests in Scots Pine x 2, Norway Spruce, 1×2 juvs fledged; upper South Tyne 6,12 (6,6), 2 nests in Norway Spruce, Birch; lower South Tyne 3,5 (2,3), 1×2 juvs fledged; and Derwent 6,11 (6,5); giving grand total 37, 65 (32,32,1), 10 nests in Norway Spruce x 4, Scots Pine x 4, Birch, Oak, 2×2 juvs fledged.

August 27th: interesting morning from 11:00-13:00 in the Tyne Valley between Bywell and Corbridge, monitoring progress at 3 sites on a fine morning. At the first very good views (and video 1  2) were obtained of an adult female Honey Buzzard but there was no evidence for fledging yet, at the second no birds were seen at all and at the third, the furthest W, 4 birds were conspicuous – adult male, adult female and 2 juveniles, complete with calls and much activity. So this is the second site at which fledged birds seen: it’s where the depredated wasp nest was found, and they all looked very healthy. Display was fairly typical for this time of year with male up in the stratosphere doing spectacular plunges and the female keeping a very close eye on the young. Reminds me of Haltwhistle! Another Speckled Wood was seen, at Bywell. The ghsalso showed very well: a beautiful pair!! Did not get back from Newcastle until 21:30 when made the County for a couple! Paid £7.30 for parking at the NCP off John Dobson Street – some sort of personal record! Don’t have a parking permit for unn because I use the train. Certainly not going to call the breeding season on 2 family parties of 4 but it looks promising. Tomorrow out in the morning, Hexham for lunch and later a wee trip; will not be at the Welli. Next Tuesday all will be revealed (at least that’s my hope!!).

August 26th: added some material from 15/7 including close-ups of Common Buzzard mobbing me. This will be very useful material for those that failed the quiz! Also added below stills of the nests for the 22/8 and 15/7 visits: it’s inconceivable that any other species than Honey Buzzard is going to be breeding so late as to be still building its nest up between these 2 dates. Tried to catch up with the garden today but could not avoid these shots of a German Wasp nest in one of the pony shelters, showing its demise (1  2) and its state earlier on 17/8. Honey Buzzard are very skilled at plucking wasp nests off trees and walls. It’s evidently a very ‘good’ year for wasps in Northumberland with pest controllers making a small fortune, so that bodes well for a good breeding season. If last season is anything to go by, the late fledging is another promising sign as it appears that raising 2 young takes longer than raising one. Last night made the Welli where tdsv were all looking very good!! The gpshas got a new car: nice wheels!! Tonight made the Globe and had a couple courtesy of a racing win by n. Reminded me of my (maternal) grandfather who was a great betting man; my grandmother used to say when he was bragging about a win – he can’t show you the ones he’s lost! I never bet on horses, only the stock market. The Globe is very strategically placed for watching the glorious sights of Hexham, and for getting good building deals. Very sadly no more train journeys this week — tomorrow afternoon I take the car in to do final packing. t-2 and counting!!

August 24th: female videoed yesterday is very interesting. She’s a big girl (1  2) and the missing feathers look like moult as pattern is symmetrical rather than irregular as in feather damage so she’s moulting P5 and 3 secondaries on each wing plus some tail feathers. However, the very short P10 do probably result from feather damage. The moulted feathers will presumably be fully re-grown before migration starts in about 3 weeks. She’s quite a bit heavier than the bird in the quiz but the long wing and tail, small head and fine dark bill and soft wingbeats make her clearly a Honey Buzzard. In August adult Honey Buzzard become on average heavier than Common Buzzard so her size is not surprising. They’re fattening up for the autumn migration with all the extra weight in effect being fuel reserves so it’s not indulgent. Saw all 3 of the Rhinemaidens today – very good performance – so s.xy!! Busy today at work but home fairly early so could get organised for some packing later. Same tomorrow but expect to get to the Welli! It’s t-4 and counting!

August 23rd: busy day and a damp one, with the rain chasing me eastwards! Started off in the ‘Shire from 12:00-13:10 where had this female Honey Buzzard coming very close-up into a nest site. I like to call them elegant but this one is a bit the worse for wear at the end of the breeding season with quite extensive moult. No time for doing her nails! This is not a site where I search for the nest. I did try one year but the nest is in very rough ground quite close to a house with big dogs! Note all the Swallow around: it’s been a very good breeding season for them. So at this site it does not look as if the young have fledged yet (defined as appearing above the canopy). Also here had 2 Common Buzzard hunger-crying. Hefty rain shower then came over and took comfort break in Nero in Hexham. Resumed at Stocksfield on the mound from 14:10-15:30 where had single Sparrowhawk (juvenile), Kestrel and Common Buzzard. Then another hefty shower so off to Wylam from 15:40-18:10 where had just one raptor, a Red Kite calling once in the Sled Lane area. Weather held here on the edge, which was good! So total for day was 7 raptors of 5 species: 3 Common Buzzard and single Honey Buzzard, Red Kite, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. Not bad for the conditions. There’s no evidence that Honey Buzzard are currently fledging on any scale but they all seem to be progressing quietly: they haven’t come out of the woodwork yet! Found a viewpoint in Wylam from where you can see some decent woodland (1  2) which might be useful. The visit did have its moments!! Need to update the running totals in the next day or two.

August 22nd: frenetic spell of site visits finished today with number 7 from 10:30-14:00: remaining 3 have already had 2 visits so not so urgent. Piccies to follow. Weather today was best for a while with strong sunshine so expected quite a few raptors up but it was not exceptional. Site visited was at lower end of Devil’s Water; the walk-in is along forest glades and the birds have chosen a stunning location with views over the river below. The nest, at the top of a very tall Scots Pine, is now very substantial compared to that in the previous visit. If you could climb the tree you’d be very useful!! On arrival the female Honey Buzzard casually moved off to the W and I did wonder whether the young were over there with her. But on moving back to watch from a distance, she quickly came back into the site via the Devil’s Water. Fledging must be very close: the male was doing victory rolls over the trees at the back of the site. Also had here 3 Common Buzzard (including a hunger-crying juvenile), another Honey Buzzard, a female, flying to a site in the nearby Tyne Valley, and a Sparrowhawk (juvenile). It’s a good year for butterflies with colonisation of the area by Speckled Wood looking a done deal with 4 seen, plus Comma, Wall, Peacock, Green-veined White, Painted Lady, Small White and Large White. We’ve had quite a few butterflies move into the NE from further south over the last 10-20 years and fortunately they’ve been very promptly mapped by the national bodies. Then to Ant’s for lunch and back home to catch up with things! Did learn a few things from daughter: that I was putting the conditioner in the wrong slot on the washing machine (no wonder it never did anything), that it’s best to take the teabag out of lemon tea after a while and that the fridge is strangely empty after out-of-date items removed! But she was impressed by my diet except for drinking Guinness as an aperitif! Added below calls and their analysis from visit on 17/8. Tomorrow it’s going to be a little more casual with visits to various sites from Hexham-Wylam to see what’s up!! Maybe even the Welli later! Next week sees 2 full days at work (Monday and Tuesday) with the rest being research and scholarly activity, or something like that! There’s something happening on 31/8 – think it’s important – can’t quite remember what!

August 21st: well what did you get in the fun quiz?

30-40: you’re a star, a natural for raptor identification, using all the information provided in an encounter in an analytical top-down and bottom-up approach employing the first to place the bird in its exact family and the second to verify that all the evidence is consistent with your identification.

20-29: you’re on the right lines but maybe short of experience. A little more time in the field is needed and a little less time reading endless identification articles by bureaucrats. If you’re got the right attributes, you need to get out in the field with a raptor fanatic to exercise your skills!

0-19: there’s no hope for you I’m afraid. You have the ability to exclude most of the information presented and then concentrate in a very precise manner on a weird subset. With raptors you’re not at the races as you cannot even place the birds in their correct families. However, all may not be lost. You could join BBRC or its associated committees where you will at least be at home with like-minded people. You can then foul up the Black Kite situation by rejecting 80% of the records submitted so no one has a clue as to its status in the UK. You can also then get put onto a county records committee where you can completely foul-up the status of raptors increasing their range so no one has a clue as to how the colonisation is proceeding. This way you can joyfully pursue precision to its ultimate conclusion while not caring at all about accuracy. Your name might be Chris Kehoe.

The long quiz video 464 has been split into 3 smaller clips: Honey Buzzard parts 1  2 and Common Buzzard. In addition these shots compare the nest on 15/8 with that on 4/7, showing it has increased in size considerably. A close up of the nest on 15/8 is shown here.

Today did long nest site visit from 13:50-17:00 to large wood at top of Tyne Valley not that far from where went on 19/8. The nest was still occupied here with plenty of feathers nearby as presumed prey. Spent some time looking over Tyne Meet and total for visit was 11 raptors of 3 species: 7 Common Buzzard (4 juvenile), 3 Honey Buzzard and a Goshawk (juvenile, out hunting Woodpigeon). The Honey Buzzard comprised the 2 juveniles seen fledged on 19/8 which came up at 15:55 surrounded by a mass of corvids and more relevant to today an adult female who, when returning from a foraging trip, saw me on the edge of the wood and steered right around the wood, coming in from the other direction and exchanging a few piped calls (and no doubt food) with the juvenile(s) on the nest. So this is site number 6 in the second round. Later went to Welli for usual good crack! Tomorrow hope to get out in the morning before returning to Hexham for lunch!

August 20th: no fieldwork today – took daughter out to Travellers for a meal in the evening – very good chat. Earlier working in Newcastle and rather concentrated with continual meetings from 10:00-17:30, but always very nice to see fellow passengers!! Tomorrow back to business and perhaps catch up with a few things in the Hexham area such as the l 11!! Daughter leaves in the morning – we’re planning a rendezvous in the Andes! And of course using the quiz results to plot your future in raptor watching will all be revealed very soon.

August 19th: and procreation proceeds — the great news is that the first juvenile Honey Buzzard were above the canopy this afternoon, in the lower South Tyne about 3km from Hexham. Two juveniles spent nearly all the time from 14:30-16:00 up in the air, mainly floating low over a hillside rather like vultures. There was some interaction with the pair of adults from time to time and a Common Buzzard also came over flying quite low. Video of one juvenile is here with derived stills: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9. There’s a Honey Buzzard call at 34 seconds which needs to be analysed. So this is very promising but must not get carried away until more data is available. Globe was great fun and did not get away until 19:00. Lovely legs on view!! Tomorrow it’s back to work for a day.

Answers and scoring method for quiz are given below.

  1. How many birds are involved? 2 [6 marks]
  2. Is is it just one species? No [4 marks]
  3. When might things change from one bird to another? 4 minutes 10 seconds [6 marks, tolerance of plus or minus 10 seconds]
  4. Give gender, age and species and justify your answer. First bird is female adult Honey Buzzard and 2nd is adult Common Buzzard (probably female on size but cannot be sure). First bird is kite-like (elegant, agile, wings held level, floppy tendency at times, smooth flapping action, lightweight, long tail, narrow tail base, small head) but tail is not forked so Honey Buzzard family; plumage of dark wing-tips, dark carpals and dark head is consistent with female (Western) Honey Buzzard; missing at least tip of primary P7 on right wing only so this is feather damage not a moult condition. Second bird is buzzard (buteo)-like (compact, heavy, wings held raised, stiff flapping action, short tail with broad base, large head); plumage is consistent with Common Buzzard; moult is in full progress indicating an adult not a juvenile; bird appears large compared with Honey Buzzard, suggesting a female (but not proving it). [total 24 marks: 6 marks for getting 1st bird right, 6 marks for getting 2nd bird right, 6 marks for reasoning on 1st bird, 6 marks for reasoning on 2nd bird; with pro rata marks for partly correct answers including intuitive approaches].

It’s not often you get the chance to study 2 species of raptor performing under identical wind conditions. But here it happened! So add up your score and in 2 days I’ll tell you what it means and who you should go out in the woods with! The video was large but this was essential to preserve the flight characteristics of the species. Also some hint was perhaps given by the cameraman’s waning concentration on the 2nd bird, hoping the 1st one would reappear again!

August 18th: did get the plasterboard from Doves in Hexham but like all good workmen delivered it on site and then left! Made upper South Tyne in Eals area from 15:30-18:00 when, in clearing weather, had 2 Honey Buzzard (both males) and single Kestrel (juvenile) and Common Buzzard (unaged). The first Honey Buzzard came up over the wood on the opposite side of the valley for about 10 seconds and then came quickly down again on the sound of guns. There were a lot of grouse shooting parties around today – obviously a big day for the shoots. The site visited, number 5 on second round, was well occupied with large well-maintained nest, some very recent splash after rain this morning and a few feathers. No calls were heard but the male came down in one flight very close over the trees with the nest in and may well have given a soft warning call then. After leaving the site the male came well into view over the fields and floated around a bit, before drifting off to feed. The video shows the rather harrier-like appearance of Honey Buzzard at times, the tension between Honey Buzzard and Lesser Black-backed Gull and at the very end the logistics of a shooting party. So all sites seem to be progressing well towards fledging. Later to Welli for meal with daughter and we had a good time! It’s nice having a lady’s company over a meal and a drink: should be repeated more often! Tomorrow it’s burglar alarm service at 09:00 and Globe at 17:00 with plenty of time for a bit of survey work in between.

August 17th: changed plans somewhat today with movement of work for this week from 2 half-days to a full day on Thursday after a late cancellation of an appointment. Rain then delayed start of fieldwork. But finally did get out for 4th site visit of second round to a burn W of Riding Mill from 11:00-13:10. The longer sunny spells brought out the birds of prey with an impressive 12 raptors of 5 species: 6 Common Buzzard (3 juveniles), 3 Kestrel (2 juveniles) and single Goshawk (juvenile), Sparrowhawk (juvenile) and Honey Buzzard (adult). As it retreated from its nest the Honey Buzzard adult became involved with a Common Buzzard family party of an adult and 2 juveniles and its calls became quite angry. They don’t get on! The calls are available here in wma; the spectrograms for 17-21 seconds, 21-25 and 25-28 show the longer quavering (trisyllabic) Honey Buzzard calls with weak upstroke and the more pungent Common Buzzard calls with the more symmetrical shape and strong upstroke. The nest in Norway Spruce was much easier to see than in the visit on 12/7, indicating continual reinforcement (stills today, 12/7). Speckled Wood was an interesting butterfly to see there. Did finally make Nero in Hexham for lunch and later finished restoring the dining room floor from the flat-roof leak. Was planning trip to upper South Tyne for tomorrow afternoon but maybe it’s repairing the ceiling now, having looked at the forecast! Should be in Hexham earlier to get some materials! Only certainty is that will make the Welli for a meal!! Trust you’re working hard on the quiz – no hints!! xxxx

August 16th: added below two videos from Hexhamshire on 11/8 (video 462), showing hunting and soaring females. Daughter arrived at 14:45 by car from London, staying until Friday: meals out at Welli on Tuesday and Travellers on Thursday. The ghs looked marvellous today: a very desirable a..e!! Flock of 21 Black-headed Gull at the Sele. No fieldwork today but expect to be out tomorrow morning with lunch in Hexham and a few appointments later in Newcastle. Good to see from Birdguides that three Honey Buzzard, including a juvenile, were at Great Ryburgh in Norfolk today. Only a few days before Northumberland will follow!

August 15th: well wasps aren’t everyone’s favourites but I like them and yesterday’s videos are very important. For instance from Wikipedia for German Wasp:

Each wasp colony includes one queen and a number of sterile workers. Colonies usually last only one year, all but the queen dying at the onset of winter. However, in mild climates such as New Zealand, around 10% of the colonies survive the winter. New queens and males (drones) are produced towards the end of the summer, and after mating, the queen overwinters in a crack or other sheltered location.

This common and widespread wasp collects insects including caterpillars to feed to its larvae, and is therefore generally beneficial. The adults feed on nectar and sweet fruit, and are also attracted to human food and food waste, particularly sodas and meats.

The nests are subject to predation by the Honey Buzzard, which excavates them to obtain the larva.

So it may pay Honey Buzzard, as a species, to not take the whole comb in one go but let the nest go on longer, not just because it’s another meal to look forward to, but because there will be more wasps around next year if the young queens and drones are given time to mate.

Anyway tonight is quiz night. It’s a rather long video (c60MB, c6 minutes) taken this afternoon in the Allen. There’s no break in the clip. Questions:

    1. How many birds are involved?
    2. Is is it just one species?
    3. When might things change from one bird to another?
    4. Give gender, age and species and justify your answer.

On 19/8 I’ll tell you how to score your answer and on 21/8 what this means for your future in birdwatching (e.g. membership of BBRC, CRC, NTBC, etc) and who might be your peers!! It’s just a bit of fun!! Everyone should enter! It’s free. Please don’t use your mobiles. Other raptors seen during the visit were 2 Kestrel and a very fast flying adult male Hobby.

Visit to Hexham at lunchtime was very relaxing! Quite like Ant’s unless a certain team are playing. Certainly judged weather better today: it was a grand afternoon if a little breezy. Cannot agree with people grumbling about the weather this year. It’s not been Mediterranean-like but it’s certainly been much better than in recent years with little of the 48-hour continuous downpours which are so disruptive to the season. And there’s certainly been more b…..s on view!! Optimism about the Honey Buzzard breeding season outcome is increasing! Daughter arrives tomorrow afternoon– looking forward to that!

August 14th: fascinating day!! Weather was pretty uncertain so decided to clear off a few tasks in morning at home before going into Hexham to Nero for lunch and then doing the fieldwork in the afternoon from 13:30-17:00 in the Corbridge area. Direction out of Hexham may not have indicated this but there were reasons!! Well choice was not perfect as the rain really came on in the afternoon but when looking for some shelter came across this wasp nest (videos 1  2). It had obviously just been predated(or more properly depredated) with the German Wasp colony making tremendous efforts to rebuild the nest from the remaining comb. They will probably succeed but another attack will surely follow: it’s a hard life being a wasp! There were no obvious indications of the nature of the predator from feathers, splash, fur, etc. It could for instance have been Honey Buzzard, Badger or Pine Marten (status of last named uncertain in Northumberland). However, I do suspect Honey Buzzard as the attack had obviously been very recent, perhaps just a few hours before the discovery at 15:00, as wasp larvae were still being moved from the fragments by the adults into the remains of the colony and activity was very frenzied. This would suggest a daytime attack which would rule out the mammals. Honey Buzzard are supposed to be particularly fond of a partial attack on wasp nests, even being thought to farm the wasps in some quarters. Also there are a few decapitated wasp bodies on the ground outside the nest, a technique favoured by Honey Buzzard for executing more persistent defenders. Anyway aren’t open wasp nests dynamic? Didn’t get stung or even attacked by a single wasp although filming about a metre away: they were so preoccupied with rebuilding the nest. Mind you poking a stick into the nest might have produced some action! No actual raptors were seen all day but 110 Swallow on the wires outside Houtley Farm suggests a good breeding season for insectivores. Visit to Hexham had some high moments: farmers and estate agents are very exciting, more so than wasp nests in some critical respects!! Tomorrow Ant’s for lunch and then a site visit as weather supposed to be better later. Welli was good but my liberal credentials are being questioned in view of too much sympathy for the banks, where clash of interest might be seen by some. But cannot resist buying shares on the cheap! Resistance is low to many temptations …

August 13th: most of day was spent in Durham with Mike going over presentations given in Liège but got back late afternoon and went to Slaley Forest for a nest site visit from 18:30-20:50: 2nd trip to the site first visited on 21/6. Nest in Scots Pine was in good shape (today, on 21/6, note from different angle) and one bird gave 2 alarm calls after I’d been in the site about an hour. But signs on the ground were not that many, with a little splash, a few feathers and some rabbit fur. Mind you it was getting quite dark after a while in the forest! This is pretty typical for this stage in the season: the adults are very laid back once the young get to a reasonable size and may do their food preparation and sitting around away from the nest. What it means of course is that starting a Honey Buzzard nesting survey in July (or even later) after other target species have finished breeding, as is done in parts of Scotland, is pretty pointless. An unusual sighting was of a Raven roosting in the forest. Pleased to see the gwslooking very fit this morning!! Did evening visit today because it looked like rain tomorrow but this looks delayed now so may get out to Corbridge area in the morning to see how they’re getting on at usually one of the first sites to fledge. Then should make Nero for lunch and much later the Welli. Daughter is coming on Sunday to stay for a few days!

August 12th: the glorious 12th with start of the grouse shooting season but regret was at work in Newcastle. It can cost up to £60,000-80,000 a day evidently now for a shooting party! The Honey Buzzard season now starts to run much faster again with the first juveniles above the canopy in 6-10 days and the major exodus over the following month. The number of Honey Buzzard reported on Birdguides still seems to be quite high with 5 more reported today, including 2 again at Welbeck. Some will be breeding birds but the ones on the south coast are presumably departing non-breeders, failed breeders and perhaps adult males from nests in southern England where the young have just fledged. Today had a Red Kite over Wylam station at 16:40. It looked like a juvenile with no moult and shortish tail but difficult to be sure without the bins. Made the Globe where good to see everyone again. Pleased to see some people are keeping fit: look very good in running gear, particularly after a work-out!!! Tomorrow it’s a research day in Durham with Mike, and Friday and most of next week is holiday to get on with site visits! Added below multimedia for Eupen trip and completed write-up of whole trip. Have some unpublished material from last trip to Liège in 2007, which will check to see if there’s anything useful.

August 11th: 7 Honey Buzzard today on Birdguides, mainly in southern England, is unusual for time of year. Maybe people are getting better at recognisingthem! According to LGREUK400 at aol.com 10 August 2009 23:26 [Surfbirdsnews] European Honey Buzzards have had an excellent breeding season in Britain with birds now showing again at Wykeham Forest (North Yorks) and at Welbeck Park (Notts). Not sure what sample size this is based on. I’d be a bit more cautious saying that breeding seems to be progressing without failures but we don’t know yet whether 1 or 2 young fledged will be the norm. This morning had just an hour out in the ‘Shire from 10:50-11:50 and had 2 hunger-crying Common Buzzard juveniles, 2 female Honey Buzzard from adjacent sites and a Hobby briefly up mobbing the more distant Honey Buzzard. First video (with extracted stills 1  2  3  4  5  6) shows a female Honey Buzzard out hunting; note the kite-like way in which she dives under a hedge, presumably to catch something like a small vole. The second video shows swarming Swallow: it’s been a very good breeding season for them, which is promising for Honey Buzzard and Hobby. This latter video (with extracted stills 1  2  3) also shows another female Honey Buzzard clearly prospecting for food and eventually soaring to a great height to return to her nesting site. With their large territories Honey Buzzard can fly several km between nest and feeding areas. At about the minute mark a small raptor briefly tries to intercept the Honey Buzzard with a tremendous jump-start out of a wood the Honey Buzzard is flying over. The stills (1  2) indicate a Hobby. Juvenile Common Buzzard can be heard hunger-crying from the 3:30 mark. Mother-in-law’s house is now up for sale so any offers welcome! Very stimulating day: the gwslooks good on my travels. Welli saw much closer contact than normal: quality impressive, difficult to restrain oneself!! Tomorrow into work but will make the Globe!

August 10th: busy at work, always like to get the week off to a flying start on Monday; one task was updating work website with various publications. So enjoy travelling by train even after the long slogs across Europe!! Tomorrow have just a few appointments in the afternoon so may get out in the morning, should make Nero for early lunch and will certainly make the Welli. Doing quite a lot of work this August but that’s because I spent so much of January in India. Bringing together the Belgian material and report for Eupen, minus multimedia, is given below. Shopping at Waitrose is improving!

Off to Eupen by train in perfect weather on Wednesday 5/8 for a day trip looking for Honey Buzzard: no change there! Eupen is very close to the German border of Belgium and indeed they even speak German there. Its attraction is that it’s very like the Black Forest with masses of extensive forests (the Hertogenwald) with pastures in between as here. A promising omen was a Sparrowhawk near the main station in Liège just before leaving at 09:05. Made Eupen at 09:50 and walked the Kehrweg through to the Stadtpark and Stausee Eupen, a lake, where had a good lunch at the restaurant (goulash, beer, cherry with all sorts of cream, and coffee). Got 17:12 back from Eupen, after walk of about 12km on ‘green diamonds’ walk and approaches. Total for day was 11 raptors of 4 species: 5 Common Buzzard, 4 Honey Buzzard and single Sparrowhawk and Hobby. The Honey Buzzard comprised one male soaring over NE Eupen at 16:00 (video, stills 1  2  3  4  5  6, presumed nesting area), one in flight near Pepinster and 2 alarm calling at different sites in the Stadtpark at 12:15 and 14:45. If you’re interested in Belgian contemporary utilities then this video of the male in flight will be of particular interest, showing close-ups of street lamps and cables! This still might be of interest to those interested in other constructions!! The alarm calls were really interesting as they showed the sort of habitat the birds are nesting in: uneven aged timber with very large spruce trees. The bird in the first site was more obliging as it gave a total of 3 calls with one recorded on the video, ending with the usual Jay calls as the Honey Buzzard retreat through the trees into a Jay territory. It was so like Northumberland! The call is faint and at the start but is shown clearly on the spectrogram (17 seconds (1.5 seconds in), 2.0-2.6-2.0kHz) obtained from the soundtrack. The video also shows the tall trees present in this site. The second site had very luxuriant forest as shown in these stills (1  2) and video, latter again complete with Jay calls. Honey Buzzard are well-established in Belgium with 300-450 pairs quoted by Kostrzewa (1998), part of a general expansion to the NW in Europe over the last 50 years, reaching the UK in the 1990s. The Hobby was power-gliding over the station at Eupen as waited to board the train back to Liège. Butterflies were very common, but similar to those in Northumberland except for White Admiral and Speckled Wood.

The choice of Eurostar to get there perhaps could be discussed. I left my hotel in Liège at 06:45 on 8/8, catching 07:00 to Brussels Midi which connected with 09:29 Eurostar to London St Pancras, 11:30 London KX to Newcastle and 14:54 Newcastle to Riding Mill. So was home by 15:35, making journey door to door of 8:50. But there’s a one-hour time difference so it’s really 09:50. Plane on the quoted flight times looks a lot quicker but you have to add in all the transit and waiting times and with the cutbacks there’s less choice of flight times, while the trains are continuous through the day. Three things in the end favoured the trains: you can see the scenery, look out for raptors and use the laptop. And I’m a little weary of airports!

Besides the raptors seen on 5/8 above, others seen comprised: 3/8 trip over in Belgium — 3 Kestrel and single Common Buzzard and Honey Buzzard, last near Leuven; 8/8 trip back in northern France – single Black Kite and Kestrel. So total in Belgium and France for trip was 18 raptors of 6 species: 6 Common Buzzard, 5 Honey Buzzard, 4 Kestrel and single Sparrowhawk, Hobby and Black Kite. In Thames Estuary near Ebbsfleet on 8/8 had 2 Hobby soaring near the station and a Marsh Harrier a little further on. Kent looked very good for Honey Buzzard, really not unlike the Tyne Valley with much woodland, but did not see any.

August 9th: did make a site visit, from 15:10-18:20, to the one 400m from home! There were many signs with much splash and a well-built up nest. One bird gave a series of 3 sharp alarm calls and another similar call was heard much later, but did not see the birds. The behaviourwas identical to that of the birds in Belgium, even complete with calling Jay as supporting cast. Added 437 to the videos page, complete with all the clips, stills and calls compiled below. Also updated monthly national records with monthly totals for July, which are much the same as last year and predictably low because they are very difficult to see at this time of year. There seem to be more Honey Buzzard around at the start of August than usual (Birdguides): this may be due to more birds being seen making long distance forays for food but one or two may be failed breeders or immatures. Obtained another domain name from BT under original agreement nickrossiter.co.uk but may be a little while before decide what to do with it. Tonight to the Welli for the first Guinness for 9 days! Tomorrow is full day at work: commuting has its compensations!!

August 8th: back from almost a week in Liège, Belgium, attending CASYS at Mathematics Department, Business School, University of Liège. Presented 45-minute papers on Tuesday morning 4/8 and Friday afternoon 7/8 and chaired a 4-hour session on Friday morning 7/8. All very busy but very rewarding; managed to produce 30 slides for each talk although the ink was still drying on the ppt by Friday afternoon! Travelled by Eurostar to attempt to recover my green credentials! Weather was sunny, warm and dry throughout. Had day out on Wednesday 5/8 to Eupen which has marvellous forests so you can guess what the target species was (it was found!). More details soon. Next week is back to work and tomorrow hope to start 2nd round of visits to Honey Buzzard nest sites. Pleased to be back and honestly this is for a while!! Did make Nero at 17:30 today to get back into routine.

August 2nd: did get out yesterday afternoon as weather became quite reasonable. Visited a site in the Tyne Valley, not that far from the Welli! Started approach to site at 14:40 and left outskirts of site at 18:00 with just a few kuikcalls as actual evidence for the birds being there. Actual time around nest itself was much less (about 90 minutes). But site was clearly occupied with large nest in Scots Pine with plenty of splash, feathers including down and pigeon feathers (as popular prey) in the vicinity. So that’s why I didn’t find the nest last time in Douglas Fir: it was in another tree about 50m away. The nests are surprisingly difficult to see from the ground: this species does teach you humility. So back to road for final check and at 18:40 the female Honey Buzzard actually decided to go for a fly around. Suspect drivers think I’m mad, videoing the sky! Isn’t she elegant? But she’s devious: note the return to a wood in which she’s certainly not nesting (it’s being thinned for one reason) and the final flight through the top of the trees, moving to the E almost under cover of the canopy. Early part of visit was almost drowned out by the noise of emergency vehicles: A68 closed completely for hours by accident! So that’s sorted the 3 sites where there was some uncertainty: upper South Tyne – nest confirmed as in birch; Allen – 3 possible nests on last visit, nest is in oak in middle section; Tyne Valley – nest is in Scots Pine, not in a Douglas Fir tree where nest was thought to be but not located. This makes Norway Spruce and Scots Pine the clear favouritesas nest sites. Added videos (1  2) of Hobby from the Isle of Man in late May: some spectacular flight shots and a few surprised comments! Anyway off to casys. Au revoir!! xxxxxx Voyez-vous bientôt!

Current totals for Honey Buzzard after mopping up phase, between 1st and 2nd visits, are: Allen 6 sites, 10 adults (5 male, 5 female), 2 nests in Norway Spruce, Oak; Devil’s Water 6,12 (6,5,1 not sexed), 3 nests in Scots Pine x 2, Norway Spruce; Tyne Valley 10,14 (7,7), 3 nests in Scots Pine x 2, Norway Spruce; upper South Tyne 6,12 (6,6), 2 nests in Norway Spruce, Birch; lower South Tyne 3,4 (2,2); and Derwent 6,11 (6,5); giving grand total 37, 63 (32,30,1), 10 nests in Norway Spruce x 4, Scots Pine x 4, Birch, Oak.

August 1st: isolated owl-like calls from video 437: they can be heard as 5 faint kuikin about 4 seconds from 40-44 seconds in the wma with spectrogram here. This call has been recorded before – coincidentally at the site visited yesterday, in 2004 – and available on calls. The stats from BT show a steady increase on new site with over 100 visitors a day in July accessing about 7 items each and with monthly download of 10GB. This is mainly for Honey Buzzard and raptors with the remainder for the gulls. Computing pages remain at unn. Actually got a divi yesterday of £99 from lon:pag. Dinner anyone!! Most of my bombed-out investments are not paying dividends at the moment to conserve cash but some companies are recovering well and promising to resume dividends at their year-ends. Getting more convinced that buying a quality flat for cash in Hexham is opportune! Not sure what the weather is going to do today: may get out later. Had a Nightjar on N edge of Dipton Wood again yesterday, on way to pub!

July 31st: made site near Eals from 14:40-17:10 for Honey Buzzard nest visit. Still analysingresults but quite a number of feathers and one chewed wax comb found, with rather small nest in birch looking occupied and built-up since last visit. So where were the birds? Well they’re very difficult to see at this time of year, seeming to just leave the small young to their own devices and taking a very laid-back approach. But did hear some owl-like calls. These are very quiet and are clearly used by the adults to communicate with each other when there is an intruder to the nest site. The video 437 includes some of these calls and these will be highlighted when the formal posting is made. Accident on turn-off to Elrington delayed arrival at site: A69 is by far the most dangerous road that I drive on. What people do for 10 seconds advantage is unbelievable! After lunch in Nero bumped into 2 gorgeous young ladies in Hexham!!! Very pleased about this as not assured next week! Came back to Ant’s for a couple and later will be off to Welli. Going to RRF conference at Pitlochry in the autumn: want to meet a lot of the Scottish raptor workers in particular but also it will be great to discuss experiences with other people from anywhere. Pleased at being accepted: the conference has been described as elitist but they can hardly have people eavesdropping there with doubtful credentials! And there are also quite a few, shall we say, less-experienced observers who seem to be very jealous of those who get results. Tomorrow will do another site, weather permitting. I’m not so much on second-round visits as mopping up after the first round, making sure of what is going on.

July 30th: added another video from visit to Allen on 4/7. This is a rather distant clip of the male showing what he did after coming out of the valley. Some of the early movement seems to be a modified rather low-key form of the sky dance but later on the male seems to be surveying in sweeps a large area to the E of the nest site, perhaps assessing the habitat. Anyway it’s over 9 minutes of continuous shooting with the bird getting more and more distant, so not very riveting! But maybe a record of territorial patrolling. Also added a video taken the same day of a female at the neighbouringsite: this bird was much closer but was trying to keep within the cover given by tall trees. Will shortly add all the material for visit 437 to the videos page. Tomorrow hoping to make the upper South Tyne in the afternoon for a nest visit with Hexham for lunch and tea! This evening busy cutting the grass but did make the County later on!

July 29th: running BT’s Sitechecker on the web pages and finding a number of glitches, which correcting. A continual problem is changes in external urls, such as those for Roy Dennis’ web site. Talking of whom I gather he said at the meeting of the N&TBC last September that the Scottish population of Honey Buzzard did not run into the tens of pairs, let alone hundreds of pairs. Well Birds of Scotland has it at 50 pairs. Furthermore his talk was on the 11th, the second great movement was detected 36 hours later on 13th in England and it is tempting to think that even as he spoke the first birds were beginning to move! Removing last residual link page from the computing server on Friday which may cause problems if you’ve not adjusted your bookmarks. Entering through Supanet will result in page not found. The new BT site has worked well in my opinion. I’ll publish the summary statistics from BT at the end of the month to show that it would have been becoming a bit too large for the previous server setup. Friday and Saturday make up the coming weekend from my perspective. Enjoyed the Globe this evening though it was a little expensive after paying for the roof in cash!

July 27th: added more videos, from visit on 2/6 (in the display season) to a site in Hexhamshire where had a female Honey Buzzard soaring and floating over the site for some 15 minutes. She was obviously wondering where the hell her mate was, but you’ll be pleased to hear that 10 minutes later, they were both up in the air in the haze displaying at some distance from me, right over where the nest was found. Looking at videos like this, it’s easy to see how they can fly on migration using very limited resources. After soaring to a great height with just a few flaps, they go into a long glide, gaining a lot of ground horizontally while only slowly losing height. Eventually they’re back close to the ground and have to repeat the soar-glide cycle but the more experienced birds try and finish a glide near an obvious point such as a hill with thermals or a cliff with an updraught to get a flying start in the next climb. Got group photo from Cambridge PSSL trip in early April. It’s very sharp and you can see who is who by pointing at their faces. I’m on front row alongside long-standing (and -suffering) collaborator of almost 30 years: surprised he looks so cheerful! It’s a sobering thought that if a bomb had landed on this group, pure and applied category theory would have been wiped from the planet! Seeing Mike on Thursday – got to write with some urgency 2 presentations. Thinking of switching back in the autumn to some extent to an old interest: gulls. Trouble is might have to do some more fieldwork in the Canaries. Saw one likely volunteer twice today, would be good in the woods: got the poise!! Worried about the Welli tomorrow: they’re going to run out of Guinness by all accounts! The campers drink it as if there’s no tomorrow. Almost ran into a Rhinemaiden this morning: quite distracting!! Expecting to do some fieldwork tomorrow morning with lunch in Hexham before making Newcastle.

July 26th: concluded below account of recent trip to Devon, except for some photos to be added showing habitat. Rain duly arrived this morning and new roof did not leak, so might have to pay for it now! Did another breeding atlas square this afternoon from 16:00-18:00 in the Whitfield Hall area. This is in between Honey Buzzard territories so perhaps unsurprisingly none were seen. In a stiff SW breeze had 2 Common Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk. Might go the Welli 3 times this week. Tomorrow is a full day in Newcastle but Tuesday is a half-day (afternoon only). So maybe it’s a rendezvous!!

July 25th: added to 24/7 video of walk-in to site in Allen yesterday. Also added Marsh Harrier video from Norton Fen, Norfolk, on 18/5: going to discuss this shortly for the benefit of those observers who regularly report Marsh Harrier in Northumberland from grouse moors and wooded areas. Today in great weather did do some breeding atlas work on edge of Whitfield Moor from 11:20-13:20 but in a Honey Buzzard territory so I don’t lose focus! Went to the habitat deemed not so suitable for Honey Buzzard earlier in the year. Well this was not quite right as while in a ride a female Honey Buzzard came over at 12:15 in flap-glide mode, so ran down the ride and got this video of the bird over the moor, mobbed by Lesser Black-backed Gulls which breed nearby. The bird was right over open moorland as shown in this pan. Had a male over this site earlier this season so it was not that surprising really. Total for atlas visit was 4 raptors of 3 species: 2 Kestrel and single Common Buzzard (carrying food) and Honey Buzzard. Also had phone call from 3 local birders to say that yesterday they had 2 Honey Buzzard and 2 Common Buzzard interacting over my house! Well what can I say: they do both breed on my doorstep! Indeed can you imagine the Linnels area without Honey Buzzard? It’s absolutely perfect for them. Had rather lazy afternoon: lunch in Ant’s, stroll in Sele and coffee in Nero. You get a good view over the Tyne from the top of the Sele: something to remember! What will the morning bring? Rain it appears: need some to test the new flat roof put in on Tuesday, a few days too late to save part of the dining room ceiling. Updated national monthly totals for Honey Buzzard for May and June. April-June totals this year have set a new record of 117 (up by 1 from 2008), which is substantial but surely only a fraction of those really passing over. Doubtless though the state of denial goes on!

July 24th: added little more to Devon story including a video of a Hobby mobbing some Raven. This afternoon went to the Allen from 13:10-17:40 where had 4 raptors of 2 species: 3 Common Buzzard and a Hobby. Main purpose of visit was to check out potential Honey Buzzard nests at the site where not sure last month which the birds had chosen. So checked the 3 possible nests, looking for storm damage (very possible in deluge at end of last week) and reinforcing. The one at the end in oak had collapsed in between visits: 25/6 and 24/7; the one in alder looked rather threadbare: 25/6 and 24/7; but the one in oak in the middle looked to have been reinforced: 25/6 and 24/7. So the last one looks very much like the active nest. No Honey Buzzard were seen but did not overstay my welcome. Walk-in to the nest is given here. This is very much temperate jungle: looking for volunteers to help, must be fit and nubile! Welli was good in evening: nice to meet v again! Random survey of estate agents suggests they’re getting busier: know which one I would choose!! Tomorrow may return to breeding atlas in the morning before the eligible period finishes.

July 23rd: visit into Hexham late morning was pretty stimulating!! Then out on JLAF excursion to examine access in the South Tyne above Haltwhistle. We visited Lambley Viaduct and they then went onto Alston while I sneaked off to the Featherstone area to try and track down a long-standing Honey Buzzard site where I’ve had no joy this year in several visits. Tried another wood about 500m away and after 20 minutes nailed the b…..s with a female floating beautifully over the trees for about a minute. So that’s 37 sites now! Then to the Greenhead Hotel where had good tea and stayed for formal JLAF meeting which went on until 21:00. Made County at very end of LD meeting and stayed for a couple. Hexham is very interesting in summer evenings with a flock of 21 Swift screaming over the rooftops: reminds me of when used to live in Haltwhistle. Mind you there are other very interesting things under the rooftops!! Total for day was 6 raptors of 4 species: 3 Common Buzzard and single Honey Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. There could be an undiscovered Honey Buzzard site near Greenhead.

July 22nd: back on 19:15 flight from Exeter to Newcastle, 16th flight this year, not very green! Had been looking forward to return. Missing some lovely aspects of the Tyne Valley!! Very good time with families in Devon. Off now for late trip to Globe which did have a pay-off!! Report on Devon visit soon. Tomorrow is JLAF in afternoon and early evening in upper South Tyne followed by LD in County later-on. Friday should see a return to the field. Back at work in Newcastle next week for a while.

Devon trip – report on first few days, rest to come: 16/7 down to Devon by Flybe from Newcastle for major family reunion, staying with mother. Hired Astra from Europcar at Ka prices: always order a small car and if they haven’t got any left, they give you a larger model at the booked price! Monsoon started on arrival and was still going at the end of the day. 17/7 morning continued wet but was a bit clearer by lunchtime: had long lively chat with Jill from Torquay and finally went out to a site near Starcross where had a Hobby, 2 Common Buzzard and a female Honey Buzzard, the last flying into the regular plantation at 14:00 quickly diving into cover. In evening 5 of us (mum, 2 sisters, brother-in-law, me) went out for a superb dinner at the Langstone Cliff in Dawlish Warren to celebrate mum’s actual birthday. Seem to have been designated as natural successor to my grandfather on mother’s side: he was a farmer in Devon at Eastdon, near Cockwood (Cockoode in local speak!), on the Exe. Sisters are claiming the presbyterian paternal side who were jewellers in Teignmouth. On 18/7 went up to Dartmoor with elder sister, niece and her boyfriend for walk in the drizzle from Two Bridges up to Crockern Tor, Longford Tor and Wistmans Wood. Great to be on Dartmoor again: it’s got lovely wild open spaces. Had a Common Buzzard at Postbridge and a Dartford Warbler high on the moor near Wistmans Wood. On way back had another Common Buzzard just E of Moretonhampsted and then took unscheduled detour via a reservoir near Bovey Tracey to try and see a Honey Buzzard. Road up for the final stretch is very narrow and steep and had 8 heifers loose on it. Nearby farmer had been alerted: “they’re not mine, my luvvers: try driving them down the lane!”. So had to chase them down the lane first on foot and then with the car. Well this detour was looking completely over the top when the sun came out and a male Honey Buzzard floated over the wood ahead, 5 minutes after arrival, at 17:55! In evening over to Shaldon where met son, daughter, mother-in-law, and brother-in-law and his wife from Switzerland, and we went for meal at Hunters Lodge followed by quick visit to the Clifford. Another good meal: we’re doing well for the local restaurant trade. Sunday 19/7 was big fest day with mum’s 90th birthday party at Wheelwright, Colyford, near Sidmouth with 50 attending the lunch, mostly relatives. 100% turnout, a great atmosphere and speeches including mine seemed to go down well! Son back to London in evening: he’s off to Georgia and Armenia on Tuesday for break. Daughter going back tomorrow morning: flying to Dubai in evening for work. Back in Shaldon in evening where we’re getting ready for sale the property of mother-in-law even though Barclays will take half the proceeds under SAM. I’ve no personal interest in the sale but kids do have. Only raptor today was a Common Buzzard over a field at Halfway House.

On 20/7 brighter morning so up to Haldon, visiting 2 sites from 09:20-13:10, where had 3 Common Buzzard, 2 Hobby and a Honey Buzzard. Got some close-up video of a Hobby mobbing a family party of Raven. The Honey Buzzard, a male, soared high at 10:55 over a site on a hilltop to the S of Little Haldon at 10:55 and drifted N 5 minutes later onto the moors presumably to feed. The distribution of the sites in this area has been difficult to track down but pretty sure of at least one now and the 2.5km spacing rule should sort out the other. A family party of Firecrest was novel to me. Had long chat in evening with mother, including review of her financial affairs which are all in order. She’s keen for me to get another woman, though she didn’t quite put it like that! Told me about her 2 keen suitors who she used to date on alternate nights: my father, an optician, who was very attentive and an estate agent who was very charming but obsessed with duck shooting. Well who should she choose? The duck shooter had an accident with a punt gun and, although he survived, it was curtains! Hmmm! Maybe feathers do have their perils! Cannot think it was the estate agent connection! On 21/7 weather was terrible with rain virtually all day. Went for walk in the wet with younger sister on Buckton Hill, near Sidmouth. Could hardly see anything but this looked to be possible Honey Buzzard habitat: beginning to think Devon Honey Buzzard population might be quite high even though habitat preferences are new: they breed on hill-tops in Devon and valley bottoms in Northumberland because of differences in local geography. In evening out to Smugglers Inn at Holcombe for drinks with 6 relatives on the in-law side! Mike had seen estate agents and bank who both play a key role in SAM and was rather disheartened. Black humourruled the night with car boot sales favouredfor disposals! Missed quiz night at Welli in every sense!! On 22/7 last day went up to Haldon to try and locate Honey Buzzard in gap located by spacing. Well spent a while in the area from 10:20-11:50 but did not see a single raptor! It was drizzling for a while but did get a Cirl Bunting. Later went to Swans Nest, Exminster, for lunch at the carvery with mum and a few assorted friends. Over Powderham Old Plantation had a single Common Buzzard up with a Hobby in attendance.

Overall it was a great week for meeting relations with plenty of celebrations. Weather was poor and this had an effect on raptor totals. Main effort was in the Haldon area which gave some bias towards Hobby and Honey Buzzard. Total for week was 16 individuals of 3 species: 9 Common Buzzard, 4 Hobby and 3 Honey Buzzard. Hobby seem to be increasing in this area with birds seen at 4 sites. Honey Buzzard are very difficult to survey in July unless you have a good idea of the location of the nest. I had birds at 2 sites which were already known and finally pinned them down in one more site. But all sightings were brief and there are still a number of questions as to their true range and population in the area. It needs a visit in late May/early June. Surprisingly no Kestrel or Sparrowhawk were seen all week.

July 15th: made final visit of first round in glorious weather to site in Hexhamshire from 13:50-16:40. Again was mobbed heavily by Common Buzzard on the walk-in where young were just flying with 2 adults and 2 juveniles showing. Also had a juvenile Kestrel doing a token bit of hunting. Further on the female Honey Buzzard obliged with a low-level fly-pass and soar at close range – isn’t she graceful? Many stills available from video, selection here (1 2 3 4 5 6 7). The birds are using the same nest as last year in a very tall Scots Pine with commanding views over the Devil’s Water gorge below. After getting back to the car in Dipton Wood watched the site for a bit and the male Honey Buzzard explored the whole area perhaps checking to see if I’d really left while the female also flew around but kept closer to the nest. Had a feeling the young had hatched at this site and on returning home a male high up over the local site at 19:00 also perhaps indicated a subtle change with young hatching at the more advanced sites. Take off 35 days and you have about 10th June for egg laying. Add on 40 days and you have about 24th August for fledging. There’s a long way to go! But it’s this very late season which fits so well the migration data for the UK.

Half-time totals for Honey Buzzard are: Allen 6 sites, 9 adults (5 male, 4 female), 2 nests in Norway Spruce, Oak/Alder; Devil’s Water 6,12 (6,5,1 not sexed), 3 nests in Scots Pine x 2, Norway Spruce; Tyne Valley 10, 14 (7,7), 3 nests in Scots Pine, Norway Spruce, Douglas Fir (last located to tree only); upper South Tyne 5,11 (6,5), 2 nests in Norway Spruce, Birch; lower South Tyne 3,4 (2,2); and Derwent 6,11 (6,5); giving grand total 36, 61 (32,28,1), 10 nests in Norway Spruce x 4, Scots Pine x 3, Birch, Douglas Fir, Oak/Alder. Number of tetrads in which other raptors have been recorded in study area includes: Common Buzzard 53, Kestrel 29, Sparrowhawk 14, Hobby 13, Goshawk 9, Red Kite 9, Merlin 3, Peregrine 2, Osprey 1, Hen Harrier 1. The 36 sites for Honey Buzzard compares with 35 for the whole of 2008. These figures should not be taken as relative abundance figures: the totals are very much biased in favour of Honey Buzzard as the target species.

Visited Hexham twice, to Nero for lunch and Globe for tea! All very sociable. Good to see the fanciable ff again!! Further rise in shares is a mixed blessing as planned to invest a significant sum coming my way soon into the bombed-out sectors. Maybe get more property such as a pad in town: after all the flat market is pretty depressed by all accounts! Never buy anything in a boom! Anyway love to all, particularly those destined to be in the The Ring of the Nibelung: xxxxxxxxxx!!

July 14th: another PhD exam and another success, clearer cut this time with Abdelsalam performing very competently; I was only 2nd supervisor so maybe that helped him! Hoping to do 10th site visit tomorrow afternoon, to a site close to the Devil’s Water: it’s the worst walk-in with long sections of waist-high deep vegetation so maybe that’s why it’s left to last! Train journey in roused a few parts!! Welli much later was very good with the 3 Rhinemaidens in pole position! Very p….d off though after snowball where I’d have been first but for the clever C U Next TuesdayS!! Anyway no work tomorrow so will catch up with a few things!

July 13th: not 10th site visit — 4 in a row would be too many and anyway work calls! Hoping to complete this last visit of current round on Wednesday when season will be half-over in both time (start May – end September) and activity with second round of site visits and fledging still to do. Think number of sites now stands at 36 so already ahead of last year’s 35 but will be doing a proper half-time summary soon. Came back on train with the karismatic k!! Busy this evening with a panel and Polyfilla, restoring ground-floor bathroom after the leak. Got some more plumbing gear from MC to replace further sections with the old plastic screw fittings before they leak. They think I’m trade in there – not sure what to make of that! Tomorrow working all day but might possibly get along to the Welli in evening!

July 12th: 9th site visit to a wood to the W of Riding Mill, technically counted in the Tyne Valley although some might say it’s the ‘Shire. But it’s not on the Devil’s Water. This was the only site last year where I was not sure of the tree in which the nest was placed but no problem today. The nest was high-up in Norway Spruce with the female flying right over it in the one fly-over that she did. This is a definite weakness of Honey Buzzard: in fly-overs of the site just above the canopy they usually fly right over the nest. Obviously they’re checking that everything is alright but it is a very valuable clue. Also had 2 alarm calls (not recorded) on exit and a Kestrel hunting over the heath. This was a very quick visit from 15:00-16:30. Then onto Wylam from 16:50-18:40 via Ovingham where had a female Sparrowhawk near the sign that tells you to slow down. Wylam was very interesting. Parked near Station (never like to be too far from trains) and walked up to Stephenson’s Cottage and onto the Rift. Had 2 Red Kite: one patrolling majestically over last year’s site S of the Tyne (suggesting successful breeding) and another coming into West Wood. So from recent visits there may be 3 pairs around Wylam: Sled Lane, Horsley Wood and West Wood. But the critical question is: are there Honey Buzzard east of the village? Well panned the area and think there should be a Honey Buzzard site here, maybe in Ravens Dene area, but did not see any birds today. Disturbance permit takes me down Tyne to West Denton but not sure there are any Honey Buzzard that far E! So 5 raptors this afternoon of 4 species: 2 Red Kite and single Honey Buzzard, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. Later went to Welli for a couple and a bit of crack! Tomorrow have a couple of appointments in afternoon but Tuesday is much busier seeing early start and another PhD exam.

July 11th: 8th site visit to a wood 3km W of Hexham Abbey in very fine weather from 14:40-17:20 was successful, finding the Honey Buzzard nest in the same place as last year in a Scots Pine. The position was complicated by a pair of Common Buzzard with just-fledged young, who screamed at me for nearly all the visit, with even the youngsters joining in at the end. The female Honey Buzzard present let the Common Buzzard do most of the hastling but did appear on the edge of the conflict a few times. Sample of video is given with Common Buzzard’s opening gambit. Here’s also a photo of yours truly in the wood, now with shorter hair: it’s a lot better in the steaming jungle! Used to spend summers on the moors: not sure the woods are as healthy though you keep fit enough in the long grass! Tomorrow will do another site visit near Hexham in afternoon if weather OK and maybe then go east to Wylam/Prudhoe area to see what’s hanging out there! Added 2 videos from the Allen visit on 4/7 (437): male in territory including glide and walk-in to nest site in the gloom, with stills for male in flight 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9. There’s more to come. Major gathering of the clans is approaching but will attend major attractions next week!

July 10th: 7th site visit duly made to upper South Tyne. Had male Honey Buzzard circling endlessly over nearby wooded valley shortly after arrival at 14:50 and female flushed from nest in Norway Spruce and flying over it a few times around 15:40. No calls were heard: the extent to which the birds are vocal varies enormously. A few body feathers were found around the site together with quite a lot of splash and one portion of rabbit skin. A very exciting development was a family party of 4 Raven tumbling over the Snope Burn: marvellous to see over a grouse moor. One raptor joined in their display – a Hobby: nothing is too big to be mobbed by a Hobby. No other raptors were seen but it was the afternoon and much of the time was spent under the canopy of a coniferous wood. Earlier had enjoyable lunch in Nero and seeing the ffs was a very good surprise! Made Ant’s for a quick early evening refreshment and the Welli later, no surprise there! Tomorrow probably much the same! The ff seems to have b……d off – hope for better things! Am hoping to publish more definitive totals to date soon: urgently putting in final sets of data from last month into BirdTrack. So there you go …

July 9th: made lower South Tyne this morning from 10:10-11:20 in the Plenmeller area. Very successful with weather fairing up a bit after a few wet days, seeing 2 Honey Buzzard and 4 Common Buzzard. The Honey Buzzard included a female from the local site, which chased off to the E a female from the brand new site found on 5/7. The local female then flew off in level flap-glide motion about 2km to the W to feed. The Common Buzzard are obviously close to fledging: the pair of adults were flying over the trees persistently as if trying to draw them up into the air. A very scruffy 1s Common Buzzard was also present with forked tail due to moult giving it a kite-like appearance at first glance. The Honey Buzzard here have been misidentified as Marsh Harrier over the last few years. It’s good the keepers can tell the difference! Earlier made Hexham where good to see c in Nero! Into work for the afternoon where helping to prepare Libyan student for next week’s PhD viva. Normally get 18:24 back but the 17:54 can have its attractions and it certainly did today!! Tomorrow sorting out a paper in the morning, then into Hexham for lunch and out to the upper South Tyne for 7th site visit.

Started trying to pick up various bits of information on the start of the major Honey Buzzard movement on Saturday, 13th September 2008. Found a few gems on Bird Forum’s Norfolk Birding page 186, which are given below with very minimal tidying-up. Evidence collected at the start of the event is very valuable as it is generally not angled to satisfy a particular viewpoint. Note the futility of looking for birds coming off the sea, the acceptance that these birds had arrived from further north, some cutting across the Wash, and the expectation that was to be unrealisedthat these birds would make their exit from England over the south coast. So where were the birds on the Friday evening and night (12/9)? Very good question! Certainly not over the North Sea I would say but there is some requirement in the data for a very early exit (pre-dawn) on Saturday morning from northern England, perhaps starting when the heavy rain stopped around 03:00 just as I arrived back from Doncaster Airport by car (coincidence not causal!). Such a departure time would explain many features of the movement. More on this in due course.

Originally Posted by Matt Green: Sunday 14th September 2008, 11:02, Matt Green, Registered User, Join Date: Feb 2005, Location: Norfolk, Posts: 4,901

Would be interested to know if these incoming Honey Buzzards follow any kind of pattern when travelling across land? (this question could include other raptor species also) are they likely to stick to any particular topography type (heavily wooded areas/river valleys etc) or do they just wing it in a random fashion!!!

My best watchpoint is 11 miles away in the Waverney..looks like I’d better pack some sarnies and get the bike out!!!! Good mig hunting folks!! Matt

Reply: Sunday 14th September 2008, 13:04, pomskua, Registered Member, Join Date: Oct 2007, Location: Sheringham, Posts: 360.

Although would have liked to see some HBs today learnt a lot about how they migrate and how sneaky they are. Went to Incleborough [near Cromer] (huge panoramic views), pagers going off of reports of birds on all sides – Northrepps, Salthouse, and Aylmerton, couldn’t understand why not seeing any and called my mate in Aylmerton, then headed up there but passage had ended by the point.

Have however worked out some reasons why I missed them, apparently the birds today at Aylmerton flew quite low S out of the woods, heading in SE and SW directions (not viewable from Incleborough) – presumably yesterday’s birds having roosted. Would guess that all of todays birds were birds that arrived yesterday either here or further North – with birds moving down through the Wash a new feature of today, spent some time looking for birds coming in off the sea – which in hindsight was wrong. Only site that seems slightly unusual are the 9+ at Burnham Overy (hard cheese chumpbirders – but I can hardly talk) but presumably these were birds ‘cutting the corner’.

I think these birds are generally moving south, roosting in wooded areas?, using staging posts (Abberton Res in 2000) and in a few days should start filtering out through Beachy Head, Portland (see links) but I would say there’s nothing random about these birds. Got to be philosophical rather than blame luck, and I’ll be prepared next time.

Reply: Sunday 14th September 2008, 17:36, Dave Hawkins, Join Date: Jan 2003, Location: Norfolk UK, Posts: 114

Bearing in mind the HBs were arriving in numbers by mid-morning on Saturday all over the east coast….where were they at Friday dusk and Saturday at dawn?

Spent three and a half hours today with Norfolkbirder on the Choseley north slope (down towards Titchwell) with an excellent panoramic view especially north, south and west and did not see a single HB! Did see 6 migrating herons heading west. Dave.

July 8th: had another long meeting to discuss corrections with Dimitrios before his return to Greece tomorrow. Got an invite to stay with his family there next spring — accepted! Weather looks better tomorrow morning so may get a visit in to check a Honey Buzzard site in the lower South Tyne for occupation via Hexham. There’s not enough time for a site visit but hope to get one of those in on Friday, which is a dta day. Calls from Allen site visit on 4/7 have been assembled into a single wma file. The clearest calls are just past the 60 second mark and at the very end with 3 spectrograms compiled so far (3  1  2). The calls are short with one harmonic and generally weaker on upstroke than downstroke so close to alarm calls as described on the calls page. There’s a fairly lengthy section before the 60 second mark in which there are no clear alarm calls but there are faint calls classified earlier on the calls page as ‘Owl-like’: these need further investigation. All these calls are very different from Common Buzzard calls which have more harmonics and an explosive upstroke. Honey Buzzard calls appear purer, more plaintive and less strident. When are other Honey Buzzard groups in the UK going to publish calls? It would obviously be very beneficial to swap experience in this area. Or are they reluctant to do so for obvious reasons? Visit to Globe was very sociable: got an invite to the Panama Party on 26/7 which looks like a thinly-disguised excuse for a booze up — might well go!

July 7th: day was dominated by PhD viva with preliminaries starting at 11:00 and final rites being done at 17:00. Dimitrios did very well, successfully defending his thesis and getting a provisional award, with some modifications to do. His project was in the mainstream of my personal research so it was all very tense but the outcome was very rewarding: my 8th PhD student to succeed. The external examiner from Manchester is one of the leading international authorities on category theory. Have another PhD student in for viva next Tuesday but I’m only second supervisor there. Liked train journey in! Nephew j duly arrived and we went for nice meal at Welli with good service from v. We had a good chat. It was rather weird being there before the start of the quiz as normally stagger in near the end but it was very interesting to see my favourite quiz team assemble! Feeling rather drained after the viva: another session of q&a was not a good therapy but lady in green might have been!! Tomorrow j, who’s been up in northern Scotland, goes onto London and I go into Newcastle, later making the Globe!

July 6th: made back of Prudhoe this morning where after all of 20 minutes wait had a male Honey Buzzard fly about 2km in a straight line eastwards back to its presumed nesting area near the Durham border. So that’s another new site for this year. Also had a pair of Kestrel here working their a…s off and another Kestrel was hovering near Prudhoe Station. What traffic lights in Prudhoe town centre: almost missed my train and that was after the odd liberty! Earlier made Hexham where blood pressure went through the roof: what a beautiful b..!!! May go for a pint now! Indeed made County for a quickie after getting back from work late at 20:00. Tomorrow is very busy with exam. In the evening nephew is coming to stay for one night: think he’s a spy sent by my elder sister to see what I’m getting up to, so may take him for a meal at the Welli and then home early for Ovaltine!

July 5th: 6th site visit, so just 4 more to do in this round. Logistics were not so good today as had to do some gardening first while the sun shone: evening grass cutting for instance has been impossible after the late afternoon rains, which seem very popular at the moment. It turned out quite well though with a female Hobby over the field at Ordley at 10:00. Finally made the Eals area at 13:20 where stayed until 16:40. Visited the longest running Honey Buzzard site in the county with 17 years occupation now since 1993. But the birds were not obliging in the humid warmth. As approached the nest-site area, the female took off away from me and flew through the trees, setting off alarms in turn from Jay, Carrion Crow and Oystercatcher. So that’s a 5 second view. The old nest at the top of an Oak tree had disappeared and the latest site is at the top of a Birch tree, a species they have used before at this site. When I left the alarms were again heard but in the reverse order! Only other active raptor here was an angry Common Buzzard. Piccies tomorrow. Decided to have a look at the woods SE of Haltwhistle on the way back and at 17:10 had a male Honey Buzzard c2km to the E soaring and gliding S. This was 30-seconds worth: so 35 seconds total for day in about 4 hours. Mind you this last site was brand new in a long-standing gap in the 2.5km grid so that’s brilliant. Trouble is this is when, with migration very quiet on the coast, birders come inland to see if they can see any Honey Buzzard. Answer is yes, you can see them, but you need to allow 5 hours at a site for a reasonable chance! Came back into Hexham where, in tropical rains, went to Ant’s for a coffee (honest!). Interesting walk through Hexham. Is my favourite’s number 21? Tomorrow to Hexham and E down the Tyne Valley for a recce in the morning and then work in afternoon.

July 4th: further details on visit on 28/6 include stills from video 435 of female Honey Buzzard in flight 2  3  4  5  1  6  7  8  9  10; stills taken by video camera of nest in Norway spruce 1  2; and video of walk into site showing hazards 1, the stream in flood is actually not fordable safely. Today went from 11:40-15:50 to prime site in Allen — the nest’s somewhere in the trees here 1; actually in this Norway Spruce 1  2. Had an amazing display by the male from 12:10-12:25 which will publish soon; he did a pretty typical fast glide near the site and then moved off eastwards doing over 15 minutes a complex series of manoeuvresover a wide area including a modification of the sky dance and some reconnaissance. The nest was attended by presumed female who gave some alarm calls. Later at 15:30 the female was off to feed to the S, flying cunningly up the valley, hardly breaking the tree line. Also had 2 grumpy Common Buzzard and an anxious Kestrel: only the Honey Buzzard looked happy in the hot humid weather. Made Nero later: caught up with the FT on shares. Largest holding by value is lon:barc, most acquired earlier this year. The connection mentioned yesterday shows it’s a very small world. Of course the S 2 used to be S C: it’s a pity the scintillating s doesn’t come any more!! News quickly got round last week at the Globe that I was seeking another builder for the flat roof replacement. Followed out, stopped and got a lower estimate today by somebody who’s worked here very well before so quickly accepted. Tomorrow it’s the upper South Tyne where it all began (the Honey Buzzard re-colonisation, that is!) and maybe Hexham later.

July 3rd: visited a large wood to the back of Mickley in yet another attempt for Honey Buzzard there in very hazy and heavy conditions. Was rewarded with a female soaring over the site at 11:10 before gliding off to feed, just like at my home site on 28/6. The males obviously do quite a lot of the incubation so it’s nice to be studying a politically correct species! Mind you the male in the Allen that was flushed from the ground recently was obviously not too dedicated but perhaps both sexes opportunistically grab food on the ground while incubating. Also had a Red Kite at Shilford and a pair of Kestrel really working hard near Mickley, obviously feeding a large brood. Met Greek PhD student in afternoon for long chat about his thesis; I’ll give him a mock viva on Monday. Two papers sent to Liège have been accepted: they were invited by the organisers but still have to be vetted of course. So that’s a trip to Belgium in early August. Visit to Hexham earlier was very rewarding: very nice tits and a connection I hadn’t made before!! Party – well it was a leaving do at the business school – got slightly out of hand; only just made the last train with about 30 seconds to spare but it was a great time! Today off to the Allen for another site visit, coming back into Hexham late afternoon.

July 2nd: started processing video material from site visit on 28/6. That of female floating and gliding over site is shown here. It was very humid but not quite as misty as suggested: too much heavy breathing I think on the camcorder! Anyway some very precise silhouettes which indicate a female Honey Buzzard. The languid deep wingbeats, small head, long neck, bulging secondaries, long tail and paddle-shaped wings are all very positive indicators. Will assemble other material from this site visit including stills from video, nest, surrounding habitat and wood ants, to make a new video 435. Wonder whether the N&TBC field trip to Yorkshire on 28/6 found any at Wykeham Forest; it’s a pity to go so far when they’re quite easy to see in our home county. Two lovely train journeys today: isn’t that a happy coincidence! Made Tap much later to put the world of computing right. Tomorrow morning will check for new Honey Buzzard sites in the Tyne Valley via Hexham: there’s not enough time for a site visit. Going to a party in Newcastle later!

July 1st: monsoon season continues; I like the warmth and humidity – rather like Devon! You just need to wear as little as possible and carry a big umbrella. It’s not very good weather though for trailing around Honey Buzzard sites as the long vegetation is sodden. Did make the Globe – startled by one development – SC must be a good place to live if you’re looking for gorgeous company!! Back on the ranch it’s stopped dripping but the heating’s on quite high and it’s like a steam bath! Car service went fine. Tomorrow it’s Newcastle again on the lovely early train and the Tap much later. Hope to get out in the field on Friday morning and this weekend. My Greek PhD student arrives tomorrow to prepare for his viva next Tuesday, when my nephew is coming to stay.

June 30th: Durham today, train journey in was very interesting with Paul my room-mate in Pandon and other attractions!! Finalised abstracts for CASYS. Made Welli later: the ff was in good form, very lively and showing well!! Altogether a very good evening! On bird front had another Nightjar yesterday in Dipton Wood, near Swallowship, on way to pub at 21:45 and a Honey Buzzard with a wailing call near home at 04:10 today. Should not have been awake then but the call was heard after a cloudburst. Plumbing should not be a top priority for these pages — but today replaced quite a long section of plastic screw fittings with compression copper fittings, sorting out 2 known leaks completely. But there’s still too much water around! Tomorrow sees car service but back for the Globe!

June 29th: added, to main videos page, video 430 for the nest visit on 21/6 in the Devil’s Water. Plumbing’s actually quite s.xy: male and female joints, rummaging in dark crevices and very temperamental! It’s also full of euphemisms: weeping is of course the same as leaking (although supposed to be at a slower rate) but I find plumbers discover leaks and leave weeping joints as part of the trade language. Plumbers are also optimists – things always settle in or bed down if left to themselves. Have made some repairs and weeping is now quite slow! Will it bed-down? Went to Hexham for lunch: met Stan in Nero – he’s very famous on cup and ring marks! Also went to library (where joined) and park. The ff looked rather too smart to be a plumber’s mate — very attentive – madame is back! Have got final draft abstracts for CASYS to discuss with Mike tomorrow in Durham, and it’s then normal work for 2 days. Also added today to this page for 20/4 some more shots from Barcelona of views of the city. I don’t like to forget anything! Tonight will go to the Welli!

June 28th: did 4th site visit to one very close to home from 16:20-18:30; greeted by female Honey Buzzard soaring over the trees and going out to feed after a little dip over the site to check on her mate. The male later flew low over the nest, which was a very large structure in Norway Spruce. Thought I might get some calls but he was silent. You get more calls if both partners are present: they egg each other on I think! You have to ford a river to reach this site: fortunately water levels were low! Day was dominated by the big leak. Wiped some mould off the downstairs bathroom wall earlier in the week but the wall was still damp this morning so decided to investigate. After 2 hours of following the leak back, eventually found a weeping joint in the main pipes into the bathroom upstairs, with water seeping everywhere. Decided to renew a section tomorrow as don’t trust the neighbouring joints either, so will be down to Doves early! Would be nice to have a plumber’s mate!! Thank goodness I didn’t leave it: could be very expensive if rot sets in. Yesterday evening went to Sage with Nick to hear pieces by Vivaldi and Bach. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is of course the bane of people who are left hanging on call centres but it’s really a grand and subtle work. Went to Lion in Horsley on way back: Nick likes it so much that he’s going to celebrate his birthday there with a meal! RSA tomorrow, or is it the day of the great flood!

Provisional totals for Honey Buzzard to date are: Allen 6 sites, 8 adults (4 male, 4 female), 1 nest (Oak or Alder); Devil’s Water 6,11 (5,5,1 not sexed), 2 nests (Scots Pine, Norway Spruce); Tyne Valley 6,8 (4,4), 1 nest (Douglas Fir); upper South Tyne 5,11 (6,5); lower South Tyne 1,1 (1,0); and Derwent 6,11(6,5); giving grand total 30,50 (26,23,1), 4 nests.

June 26th: did 3rd site visit to a location in the East Allen on 25/6 where had good views of a female moving out of the site and flushed a male Honey Buzzard from the ground at 20m! The male was presumably supposed to be incubating but was choosing to grab a quick snack on the ground below the nest, which was either in an Oak or an Alder (need to check next time on which is getting bigger!). On 25/6 made Hexham at lunchtime for Nero and shopping and evening for trip to Tap with workmates. Tap was packed – quite amazing after its recent past! Getting slightly less disorganised: booked haircut for Saturday morning at JG (before image here in Allen 25/6, after image soon!), car service for next Wednesday and air fares and car hire for trip to Devon next month. Also harrying builders over when they’re going to replace the flat roof and doing some painting. On 26/6 made Hexham: good service from c! Think someone else, who’s also very beautiful, is going to join the Orient Express!! Welli was fun, last time for full house over summer period, though I’m not away much. Bit of culture soon though! Next Tuesday, for last day of RSA, going to Durham in morning to see Mike to finish off papers for Liège: have made an important discovery on categories to discuss then; at last got time and space to think about research.

The new PMB processor from Sony is an exciting development as it enables the HD format to be exploited much more on the computer. Switched in phase 3 of the season last year to the highest quality XP HD but the AVCHD 1080i format was not so easy to edit. Now can work through existing material frame-by-frame extracting stills. As an example have re-worked the video of the juvenile taken close-up in the lower South Tyne on 26/8/2008 and added these, about 1.5MB each, to the Videos page with note: “Further stills added in June 2009 from PMB processing of video, giving much higher quality of still images: in particular 13 showing clearly long tail projection, small head and yellow bill; 14 showing 4-5 thickish bars across middle primaries; 15  16  17  18  19  20  21 emphasising details as above”. PMB also enables direct conversion of AVCHD to WMV and I’m sure I’m going to find some other useful features. Why weren’t these features available earlier? Well handling the HD format on a PC is very challenging from both the technical and power points of view. Very pleased that I got the quad processor, high memory and large disk configuration last year but of the TB (1,000GB) of disk space, almost half is already used! Current configuration is shown here (from Print Screen), probably minimum now for video processing.

June 24th: unusual day at work going to workshop from 09:30-16:30 on Socratic dialogue with the subject ‘What is Information?’. Well might not have thought there was too much on birds here but the 15 participants were each asked to tell a short story having something to do with the subject and I chose producing The Atlas of Breeding Birds in Northumbria, published in 1995, of which I was co-editor. One of the stories was then selected for much more detailed investigation and they chose mine, which involved about 2 hours of cross-examination. It was actually quite startling the amount of politics and back-stabbing that went on in getting the Atlas ready for publication: a number of the old guard were despatched and a co-editor was done in. I was almost embarrassed at some of the details although the participants obviously thought this was a rich example of committees at their best (or worst)! I suppose the justification was that this Atlas has been the most authoritative and financially successful of the N&TBC’s publications. Interestingly much of the aggravation was rated as a positive point by the workshop as it increased the credibility of the information produced. Made the Globe late again: instructed to be on time next week! Hexham visit was not as exciting as last week but maybe there was an interesting silhouette!! Tomorrow expect to make the 3rd site visit during the afternoon, get some updates to the web pages below and go to Tap in evening. Added stills of Honey Buzzard in Hexhamshire on 21/6: these are easier to produce now in a better quality with a frame save facility on PMB, the latest version of Picture Motion Browser from Sony. Though the resulting jpeg are obviously larger at about 750k, it’s making better use of the HD video format.

June 23rd: busy day at work from 08:50-19:40 so no fieldwork; tomorrow at workshop early-on for quite a while but hope to get away not too late – must make the Globe! BT have sorted out web site problem: credit to them. Not sure what it was but suspect stale caches interfering with uploads. I do realise that the account of the 2008 migration of Honey Buzzard is not complete. But there is an important section on the stocks which adds some vital information in my favour! Did make the Welli tonight – excellent time – so amazed that the Rhinemaidens’ quiz team did so well getting 3=. Must be more talent than I expected!! Certainly some attributes are very much in their favour!! Will resist the temptation this week to use their acronym! Back on RSA from Thursday-Tuesday. More action soon!

June 22nd: second site visit duly made to one in the Tyne Valley, fuller report later but summary is that a male Honey Buzzard joined in anger-calling with a pair of Common Buzzard when I invaded the latter’s nest site; birds have moved nest tree a little way but still in Douglas Fir which you need a helicopter to scan! Bit more laid back today. Visited Hexham for lunch where bumped into kool k in Nero for a lively chat!! ff is now boss woman – looked very fetching particularly if you’re into power syndromes!! Tomorrow into Newcastle for a number of meetings; should be back for Welli! Problem with BT web site has resurfaced but this time they’ve acknowledged it’s a real problem and are applying advanced diagnostics (or something like that!).

June 21st: left first site visit to today as it was too wet and cool yesterday. Although weather is not so critical for seeing the birds in this phase, it is not good to flush the birds from nests containing eggs or small young in poor weather for obvious reasons. Visit today to a site in the ‘Shire was very successful. I knew from the earlier visit that last year’s site had been clear-felled. Since Honey Buzzard nest in very tall timber, this must be an occupational hazard for them. So explored other timber in the area moving westwards as the female had been seen there in the first phase. This part of the forest is pretty rough and will surely be cleared soon and the birds fortunately ignored this, moving 700m to a new area. The new nest is in the same species (Scots Pine) and of the same shape as last year’s! While at the site got alarm calls, presumably from the sitting female who had retreated into thick cover and got into a row with a Jay! Did not stay long and on getting back to a clearing had clear views (video) of a Common Buzzard and male Honey Buzzard up in the air with the Honey Buzzard diving down to the nest to rejoin his mate. Stills from video for Honey Buzzard include diving 11  12  13  14, gliding 6  7  8  9  10 and floating 2  3  4  5, with the Common Buzzard 1 for comparison. With the recent clearances this is a superb area for Honey Buzzard and indeed all raptors with Goshawk, 2 Common Buzzard and single Kestrel and Sparrowhawk also noted. Had lunch at the Dotland vantage point and picked up a male Honey Buzzard over a wood at a known site in the area. Then back to reality with hours and hours of gardening, getting things straight. The garden shed has been so little used that some Swallow are nesting in it with their young hatching on 20/6. Think it’s cat-proof! Had a couple at Ant’s much later: always like it there! Tomorrow hope to fit another site visit in, plus a trip to Hexham for lunch! Did do a bit of fieldwork on 20/6: visited Dipton Wood for a crepuscular visit from 21:40-23:10 when had a Nightjar in flight, 5 roding Woodcock, a Cuckoo and a Tawny Owl, plus Badger, Roe Deer, Hare and Rabbit. Love woods in calm weather at night: especially if the company’s right!!

June 20th: started publishing on main web pages the monthly totals for 2009 of Honey Buzzard reported on the various channels in the British Isles. Started with April – very easy – only 7 seen, but including the interesting early record from Eire. May will take longer to compile! Also added overall view of 2008 totals with comments on circumstances favourablefor visible migration in autumn. Worth adding to 18/6 report that the Roman Wall is not in the Honey Buzzard study area: it’s in general too bleak and windswept although wouldn’t rule out a pair breeding say near Greenhead. Busy day yesterday chairing MPP in morning where student did quite well but not very well and research session from 13:30-20:30 in Durham with Mike getting some abstracts sorted out for forthcoming conference in Liège: wrote 3 pages! Then to Welli where full turnout. One of the Rhinemaidens is commuting again – not sure what Wagner would have made of this – but it does make a good start to the day! Interesting sighting on Thursday when walking to County but it was a bit of a blur! Next major trip looks as if it will be Ethiopia in January via Kenya: very keen to get back to the wilds of Africa! A bit more flexibility in work now with RSA (Research and Scholarly Activity) next Monday, Thursday and Friday. First site visit is imminent.

June 18th: trip today was actually Northumberland National Park staff and member summer tour to which JLAF members were invited. Slept well last night – sweet dreams!! Hexham was quiet just before setting off at 09:30! Went by bus to Battlesteads Inn, Wark, to see how such an enterprise can be relatively self-sustaining by for example generating electricity from biomass, Gibbs Hill Farm to walk to Greenlee Lough and Twice Brewed for demonstration of a modern maintenance-free cesspit! The tourist businesses in the Roman Wall area are very upbeat about their prospects this year and indeed there were masses of people everywhere. The highlight was the walk on the new boardwalk over the marsh to the west of the lough. Rain held off but it was pretty breezy and raptors were scarce with just 2 Kestrel seen in the Greenlee Lough area. An Osprey had been fishing on the lough 2 days earlier. Also saw Reed Bunting and heard Sedge Warbler, both of which are very local in the south west of the county. Evidently no Hen Harrier are breeding in Northumberland or adjacent areas this year. This species and the Peregrine Falcon don’t stand a chance on the grouse moors but at least the falcon finds safe breeding areas in the rest of the county. Off to the Tap later this evening with workmates! Tomorrow it’s MPP in the morning, research meeting in Durham with Mike later and the Welli.

June 17th: well who’s today’s target? It’s records committees everywhere that adopt a supposedly rigorous review for species perceived to be semi-rarities. The idea for this wee tale came from talking to my niece, who also has a PhD in Chemistry, on Blakeney Point in Norfolk. We were bemoaning the often disastrous lip service paid to science in soft subjects, of which I’m afraid Zoology must count as one. The problem is the confusion between precision and accuracy. Let’s take as an example a species x in a hypothetical county y. Suppose observers report 40 individuals in the year and that the species requires a description. Now just requiring a description cuts down the number of records to be reviewed by at least 50%. So let’s say 20 descriptions are provided of which 10 are accepted, 5 pended and 5 rejected. Then the County Recorder proudly holds aloft a bundle of 10 precise descriptions all of which are thought to capture beautifully the species. Now observers in my view do not make a claim of a semi-rarity without some soul-searching but they will not all be correct claims. Let’s say that of the 40 initial submissions, 35 are correct and 5 are incorrect. So the accurate figure is 35. The precise bundle only captures 10/35 or 29% of the actual records so is very inaccurate. Accepting all claims gives an estimate that is 40/35 or 114% of the actual records so accuracy is much improved. So the records clutched by the County Recorder are then not as precise but they are much more accurate. Indeed the vetting procedure produces a less accurate result than accepting all claims, providing just at least 11/40 are correct. The outcome is that records committees should stop being such control freaks on semi-rarities if they wish to present an accurate picture of a species’ status. The same situation can be seen in searching Google for a particular topic. Put in a a very precise request with many keywords and everything is very relevant but you miss some vital documents which have used language slightly different from that expected. So the request is very precise but inaccurate! I do though strongly support the vetting procedure for genuine rarities: there’s no other way and observers are normally better at submitting descriptions for these because of the kudos attached. The story above actually gets worse when we assign Hobby to x and Northumberland to y as will be discussed soon.

Provisional totals for Honey Buzzard for phase 1 are: Allen 6 sites, 7 adults (3 male, 4 female); Devil’s Water 6,10 (3,5,2 not sexed); Tyne Valley 6,8 (4,4); upper South Tyne 5,11 (6,5); lower South Tyne 1,1 (1,0); and Derwent 6,11(6,5) giving grand total 30,48 (23,23,2). Fantastic!! I think we’re looking for a further increase in the population this year as all the high altitude sites are occupied.

When will phase 2 start? This weekend perhaps. The great thing about phase 2 is that it can be done at any time of the day which makes organisation much easier, with regard to timetables and weather. Only requirements for phase 2 are a liking for long grass and bracken (often wet), no paths or tracks, fallen tree trunks, hidden stones, steep sides, traversal of streams, high humidity, no sunshine, wood ants all over the place and biting midges, ticks and other insects. Yes it takes place in temperate jungle! Tonight made the Globe in Hexham for teatime refreshment. Had to alter my approach by car when saw the duo approaching!! That will give enough inspiration for a while!!! Yesterday was very busy with work from 08:50-19:00 and LD exec meeting from 19:30-21:45, which left early to get to Welli where Snowball kitty is now up to an astronomical level. Always enjoy Tuesdays at the Welli: company and views are great!! Tomorrow up on the Wall with the JLAF.

June 15th: back to research now that the exam season is over, working on paper in morning and a few appointments in afternoon. Went to Marco Polo and concert at Sage with Nick in evening: rather spaced-out music by Schoenberg, Webern and Berg. Enjoyed Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony but not sure about the rest! Couple of very desirable projects in Hexham at lunchtime: so s.xy!! Hope those declining numbers who still think that the Honey Buzzard can cross the North Sea from Denmark to North-East England in great numbers have read the last paragraph of the Hawk Conservancy article cited below. The physics will rule OK! Tomorrow sees quite a few appointments and an LD meeting in the evening, but expect to make the Welli!

June 14th: long bash in hot sunshine in the upper South Tyne today from 11:00-16:20, starting at Gilderdale Bridge on Cumbria border and working way downstream to Haltwhistle. Thunderstorm was starting as left. Closing books for phase 1 today with total of 17 raptors of 3 species: 9 Common Buzzard, 7 Honey Buzzard and a Kestrel. Honey Buzzard were slow to appear at first site near Barhaugh Hall (c300m asl) but eventually a pair started displaying very high-up at 12:50, followed by the male going out to hunt at 13:20. Near Eals 3 Honey Buzzard (2 males, 1 female) were displaying from 14:30-14:40 at a site where none seen in earlier visit so presumed late arrivals; a female Honey Buzzard was up briefly on her own at an adjacent site suggesting incubation is under way. Near Haltwhistle drew a blank again at a well-used site but a single female was in a feeding movement at an adjacent site. Display will not continue much longer. Most sites visited this week are the highest in the study area. It was interesting that the displaying birds did seek the grey clouds about 1km up! Then made Ant’s for a couple of beautiful Guinness! So there you go: end of phase 1 – feeling demob happy, particularly as exam marking has also finished. Should start another project perhaps!! Tomorrow editing a paper at home in morning and there’s some culture later.

There was an interesting substantial section (from 21-27 minutes) on Honey Buzzard in the BBC’s Springwatch for 10th June. A male had ditched in the Solent about a week before having simply run out of fuel, weighing less than 400g. The male had recovered very quickly and been released in an area where there were ‘4 for certain females’. When in Finland for the gull meeting a few years ago I was told that Honey Buzzard quite regularly ditched in the Gulf of Finland in the spring migration. Not all die as they can float and maybe summon up just enough energy for a final push. The idea in Finland was that the birds, on the final approach to their breeding grounds, are so keen to get there that they take more risks than usual. This bird must have left Normandy and crossed successfully to the Isle of Wight but instead of refuellingthere it went a step too far for its energy reserves. Of course it does bring to the fore one of my questions about the movements of Honey Buzzard down the east coast in autumn: why are no exhausted birds found after the long sea crossing proposed by a number of sources? In a crossing of the North Sea to Yorkshire and further north, some birds must run out of fuel. Two items in the programmeI didn’t agree with: 1) they cannot feed on wasp grubs at this time of year as the wasp nests are so small and it would be counter-productive; instead they feed on whatever they can get including insects on dung heaps and in fields, frogs, bird eggs and nestlings and small rabbits and voles; 2) the species is not so rare now in the UK, many birders will have seen one or more in their autumn migrations out of the UK and back to Africa. There’s a concise summary of the event by the Hawk Conservancy Trust, who nursed the bird back to health. I wonder if the secret release location is the New Forest: the male knew he was running on empty but it’s not far, is it! This bird was a late migrant so possibly a younger adult and perhaps more inexperienced in doing these journeys.

June 13th: out to the Allen today from 10:40-13:00 in strong sunshine, visiting the higher parts (c300m asl) of both the West and East Allen where there are woods. The West Allen site was featured in some of the atlas work described here earlier this year. It was very productive today with 4 Common Buzzard and 2 Honey Buzzard, the latter being 2 males in aerial combat, one from what I described as the ‘good’ habitat site and the other from the ‘poor’ habitat site. Went on to the Sinderhope area of the East Allen where had a Common Buzzard (good to see in what has been a difficult area for raptors), a Kestrel and a pair of Hobby. So Hobby have claimed yet another new site! In the Devil’s Water had 2 Common Buzzard and a Kestrel during the day. Finally visited Hexham late afternoon: first to Nero and then had an interesting walk around some of the upwardly-mobile areas! Also had a female Sparrowhawk soaring to the south of the town. So total for day was 14 raptors of 5 species: 7 Common Buzzard, 2 Honey Buzzard, Kestrel and Hobby and one Sparrowhawk. Tomorrow it’s the upper South Tyne where some major gaps in knowledge still exist. Will be back to Hexham for refreshments later! Added below videos and stills of Lesser Kestrel from Barcelona on 18/4. Nice to catch up a little bit!

June 12th: School works outing today to North Yorkshire! Coach dropped A team of walkers at Sutton Bank (top of, we’re wimps!) and we walked through Ryedale to Helmsley, about 13 km in all, including a diversion to Rievaulx Abbey for lunch. This was perfect Honey Buzzard habitat, and indeed good for many species of raptor, but they were scarce, even in the beautiful weather. I’ve long suspected Yorkshire gamekeepers as being renegades and this did nothing to allay my concerns. Why aren’t the estates challenged more over this? However, the day did have its high spot: a pair of Honey Buzzard at 11:40 soaring in follow-me mode over Rievaulx Abbey, about 40km W from the well-known Honey Buzzard site at Wykeham Forest. So this was very good to see. Also had 3 Kestrel in the same area. A few of us later walked around Duncombe Park at Helmsley, which has magnificent trees, until thrown out (politely) as it was closed! Slight degradation in late afternoon as we made the Royal Oak, the Feathers for a fine meal and the Royal Oak again! A great day out with good company, walk, weather and beer. Got back on the coach into Heworth at 21:45, where took Metro to Callerton Parkway and made Welli before 23:00 where surprised to see c! No less than 3 glider pilots were on the trip and got some useful information from watching with them the gliders at Sutton Bank. One glider, on release from the tug, went straight below a dark grey cloud, evidently because this is where the strongest thermals are found. So this is why Honey Buzzard have an infuriating habit (photographically) of climbing high in the sky below a dark grey cloud, eventually getting lost to sight on the lower fringes of it. I’ve known for a long time that you find soaring raptors by looking below clouds, not in the clear blue sky, but I hadn’t realised why grey clouds are so popular. Also they were judging cloud heights for me. It looks as if Honey Buzzard will often soar for active display to the base of cumulus clouds about 1km (3000 feet) up, which is one reason why they are easily overlooked. Anyway piccies soon.

June 11th: another very good day. Fairly quick visit in strong sunshine to Derwent Reservoir produced 2 Honey Buzzard, a Hobby and a Kestrel. The male Honey Buzzard was up alone at 10:32 and a pair were up in high-altitude display from 10:55-11:00 doing follow-me so they’re not on eggs yet. A little later two Common Buzzard were in the main Tyne Valley at Shilford and Styford. Earlier went to Hexham – not strictly on way to Derwent, but 3 x gorgeous!! In the evening went with Nick to Marco Polo and then Sage to hear Bach’s great catholic mass, done to perfection by Northern Sinfonia, their chorus and 4 soloists. Later popped into Hexham again. Osprey are evidently breeding near Kielder Reservoir. Makes the one yesterday a little more interesting perhaps. Tomorrow have to get up at 06:00 – not normal style!

June 10th: purple patch for raptors continued in perfect conditions mid-morning with strong sunshine and light breeze. Went to Minsteracres and had a female Goshawk, gliding at an amazing speed, an Osprey moving N at low altitude, possibly going fishing on the Tyne, and 2 Honey Buzzard displaying with mutual circling and follow me from 10:30-10:40. It might be thought to be getting rather late for the pair of Honey Buzzard to be up together but the northern Britain breeding population appears to breed later than anywhere else in Eurasia, perhaps an adjustment to the challenging climate to facilitate colonisation. Also had a male Honey Buzzard up, just when leaving the house and a Common Buzzard at Broomleyfell. From 6th-10th have had an amazing spell with 30 raptors of 8 species. And yet some people still say Northumberland isn’t suited to high raptor populations because of the attitudes of the big shooting estates. They’re wrong! MPP went fine: the lady candidate was very impressive. Chairing another one next Friday. Did make the Globe but one train later than usual. Good to see everyone again; I’ve missed quite a few Wednesday afternoons recently which is a great pity from other angles as well. But the outlook is better! Tomorrow morning need to visit Hexham and then get out to another Derwent site, with a bit of culture in the evening. BT web site problems seem to have cleared up without any action on my part: triumph for masterly inaction!

June 9th: well-timed morning out in the Beldon Burn (Derwent) from 11:40-13:00 with 7 raptors of 4 species: 4 Honey Buzzard and single Hobby (mobbing Honey Buzzard), Red Kite and Common Buzzard (carrying food). The Honey Buzzard were at 2 sites at top of valley: one regular, the other not occupied last year at about 400m asl, the highest in the study area. They were distributed unevenly with 3 (2 males, female) at lower site and single female at upper site, but I’m sure they’ll sort themselves out! Day was trailing behind events from start: wanted to chat to cleaners s and l earlier in morning, so that pushed fieldwork late and did not start work until 14:30. Finished at 21:00 to catch the last train to Carlisle: shall I go to Welli – well yes! Rhinemaidens looked very good with their tanned breasts – and even got onto the podium in the quiz! Clever …..!! Tomorrow afternoon I’m chair for PhD MPP (mid-point progression) so not sure when I’ll get away. But the early morning may offer scope for fieldwork. Need to spend more time in eastern Tynedale!!

June 8th: added video 406 to main web pages, the small cuckoo-like head and long neck come out very clearly in the stills for the gliding female. So there’s still a great backlog of videos to add but did not get back from work until 19:45 today and then had to meet the charming staff of Waitrose! Had a good research session with main collaborator Mike for much of day: we have a lot of ideas for further publications on category theory. Train journey in was very much enlivened today!! Tomorrow hope to get out in the field in the morning, making Hexham later!!

June 7th: the eastern Tyne Valley performed pretty well seeing the cool weather. Woke up to heavy rain on the roof-lights, turned over and didn’t make the Spetchells until noon! You get a fantastic view by walking on the top of these old heaps and saw a rather amazing 4 Red Kite during the afternoon at 2 sites in Wylam: the well-known one south of the Tyne and a new one this year at Horsley Wood. Also had a female Honey Buzzard in this area up for 15 seconds – not a great reward for 3 hours in the area! – they may well be on eggs at this site, so beginning mega-secrecy phase. The Honey Buzzard was mobbed by a Hobby – a frequent occurrence. Kestrel also featured: one downriver and another close-up carrying food. Then went onto Dukeshagg (south of Prudhoe) and Bywell/Guessburn, but there was no tea-time display today except for a male Sparrowhawk at the back of Prudhoe. Honey Buzzard provisional totals to date are: Allen 4 sites, 5 adults (1 male, 4 female); Devil’s Water 6,10 (2,5,3 not sexed); Tyne Valley 6,8 (4,4); upper South Tyne 3,6 (3,3); lower South Tyne 1,1 (1,0); and Derwent 2,3 (2,1) giving grand total 22,33 (13,17,3). So a little behind (29 sites by 10/6 in 2008) but not surprising after virtually 3 weekends away in May. Phase 1 will close at the end of next weekend. Think lost ground will be recovered easily in the rest of June and July. The upper South Tyne and Derwent are in urgent need of more coverage. Some other interests have also been a bit neglected!! Pleased to see the LD retained their seat in the North-East: I did vote for them, Green would have been second choice. Next executive meeting is 16/6 in the County. Tomorrow is frenetic at work with research meetings up to 15:00, followed by vivas at 16:00 and 17:30. But Tuesday is better (a dta day) and may make Welli. On Friday going on School trip for walk on the North Yorks moors for team building (or something like that!). Not a bad area for Honey Buzzard!

June 6th: monsoon early-on so took opportunity for long lie-in. After visiting Nero mid-afternoon finally got out in the field at 16:30 to the west of Riding Mill in cool weather with sunny intervals. Timing was good as raptors had obviously been frustrated by the earlier poor weather and in just over an hour put on a brilliant show. Had 8 raptors of 3 species: 4 Honey Buzzard, 3 Kestrel and a Common Buzzard. The Honey Buzzard were at 3 sites with a pair on the Derwent watershed, a female over a site 2km SW of Riding Mill and a male in Hexhamshire to the south of Dipton Wood. A clearance is often a good opportunity for seeing raptors because they’ve got a lot of pent-up energy. On 5th monsoon also started in morning but still made Hexham early on to see its undoubted attractions!! Arrived back at 18:30 and went to Ant’s where stayed much longer than expected, having a really enjoyable chat!! Later to Welli where very sociable with full turn-out of usual crowd. Tomorrow (7th) it’s the eastern Tyne Valley mid-morning around Prudhoe and Wylam where need to catch up on a few things.

June 4th: out to a secret site this morning from 10:00-11:30 just a little over 2km to the W of Hexham Abbey! Very cool and calm (hence dreadful for soaring) but a female Honey Buzzard soared very slowly to a moderate height with hardly any wing flaps before giving up, only to repeat the watching-paint-dry performance 15 minutes later at 11:00. This time though she did get higher and proceeded to do a sky dance, ending with a plunge into last year’s site accompanied by a single long call and a wail. So that’s very promising for one of the monitored nest sites. Then into Hexham for a quick coffee, where could marvel at the ff’s beautiful all-over tan!! It’s a stage up from mine, but mine will last longer! Shares continue to advance – have bought so many over the last 9 months – almost 200,000 in fact including a vaguely ridiculous 76,500 lon:tw. Problem is the bloody rights issues which are coming along thick and fast and eroding my Guinness stockpile: don’t want to be diluted! House builders, banks and estate agents are favoured.Current property owes a lot to past dealings in mining shares. Did not make Tap tonight — partners were exam marking. Added Oriental Honey Buzzard video below. Had to reduce size of another older video to get it in: convinced there’s a 5GB block on the site somewhere. Have got a BT number to ‘phone tomorrow about it. Tomorrow have more vivas – that’s 13 this week – but back to research next week. Hope to slip in another site though but a bit earlier.

June 3rd: no fieldwork today – more vivas and urgent deadline had to be met on finalising PGR brochure content for CEIS for the Graduate School. Did make Hexham early on and very late; went to Marco Polo for tea and concert in evening with Nick at the Sage and had very lively gypsy-style music in the first half by the likes of Bartok and Ravel. Going to two more concerts next Thursday and following Monday. Tomorrow will do another site in the Hexham area in the morning before another collection of vivas in the afternoon and hopefully the Tap much later! Have sorted out Oriental Honey Buzzard video but am having problems uploading it to the web server: think there may be a web space limit I’ve come up against which should not be there for my package – complained!

June 2nd: visited a site in the Devil’s Water, near where it meets the Tyne, and had from 10:55-11:25 a pair of Honey Buzzard up together over last year’s site with one adult catching prey on a field rather like the adult in the Trossachs last year. At start of period had a female Honey Buzzard soaring and floating over the site for some 15 minutes. I’m sure they feed to some extent on small mammals at this stage in the breeding season. This site is actually up for sale, part of a £750,000 parcel, so if you want to buy a Honey Buzzard site, act soon! Also much later about 13:50 had a female Honey Buzzard up again to the west of Stocksfield. Birds in new sites tend to be a lot more conspicuous than those in well-established sites. Also had a pair of Common Buzzard at the Devil’s Water site. In between the 2 sightings, visited Hexham: Nero, park and library. Much later made the Welli – all very good — but the C U Next Tuesdays were sadly depleted!! Next issue to explore is the role of records committees in assessing species perceived as semi-rarities. And video of Oriental Honey Buzzard from Goa is to be added very soon.

June 1st: completed analysis of stills and diary from Goa part of India trip from 11/1-18/1, with videos and compilation of totals still to be done.

Beaches and habitat

Palolem beach 1  2  3  4; at sunset 1  2  3  4; sunset with dolphins 1  2  3  4  5; dusk 1  2  3; peninsula from Lalit 1; jungle at north end 1  2  3  4; creek 1; jungle up creek 1  2  3  4 ; pan video of jungle on peninsula to north 1 ; pan video of bay on morning of departure 1 .

Patnam beach 1.

Lalit Spa beach 1; looking inland from Spa 1 .

Sahakari Spice Farm fruit trees 1.

Wildlife

Oriental Honey Buzzard: Palolem beach video – gliding 1 hq  2 lq with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10 ; displaying at range pair ; gliding down 1 with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8 ; interacting with Brahminy Kite 1 with derived stills 1  2  3 ; Lalit video 3 birds in brief display 1 ; bird gliding and diving 1 .

Black Kite: Palolem beach – close-up from below 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9; sideways 1; topside 1; swooping for fish 1  2 ; video glide, flap, soar 1 ; video glide, flap over sea, flock 1 ; video flapping past over sea 1 ; Lalit Spa – from below 1; topside 1 ; video fishing over sea with Brown-headed Gulls 1 ; fly pass beach restaurant 1 .

Brahminy Kite: stills Palolem beach – close-up from below 1  2  3; close-up banking 1; close-up floating 1  2; wings down in active flight 1 ; video floating over sea ; gliding with derived stills 1  2 ; video soar over sea 1 ; low-level active flight 1 ; in territory 1 with derived stills from this and preceding video 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  ; plucking fish from sea 1 with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 ; Lalit Spa – from below 1; topside 1  2; wings up in active flight 1; gliding from above 1 ; video soaring over sea 1 .

White-bellied Sea Eagle: stills flying past Palolem beach 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10 ; video adult over sea ; adult flying inland with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8 ; video adult floating and soaring 1 with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8 ; 2 adults soaring with Black Kite 1 ; adult floating over bay 1 ; Lalit Spa – video immature soaring over coast 1 with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5 .

Booted Eagle: Palolem Beach video gliding 1 with derived stills 1  2 .

Crested Goshawk: Palolem video hanging mobbing 1 .

Other birds: Little Heron video 1 with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14 ; Little Cormorant at Palolem 1  2; Red-wattled Lapwing at Palolem 1  2; Greater Sand Plover at Patnam 1  2  3  4; Greater Sand Plover and Kentish Plover at Palolem 1  2; Common Sandpiper at Palolem/Lalit 1  2; Brown-headed Gull off Palolem 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 ; video in bay evening ; video in bay morning ; video feeding flock 1 2 ; Little Green Bee-eater at Palolem 1; Indian House Crow at Palolem 1  2  3.

Other animals: dolphins at sunset 1  2  3  4  5; cows on Palolem beach 1; water snake sp at Palolem creek 1; Crimson Rose butterfly at Palolem beach 1.

Subtotals for western India on 5/1 and from 11/1-18/1 are:

Mumbai: Black Kite 7, Common Kestrel 1.

Goa Airport-South Goa: Black Kite 10, Brahminy Kite 7, Shikra 3, Common Kestrel 1, Western Marsh Harrier 1.

Palolem-Sahakari: Black Kite 39, Brahminy Kite 15, White-eyed Buzzard 1.

Panjim, Goa: Brahminy Kite 3, White-bellied Sea-Eagle 2, Black Kite 1.

South Goa: Black Kite 112, Brahminy Kite 39, Oriental Honey Buzzard 11, White-bellied Sea-Eagle 9, Osprey 2, Grey-headed Fish-Eagle 1, Shaheen 1, Crested Goshawk 1, Changeable Hawk-Eagle 1, Booted Eagle 1.

Totals in this region: Black Kite 169, Brahminy Kite 64, White-bellied Sea-Eagle* 11, Oriental Honey Buzzard 11, Shikra 3, Common Kestrel 2, Osprey 2, Grey-headed Fish-Eagle* 1, Western Marsh Harrier 1, White-eyed Buzzard 1, Shaheen* 1, Crested Goshawk* 1, Changeable Hawk-Eagle 1, Booted Eagle 1.

Total 269 of 14 taxon, 4 new.

Grockels

Se Cathedral, Old Goa 1; Basilica of Bom Jesus, Old Goa 1; Cabin rented on beach 1; girl acrobat Palolem Beach 1  2  3; yours truly relaxing at Palolem 1; Sahakari Spice Farm elephant ride 1  2  3  4; welcome dancers 1; beach trading video ; beach trader video .

Diary

On 11th caught 12:10 Air India from Bangalore to Dubai which dropped me off at Goa Airport and met daughter there a little later. Looking forward to a slower pace for a couple of days! Easy to change money here: no machine at Bangalore would take my visa card! Good thing had an envelope with assorted euros and dollars and that living costs here from day to day are very cheap. Goa is hotter with 33 deg C and blazing sun. Made destination of Palolem in South Goa in late afternoon and checked into Bhakti Kutir. We’re staying in huts very close to the Arabian Sea – back to nature!! Saw 10 Black Kite and 7 Brahminy Kite in taxi ride from airport: driver tried it on for payment but we resisted and he went off in a rather sullen mood! On 12th my birthday – yes I’m a boring Capricorn – celebrated with Champagne on the beach!! It’s said by some that the only suitable partners for Capricorns are other Capricorns who understand!! Had some Indian Champagne later, which was pretty acidic and needed all my experience of drinking the like of Plymouth Breweries to get through it! Spent most of day on Palolem beach in hot and sunny weather. Decided to move to Big Fish cabins tomorrow – they’re cheaper and right on the beach. As expected change to the coast immediately produced new raptor species with 2 Osprey fishing offshore. Some reasonable views were obtained of Oriental Honey Buzzard with at 13:00 a pair briefly up to the south before power-gliding back again and 3 birds up together to the north over the jungle on the headland. Of the latter a pair went very high with mutual circling and follow-me, rather like in Northumberland. These territory-holding birds are presumably the resident ruficollis reported as widespread throughout the subcontinent and one of the commonest breeding raptors [Naoroji 2006, p.140], hence much as in Northumberland and parts of Scotland for the Western Honey Buzzard! Of course the Honey Buzzard are much easier to find in India, being on site all year, unlike the position in northern Britain where the breeding season is very compressed with only a few days of display at the start. There are also no obvious confusion species in India, unlike in Britain where the Common Buzzard confuses the issue for far too many observers. Also seen were 14 Black Kite and 4 Brahminy Kite.

On 13th rather lazy day after move of cabins to Big Fish. Day’s extravagance of food and drink for the 2 of us came to 1,500 rupees (£21) and now paying 2,000 rupees (£28) a day for 2 cabins. It’s fantastic value, particularly Old Monk rum at 40 rupees (£0.70) a double! Kept an eye on Oriental Honey Buzzard site to north. Some activity took place from 12:05-12:40 but 2 birds were up only briefly together at 12:20 with other sightings quite brief over the trees. Highlight of day was a White-bellied Sea-Eagle which caught a fish and flew overhead to eat it on the land. So that’s 18 species of raptor now (9 new). Also added 6 Black Kite and 2 Brahminy Kite, and 4 Brown-headed Gull came into the bay at dusk. Starting to think about accommodation in Delhi. Yesterday in Goa was one of the warmest January days on record at just over 35 deg C (96 deg F) – thought it was a bit steamy – but it’s a very poor year for tourism. On 14th another laid-back beach day though we did go on a boat trip up the creek in the afternoon and twice walked the whole beach to the north and back again. After 26/11 trips around the bay are not allowed at present! Weather continued in mid-30s with wall-to-wall sunshine. Jungle at northern end of beach was teeming with raptors from 10:00-12:00 with additional counts of 29 Black Kite, 12 Brahminy Kite, 3 White-bellied Sea-Eagle and a Booted Eagle, and additions to the list of Crested Goshawk and Shaheen, the latter counted as a subspecies of Peregrine in [Naoroji 2006] but the bird looked quite lightweight and more at home in the Barbary Falcon complex as suggested by other sources. The Shaheen was in vigorous exchanges with Black Kite; the falcon breeds in southern India so some territory might be involved. Single Oriental Honey Buzzard were noted in aggravation with Brahminy Kite and gliding down into nearby trees. The one in interaction at range looked very much like Western Honey Buzzard but the other was very lightweight, rivalling Black Kite for skinniness. About 80 small gulls came into the bay to feed on shoals of small fish, like sand eels. Kingfisher beer and curries are the staple diet at the moment! On 15th got dynamic and walked to another beach Lalit Spa, to south of Patnam Beach, run by Intercontinental: it was very hot and very quiet but great for swimming (5 dips) and sunbathing! Feet burnt after yesterday’s walking so in socks on the beach, which may look odd in some places – but in Goa, no! After 26/11 some beaches had armed dugouts on them until very recently. Also added 18 Black Kite, 8 Brahminy Kite and 5 White-bellied Sea-Eagle. The Brahminy Kite seem very good at fishing, plucking prey from surface of water. Some dolphins came into the bay and attracted a lot of attention. The Sea-Eagles were in 2 pairs of 2 adults, with an immature seen soaring over the sea at Lalit. Chatting-up belly-dancer – she turned out to be an arts graduate from England, very articulate!! Booked up over the Internet Hotel Ajanta in New Delhi – a mere $100 a day for the 2 of us – as the belly-dancer said prices are highly polarised in Delhi, we could easily have paid $200-400! Getting to the stage where anticipation of the return is beginning!!

On 16th, in afternoon took driver for ½ day trip to Sahakari Spice Farm; this farm was very reasonably priced (300 rupees, £4.30, including lunch and guide) and much information was given on all sorts of Indian spices including drugs! Then we became complete grockels going on an elephant ride! And a bit of culture visiting a cathedral near Panjim, before returning to Palolem. Raptors showed a similar pattern to before with 39 Black Kite, 15 Brahminy Kite and a White-eyed Buzzard on the way from Palolem-Sahakari and one Black Kite, 3 Brahminy Kite and 2 White-bellied Sea-Eagle in the Panjim area. The route back from Panjim-Palolem had been counted before but was very interesting for 2 Shikra, one of which was perched on wires at close range, and for a perched female kestrel-type which was thought to be a Common Kestrel on jizz and probability (they breed in the area), but it could possibly have been Lesser Kestrel. Earlier had a Grey-headed Fish-Eagle off Palolem beach and a few dolphins were jumping well, right out of the water. Thought a German girl was very straight until noticed the smell of reefers after the rest of her party had gone to bed! The Russian girls are the most glamorous, arriving on the beach with full make-up and jewellery (and moneyed attendant)! On 17th last full day in Goa so went again to Lalit Spa for the beach and lunch. So laid back now, that it’s hard work doing nothing! But did walk there and have 2 swims in the sea. Temperatures have been 34-35 deg C throughout our stay here with no clouds at all. Added a lot of raptors seen inland from Lalit Spa: 45 Black Kite, 13 Brahminy Kite, 5 Oriental Honey Buzzard (2 and 3 soaring at 12:00, peak time for bird of prey activity today) and a Changeable Hawk-Eagle. Also observed the Black Kite and Brahminy Kite fishing and following trawlers over the sea, just like Herring Gulls in the UK. The Brahminy Kite in particular are very agile and neat in plucking fish out of the water with just the claws getting wet! Both species of kite are cheeky in plucking fish out of the fishermen’s nets. Had good meal tonight at Big Fish: last one before leaving. Return to the UK suddenly seems closer. I’ve already been away 2 weeks. Pleased to see Woolworths store has been taken over by Iceland in Hexham: wonder how the other Hexham attractions are getting on!! Second attraction on return might be a pint of Guinness! To Delhi tomorrow in 2 flights: it will be cooler there at only 20-25 deg C. On 18th on way to Goa Airport from Palolem, had a Western Marsh Harrier over a swampy area and another Shikra on wires. A female/immature Common Kestrel was hovering over grass near the runway at Mumbai, obviously unaware of recent bird-strikes!

May 31st: a bit dazed but out this morning in the field in very sunny and warm weather and, in the East Allen, had a female Honey Buzzard, 2 Common Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk. Video of the first named to follow! In the ‘Shire had a Common Buzzard and a Kestrel. Did a lot of work in the Isle of Man on the Indian material and the Goa stills and daily accounts are almost ready for publication. Made Nero late afternoon and pleased to see c again! To Welli much later on where generally impressed: will be back on Tuesday. Tomorrow has wall-to-wall appointments but hoping to get a better work-life balance as week goes on! There’s a concert on Wednesday evening. Had a ‘nice’ note from Eddie Urbanski <eddie@manns-holidays.co.uk>. Think he’s asking me to go on holiday in mid- and north Wales. Sorry Eddie it’s just not possible at the moment. Anyway give my regards to Steve!

May 30th: back from a great week in Isle of Man with Nick, staying at Sebago Lodge, Port-e-Vullen, in sheltered and warm NE corner near Ramsey. On 23rd went over by boat from Heysham-Douglas, having no less than 4 Common Buzzard and a female Honey Buzzard on the way out of Northumberland with the latter near where the Allen flows into the South Tyne. From the boat had an Osprey fishing in Morecambe Bay, off the Kent Estuary, the first of the year for me in the UK. Osprey do not seem to linger in the Tyne Valley and tributaries. On 24th went for long walk (10km) around Maughold Head. Just one raptor in glorious weather, a male Hen Harrier inland from us on edge of moors. Most unexpected bird was a Little Egret flying close inshore N at the headland. Better not say too much about the football but Newcastle will be playing Plymouth next season and even Torquay the following one, if Newcastle go into administration (like Leeds). On 25th weather was brilliant in the morning, but a little sea mist crept in in the afternoon. We went for another long walk (10km) around 2 glens in the Kirk St Michael area where had a 1s Peregrine on the cliffs and a Kestrel at Sartfell. Countryside is really looking fresh. Earlier at base had a male Sparrowhawk soaring over a nearby hill. On 26th ambled up Glen Auldyn in fresh sunny weather and had superb find of a pair of displaying Hobby at 13:15, near the moorland edge: first for the island perhaps! Videos (1  2). In the same area had a Sparrowhawk flying low into a wood. This area, with its varied woodland and adjacent open moors, is the most suited in the island to Honey Buzzard but none seen. In evening at 21:30 had a Peregrine fly over base carrying prey. On 27th in withdrawal symptoms from trains took the steam railway from Douglas to Port Erin and back. Weather was poorer today with a cool wind and some showers and, as a bit of anticlimax to yesterday, the only raptor seen was a Peregrine over the harbourat Port Erin. Had tea at the Mines Tavern, Laxey, which had its high points! Weather was good again by 28th and went to Niarbyl, where had 6 Basking Sharks (by their fins!) and a small family party of Eider. A Kestrel was hovering over nearby Dalby Mountain and a Peregrine was seen in Fleshwick Bay, during a 8km walk around Bradda Head. Birds of prey are proving to be hard work – it may be the timing with many on eggs or with small young, when tend to be very secretive. On last full day (29th) in perfect weather went to Point of Ayre, one of the island’s hot spots for birds and, in a 10km walk, saw the breeding colony of Little Tern and Arctic Tern and 2 pairs of breeding Common Gull. On arrival a male Peregrine flew overhead and a ringtail Hen Harrier was seen later. Tea was at the well appointed Sulby Glen Hotel. On 30th in wall-to-wall sunshine went down to Langness for a walk on the headland. Jeremy Clarkson is in a fight to the death struggle with dog walkers on access rights near his lighthouse. Looking at the determined looks on their faces, he will not win! Later went to Marine Drive where had a female Kestrel, giving total for week of 14 raptors of 5 species: 5 Peregrine, 3 Kestrel and 2 Hobby, Hen Harrier and Sparrowhawk. Caught ferry back to Liverpool (again don’t mention the football) getting back into Hexham just before midnight. Piccies later. Am now back for a while to enjoy the attractions of Hexham!! Out for Honey Buzzard tomorrow and back to Hexham late afternoon, perhaps to Welli later!

May 23rd: a female Honey Buzzard in flap-flap-glide mode over western Stocksfield was seen in warm sunshine about 17:30 yesterday evening. Very impressive: it means adjacent sites are fully occupied and expansion continues! Went to Welli yesterday evening. There were 6 of us and conversation was very lively. Generally there seems a much better atmosphere in the pub as a whole: acting manager is doing a good job! But next quiz night is not next week. Went to Nero earlier in the day, nice to see c. But missing someone else, sibling and fellow maiden!! After another harrier now. xxxx

May 21st: maybe it’s time to review seriously the Honey Buzzard situation in the UK. Nationally the species has shown a tremendous rise in records over the last 10-15 years but its status as a UK breeder is maintained as very rare. It has been assumed that our increased number of records is due to migrants from Scandinavia but no scientific evidence has been presented to support this view. Indeed all evidence indicates a UK origin for the movements. Leadership in Honey Buzzards within the UK has been attempted by Steve Roberts and his Welsh colleagues but this is proving to be totally inadequate with no video, audio or stills of birds in flight to suggest useful identification criteria in the field. Indeed the contrast between his talk on how to identify Honey Buzzard at a meeting in Penrith and his evidence to records committees in the review process provides a very confusing picture, perhaps even indicating an absence of integrity. Over time Steve Roberts has published material in British Birds but the recent tone has been more empire building than scientific, with a long diatribe against the New Forest study group for failing to join in with his colour-ringing scheme. A few years ago Steve Roberts could have capitalised on his early entry into publications on the species by organising national meetings to bring field workers together. But he chose instead to denigrate any endeavour that he saw as a threat to his own importance. In truth Steve Roberts’ study area is too small to give the necessary variety for national leadership. In some cases size may not be everything: but here it is! Sorry Steve: it’s time to stop being so negative and to work with others for a national consensus on the status of the Honey Buzzard in Britain from a scientific perspective.

Backlog of trip reports is growing. Still working on India, Barcelona and Norfolk with one more to come. Do intend to finish them soon but pressure at work with project marking (ones finishing) and terms of reference reviews (ones starting) is severe. Tomorrow have squeezed them all into central part of day!! June 2nd is liberation day! Added fuller report on Norfolk trip below, some piccies to follow. Two Honey Buzzard were seen on the trip.

May 20th: very pleased to be back for a nice bit!! Taken out for lunch by madame p from Bulgaria, very enjoyable, she even paid! This time it was Gospoda (Polish), next is Thai (my turn)! Hexham later was fun but not up to expectations in some respects: visited Globe, had Liberal executive meeting at the County and finished up in the Tap with 2 colleagues from work. There’s a lot of project marking at the moment being squeezed into this spell back.

Back in early hours of 20/5 from short trip to Norfolk, staying at Summer Hill, Heacham, near King’s Lynn. Went down by car on 16th: it’s pretty straight-forward at 240 miles taking 5 hours including a lengthy stop at Cumber Park, on the edge of Sherwood Forest, where had first a Common Buzzard and then a Honey Buzzard high-up over the National Trust property in a brighter spell at 15:30. Had another Common Buzzard between Newark and Sleaford and a total of 5 Kestrel from Doncaster-King’s Lynn. Cottage at Heacham was being rented by elder sister and family and our mother. On first evening had a male Hobby over house and a more distant Kestrel. Sandringham looks superb for Honey Buzzard (could hold 3 pairs) but didn’t see any in short trips at start and end of visit, but obviously got onto one or two hit lists as suspected paparazzi! On 17th went to Wembley by train where in a tremendous atmosphere Torquay beat Cambridge 2-0 to regain their place in the Football League. Although there were twice as many Cambridge as Torquay supporters in the ground, the Torquay supporters were far more passionate and put up a hell of a din — quite hoarse at end!! A good omen (arguably for whom?) was a migrant Honey Buzzard flying N near Cambridge on way down at 12:20 (plus a Kestrel further down). In evening took son and daughter out for a good meal to celebrate at Soundsimple in West Hampstead; then back to King’s Lynn on last train getting back to base at 00:30. On 18th became more energetic with long walk of 12-13km with nephew from Holkham-Brancaster Staithes on coastal trail, coming back on Coasthopper Bus and having fish and chips in Wells. Coastal scenery was marvellous: wildness on a grand scale. It was very windy but there were some sunny intervals and it was quite warm. Might be Honey Buzzard at Holkham Hall but did not get there for a close study. Highlight of day was 3 Marsh Harrier, with a pair at Norton Fen and an immature male on farmland at Burnham Overy. There is no doubt that a Honey Buzzard could be mistaken for a female Marsh Harrier and this probably explains why in Northumberland we have had a series of records of Marsh Harrier from unsuitable habitat in the south west. It’s a good thing that gamekeepers have better id skills! Also had 3 Kestrel today. On 19th had Hobby and Kestrel at Stiffkey and did boat trip to see the seals (both Atlantic Grey and Common) at Blakeney Point, where another Marsh Harrier (male) and a Kestrel were seen. We then had a barbecue in the rain, followed by long drive back in the evening arriving home at 00:40. Two Kestrel were seen in the Sleaford area. Total for raptors on trip was 24 birds of 5 species: Kestrel 14, Marsh Harrier 4, Common Buzzard 2, Honey Buzzard 2 and Hobby 2.

May 15th: analyseddisyllabic long flight call of Honey Buzzard on 3/5 in Tyne Valley: compressed audio (wma), standard audio (wav) and spectrogram (jpeg, call is 2.0-2.5kHz, duplicated). The spectrogram shows a typical long call of a Honey Buzzard with emphasis on downstroke, whereas emphasis in Common Buzzard is on upstroke. More descriptively, the Common Buzzard call is explosive at the start whereas the Honey Buzzard call builds up more slowly. It’s very simple really but many bird of prey students seem to be tone deaf. Added video 404 to videos page with addition of higher quality excerpt from male diving and display. So the sky dance material is now formally published. Pleased to see some dialogue coming over mobile phone: it’s anonymous but suspect from context that it’s my friends from Wales. Well relations can only improve! Finished teaching today with class exam in database administration conducted on the eLP: an hour of fun with a few machines locking and other mishaps but everything finished happily after a bit of horse trading. Often work late on Friday to clear off tasks but today decided to get back to Hexham early and visited Globe, Tap and Ant’s. The fflooked very beautiful, even before a drink: very nice pair!! Later to Welli for good chat. Anyway think it’s Marsh Harrier and Gulls now! Back for a rounder view of the world! xxxx

May 14th: very interested in recent British Birds article (May 2009, p.247-273) on Common Buzzard behaviour. The apparently long tails of juvenile Common Buzzard are emphasised but it is correctly pointed out that these go with narrow wings (p.270). So as observed here before, when assessing the tail length it is vital to also assess the wing shape with bulging secondaries indicating a Honey Buzzard. Busy morning at work with Tim and Dom sorting out reports on progress and actions from their visit, then good lunch at the Biscuit Factory and a couple of meetings with research students. Was just looking for my coat when Jerry (from USA) arrived with Mike, putting me into extra time! Tomorrow looks a bit more balanced with trips to Welli and Globe!

May 13th: no searching for Honey Buzzard today. Did visit Hexham early morning: agent’s window was very interesting, thought I was in Amsterdam, very s.xy!! Busy at work with German visitors and went to concert at Sage in evening for spectacular performance of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto. Met visitors there: they’d booked up independently! Tomorrow is still very busy with further meetings arranged: discussions and seminars are very positive so far. But may get out late evening to Tap or County. On Friday I’ve got 3-hours teaching as cover but perhaps a little spare time that day for reconnaissance!!

May 12th: this morning made early morning visit (08:30-09:30) to a site in the Tyne Valley not that far from Hexham, owned by the Cuthberts: male Honey Buzzard finally got up for a ‘hang’ at 09:25, just in time! Wednesdays are better for display by ff, may visit Hexham instead! German visitors are giving 2 seminars to the School tomorrow. Another international visitor, from USA, is coming to see me on Thursday/Friday for discussion on application of category theory. It’s great to get the attention (and esteem) but it is the Honey Buzzard mating season. Made Welli tonight: very good display by the Rhinemaidens. Very desirable: mating is not just for Honey Buzzard!! Got a 3G mobile at last, mainly for Internet facilities, from Carphone in Hexham. It’s an LG Viewty KU990, on Orange network. Reviews don’t seem that good but if you have a quick scan through the manual, you can work out most things! Added number above so people can send me abusive messages!

May 11th: yesterday in the upper South Tyne produced 16 raptors of 4 species: 7 Common Buzzard (including 3 identified 1s), 6 Honey Buzzard at 3 sites, 2 Kestrel and a Hobby. Video is being represented in better format. Honey Buzzard totals up to today are: Allen 2 sites, 3 adults (1 male, 2 female); Hexhamshire 5,8 (1,4,3 not sexed); Tyne Valley 4,6 (3,3); upper South Tyne 3,6 (3,3); lower South Tyne 1,1 (1,0); and Derwent 1,1 (1,0) giving grand total 16,25 (10,12,3). German visitors duly arrived and we’re working very hard (of course!). Also still covering for somebody off sick: but looking for one or two inspiring events this week!!

May 10th: a beautiful day with light NW breeze, strong sunshine and plenty of raptors in the upper South Tyne from 10:50-15:20 with visits to middle and lower parts. Still checking the videos so postponing details of results until tomorrow. It was a good thing it was a great day as the rest of May does not look so good for opportunities, with work looking very full this week in last week of teaching for the year and with contingent from Germany, and various other trips away. Although June and July look a lot freer may try more early morning and early evening visits this week, at least locally. Made Ant’s after today’s trip: Guinness always tastes good after you’ve been out in the sun (or rain, wind, whatever!). May make the Welli for quiz night: might even see the Rhinemaidens!! Will miss the two following.

May 9th: very breezy the last 3 days but also quite a bit of sunshine so still finding new Honey Buzzard for the year. Today walked around edges of Slaley Forest and had a female up briefly on a few occasions. Suspect her mate is not back yet and she’s keeping an eye out for him! Two hours out from 11:30-13:30 was quite wearing in the wind but the raptors were out in force with total of 9 for the ‘Shire: 5 Common Buzzard, 2 Honey Buzzard and single Hobby and Kestrel. The 2nd Honey Buzzard was a female powering into the wind over the Devil’s Water from the house. Then into Nero and later to Riding Mill to solve a database problem for the Liberals. Yesterday flat out at work as covering a 3-hour class for somebody off sick but did very much enjoy visit to Welli later. Thursday 7/5 was much better as in morning had close-up videos of a pair of Honey Buzzard and disgruntled Common Buzzard near to where in 1841 a brood of two young Honey Buzzard were shot, quickly coming into the hands of John Hancock. Funnily enough the latest Birds in Northumbria (2007, p.94) has Honey Buzzard as never having bred in the county. So even one of the county’s greatest bird collectors has to be discounted where this species is concerned! Recently British Birds reviewed Hancock’s far more remarkable Red-necked Nightjar record and found it to be of impeccable credentials. If you look at the Hancock page, you’ll also see under Birds found near the Mouth of the Tynesome debate in 1844 on whether Honey Buzzards found on the Northumberland coast came from overseas or were locally bred. So we may have some way to go!! Hancock and I both take the same line. So that’s curtains for Hancock! Videos taken on 7/5 were of female and male (1   2) Honey Buzzard, Common Buzzard (1   2) and Sheep accompaniment. The Honey Buzzard made light work of the wind while the Common Buzzard were in much more labouredaction. The former must of course have great mastery of the wind if they are to migrate across areas such as the Sahara Desert and Straits of Gibraltar. Then went on to the lower South Tyne where had another Honey Buzzard, a male at some altitude, a Kestrel, 2 Common Buzzard and a Goshawk. On Thursday evening went with Nick to Marco Polo and concert by Northern Sinfonia at Sage: very moving, Shostakovitch 14 is very tragic, would have been better swapped with the concert next Wednesday from my point of view. Tomorrow hope to make the South Tyne to give that a good crack. Next week have 2 academic visitors from Germany to collaborate on publications but evenings should be free. Dreams last night told me to look for La Dolce Vita,and forget the aggro: ffis a lot better than lc!!

May 6th: added below videos of Red Kite (4/5) and Hobby (26/4). The Red Kite is interesting: so close to a grouse moor and the elegant floating and soft wing beats resemble Honey Buzzard to some extent. Indeed of course, in spite of its name, the Honey Buzzard is a kite and people who go looking for a buzzard with certain plumage features are going to be very limited in their success. Very much in opportunist mode today, taking different route to work via south side of Dipton Wood, stopping for 10 minutes and getting a female Honey Buzzard floating over the conifers at 08:40 in a short-lived bright start to the day. As far as I know there are no Honey Buzzard sites in the main part of the wood but this is the closest. Tomorrow may get out for a bit longer in the morning as forecast is better and should get a bit of culture in the evening. Made the Globe today: such a loyal bunch of customers, or is it the prices? Anyway good crack!!

May 5th: bit frustrated – no dta day after being off yesterday and weather remained poor, getting worse in evening with strong winds. But guttering completed! Did not make Welli this evening: need to restrain prurience but it’s difficult! Tomorrow also looks a bit hectic at work with PhD Exam Panel meeting in morning, students needing help with completing projects and consultancy meeting in afternoon (now all calm!) but have kept some priorities and should make the Globe.

May 4th: weather has gone downhill badly with much drizzle today but fairly calm and mild. Did not get out to 16:00 when went to Derwent Reservoir and Blanchland. Had 2 Red Kite (one shown here) hunting in the drizzle at Ruffside, which is (curses!) on the Durham side of the Reservoir. Greylag Geese look as if they are going to have a good breeding season on the Northumbrian side. At Blanchland walked up towards Penny Pie and at 17:20 had a fine male Honey Buzzard hunting in drizzle over the heather moor, by hanging at low altitude. May be after frogs, small rabbits and voles or even slugs: certainly no quantity of wasps or bees at this time of year. Also had a Common Buzzard at Blanchland. So at end of holiday period, Honey Buzzard totals are: Allen 2 sites, 3 adults (1 male, 2 female); Hexhamshire 2,4 (0, 0, 4 not sexed); Tyne Valley 4,6 (3,3); and Derwent 1,1 (1,0) giving grand total 9,14 (5,5,4). Quite a remarkable start! Like last year there’s no indication that one sex arrives back before the other. Gulls: good on you for getting to Wembley! May well go.

May 3rd: great day out in the middle Tyne Valley (pan) with first clear video of the display flight of the Honey Buzzard with a steep rapid dip, followed by a rapid rise becoming vertical in angle at the top, with fluttery wing beats at the turn. Yes, the sky dance! This textbook performance, characteristic of Honey Buzzard, was repeated several times by the male and did rouse the female into action! Weather from 11:40-14:20 was again perfect, like yesterday but a little fresher. Altogether had 6 Honey Buzzard at 3-4 sites between Corbridge and Stocksfield with going downstream this male at the top site and this female at the bottom one, where a male was present as well. In between there were 3 birds, the male of which was doing the classical fluttery flight. He was then joined by the females for a long display at high altitude with lots of action (more sky dance, long flight call at 08:50). A more muted general float around by the pair followed, which is more usual (follow me, mutual circling, clearer long flight call at 01:39). Two other videos (1  2) were taken of the male soaring on his own. I’m sure this pair has occupied this site for a while now. The male is lightweight and pale and the female large and dark. They seemed very pleased to see each other: good to see them back as they’ve been very productive fledging 2 young on a number of occasions. Honey Buzzard pairs break-up at the end of the breeding season and the partners do not overwinter together. The 3rd bird here (spare female) seemed to be trying to form a new site over Broomley Woods: might tuck in the Guessburn somewhere! Not joking: for such a big bird they’re masters at invisible nesting close to humans. Other raptors seen were single Common Buzzard and Kestrel. First sightings for summer visitors were made of Swift, Whitethroat and Garden Warbler. Swift and Honey Buzzard do seem to come back together. Went to back of Prudhoe later but weather was deteriorating and nothing turned up. Then made Ant’s where on telly saw Sunderland lose with a number of the Globe crowd! Tomorrow it’s the Derwent. A few general comments. All videos and habitat information are also being loaded onto the main web pages. Learnt in India how to backlight the birds in the video, which seems to be making them clearer; the published versions are still however very compressed from the HD XP originals and it does show a bit. I’m not bothering so much on keeping the sites secret by trimming the start of the video showing the zoom in; Honey Buzzard are not rare enough now to warrant this. When I saw the first bird of the season, I thought how big they are compared to Common Buzzard; and aren’t the wings broad when soaring, particularly across the secondaries? The County Records Committee for Northumberland has Honey Buzzard out of season in early May: exactly when do they come into season? And finally I think the new web hosts BT are doing a good job and protecting me from censorship which seemed to be the aim of some of my rather desperate opponents last autumn: that’s a good note to finish on!!

May 2nd: And they’re off!! Quite a major influx with 7 Honey Buzzard seen today: 3 in the Allen and 4 in Hexhamshire, in ideal weather with moderate NW wind, a few cumulus clouds and very good visibility in bright sunlight. Main visit from 11:40-14:40 was to the Allen where panoramic views with video taken of upper and lower areas. Should really have been out earlier but dealing with roofer who’s replacing guttering at front of house. But the delay did not seem to matter! On arrival sensed that Honey Buzzard had arrived: the Curlew were very agitated and circling over the woodland, corvids were excited and a Common Buzzard reared out of the wood and plunged down again. First Honey Buzzard seen was at 12:14 when amalewith damaged feathers on left wing flew out to west to feed. At 13:10 the same bird was seen soaringvery high to join its presumed mate. Another bird, a female, was further down the valley at 12:50 flying out to feed and at 14:05 soaring on its own. Total here was 7 raptors of 5 species: 3 Honey Buzzard and single Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Goshawk (male) and Hobby. Also had first House Martin of year. Then into Hexham to Nero for delightful coffee and shopping. Got home and was just getting the mower out at 17:25 when noticed some specks in the sky. These were displayingHoney Buzzard at very high altitude, which may have arrived today. They are not thought to have been ongoing migrants because they were stationary and using considerable energy over the Devil’s Water, which would be very extravagant for birds going further north. After about 5 minutes they dispersed. They looked very excited to be back! A Honey Buzzard, reported going NW in Cleveland this morning (BirdGuides), might possibly have been going to the ‘Shire. Had very busy week at work but trips to Tap on Thursday and Welli on Friday. Northumbria uni is definitely going up in the world rising from 73rd to 58th in the latest Independent student survey (local rivals Teesside and Sunderland are stuck at 92nd and 93rd). And cyclical stocks are rallying really well. Perhaps surprising from a Torquay supporter but well done Exeter on back-to-back promotion (and Plymouth and Yeovil for staying up). Tomorrow it’s the Tyne Valley, hopefully for more Honey Buzzard.

April 29th: Honey Buzzard now appear to be running later than in recent years with a total of just 6 to date on BirdGuides and singles on Trektellen and Gibraltar. Not a hint of one in the Northumberland study area yet. Hobby are much more plentiful with 103 reports on BirdGuides (some multiple birds) to date in April and 257 birds on Trektellen, nearly all in Benelux. In the Northumberland study area 5 Hobby have been seen so far at 4 sites. Went to Globe this evening and great to see Hexham mates again after 2 weeks away in Barcelona and London. This seems to be the cleaning of the Augean Stables week! Quiz night at Welli yesterday really p….d me off: was told some very lurid stories, which were complete fabrications.

April 27th: Honey Buzzard are still to make their run with just one at Guernsey yesterday (BirdGuides) and no more on Trektellen or at Gibraltar. Hobby though are in full flow with 237 on Trektellen now in Europe with 160 in the Netherlands alone. So this is consistent with the picture in Northumberland. I was interested to read the County Records Committee report on ‘rarities’ (for birds in Northumberland) claimed for 2008. This comes to 11 pages for all species of which about 2.6 pages are Hobby and Honey Buzzard records. About 40% of the Hobby records and just one of the Honey Buzzard are mine. What would have Canute made of it? Discovered who my mate Zander is: he’s Dr Alexander Lees, visiting research fellow at East Anglia University. Always like to give advice to young researchers: do your homework (literature review) before starting a debate or you will end up in a corner attacking well-established authorities; have some hypothesis of your own (don’t just attack the man); never attack an academic for going into too much detail (that’s what we’re there for); don’t play to the gallery (they don’t pay your salary) and keep away from the siren publishers (they don’t look good in your CV). No charge! Busy day at work, as was last Friday, catching up on things. Chatted to v from Welli on way home! And early train in had some compensation! On the other perplexing matter, it’s a wind-up or a cock-up!! Tomorrow is a dta day.

April 26th: another great walk on the moors, doing about 11km in just over 4 hours from 11:30-15:50 on Williamston Common to Horseshoe Wood from the turn-off to Barhaugh Hall near Slaggyford. Raptors were not that obvious in a moderate SW wind and with the best of the sun having been earlier but got 11 of 3 species: 7 Common Buzzard and 2 Kestrel and Hobby, last at 2 sites including one at Williamston. The walk actually went through 3 pretty regular Hobby sites so getting 2 birds was not that surprising, except perhaps it’s not the end of April yet. However, recent experience is that the second half of April is a good time to invest in Hobby before the Honey Buzzard return. Could just about keep an eye out for Honey Buzzard here. This is the highest regular site in the valley and things start to get interesting further down. Not far from Cumbria here and to keep up boring thread on disappearing snow, just 2 small patches on Cross Fell! Had good numbers of Wheatear (8), a nice pair of Ring Ouzel and first Redstart, but no Stonechat. Nice to see this Red Squirrel at Williamston. Not so keen on crow traps but they are legal if operated properly. This blocking of access onto the open moor is illegal under CROW: someone (not me!) has made a hole in the wall to get through, which is legal! Made Ant’s for very welcome Guinness, celebrated the Gulls getting into the play-offs and left the Welli for another day!

April 25th: out into Tyne Valley to look for early Honey Buzzard. Walked along Tyne from Riding Mill to Corbridge and back. No Honey Buzzard seen but did have 2 Hobby overhead together at Farnley Gravel Pits and a total of 6 Common Buzzard, still quite active over their nest sites, so perhaps not on eggs yet. No further Honey Buzzard reported on BirdGuides, Trektellen or GONHS: so no significant influx yet. Blackcap were singing everywhere and at a small Heronry young could be seen and heard in the nests. Got to Nero later where both r and c hard at it and Welli last night was very sociable. Might get back on the moors tomorrow, with perhaps refreshment in Ant’s a little later and Welli much later. It’s the last day of the premier tomorrow at 16:00, which is going to be very tense! Very sadly, confused by a certain web site: it lacks referential integrity!! Blo.dy computers (or the people who run and use them, in reality!). Term starts again on Monday but there’s only 3 weeks of teaching. Added some stills of the fantastic Sagrada Familia below (20/4).

April 24th: interesting to read in Hexham Courant about Northumberland’s 2nd Red Kite site near Whittonstall, but there are more like 6 in reality. Added video below (20/4) on Peregrines nesting at Barcelona’s top tourist attraction! The prize song in Meistersinger has much more relevance than I thought at the time!!!

April 23rd: as promised here is the Panoramic view of Hexhamshire taken earlier this week on 20/4, which has also been put on the Habitat Northumberland page. The habitat shown appears to be ideal for Honey Buzzard: a mosaic of woods and pasture, with the woods of varying size, height and composition of trees. Not shown are the deeper valleys which cut through the land, which are often almost impenetrable in places. Back from funeral in London this lunchtime: Mike’s life was celebrated appropriately yesterday with big turnout of family and colleagues from his College. Flew down early yesterday morning with BA from Newcastle-Heathrow and stayed with sister. Early start was not that compatible with Welli night before but it was worth it! From 17:15-21:00 attended first meeting of JLAF in new stint at Eastburn, Hexham. Good to be back on something dear to my heart. Main tension was between cyclists and horse-riders: fell walkers seem to be liked now by everyone. Early afternoon the ff looked very smart but a little pensive! Tomorrow’s busy at work after late start but weekend gives opportunity for serious searching for first arrivals. No more Honey Buzzard on BirdGuides or Trektellen but Gibraltar report first of season flying N on 20/4 (GONHS).

April 21st: much of day at university’s latest property acquisition at Kingston Park for Graduate School away day. Honey Buzzard migration becomes more obvious with 2 more today in southern England at Northants and Surrey (BirdGuides) but no more on Trektellen. Did a stroll yesterday through Hexhamshire and saw 2 Common Buzzard at 2 sites but no Honey Buzzard: no sensing that any have arrived here yet. Even if none up in air, you can often sense that there’s a new force in the land by the behaviour of the crows and pigeons. All was serene yesterday. Will show soon pan of view across the ‘Shire of 6 Honey Buzzard sites which took yesterday. Welli was very good tonight: sequel to the Wagner last week of good display by the Rhinemaidens was very obvious!! Couldn’t quite catch what o said as he left! All that lovely cleavage makes you feel a bit on edge!! But tomorrow’s a very sad family day.

April 20th: yes, a dta day with Liberals at County this evening. Visit to Hexham at lunchtime had its moments: the ffwas a very welcome sight again!! Like women who stick their chests out when you look at them!! Also thought c looked very good on day off. Tomorrow away day at Kingston Park but will be back as usual later for the pub. Highlight of the Barcelona trip was the Wagner on 18/4 with Meistersinger at the Gran Teatre del Liceu . It was the last night and everything was very polished and inspired! Timings were a bit different to those given earlier: start at 19:00 and 2 intervals of 40 minutes each so finish at 01:00. You need to be well fortified and we managed a whole bottle of red wine in the first interval (a mere €29) and a pint of real Guinness in the second (a snip at €6 but it did taste just like in the Welli!). We sat in a box near the front and had good views of the band! Like in most Wagner the plot’s power and sex!! The start can be found on YouTube and that leads straight into Act 1. So that leaves just Tannhäuser to do of the mainstream Wagner operas: it’s performed frequently in Germany so may go there. On Friday evening 17/4 had a warm-up in L’Auditori at 21:00 by Orquestra Simfónica de Barcelona i Nacional de Catalunya with Shostakovitch 11: a symphony with a great revolutionary spirit, which obviously struck a chord with the Catalans. Earlier in day (17/4) went for longer walk to Montjuïc where great views over Barcelona and took cable car over port area (1  2  3  4). Earlier in trip saw Arc de Triomf and Le Seu Catedral and visited Museu Picasso. This was a totally new experience of Spain: very different from the Canaries and Andalusia! Highlight before the opera on the Saturday was the visit to the magnificent Gaudi church Sagrada Familia, which is still being built (1  2  3  4  5  6  7). A pair of Peregrine were spectacularly displaying around the site. Earlier in the day had 2 Lesser Kestrel males (videos 1  2; stills 1  2  3  4) in the city in the Parc de la Ciutadella area, which may possibly have been migrants. Weather for trip was much the same every day: cool and clear early morning becoming sunny and warm midday, followed by build up of clouds and thunderstorms late afternoon. Then clearing overnight. This is quite a common pattern here in April evidently. Logistics: train to Stansted to meet son, fly by easyJet to Barcelona and back. Stayed in the centreat Hotel Urquinaona, which was clean and comfortable with good breakfasts and very fast free wireless broadband. More to follow ….

April 19th: back early evening from one night in Stansted and 4 in Barcelona. Trip with son went very well with 2 musical events, masses of other culture, some interesting birds and plenty of wine! More detailed report tomorrow. So that’s 12 flights done so far in 2009 and 14 by the end of the coming week. Too many? Planning to stay put more for a while with shortish trips in main Honey Buzzard season (Isle of Man, Devon, London) but longer thereafter with eye on Ethiopia, Zanzibar and Tanzania (Serengeti). Did not see any broad-winged raptor migration in Barcelona so no Honey Buzzard noted there from 15/4-19/4. However, 2 reports did come from southern England on Friday (17/4), one from Beds and a possible from Surrey (BirdGuides). And on Wednesday (15/4) one was reported from Zandvoorde in Belgium (Trektellen). So it looks as if the first birds are reaching us. Very nice to be back to the delights of Hexham!! Is tomorrow a dta day? Will need to check email!

April 14th: well have found a very early record of Honey Buzzard in the notes on BirdGuides: one over Mizen Head, Cork, on 10/4 as ancillary record to a Subalpine Warbler. But none seem to have been reported anywhere else in Europe. When the satellite-tracked migrating juvenile Honey Buzzard got stuck in Ireland, it did spend quite a while deciding whether to fly off or not. Also today another Hobby in Cumbria at Wigton (BirdGuides). Did not do any more fieldwork yesterday as getting sorted but did make the Welli late on for a good piece of gossip and service! Did 4 moorland tetrads for BTO breeding atlas in 5 days, one less than hoped, but means can relax on this front now. Pity I’m not there tonight but see you next Tuesday!! xxxxxxxxxx Now how about intercepting a Honey Buzzard en route!

April 12th: what a wonderful day on the moors in the South Tyne. Talk of the devil, at 15:40 the first Hobby (female) was up high over a wood near Eals, before careering around for a bit and then plunging into the trees. This wood was where the colonisationbegan. Arrival coincided with other summer visitors: Willow Warbler, Ring Ouzel and Common Sandpiper. Another Hobby was flying N in Lancashire this evening (BirdGuides). Had long walk, about 15 km in 6 hours starting at 10:10, from Eals Bridge up to the other side of Whitfield Lough and Blind Lough, covering 2 breeding atlas squares and again seeing plenty of waders (particularly Curlew) plus pairs of Wigeon and Teal. Clear views to Cross Fell, still with a little snow, Grey Nag and Bertram Hill. Red Grouse are not on eggs yet as still very visible (1 2 3). This drake Goosander was alone on the South Tyne, so mate may be sitting. Weather was the best I can remember in Northumberland for mid-April with clear, bright sun, very little wind and warm, even up to the fell tops with no need for a coat. Met 2 people all day, on the top; they’d walked up from Dykes and the missus was completely knackered by the long heather! Total for raptors was 11 of 5 species: 7 Common Buzzard (including this pale bird) and single Hobby, Peregrine (1w female), Merlin and Kestrel. So 4 species of falcon! Recuperated on way home in Mr Ant’s – Hexham’s most continental-like bar – could be in Playa de las Americas! Catching up on things at home tomorrow, prior to the big sing and alas narrowly missing quiz night. To make up might make the Welli tomorrow night, for a change on a Monday!

April 11th: well saw Sunderland play Man U and lose 1-2. It’s not quite the level of football I’m used to but it was a great afternoon out, starting at the Tap in Hexham, going onto Fitzgeralds in downtown Sunderland and finally the match itself. It was first visit to revived Tap – very nice beer and scenery; cannot forsake Globe though so will have to drink in both! Had flock 20 Sand Martin over the Tyne at Hexham: first for the year. Tomorrow got longer walk planned to take advantage of weather but expect to get back to Hexham late afternoon for a bit of refreshment. So where are my feathered friends? It’s all quiet on the southern front with latest Trektellen for Europe showing just a few Hobby and no Honey Buzzard at all. But we’re surely no more than ten days off the first Honey Buzzard returning to England. Did some personality test on match.com – thought I’d be explorer but came out as director! What are social skills?

April 10th: did another visit to Whitfield Moor, this time to Dykerow Fell late afternoon (16:20-18:30) in the rain, but it did clear up at the end. Views to the south were clear in spite of the rain. This female Red Grouse is what it’s all about. Waders were again in good form but highlight was the only raptor seen: a Short-eared Owl, the first for the season. What a beauty and the second best sighting of the day! To Welli later. Tomorrow not doing the moors as am going to sample the north-east’s leading football team with Bill! Starts with a recce at the Tap. Well whatever next!

April 9th: started breeding atlas for the new season yesterday (9th) afternoon, visiting Whitfield Moor in the Morleyhill Fell area. The area was covered by snow in the last visit; today visibility was very good at the start, particularly to south-east and south-west (where still some snow) but it drizzled later on. Waders, particularly the so evocative Golden Plover with displaying local breeders and a flock of 38 presumed Icelandic birds, were in very good numbers and also got first Swallow (one powering north over the heather) and Wheatear (in Hope Cleugh). It was great to be out on the moors again, get rid of so many frustrations!! Had 5 raptors in the trip: 4 Common Buzzard and a Kestrel. Hope to do one square a day over Easter break (full of good intentions!). Completed all transfers of web data to new domain and writing new section on migration of Common Buzzard in eastern Britain. Funeral of Mike is in middle of week after next: University wanted to give him ‘full military honours’. Have taken some heed after much hectoring by family: not looking at work emails (which are the curse of academic life) until 20th April.

April 6th: very sad news from London that brother-in-law passed away peacefully last night, never recovering consciousness from his heart attack. Spent a long time talking to sister and other relations tonight. It’s all been such a shock. He was very well regarded in treatment of breast cancer. Don’t often visit Hexham on a Monday but it was well worth it: more work needs to be done in the lettings office!! Tomorrow working in morning but definitely easing off this week. May even make the Welli tomorrow. Try and not talk about football very much but the Gulls’ win at Burton tonight was tremendous. May add a link on home page to Great Premier Teams!

April 5th: busy weekend, travelling by train to Cambridge Centre for Mathematical Sciences to attend PSSL (Peripatetic Seminar on Sheaves and Logic; nothing to do with wandering contraceptives!). Stayed at Newnham College (for women!). The event attracted over 120 category theory workers from all over the world. Hard work with sessions from 09:30-17:45 on Saturday and 09:30-16:30 on Sunday but learnt a lot and a great dinner on Friday night at Gonville and Caius College to celebrate a couple of important birthdays. Did (inevitably!) pick up some raptors – 8 of 5 species: 4 Common Buzzard (over Cambridge) and single Kestrel, Barn Owl (both of these between Ely and Cambridge), Tawny Owl (Cambridge) and Marsh Harrier (near Doncaster). So it’s back for a bit – live in hope!!

April 3rd: have been appointed to JLAF for 3 years; there were actually 5 candidates for 4 places but they said: “we decided to appoint all five candidates to the JLAF – we were very impressed with you all and felt that you all had something different, and valuable, to contribute to the Forum”. So that’s good! First meeting is at Hexham on 23rd April on inland waters access. To County last night, there ages, not away until 23:50. Nice to meet c from Nero. Satisfying day in some respects with 200 publications milestone reached in computing papers and very good shares rise, particularly on bombed-out stocks that I’ve been buying recently. Anyway, after Research Forum today in School, off to PSSL 88. xxxxx

April 1st: no fieldwork today though continued tidying up new web site. Had selection process for JLAF this evening from 17:30-19:30 at East Park, Hexham, followed by quick pint at Globe but everybody had left; a bit of a rush to get back from School Research Committee. Result will be out by weekend: tried to be on best behaviour! It’s maniac at work at the moment with term ending on Friday and working weekend coming up. Might get away a little early tomorrow for a break! Worrying news from London where brother-in-law (elder sister’s husband) has had a massive heart attack and is on life support in a critical condition.

March 31st: good trip out to Kiln Pit Hill this morning from 11:20-12:50 for vis mig in very good conditions: moderate W wind, very good visibility, sunny intervals, high wispy cloud. I’m sure this site will turn up Honey Buzzard migrants. Today had Meadow Pipit, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull moving north with best of all a Common Buzzard at 11:55 very high up, arriving from south, moving into the edge of the cloud base and drifting north. Then into Hexham for lunch and on to Chester-le-Street. Stopped east of Corbridge and had 2 Goshawk up in the air with 2 Common Buzzard. Total for raptors for day was 13 of 2 species: 11 Common Buzzard, including migrant, and 2 Goshawk. At the Cricket Ground chaired meeting and all went very smoothly and constructively! To Welli this evening, very stimulating!! Such a beauty!! Back for short while from trip to Devon yesterday morning (30th) on the 10:25 flight from Exeter to Newcastle, travellingdown at 08:40 on Saturday morning (28th) and hiring a Ford Focus from Europcar. Normally use Avis but they were going to charge for 3 days, based on flight times, which I declined. Not really mean! Did 2 trips out in Devon to Honey Buzzard sites. This one (1  2) is lowland, more like Bywell area perhaps in Northumberland; this one is higher-up, more like lower Allen in Northumberland. But as pointed out before, Honey Buzzard sites in Devon tend to be higher up on the hills whereas in Northumberland they’re often in valley bottoms. Not too much should be read into this: the birds choose what’s available. Total for Devon trip was 11 raptors of 3 species: 8 Common Buzzard, 2 Sparrowhawk and a magnificent adult male Peregrine flying north over Dawlish. Spent some time planning mum’s 90th birthday party to be held in July this year in Honiton. She’s still living independently, both in health and means. But spent too long catching up on sleep and was told off for unhealthy life style! A diversion to Teignmouth sea front on the Sunday (29th) produced 3 Sandwich Tern; weather was glorious and sun glasses seem very chic this year, even in Hexham where another tactic for pinning down Honey Buzzard nests was successful!! This is where used to live in Teignmouth. It’s now called Harrington but was Grasmere. Current owners seem a little shy!

March 28th: build of new Honey Buzzard web site completed, so just need now to edit index files; yesterday to Welli in evening – good turn-out and dynamic service! Meeting for consultancy called for 15:00 in Chester-le-Street at Durham Cricket Club next Tuesday in much more constructive atmosphere – let’s hope it lasts. Family pleasures call for a short break! xxxx

March 26th: most of Honey Buzzard data across now to new web site – 3.5 GB out of 4.0 GB, so should complete raw build tomorrow, but then need to edit the index files so things are pointing at the right places. This page is now being loaded from new site by automatic redirection from old site. So into Hexham twice today, for sultry delight this morning and the Liberals this evening. Not much competition there!! I’m sworn to secrecy on the Liberal meeting at the County: went to Mr Ant’s later at 23:00 to see what Hexham’s night-life is like. This is end of week 8 in semester 2, one week left of teaching this term, then 3 weeks vacation and 3 weeks next term. On dta tomorrow morning but 3-line whip on School Forum in the afternoon.

March 25th: received disturbance permit from Natural England for Honey Buzzard, Hobby and Goshawk in 2009 breeding season, covering 15 10-km squares in Northumberland: NY64-66, NY74-76, NY84-86, NY94-96, NZ05-06 and NZ16, so basically the South Tyne and Tyne vallies from Slaggyford-Featherstone-Haltwhistle-Hexham-Stocksfield-Prudhoe-Wylam and their tributaries Allen, Devil’s Water and Derwent. Should really find a nest in Derwent and in eastern end of Tyne Valley to keep coverage representative of study area as a whole. I like to let the birds settle before going in for the nests; it’s not in anybody’s interest for the birds to be displaced at the start of the season. So will not be visiting nest sites until mid-June. Did make the Globe. The Tap is re-opening next Friday but not sure how many will return for good: the Globe’s proved very popular and it does have good views over Battle Hill, such as tonight with the ff looking very classy!! Tomorrow it’s the County for a Liberals executive meeting at 19:30, followed by meeting there with new drinking pals! Then the Welli on Friday. Have got interview for JLAF next Wednesday at 17:30, which does pose the odd problem: School Research Committee runs from 15:30-17:00 so may need to take car in for a quick exit from Newcastle.

March 24th: in quick visit to Hexham early morning for emergency supplies for cleaners, had 3 Common Buzzard over West Dipton Burn and a female Kestrel near Ordley. Spent morning at home drafting a paper for Cambridge, then into Hexham where in Nero something very animating outside!! Consultancy meeting was finally re-arranged for 17:00 today after hints at moves to terminate project! Nobody could come earlier of course because they had already said they were fully booked. What a business – lasted 2 hours – project manager was forced to resign and I’m there now as co-manager to try and get the £90k project back on course. Concert by Northern Sinfonia last night was very lively; the pianist Lars Vogt was so accomplished and enthusiastic. Next concert is in Barcelona with son – an opera which starts at 17:00 and goes onto 02:00 the next morning – maybe you can guess this is by the great one, Richard Wagner, and it’s Meistersinger. Really looking forward to this! It’s mother next. Loaded 600 MB of jpeg onto new Honey Buzzard website overnight and tonight will load first 600 MB of video. So at this rate it will go live early next week. Three very good pairs at the Welli tonight for the quiz: the C U Next TuesdayS are very clever!! Tomorrow 6 hours of meetings from 10:00-16:00 but expect to make the Globe.

March 23rd: weather was cooler and windier yesterday (22nd) so thought it might be better in the east visiting area around Durham Riding (south of Prudhoe) from 15:30-17:00 but just one Kestrel there and thought the weekend would be devoid of Common Buzzard until one popped up over Letah Wood for 10 seconds at 17:30. Did make Welli where chatted with interesting i; p left soon after my arrival! Visited Hexham briefly this morning: such a lovely pair and eyes!! Yellow-legged Gull site is now up and running on the new web domain with everything now in one place, which will make maintenance easier. You also get convenient ways to promote your site to search engines, which I’ve done for the gull pages but it takes a little while to filter through. Going to Sage this evening for concert, which includes Beethoven’s marvellous piano concerto 5.

March 21st: made the Grey Nag, Northumberland’s 4th highest peak at 656m, in the SW corner of county, walking in from Slaggyford so doing about 12km in all. Weather was mistier than expected when arrived on the top where maybe nr looked a little windswept. The view to the W was initially obscured but it became much sunnier after lunch. Did not start walking until 11:30, getting off the fells at 16:30 and making Hexham somewhat later than usual. Only met 3 people on the walk: farmer who thought it had been a good winter (dry for the sheep, never mind the cold!), gamekeeper who said he was burning the heather right on my route (but said nicely!) and a lady walker (who looked a little anxious at first but did become very talkative after a while!). The heather burning affected the visibility in the whole area. Waders and grouse were displaying well in very good numbers, including Golden Plover (perched  flight) and Red Grouse right up to the top. Raptors were just 5 in total but of 4 species: 2 Kestrel and single Peregrine (1  2  3  4  5 with Lapwing), Merlin and Sparrowhawk. No Common Buzzard were seen all day. It was hazy and quite breezy and maybe they couldn’t be a…d after all the good weather they’ve had recently (day off!). At home it was much more spring like and the daffodils are great this year. Photos added are held on new web domain, where still polishing up Yellow-legged Gull pages and transferring across vast amount of Honey Buzzard data with 1 out of 4GB moved to date. May go east tomorrow afternoon as wind looks bad in west and perhaps visit the Welli on Sunday and Tuesday evenings!

March 20th: added Yellow-legged Gull pages to new web domain. There is some useful material that ought to go on these, including lots of calls from Madeira from March 2007. All seems to be going smoothly: now using a windows-based ftp FTPRush, which seems to be very well designed. Main problem is the legacy material on Supanet as don’t seem to be able to access that. Maybe just ask them to zap it soon as it’s confusing having two versions in the public domain. Starting to transfer the Honey Buzzard material which is by far the largest in disk space terms. Work material will of course continue to be hosted by unn. The priority is to make a straight transfer at the moment but don’t assume layout and material will just continue as before. Good chat later on in the County last night: with tonight at the Welli that’s 5 nights out in 5! This morning, after seeing builders about new guttering and flat roof, going to Grindon Lough to enjoy the sunshine and then into Hexham for some prospecting!! This afternoon continuing with consultancy work: trying to arrange another bout for next Tuesday afternoon but the protagonists have yet to agree on an agenda! Well things turned out worse with Grindon trip postponed to Sunday as urgent PGR matter needed attention, no prospects in Hexham alas and the protagonists refusing to meet! Still Welli was very good with r doing a fair imitation of Amy Winehouse! Tomorrow to the Grey Nag for a decent walk.

March 18th: plenty of signs of the joys of spring with Green Woodpecker yaffling at Ordley and Riding Mill and Chiffchaff singing at the latter. Got lift back from work by Michael and we went to the Globe (for a change). Very interesting views from there: good practice for Honey Buzzard season with fly-pass of 2 s..y chicks at 17:35 and return by 1 at 17:47 giving some indication of distance flown but it’s unknown how much time was spent gossiping at the nest!! Tomorrow widening social circuit by going to County with Michael and a few others later in the evening! Have got own web domain now, hosted by BT under their BT Web Hosting – Professional Pack deal, and am transferring some information across with ftp, which needs a clear head to remember to upload binary files in image mode. At present it’s just got the African Gulls pages. Tempted to add gulls from South Africa in November 2007 while it’s in the frame. Anyway quite a way to go!

March 17th: plenty of interest today in lovely spring weather with trip to Kiln Pit Hill to look for vis mig around midday. There were plenty of raptors with 7 seen of 4 species: 4 Common Buzzard and single Kestrel, Red Kite and Goshawk. A flock of 40 Fieldfare flew N and the first butterfly, a Small Tortoiseshell, was seen. Status of Red Kite and Goshawk is very encouraging from recent work. Also today had good numbers of Common Buzzard in the ‘Shire: 4 at Ordley and 3 at Lamb Shield. Celebrated evening of St Patrick’s Day in Newcastle with a few mates from work! Tomorrow will make the Globe and need to hand in my application for JLAF first thing to the National Park office in Hexham. Yesterday (16/3) went with Nick to concert in evening by Malmö Symphony Orchestra, which was a little light up to halftime but Sibelius 2 gave a rousing 2nd half. Did the Kittiwake start to return to the Quayside yesterday evening? We did not notice them walking over from Marco Polo at 19:00 but they were very vocal at 22:00 on way back. But then could have been a little dazed from the wine! Day at work was entertaining if you like bust-ups: consultancy meeting was very tense with a frank exchange of views. I caught up with my nails! On Sunday (15/3) weather was slightly more spring-like particularly earlier in morning. Went to upper Derwent Valley around Blanchland and the reservoir where had good haul of 10 raptors of 4 species: 6 Common Buzzard,2 Kestrel and single Red Kite and Goshawk. Video of last is affected by the haze but at least a few seconds show the crucial features.

March 14th: out to Warden on lower South Tyne today from 12:40-14:40. Weather was mild but very windy, perhaps not too promising for raptors, but the big boys were up! Total of 9 raptors of 2 species: 8 Common Buzzard at 5 sites and single Goshawk, the latter a male over here. The Common Buzzard were in vigorous display at one site, including this bird (1  2) which came quite close, showing pale chest band, short tail and relatively short P10. Highlight really was first spring migrant – a Chiffchaff calling from trees close to the River South Tyne. Then to Hexham for a coffee and a bit of shopping. Yesterday went to Hexham in morning (dipped!!) and Welli twice at 16:50 and 22:00, first with Mike and Roddy and second with Dave. Brothers-in-law left at 05:30 today to catch an early flight to Bristol; just about saw them off but it’s not my best part of the day! There’s no obvious escape from the clutches of the bank in a SAM, but we’re written a letter to explore some details. Have trips to Devon, Cambridge and Barcelona now arranged for the next few weeks, before the new season starts in earnest. But that’s later, normal rounds this week except Liberals in Hexham tomorrow and concert on Monday at Sage. Maybe will go to upper Derwent tomorrow. Added video from Mysore below and applied for business web site from BT.

March 12th: new disturbance license for season to cover Goshawk, Hobby and Honey Buzzard is expected very soon after gentle reminder to Natural England. Out to Welli for meal with Mike and Roddy. Much information reviewed and letter to bank outlined. Lot of work earlier today but tomorrow is looking a bit easier, particularly in the morning. A colleague (reader) is in hospital with a heart attack! Advice from the Globe yesterday: an attractive single girl is worth 10 married women!!

March 11th: busy day at work including chairing School seminar at 13:00. Yesterday did see the first ‘raptor sky’ of the season with high wispy cloud, in which you expect to see Honey Buzzard moving in and out of the cloud! Shows thermals are beginning to appear. Booked up trip to Barcelona for mid-April where might see first Honey Buzzard of the year. Visited Globe for tea where a lot of good crack and very impressive passage W!! Thought brothers-in-law were coming at the weekend but they’re coming tomorrow afternoon to stay with me until Saturday first thing.

March 10th: back to the Tyne Valley where had the satisfaction of getting a Red Kite at Shilford – a new site for the species. Total in Stocksfield/Riding Mill area from 14:00-16:00 was 9 raptors of 4 species: 6 Common Buzzard and single Red Kite, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. Met John who’s doing the lowland NY75 squares. He thinks the upland squares, which I’m doing, are difficult logistically because of the ruthless gamekeepering. Well we’ve got open access now and access is a legal right (with some justified exceptions when grouse are nesting or being shot!). I was on the Northumberland Local Access Forum when it started a few years ago and am applying to re-join. I’ve not had any problems at all since CROW came in to force but did before, with quite a catalogue of damage to cars and ‘slight differences of opinion’ while out on the moors!! People need to assert their rights! Visited Hexham for lunch where alas substitute in view! Enjoyed Welli later on where fancy-dress made it very lively. The Rhinemaidens looked very desirable in their red gear!

March 9th: long day working today, being at home in the morning, then into Newcastle and not back until 21:22 train. But more relaxing tomorrow as finished quite a few urgent research tasks. Hexham visit was good: very nice to see the ff again!! Had one of planned Welli trips yesterday evening and the Guinness was very welcome: never stayed at a hotel before with no draught beer or with so many charming staff!

March 8th: back from great 3-day break in the Lakes at Ullswater with Nick. Visited an area where Honey Buzzard known to be present. Weather was bracing to put it mildly! Hotel (Macdonald at Leeming House) was splendid but no Guinness! Might need to make Welli to catch up a couple of times in the next few days! Arrived Friday evening at hotel and soon heard Tawny Owl in grounds. Next day walked 14km circular from hotel via Swinburn’s Park to Aira Force and then inland to Lowthwaite and back via Watermillock Church. I’ve seen Honey Buzzard in this area and took opportunity to study the habitat: this looks very suitable, this doesn’t! Weather got steadily worse from overcast with weak sun to driving rain. Snow remained on the tops (1  2) all day. A pair of Common Buzzard were displaying in the rain: photos show as expected a relatively short P10, short tail and prominent pale chest band (1  2  3). The next day dawned with snow down to low levels – this was view from bedroom window. We went for a walk on south side of the water in weather varying from blizzard (looking back at hotel in the redwoods) to simply showers of soft hail. The mountains looked very beautiful (1  2) in the short breaks. Birds seemed unaffected with this Chaffinch singing and Greylag Geese very widespread. Total for raptors for the trip was 18 individuals of 3 species: 16 Common Buzzard and single Kestrel and Tawny Owl. All in all the trip broke up the spell between India and Easter very nicely!

March 5th: message by long-suffering room-mate at unn to rest of staff caused a bit of merriment ….

—–Original Message: From: Paul V… Sent: 05 March 2009 10:29

To: EB All Staff

Subject: STOP RINGING THE PHONE!

I would be grateful if whoever keeps trying to ring Nick Rossiter’s phone could realise that after 57 rings he is either not in the office or is not picking up. I’m guessing you’re probably safe to hang up after a dozen rings or so.

Maybe I’m peculiar but I don’t find listening to endlessly-ringing phones a particularly rewarding experience.

Thanks Paul ——

Interestingly Mr Asperger tried again later and gave up after 12 rings — we counted!! Must be living at Stocksfield that keeps my room-mate sane!

Anyway worked late at the office today, getting final version of accepted paper for the leading system-science journal Kybernetes ready for my co-author Mike for his final checks. Made last train after a swift couple in the Centurion and my favourite guard l..y was running it: she had the odd problem from Prudhoe! Northumbria has got masses more research money this coming year, thanks to our RAE success, so morale is high! Thinking of transferring Honey Buzzard web site to a commercial host such as BT: it’s 4GB of data now and you can get unrestricted deals, allowing quite a lot of experimentation as line speeds rise, for about £17 a month. I see on iGoogle now, if you just type in Honey Buzzard, these pages are number 1.

March 4th:

Raptor totals for trip to Bandipur from Bangalore (9/1-10/1) are as follows

Bandipur National Park: Black Kite 3, Oriental Honey Buzzard 2 with stills derived from video 2  9  4  7  8  5  6  1  3, Red-headed Vulture 2, Short-toed Serpent-Eagle 2, Brahminy Kite 1, Long-billed Vulture 1, Besra 1.

Mysore-Bandipur: Black Kite 17, Brahminy Kite 3, Oriental Honey Buzzard 1, Changeable Hawk-Eagle 1, Bonnelli’s Eagle 1, Booted Eagle 1, Laggar Falcon 1.

Mysore Palace: Black Kite 50, Brahminy Kite 4, Oriental Honey Buzzard 1.

Material secured on Black Kite was again vast, including videos:

float (1 bird)  float (2-3 birds)  float/glide (4 birds)  float/glide (7 birds)  wheel (1 bird)

perched (4 birds)  perched (3 birds)  perched (1st bird)  perched (1st bird)  perched (2nd bird)  perched (3rd bird)  perched (3rd bird)  perched (4th bird)

Stills of Palace: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7

Bangalore-Mysore: Black Kite 71, Brahminy Kite 47, White-eyed Buzzard 3, Black-shouldered Kite 1.

So totals for southern India from 5/1-11/1 (including those for Bangalore alone given below under 18/2) are: Black Kite 580, Brahminy Kite* 70, Shikra 4, Oriental Honey Buzzard* 4, White-eyed Buzzard* 3, Red-headed Vulture* 2, Short-toed Serpent-Eagle 2, Peregrine 1, Black-shouldered Kite 1, Bonnelli’s Eagle 1, Booted Eagle 1, Long-billed Vulture* 1, Laggar Falcon* 1, Changeable Hawk-Eagle* 1, Besra* 1. Total 673 of 15 taxon; 7 new taxon marked with *.

Mammal list for Bandipur National Park: Indian Elephant, Chital (stag  2 stags  female  herd female), Mouse Deer, Sambar, Red-faced Macaque (1  2), Langur (1   2), Wild Boar (1  2), Tiger (growls only!).

Other birds videoed at Bandipur: Peacock (1  2), Red-wattled Lapwing, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Green Bee-eater, White-throated Kingfisher, Yellow-billed Babbler.

Bandipur National Park Habitat: stills showing forest in dry season 1  2  3  4  5; stills of bamboo 1  2  3  4; stills of camp 1  2; stills of lake 1  2; video Panoramic View.

That makes a fantastic start to the trip. More piccies to follow. The next leg was to Goa where met daughter.

Busy today with research meetings as usual for Wednesday but did make the Globe late afternoon. Also got back yesterday in late afternoon and went to Nero for a quick cappuccino before leaving rather sharply and bumping into the g..g…s one!! Made the Welli for quiz night, a highlight of the week, and not disappointed! Nice b..!! One thing that puzzled me last week no longer does: migration out of the Welli is to the west, not the east! However, another puzzle emerges: who’s the b…..d who tore off my rear windscreen wiper in the Welli car park? Thought initially it might have dropped off but next morning recovered blade on own below where car had been with no sign of arm or fittings and garage has confirmed damage is consistent with vandalism. Have some dta on Friday morning.

March 2nd: video for second day at Bandipur (10/1) covers Mouse Deer, Sambar, Red-faced Macaque, Tiger (growls only!), Green Bee-eater and Rose-ringed Parakeet. On way back to Bangalore called into Mysore where added some more Black Kite footage, which almost finished processing now. May get back late tomorrow afternoon to finish this section! The raptor total was really boosted by this leg of the trip in the deep south, which I did in a tour with personal driver arranged with an Indian company called Connoisseur. Everything went very smoothly. Distance was 270km each way, taking 4-5 hours, and yes the driving was really scary, even more so than in the ‘Shire! In India all signs are recommendations only so you even get vehicles going (slowly) down a dual-carriageway the wrong way!

March 1st: did have another crack at Staward and perseverance rewarded with immature male Goshawk seen soaring there. Total for day was not as high as yesterday in cool showery weather but still shows an upward trend with 12 raptors of 3 species: 10 Common Buzzard and single Kestrel and Goshawk from 11:50-15:00. Got a nice pair of Dipper on the Allen. Then visited Waitrose, bumped into kute k(again!) and went home to do more homely things such as getting the chain-saw out. Finished processing the Bandipur videos. Don’t know whether to laugh or cry: the very last clip on which I’m taking a Red-face Macaque monkey on one of the hut roofs finishes with some Tiger growls from the bush!! I even cut them off! That’s the trouble with men: they can only do one thing at a time! I suppose these days you can count recordings you made as part of your experience but obviously I want to go back to seeone in the flesh. So now need to process the Mysore piccies taken on way back from Bandipur-Bangalore and will publish the next bit. No trip to London this month now – my 2 brothers-in-law are coming to see me up here (from Switzerland and Leicester) in a couple of weeks. Main problem is a SAM mortgage, which I strongly advised against. Of course if house prices carry on falling then they are not such a bad idea! Got 2 trips to the Lakes lined-up, which is more appropriate for March. No Welli tonight – getting organisedfor some meetings in the next 2 days – but must surely be there on Tuesday!

February 28th: and spring arrives!! The first Curlew and Lesser Black-backed Gull appear inland, Common Gull start their massive spring run through Northumberland, another skein of Pink-footed Goose (95 birds) flies to the NW and, most relevant here, raptors rapidly come out of the woodwork. Today went to the Allen and had 16 raptors of 4 species: 12 Common Buzzard, 2 Kestrel and single Red Kite and Sparrowhawk. Main area visited was around Whitfield Hall from 12:00-14:10 for last day of this year’s winter atlas, where had 31 bird species in all. This is of course a far richer part of the square than the moorland with a weir, view to Monk Wood and a nice house! The Red Kite was right over Whitfield Hall, probably a bird from Keenleyside, but needs keeping an eye on. Called briefly into Staward on way back – may re-visit here tomorrow for longer to check on Goshawk. Then made Hexham to Nero and to buy some clothes and shoes. Did make Welli late last night: it was very busy, good to see! Latest fb photo is very enigmatic: love it!! Daughter passed her annual exams with her airline – thank the lord! Called to a family meeting in London in March on my mother-in-law’s finances. Did give some advice a few years ago, which was unfortunately ignored. Six weeks to the start of the Honey Buzzard season!!

February 26th: completed processing video in Bandipur for 9/1 of Wild Boar, Langur, Peacock, Red-wattled Lapwing and White-throated Kingfisher. So now need to process 10/1 footage and publish the results for the National Park as a whole. Did get out briefly this morning to Dotland from 10:50-11:50 but it wasn’t like the weather forecast suggested: a very keen NW wind, feeling pretty cold. This is quite usual for Hexhamshire in late winter/early spring: the benefits of rising temperatures are lost in increasing winds. No raptors were seen! Then to Nero in Hexham but very sadly dipped for the 2nd time this week!! Consultancy went so well this afternoon – still trying to organise it more effectively time-wise, perhaps squeeze main meetings into Monday.

February 25th: processed quite a lot of video from 1st day at Bandipur, covering Indian Elephant, Chital, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Black Kite, Short-toed Snake-eagle and Long-billed Vulture. Also getting ready to include Common Buzzard movements as part of analysis of the Honey Buzzard movement in September 2008. The formerly infrequent but now regular movements in eastern England of Common Buzzard have a strong parallel with those of Honey Buzzard. This is the next page to be published in the analysis. Today’s meeting went its course and not back in Hexham until 18:10 when did go to the Globe for the usual crack! Heard of pair of Red Kite in ‘Shire near Dotland – might have a quick look tomorrow morning – and of plentifulness of Barn Owl in the ‘Shire this winter, which I have noticed! Did go to bank this morning in Hexham (paid today!) and it was a very rewarding visit!! Friday sees research day in Durham followed by drinks in Newcastle with a few members of the office team!

February 24th: getting ready for adding raptor information on safari to Bandipur while staying in Bangalore from 9/1-10/1, which will increase the number and variety of raptors substantially, including Oriental Honey Buzzard. Today had long meeting in new consultancy. Can see why introduced so quickly: personal tensions dominate but tone more positive hopefully at end of meeting when more concentration on technical issues. Called another meeting for Thursday afternoon. Now see why so much hassle over exam marks: in future people from outside the EU need a masters degree to do work in UK. Out this evening in Newcastle but very fortunately did manage it back in time for the Welli where the stars were the two usual suspects!! One or two things, in good ways really, puzzled me, but that’s not difficult! Robin redbreast was bird of the day. Tomorrow: “A meeting of the Graduate School Committee will be held on Wednesday, 25 February 2009, at 15:30 hours, in Board Room 1, Ellison Building, City Campus West”. Might make it difficult to make Hexham and the Globe, but will try even if late!

February 23rd: video processing of kites in Bangalore completed and indexed below; quite a good record of their jizz (in the birding sense!). Trip to coast was postponed due to ill health (not mine!). Went to the moors on Saturday morning (21/2) doing 3 hours winter atlas work on Ayle Common from 11:00-14:00. It was warmer than last week but snowwas still lying against walls high-up. Views were atmospheric, and difficult to photograph, in very strange light with mixture of low cloud of various colours, mist and weak sunshine. The higher Grey Nagkept in the clouds throughout. This Raven (with Alston behind) was one of four birds seen displaying. Got 6 species on the moors: Red Grouse, Golden Plover (4 birds including a pair in territory), Raven, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw and Common Buzzard (one high overhead). Total for raptors on day was 6 – all Common Buzzard. Yesterday (22/2) went to fleshpots of east Tynedale walking all the way round Hyons Wood and later visiting Dukeshagg, Bywell and Guessburn. These titswere 2 of many at the Sparrowhawk feeders at the Broomley Woods car park. In the mild weather Skylark are moving inland in numbers with 20 on a field at Dukeshagg. More variety than yesterday with 8 raptors of 3 species: 5 Common Buzzard, 2 Kestrel and a Red Kite, the last on the eastern fringes of Hyons Wood. Met Alan at Whitley Chapel. He’d been out to the Allen and had had 2 Red Kite near Monk Wood and very interestingly a male Goshawk over Staward. I’ve not seen any Goshawk yet this year but there were possible signs at 2 of last year’s sites: Cupola Bridge on 21/2 and Dukeshagg on 22/2, with complete panic in corvids. Went to Welli in evening for much-needed recuperation and should be there again tomorrow after different celebration in Newcastle! Tomorrow’s a kind of dta day but there may be an emergency meeting to discuss my findings in the new consultancy on the programming done so far!

February 20th: video processing of kites in Bangalore is progressing quickly with some good sequences of jizz, calls and display obtained. These are very relevant to Honey Buzzard identification as Black Kite and Honey Buzzard are much more closely related genetically than Common Buzzard and Honey Buzzard. Ovington ‘rave’ went ahead, actually an ancient group called the Strawbs, but they were very entertaining. Met Chris there who I used to lecture with at Newcastle – a lot of gossip to catch up with! Earlier visited Hexham where lady in green looks the part!!

February 18th:

Assembling photos/video from Bangalore part of trip to India. In the city itself from 5/1-11/1 got 459 raptors of 4 species: 439 Black Kite, 15 Brahminy Kite, 4 Shikra and a Peregrine. The Brahminy Kite (video showing effortless soar here,with background of Black Kite calls at one point) was a new species occurring thinly through the city. Shikra had been seen before in Kenya and the Peregrine looked very much like our form, a winter visitor to the region. The Black Kite were starting to breed with nest building and display in progress. They were everywhere, even in the chaotic centre of the city around MG Street and Brigade Street. They are scavengers of course, just like Red Kite were in English cities in the 16th and 17th centuries. Material secured on Black Kite was vast, including:

Stills: 1 2 3 4 5 6;

Videos:

fast level display flight, one call  follow me, flapping, display  feuding birds, flapping

glide fast  glide high-up  glide high-up display, flapping

float flapping, two birds  float, two birds, calls  float  high-up flight, two birds

calls, perched, float

nest;

Calls: 1 2.

Mind you I was working in this part of the trip with presentation on 8/1 and some 13-hour days at the 7th International Whitehead Conference, which was held at Christ University/ Dhamaram College with some lively local talent (1   2   3   4   5). But you have to escape at times! After giving paper, which went down very well, some of us went downtown in Bangalore by tuk-tuk where noise and bustle was amazing. Witnessed end of flagellation ritual with men leaving with blood all over their backs – pretty gruesome. Went for a drink in a pub (Styx) where Jimmy Hendricks was the theme! Weather was brilliant throughout at 27-28 deg C, 30% humidity and unbroken sun from dawn to dusk. Journey out from Hexham-Bangalore on 3/1-4/1 took 25 hours as had to wait on standby for a while at Mumbai, where security was mega after 26/11 shootings. Some 60 delegates to the conference evidently withdrew in the first week after the shoot-out in Mumbai — wimps! Spent quite a lot of time at the conference for some reason dispelling the notion that I was Irish! Surname is Irish but I can only find westcountry ancestors back a long way. Stayed in hall of residence near St John’s Auditorium in Bangalore, which was basic but clean and comfortable.

As you can see exam pressures are off: Module Board went very well with praise from external examiner on my module. Did make Hexham and the Globe late afternoon and good to see the gang again! Someone looks very sophisticated!! Tomorrow sees a lot of meetings but Friday is a dta day! Going to a ‘rave’ in Ovington on Friday evening and perhaps to the coast on Saturday with Nick.

February 17th: more hassle at work over exam results, found fellow lecturers who were quite intimidated to go out. Anyway keep looking over your shoulder, avoid dark recesses and go round in groups of three! Module Exam Board is early tomorrow at 09:30, which will hopefully terminate matters. Night out in Newcastle was good and finished in Welli with very inspiring views of the 2 beautiful sisters!! Great to chat up s again. Will make Hexham tomorrow evening – determined to carve out some real free time. Need to sort out report on India raptors.

February 16th: not much let up at work and even day on dta tomorrow does not look as if it will come off with client suggesting we do work together in Newcastle. Yesterday (15/2) did make Whitfield Moor and it was really exhilarating, getting a good glow. Walked over the thawing slush towards Three Knights from east of Wolf Hills (can see the Ka here, would make a nice rendezvous!), doing only 6km in 3 hours. Had 5 species in the winter atlas tetrad for Humble Dodd including Red Grouse (displaying!), Golden Plover (one overhead), Lapwing (flock 31 moving W) and Merlin (female, flushed from a fence). Did think of going further but 3 hours seems enough in these conditions and ice over moor and the view further on suggested a bit of caution. The raptor total showed a lot of quality — 6 raptors of 5 species with 2 Common Buzzard and single Kestrel, Merlin, Barn Owl and Hen Harrier. Also made the Welli yesterday for a bit of crack and might make it tomorrow if get the right train back from a celebration after work!!

February 14th: milder today at lower levels and went to Shilford in the Tyne Valley where had unusually close-up views of a C rather like safari! The video starts with a Common Buzzard call. Then went on to Hyons Wood where the snow was still lying. Highlight of the day was passage of Pink-footed Geese with a total of 300 moving north from 12:30-13:40 with this skein over High Mickley at the latter time. Large numbers were moving north over Yorkshire 2-3 hours earlier so these birds are a continuation of this movement, starting their long trek to breed in Iceland and Greenland. Total for day was 8 raptors of 2 species: 5 Common Buzzard (including one soaring over Hexham town centre at 15:00) and 3 Kestrel, the first seen in Northumberland by me this year. Many seem to have vacated their territories during the cold weather and moved out to the coast or further south. Snow was still lying deeply over the ‘Shire at 16:00 but the roar of the Devil’s Water later in the evening suggests the thaw has now set in here as well. The shot covers 3 Honey Buzzard territories but only one nest site is visible! Finalisedspreadsheets for the 85 students on masters module yesterday: women have done well this year taking top place and 4 of the first 8 places, which is very refreshing for a subject regarded as male dominated. Have had 2 days of hassle by students wanting their marks raised: long experience in Africa (and recently, India) comes in well here! Tomorrow planning more winter atlas work on Whitfield Moor where it’s likely to be very slushy!

February 12th: also corresponding with a glider pilot from Bristol who is fascinated by the ability of Honey Buzzard to anticipate thermals and would like to use some of my videos to study the situation further. Evidently cross-country glider-pilots are envious of the way Honey Buzzard can detect thermals ahead and benefit so well from them. Weather forecast for today was not very accurate (snow heavier, arriving earlier and lasting longer; otherwise not bad!) so fieldwork this morning was restricted to Hexham, where I did like the specs!! On last train last night met all the Nero crowd who’d been in a competition. They livened up the train a bit! Tomorrow has far too many meetings: need a break. Next trip abroad is not until mid-April when going to Barcelona. Shortly after the 2009 Honey Buzzard season starts!

February 11th: well, finished marking last night so that’s a relief! I’m almost ecstatic! Having interesting conversation with someone from London area about Common Buzzard and Honey Buzzard movements through there this September. Been meaning to get more into Common Buzzard movements in eastern England because in many ways they seem to be closely related to those of Honey Buzzard. Both species were rare migrants in eastern England 20 years ago but both are now much commoner. Yet movements out of Scandinavia have declined for both species. The Scandinavian population of Honey Buzzard has been in decline for many years and the Scandinavian population of Common Buzzard has become more sedentary, perhaps through climate change. So the migrations are much more likely to be linked to increased British populations than to changes in Scandinavian ones. One of his points was the mystery of why the Honey Buzzards further north never appeared in London in any numbers this year. But it’s not a mystery of course — the Honey Buzzards flew from East Anglia to Holland and Belgium and went south from there, thus bypassing London. May get out in the field tomorrow morning — feeling the urge!! Had more light snow this morning. Tonight am going out in Newcastle again! My evening class has been amalgamated with another class and my services are no longer required. So that restores trips to Hexham on future Wednesday evenings. And I’ve taken on another consultancy giving me Tuesday on dta!!

February 9th: yesterday (8/2) made Hexham Tyne Green in the afternoon after marking until 02:30 in morning and again from 10:30-13:00 and 19:30-24:00. Only raptor seen all day was a Common Buzzard in flap-glide mode over the Devil’s Water at 12:00 (I’m easily distracted!). Tyne Green is a bit more park-like than the normal places visited but is always good for ducks in winter. It’s very sociable though, meeting all sorts of friends from the area. Today sowed up 95% of the marking with just 11 scripts to go, which doing at home tomorrow. Out on the Town tonight with l for a wee break!!

February 7th: great to be starting fieldwork in the study area again though the results could hardly be termed a spring-like display of soaring raptors! Weather was not as sunny as predicted and indeed on arrival in the eastern Tyne Valley at Wylam Station at 11:00 it was sleeting heavily. But stuck it out and in a clearance got an adult Red Kite in territory (video 3.25 MB) south of the Boat Inn at Northumberland’s first site, established all of two years ago! Moved on into area south of Prudhoe Hospital but just a little more altitude gave lying snow and the only raptor seen here was a furtive Common Buzzard. After a little over 3 hours in the field had had enough of the cold and went to Nero in Hexham meeting kand almost bumping into the ff!! Later to the Sage with Nick to hear Northern Sinfonia and their chorus perform well Mozart’s Ave verum corpus (second time this week) and Haydn’s mass Harmoniemesse, followed by a quickie at the lamb in Horsley. Yesterday (6/2) the snow was very atmospheric at Ordley.

February 5th 2009: better move swiftly on! Starting fieldwork on Saturday in the Tyne Valley for Red Kite and Goshawk, the latter particularly important after last year’s almost total lack of breeding success. In comment on trip to Devon for 2/2 in notice board for 2008 Telegraph Hill = Haldon Hill: say no more! Tonight with Nick to Marco Polo for meal and to the Sage for concert by Hallé where the sensual exploits of Don Juan (R Strauss) and the violin concerto of Sibelius were done very well. To the Welli on Friday and Sunday and Sage again on Saturday. Have to complete marking this weekend. Then much more time will be available to complete analysis of the 2008 movement and other things!

Notice boards from previous years:20082007

Recent relevant BB references:(more reading here)

Duff, Daniel G, Has the Plumage of juvenile Honey-buzzard evolved to mimic that of Common Buzzard? British Birds 99((3) 118-128 (2006).

Elliott, Simon T, Diagnostic Differences in the Calls of Honey-buzzard and Common Buzzard, British Birds 98(9) 494-496 (2005).

Panuccio, M, Agostini, N, Wilson, S, Lucia, G, Ashton-Booth, J, Chiatante, G, Mellone, U, & Todisco, S, Does the Honey-buzzard feed during Migration? British Birds 99(7) 365-367 (2006).

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s