Notice Board: the Honey-buzzard Season in Northumberland 2008 as it happened – Nick Rossiter

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Significant events in the Honey Buzzard season as it unfolds in Northumberland are given here. Seeing Honey Buzzards in their breeding areas is facilitated by reading about their jizz, knowing their calls and digesting the three recent BB papers updating Honey Buzzard identification (bottom of page). Reports by anybody (to nick.rossiter1 at btinternet.com) can be included: these will be strictly anonymous and will not be conveyed to any records committees.

February 5th 2009: this notice board is now closed. The new notice board is available from the home page as the current notice board for 2009.

February 4th 2009: summary for year 2008 for all raptors in the study area and adjacent areas is given below:

Species

Study Area in SW Northumberland

Elsewhere in Northumberland

Tyne & Wear

Tetrads

Records

No birds min

Priority (1=highest)

Tetrads

No birds min

Tetrads

No birds min

Common Buzzard

73

173

210

6=

1

1

0

0

Kestrel

55

137

109

6=

3

4

2

2

Honey Buzzard

41

117

135

1

0

0

0

0

Sparrow-hawk

28

56

44

6=

1

1

2

2

Hobby

17

20

23

2

0

0

0

0

Goshawk

17

20

17

3=

0

0

0

0

Red Kite

14

34

28

3=

0

0

1

1

Merlin

8

9

11

5

1

1

0

0

Peregrine Falcon

3

4

4

6=

0

0

0

0

Rough-legged Buzzard

1

1

1

6=

0

0

0

0

Analysis of Records for Raptors collected by NR in Northumberland in 2008: ordered by number of tetrads in which found, then by number of records, then by number of birds

Once again Common Buzzard and Kestrel are the commonest raptors (by tetrads) and both had a good season. Honey Buzzard, boosted by migrants and high numbers of juveniles, moves into a clear third position, which is probably justified even allowing for its position as highest priority. Sparrowhawk is very plentiful in the eastern Tyne Valley (Stocksfield, Prudhoe and Wylam) but much scarcer in the west of the study area. The secretive duo of Hobby and Goshawk tie for 5th place with Red Kite rapidly catching them up. A bit more effort is being put into Merlin and 3 nest sites were identified on Whitfield Moor. Peregrine Falcon is now very scarce, no longer breeding in the area. A single Rough-legged Buzzard was seen but not a single Osprey, nor any Harriers, were seen this year. The annual returns for Honey Buzzard, Hobby and Goshawk have now been sent to Natural England. Today was very busy at work with various committee meetings all day followed by evening class. Managed to finish this early and went for a drink with l..r.! Road from Riding Mill-Dilston was a glacier late-on. Yesterday (3/2) was rather sombre with David’s funeral in Hexham Abbey, followed by wake at the Beaumont. Played at home Wagner’s Götterdämmerung Act III to complete the atmosphere! Visited the Welli later for quiz night. The 3 Rhinemaidens were there!! Much coke flows on quiz night!! Rest of week is largely occupied with marking assignment 2. This entry completes the 2008 Noticeboard. Will start the 2009 one very soon. This has been a much better year in all respects.

February 2nd: back from quick visit to Devon, flying down by Flybe from Newcastle-Exeter, hiring a Kia from Avis and staying with mother in Dawlish. Liked the Kia, 1500cc and quite fiery; nice to try a different vehicle each time in case the Ka collapses! Very bracing weather with Teignmouth sea-front awash with spray. Visited Exe Estuary at the Turf on Sunday morning (1/2) and got some interesting species: Mediterranean Gull, Black-tailed Godwit, Cetti’s Warbler and Greenshank. Birds of prey were not numerous through the whole weekend but the weather was hardly spring-like: 6 raptors of 3 species with 3 Common Buzzard, 2 Kestrel and a Peregrine. Trip to Haldon for Ideford Common on Monday morning (2/2) was in unusually cold weather at -2 deg C. This skulking Dartford Warbler was one of two seen: they’re vulnerable to long spells of cold weather so it was encouraging to still see them around. Also had 8 Golden Plover moving towards the coast from Dartmoor, presumably in response to the weather. This site is good for Honey Buzzard as it’s very insect-rich where the heath meets the oak and birch scrub. This view over the Teign Estuary (my home area) shows its natural beauty! Finally popped into Dawlish where saw 2 Black Swan. These swan from Western Australia are a hot topic metaphorically in financial columns at the moment. Europeans used to think all swans were white but that was before their experience reached into Australia. Similarly with finance, before the credit crunch a number of assumptions were held, which greater financial experience has exposed (expensively) as worthless. Sorted a few problems on IHT and investments with bank on Monday afternoon. Main social event was trip to Swan’s Nest at Exminster for carvery on Saturday evening (31/1) where mother was obviously keen to explore what I got up to in Northumberland and what nice ladies might be up there! Hmmm!! Journey back was exciting: snow arriving as set off for Exeter Airport was causing complete panic as it rapidly reached a depth of 1cm. Mind you they had not gritted Telegraph Hill, the main artery on the road from Exeter to Torquay, so they were obviously not catering for wimps! Then in a blizzard at -2 deg C, they had to de-ice the plane twice, the pilot insisting on a stronger brew. The cleared runway looked quite narrow but we took off only 30 minutes late at 19:45 which was quite an achievement. Then we saw nothing of the ground until just over Darras Hall 60 minutes later, landing in sleet and slush. Drive back was fairly clear until Hexham but there’s 30cm of snow at Ordley and the last few hundred metreswere a little tense! Daughter could not get across London so was unable to travel. Tomorrow will be a sad day.

January 31st: very close to wrapping up 2008 season now. Final table needed to summariseresults for all raptors, including the commoner ones. Need for fieldwork for 2009 increases: 3 Common Buzzard were calling petulantly from Shield Hall yesterday as left for work at 08:30 and this morning singles were displaying at Prospect Hill and Cottagebank, Bywell. But not possible this weekend as need to catch up with close relatives. Welli was good yesterday – quite busy and caught up on a few things with s! Next week sees start of teaching for semester 2 and one major change is on Wednesday evening, when giving a 2-hour evening class. So ta-ta! xxxx

January 30th: So these raptor stories are very much up and down; Red Kite is today’s story and this is a great success:

Area

No. sites

No. adults

Breeding Category

No. Juveniles fledged

Post-breeding sites

Conf

Prob

Poss

Devil’s Water

1

1

0

0

1

0

0

Allen

2

3

1

0

0

1

1

Upper South Tyne

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Lower South Tyne

1

2

0

0

1

0

0

Tyne

5

10

2

1

1

3

1

Derwent

2

3

1

0

0

2

1

Total

11

19

4

1

3

6

3

Breeding Data for Red Kite in SW Northumberland by area in 2008

So very quickly, Red Kite is as common as Goshawk in the study area in terms of numbers but much more successful. There seems little doubt that the Red Kite is being looked after by gamekeepers and it could almost be said that there is enthusiasm for the Red Kite to replace the Goshawk. Whatever, it’s a marvellous outcome to the second season of Red Kite breeding in Northumberland; we are up to 4 pairs confirmed breeding and 6 young fledged with success not unexpectedly in the Tyne Valley but also in the Derwent and Allen. It will be very interesting to see what happens in 2009. Did make Hexham to get my specs. The ff looked stunning but perhaps slightly dreamy – passes another test!!! Daughter is coming up to funeral from London and staying a few days.

January 29th: working on Red Kite data now for 2008, then will quickly summarise other raptor species; after this weekend need to start fieldwork for 2009, particularly for Goshawk and Red Kite in the Tyne Valley. Finished marking assignment 1, so half-way through now – what a relief! Made Hexham at lunchtime for the obvious delights!! Louise, who I haven’t seen for over 20 years, seemed quite surprised at where I’m living: succeeded in getting invite to North Island! Tomorrow appointments in office in morning but later collecting replacement varifocals in Hexham: that was the only casualty of India trip, wonder who’s wearing them now!

January 28th: Summary of Goshawk data for 2008 is shown below:

Area

No. sites

No. adults

Breeding Category

Juveniles

Conf

Prob

Poss

 

Local-fledge

Also seen

Devil’s Water

2

2

0

0

2

0

1

Allen

2

3

0

1

1

0

0

Upper South Tyne

2

3

0

0

2

0

0

Lower South Tyne

1

1

0

0

1

0

0

Tyne

5

7

0

2

3

0

0

Derwent

1

1

0

0

1

0

0

Total

13

17

0

3

10

0

1

Breeding Data for Goshawk in SW Northumberland by area in 2008

What dreadful results. Last year it was emphasised that the results needed careful interpretation as Goshawk is number 3 in priority in the study and visits are only made primarily to locate this species in February-April before the Honey Buzzard and Hobby return. However, two years in a row where high spring numbers have been followed by very low or non-existent numbers of juveniles and very few adults in summer and early autumn do suggest something is wrong and human persecution of the species must be suspected. In the main grouse rearing areas the Goshawk is now very scarce. The main pheasant rearing areas (Tyne Valley, Lower South Tyne and parts of Hexhamshire and Allen) which did offer some refuge for the Goshawk unfortunately now appear to be acting as sink areas for juvenile Goshawk bred in the Border Forests, where there is much less persecution but also less medium-sized avian prey. Such actions probably increase Honey Buzzard breeding success as the Goshawk is one of its predators. However, as said before, we are not farming Honey Buzzards which have to take their chance with the Goshawk, just as they do in a natural balance on the continent. The outcome for the 2006-7 seasons was similar.

Welli was very much more exciting yesterday with tripartite of lovelies doing the quiz!!

January 27th: starting to sort out India photos to put in the detailed report. Preview from Goa is 2 shots of Black Kite 1  2 which are so so tame, an elephant ride at a real grockle trap and relaxing at a beach bar. We actually stayed in beach huts (mine’s left upstairs!) on Palolem Beach in Goa for a week at 1,000 rupees each a night (£14). Weather was beautiful throughout: 34-35 deg C (mid-90s deg F), low humidity and no rain. Marking seems endless but did make Nero at lunchtime (b….y substitute in place!) and also bought a new chainsaw – helps to keep the cats in order! Will make Welli tonight and Friday. On Thursday in early evening have got old friends visiting from New Zealand and it’s back to roots at weekend. Goshawk summary due soon will complete license return for 2008: results for this species are dreadful. Funeral is next Tuesday at the Abbey: a day of celebration we’ve been instructed.

January 26th: spent most of yesterday marking and this activity will continue today at work and on Tuesday at home. Elektra was a brilliant tragedy (appropriate as it turned out) with marvellous Wagnerian intensity and star singer Susan Bullock in the title role with proven ability as Brünnhilde and Isolde elsewhere. Popped into Welli on way home for a swift couple and enjoyed the bar chat! However, shocked on arrival home to hear that one of my best friends in Hexham David had passed away rather suddenly from a recurrence of the leukaemia. He has been a very good friend to myself and the family as a whole over the last few years and he will be very much missed.

And now here is a summary of Hobby data for 2008:

Area

No. sites

No. adults

Breeding Category

Juveniles

Conf

Prob

Poss

 

Local-fledge

Also seen

Devil’s Water

1

1

0

0

1

0

0

Allen

3

4

0

1

2

0

0

Upper South Tyne

5

5

3

0

2

4

0

Lower South Tyne

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Tyne

3

2

1

0

2

1

1

Derwent

3

4

1

1

1

1

0

Total

15

16

5

2

8

6

1

Table 10: Breeding Data for Hobby in SW Northumberland by area in 2008

Perhaps because of the poor weather in August and early September it was a poor year overall for breeding success with only 6 young known to fledge (1×2, 5×1+). However, the number fledged is undoubtedly an underestimate as the Hobby sites are covered less systematically than Honey Buzzard sites. Further the number of sites occupied was a record at 15, suggesting that the species is consolidating its colonisation of the area. Overall the preference of the Hobby for moorland fringes remains very marked with 11 of the 15 sites being situated very close to heather moors. In lowland areas only four sites were occupied but there does appear to be a small viable population emerging in the eastern Tyne Valley.

January 25th: bit of culture this evening with Nick, going to the Sage to see Northern Opera perform Elektra by Richard Strauss. Promises to be intense, but does not contain the Dance of the Seven Veils, which is in Salome! Did go to Nero yesterday but all a bit quiet – much prefer weekdays!!

January 24th: and now here are the Honey Buzzard migrant totals for 2008. Table 7 shows the visible migration noted in 2008, together with comments on the overall picture.

Date

Time

Locality

Age/Sex

Count

Movement

11 May

11:25-12:35

Haltwhistle (upper South Tyne)

Adult male followed by adult female

2

To NE/N over Hadrian’s Wall

15 June

11:18

Gilderdale (upper South Tyne)

Adult male/female

1

To N, very high up

13 Sept

11:38-13:17

Stocksfield (Tyne Valley)

Adult female

4

To SE, singles exiting area at 11:38 and 12:52; to E of two birds arriving from NW at 13:17 and passing through

28 Sept

11:30

Stocksfield

Juvenile

1

To S, exiting area

28 Sept

13:40-14:30

Kiln Pit Hill (Derwent)

Juvenile

11

To SE/S, one SE at 13:40, 3 SE at 14:00, 4 SE at 14:20 and 3 S at 14:30. All passing through.

11 Oct

11:40-12:05

Greymare Hill (Derwent)

Juvenile

2

To S/SW passing through

Summary/

Comments:

         

May: 2

June: 1

Sept: 16

Oct: 2

11-12: 5

12-13: 3

13-14: 6

14-15: 7

 

Derwent: 13

Tyne Valley: 5

upper South Tyne: 3

 

Ad female: 5

Ad male: 1

Ad male/female: 1

Juvenile: 14

21

 

IN: 2 N, 1 NE

OUT: 10 SE, 5 S, 2 E, 1 SW

Most records are for migrating juveniles, hence late in season from 28/9-11/10; also significant exit of adults on 13/9

Mid-morning is always a good time for aerial activity in this species

Tyne Valley was again good this year; Kiln Pit Area looks very promising for further study

Juveniles are weaker fliers, so more obvious

A high annual total, boosted by counts in Derwent area

In autumn birds tend to go SE, rather than due S; in spring birds have strong N orientation

Table 7: Visible Migration Movements noted for Honey Buzzard in SW Northumberland in 2008

And below are the detailed results for 2008 for breeding Honey Buzzard. What a brilliant season it was. No wonder so many were seen on migration down the east coast of England and into Benelux!

Area

No. sites

No. ad-ults

No. nests

Breeding Category

Number young fledged

Conf

Prob

Poss

Devil’s Water

6

14

3

6

0

0

9 (3×2, 3×1+)

Allen

7

13

2

5

0

2

9 (4×2, 1×1)

Upper South Tyne

6

10

2

6

0

0

9 (3×2, 3×1+)

Lower South Tyne

2

3

0

2

0

0

4 (2×2)

Tyne

9

15

2

9

0

0

16 (7×2, 2×1+)

Derwent

5

6

0

3

0

2

5 (2×2, 1×1+)

Total

35

61

9

31

0

4

52 (21×2, 9×1+, 1×1)

Table 6: Results for Honey Buzzards in Northumberland by area in 2008

Overall the outcome for 2008 was of a very successful season, the weather perhaps turning wet too late in the season too affect productivity. However, the strain of rearing 2 young did seem to delay fledging with the first signs of fledging on 16th August and the first family party in the air seen on 22nd August. On 7th September two groups of 4 birds (adult male and female, 2 juveniles) were seen at 2 sites after the great floods on 6th September. So many birds were still on site at this stage. Juveniles continued to be seen in numbers through to 28th September when significant passage out of the area was observed.

The counting of fledged young was adjusted slightly this year: 2 juv indicates 2 juveniles raised; 1+ juv indicates that one juvenile seen but no family group was seen in the air so that there may have been another juvenile fledged; 1 juv indicates one juvenile seen in a soaring family group suggesting that no more young were raised.

More effort was put in fieldwork into the Derwent area where numbers of raptors are rising rapidly in response to a perceived drop in persecution levels. The eastern end of Tynedale around Prudhoe and Wylam was also studied more intensively than before. This perhaps added 5 extra confirmed sites in 2008 with 2-4 more to come in 2009 from a better understanding of these areas. Such areas are within the existing disturbance permit.

Productivity on existing sites was well up on previous years with 21 broods of 2, 9 of 1+ and only 1 of 1.

Survey effort was maintained throughout the season. In the 3 phases of display, nest/rear and fledge the number of sites at which the species was recorded was 33, 21 and 31 respectively. The dip in the middle is because of the greater secrecy of the species when nesting and with small young and the greater effort under the canopy in the middle phase with less opportunities for scanning.

In 2008 the survey of nest sites continued and nine nests were found. Four of these were in Scots Pine Pinus sylvestris, two in Norway Spruce Picea abies, two in Common Oak Quercus robur and one in Douglas Fir Pseudotsuga menziesii.

Will carry on fairly quickly with these summaries now. Anchor was good yesterday – 8 of us from the Welli, food was not bad at all and price reasonable. Passing through Kiln Pit Hill reminded me of the exciting new Honey Buzzard route found there: hope the planning application for wind turbines here gets thrown out.

January 23rd: added provisional diary from trip to India – it’s provisional and without photographs so still working on it to a large extent. Hexham was as good as anticipated yesterday with the fflooking ever more radiant!! Resumed owl survey, signs of a little more spring display! Also had good chat with l.sa in Centurion over trip and wr1219 continues to impress! Return to work, well — haven’t even reached end of mailbox yet! And marking pile is pretty daunting. But did make Hexham later: green continues to be my favouritecolour and something’s changed!! Going to Anchor in Whittonstall for birthday meal tonight, second celebration after first in India. Finally getting 2008 nest records sorted out so can apply for permit for 2009. After these are published here, will move on to a new noticeboard.

January 21st: got back to Ordley at 00:30 (06:00 Indian time) this morning off the 20:00 train from London Kings X-Newcastle. Got taxi to Delhi Airport at 10:00 Indian time so journey took 20 hours. Flight Delhi-London took 9 hours but 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. 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). Into work this morning but broke off early to go to the Globe where the Guinness was very refreshing as was the sight of the ff!! Tomorrow marking at home in the morning, going into office later.

January 20th: back in UK on schedule from grand tour of India visiting 1) in deep south Bangalore for International Whitehead Conference with safari at Bandipur Tiger Reserve taking in Mysore, 2) on Arabian Sea coast Goa for much sun, sea and sand, and 3) in the central north Delhi for the bustling city itself and for the Taj Mahal at Agra. Flew out by Virgin from London-Mumbai on 3rd and back by Virgin from Delhi-London on 20th. Had 4 internal flights in India: Mumbai-Bangalore, Bangalore-Goa, Goa-Mumbai and Mumbai-Delhi. Highlights: conference paper received well, 1,000+ individuals of over 25 types of bird of prey including many new species, weather dry and fine everywhere, good health throughout, met up with daughter as arranged at Goa Airport and we had a good time for rest of stay, Taj Mahal was really stunning. Lowlights: no Tigers!! Anyway very pleased to be back as have missed badly some aspects of life in Northumberland!! Full blog of India trip will be published later. Looking back on 2008 it was a good year for scientific publications at work (14) with the results of the national research assessment exercise for the School better than we dared hope, for the Honey Buzzard study (record numbers and productivity and second dramatic movement) and for finances (close to seven figures after revised trust settlement outweighed falls in house prices and shares; appointment as co-trustee is really winding up the other parties). Priority in 2009 is to relax and enjoy myself more!! Tonight to the Welli.

January 1st 2009: did publish yesterday the central part of the Honey Buzzard movement, showing that the Honey Buzzard did cross the North Sea in September, but from East Anglia to Benelux. Going to give it a rest now; there’s a lot more that could be done but let’s see what else emerges before trying to wrap it up. Need to have some other priorities! Saw New Year in, in Hexham, going to the County, Saathi and a house in Shaws Lane in Hexham for a party, which went onto about 3! Walked in from Ordley to Hexham – 5km in 55 minutes – 3 pairs of Tawny Owl, at Ordley, Letah Wood and Loughbrow. But fortunately got a lift home! So Happy New Year!!

December 30th 2008: finalising detailed account of Honey Buzzard movement from East Anglia to Benelux, expect to publish it tomorrow: at last, it’s taken a vast amount of time. Second presentation accepted at Bangalore – nothing like capitalising on the situation! To Hexham at midday: presented with walk past of the ff in glorious made-up mode and accomplice, who I thought was a heavy at first glance to sort me out! To Welli this evening, where good time meeting h and others – it’s not all study!! Tomorrow evening to Saathi with Hexham gang, meeting in some dive beforehand (County)!

December 29th: decided to add many of the raw comments to the Benelux timings page as these are very informative – completed. This morning made Dykerow Fell on Whitfield Moor for a 2-hour BTO atlas early-winter visit. This area is pretty featureless but good walking, particularly when the ground is frozen, but it was thawing near the end and the bogs were getting a lot harder to cross! Walked up to edge of Brown Rigg where views to N of Plenmeller Common and to W to Three Knights, a Merlin site. Just 4 species: Common Buzzard (2 birds), Raven (3), Stonechat (2) and Red Grouse. This pond looks nice for breeding Wigeon. Alas made Hexham too late for some critical purposes, but did manage to post the last cards and parcel and visit Nero and Waitrose. Didn’t realisesome offices are almost as laid-back as some other establishments! Tonight into Newcastle and tomorrow morning will need to see cleaners so into Hexham earlier. Later to Welli to keep my hand in! One person actually said ‘welcome back’ on Sunday!

December 28th: published totals for Honey Buzzard movement across Benelux on 13-14 September; analysis of such totals and further ‘decoration’ will follow quickly. They’ve taken ages to compile. Took a welcome breather across Hexhamshire Common this afternoon, walking the watershed from Devil’s Water to the Beldon Burn. Honey Buzzard sites are shown here, looking N, and here, looking E. This house at Riddlehamhope might be described by an estate agent as in need of slight attention! An interesting feature of the post-Christmas period is the Great Black-backed Gull patrolling the moors, looking for carrion. The only raptor seen was a Merlin, flying over the moor in a straight line at dusk. Took son to Newcastle Central midday – he starts new job at Herts University very soon. Mother-in-law leaves early tomorrow, also from Newcastle Central. Did make Welli tonight – thought r&m were battling it out well, considering some are resting! Hope to make Whitfield Moor tomorrow morning. So back to basics – what will the New Year bring? I already have my wishes!!

December 27th: still working on 14th September data on Trektellen, looks as if birds went powerfully across North Sea from East Anglia, moving high across coastal areas of Holland and inland areas of Belgium in very clear weather. Some birds which arrived in Benelux on 13th September may have rested for a while, resuming their journey very positively on morning of 14th. On Boxing Day went to d&r&j in Hexham for many hours, having very good time and meeting up again on New Year’s Eve! Today got up at 04:45 to take daughter to airport, went to Haltwhistle in morning to see r&a but when we arrived there at 11:30 they were in Ordley – communication failure! This afternoon went to Riding Mill to p&j for a few hours with the Welli crowd before having a quick break-out as a walk in irresistible Stocksfield and going to the Travellers with son and mother in law for a meal this evening. Will be seeing daughter 7,701km away in the not too distant future! Relations largely left by tomorrow, when expect to make the Welli!

December 25th: maps do show information clearly as long as it’s acknowledged that the arrows have a margin of error in their exact positions. What is clear is that the birds moving over England on 13-14 September, crossing the North Sea into Holland and Belgium on the same 2 days and then flying rapidly through France on 14-16 September were ‘shock troops’, showing a coherent and decisive strategy for a rapid exodus after a late breeding season. The majority of these birds must have been adults, making from eastern and north-eastern England to the Spanish border of France in 3-4 days of flight! Weather in France was ideal for a swift crossing. Juveniles would have been much more hesitant and chaotic in their exodus, as in 2000. On Christmas Eve went to Globe at teatime, fetched son at 22:00 from Newcastle Central and then went to the packed Black Bull for a swift couple where pleased to meet somebody! Today first to church at St Helens with celebrations then lasting most of day starting with Bollinger champagne! Wine rack is now half-full (if you’re an optimist!). Busy social agenda for next 2 days. Seasonal greetings xxx, perhaps to some more than others!!

December 23rd: experimenting with various ways of representing the Honey Buzzard movement to Benelux. Tables don’t really work as too complex; may be best to assemble all the data and comments in an appendix style file and use a map with arrows and times on it for presentational purposes. Today into work for IML party – the 5th and final one of the season at work. Decided to post last cards in Hexham for strategic purposes: splendid sighting!! Solved tree problem by decapitating a Sitka Spruce in the corner of the garden. But there’s still the inevitable shopping; determined to get into Hexham though for the odd social visit!

December 22nd: tidied up a number of pages provisionally published on Honey Buzzard 2008 movement to bring them up to date on figures for movement in UK and the unusual nature of the movement in western Benelux. Good visit to Hexham: such elegance, will be much missed!! Collected mother-in-law from Newcastle Central mid-afternoon and daughter from Airport late evening with meal at Welli in between with m&s: three courses were very satisfying. Other than mutterings about lack of tree and turkey, visitors seem pretty satisfied! At least the wine rack is full! Tomorrow into work for last time for quite a while.

December 21st: finished analysingtiming of movement of Honey Buzzards for 13thand 14thSeptember in East Anglia and in Holland and Belgium. The heavy movement near and on the coast of Holland and Belgium is evidently far more unusual than I had thought, showing perhaps the determination of the species to minimiseinvolvement with the sea. It looks as if birds from England made their sea crossing from East Anglia to Holland and Belgium rather than wait until further south with the movement in southern Benelux several hours later than in East Anglia. This is not drift but a necessary crossing of the sea in order to migrate. The winds were temporarily west over Essex but some birds may also well have crossed in the light and variable winds to the north. The crossing this far north also explains why the movement through south east England was relatively light at the start of the movement. Pages with full details will be posted soon. Today kept up the Sunday fitness scheme with more winter atlas work in NY75. Weather was mild and wild! Visited Ninebanks for 2 hours where valley was pretty sheltered but also did some higher moor walking for an hour where it was not my hair day! Revision from previous 2 weeks: this is first-class Honey Buzzard site and this is second-class. This picture shows 2 sites occupied very early in the Common Buzzard colonisationin the early 1990s. Had a total of 18 species, including Black Grouse and single Kestrel and Common Buzzard, the latter hanging over a wood with some style in the strong wind. Tonight to Welli for a couple – very nice!! Tomorrow starting to assemble relatives at Ordley for Christmas!

December 20th: at last started writing up the sequel to the Honey Buzzard movement through England in September 2008. Term finished yesterday with party in afternoon but still working a couple of days next week with dta on Monday. Good to see life goes on in Hexham! Staying up here for New Year now as arrangements for Devon trip were getting a little complicated. Tomorrow might get out early to Whitfield Moor if weather OK. Some side effects from the vaccines yesterday (or was it the pseudo champagne!) but did make the Welli. Totally disorganised with Christmas arrangements: might write some cards soon!

December 18th: well weren’t the RAE results brilliant for the School with a much improved rating of mostly 3* on the new scale; I was entered as one of 14 researchers in General Engineering, the only computing person to feature. So a lot of celebration over the next day or two! For the School it means more status, grants, money and overseas research students. Yesterday (17/12) went to the Tap wake in Hexham, which was very lively. If it had been like that more often, there would have been no need for a wake! Tuesday evening (16/12) went to the quiz at the Welli where there were certainly some very welcome and beautiful ingredients but … Back to Honey Buzzards this evening, finished teaching until late January but a stack of marking to do.

December 16th: clearing decks for writing next instalment on Honey Buzzard movement: sending off journal paper to Kybernetes this morning from dta and setting final assignment on masters module. HBOS seem very keen on sending out letters – about one a day at the moment – latest giving me 22p a month off mortgage, way off a pint of Guinness even! Bought more shares in them yesterday (in market of course) to avoid being diluted. Cropping was much better this morning!! Four vaccinations in 2 jabs earlier: typhoid, diphtheria, tetanus and polio. Also need anti-malarial pills but daughter can get these and rabies is evidently a problem so don’t go out in the wilds on your own. As if I would! She said the latter to me in many different ways: think she thought I was not taking it in! Will need yellow fever again (the jab that is!) if go to Africa next year.

December 14th: snow seemed to be worse in Hexhamshire than anywhere else with back ‘garden’ looking like this at 11:00. Later went west, where the fog had lifted, to do more BTO atlas work on Whitfield Moor, covering the area around Parmentley. This was lower ground than last week so 13 species recorded, including Common Buzzard, Green Woodpecker, Jay and Stock Dove. The upper West Allen was one of the first areas in Northumberland colonisedby Common Buzzard in the early 1990s. This wood in an intensive game-rearing area had 6 successful breeding species of raptor last year: Honey Buzzard, Hobby, Red Kite, Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel, with Merlin on fells nearby. This wood at 300-400 metresasl was also occupied by Honey Buzzard in spring 2008 but don’t think anything came of it: probably a non-breeding pair. Did make some higher ground at the end in a 3 hours walk with more snow than last week but with a softer base. Total for trip was 3 raptors of 2 species: 2 Kestrel and a Common Buzzard. Tonight to the Welli where very good service and entertaining, almost like an Irish bar! Also there for the next 2 nights, having a meal there tomorrow. Fairly relaxed start to the week tomorrow, dta on Tuesday and final teaching for the term on Wednesday and Thursday. Oh joy!! There’s a big news day on Thursday with plenty to talk about at School Research Management Group!

December 13th: lips are sealed on next Honey Buzzard section! Hope to finish it by next Saturday. Snow falling as update this, settling everywhere, and playing Sibelius CDs, very atmospheric! Day catching-up with home matters: fixed new towel rail (it works, l&s will be amazed!), sorting out bills including standing order to Torquay United Supporters Club (honest!) and charity payments to Greenpeace and RSPB, and still working on the paper from Poland. Trying to get house sorted for visitors at Christmas. Like latest fb photo, very lively, would have cropped it differently!! Visa for India has arrived and visit to Hexham Hospital early on Tuesday for vaccinations. Thinking of submitting another paper to the conference in Bangalore as they’ve had some cancellations. Ordering book on Birds of Prey of the Indian Subcontinent by Rishad Naoroji; will be particularly interested in Oriental Honey Buzzard section. Tomorrow perhaps out for a spin to Whitfield Moor again and then to lower ground, perhaps Hexham.

December 12th: published on web pages the base data from Birdguides and the analysis of gross volumes, regional distribution and flight direction for the UK. Next step is going to be highly counter-intuitive for many British birders: be warned! Working hard on journal paper for Kybernetes due this Monday, resulting from visit to Poland in September. Meeting early today at 09:00 of PGR Directors with Deputy VC for research and on Wednesday afternoon of Graduate School Committee and appointed to select band on the Graduate School Exam Panel! But it’s not all work: Globe early evening on Wednesday, Centurion briefly on Thursday evening, Nero early evening today and Welli for longer tonight. Icy conditions continued on Thursday, having to borrow the verge on the Lamb Shield interchange on the way in! Did owl survey in freezing conditions, after working late: very stimulating! Highlight of birdwatching was 3 Waxwing moving SW over Stocksfield Station on Thursday at 09:50. But 2 late afternoon surveys have been disappointing!

December 9th: started writing analysis of UK movement of Honey Buzzard and soon realised this is not so trivial a task but hope to finish it by end of week. Main problem is age of birds, which is not clear through the movement from third-party reports, though do have a line on it. Tonight is Welli quiz night. Beautiful Raven in Hexham, with sibling!!! Yesterday (8/12) down to South Shields late afternoon to see David for research meeting. Went to an Italian restaurant Pieros afterwards; I like South Shields, it has an on-the-edge feel, much better than dilapidated coastal North Tyneside. Mother ‘phoned, asking how I was getting on with her instructions: to get married again and/or return to Devon! Might do the former but not the latter!

December 7th: great field trip today out to Whitfield Moor, doing BTO early-winter atlas visit for 2.5 hours on a very bleak tetrad with patchy snow cover and frozen ground, making walking easier than usual. Visibility was very good with views to S and N. The area visited is broken up by 2 large cleughs – Hope Cleugh and the intriguingly named Great Willy’s Sike! These are good for birds in the spring and summer but today just a single Stonechat. Other 4 species were all game birds: Pheasant, Grey Partridge, Red-legged Partridge and Red Grouse (27 of last-named!). This shot shows that several layers of clothing are necessary against the wind! You’re never far from a Honey Buzzard site in SW Northumberland: combination of woods and heather is compelling! Later went down to the Tyne Valley to Stocksfield, where met Ronnie who pointed out the similarity between Bonelli’s Eagle and Honey Buzzard in general proportions: this was noted in Crete where saw the former only. Many more birds in the Tyne Valley than on the moors, as expected. Raptor total for day was 4 of 2 species: 2 Common Buzzard and 2 Kestrel. It’s a very laid-back time of year!!

December 6th: converted details of BirdGuides counts in the spreadsheet into a publishable document, which will be put on web site very soon. This will shortly be joined by some summary tables and an analysis. Virtually finished the hedge cutting by doing the roadside and had 2 new tyres fitted to the Ka: existing ones were legal but perhaps need better in current weather. Met my opposite PGR Director for Health in Nero; he comes from Exmouth, the other side of the Exe from me, and also knows southern India well. Intriguing Rook! Tomorrow breaking out with walk on Whitfield Moor in the morning for winter atlas, hopefully followed by trip to the Tyne Valley to see some real birds, as there will not be many on the moors. Will make the Welli tomorrow!

Agree 100% with Lee Evans’ comments in a message on Surfbirdsnews (4/12/2008 20:40): “As you are also very well aware, ‘buzzard’ identification is problematical at the best of times and there has been an awful lot of misidentification this autumn regarding Common and European Honey Buzzards. I have seen photographs on tour leader websites wrongly depicting these two species this autumn, as well as birds wrongly identified taken by professional photographers at well-known breeding sites. They really do provide an identification challenge and they are a lot more difficult to separate than a lot of people realise. So, to summarise, I would not be the slightest surprised if your suspicions are realised”.

December 5th: kicked-off UK Honey Buzzard counts with summary figures for September and October, with the former split into 3 sections. The totals for September of 898 and for the year of 1083 are pretty staggering, and it’s interesting to note that the May total in 2008 was a record for that month. Also got an enormous spreadsheet with many, many figures in it which is going to be presented soon in a table as a formal analysis of the movement. Having done 5 days work in 4, just about getting back onto an even keel. ‘Phoned up by HBOS – want to know which way I’m going to vote (for!). Told them their 349-page book on the acquisition was a bit short on detail in places, particularly on securitisation, which they’re evidently looking into! Weather has been scary this week – snow falls, melts and freezes – so a number of slides and skids, best yesterday morning in Hexham on Dipton Mill Road, which was like a glacier! Thinking of travellingmore from Hexham Station while train service is c.ap. Great concert on Wednesday (3rd) with the very moving and technically difficult Rach 3 superbly played by Alexander Kobrin. Nice views in Hexham today!!

December 2nd: finished compiling the totals for Honey Buzzard in the UK in September 2008 by region, flight direction and any other information supplied. Bit of culture tomorrow may delay further work! Sending off for visa for India tomorrow and went to Hexham Hospital late afternoon to sort out vaccinations, could be as many as 6 plus anti-malaria tablets! Blood pressure was definitely raised after trip to Hexham!! Oriental Honey Buzzard are found on all the reserves and parks around Bangalore so hoping to get some good shots. They’re supposed to be heavier than European Honey Buzzard so I’m expecting them to look quite similar in size and structure to birds at Northumbrian breeding sites i.e. fatter than some of the skinny efforts on migration or on first arrival on breeding grounds. No dta today, too many appointments at work but better next week. Into week 10 of term now, 2 more teaching weeks after this week!

December 1st: back from visit to Devon, flying with Flybe from Newcastle-Exeter, hiring a Ford Fiesta from Avis and staying with mother in Dawlish. Planes were pretty much on time: Saturday morning was a little late but it was very frosty; Monday evening was right on time. Also saw quite a few other family including kids: it was an unplanned mini-reunion! May need to visit Devon more often in view of position down there. Weather was beautiful today but did not get much time outside with only 2 Kestrel and 2 Common Buzzard to report for the trip as a whole. Almost completed first-cut analysis of Honey Buzzard movement in UK (29/30 days done in September). Will soon have a guesstimate at number of birds involved and reveal a very interesting twist, which is going to be a bit of a shock to my opponents.

November 29th: found the perfect spot for assessing drift migration potential in Honey Buzzard across the North Sea – the wee island of Helgoland in the German Bight. A very interesting paper has been found in Vogelwelt, which shows that the small number of Honey Buzzard drifted there mostly return to the continent. This is all now added to the Movement in 2008 area of the home web page. Analysing more days now in the movement within the UK: it’s a lot more interesting than in 2000 in many respects! Yesterday two visits to the dentist in Prudhoe, where I’ve been going seen lived in Stocksfield, one for check-up, other for SP, and all OK. Why though does 10 minutes of treatment seem like an hour? Hexham was very good! To Welli last night, and it’s ooh aargh! xxxx!

November 27th: researching Honey Buzzard movement in the German Bight, where very few birds present on limited data in September 2008 and the direction of movement at the critical time is from east of Jutland towards Benelux. Information and maps are on the Denmark page for the movement in 2008 with an extra column added to the table for the partial data from Germany. So that completes the survey on the North Sea coasts with no source found. However, have also been looking at a number of other papers and more details on the continental records, which are very, very interesting!! Also added a sentence to the summary: In any event, it is most unlikely that the endangered Swedish population of Honey Buzzard is a source of our migrants when, for most of the 20th century when Swedish populations were much higher, much smaller movements occurred in the UK. Made the Globe last night — good turnout! Working hard today as want a bit of flexitime tomorrow for a dentist appointment in Prudhoe and a bit of fresh air. Planning to fly to Mumbai fairly soon — perhaps the safest place in the world by then, hope so! Will continue with arrangements, anyway.

November 25th: from 13/9-16/9 about 485 Honey Buzzard were reported on BirdGuides in the UK (including in notes where another species was the main report); 475 were in the five main regions analyzed: NE, SE, SW England, East Anglia and Midlands; 310 of the 475 were reported moving on compass points from E to W via S with 144 on trek (no direction specified, including in-off) and the remaining 21 going in other directions or at rest. Of the 310 moving on compass points from E to W via S, 257 (83%) were going S/SE/E and only 53 (17%) SW/W. This is as in the 2000 movement. The suggestion is that if the birds were spreading inland from the coast, then we should expect many more moving SW/W. Also note that only 18/475 birds, that is 3.8%, were recorded as in-off. Both adults and juveniles were noted. East Anglia had the most reported with 207 birds, followed by the North East with 168. Only very obvious duplicates have been eliminated. This analysis will be continued for the remaining days in the month. Got paper off last night at 22:00 and just made last train. Today Hexham was very good: put on Nero’s Christmas list, met David’s daughter and ff looked stunning. Fortune does favour the brave!! To Welli tonight in spite of ridiculously early start tomorrow.

November 24th: resuming work on the September movement of Honey Buzzard within the UK; it’s amazing as in 2000 how many birds are moving south and how few are moving west. There are also some adults involved in the movement. Will include other raptors such as Common Buzzard. 30 years ago raptor migration in September on the east coast was a dull affair, now it’s so exciting but continental populations are largely unchanged: it’s the British ones that have exploded. Will also look at passage in Sweden away from Falsterbo where I’ve got records from the day book for Sweden as a whole. Very little birdwatching yesterday as polishing final paper for International Journal of Computing Anticipatory Systems on which had final meeting with Mike today: paper has to be off tonight so working late in the office. And continued hedge cutting, partly for neighbours so they’ll look after the cats! To Welli last night and it was very sociable. Tomorrow will be less frenetic, with dta. Does fortune favour the brave? Car passed MOT first time, no bother!

November 22nd: researched Falsterbo passage in 2008 and it’s one of the poorest years on record with only about 2,462 on passage from 15/8-7/10: 1,499 in August, 962 in September and just 1 in October. Figures were extracted from daily counts on the SkOF site and put as an extra column into the Denmark page. There’s little doubt that some birds exit Sweden to Zealand in Denmark further north at Helsingør but everything points to a Swedish population that is is in continual decline, and therefore on a statistical basis most unlikely to be a source of the increase of Honey Buzzards in Britain. Also checked records on north and west Jutland coasts around the critical time of 11/9-14/9 and there’s very few Honey Buzzard moving. Trektellen counts from 12/9-14/9 were also re-checked and it’s clear that the progress SSW is very smooth well-inland through Benelux with very small numbers on the coast around The Hague and virtually none in Friesland which would be a possible springboard to cross to the UK. Some good historical records have emerged, particularly from the 19th century when thespecies was commoner in Northumberland as well. Yesterday to Well as usual, need some nursing perhaps! Today more hedge cutting and made mistake of visiting AGM of a political party in Hexham and being made data officer!

November 20th: more heat than light in the debate! Posted very revealing data on Swedish Honey Buzzard populations having massive declines and low productivity, so few juveniles and hardly a likely source of our birds. No response on this yet, just ad hominem!! Made the Globe in Hexham in good time yesterday and had a drink with David for the first time since his illness, which was very good. ff looked splendid! Long day at work today but owl survey afterwards was a good break! A Tawny was flushed in Dipton Wood. Car has MOT tomorrow: keep fingers crossed!

November 18th: fan mail continues, quite incandescent this morning until chief protagonist apparently withdrew at 11:08 agreeing he’d been vanquished. Next stage is the analysis of movements within the UK in September 2008 which is well under way. Met David, ex-PhD student of mine, for dinner at Marco Polo (where else, the staff are fantastic!!), followed by trip to Red House. Earlier to Hexham where enjoyed the all too brief sightings, going to Nero and a stroll in the park! Tomorrow afternoon chairing School Research Committee, briskly I hope, so can get back to Hexham! Worried about a story in local paper last week. Torquay United go top of Blue Square Premier – what a day!

November 17th: published first part of analysis of 2008 Honey Buzzard movement on main web page covering continental movements, basically showing continental origin is very unlikely. Rave reviews already but the science is with me!! Yesterday to Whitfield Moor for winter atlas; it was poor for raptors with 3 birds of 2 species: 2 Common Buzzard and one Sparrowhawk, the latter nicely flushed by a mad passing female motorist! There seem to be a lot around compared to the polite male variety! On the moor walked about 10km seeing just 6 species: Red Grouse, Black Cock (!), Wren, Stonechat, Snipe and Meadow Pipit. Video of moor shows a Red Grouse chuckling, Haltwhistle (where used to live and learnt a few tricks!) and a Honey Buzzard site. Still shows another site and beautiful autumn colours: aren’t the moors marvellous? To Welli later for a couple and good service! On Saturday (15/11) the ffappears to be running 2 offices now! I think she’s in demand! Met k again! Cutting hedges in earnest, finishing off painting outside and changed bulb on car.

November 15th: from satellite tracking, a second paper on the Lund site confirms the narrowness of the migration routes of adult Honey Buzzard. Juveniles wander a bit more but their direction is more south, rather than tracking W to Gibraltar, making it very unlikely that they will cross the North Sea. Paper is: Hake, M, Kjellén, N, & Alerstam, T, Age-dependent migration strategy in Honey Buzzards Pernis apivorustracked by satellite – OIKOS 103:341-349 (2003), available here. Concert on Thursday (13/11) was brilliant: great to see Juliet starring on the flute in the concerto – no ‘man’ is a prophet in his own land – and Tchaikovsky 4 shows the Northern Sinfonia is graduating as a symphony orchestra. Kept up the owl survey afterwards! Doing my bit for Anglo-Indian relations at work, in preparation for visit. Finally bought scanner yesterday (14/11), a CanoScan 4400F, and installed it successfully under Vista in about 30 minutes. Got it from Jessops in Newcastle, along with an 8GB memory card which will hold about 1,800 shots on the Canon 400D during the trip to India. Staff there are very helpful and charming! Main aim of the scanner is to take printed literature on the Honey Buzzard in languages such as German and Dutch, put it into PDF, extract the text, place it on the web and translate (first-cut) into English. Here’s the cover page of the first text. But it will also scan slides and film. Also went to Nero to make the morning more stimulating and Waitrose (12:19) before going into work. Made Welli in evening and great to meet s again!!

November 13th: Map of Honey Buzzard juvenile migration routes from Sweden in Alerstam paper is very revealing. It shows a narrow path moving SSW for the sample of 61 birds, across the base of Denmark, then mainly through Germany and eastern extreme of Netherlands, concentrating to east of Pyrenees and Italy before crossing Mediterranean to Africa. There is no significant westward drift with just one record in the UK and none in western France and nearly all of Iberia. Paper is: Thorup, Kasper, Alerstam, Thomas, Hake, Mikael, & Kjellén, Nils, Can vector summation describe the orientation system of juvenile ospreys and honey buzzards? – An analysis of ring recoveries and satellite tracking, OIKOS 103: 350–359 (2003), available from Migration Ecology Group, Lund University, Sweden, here. There are other obviously very useful papers from this group on their website. Met somebody on the train who’d not seen for ages earlier today (she’s a new GB inhabitant!). Yesterday train behaved itself and made the Globe. One aspect on arriving was rather intriguing. Nice pair of tits on walkthrough. A bit of culture tonight!

November 11th: following up work by Thomas Alerstam from Denmark who has published a book on bird migration, which includes a lot of material on the physics of the flight modes; he has also published a paper in 2003 comparing routes of Osprey and Honey Buzzard juveniles out of Scandinavia to Africa. Perhaps not surprisingly the Honey Buzzard appears to have perfected a very precise migration strategy (clock-and-compass), using minimal amounts of energy. Indeed Honey Buzzards show a very predictable path with little deviation at start unlike Osprey. Not much surprise there then!! Mixed feelings about weekend away – obviously good for variety, but does disturb rhythms at home. Today set an assignment at home in the morning, enjoyed the saucy sights in Hexham at lunchtime and later at work interviewed prospective PhD students from Nigeria over the ‘phone up to 20:00. Skipped Welli for a change. Tomorrow must hope for better management of the cattle!

November 10th: back from trip to London, travelling by train and staying with elder sister in Ealing. Just one expedition to the Chilterns, to Hambleden on Saturday afternoon (8/11) where had 22 Red Kite in the air at one time in presumed pre-roost activities. Total for trip was 42 raptors of 4 species: 39 Red Kite and single Common Buzzard, Kestrel and Tawny Owl. The concentrations of Red Kite are really fantastic! Met son twice, for more than a couple at the Chandos, Leicester Square, on 8/11 and to hear Czech love songs movingly sung by Magdalena Kožená at the Barbican on 9/11, latter preceded by good meal at Pizza Express, Clerkenwell Road. Daughter had been whisked away to Chicago! Mother is quite poorly, will be visiting Devon soon, appointed as co-trustee of her affairs. Working on UK Honey Buzzard records on BirdGuides for weekend of 13/9-14/9. The in-off records in East Anglia and Lincolnshire which have been cited as being of continental birds are problematical from any point of view. There are not very many and too many are on the north Norfolk coast, facing the Wash, or on the north Lincolnshire coast, facing the Humber! Is there any hope left for the continental-origin mystics? Tomorrow hit the ground running with dta in the morning!!

November 7th: refuted Birdwatch article, at least for those contributors who were postulating a movement from the continent. Congratulations to the contributors from Scotland, East Anglia and South-East England who evidently thought about it a bit more! Still a few strands to tidy up but moving closer now to publishing full article on the movement in 2008. Writing the positive side – where the Honey Buzzard actually came from – is really a piece of p.ss! Busy day at Nero in Hexham with Philip this morning, but no exciting displays sad to relate; at School Learning and Teaching Committee at lunchtime, presenting professional doctorates; and last but not least at Welli this evening. So now family affairs call, but not for long!

November 6th: looked at weather in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Weather Underground from 12/9-21/9. As indicated by charts winds were E/ENE from 12/9-17/9, NE from 18/9-19/9, W on 20/9 and NE on 21/9. So on the surface promising for the Spiral Model for Honey Buzzard migration. But the winds were not strong, declining steadily from 26km/hour on 12/9 to 16km/hour by 17/9 and only 8km/hour on 19/9. Further we know from the actual counts in Denmark that the winds were not even strong enough to drift many birds into Jutland, let alone over the North Sea. Train journey in was much more interesting, with break to collect automated cat management system (some hope!) at the Metro Centre. Went to concert tonight at the Sage with Nick after meal at Marco Polo where Mike also joined us. Fauré’s Requiem was beautifully sung by the Northern Sinfonia chorus. The solo violinist was superb (and fit!). Owl survey continues: walk in the night air is very stimulating!!

November 5th: now moving onto detailed criticism of some of the content (by no means all) in the last Birdwatch, followed by producing more detail on the UK movement of Honey Buzzard in a similar way to that for Denmark (regional breakdown and direction of birds). Wednesday has its downside, getting up at 06:30, but do look forward to the sights and social life in Hexham in late afternoon. But not today – tragedy, literally – with a bull knocked down on the track east of Wylam! So 16:24 train from Newcastle arrived Riding Mill at 18:30! Made the Globe for a quickie but missed out otherwise including seeing David on his very welcome return from illness. What a s.d! Bit of singing tomorrow!

November 4th: published page on Honey Buzzard movements in Denmark, UK and Benelux. This does not support at all a case for immigration from the continent with migration there progressing as normal, relatively few birds on the North Sea coasts and a very late migration in the UK not matching records elsewhere by any standards. Paper accepted for conference in Bangalore and got conference fee off today from Lloyds in Hexham to keep them happy. Very distracted today by double trouble in Hexham: the ffwith her sister!!! To Welli tonight – not bad, again good service! Still waiting for comeback on the webzine: or is this the sword that finally destroys the opposition?

November 3rd: completed compilation of Danish and Dutch records for every day in September, with split in Denmark between Jutland in the west and the islands in the east. What is clear is the low proportion of birds that coast down the eastern side of the North Sea and how normal everything appears in the movement S. Should publish these figures tomorrow. Into Hexham early this morning to submit passport application so as to get visa for India trip in time. Usual attractions were noted!! Then into work until late. Tomorrow on dta and have a couple of concerts in the next 10 days or so at the Sage. Should make one further point on the raptor id in Bedfordshire (2/11): the bird was originally thought to be a Marsh Harrier. I’m a great sceptic of all Marsh Harrier records inland in Northumberland: this will not encourage me to change!

November 2nd: a great break with trip to Holy Island today in all-day sunshine and brilliant light. Met quite a few birders there – very sociable! Total for raptors was 5 birds of 3 species: 3 Kestrel and single Merlin and Long Eared Owl, the last flushed at about 2 metresfrom rough vegetation near the Lough. Also had at the wild Snook a Lesser Whitethroat and on the edge of the vast Goswick Sands a flock of 30 Snow Bunting. The number of birds on Fenham Flats as the tide covered the causeway was as usual fantastic. With autumn approaching, my favouritecolour is green! Did finish book on Friday (31/10) at 19:00, after spending most of the day in Durham visiting Mike, what a sweat but should be viable for a few years! To Welli on Friday night – all very good – full house, and good service! Have publicly commented on latest Birdguides article on the Kestrel migration, which has a rather reckless comment in it on the Honey Buzzard coming from Scandinavia. It was very fortuitous that somebody else had commented on the raptors seen from a boat in the North Sea around 12/9-15/9, which (not surprisingly) did not include any Honey Buzzard. Also found that no Honey Buzzard have been recorded at any oil rigs in the North Sea this September. Comment is in webzine. I’ve been accused of being devious in not alerting anyone earlier on this page to North Sea oil rig and ringing issues: but a sound legal maxim is you don’t play allyour best cards at the start!! The issues are of course covered in detail on the 2000 movement. Again doing some work on house on Saturday (1/11) and sorting out quite a few piles of papers. Answered a query on Honey Buzzard id from Bedfordshire: it was clearly a juvenile Honey Buzzard from the stills. A famous member of the 400 Club had identified the same bird as Common Buzzard from one observer’s photos and Honey Buzzard from another’s! No real birdwatching on Saturday but thought I had a fleeting glance of a beautiful Rook!

October 30th: better day with good visits to Hexham and Newcastle! In spite of a 12-hour day from 10:00-22:00 still not quite finished book but it’s ever so nearly done now. Did make the Centurion for a swift couple! Owl survey was again interesting! Tomorrow to Durham for research meeting with Mike. Thinking of going to Holy Island at the weekend for a change from the moors! Scanner Perfection 1240U (well it was once!) needs replacing – it’s years old and software is not Vista-compatible. Need to get another one which can do both paper and slides, like the current one. They’ve come down in price enormously. With modern technology you can scan text in other languages, capture the text with OCR and then get a first-cut translation on the web, which is very useful as a lot of the Honey Buzzard literature is in Dutch or German. Spare time is soon going to go up rapidly so should get the Danish migration scene for Honey Buzzard sorted over the weekend.

October 29th: not much time for any further Honey Buzzard research but have got the Danish sightings into a useful order. Spiral Model advocates can fasten onto the 524 birds moving SW on 11/9 at Skansebakken but this is in Nordsjælland close to Helsingborg in Sweden and right on the eastern side of Denmark, some 900km from Newcastle. Numbers in Jylland (Jutland) are very much smaller so there’s very little action on the North Sea side of Denmark. It seems highly plausible that some of the birds exiting Sweden and east Denmark around 11/9 move into the eastern side of Holland on 13/9 in a move of about 500km to give the bulge in numbers there. Have records for Sweden from Dagens Fågel. The numbers moving in Denmark around 20/9 are very small when the second major movement was recorded in Britain. The Spiral Model advocates are going to have to work really hard to explain this. VC’s do yesterday went very well – met lots of fellow PGR directors and champers was good quality IMHO! Today made the Globe; good news later that David is back from the RVI and will be joining us again soon. Tomorrow have to finish the book – working late in the office again!

October 27th: well 3 hours on dta this morning and working in Newcastle from 14:00-21:00 rather dented work on Honey Buzzard but at least should make deadline of Friday for the distance learning book on Database Modellingand it’s looking good. Tomorrow going again to Civic Centrewhere invited to inauguration of new Vice-Chancellor! Very late Honey Buzzard flew S at Gibraltar Point today, probably worried about plunge in temperatures. Did start looking at Scandinavian migration patterns for Honey Buzzard this September, starting in W Denmark with NetFugl (search for Hvepsevåge). For those clutching at straws drowning looks increasingly likely as there are not that many birds moving and they’re nearly all going determinedly south, just like in England! But mustn’t get too far ahead! Of course 15 years ago you could easily say “They’ve come from Latvia” and it would take letters to local recorders and about six months before you could check it out. Now with the web reckless statements can be exposed very quickly, particularly for northern Europe where the observatories are so well organised. No interesting sightings today, anywhere, and I did try!

October 26th: getting closer to assassination of contrary (vague) ideas on Honey Buzzard migration. Below is draft for part of Birdwatch magazine review:

Let’s hypothesiseon the N Model. This supposes the birds leave the Continent around Holland and move NW to the north-east coast of England or possibly further south. To be plausible we would expect the birds to leave Holland in daylight hours on Friday, 12th September, probably in the afternoon, and cross the North Sea at night, arriving in time for breakfast the next day on Saturday, 13th September, rather like a North Sea ferry! It’s 450km from Amsterdam to Newcastle and 200km from Amsterdam to the Norfolk coast. So assuming a steady flight speed of 35km/hour it would take 13 hours to get to Newcastle and 6 hours to Norfolk. So the birds should arrive around dawn in Newcastle and well before dawn in Norfolk but of course they may be disorientated, spirallingaround in endless circles! Any broad-winged raptor is going to find such a flight, and particularly the one to Newcastle, a major challenge and not all birds would survive, ending up at oil rigs, in the sea or in a distressed condition on the land. So you would expect some very serious weather conditions to cause such a movement, particularly as we went through every year in the 20th century before 2000 without any significant movement at all. Two weather charts are shown here: a forecast for 12th September at 12:00 and the actual situation at 13:00 on 13th September. The first shows W winds over the southern North Sea with E winds further north. The second shows E winds over the southern North Sea and E winds further north turning S on the coast. The situation on 12th looks rather finely balanced so let’s look at the actual weather in Amsterdam using Weather Underground. This table, showing the weather hour by hour for 12th, reveals that the wind was light E in the morning, turning W 31.5km/hour about 13:00 with rain through to about 19:30. The wind slowly declined to 14.8km/hour W by 19:30 and continued W up to midnight. On 13th the table from Weather Underground shows that the wind was still basically W until about 08:30, moving to a constant ENE from 10:00 for the rest of the day. So it was wet with W winds in the southern North Sea at the critical time for any exodus towards the W or NW from Holland. So the hypothesis looks very weak from the Amsterdam weather point of view. Of course the times above for crossing the North Sea are based on calm weather; with a headwind all calculations are much worse for the safety of the birds.

We can virtually rule out an Amsterdam origin by looking at the maps for Honey Buzzard migration through Belgium and the Netherlands (Benelux) on Trektellen. These show for Wespendief (wasp killer!) that 58 passed on 12th, 981 on 13th and 862 on 14th. Better quality maps than these screen dumps 12/09   13/09   14/09 can be easily obtained directly from the Trektellen site. Since the circles are close together, there will be much duplication of birds but it is clear that a few hundred are on the move, generally keeping well inland and moving steadily south just as expected. So everything is proceeding normally on the continental side.

It looks as if the more clued-up birders in south-east England and East Anglia reporting in Birdwatch have already looked at the weather information and wisely ruled out a simple transfer from the near continent. So we need to next look at the weather further north in the North Sea and any reports of Honey Buzzard in this area. This will follow.

Got quite a lot done at home today, catching up from the extended summer season: cutting hedges and shrubs, painting windows outside and repairing parquet floor. Went to Welli tonight – lots of chatting! Placed redhead from yesterday – she worked at Welli as a waitress – very good credentials!! Work tomorrow in what promises to be a pretty busy week as deadlines approach!

October 25th: went to event at Civic Centre – 4 good talks, nice meal afterwards and only one facetious comment on Honey Buzzard. However, temperature plummeted whenever near member of NRG! I’m sure this group would hold a champagne party if I left the north-east, as they could take over my patch!! But I’m not going anywhere. Forming a Northumbrian Raptor Study Group is the only way out of this dysfunctional state. Was going to come back on last train but decided to catch the one before and pop into the Boathouse for a couple. I like that pub and its atmosphere, meeting somebody who used to be a barman at the Welli and still trying to place the redhead! Extra hour in bed tonight, sweet dreams!

October 24th: completed analysis of Birdwatch blog entry on autumn raptors: not really sure of what is the point of original article. Suspect it’s an attempt to put into the readers’ mind that because Kestrels cross the North Sea, then so do Honey Buzzard. But mustn’t be cynical! Have bought Birdwatch magazine for September 2008 where there is some sensible comment but also a particularly reckless account to comment on next. Also completed addition to BirdTrack of personal Scottish Honey Buzzard records back to their beginning in 2000 and have much more confidence in overall figures. New maps have been produced for Scotland and the UK. From computing point of view, can note the usefulness in preparing some of the materials presented here of taking a screen dump using the Print Screen key. Pressing this key copies the current screen onto the clipboard. The result can be pasted into a simple picture editor such as Paint and saved as a jpeg file. In some systems may also need to depress the shift key to achieve the dump. Working at home today but did make Nero for lunch and caught up on a few things, such as buying a few new clothes and painting the odd window. Tonight to the Welli – well it’s Friday. Tomorrow to Newcastle to bird club 50th anniversary at the Civic Centre, where must be on best behaviour! Might escape to somewhere more relaxing in the evening, perhaps somewhere different that is strategically placed on the way home!

October 23rd: ran out of steam today on Honey Buzzard movement analysis but working on one on the Birdwatch blog. Keeping my own powder fairly dry until literature review completed although the drift should be pretty obvious! A very long day at work finishing at 21:30 just in time to make the Centurion for a couple, where very pleased to see l… back again who’s been to India for a while and gave a lot of tips. Owl survey was definitely more interesting this week. May get a bit of fieldwork in tomorrow: attendance not required at masters exam board after a student who has been harassing me all week finally went quiet. May be vulnerable to feminine charm but highly resilient to aggression.

October 22nd: another account processed, this one much better researched from the Inner London Bird Recorder on BirdGuides. Some comments are at the end of the copy. Escaped from work early to get to the Globe in Hexham for a bit of tea-time refreshment! Tomorrow sees 5 hours of lectures and meetings on the trot and hope to finish some distance-learning material in the evening, to free-up the weekend! In England 3 Honey Buzzard flew S/SE yesterday – perhaps another week to go.

October 21st: another account of the 2008 movement analysedand criticisedthat from the Daily Telegraph. Another very busy day at work from home on dta with about 11 hours put in, but did make Nero at lunchtime and the Welli for the last part of the quiz. Both very good! Keeps you sane!

October 20th: time to start on the Honey Buzzard 2008 migration accounts, beginning with that in Birding World produced verbatim for the purpose of scholarship and appropriately criticised! Busy day today with about 12 hours spent compiling lecture material. Tomorrow working at home.

October 19th: back from very welcome 2-day break, going south with Nick to Scotland staying at Balcary Bay Country House Hotel in Galloway on the Solway coast where great views across the bay and such good food that will be fasting for a while! There is some perfect habitat for Honey Buzzard in the Dalbeattie area and had a walk in the thick of this at Doach Wood on 17/10. It’s a little far from Hexham for regular coverage – about 150 km – but must try and get back here next spring. On 18/10 had bright sunny day and did a 12km walk around Auchencairn, Rascarrel Bay and Balcary Point. In spite of being a long way west, had obvious visible migration of Redwing, Goldcrest, Skylark, Brambling and Rock Pipit with the highlight a female Sparrowhawk moving SE over the sea from Balcary Point. This point is very slightly S of Blanchland in Northumberland, hence well S of the flesh pots of Ordley! On 19/10 the Redwing were flying W in some numbers (over 200 per hour) along the Solway coast, presumably making for Ireland. The weather was deteriorating rapidly as we left with gales and rain so after a short walk in Kippford came home. Overall total was 19 raptors of 5 species: 11 Common Buzzard, 4 Kestrel, 2 Sparrowhawk (including migrant) and single Peregrine and Merlin (last two both from hotel). There’s little doubt that in the main migration period Honey Buzzard should be seen moving S from the southernmost points of the Galloway coast. Anyway quickly back to normal with Welli tonight, work tomorrow and some respite on Tuesday!

October 17th: three publications on the Honey Buzzard movement now – Telegraph blog, Birding World and Birdguides (London records). The Birding World one is noteworthy for its extreme brevity on what historically is a massive migration in Britain for the species: suspect that they cannot produce any meaningful discussion without ceding the case! Had 2 nights of concert at the Sage with St Petersburg orchestra – very good Tchaikovsky particularly the Pathétique last night. Slightly tired of the audience though; they’re so keen on clapping and clapping to get an encore but you cannot follow the tragic atmosphere at the end of the Pathétique with an encore so Nick and I fled to the Centurion for a quick pint of Guinness (3 minutes to be precise). Get your priorities right! No owls in Stocksfield! This morning got hair cut at John Gerrard in Hexham. The ff was very busy – are things on the up? Wee break now.

October 14th: shouldn’t really go out on Tuesday night as have 2-hour class from 09:00 each Wednesday but needs must!! Went to Welli for quiz night, and all very good. Did get back early from Newcastle but it was quiet in Hexham and resisted the Globe going to Waitrose instead! Started adding Honey Buzzard records to BirdTrack from visits to Scotland before 2006. This is going to produce a very interesting map for the country as a whole and more confidence in the total figures that I publish. Periodic Review involves a lot of feedback tomorrow afternoon and the Russians take over in the evening!

October 13th: long day at work from about 10:00 to 21:00; try to get all lecturing materials for the week sorted on Monday. Next 2 days is University Graduate School Periodic Review in which we’re hopefully being accredited! May get away a little earlier tomorrow as my session is in morning. Thinking a bit more on the maps, it is outrageous that the Honey Buzzard has re-colonised Britain without any management plan: they should immediately be ordered back to the continent! The ff continues to look very fit!! Another short trip to Scotland soon and, by popular request, to London in November to see the family rabble!

October 12th: another fine day but decided to get started on the backlog of tasks in the house and garden, getting 4 Common Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk as reward. In any event passage is always better on the first fine day, declining with subsequent fine weather. Bought Western Digital Book 640GB from Currys to replace current 232GB external drive, which is full and will be taken into work tomorrow and put in a filing cabinet for physical security. Could have got the Book a little cheaper on the Internet but the prospect of driving to some remote part of Gateshead to collect it did not appeal! Think the new one will last 2 years with camcorder on highest XP setting. To Welli in evening, fairly predictable until met I.. and drove him home: his unnamed girlfriend sounded vaguely familiar!! Added maps of personal Honey Buzzard findings to web pages (Populations Elsewhere/UK).

October 11th: great to be out in the field again. Went east, starting at Kiln Pit Hill which is only about 10km from Ordley by the direct route through the back roads. The Hill itself does have atmosphere with a church and a mausoleum on the top at about 290m asl. The view was again fantastic with very clear weather and, from 10:30-13:20, single Honey Buzzard juveniles were seen moving S at 11:40 and SW at 12:05. Again the wind was NW and this must create quite a lift over the ridge as the birds come out of the Tyne Valley, where they have presumably stopped to feed, and gain enormous height over the ridge before gliding down on the other side. Since we are very close to the end of the autumn migration, 2 birds at this time does support the idea that this is a major migration route, but much more work needs to be done. With the country narrow at this point and sizable populations to the north, it would be expected that there is a at least one site where you can reliably watch the birds migrate. The other significant route appears to be down the South Tyne. They do not appear to go down the Allen, over the ‘Shire or over Hedley, but some appear to go down the Tyne Valley from Stocksfield maybe finally turning S over Gateshead. Then went to the mound at Stocksfield for an hour but no further Honey Buzzard were seen. Day was also good for Red Kite with singles at two new sites: Kiln Pit Hill and Stocksfield Merryshields area. Overall total was 14 raptors of 5 species: 7 Common Buzzard, 2 Honey Buzzard, Red Kite and Kestrel and one Sparrowhawk. Extracted maps from BirdTrack for Honey Buzzard distribution across the UK from own observations and will publish these soon on web pages as a prelude to analysis of the 2008 movement. Beethoven concerts were completed well. Went with Nick, eating at Marco Polo and stopping off at the Lion in Horsley on the way back. The chorus, strings and woodwind were superb in the 9th symphony but maybe they need to pinch a horn player who’s passed the Wagner test! Next week it’s the Russians! Tawny Owl were obvious in Stocksfield (3 heard) with 2 more seen on the way home.

October 10th: nationally a few Honey Buzzard have been moving S during the last week; I’m starting to prepare a report on the 2008 movement to rest alongside the 2000 one. Having two year’s data on a large scale is very much better than one. Otherwise heavily into Beethoven with symphonies 1-7 seen and heard now in 4 evenings from 3/10-9/10 at the Sage and one more evening to go with the famous “once upon a time a bunny”! It’s great to see the Northern Sinfonia, a Tyneside orchestra, performing so well at international level and supported admirably by the public. Saw David at the RVI on Wednesday: he’s on his last round of chemotherapy. Made the Welli late last night and will be there again tonight. Some things change and others stay the same!!

October 7th: weather was grotty as expected so did quite a lot of work from home on desktop anywhere. Daughter left for London on 18:00 flight so off to airport again, getting a Common Buzzard and Kestrel on the way. Hexham does appear to be getting more into the centre of my social life with visits to the lively Nero at lunchtime and substitute Globe at teatime. If views of the back turn you on, then this was your day!! Added third and longer video of a Honey Buzzard juvenile soaring in the Wrocław area at Klodzko (2008-374).

October 6th: another very bright day but into Newcastle to take son to airport and another trip in from Callerton Parkway for a lot of work preparing lecture materials, suggesting to a few people that I’ve moved to Ponteland – not bl….y likely! Daughter leaves tomorrow, have wangled a bit of time at home at last but forecast is not good so no fieldwork in the countryside at least! Admire taste in Waitrose! Added second short video of Honey Buzzard in Wrocław (search for 2008-375 on video page with ctrl-F). Some research into India trip. Must include Bangalore (where conference is being held) but looking also at Bandipur National Park (near Bangalore), Goa and perhaps Golden Triangle near Delhi including Taj Mahal. Initial flight will most likely be by Virgin from Heathrow to Mumbai. Crested Honey Buzzard appears to be resident across southern India.

October 5th: supporting role for daughter in Great North Run today (she did it in 2 hours 27 minutes, raising £650 for Marie Curie, very good!). Organisation of event was efficient, took metro in from Callerton Parkway for third time in 3 days ending up in South Shields, and it was nice to see all the fit runners and the Red Arrows. There seemed to be more women runners than men. Tonight to Diwan-e-am in Hexham for massive recuperation (for one person anyway, indulgence for the rest!). Would have been nice to know what was going on in the Honey Buzzard emigration today, there must be a few birds left to work their way through. But suspect further definitive work on the A68 flyway may need to wait until next year. Added first footage from Wrocław of Honey Buzzard to video web pages – quite a lot more to come!!

October 4th: that was the week that was!! Had 3 Beethoven symphonies, a violin concerto and an overture in the last 2 evenings at the Sage with Nick, including the Eroicawhich must have been influential on Wagner – 6 symphonies to go by next Saturday. Daughter is staying now and after fetching her from the Airport yesterday, made the Welli (just!). We’re going to India in January where with some planning should connect with Oriental Honey Buzzard, now a species in its own right but once a subspecies of European Honey Buzzard. Son is coming up tomorrow. We’re going to Barcelona to see the Wagner opera Meistersingersnext April! Christmas will be spent in Northumberland. Interesting chat with Dave from Stocksfield on Kiln Pit Hill: he has seen in recent years what he thought were Honey Buzzard moving S over it. It would be a very exciting development to find the main migration route from Scotland and Northumberland. The long view last Sunday (28/9) from the hill looking north towards the Cheviots is shown here. There’ll be more time for other pursuits this coming week!

October 2nd: visitors left early evening – all business secured in very successful meetings! Tomorrow is pretty hectic with trips to Durham, Marco Polo, Sage, Newcastle Airport and Welli. Can anywhere else be fitted in? Interesting record for Honey Buzzard on Birdguides today of 3 in Lincolnshire – perhaps a strand from the movement seen in Northumberland last Sunday. There was another bird over Shetland today: I’ve been discussing the age of their birds with local observers. Over England weather has been unfavourable for movement with blustery NW winds. Hope to get out in the field on Saturday and next week is looking a lot more under my control! Updated Scottish totals from recent visit – now a total of 26 sites there – and at last processing some of the backlog of video including that from the Poland trip.

October 1st: German student today passed progression point comfortably – took the visitors to Marco Polo yesterday for meal, finally making Welli near end of the quiz. The Globe has emerged as the Tap’s successor. Beautiful pair in Hexham!! Missing fieldwork but actually you don’t have to go out in the countryside to get good wildlife. Here at work we have rabbits in the yard and a number of insects in the building, currently described as a biohazard! Tomorrow continues to be very busy, maybe Friday will offer the odd sighting!


The Southwards Model

The Southwards Model is very simple consisting of a single line. In this model it is thought that Honey Buzzard have a strong southward urge in their migration, with deviations only to avoid water crossings. For juveniles the southwards thrust is thought to be an instinct. Adults in moving south also use their experience to select the best route, such as to avoid long sea crossings of the Mediterranean which consume valuable fat reserves. So there are massive concentrations of the birds in autumn at Gibraltar and the Bosporus. Physics therefore supports this model as it is energy efficient, helping the birds to survive the migration. The model is also supported by observations across the whole of continental Europe: except for detours around water, the direction is south. The model does require a source, that is sizable populations of Honey Buzzard in northern Britain, but these have been found in Northumberland, Cumbria and Scotland where a population of 50 pairs was postulated in Birds of Scotland. The actual figure for Scotland is surely much higher. The model matches reality as Honey Buzzard populations in northern Britain were very small until the early 1990s, then increasing steadily until the present time. The extent of the movement seen each year will vary with productivity, weather and observer effort. High numbers of juveniles produced, as in 2008, increase the size of the movement. Winds against force the birds lower to the ground and slow down their exit as in 2000. Once a significant movement has started, the speed of modern communications ensures that observers are soon scanning the skies for more (as in both 2000 and 2008).

September 29th: what a day at work – descended upon by everybody! This week up to Thursday is looking very, very busy with German PhD student and entourage coming over for 3 days for progression report, followed by research meeting in Durham on Friday morning. So alas not much time for any fun!! But at least the weather is deteriorating so may not miss much in the field.


The Spiral Model

Any model should be testable. The N model can certainly be tested on a pretty good series of data going back to the start of the 20th Century. The model has a mismatch with reality in all but 2 out of about 110 years with no significant Honey Buzzard movement in Britain being very much the rule. Northern European populations have been fairly stable during this period, even declining to some extent recently, so these are a constant. In 2000 and 2008, there have been significant movements in Britain but these have been associated with the absence of source populations on the near continent, no records from North Sea oil rigs (in 2000) and apparently fit populations on southward migration in Britain. The model also involves the birds in a very dangerous migration strategy by the laws of physics. Realising these problems a few proponents of a continental origin have produced a vaguer model in which somewhere to the east, perhaps a long way off, the birds are somehow hoovered up into the sky by some freak weather and forced to circle around for a number of days, before landing on the east coast of Britain in pristine condition. The rules of this model are that the origin of the birds is unknown, the birds cannot land anywhere between their origin and Britain and the time in the air need not be specified. This model is termed the Spiral Model. Like the N model this model has only matched reality in 2 out of the last 110 years. It could be argued that it cannot be ruled out but this is because the model is so vague that it cannot really be tested. From the physics viewpoint, this model is very unsatisfactory: how do the birds survive such a long time in the air without food? Really this model is so fanciful and weak that it is better classified as faith, not science!

September 28th: woken up from sweet dreams at 09:20 by a flock of Pink-footed Goose going over S. I won’t tell you what I dream about but it’s not Honey Buzzards! Anyway made the mound at Stocksfield by 11:30 just in time to see a juvenile Honey Buzzard surrounded by Jackdaw move S at 11:40 over Shilford. Common Buzzard were everywhere with 15 counted over Stocksfield at 5 sites including 4 over Guessburn and over Merryshields. At 13:30 moved to the Derwent-Tyne watershed at Kiln Pit Hill and was treated to the best Honey Buzzard migration that I’ve seen in the UK with (all juveniles) one SE at 13:40, 3 together SE at 14:00, 4 together SE at 14:20 and 3 together S at 14:30. The birds were moving on a moderate NW wind in sunshine with good visibility following passage of a cold front: classical conditions for raptor migration in some areas. 11 birds in 50 minutes is amazing – the last 3 were flying very high and would have been missed if they had not appeared way up in the sky over a Sparrowhawk which I was trying to age. One further Honey Buzzard juvenile was nearby still on site so it’s not a complete exodus yet by any means though surely this does suggest many of the remaining juveniles in Scotland and Northumberland are now pulling out. Do they really follow the A68? Had to get back to get some shopping organised at Waitrose: I might even like shopping there! Total for day was quite incredible with 40 raptors of 4 species: 21 Common Buzzard, 13 Honey Buzzard and 3 Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. Note no Hobby: it might be the end. To Welli later, most enjoyable!! This week sees the start of teaching but hopefully there will be some time for other things!

September 27th: busy day in Newcastle with exam which went on from 12:00-17:00; outcome was not so bad after quite a gruelling time for the candidate. Later some of us went to Shamrox for the odd pint of Guinness for restoration! Very lively! Tomorrow will look for lingering and migrating Honey Buzzard and Hobby. Next weekend daughter is coming up to run the Great North Run and the Beethoven symphony concert series begins at the Sage, where booked up for all 9!


The N Model

People who speculate that the Honey Buzzard migrants come from the continent are often assuming a migration pattern like that in the N model. So after building up fat reserves and moving S in economical soar-glide mode, the birds then move NW across the North Sea consuming 20 times more energy per kilometre in flapping motion over water than soar-glide over land and exhausting their fat reserves. Without any ado (rather like the killer picking himself up in the film Halloween!) the birds then fly S as if nothing has happened, in soar-glide motion again. This scenario is ridiculous. If a bird did manage to cross the North Sea this way, it would be exhausted and would have to replenish its fat reserves before resuming migration. So we should have seen hundreds of disoriented birds keenly feeding in woods and fields in NE England. There are no such reports. The pattern above increases strongly the likelihood of a failed migration, leading to the death of the bird. Neither adults (who know the way) nor juveniles (who have a strong instinct to go S) would allow themselves to be drifted this way.

Date 2008

NE

EA

SE

Mid

SW

NW

Scot

Wales

Total HB (records/individuals)

Birdguides

3/10 Fri

 

1

           

1/1

2/10 Thurs

3

   

1

   

1

 

3/5

1/10 Wed

1

             

1/1

30/9 Tues

           

1

 

1/1

29/9 Mon

1

 

2

2

       

5/5

28/9 Sun

1

10

6

4

3

2

2

 

19/28

27/9 Sat

3

8

5

 

2

     

16/18

September 26th: excellent day out in the Derwent, catching up on many sites just before it’s too late. As said before if there were a star for most improved raptor area, the Derwent would win easily this year. Total was 22 raptors of 5 species: 11 Common Buzzard, 6 Honey Buzzard, 2 Kestrel and Red Kite and a Hobby, including one site in Tyne Valley. The Honey Buzzard were all juveniles, found at 4 sites (2,2,1,1) and often engaged in strenuous practice flights before their imminent emigration. Changes from today were one brood from 1+ to 2 in the Tyne Valley and a new brood of 1+ in the Derwent. The outcome from 2 sites in the Derwent is still unknown. One of the sites was in 10km square NZ05, south of Stocksfield and Prudhoe, the first time breeding has been confirmed in this square. The Red Kite (adult, juvenile) and the Hobby (juvenile) were close to Blanchland village where this picture was taken of yours truly in end of season appearance!. Will another Hobby be seen this year? Hopefully on Sunday but it’s getting late! Day’s fieldwork was split into 2 halves: from 10:30-12:10 and 14:10-17:20, which is not the way I always work but there were reasons and it was actually very profitable with many raptors seen in each half. In between had lunch in Hexham at Nero where could see all the gorgeous girl walk past!! Sadder news is the liquidation of the Tap – was only in there on Wednesday – is it the Globe, Mr Ant or what as replacement? Nationally Honey Buzzard migration continues at about 10 a day, which is still high for the time of year. The number still on site today suggest the movement will continue for a while. To Welli in evening – don’t think that’s going to be liquidated – which was particularly good at the start!

Date 2008

NE

EA

SE

Mid

SW

NW

Scot

Wales

Total HB (records/individuals)

Birdguides

26/9 Fri

2

2

4

 

2

     

10/10

25/9 Thurs

 

2

2

1

5

1

1

 

10/12

24/9 Wed

2

1

   

5

2

 

1

10/11

23/9 Tues

 

1

 

1

1

1

   

4/4

22/9 Mon

   

2

1

5

1

1

 

10/10

21/9 Sun

14

9

16

14

10

6

2

 

47/71

20/9 Sat

26

13

13

2

14

5

2

 

59/75

September 24th: did make the Tap in the end but alas rather late for some purposes! To try and wind up the Derwent and perhaps do a little migration watching, intend to get some fieldwork in on Friday as working Saturday. Nationally the trickle of Honey Buzzard migration was mainly down the west side today, presumably mostly Scottish birds. One over the Isle of Man had most likely crossed the sea from Galloway. Even Wales has recorded a migrant now! Have developed a model for calculating the rough numbers of birds involved in the emigration but it’s a secret at the moment!! Added some photographs of Skye below.

September 23rd: fieldwork in Hexham and Prudhoe was productive, former looking very seductive and latter giving from 10:40-11:40 6 raptors of 4 species: 3 Honey Buzzard and single Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. The Honey Buzzard over the excellent habitat south of Prudhoe included 2 juveniles up in playful manner over one wood and another juvenile at another site over the fields. These sites have been visited a number of times recently without success but were very late in display of adults. So I assume they’re very late breeders, perhaps not fledging until around 10th September, suggesting inexperienced adults i.e. new pairs. To the Welli tonight – always very good on quiz night, food service is very attractive – but tomorrow looks rather constrained with School Research Management Group at 09:00 and research group meeting propping up the other end of the day but should make the Tap!

September 22nd: long day at work including build-up to PhD exam on Saturday, which has at least been scheduled for a civilisedtime to give a relaxed Friday night! Formal teaching starts again this time next week. Honey Buzzard migration nationally slowed a lot today with none seen in dull weather in the north east. It’s interesting to follow the progress of the satellite-tagged juvenile from northern Scotland. She should have just crossed the English Channel from Sussex by now, having come down to Manchester and then steered eastwards which is a good move. South west England offers a lot of hazards particularly if the juveniles reach the end of Cornwall and head straight out into the Atlantic. This bird with known origin seems to be in the thick of the main migration! Her weight at ringing was a massive 1092 grams, almost twice that of many Common Buzzard at this time of year. Flexibility returns tomorrow!

September 21st: out to the upper South Tyne to check for Hobby breeding success and current Honey Buzzard situation. Altogether from Kirkside on Cumbrian border to Haltwhistle saw 25 raptors of 4 species: 9 Common Buzzard and Kestrel, 4 Hobby and 3 Honey Buzzard. The Hobby, all juveniles, were at 4 sites (2,1,1) adjacent to heather moorland. The Honey Buzzard included a juvenile migrating over Slaggyford at 12:25 (glide and soar) and single juveniles at the final 2 sites to check in this part of the study area. Later in Hexhamshire a Honey Buzzard juvenile caused absolute mayhem by flying over a flock of feeding corvids while I was cutting the grass. So some juveniles remain here on site, still to leave, but undoubtedly quite a few have now left. Work goes up a gear tomorrow but will still make the Welli tonight, first time for a week!

Nationally Honey Buzzard migration continues apace with as expected juveniles moving out of northern England and Scotland. Some of the latter go through Galloway and then cross the Solway into Cumbria and Lancashire and go down the west side of England crossing the Channel from Dorset, Devon or Cornwall. See tables below for preliminary figures, showing gross total of 146 birds for just this weekend. Fortunately from the weather charts it does not look as if the juveniles will be blocked as in 2000, so the final exit may not take too long.

Totals to date for Honey Buzzard in Northumberland study area are: upper South Tyne 6 sites, 10 adults (5 male, 5 female), broods 3×2 3×1+, 2 nests (Oak, Norway Spruce); lower South Tyne 2,3 (2,1), brood 2×2; Allen 7, 12 (6,5,1 unsexed), broods 4×2 1×1, 2 nests (Oak, Norway Spruce); Devil’s Water (Hexhamshire) 6,14 (6,8), broods 3×2 3×1+, 3 nests (3 Scots Pine); Tyne Valley 10, 16 (9,7), broods 4×2 3×1+, 2 nests (Douglas Fir, Scots Pine), 1 further inconclusive nest in Larch or Scots Pine; and Derwent 4, 6 (3,3), broods 1×2, 1×1, giving grand total 35, 61 (31,29,1), broods 17×2 9×1+ 2×1, 9 nests (4 Scots Pine, 2 Norway Spruce and Oak, 1 Douglas Fir with 1 inconclusive nest in Larch/Scots Pine), plus 4 migrants in spring (1 male, 2 female, 1 unsexed) and 5 in autumn (4 female, 1 juvenile).

Skye was very atmospheric but oh so wet! In spite of taking at least one change of everything, running out of dry clothes by the end. Went with keen walkers Philip and John from Riding Mill. Final call to Hexham to collect the readies was very rewarding!! In drive up north on 16th had patchy bad weather but it was relatively dry in the amazing Tay Valley where had 6 Common Buzzard and a Honey Buzzard, the latter a female near Pitlochry hanging over a wooded cliff before diving down and flying through the top of the trees as if to encourage a juvenile into some flying practice. Further on near Loch Garry, 2 Golden Eagle were soaring in the drizzle. Staying on Skye at the But n Ben, Croft Bunkhouse, Portnalong, with me in top bunk! Managed to be champion at pool at the Taigh Ailean Hotel in Portnalong (sign of wasted youth!). While there had walks on Blaven (1 2) in the Black Cuillins and Marsco in the Red Cuillins but did not make the tops as the cloud level was too low. Good coastal walk was had at Fiskavaig. In view of the weather raptors were surprisingly good with mainly brief views obtained during the occasional clearances in the rain. Single White-tailed Eagle were seen at two sites, one on the north and one on the south coast. Total Skye return was 21 raptors of 6 species: 10 Common Buzzard, 5 Kestrel, 2 White-tailed Eagle, 2 Sparrowhawk (one catching a Blackbird in a rowan bush), one Merlin (juvenile) and a male Hen Harrier. On way back stopped a lot including at Killiecrankie in the Tay Valley where habitat looks superb for Honey Buzzard, but no sightings. Total score on the road from Perth-Kyle of Lochalsh both ways was 16 raptors of 5 species: 10 Common Buzzard, 3 Golden Eagle, 1 Hen Harrier (ringtail), 1 Honey Buzzard and a Hobby at Pitlochry (on way back). Note 9 species of raptor altogether: Scotland has great variety and scenery was fantastic! Will be back next month for another stay!

September 20th: back from Skye on which will report tomorrow. Honey Buzzard migration has in the meantime gone much as anticipated with a lull of a few days followed by a new wave of birds moving south comprising quite a number of juveniles, in northern areas at least. Preliminary totals compiled from Birdguides for Honey Buzzard emigration are:

Date 2008

NE

EA

SE

Mid

SW

NW

Scot

 

Total HB (records/individuals)

Birdguides

19/9 Fri

16

12

5

3

7

4

2

 

45/49

18/9 Thurs

10

19

5

5

4

1

   

37/44

17/9 Wed

9

9

4

3

3

3

2

 

30/33

16/9 Tues

6

6

4

1

5

     

22/22

15/9 Mon

7

15

16

8

2

2

1

 

44/51

14/9 Sun

72

102

27

14

1

4

3

 

121/223

13/9 Sat

91

82

15

3

       

108/191

There are already a number of misconceptions emerging in addition to those dealt with below. Common Buzzard are very sedentary in the UK so a bird perceived by an observer as a Honey Buzzard performing active migration is most unlikely to be a Common Buzzard. I’m more suspicious of reports including Honey Buzzard and Common Buzzard in the same group of migrating birds: the ‘Common Buzzard’ are more likely to be juvenile Honey Buzzard. The term in-off is beloved of coastal watchers as indicating a continental origin. But any coasting bird can appear in-off as it meanders along the coast line. Most birds are reported from the coast because that is where most observers are stationed. Many inland sites which are actively covered have also reported Honey Buzzard. Weather on the near-continent has continued to be very placid, far too tame to divert Honey Buzzard onto long sea crossings. Visible migration totals vary greatly from year to year according to the weather.

September 15th: for the large national movement, there are some clear differences from the 2000 one. The latest wave is earlier in the month, appears to involve more adults, is proceeding faster south and is associated with much more benign conditions weather-wise. There are some similarities: both started after heavy rain in north east England (at least) on SE winds and the route taken down the eastern side of the country appears to be broadly similar, although there are many more records in coastal areas of east Anglia this time. Interpreting the 2000 movement was a major challenge. It involved a lot of research to understand what was going on. Indeed the man asked to write the definitive article for British Birds on the movement, linking it with an influx from the continent, told me that the paper could not be published in the end: it was too close to call. By contrast the current movement is much easier to call as an emigration of British birds with a probability that most are adult females. In view of their tight energy budgets and questions of survivability, it would need hurricane-type conditions to persuade adults to adopt an N-shaped migration (starting at top-right corner), which is why there’s no historical precedent. Much quieter movement reported on Birdguides with 44 reports for today, including 4 as notes. Quickly compiled gross totals for individuals were 16 in the south east, 15 in east Anglia, 8 in the midlands, 7 in the north east, 2 in the north west and south west and one in Scotland – grand total 51 Honey Buzzard. So they appear to be moving through quickly and purposefully, supporting the idea that the majority are adults. Field work yesterday (14/9) suggested that many juveniles are still messing about at home in northern Britain, most now free from parental pressures! There may be another more chaotic and drawn-out wave of emigration detected by time I’m back from the wild and beautiful country! All the excitement is taking its toll – managed to miss the train today so had to drive into Newcastle, which only took 23 minutes actually arriving early for my appointment!! Too many attractive distractions in Hexham xxx!!

September 14th: did get to the mound but no further Honey Buzzard passage observed from 10:50-12:50. However, strenuous flying practice by 6 Honey Buzzard juveniles from Corbridge-Bywell was seen but I don’t think they’ll be off quite yet. Did walk through Guessburn but it’s not as exciting as it was owing to apparent exodus! Weather was really quite poor for migration with low cloud and little sunshine so decided to chase up a few more juveniles at other sites. This came down mainly to calls in the end with one juvenile giving a thin call when mobbed by Carrion Crow at one site on a tributary of the Tyne near Riding Mill and an adult and juvenile calling to each other at a site in Hexhamshire near Slaley Forest. At another site in Hexhamshire near Dipton Wood a juvenile was up briefly over an oak wood. Interesting meeting with horse riders! Broods become 17×2 7×1+ 2×1 after today’s work. Massive movement continues to be reported on Birdguides with 121 reports for today, including 11 as notes. Quickly compiled gross totals for individuals were 102 in east Anglia, 72 in the north east, 27 in the south east, 14 in the midlands, 4 in the north west, 3 in Scotland and one in the south west – grand total 223 Honey Buzzard!! So slight move in emphasis to the south. Checking weather on continent on Weather Underground for Friday 12/9 shows no events to trigger the movement. To Welli in the evening: it’s always good on Sunday!

September 13th: actually arrived back home at 03:00 after driving up the A1 in the wee hours! Plane was late by one hour but pretty pleased with Wizz Air for all that. Robin Hood seems to be at the back of beyond – almost joined the wherethef.ckarewe tribe at times! Was expecting a morning to catch-up with things, but Birdguides news flashes showed that there’s obviously a big emigration of Honey Buzzard going on, so dashed out to the mound at Stocksfield. More on this later with also some piccies from Poland. Missed very much my trips to Hexham! Today got some new walking boots and sticks at Milletts after trip to Nero. Broadband was back on with no bother (triumph for masterly inaction!). The Tyne Valley was very interesting today. I was present on the mound from 11:30-14:30 and saw single adult female Honey Buzzard depart E from two nearby sites at 11:38 and 12:52, both off in energetic flap-glide fashion. Later at 13:17, 2 more adult females appeared from the north and moved down the Tyne Valley. They may well have been gradually moving SE as a total of 4 Honey Buzzard were reported on Birdguides at Fellgate, Gateshead, from 11:45-13:40. Also in the area were 4 more Honey Buzzard, 3 Common Buzzard, a Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk. These latter Honey Buzzard were juveniles, presumably the 4 raised at the 2 nearby sites. They spent most of the visit doing mock exits, a very common activity for this age group, in which they move purposefully to the edge of their territory and then come to a juddering halt! They are still on site. So the massive movement noted nationally today may well comprise mainly adult females, finally leaving as the young become more independent and the weather offers a small window. Most males will have left in the last 2 weeks but 2 were seen last Sunday (7/9) on site so more overlap than usual may be occurring this year. Looking at Birdguides an incredible 108 reports were received today, including 3 as notes. Quickly compiled gross totals for individuals were 91 in the north east, 82 in east Anglia, 15 in the south east and 3 in the midlands – grand total 191 Honey Buzzard!! The weather in Scotland was poor today but should be better tomorrow. No doubt everyone will be celebrating the Honey Buzzard’s continuing progress as a colonist of Britain! Light SE winds across the North Sea, very light fall of other migrants, fair weather over Denmark giving a smooth exodus of the Swedish population and Dutch movement well inland offer very little hope for a convincing explanation of a continental origin. Twice in a lifetime! Tomorrow will give the mound another bash. Monday is shaping up better for appointments than expected, which offers hope in more way than one!

September 12th: back from 4 days in Poland, flying from Robin Hood Airport, Doncaster, to Wrocław (pronounced something like Wrochslav!) with Wizz Air, staying at the Novotel, chairing a session at WOSC (World Organisation on Systems and Cybernetics, or something like that!) on the Tuesday afternoon (9/9) and giving a paper on Wednesday morning (10/9). The chairing should have been straight-forward – one no-show leaving 2 speakers with 90 minutes between them. But they’d both turned up with endless spiels. So cut one off and harried the other to finish on time. The former was actually quite challenging: speaker (pompously) you’re not really going to cut me off. That’s my job! Paper went well on category theory and interoperability and gained some inspiration for next paper and for student’s forthcoming viva, which is always a good sign! Birds were better behaved. On 9th at 09:30 had 2 Kestrel moving SW over Poludniowy Park in Wrocław. On 10th had some further interesting passage over Wrocław with Honey Buzzard (female/juvenile) moving SW at 11:45 and 14:28 and 3 migrant Lesser Spotted Eagle comprising 2 S together at 14:35 and one SE at 15:15. On 11th in break from meeting took train 94km to S to Klodzko, an interesting small town near the Czech border with a very prominent and rather harrying war prison. Migrants included 2 Honey Buzzard juveniles moving S at height at 12:10 and 12:55. The Honey Buzzard comprised a relatively low-level flier and one right up in the clouds. No Honey Buzzard were seen over the local woods, suggesting they’ve departed which is not surprising this far south, on a line with northern France and Cornwall. There was certainly much suitable habitat. The ability of birds from the north to feed easily on migration over vacated prime areas of habitat further south must help considerably with the viability of the northern populations. Walked miles during stay which is good practice for next week! On the last day in Wrocław the weather deteriorated with little sun and a cool, light N breeze. However, a Honey Buzzard juvenile was still spotted in the lunch break moving SW in flap-glide motion at low altitude at 13:35. So even dull conditions probably just slow rather than halt the migration. Total for trip was 37 raptors of 9 species: 13 Common Buzzard, 8 Kestrel, 5 Honey Buzzard, 3 Lesser Spotted Eagle and Hobby, two Hen Harrier and single Sparrowhawk, Red Kite and Marsh Harrier. Except for the Lesser Spotted Eagle, quite similar to Northumberland really except that the Hen Harrier would (sadly) have been shot!

September 8th: after the great deluge did a sweep from Haltwhistle to Prudhoe yesterday (7/9) in still pretty grotty weather from 12:00-18:00 visiting 4 Honey Buzzard sites. Total for trip was 20 raptors of 4 species: 8 Honey Buzzard, 7 Common Buzzard, 4 Sparrowhawk and a Kestrel. The Honey Buzzard were in groups of 4 at 2 sites so productivity is brilliant this year and the males are still largely on site. Today in the Tyne Valley the train stopped close to a site because of flooding on the track and 2 Honey Buzzard juveniles were seen fooling around in the canopy near their nest. Good numbers are now exiting over the south coast so the exodus is gathering pace! Weather was terrible on Saturday (6/9): took daughter to airport mid-day and Ponteland was like a lake. The subsequent problems in Morpeth were not a great surprise. Only problem at home is the loss of broadband with the damp somewhere! Anyway off to WOSC xxxxxx!!

Totals to date for Honey Buzzard in Northumberland study area are: upper South Tyne 6 sites, 10 birds (5 male, 5 female), broods 2×2 2×1+, 2 nests (Oak, Norway Spruce); lower South Tyne 2,3 (2,1), brood 2×2; Allen 7, 12 (6,5,1 unsexed), broods 4×2 1×1, 2 nests (Oak, Norway Spruce); Devil’s Water (Hexhamshire) 6,14 (6,8), broods 3×2 2×1+, 3 nests (3 Scots Pine); Tyne Valley 10, 16 (9,7), broods 4×2 2×1+, 2 nests (Douglas Fir, Scots Pine), 1 further inconclusive nest in Larch or Scots Pine; and Derwent 4, 6 (3,3), broods 1×2, 1×1, giving grand total 35, 61 (31,29,1), broods 16×2 6×1+ 2×1, 9 nests (4 Scots Pine, 2 Norway Spruce and Oak, 1 Douglas Fir with 1 inconclusive nest in Larch/Scots Pine), plus 4 migrants (1 male, 2 female, 1 unsexed).

September 5th: out early morning 08:30-11:00 (when daughter asleep!) to try and get the best of the day weather-wise and had 2 Honey Buzzard juveniles at a site in the ‘Shire, with the local Crows being very helpful in tracking them down. The birds were attached to Scots Pine close to the presumed nest site on the edge of a stubble field with one bird seen flitting through the canopy and another briefly feeding on the edge of the field. The weather then became very, very wet (almost Devonian!) and abandoned fieldwork for the day. So serviced stove (replacing fire bricks and throat plate), installed new printer cartridges from Tesco and generally tried to restore some order. Visit to Hexham was very rewarding: like the green top, will miss the sights for a while!! Trip to Welli later in the floods involved an adventurous drive on the Linnels Bridge route with a total of 4 temporary partial cut-outs of the electrics. But company made it worth it, even with excuses from 2 regular attendees. So I would expect the summer migrants to be moving out after this deluge on cool breezes, with Honey Buzzard adults exiting in strength on Sunday (7/9), if it fairs up by then.

September 4th: no fieldwork today – thought might just get time in Close House area before trip to airport to fetch daughter but exam lasted almost 5 hours and I was not far off an hour late getting to airport. The good thing is that the outcome of the exam was a happy one and it’s the Travellers for a meal for compensation/recuperation!! Tomorrow is better time-wise but don’t look at the weather forecast! Broods at 21 sites is very good but how many more will be found.

September 3rd: a tougher day with weather becoming cooler and wetter and some meetings at work in the middle of the day but managed early on to nail the top-most site in the Tyne Valley. This was the site where the Common Buzzard and Honey Buzzard were nesting very close together and neither party has moved! Today there were 2 Common Buzzard juveniles giving hunger calls and 2 Honey Buzzard juveniles, both seen close-up, one briefly and the other for over a minute. The dull conditions necessitated getting into the site to get results. Did investigate a couple of further sites briefly – both notoriously difficult – and was very pleased to get a male Honey Buzzard up over the one site where earlier nest visits had been inconclusive. But no family party emerged in the few minutes left for the visit. Added video of the 2 juveniles in the fields on the lower South Tyne (2008-351). Made Hexham late-on in a very heavy shower. Spirits were soon raised though! Tomorrow is likely to see all surveys on hold as it’s a PhD exam followed by trip to Newcastle Airport. But Friday looks a lot more promising and it has to be!!

September 2nd: another good morning, very similar to yesterday but visited just 2 sites in the upper South Tyne, seeing a marvellouskettle of a family group of 4 Honey Buzzard near Haltwhistle and a sole juvenile Honey Buzzard at another site further up the valley. Also seen from 09:30-11:40 were 3 Common Buzzard, an adult Hobby and, yes, speak of the devil, an adult male Goshawk! It might be asked why I do not simply carry on, do the whole study area and wrap everything up quickly. Well the window of opportunity for a soaring family party is actually quite small, perhaps from 09:30-12:00 on a fine morning, or the sun coming out in a poorer day. Of course the birds are not invisible for the rest of the day but their visibility is much reduced. Then there’s the question of balance: raptors are not the only attractive things on the planet. What a lovely a… in Hexham!! Tonight to Welli for quiz – all very dynamic! Daughter is coming to stay on Thursday for a few days – very nice! Tomorrow sees some very early attempt at fieldwork, then work and the Tap!

September 1st: very good weather this morning with strong sunshine and a moderate westerly breeze. Went to the Allen and from 10:20-12:00 had 3 Honey Buzzard family groups of 4 (pair adults, 2 juveniles), 3 (pair, juvenile) and 2 (both juveniles). Also had 5 Kestrel, 2 Sparrowhawk, an adult Hobby and a Barn Owl. Enjoyed lunch very much at Nero in Hexham (such fine views!!), then into work coming back via the RVI just in time to get charming service at Waitrose! On the day’s final leg through the ‘Shire at dusk, when almost home, had a juvenile Honey Buzzard flying across the road. So that’s an incredible 4 broods added today: 2×2 1×1+ 1×1. Tomorrow more of the same but pushed a bit earlier.

August 31st: a very heavy morning but with rain forecast, did get out earlier for a local walk of 3 hours in the ‘Shire. The visibility and conditions were not good for raptors but after a while, pink-panther style, had virtually visited every tree in the site and finally flushed a weak-flying cross juvenile Honey Buzzard, which wailed all the way back to the nest site! Then the rain set in but it was one of my favourite films on ITV – Out of Africa – so a great laid-back afternoon with telephone calls in the intervals to relatives to catch up on a few things! Tonight to the Welli. Next week I’m back at work more formally with PhD exam on Thursday but may be able to angle a few working sessions later to get out in the early morning. Time is pressing for all concerned!! Honey Buzzard migration has become more conspicuous on the south coast and in Scotland in the last few days, indicating the pull-out of the males. Totals to date for Honey Buzzard in Northumberland study area are: upper South Tyne 6 sites, 10 birds (5 male, 5 female), broods 1×2 1×1+, 2 nests (Oak, Norway Spruce); lower South Tyne 2,3 (2,1), brood 1×2; Allen 7, 12 (6,5,1 unsexed), broods 1×2, 2 nests (Oak, Norway Spruce); Devil’s Water (Hexhamshire) 6,14 (6,8), broods 2×2 1×1+, 3 nests (3 Scots Pine); Tyne Valley 10, 16 (9,7), broods 3×2 2×1+, 2 nests (Douglas Fir, Scots Pine), 1 further inconclusive nest in Larch or Scots Pine; and Derwent 4, 6 (3,3), broods 1×2, 1×1, giving grand total 35, 61 (31,29,1), broods 9×2 4×1+ 1×1, 9 nests (4 Scots Pine, 2 Norway Spruce and Oak, 1 Douglas Fir with 1 inconclusive nest in Larch/Scots Pine), plus 4 migrants (1 male, 2 female, 1 unsexed).

August 30th: another very good day, this time in the upper reaches of the Derwent with 18 raptors of 5 species: 7 Honey Buzzard, 4 Kestrel, 3 Common Buzzard and 2 Hobby and Red Kite. In a prize for the most improved raptor area in the county, this would score number 1! The Honey Buzzard comprised two broods. The first of 4 was close to a grouse moor, so close in fact that the male who had selected an area for flying practice changed his mind when the guns opened and the entourage (wisely) moved downstream. The second of 3 was close to the main village in the area, so close that I was taking video in its main street. The pair of Hobby were both adults, one of which as usual had a go at a Honey Buzzard. The Red Kite were both juveniles, some 4km apart, so assume 2 young bred here now. Note the last Goshawk was seen a long time ago on 5/7. Since the Goshawk is a significant predator of the Honey Buzzard, their virtual absence does help the Honey Buzzard population to thrive. However, I’m sure the study area is very rich in other prey such as pigeons which are much easier for Goshawk to tackle. I’d rather the Goshawk survived better and the Honey Buzzard took their chances. Got up too late to reach the Tyne Valley!

August 29th: after yesterday’s frustrating time, much better today (almost brilliant in fact!) with lighter winds and generally warmer conditions persuading many more raptors into the air with, from Eals-Wylam, 25 raptors of 5 species: 13 Common Buzzard, 7 Honey Buzzard, 3 Kestrel and single Sparrowhawk and Hobby. Juvenile Honey Buzzard were noted at 4 sites. In the upper South Tyne, 2 juveniles and adult female were at the longest running site in the county feeding on the heather moorland nearby and a juvenile was flushed at another site in its 3rd visit. In the Tyne Valley a juvenile was seen flying at close range at a site near Hexham and three (adult male, 2 juveniles) were near Wylam. So additional broods of 2×2 and 2×1+ giving 11 in total now and a hint from the upper South Tyne that the males have started to move out. Three decent walks were done today, on the South Tyne Trail near Eals, the Spetchells from Prudhoe and Close House from Wylam with only one incident with a power-crazed cyclist on the last! The eastern extreme for Honey Buzzard in the Tyne Valley could well be here. True it’s only 2km from the nearest site (instead of the regulatory 2.5km!) but this is permissible if there’s a significant exclusive hunting area as there is in this case, with the entire area available towards Newcastle, the centreof which is only 12km away. In this area today Common Buzzard juvenile hunger calls were heard. The Hobby (video 1  2 ) was a juvenile beating about for around 3 minutes over the Spetchells. Had lunch in Hexham at Nero, where service is very good! The rbbwis increasing her territory! Friday evenings are a bit too predictable perhaps with fish and chips at the Sea Chef in Hexham, followed by the odd Guinness at the Welli, but it’s a good routine except staying too late means I don’t get a flying start to fieldwork on the Saturday! Tomorrow to the Derwent and Tyne Valley.

August 28th: did get out in the morning but it’s not easy in the west with a strong breeze and the lack of sunshine. Had a determined go at a further site in the Allen where a male Honey Buzzard was up for about 5 seconds before sinking back again into the trees. This suggests that the young here are still not strong enough to fly above the canopy. Much better views of a male were obtained from the train at Wylam where a bird was in rampant display mode – obviously with a brood below in the trees. From the overall productivity point of view, it is very important to see what is happening in more upland areas. Added video 2008-350 to web pages showing juvenile from last Monday in the Allen (25/8). Did go to the Welli tonight but not a lot happening! Tomorrow have a full day planned in the field but civilised lunch is called for!

August 27th: long day in Durham but did make the Tap late on and pleased to see StW again: he’s back from sailing the southern seas! Preparing video on yesterday’s events in the lower South Tyne. It’s very interesting to see the juvenile Honey Buzzard feeding like a Pheasant in the open. Insects were everywhere, indeed so common that the autofocus on the camcorder kept on focusing on them. It’s been a very good year for Swallows and it looks like a record-breaking year for Honey Buzzard. It will be very surprising if Hobby have not also done well. House stood up well to the invasion – needed all 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms! Maybe I should take in a lodger. She could manage the videos! Train journey perked up from Wylam to Metro Centre. Tomorrow re-jigged a couple of appointments to give a window for fieldwork in the morning.

August 26th: better than yesterday with rain holding off until towards dusk but still rather dull. Went to the lower South Tyne in the morning, quite close to Hexham, and had a total of 7 raptors: 4 Common Buzzard, 2 Honey Buzzard and a Kestrel. The Honey Buzzard were both juveniles and were out in the open on fields, digging in dung heaps! After seeing them both doing a desultory flight practice, one landed on a field some distance away, so cut across fields to get closer, resulting in some very close-up video with this derived still of the individual showing the small head, long tail, horizontal stance, feathered tarsi, short legs and all-yellow bill except for the tip, so characteristic of this age group. Into Hexham for lunch with 3 superb further sightings!! Then out to the Devil’s Water in the afternoon where studied 3 Honey Buzzard sites from a distance with no action before deciding to re-visit one for a 3rd visit. This was very interesting with the juvenile(s) clearly fledged and now based a small distance away from the nest with much splash under one tree, a pigeon kill and various other debris which I’m still analysing. But this last site is not counted in the fledging totals until young seen above the canopy. Company leaving tomorrow – they’ve been very welcome – no Welli tonight but should make Thursday. Tomorrow is research meeting in Durham and some appointments at unn on Thursday. Let’s hope the weather is good for Friday!

August 25th: not perfect weather with drizzle arriving late morning, turning into more persistent rain. But Honey Buzzard are in a hurry and will fly in drizzle quite readily at this time of year. Went to a long established site in the Allen from 11:00-14:00 where rather slow at the start with plenty of time to wonder about things like why cyclists have not got a better outlet for their testosterone! Then the Honey Buzzard started popping out of a wooded bank above where the nest site was located. It is quite common for Honey Buzzard to adopt a more exposed position post-breeding than for nesting. This certainly confused me when I first started studying them but the main reason may be to give the juveniles practice at flying in more open areas with stronger breezes and fewer hazards. Although 4 birds were never seen at any one time, it was clear that adult male and female and 2 juveniles were present, making yet another brood of 2. Some close up video was obtained of a juvenile, from which some stills obtained, including this one showing 3 bars across the inner primaries. House is full now but planning to get out tomorrow morning as usual, perhaps to the lower South Tyne!

Totals to date for Honey Buzzard in Northumberland study area are: upper South Tyne 6 sites, 10 birds (5 male, 5 female) 2 nests (Oak, Norway Spruce); lower South Tyne 2,3 (2,1); Allen 7, 12 (6,5,1 unsexed), broods 1×2, 2 nests (Oak, Norway Spruce); Devil’s Water (Hexhamshire) 6,14 (6,8), broods 2×2, 3 nests (3 Scots Pine); Tyne Valley 10, 16 (9,7), broods 2×2 1×1+, 2 nests (Douglas Fir, Scots Pine), 1 further inconclusive nest in Larch or Scots Pine; and Derwent 4, 6 (3,3) giving grand total 35, 61 (31,29,1), broods 5×2 1×1+, 9 nests (4 Scots Pine, 2 Norway Spruce and Oak, 1 Douglas Fir with 1 inconclusive nest in Larch/Scots Pine), plus 4 migrants (1 male, 2 female, 1 unsexed). Note the name Hexhamshire is in the process of being changed to Devil’s Water so that all the areas are of the same type – rivers. May also split Tyne Valley into eastern and western areas with the growth of the east.

August 24th: perfect weather for raptors with NW breeze and plenty of sun and totals to match in the Tyne Valley at 10:30-13:30 from Corbridge-Prudhoe with 22 raptors seen of 6 species: 9 Honey Buzzard, 5 Common Buzzard, 3 Kestrel, 2 Red Kite and Hobby and one Sparrowhawk. The first Hobby juvenile was seen, ‘kissing’ an adult at Hyons Wood, where 2 Red Kite were also noted, with one bird out on the hill to the west and another with a single thin disyllabic call from the wood itself. The latter may well be a juvenile. The Honey Buzzard were superb with ‘new’ family parties of 4 and 3+ and two adults in exhibition flight over the site where fledging was noted on 22/8. In lowland areas at least productivity is looking to be very high with most pairs raising 2 young. No males appear to have left yet. The boldest bird of the day was the Sparrowhawk which took on all 4 Honey Buzzard but completely ignored the family party of 5 Common Buzzard which later emerged from the other side of the same wood. Meal at Welli was nice with a few good sightings! Tomorrow will go west. Quite a lot of video taken today in HD-XP mode, which generates 119.2MB per minute, that is 1GB in just over 8 minutes.

August 23rd: out in the ‘Shire today, going to Dotland in the morning, from where you can see 6 Honey Buzzard sites, although some are at quite a range. Had 2 groups of 4 Honey Buzzard, each 2 adults and 2 juveniles, judging from their flights at 2 sites. The family groups were at the 2 lowland sites in the ‘Shire with no action at the 4 higher sites, but this evening while cutting the grass the local crows were going berserk so it looks as if another site is seeing a happy event! To Nero for lunch with offers to accompany me to India, then off to one of the sites at which 4 birds were seen in the morning. The site selected is the last one to be covered in the second round of nest site visits. It proved very rewarding with one juvenile flushed off a track and another in the nest site itself, which gave a good photography session in stills and video. An adult also appeared near the end. Today put the video setting up to HD-XP, the highest quality, to sort out all the complexities that occur at this time of year: adult and juvenile Common Buzzard and adult and juvenile Honey Buzzard. The XP mode records at 15Mbps (15 million bits a second!). So 10/10 nest site visits made now in the 2nd (and final) round. The nest was in Scots Pine and the edge of the site can be seen on the photo with yours truly in, to celebrate the end of this part of the season. Total for day was 14 raptors of 4 species: 8 Honey Buzzard, 3 Sparrowhawk, 2 Common Buzzard and a Kestrel. Tomorrow morning to the Tyne Valley to see whether any more young fledged there. Son arrived this evening and I think we’re going for a meal at the Welli tomorrow. More company is scheduled to stay from Monday-Wednesday but the Honey Buzzard show and associated activities must go on!! Added video on visit to Tyne Valley on 16/8 (2008-345).

August 22nd: long day at work yesterday and in this morning to complete PhD submission formalities. Got back around noon and having parked at Stocksfield station, did a slow crawl back to Hexham. At one of the sites studied intensively (on video 2008-340a) timed arrival perfectly at 12:20 to get 4 Honey Buzzard up in the air at once. With the weakness of the flight of the juveniles – one was quickly left clutching a branch on the top of a tree and the other came down soon after, being dive bombed by its father (rough treatment!) — this must have been their first day of flight, so excellent development with 2 juveniles fledged being a great start in productivity! All captured on video. Another juvenile further on the road was a Common Buzzard. Into Hexham for lunch with a number of very alluring sightings of the temptress!! It’s difficult to concentrate! Hope to get a few more fledged juvenile Honey Buzzard over the weekend and who knows what next week will bring! Son is arriving tomorrow with a number of friends who want to see Northumberland. Added to web pages video from upper South Tyne on 15/8 with stills from EOS camera showing plumage detail (2008-344).

August 20th: not so much fieldwork today as in the morning fetched David from the RVI for a day’s break at his house. It was good to see him again. But I cannot get away from the Honey Buzzard! An immaculate female was captured on video flying over the bridge across the West Dipton Burn on the way into Newcastle and in the same general area of Hexhamshire later both the male and female were seen fleetingly. Both birds looked to be very active in finding food, suggesting they’ve got large young in the nest or just out of it, rather than truly fledged. Did make the Tap later on and Welli quiz night yesterday was entertaining from all angles! Tomorrow into work again with interview of candidate PhD student from Thailand early on and final meeting with Greek student before he submits. Added to web pages the video from Wylam taken on 17/8 (2008-346). Will get back into the field on Friday, weather permitting. I’m enjoying the blend of chasing birds of prey and lounging around coffee bars!! Anticipation is very high that a juvenile is going to be seen up in the air very soon with the Tyne Valley the likely venue.

August 19th: 2 more nest visits made with one to the Allen this afternoon when it faired up a bit and one yesterday (18/8) evening to the Tyne Valley when it was pretty dull but better than earlier. So that’s 9/10 now. In the Tyne Valley the site is a bit of a sod with a tradition of the birds not cooperating in the survey! So it was not too surprising that two hours in the damp and gloom failed to produce any sightings or calls. So it might be asked why I think the birds nest there. Well they are viewed fairly easily from a distance and often when I return back to the road after battling through the site there are indications that they are returning to the nest such as wailing calls, glimpses of the birds through the tops of the trees or the corvids giving alarm calls. Yesterday all the corvids in the wood went mad as I hit the road! Today the birds in the Allen were much more cooperative with the female floating over the wood as I walked though it and giving very close views near the nest in an Oak tree. The male in pristine plumage made a brief showing but left the heavy work to the female, who is another sorry mess with all sorts of feather damage. Total for afternoon was 4 raptors of 3 species: 2 Honey Buzzard and single Common Buzzard and Sparrowhawk. The showing in Hexham was much smarter with the boss looking very impressive!! Falling behind on processing material but fieldwork and relaxation takes priority for now!

August 17th: things are livening up! Morning had some very heavy showers so did not go out until the afternoon when first went to Blanchland where sun was surprisingly hot up until 16:00. Had 2 Red Kite here, thought to be adult taking juvenile out for hunting lessons over the moorland edge. Also in the Derwent a male Honey Buzzard was seen soaring into the stratosphere, mobbed by the inevitable Hobby. This is further evidence for the growing restlessness of the males with emigration for many within the next 2 weeks. Then to Wylam where again good late afternoon sunshine around 17:00 and quickly had close-up views of 2 juvenile Red Kites at the site used last year. On the bridge a local told me that he had recently seen 4 Red Kites together here (which indicates 2 adults and 2 juveniles so is surely right) and then pointed one out flying up the river. Well I thought it was a Red Kite at first with its pale head, soft wing beats and long tail but then realised it was a male Honey Buzzard!! It’s all on video and shows all too well how kites and Honey Buzzard can easily be confused. Birdwatchers will never get to grips with Honey Buzzard while they think it’s a buzzard with 3 bars on the tail. It’s a kite with some buzzard-like features, which have developed through evolution to enable it to cope better with predators on its breeding grounds. The bird which was flying at quite low altitude backed off from crossing the bridge upstream: it must be from a new site downstream from Wylam. Where will it all end – Newcastle Town Moor? Total for day was 13 raptors of 4 species: 6 Kestrel, 4 Red Kite, 2 Honey Buzzard and a Hobby. Note absence of Common Buzzard – they don’t appear to like flying in monsoon weather, preferring to hunt from perches. Exciting to meet s again in Welli!! Piccies to follow.

August 16th: and we’re into phase 4! While driving from Hexham to Prudhoe at around 15:00 noticed a large raptor on the left and pulled over quickly. It was a male Honey Buzzard in a victory roll with exaggerated wing beats and generally flamboyant behaviourover its territory. Such activity marks the end of the super-secretive rearing phase (at this site). Indeed this male could be migrating in a week. Most pairs though are still at the rearing stage. Made a nest visit to a site at the western end of the main Tyne Valley and was greeted by a female soaring high and going out to hunt. The nest (1   2   3) is in Scots Pine and further Woodcock feathers were found on the roots of a fallen tree below. After a while in the site, some loud angry cries were heard from the (presumed) male which have been recorded (wma   jpg 1,   jpg 2, first is sound recording, last 2 are spectrograms for last 2 calls). He did not appear in view though, hiding behind a row of trees, which is quite sensible really as in the past he would have been shot. So the young are still in this nest. That’s 7/10 second visits made now. Then to Hexham for a quick trip to Nero, probably looking as if dragged through a hedge backwards after the rough terrain in the nest site. Finally to Prudhoe where, after dodging a wild mini driver!!, got 2 Red Kite: a juvenile and an adult. The juvenile was in video (extract 27.3MB 1:53) for about 5 minutes coming from the top of the hill overlooking Prudhoe (Prudhoe Moor), over Durham Riding (which confusingly is in Northumberland) to Dukeshagg, where it was met by an adult. So this is another successful site but not sure whether bred in Durham or Northumberland as the border runs through the area. Things are definitely looking up in Prudhoe! Total for day was 9 raptors of 4 species: 3 Common Buzzard and Honey Buzzard, 2 Red Kite and a Kestrel. Tomorrow perhaps to Blanchland, Wylam and the Welli (latter not actually perhaps!).

August 15th: good day out in field in better weather with total of 11 raptors of 5 species: 4 Kestrel, 2 Buzzard, Honey Buzzard and Sparrowhawk and one Red Kite. Visited the original Honey Buzzard site in the study area in the upper South Tyne where a pair in close attendance to the nest in an oak tree and some piccies obtained of the female and one more loose chitin pellet (from wasp nests). This gooey mess was collected and has already become a hard residue by 17/8 as you’d expect for chitin. Also found a Woodcock primary feather (P5/P6, 144mm long) in the adults’ perching area. A small amount of video and some stills were obtained for the female, which will go up on the web pages but here’s a processed photo and its original:female orig  female pro. As with some of the other birds photographed recently, her feathers show extensive damage rather than moult. Their lifestyle which involves a lot of investigating deep cover may take its toll here. Of course the 3 bars across the primaries are diagnostic as is the long tail at 95% of wing width, small head and fine bill. So even here the young are still in the nest! Then did a rare bit of twitching, diverting to Grindon Lough to see the Wilson’s Phalarope, before going to Hexham for lunch in Nero with somebody worth a 4th look!! Finally to Hyons Wood where got a thin Red Kite call, possibly a juvenile. Tomorrow a similar routine with sites around Hexham and Prudhoe.

August 14th: into work for 2nd time this week – Greek student is about to submit his PhD thesis. Weather is still c.ap! But better tomorrow so had better make the most of it with visits planned to a Honey Buzzard nest in upper South Tyne and Red Kite sites around Prudhoe. Missing my photographic advice! On 13/8 finally nailed the local pair of Honey Buzzard who moved their nest from last year’s Norway Spruce (looking dilapidated on 17/6) to one in a Scots Pine about 200m away. It is still on the wrong side of the mighty Devil’s Water – so not reachable today – but the birds have kindly positioned the nest so that if you slide half-way down the bank opposite you can glimpse the nest without fording the burn. Did not stay long in view of torrential rain. The site is still occupied as a male Honey Buzzard flew from there through my field last Saturday afternoon, sneaking its way along the far hedge and then putting all the corvids up in mad panic. In over 2 hours out in the ‘Shire as a whole today got no raptors at all. There’s an old saying: when Freeview is totally awry, the birds of prey do not fly. Resumed the tradition of going to the Tap mid-week to see how Hexham’s progressing!

August 12th: monsoon returns but with 4/10 second visits made there is no desperation about getting out there. Made the Welli Friday and Sunday nights – good fun. Today is of course the glorious 12th – start of grouse shooting season – which is very relevant to the study area. Ought to celebrate by another visit to the Welli! Booked up next trip, to Poland in September. Flying from an airport somewhere between Doncaster and Sheffield by Wizz to Wroclaw, where giving a paper for work. Shortly after going on a walking holiday in Skye. Had a paper accepted for a conference in Bangalore in January, which sounds good. Hexham was looking very lively this afternoon!!

August 10th: completed 3 more Honey Buzzard nest visits at the rate of one a day over the last 3 days. Highlight was the confirmation today of successful breeding for Red Kite in the south west of the county, the first since at least 180 years ago! Near Ninebanks on the West Allen, one juvenile was fledged (video; stills: 1 2 3 4), showing its duller red tones, lack of moult, slightly shorter tail and bolder white markings on its coverts. Spoke to the farmer and a neighbourwho had seen 3 birds up together recently, thought one young had been raised and were delighted with the outcome. While only one juvenile may be thought to be low productivity, it’s usual in raptors for new pairs to struggle in their first year so it’s a very positive outcome. Also visited a Honey Buzzard site in the Allen where flushed a male on entry to the site. The nest here is in unmanaged Norway Spruce which gives very high trees and a closed canopy so the birds never walk on the ground below dropping tarsal feathers as in the site on 7/8 and signs are few as the birds cannot fly between the trees. However, as in the earlier visit birds can be seen dropping into the trees from above as there are no glades available for covert approaches. Total for day was 15 raptors of 4 species: 8 Common Buzzard, 5 Kestrel and single Honey Buzzard and Red Kite. On 9/8 visited a site in the upper South Tyne in the evening hoping for a dry spell which was achieved until the end of the visit when it bucketed down and I got soaked! This nest site is also in Norway Spruce (with Scots Pine on outside) and again a male Honey Buzzard was flushed. The birds spend a lot of time in a nearby glade where a number of feathers were found as well as splash on the bracken in spite of the wet weather. On the track outside this large Common Buzzard primary feather was found (302mm long, P5). This site is about 30m from a well-used public track! The Honey Buzzard was the only raptor seen. On 8/8 visited a plum site in the Tyne Valley with videos posted of a female circling overhead, a male responding to intrusion by a Common Buzzard juvenile (with alarm call) and some scene setting (2008-340). The nest here is in a tall Douglas Fir and the main prey is clearly Woodpigeon looking at the number of their feathers everywhere in the area. With the absence of adult Woodpigeon feathers, the presumption is that the Honey Buzzard fly through open woods plucking the young birds out of their nests. Of course the Honey Buzzard are simply adapting to what is the most plentiful food supply. No bird could have such a high and clearly sustainable population in Europe if it were as specialisedas tradition has it. Went on to Hyons Wood looking for Red Kite and did get one in the distance floating over the Guards at the back of Prudhoe. Also got a Hobby here with total for day of 8 raptors of 4 species: 4 Common Buzzard, 2 Honey Buzzard and single Red Kite and Hobby. So when are the b..gers going to fledge? Maybe in a week the first ones will be ‘marching’!

August 7th: yesterday evening (6/8) started second round of nest visits, going to a fairly easy to access site in Hexhamshire in coniferous forest. The male Honey Buzzard retreated silently through trees from nest site as entered the clearing. The nest in Scots Pine has been built up from last visit, particularly on the side away from the trunk. Also found on the ground close to the nest were 2-3 loose pellets of chitin (wasp cone regurgitations!) including this large one and a number of tarsal feathers and 2 body feathers. So not a bad start! Today into work to round off the week and have a number of duties in Newcastle next Monday and Thursday as well. Tomorrow hoping to catch up on some kites in the Prudhoe area and make another Honey Buzzard nest visit before relaxing in Hexham!

August 5th: back from trip to Devon and Cambridge, the first for wedding and visiting relatives, the second for a conference at Wesley House where gave a one-hour paper at ANPA on 4/8 followed by stylish dinner at King’s College. Travelledby train with car hire from Abbeyford in Exeter area. Very nice sighting as left Newcastle! Did the area around Exeter including heathland in a determined way with, from 29/7-3/8, 30 raptors of 5 species: 15 Common Buzzard, 6 Kestrel, 5 Honey Buzzard, 3 Hobby and a Sparrowhawk. Weather was trying with the days varying from all-day rain to varying levels of sunshine and showers. This reduced the aerial activity, particularly perhaps of family parties of Common Buzzard. The Honey Buzzard were found doing brief forays at 3 sites, two of which also held Hobby. Staying with younger sister in Sidmouth at start of holiday when focused on east Devon commons and mother at end in Dawlish, when focused on Haldon commons. Two of the Honey Buzzard sites were adjacent to heathery commons and the other was in woodland in farmland. The heathland ones were in habitat with some similarity to that near the moors in SW Northumberland (upper parts of South Tyne, Derwent, Allen and Hexhamshire) while the farmland one had some similarity to sites in the Tyne Valley. A very interesting difference though was that in Devon suitable woodland for nesting lies on the tops and higher sides of the hills with valleys cultivated while in Northumberland the suitable woodland is in the bottom of the valleys. No search was made for Honey Buzzard nests – I don’t have a permit for Devon for one thing – but they appeared to be using, in the heathland areas, mixed/deciduous unmanaged woodland on the edge of the heaths. This might suggest that the heathland is actually of much more interest to the Honey Buzzard than the large areas of conifer plantations, which is consistent in Northumberland with their liking for the shooting estates and their apparent dislike of the Border Forests. Politically, Forestry Enterprise will not be happy with this finding. No new Honey Buzzard sites were found in the limited time available but one known site was probed further with no positive results although a soaring Hobby was found and a ‘new’ prospective common in east Devon was given the ‘once over’. Some videos were taken of the Honey Buzzard sightings. Wedding in St James Church, Teignmouth (where I was baptised!) was of another niece, this time on the other side. A great day, starting in the Ship (1 2; my local many years ago, putting on free champagne and Guinness in a party when moved to Northumberland!) and after the church going on to Cockhaven Manor in Bishopsteignton, meeting many relatives (1 2 3) including son and daughter, and friends. Back for a while now – 2nd round of nest visits and much less work, so relaxing!! Out to Welli straight away – quiz night – may make that more frequently now that consultancy finished on Wednesday.

July 28th: raptor totals for Isle of Man were 36 individuals of 5 species: Kestrel 15, Peregrine 10 (2 ad female, 3 juv female, 3 juv male, 2 juv unsexed), Hen Harrier 6 (6 ringtail), Merlin 3 (1 cock, 1 female, 1 unaged/sexed), Sparrowhawk 2 (both male). The Isle of Man is complementary to SW Northumberland in terms of raptors with an abundance of Peregrine and Hen Harrier, both of which are very scarce on the grouse moors of SW Northumberland, and an absence of buzzards. We tried hard for Common Buzzard and Honey Buzzard but none seen in favourablehabitat such as at Sky Hill, Greeba, Ballaugh Curragh, Ballaglass Glen, Dhoon Glen and West Baldwin Reservoir. Juvenile Peregrine were found most days with this juvenile male at Port Soderick. The Hen Harrier were all ringtails, including this one flapping all the way at dusk past our cottage up from near sea-level to the slopes of North Barrule. Merlin were the highlight with 2 together in Cornaa Dale on 26th surely suggesting breeding and one more at West Baldwin Reservoir earlier in the week. Their breeding status is uncertain on the island but maybe more moorland searching is needed in June and July. Of other birds, Chough were found everywhere, and provided much atmosphere with their calls. These 4 were found close-up at Scarlett Point. Well that’s all for now! Shopping in Hexham had its highlights today but 6 hours of continuous meetings at work and preparation for a conference in Cambridge kept distractions temporarily at bay!

July 27th: back from a very energetic week in the Isle of Man with Nick. Weather was very good – not a drop of rain – although some strong winds at start of week. Left on Saturday 19th, drove in the Ka to Heysham and got ferry to Douglas. The crossing was very atmospheric with strong winds and bright light but there was no real swell in the sea. It was the penultimate day of the Birkdale golf championship when the strong wind wrecked nearly all the scores. Staying in very grand self-catering 3km S of Ramsey at Primrose Lodge, Slieu Lewaigue, Maughold. Had some marvellous walks on headlands including Maughold and Ayres and the best raptors were found in inland dales at Greeba and Cornaa. On 22nd went to Douglas to look at the excellent museum and the local scenery: the local lasses are very Celtic! All of the 3 available ferries were broken on Saturday night (26th) so we had an extra night at their expense at the Hydro Hotel in Douglas, slightly checkered by an 05:30 wake-up call and a return trip to Liverpool rather than Heysham! Fuller report and piccies soon. Good to be fleetingly back – to see David at the RVI this evening, the Welli tonight and glamorous Hexham and work tomorrow. Honey Buzzards will be back in the frame this week.

July 19th: added first video of Honey Buzzard at Lake Windermere in Cumbria from 13/6 (2008-328a), more to follow. I’ve heard rumours that there are about 10 pairs in this county, which may seem high to some, but I’d bet there are quite a few more! I’m not sure how ultra secrecy benefits anyone now with Honey Buzzard. The site at Lake Windermere was identified as suitable in the early spring and the birds were picked up in June within minutes of arrival. So anyone with evil intent could easily find the birds. Secrecy just clouds the position scientifically as there is a lack of objective data. What a busy day at work yesterday, should have hidden my intentions better. Train journey in had its moments though! Welli was enjoyable and returning lls looked fit. fb is getting more sensuous again, which is very welcome!! Credit crunch looks as if it may be starting to wane – nice news for some.

July 17th: very busy day at work with final School Research Committee of the academic year in the afternoon with lots of reporting on PGR matters. A pause coming up in the Honey Buzzard survey in Northumberland: we’re about half-way through the season in elapsed time but rather more than this in actual work. Expect to do second round of nest visits in the first half of August with searching for fledged juveniles in the second half of August and early September. So nearly all of August is going to be spent in the study area, which is more than usual! Trips to Poland and Scotland arranged for September. To Welli tonight, good to see Sunday’s troubles all blown over!

July 16th: finished first round of nest visits with trip to the Allen where had another irate Common Buzzard (video, 14.8MB) and single Honey Buzzard, Kestrel and Red Kite (the last named at Ninebanks in a sequel to the main visit). The probable Honey Buzzard nest was in a scrubby deciduous wood (photo from 31/5) which is pretty rough underfoot (picture of yours truly near end of visit!). Alarm calls of Honey Buzzard greeted my entrance to the clearing where the fine-looking nest was found thus confirming breeding in the site but to be conservative the nest itself is rated as probable at this stage. Visited Hexham later and very pleased with results: the rbbw is almost as beautiful as a female Honey Buzzard!! Tap early evening was very sombre.

July 15th: national totals for May duly posted (Subsequent Trends/2008). At work today but still managed on way in to see a Honey Buzzard: a female swinger in straight-line flight from the Stocksfield area moving west to feed. Next video to work up is one taken in Cumbria at Lake Windermere on 13/6. The raw video size is 826MB and there’s a lot of background video chat! Am going west tomorrow morning to finish first round of nest visits but may then come back to Hexham for a relaxed afternoon! Very sad news today with one of my friends from the Tap being diagnosed with leukaemia.

July 14th: totals nationally for Honey Buzzard recorded in May 2008 were a record for the month at 75; the weekend/bank holiday effect was very marked again with 40 of the 75 recorded on the 11 such days in the month, suggesting a total of 113 for the month on weekend levels of observer coverage throughout. Observers are getting more confident in identifying adult Honey Buzzard and numbers are still increasing. But the total moving will be far higher than 113; many just fly over unseen. These figures will be published tomorrow 15/7 on the web pages (if the web server comes back up! It did at about 09:30 15/7, problem was a power cut in Newcastle). Totals to date for Honey Buzzard in Northumberland study area are: upper South Tyne 6 sites, 9 birds (4 male, 5 female) 2 occupied nest; lower South Tyne 2,3 (2,1); Allen 7, 12 (6,5,1 unsexed) 1 occupied nest; Hexhamshire 6,14 (6,8) 1 nest-calls, 2 probable nest; Tyne Valley 9, 13 (6,7) 2 occupied nest, 1 probable nest; and Derwent 4, 6 (3,3) giving grand total 34, 57 (27,29,1) 6 nest-activity and 3 probable nest, plus 4 migrants (1 male, 2 female, 1 unsexed). Hope to complete the first round of nest visits on Wednesday.

July 13th: now done 9 out of the 10 nest visits so first round almost complete! Today went to the upper South Tyne, where it all began, and found a Honey Buzzard nest in oak re-used from last year with female in close attendance. Total for day was 5 raptors of 4 species: 2 Kestrel and single Honey Buzzard, Common Buzzard and Sparrowhawk (both of latter carrying food). Welli was interesting tonight with bust-up after closing time between madame boss and a graduand of unn, who I ferried off the premises, to avoid a show-down. All very western! The rhh was marvellously brassy! Maybe the property slump is affecting things in Hexham. Yesterday (12/7) went to a site in Hexhamshire which to put it mildly is not easy to access with very overgrown forest tracks. Again met very strident Common Buzzard with at least 3 present: 2 juveniles just flying and an adult. Nest of Honey Buzzard in Scots Pine is probable at this stage. Having spent some time in area of nest with no sign of birds, had a male coming in from the east up the Devil’s Water. It did a victory roll about 500m from the nest and then dropped right into the valley out of sight only re-appearing close to the nest itself. Everything about Honey Buzzard is devious as regards revealing the nest location – and that’s how they survive!!

July 10th: as said earlier a lot of research meetings this week and today busy from 10:00-18:00, mainly with PhD students. Did see the gts looking very tantalising! Yesterday (9/7) car in for service so decided to have the morning out at Haltwhistle, taking the train. There are 3 Honey Buzzard sites within reasonable walking distance of the station and went to a regular one where a visit was made in mid-May with no birds found. This time was set upon by another furious Common Buzzard (piccies later). Altogether in the trip got 8 raptors of 4 species: 5 Common Buzzard (including another fledged juvenile) and single Honey Buzzard, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. The Honey Buzzard was a female doing endless low-circling over an area of rough woodland, rather like the one on 7/7. Anyway it’s another new site for the season for the upper South Tyne! Amazingly Ka came through service with no problems – on past form, this means it will totally disintegrate in the next few weeks! Had leisurely afternoon in Hexham including visits to Nero and the Tap and then into Newcastle to Marco Polo and a concert at the Sage with Nick. No special sightings in Hexham alas!

July 8th: out opportunistically in a dry spell to another site in the Tyne Valley for nest visit. The latest hazard is aggressive Common Buzzard: with their young just out of the nest they are proving very protective parents (and quite right too!). The video (51.8MB, 2 min 20 secs, edited down from 511MB mpeg) shows what happened from 19:30-21:40 (one hour in site itself) with the local Common Buzzard comprising 2 adults and 2 just-fledged juveniles. Calls of adults and juveniles (latter more quavering) come out clearly. This is a site where Common Buzzard and Honey Buzzard nest very closely – perhaps only 200 metresapart – and tensions can run high. Why do they nest so closely here? I suspect it’s because their breeding area contains the best mature trees and as you will see in the video the area is undisturbed with not even a hint of a path. Altogether in the visit had 6 raptors of 3 species: 4 Common Buzzard and single Honey Buzzard and Kestrel. One Honey Buzzard call, an alarm call ( video, wma), was picked up during the mayhem and two brief glimpses were obtained of the female before she disappeared behind dense cover. The Honey Buzzard nest is probable at this stage. It was located in Scots Pine with a fallen root clump below containing feathers (mainly of pigeon but also of small game birds) and fur from small mammals with much splash in the area. In Northumberland pigeons are a frequent part of the diet in lowland areas.

July 7th: added video 2008-325 to web pages showing Honey Buzzard interaction with Red Kite and Hobby in the Allen on May 31st. If you’d told me in 1990 that we would in due course see these 3 species cavorting over the edge of a Northumbrian grouse moor, I’d have doubted your sanity. How times have changed!! Also finally got the page showing nationally recorded totals of Honey Buzzard under way. Only April is entered at the moment – there are a lot of records to process for May this year. Yesterday (6/7) went to a site in a tributary to the Tyne Valley not that far from the Welli! Weather was poor nearly all day but at 15:20 the sun came out briefly and a female Honey Buzzard was seen flying through the trees of a neighbouring site before going round in endless circles over the edge of the wood. In the target site managed to get drenched and curtailed the visit because of concern for the birds but did find the nest in a larch tree with recent foliage additions, splash below and one piping call. Total for visit was 3 raptors of 2 species: 2 Honey Buzzard, 1 Common Buzzard. Did go further east looking for kites around Prudhoe but no joy: it’s amazing how close some of these raptors are to built-up areas of the town. Had a report of a female Honey Buzzard flying over the road on May 28th at a site (not new) in the lower South Tyne. Enjoyed the Welli on Sunday night and got a Nightjar on the way back in Dipton Wood. Work is quite busy this week with research meetings and the Ka is having a service on Wednesday at Matt Clark. Hope to make the odd trip to Hexham! Totals to date for Honey Buzzard are: upper South Tyne 5 sites, 8 birds (4 male, 4 female) 1 occupied nest; lower South Tyne 2,3 (2,1); Allen 7, 12 (6,5,1 unsexed) 1 occupied nest; Hexhamshire 6,14 (6,8) 1 nest-calls, 1 probable nest; Tyne Valley 9, 13 (6,6,1) 2 occupied nest; and Derwent 4, 6 (3,3) giving grand total 33, 56 (27,27,2) 5 nest-activity and 1 probable nest, plus 4 migrants (1 male, 2 female, 1 unsexed).

July 5th: weather is going downhill; today was quite a problem with heavy rain due in the afternoon. If I’d got back from the Welli earlier on Friday night I could have got a trip in this morning. But didn’t so went in the evening as weather improved in the west to the upper South Tyne for a Honey Buzzard nest visit, not that far from the location for last Sunday’s trip. Visit was actually very successful with 6 raptors of 4 species: 2 Honey Buzzard and Common Buzzard and single Hobby and Goshawk. The Honey Buzzard included a female going out the back door with swinging wings and a male briefly over the nest, before giving about 5 anger calls. The calls were recorded (wma, spectrogram with clearest call at 90 seconds showing classical Honey Buzzard main frequency of 2.0-2.7 kHz) along with food remains (1 2) below the nest, a few feathers and some splash. The calls are like gold-dust in surveys of species such as this which are so difficult to pin-down. The food remains look as if they are of very small rabbits: such remains are found at sites where rabbits breed at their proverbial pace! All the remains are kept in a drawer of the freezer at home: anyone for dinner! The nest was difficult to pick out, as usual in spruce. The Hobby totals are now building well, how late some of them must arrive. No gorgeous sightings in Hexham town centrethis week but 2 on the road! May go east on Sunday as weather looks worse in north-west.

July 3rd: there are some fine birds in the Prudhoe area and in 90 minutes to the south of the town off Moor Road from 13:20-14:50 got 4 raptors of 4 species: Honey Buzzard, Hobby, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. The Honey Buzzard was a female, up for quite a while (15 minutes) and therefore quite possibly a non-breeding bird, given the season. It’s another new site for the eastern Tyne Valley. Inevitably the Hobby was mobbing the Honey Buzzard. Drive to Prudhoe was very stimulating, pursued by some mad b….r, who looked vaguely familiar! She must have set a new speed record between Broomhaugh and Stocksfield! Tonight a more sedate concert at the Sage with good meal before at Marco Polo with Nick and quick trip to Boathouse in Wylam off last train. A priority now is to catch up with processing of material from end May and early June before the next trip! Put up a video from mid-June (2008-330) showing in dull conditions what hard work it is for birds like Honey Buzzard to fly (flap all the way). Working on another set of videos from May 31st which show, in the Allen, Red Kite interacting with, in turn, male and female Honey Buzzard (we’re all kites together!) and Hobby, and a pair of Honey Buzzard in high altitude follow-me display. Did make the Tap yesterday but some things are becoming scarce!

July 1st: 4th nest site visit to a plantation in Hexhamshire from 19:30-21:20 (of which half in actual site). This normally holds a vociferous bird but very quiet tonight with no calls heard. However, a very fresh nest was found near last year’s on a bough of Scots Pine high up in the canopy and adjacent to the same clearing with splash below. This looks promising. Also had signs such as alarm calls from Jay in wood to west and Carrion Crow in wood to north, perhaps coming from the raptors retreating back into corvid territories. Will need a repeat visit for further checks. Had to evacuate quickly at the end as torrential rain came in. Visit to Hexham earlier was disappointing: even the dizzy turn of a pensioner outside the office had not brought out the rbbw. Greek PhD student is back, expect submission in 2 weeks! Tomorrow to the Tap after last week’s dreadful lapse!

June 29th: sucker for punishment with another trip, to the upper South Tyne, to climb up from Eals to Whitfield Lough (with great view to south to Cross Fell), a repeat of walk on February 24th. Total for 7 hours in the field was 11 raptors of 3 species: 5 Kestrel, 4 Common Buzzard and 2 Merlin. The Kestrel and Buzzard were found the whole way up the Snope Burn right to the top at 500m. The Merlin were the highlight of the day with both female and male seen carrying in food, a plucking post found with signs and the likely patch of heather for the nest isolated. I don’t have a disturbance permit for Merlin so cannot do any more. Some ringers seem to think Merlin nest finding is very hard but, compared to Honey Buzzard, they’re a piece of p..s! No Honey Buzzard were seen but they could have been with favourablehabitat in the valley below. The weather was bright late on but earlier there were 2 heavy squalls and the wind was very bracing throughout for end of June as you can see from this shot of your truly at the Lough itself. There’s a sort of shelter right on the top of the moor which, while without a roof, is normally adequate as the rain is often sideways in the winds up here! Breeding confirmed for Teal and Canada Goose. Flushed 3 large broods of Red Grouse near the Lough (12, 10, 8 young) which must bode well for the coming shooting season. Finished walk late at 19:00 so went to Kirkstyle for a couple for restoration purposes and learnt all you need to know about Riding Wood, a local activity centreat Barhaugh, where you can leave your kids to be entertained! Totals to date for Honey Buzzard are: upper South Tyne 5 sites, 7 birds (4 male, 3 female); lower South Tyne 2,2 (2,0); Allen 7, 12 (6,5,1 unsexed) 1 occupied nest; Hexhamshire 6,13 (6,7) 1 nest-calls; Tyne Valley 8, 12 (6,5,1) 1 occupied nest; and Derwent 4, 6 (3,3) giving grand total 32, 52 (27,23,2) 3 nest-activity, plus 4 migrants (1 male, 2 female, 1 unsexed).

June 28th: good walk today with Nick up the Allen Valley from Allen Banks to Staward Peel (with good views over Staward Gorge) and back with an extension via Shaws, about 11km in all. Weather was overcast all the time so disappointing for photography and there was a moderate S wind, which was hardly noticed in the valley itself. Total for the Valley was 8 raptors of 3 species: 5 Common Buzzard, 2 Honey Buzzard and a Hobby, with a single Kestrel on the way back at Stublick. After the female Honey Buzzard put her flaps down and plunged into a regular site, checked last year’s nest which is occupied and also found a Common Buzzard nest in the trip. A rave might have been brewing at Plankey Mill (shades of Glastonbury!) but I doubt whether the Honey Buzzards will care very much! Tonight to the Welli to celebrate Nick’s birthday – 6 of us – very enjoyable! Earlier, a bit of a midsummer pause this week in fieldwork with yesterday (27/6) an away day of my division within the School (SDE) to the Grand Hotel in Tynemouth, which gave us the chance for some paddling in the North Sea! Good news from east Stocksfield with a new site: 1 Red Kite last Saturday and 2 this one, so a pair moving in apparently. Good news as it suggests all habitat between here and the Derwent is still firmly held. Sad news of the Red Kite shot in the Borders: let’s hope nothing happens to the pioneering south Northumberland pairs!

June 24th: 4 more wailing calls early this morning from a Honey Buzzard site in Hexhamshire; they seem to be very excited, wonder whether eggs have hatched (indicating May 20th or slightly earlier laying date). It must be quite a landmark to the birds when the ‘lifeless’ eggs turn into young! Need to make another nest visit but the weather has gone downhill. Had a report of a Hobby in the Minsteracres area around 7th June from 2 reliable observers.

June 23rd: wind was far too strong for doing any serious raptor work yesterday (22nd) so made a determined attempt to catch up with the garden which has got just a little overgrown with the efforts in the Honey Buzzard survey. Spent 6-7 hours with the hedge trimmer and the grass cutter and looks slightly more like a garden now! Did make the Welli late on. Today in much better weather (lightish NW wind) did go east and got a new Honey Buzzard site in a birch/oak wood in the High Mickley area which was not a big surprise but still very pleasing: a male soared for 5 minutes at 11:45 and a female was seen very briefly flitting between trees. Altogether had 6 raptors of 3 species: 2 Honey Buzzard, Common Buzzard and Red Kite. I thought there might be 2-4 pairs of Honey Buzzard this far east, so now 2 have been found and there are gaps which could hold a further 2. Then into work ’til late. Got a Tawny Owl calling in Guessburn at 22:00.

June 21st cannot get away from Honey Buzzard even on a wet day! Bird song woke me up early and got five bursts of the wailing calls (two bursts of calls – wma at 5-9 and 16-19 seconds, spectrogram – jpeg1 jpeg2 at about 1.5kHz) of Honey Buzzard from 05:55-06:15. I think they’re getting their own back by disturbing my sweet dreams! Had to do some work on the new computer to process the calls which were recorded on an Olympus DM-10 digital voice recorder with directional tele-mike on the high quality (wma) setting. The wma audio files can be processed by Windows Movie Maker with splits to isolate the calls. The wma are then converted using Switch Audio (freeware from NCH) to wav files, which are analysedto produce spectrograms using more freeware, Spectrogram 16, from Visualization Software. Mid-morning went to the lower South Tyne and again got a male Honey Buzzard at one site, which was beating around its territory. That was at 12:10 just when the rain was starting. Also got 3 Common Buzzard there but no Red Kite, which was one of the motivations for the visit. Tomorrow was hoping to go to Whitfield Moor again but the forecast is bad for the west so will again sample the delights of the east!

June 20th: second nest visit under disturbance permit to a long-standing site in the Tyne Valley yesterday evening (19th) from 20:10-22:10 with 50 minutes actually close to the nest, followed inevitably by visit to the nearby Welli! This pair have not moved nest and there was a lot of splash and 2 pellets near the tree with the nest in — a Douglas Fir. I’ve got to run through the recordings to check whether any calls were picked up. More fieldwork in the Stocksfield area early today (20th) on way to meeting in Durham was exciting with another go in late afternoon on way back. Trip report for Crete has been added to the web pages: 127 raptors of 12 species was the final result for this marvellousisland in 8 days. Some more videos and stills are to be added directly. To the Welli tonight: amazed by sight of Harris’s Hawk flying low across the road at 21:50. This bird has been reported by others around Letah Wood but it’s the first time I’ve connected with it. Obviously it’s an escape as it’s a popular bird with falconers. It’s not flown in from North America!

June 18th: too wet for any fieldwork this evening – hopefully will get to a site tomorrow evening in the Tyne Valley. A Hobby was over Riding Mill this morning so the number of sites is rising quite steadily now. Hobby are far less comfortable in Northumberland than Honey Buzzard, showing some features of a species on the edge of its range: very variable breeding success, sites vacated for no obvious reason and late breeding season. But up to 6 sites now, 3 of which are in the upper South Tyne and singles in Hexhamshire, Tyne Valley and the Allen. Went to the Tap late afternoon — could have timed it better! The rbbw looks super-efficient now! Three BSc vivas tomorrow for French students and a research day in Durham on Friday but time pressures from work are in seasonal decline.

June 17th: started phase 2 with a visit to a nest site in Hexhamshire this evening. As a matter of policy no nests are visited until the birds are settled. Two reasons: 1) to help the birds by not unsettling them when nest building; 2) to help me by trying to keep them in known regular places. But today the birds have moved a little, going from a nest used for the last 4 years in Norway Spruce up the burn. The new nest was not found but the birds gave the wailing calls, only given in close vicinity to the nest, at 20:40 so it may be found in one more visit (but don’t bank on it!). The wailing calls confirm breeding. It’s not possible for the birds to re-use the same nest indefinitely because as the tree grows the nest becomes lower in the canopy, making it readily visible from the ground. Visited Hexham early this morning with a fine pair on the way out! Tomorrow in Gateshead in the morning for consultancy, which finishes at the end of the month. Exam marking finishes on Thursday. Going to Wroclaw in Poland for a conference in September to give a paper: I’m sure that will be a good raptor area!

June 15th: out to the Barhaugh Burn in the upper South Tyne for a good walk in fine weather from 11:20-17:50 in the stronghold for Hobby in the county. From this area you can look downstream (north) to the good areas for Honey Buzzard or upstream (south) to the more marginal ones. Today, slightly later than scheduled at 11:45, a male Honey Buzzard got up to the south and displayed for about 5 minutes, aggressively mobbed by a Hobby. Went on to walk up the Barhaugh Burn to Horseshoe Wood (showing yours truly) where got another Hobby, a male in territory, at 14:30. Other interesting moorland birds were a cock Black Grouse and 2 Red Grouse. Before starting the main walk stopped at Gilderdale Bridge on the county boundary and had a migrant Honey Buzzard going N at great altitude at 11:05. Migration on the south coast has almost finished but I’m sure some birds perhaps out of condition on initial arrival are still moving. Total for day in the South Tyne was 7 raptors of 3 species: 3 Common Buzzard and 2 Honey Buzzard and Hobby. To the Welli in the evening: good to see the rhh! End of phase 1 for Honey Buzzard with totals upper South Tyne 5 sites, 7 birds (4 male, 3 female); lower South Tyne 2,2 (2,0); Allen 7, 10 (5,4,1 unsexed); Hexhamshire 6,13 (6,7); Tyne Valley 7, 10 (5,4,1); and Derwent 4, 6 (3,3) giving grand total 31, 48 (25,21,2), plus 4 migrants (1 male, 2 female, 1 unsexed). Now it’s phase 2 which is not so demanding in the sense that phase 1 pivots around 11-12 each morning while nest visits can be made at any time.

June 14th: out to Plenmeller Common today in the lower South Tyne to walk the moors over the old opencast site. Weather was good for walking – bright with light NW wind – and spent about 3 hours there. Four raptors of three species were seen: 2 Common Buzzard and single Honey Buzzard and Merlin. The Honey Buzzard was a male, soaring to a moderate height and going off to hunt, so looking settled on the nest. This is a new site for the year in this rather under-covered stretch. The Merlin was a male carrying prey so was obviously breeding somewhere on the moor. At the Black-headed Gull colony there was a Dunlin and a female Wigeon. Then back to Hexham at 15:00 to pay extortionate car parking charges at M&S and visit Caffè Nero. Hexham leaves a bit to be desired on Saturday although the bbtis very fair! Later sorted out video of the female Honey Buzzard (2008-320) in Scotland which is very interesting in that it shows all the common poses of the species, as well as a hunting style which is more dramatic than generally acknowledged. I see Cocker Letch is up for rent again. This is very near to me so if you want any close encounters with Honey Buzzard, contact the agents Parker St.., whose web site shall we say looks as if it’s been designed by somebody a few weeks into a college course! Off to the upper South Tyne tomorrow for a real moorland walk with reconstitution later in the Welli!

June 13th: works outing with trip to Lakes today, going by bus to Bowness on Windermere. Arrived just after 11 and made quick progress to the car ferry as promising sites for Honey Buzzard found near there in visit in March. Just as ferry was starting to cross at 11:40 in flies a female Honey Buzzard, quickly joined by 2 more. So got the camcorder fastened on them and as ferry got closer to the other side the birds became bigger in a rather eerie way! Some of my colleagues were actually quite interested in the birds, noting their differences from (Common) Buzzard including their great elegance in the air and their large size. Then walked with 2 of my mates, David and David, to the top of the wood where I said we would be lucky to see them again and lo 2 of the birds came out and did a little displaying! We then walked to Belle Grange in fine weather along the ridge and back to the ferry for Bowness along the lakeshore (about 11km in all). Did not see any more Honey Buzzard but did hear/see 3 Common Buzzard. Had high tea (and a few Gs!) at the Burnside Hotel before getting the bus back to Newcastle, being dropped off at Hexham with leader Alistair just in time to make last orders at the Welli. Had an interesting chat with David on the bus about the physics of bird flight. He knows a lot about plane aerodynamics. He confirmed that birds would gain stability by raising their wings in turbulence and that turbulence would be high low-down over woods and in gusty conditions higher-up. Turbulence would be lower over open ground so the birds might prefer to fly here. In hilly areas the birds would try and locate places where the wind was creating uplift over ridges. When descending from a height the birds are likely to come down in a series of dives rather than one tremendous dive to avoid physical damage through excessive velocity. The separation of the fingers on the primary tips in soaring flight would reduce turbulence. Wing loading is the weight of the bird divided by the area of the spread wing. A lower wing loading facilitates soaring (lift) but makes the bird more vulnerable to turbulence. Honey Buzzard on migration fast to some extent and loose weight facilitating lift and reducing energy use in the continual climbs required in the soar-glide mode. In their breeding areas the extra weight they put on would make them more stable in flight but soaring would be harder. This trade-off may be a good one as soaring is not that frequent in this season. Other things being equal a heavier bird glides faster than a lighter bird. So crossing the Sahara in spring may be an easy affair with the birds fully loaded with fat reserves. In the autumn the light birds would not glide so fast so their speed may be slower but their soaring would be efficient energy-wise. So there you go – explanations through the physics of the design of the Honey Buzzard! All in all a lively day!

June 12th: busy the last 2 days at work with preparation for exam boards. Have though drafted the Crete trip report and processed the close-up video of the Honey Buzzard near Doune in Scotland. The video shows a female hunting over a silage field which is pretty novel I’m sure! Both should be published over the weekend. Went to the Tap in Hexham yesterday and a very good fix on the way! No Welli tonight as early start tomorrow with School bonding-trip to Bowness in the Lakes! Checking a few Internet sites while in Crete, I liked the latest fb photo — nice pn-l and fast drinker! Disconcerting to see somebody else has changed into a car but nice wheels! Hope to see a Honey Buzzard or two in the Bowness area tomorrow and moorland sites in Northumberland are scheduled for the weekend.

June 10th: 11:30 is a great time for seeing male Honey Buzzard beating low over their territories at the moment with one such seen at a new site in the Tyne Valley to the north of the A69 from the old Hexham-Corbridge road this morning. Hexham was much better with a very fine pair showing well earlier in the morning! This evening took tomorrow’s seminar speaker out to dinner at Cocomo’s in the Side. He was a birdwatcher (as well as database researcher!) and very impressed with the Kittiwakes nesting on the Quayside. Back on last train and in drive through Dipton Wood had 3 badgers. Totals to date in SW/S Northumberland for Honey Buzzard are upper South Tyne 4 sites, 6 birds (3 male, 3 female); lower South Tyne 1,1 (1,0); Allen 7, 10 (5,4,1 unsexed); Hexhamshire 6,13 (6,7); Tyne Valley 7, 10 (5,4,1); and Derwent 4, 6 (3,3) giving grand total 29, 46 (23,21,2), plus three migrants (1 male, 2 female). When phase 1 finishes is rather arbitrary but next Sunday (15th) is current intention. Then the Blair Witch phase starts and I’m planning to show more details on video of what these visits are like.

June 9th: out to the upper Derwent from 10-12 approximately and good results in the bright sunshine and moderate westerly breeze. Saw 7 raptors of 3 species: 4 Honey Buzzard, 2 Kestrel and a Red Kite (at Blanchland). The Honey Buzzard comprised a pair displaying on the edge of the moor at a site used every year since the mid 1990s and single males at a site already known to be occupied this year and at a new site near the Reservoir. The Derwent is a major growth area for raptors at present as the era of Victorian-style persecution at a major estate finally finishes: “no greater joy in heaven than when a sinner repenteth”. On the train in to work at 13:00 had a female Sparrowhawk at Stocksfield and a male Honey Buzzard in magnificent power glide over the western part of the Spetchells. While this could be assumed to be the male finally turning up at the site downstream, there may be a new site between Bywell and Wylam. So out of 5 Honey Buzzard seen, 3 were single males suggesting the females are sitting now. Near Hunstanworth a Snipe gave a very vivid distraction display. Hexham was a little disappointing at 12:30, no ρββω! Went to Welli in the evening – great to have Guinness after all this abstinence (9 days!) and a welcome staff return! There’s a backlog of pictures – hope to start catching up on these tomorrow.

June 8th: back from a very welcome break of 8 days in Κρήτη. Will give a fairly full trip report soon on what I found and got up to. Hoped to make the Welli tonight but plane was an hour late so may have to go tomorrow. It’s back to work tomorrow but may get a quick visit in first. It was lovely driving up the M6 in the long evening daylight. Have to pick up the threads again quickly, regret leaving Northumberland in many respects!!

May 31st: another good day in the field going in warm sunny humid weather to the upper parts of the Allen where had 12 raptors of 5 species: 6 Honey Buzzard, 2 Red Kite (clearly nesting) and Hobby (displaying) and single Merlin and Common Buzzard. The Honey Buzzard were at 3 sites, all additions for this year, including a new one further up the valley. On the way in the Hexham Race Course area had a Kestrel carrying food, a Honey Buzzard male gliding into a valley and another Common Buzzard, so 6 species of raptor today. The close-up videos and derived stills for the visit to Hexhamshire on 21st May are up on the web site. These show very classical Honey Buzzard jizz and a surprise of one bird perched in the open. Anyway off to research the Epimenides paradox! Or something like that!!

May 30th: no fieldwork this week – lots of assessment at work including final year project marking. Concert on Wednesday was a little dry but the solo singer was well received; he was a counter tenor, sometimes incorrectly known as castrate! Had meal before at Marco Polo. Did make the Welli yesterday and today and Caffè Nero this afternoon in a visit to Hexham to collect my shades and admire the sophisticated estate agents! Totals to date in SW/S Northumberland for Honey Buzzard are upper South Tyne 4 sites, 6 birds (3 male, 3 female); lower South Tyne 1,1 (1,0); Allen 4, 4 (2,1,1 unsexed); Hexhamshire 6,13 (6,7); Tyne Valley 6,8 (3,4,1); and Derwent 2, 3 (1,2) giving grand total 23,35 (16,17,2), plus three migrants (1 male, 2 female). Tomorrow hope to get out to the west to catch up on a couple of moorland-edge sites. Close-up video from May 21st has been processed and will be up on the web site soon.

May 27th: back yesterday from four days in the Trossachs with Nick and almost continuous sunshine, staying in Callander at the Dreadnought Hotel, which was very good value. The Waverley Hotel is good for a few beers! On way up on Friday evening (23rd) had a Sparrowhawk carrying prey near Callerton Parkway, 4 Common Buzzard and a Kestrel. In Stirlingshire total for trip was 34 raptors of 5 species: 22 Common Buzzard, 9 Honey Buzzard and single Sparrowhawk (male carrying food), Kestrel (feather only) and Golden Eagle. The Honey Buzzard comprised a female floating over a wood near Doune at 21:05 on 23rd, a male and female up at separate times over an open area of oak wood on Loch Katrine on 24th and at Falls of Leny on 25th, a pair up over mixed uneven-aged woodland just S of Callander on 25th and near Lake Menteith on 26th and the female again at the site near Doune on 26th. Video and stills were obtained at all sites including close-ups of the female near Doune on 26th hunting over a newly-cut silage field. The Golden Eagle was near the top of Ben Venue on 24th, powering its way along a ridge. The Trossachs area was selected partly to see how far Honey Buzzard were spreading west from the Tay Valley which appears to be optimal habitat for the species in Scotland. The result with 5 new sites in the Teith Valley area suggests the Honey Buzzard is very happy this far west and this surely leads to an upward revision in the Scottish Honey Buzzard population. A very good break with excellent hospitality, weather and scenery, including the bonnie dusky lasses! It’s a pity that the Honey Buzzard debate has degenerated into a north-south match with southern interests unable to appreciate that the bulk of wild woodlands suited to the species are in Northumberland and Scotland. The old idea that the Honey Buzzard is a soft species unable to cope with cool northern summers is of course exposed as ridiculous by the species breeding north of the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia and further east. Must get back for another survey later in the summer! We were quite energetic: walked 9 miles on Saturday and 11 on Sunday but had a leisurely boat trip on Monday. Added to web site video of pair of Honey Buzzard near Blanchland on May 20th (2008-313) and to text below for May 18th links to a video of one of the Red Kite and for May 20th links to a still of the new site. Tomorrow we’re off to the Sage for last concert of season and it’s the Isle of Man for a week in high summer!

May 22nd: some signs now that we’re nearing the end of the first phase of the season. At 6:10 (very early!) this morning in the ‘Shire a Honey Buzzard gave a pyow or wailing call (see calls), associated entirely with pair communication at the nest and strongly suggesting that at least one egg has been laid. The final site in Hexhamshire has proved as usual a difficult one for locating birds but the spacing of 2.5km between nests pinpoints the likely position. Journey to work is varied each day to target outstanding sites and for the 5th time passed by this site and stopped briefly. Nothing around apparently but after 10 minutes at 09:30 picked up a tiny speck soaring which turned out to be a male Honey Buzzard floating a long way up over the likely nest site. This sort of behaviouroccurs in late first phase or early second phase and appears to be the discreet marking of the site while migration of late birds continues. A research meeting in Durham with Mike tomorrow. The concert tonight at the Sage with Nick was good – the singer in Britten’s Illuminations was very impressive. Earlier I didn’t realisethe gtswas so fast! Coverage in the eastern part of the study area is now almost complete for the first phase but there are a few outstanding sites to check further west at high altitude on the edge of the moors.

May 21st: another productive visit mid-morning, this time to a regular site in Hexhamshire adjacent to the moors where 3 Honey Buzzard (2 females, male) were seen with some close-up views and a few calls. Also present were 2 Common Buzzard, complaining about the intrusion, a Goshawk and a Kestrel. Into Gateshead for work for the rest of the day before returning to Hexham for some welcome refreshment in the Tap where we had a good attendance. Report received there of what very much sounds like a Honey Buzzard at the sole remaining site in the Tyne Valley which has not been visited yet. Planned trip to Yorkshire has been postponed because of injury (not mine!) which is going to free up a few days in this first phase of the season. Another concert at the Sage tomorrow! Added video of Honey Buzzard in the eastern Tyne Valley on 18/5 to the main web pages and links to photos of Red Kite and Derwent Valley below.

May 20th: today went to the Derwent area late morning in glorious weather and had a total of 7 raptors: 3 Honey Buzzard, 2 Red Kite and single Sparrowhawk and Common Buzzard. The Red Kite (with tags— red left wing, green right) seemed to be feeding young at Blanchland — so success story continues hopefully — and the Honey Buzzard comprised a pair near Blanchland which were located within minutes of arrival and a female seen from the A68 at a new site for the Derwent Valley. Added video below of the five geese found on the moors on 17th.

May 17th: a wet day so caught up with backlog of records, decorating and Caffè Nero. The bbt is a fair substitute! On new computer, installed some open source software — Firefox (alternative web browser) and MiKTeX (processor for mathematical texts) – and Windows Media Encoder (format converter). In the records found reliable report of Honey Buzzard south of Allendale Town on 3rd May, which needs to be added in. Sites at such altitude (above 300m) tend to not be occupied every year. Weather improved in evening so decided to catch up on atlas work on the moors. Went to Whitfield Moor and while making a straight line towards some geese (thought to be feral Snow Goose settling into the tundra!), walked quickly right through a Merlin site! This was very lucky but a great sight with the video showing the female up at first and then the more lightly built male in the last clip. Also had 2 Common Buzzard and 2 Raven on the moor. Tomorrow to the fleshpots of east Tynedale!!

May 16th: visit early morning to the March Burn at the upper end of the Tyne Valley. The low cloud off the North Sea has been a curse this week and today was probably the coldest so far. The only raptor seen was a male Honey Buzzard up for about 10 seconds over the burn before subsiding gracefully back into the canopy, but it’s a new site!. Off to the Welli tonight where we had almost a full house of 8 attending from our group. Pleased to see srwthere! Weather forecast was better for tomorrow but not so good now – will have to play it by ear! The delights of the eastern Tyne Valley were on the menu including a visit to the Spetchells to get a good view over the area for displaying birds and perhaps popping on to Stocksfield mound to look for migrants. At work sent off 2 more accepted papers to the editor at Cambridge: that’s 9 papers so far this calendar year, the highest yet!

May 15th: a female Honey Buzzard low-down over the railway line between Riding Mill and Stocksfield early morning; no male seen yet at this site but this is the second time the female has been noted this year. Third trip to Newcastle Airport this week, to drop off daughter, then into Newcastle with Nick to Marco Polo and the Sage, where Ravel’s piano concerto was very well played in an almost Gershwin-like style. Left car at Wylam and coming off the last train managed a pint at the Boathouse, which had a good atmosphere and a lively barmaid! Hope to cover a site in the Hexham area tomorrow morning and may go east on Saturday if the sun gets out.

May 14th: no searching today in rather grey conditions but a Hobby was picked up over the road near the Linnels on leaving the house this morning, near a wood where they have bred before. This is only the second Hobby seen so far this year. Took daughter to the Welli in the evening for a meal so Tap was given a rest. Hexham though still had its attractions, particularly the flash of green and the stylish walk! Just got the latest bird of prey book, by Benny Génsbøl; looks good for Honey Buzzard identification with two myths seen off – that they have thin necks and that criteria for adults are also applicable to juveniles. Such myths have bedevilled identification of the species in Britain with a Welsh raptor group even claiming that juvenile Honey Buzzard never fly above the canopy. This misunderstanding, which defies common sense, presumably arose because the juvenile Honey Buzzard, practising over Welsh woods for the long flight to southern Africa, were misidentified as Common Buzzard!

May 13th: only a short visit today, from 11:50-12:40 to a site in the ‘Shire, where had 2 Honey Buzzard up at 12:20, with single Sparrowhawk and Common Buzzard seen earlier. The sun was just breaking through the thin high cloud as I arrived which is perfect conditions. The Honey Buzzard were rather distant but a male was captured on video 2008-309, which is now on the web page. Earlier visited Hexham. The rbbwlooked very fit for purpose!! Visit to bank for review lasted an hour and they did save money on my insurance. There’s another one fixed up for Tuesday: their long-term aim is clearly to manage my investments! Then into work in Gateshead for consultancy.

May 12th: added to web page video (2008-307) of pair of Honey Buzzard displaying near Haltwhistle yesterday and added to yesterday’s account below a link to short video of Sparrowhawk carrying food. Totals to date for Honey Buzzard are upper South Tyne 4 sites, 6 birds (3 male, 3 female); lower South Tyne 1,1 (1,0); Allen 3, 3 (2,1); Hexhamshire 2,4 (1,3); and Tyne Valley 3,4 (2,2) giving grand total 13,18 (9,9), plus three migrants. The two migrants yesterday and the flurry of records on Birdguides recently suggest that the Scottish population is now returning in strength. Son and daughter are staying for the next couple of days as it’s the first anniversary.

May 11th: a hard day in the SW with about 5 hours of fieldwork from 10am-3pm before rapid return to Waitrose for some food. An incredible day in the South Tyne with provisional totals of 11 Common Buzzard, 7 Honey Buzzard, 2 Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk (carrying food). The Honey Buzzard comprised a male up over a site in the lower South Tyne on the way there from the A69, a pair displaying near Haltwhistle with close-up video, two migrants (male, female) going NE/N at Haltwhistle at 11:25 and 12:35 and, in a very confused situation, further up the South Tyne, 2 more Honey Buzzard trying to fend off concerted pressure by Common Buzzard and Crow. One Honey Buzzard site was still not occupied. The day was enlivened by a stand-off near Haltwhistle with some campers being interviewed by a policeman. Their presence did not appear to affect the Honey Buzzard unduly: they had other things on their mind. Haltwhistle is always on the edge, I really was reluctant to leave! Both my kids were born there but I think they would have preferred a Stocksfield origin! More piccies tomorrow. The Welli was good fun. Tomorrow is School away day at the Copthorne followed by a boat trip on the Tyne.

May 10th: a rest from Honey Buzzards today with a trip to Wembley to see The Gulls aka Torquay United lose more decisively than the score suggests to Ebbsfleet 0-1 in the FA Trophy final: nice to be in the stadium though and the atmosphere was good with about 40,000 fans present. Added video (2008-306) from yesterday to the web site on the Hexhamshire visit. A call was also recorded in this visit, the first heard this year. The rest from Honey Buzzard fieldwork was not complete: at dusk on the train at Ovingham at 21:35 what looked very much like a Honey Buzzard was flying over the Tyne pursued by a Crow. This is not a known site but the expectation is that 2-4 extra sites will be found in the area around Prudhoe, Stocksfield and Wylam, that is eastern Tyne Valley, this year. On Birdguides 10 Honey Buzzard were reported today, mainly in southern counties of England. It looks as if the British population is continuing to rise. Tomorrow another bash in the upper South Tyne and to the Welli later!

May 9th: a flying visit to a site in Hexhamshire early this morning (9:30-10:30!) was very rewarding with 3 Honey Buzzard present: a pair involving a rather scruffy-looking male with some follow-me display and a lone female. Some close-up video was obtained which has already been processed but not published yet and I’m off to the Welli in a tick. Another Honey Buzzard female was floating over a site in the Tyne Valley: this bird was also noted earlier this week. So the season is going very well but it needs to as I’ve got trips to Scotland, Yorkshire and Crete in the next month. This last trip is with family, or put another way they booked up six months ago but I’m now joining them and staying in another hotel as their’s is fully booked! Southern Africa though is my main goal for the summer. I’d like some company for that. But it’s not everybody’s idea of a dream location. Tomorrow I’m doing something really different!

May 7th: the School was accredited successfully today by BCS and “your presence would be welcomed to comment on our research” as the Dean had put it so eloquently. So no survey work today! Very interesting trip to Hexham late afternoon: a really bonnie pair of sisters!! Added some information on relative tarsus (leg) lengths in Honey Buzzard and Common Buzzard to the Bare Parts page: the much shorter (kite-like) length of the tarsus in Honey Buzzard, particularly relative to tail length, should be a good identification feature on birds where this feature can be assessed from a shot of the underside.

May 6th: A trip down the Tyne Valley this morning in very fine weather from Corbridge-Wylam produced 3 more Honey Buzzard at 2 sites, both new for this season, with a pair displaying at one and a single female floating over a regular key site. The display, the first noted this season, involved the pair gliding around together for five minutes and being joined by an angry Common Buzzard which was completely ignored! The Common Buzzard looked distinctly smaller than the Honey Buzzard in both wing length and breadth. Aggravation between the two species is quite frequent at this stage of the season, as the Honey Buzzard often have to squeeze in between two Common Buzzard territories but rapidly diminishes as the Honey Buzzard carry on regardless. Best time now for action is around 11:30. Ended up near Wylam where I’m sure a beautiful pair will be found: the habitat is very suitable. This female Kestrel was occupying an old chimney there. Total for morning was 7 raptors of 4 species: 3 Honey Buzzard, 2 Kestrel and single Common Buzzard and Sparrowhawk. Then into work ‘til late. Earlier popped into Lloyds at Hexham to pay in a dividend and ended up with an appointment next week for a financial review: beware of the banks! No interesting sightings in Hexham unfortunately!

May 5th: a beautiful day if you forget the football, but I suppose at least Exeter are a sort of Devonian side! My premonition about which Wembley event to attend has turned out to be right. In the South Tyne the first Hobby was displaying dynamically at 13:00 over Parson Shields, which is archetypal habitat for the species in the SW. Honey Buzzard are now rapidly settling into their territories with two more found in a traditional area of the upper South Tyne, much as yesterday with single male and female at adjacent sites with no interaction and the female being much more obliging, giving some good close-up views (2008-305). Total for visit was 12 raptors of 3 species: 9 Common Buzzard, 2 Honey Buzzard and the Hobby. In addition from the road on the way back had a male Honey Buzzard soaring at a new site on the Allen. So totals to date are upper South Tyne 2 sites, 2 birds (1 male, 1 female); Allen 3, 3 (2,1); Hexhamshire 1,1 (0,1); and Tyne Valley 1,1 (1,0) giving grand total 7,7 (4,3), plus one migrant. No pairs have been seen yet, no calls have been heard and sex ratio is fairly even. Might make a crepuscular visit later: Honey Buzzard often go out feeding in the evening at this time of year, perhaps after frogs. They can hardly be eating wasps at this time of year!

May 4th: to the Allen today with rain threatened but it did stay dry. Two more Honey Buzzard were seen: a male drifting over the trees and a much more obliging female which actually got up in the air enough to give a video opportunity, 2008-304, which is a large file of 41.0MB for just under 3 minutes but it’s necessary to keep the quality. This file was crunched down from 205MB of mpeg in just 65 seconds on the new computer. The birds seen were at neighbouringsites and no interaction was seen. Total for visit in very dull weather was 4 raptors of 3 species: 2 Honey Buzzard and single Goshawk and Sparrowhawk. Raven in territory were also found with this bird in moult coming very close. Went to Welli in evening: talking to an encryption expert Richard, who’d had a couple, very interesting! The rhhwas in good form! Tomorrow to the South Tyne as the best weather so far this spring is forecast.

May 3rd: another Honey Buzzard today in the Tyne Valley, again rather distant but clearly a male on lightish appearance in both plumage and weight. From 11:30-12:30 this bird was patrolling its area at low altitude, almost through the trees, at times. It looked as if it was holding territory, waiting for its mate! Video is at 2008-302. Total for visit was 8 raptors of four species: 3 Sparrowhawk, including this pair seen displaying at Guessburn from the mound, 2 Kestrel and Common Buzzard and one Honey Buzzard. As you’d expect from this area, the Sparrowhawk are a fine looking pair! The video was obtained at HD HQ quality, the 2nd highest; file size was 107MB for original one minute 48 seconds in Sony’s .m2ts format, increasing to 124MB on conversion to .mpeg using Sony’s Picture Motion Browser and reducing to 10.38MB on compression to .wmv format using Windows Movie Maker of the 54 seconds of material actually published. The compression does lose quality but video files of 100MB are just too large for the current Internet. To Sage in evening with David and Rosa for concert, preceded by meal at Gusto; Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll was beautifully performed. In Beethoven’s 4th the conductor got carried away and lost his grip on the baton which came flying into me in the 2nd row: a good way of keeping the audience awake!

May 1st: first Honey Buzzard in territory duly observed in Hexhamshire this afternoon with regular appearance over site at some distance from 14:55-18:00. This bird may well have arrived this morning and was extensively exploring its breeding area. Some video was obtained and processing is well under way. This bird was a female, clearly with prominent display, keen to get started, but where was the male? To Welli late on – after listening to Exeter vs Torquay on radio on Internet (result was spot-on with winner in 91st minute!) — no sign of gts and a sad change to staff. So has the new computer been worth it? Quite a lot of hassle but it’s the latest hardware and software and the power is there for HD video editing, so yes! Computer configuration is processor Intel Core Quad CPU Q6600 @ 2.40GHz; memory 4.00 GB RAM; GPU interactive graphics, NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GTS; disks 250GB and 750GB giving total 1TB; OS Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit; DVD RW drive; supplied by Dino PC of London. Added to others another photo from wedding sent by sister.

April 30th: added video from new camcorder (2008-300); it’s only 27 seconds but the compressed wmv form still occupies around 6MB. This is an interesting bird because it was so early and will be discussed further, using some stills taken on the EOS. Yesterday evening (29th) the weather was good enough for the first grass cutting. The Cowslip in the grass have finally come out and this delays cutting the whole area! The rbbwwas looking particularly gorgeous this evening!! Fixed outstanding problem on 750GB disk with it hanging on large writes by altering the device driver to disable command queuing: this solution was found on the Internet, isn’t it marvellous! Tomorrow will start looking in earnest for incoming Honey Buzzard and Hobby.

April 28th: 10 Honey Buzzard reported in southern England as far north as Warwickshire and over a broad front from Cornwall to Essex during the period 24-27 April (Birdguides). Some people think that counts such as these represent total numbers moving in the real-world. But of course they don’t: the broad front and a typical altitude for long-distance flight of 1km means many must go undetected. This is penultimate teaching week — well timed! Computer almost fully operational now: installed Sony HD camcorder software and driver and Canon EOS software and fixed an internal loose connection on the DVD RW drive which was causing errors. In intermediate quality mode Windows Movie Maker processes successfully and very quickly the mpeg files produced by the camcorder. Such files are large — just over 1MB for each second of recording (perhaps 70MB/minute) — but tiny compared with those in the highest quality mode. The old camcorder produced 4MB/minute!

April 27th: today was a washout with local flooding in the late afternoon. Making progress with new computer and added photo of Grey Heron nests at Riding Mill taken yesterday and this note using it, which has involved quite a few things going right. Installed Trend (ant-virus), OpenOffice (free equivalent to MS Office), Citrix (desktop anywhere), Acrobat Reader (pdf) and EOS device driver for Canon camera. From old computer transferred across 95GB of document files and imported 1.4GB of mail messages into Web Mail. In the evening to the ‘Shire St George’s Day party of the Leek Club at the Dipton Mill: good fun with short play, quiz and a few sheep sh…er jokes! I am a member but a bit on the edge (so to speak!). Honey Buzzard are coming in to southern England in some numbers now. It’s a good thing I’ll be up here for the next long weekend!

April 26th: walked with Nick along the Tyne from Riding Mill to Corbridge and back; weather was not bad and the first Swift were seen with a large increase in numbers of flying insects, Sand Martin and Swallow so Hobby and Honey Buzzard cannot be far behind. Total for raptors was five individuals of 3 species: 3 Kestrel and single Common Buzzard and Goshawk. No sign of the Honey Buzzard seen on 17/4 so it looks like it was a migrant on the way to Scotland. This stretch of the Tyne Valley from Corbridge to Stocksfield seems to be a major migration route for Honey Buzzard, maybe they follow the A68! Inevitable refreshments taken at the Dyvells and Welli; the Dyvells is a lot better than it used to be and there were even a couple of exiles from the Welli there. In evening went to a folk concert in Ovingham with Dave and Denise followed by trip to the Bridge End. No piccies yet as reached tilt-point with new computer and all effort now going into getting it up to speed. Needed to update the BIOS to stop disk writes hanging on one of the disks. Tomorrow need to get a lot of things straight in the house and garden!

April 24th: got new computer back again from delivery firm in Gateshead. It was ominously rattling and when opened up found the graphics card loose so re-fixed this, turned it on fearing the worst and it booted first-time!! So it’s looking much more promising and should get the HD video editing underway soon, just in time for the new Honey Buzzard season. I note they’d replaced the NVIDIA video processor unit. Also eye test this morning at Specsavers in Hexham: much as expected, long and medium sight fine but reading sight needs attention, so varifocals ordered. Nice to know that I’ve been eyeing up the right birds!! Alas no sign of the rbbw in her lair. Expecting to make the Welli on way home!

April 21st: back late-on from trip to London for wedding of nephew at the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts) in the Mall on Saturday evening (19th) where yours truly enjoyed himself. A very good event and good to see so many people for a happy occasion. Stayed with elder sister in Ealing with celebrations going on into Sunday evening when the happy couple left for Cornwall! Went to the Chilterns today to Turville and even though the weather was dull, brightening up a bit in the afternoon, Red Kite were everywhere with 12 on the walk and a further 33 on the road as far east as the start of the M40, giving 45 altogether. They are clearly not quite on eggs yet with many still as displaying pairs and a few were seen to be starting primary moult. Also seen in the Chilterns were single Common Buzzard and Kestrel with a Sparrowhawk in Ealing. From the train on the way down on Saturday morning a female-type Marsh Harrier was over a reedbed south of Peterborough. Anyway good to be back in Northumberland and it’s warming up nicely!

April 18th: today in Durham all day for research meeting with rapid progress on 4 new papers. A great day yesterday (17/4) with the first Honey Buzzard of the season and a fascinating encounter in the Welli! At 14:10 the Honey Buzzard powered its way up the main Tyne Valley, like an Osprey, and gave a few minutes of dynamic action. In fact it was uncannily similar to last year’s performance on 28th April but this time it was a female and the earliest record in the study area by a long way. The bird looked very well fed so cannot have done the final stretch without extensive re-fuelling.Maybe some of these early birds are not even wintering south of the Sahara. Driving on the road back into Hexham pandemonium amongst the corvids suggested the continued presence of the bird. Some photos and video of the bird were obtained and I’ll put up some of the stills next week. On Wednesday (16/4) went to Tap in Hexham with meal after at David and Rosa’s; we’re planning a weekend in a month or so on the North Yorks moors which should be good for Honey Buzzards. Snow settling overnight was further confirmation of the Scandinavian nature of spring in NE England some years. Adding some more material on Honey Buzzard identification soon concerning tarsus length. Meanwhile I sense a meeting of the clans!

April 15th: interesting change of status for Honey Buzzard in the [Scottish] Borders Bird Report for 2006: “A rare passage migrant. May actually be a regular migrant in tiny numbers but few records partly because it is rarely recognised but also due to poor acceptance of written descriptions of those that do occur”. This is welcome recognition of the problem but surely an understatement. If the Birds of Scotland estimate of 50 pairs is correct then some 100 adults will pass over the border in spring and some 150 birds including fledged juveniles in autumn. There is just one record in the Borders for 2006: a satellite-tracked bird! I’ve no evidence for Honey Buzzards breeding in the Borders. A trip to very promising habitat in the Trossachs is planned for next month. Today off work, did some decorating and visited Hexham where the rbbw looked very appealing! Went to the Sage with Nick this evening to hear the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra with meal beforehand at Marco Polo. Highlight was Mendelssohn’s violin concerto with a brilliant fraulein soloist!

April 13th: today the first Honey Buzzard of the UK season was seen in the Cambridge area (Birdguides). Updated web pages with another video (2007-200) showing a Honey Buzzard on presumed return last year to its nesting area in the Tyne Valley. There are several more I’d like to add before the end of the month. Weather is a bit like that in the tropics at the moment: fine in the morning, then rains before fairing up again in the evening. But perhaps slightly cooler although did have lunch outside again today! Main task was spring-cleaning upstairs (the parts the cleaner never reaches!), made tolerable by listening to Wagner’s Flying Dutchman. Did get to Grindon Lough in the morning to see the White-fronted Geese before they leave for Greenland, plus 2 Kestrel and a Common Buzzard. Experimenting with the settings on the Canon EOS such as partial metering, ISO and AV to try and compensate for the strong back-lighting on raptors in flight. Late on went to the Welli where service was of the highest standard! Yesterday (12/4) started breeding atlas work on Whitfield Moor with a walk in sleet on Ayle Common to the top of the common (524m) from Kirkside. The waders seemed very happy including this Lapwing but no raptors were seen in the dull conditions. Friday (11/4) was a great day for seeing Common Buzzard, possibly the climax of the spring display as they begin nesting, with 10 up in the Warden area and 3 in Hexhamshire; 2 Kestrel were the only other raptors seen. Swallows are moving in with 5 at Warden and 4 at Dilston and this beautiful male Bullfinch was in the garden. Friday night at the Welli with the usual gang was very enjoyable.

April 10th: another spring-like day and actually ate lunch outside on what one would call the patio! A lazy morning and did not get out until early afternoon when on driving into Hexham a Red Kite was soaring over Letah Wood just a mile from the house. Went to west of Hexham (High Wood) with good views to Greenshaw Plain and Warden Hill. At the former another Red Kite was up in the air and at the latter 4 Common Buzzard were soaring. So the Red Kite position looks very promising if a little chaotic with some birds prospecting, rather than settling down yet. Met Stan B, a great local historian, in Nero after the trip. To the Welli late on: 2 Ss were there! On the web front moving files from the supanet server to the computing server and adjusting the index files; this will make things easier to manage in the future. Am also working up a video on the first Honey Buzzard seen last year, on 28/4: not long to go now!

April 8th: lovely spring-like conditions today and was off work. Took new computer back to Gateshead for return to Internet suppliers in London and refund under Sale of Goods Act: it’s been a major disappointment and waste of time since it’s failed to boot even once! Thank goodness I paid by credit card! I’m going to replace it with something bought locally. While driving back picked up a Red Kite on the county boundary near Bradley Hall and got a few shots. Then called into the area south of Prudhoe for an hour where got 5 raptors: 2 Kestrel and Common Buzzard and one Sparrowhawk, so 4 species altogether in the Prudhoe area – not bad! Finally back to Hexham where the ff looked good, a hair cut at John Gerrard and tea at Caffè Nero. Tomorrow back at work for just one day, with consultancy in Gateshead and meeting with Greek PhD student.

April 7th: conditions remain adverse with snow on moderate northerly winds but the Common Buzzard are now displaying at every opportunity, even in between snow showers. Yesterday (6th) out to the South Tyne, first to North Wood, then to Lambley Viaduct, where there are great views south to Towsbank. Total for raptors was 15 including 13 Common Buzzard and single Goshawk and Sparrowhawk. Like on 5th the Common Buzzard revelledin the conditions and everything else sat tight. The shots show the compact appearance of the Common Buzzard in all postures, quite unlike adult Honey Buzzard. There’s an interesting story about Lambley Viaduct. In 2003 a member of the County Records Committee who shall be nameless (Mr X) decided to find Honey Buzzards in the South Tyne. Mr X is reputed to have spent 75 hours in the South Tyne that summer, most of it at Lambley Viaduct as it’s easy to walk onto with your gear. But unfortunately there are no breeding Honey Buzzard at the viaduct so Mr X did not see any. There is an old joke on this topic! So far this year Goshawk have been found in the study area at 11 sites and Red Kite at 6. The Welli had its interest last night, particularly the exit! A pity the same cannot be said for visits to Hexham.

April 5th: it’s quite a traditional spring for Northumberland with a biting wind and stinging hail today out in the Allen. Snow was still lying at Allenheads at 11:30 this morning but the light is now much better as for instance in this shot across to Whitfield Moor, where I’ve ‘won’ 14 tetrads to survey in the new BTO breeding/wintering bird atlas. No competition! It’s the boggiest and bleakest moor in the county with knee-high vegetation and hardly any paths. You can get an inkling of it from the high point of the A686 between Hexham and Alston. But it’s a marvellouswilderness with very interesting moorland birds, including Merlin on the moor itself, Hobby on the edges and the odd foraging Honey Buzzard. I’ll give guided tours to the right people! Although the weather is on the surface wintry, the tempo is definitely spring-like now with 9 Common Buzzard displaying today in the Oakpool area and Curlew bubbling away. For the latter the top 2 shots were taken at some range on the Canon EOS with a 200mm lens and the bottom 2 on the Sony HD camcorder still facility. The camcorder ones look sharper presumably because of the image stabilisation.An interesting journey to work yesterday! Next week I’m winding down as I need a break and to catch up on a few things in Hexham.

April 3rd: added short video of Honey Buzzard from a site in the Allen last June, showing a very characteristic wing shape with broad wing tip due to relatively long P10 (outermost primary feather, on outside of leading edge of wing). This video also shows the bird with a full crop, giving it a thick neck. How on earth the thickness of the neck became an identification feature in Britain is one of the howlers of British ornithology: most UK observers see Honey Buzzards only at migration points such as Gibraltar when the birds are fasting to a considerable extent. To the Tap yesterday (2/4) late afternoon in Hexham with Dave and Bill where good chat including starting to plan another weekend in the Lakes. Tonight to the Welli where entertaining Selwyn and Sheila who look after the cats on my trips away. There are rumours that one of the barmaids is going to be murdered! Sadly no sign of the ff this week, nor of the gts. First Hobby into southern England yesterday and today. In theory they could be here tomorrow but they’ll probably move N more leisurely with their preferred company, the hirundines. Today digging in garden in the ‘Shire and 5 Common Buzzard, at 3 sites, and a Kestrel seen while gazing around, before finally getting to Caffè Nero at teatime.

March 31st: looked up last visit to Berlin from 28-30 May 2005 when in spring had 15 raptors of 6 species: 6 Common Buzzard, 3 Kestrel and Honey Buzzard and single Hobby, Peregrine and Goshawk, mostly in the Tiergarten. Videos of Hobby mobbing Common Buzzard and of floating Honey Buzzard were also found from this trip. Back into swing quickly after sitting around most of last week with trip to lower part of Allen Valley (Morralee) on Saturday (29/3) and walked from Riding Mill-Broomley Woods on back road via Shilford on Sunday (30/3). In the Allen got 11 raptors of 3 species: 8 Common Buzzard, 2 Kestrel and a Goshawk. In the Shilford area got 11 raptors of 4 species: 6 Common Buzzard (with longish tail but uniform upperparts, pale breast band, large head, fairly straight trailing edge), 2 Sparrowhawk and Goshawk and one Kestrel. The Shilford count supports the idea that the Tyne Valley is very popular with accipiters, which is not surprising seeing the numbers of small birds and pigeons present. Also got into the Welli on Sunday night with some intriguing company from down the Tyne! Today back to the office in the afternoon. Visited Caffè Nero in Hexham for lunch but alas no interesting sightings here! Goshawk have been found in good numbers this spring in spite of last year’s apparently very poor breeding season. Many this spring are adults suggesting that the weather rather than persecution caused last year’s almost total failure.

March 29th: got back yesterday from trip to Berlin, Germany, for work. Flew out on 06:00 from Newcastle to Amsterdam with KLM on Monday (24/3), transferring to 10:10 from Amsterdam to Berlin. Landed one hour late due to snow and ice on runways in Amsterdam. Staying at Adrema Hotel near both the conference I-ESA’08 and Tiergarten, a massive and pretty wild city park with the Siegessäule at one end, where the raptors hang out. Went to opera on first night at nearby Deutsch Oper to see Verdi’s Aida. It was well performed — good singing, massive chorus, technically well rehearsed — but got some boos at halftime: it was perhaps not traditional enough for some of the audience. The singing was in Italian with German supertitles (or something like that!). On Tuesday (25/3) joined in Scientific Workshop on Enterprise Interoperability and gave a pretty provocative piece on their shortfalls in science which was, surprisingly, well received by most (but not all) attendees! Enjoyable conference reception in the evening: the Germans are good hosts. On Wednesday (26/3) gave a full conference presentation (30 minutes) which went well with some interesting questions raised in the discussion for further work. Then conference dinner at the Fraunhofer Centre.On Thursday (27/3) Tim, a German PhD student I’m supervising, flew up from Stuttgart for some discussions in the morning. Then made the Tiergarten for some serious study of the local raptors with Common Buzzard everywhere and a pair of Goshawk, and took in the Brandenburg Gate. In evening did boat trip with dinner as last conference function on River Spree to see Berlin by night. Yesterday (28/3) went to conference for a bit before going to Berlin’s Tegel Airport to leave at 12:10 for Amsterdam, where changed for Newcastle getting in on time at 17:45. Berlin is regarded as really decadent by other Germans! Maybe, but it does give it a lively edge! Total for birds of prey was 19 individuals of five species: 12 Common Buzzard (note relatively short tail and P10 in flight shots), 3 Goshawk (these stills at x20 on camcorder), 2 Kestrel, one Peregrine and a Red Kite, a summer visitor in this area, moving NE at height on 26/3 at 13:00; hence not that much different from Northumberland with our recent Red Kite bonuses but all the birds here were in the city. The main obvious difference in birds is that the crows are Hooded. My co-author Mike was in Vienna at the same time also presenting 2 papers so we had 4 papers altogether in central Europe this week. Anyway nice to be back, off to the Welli for Friday evening to get back on Guinness from German red wine, must then catch up on sleep and above all it’s great to return to the natural beauties of Northumberland!

March 23rd: out to Hyons Wood today again in a biting N wind and got a few raptors, seven in total: 2 Common Buzzard, Kestrel and Red Kite and a single Goshawk. The Red Kite were up at Dukes Hagg for about a minute before deciding it was too cold! Also visited Guessburn and the mound where got one Kestrel but nothing else was rising! Latest video has been added and it shows some close-ups of structure and plumage. It’s indexed under 2007-215 so you can find it without scrolling by doing ctrl-F (Find on page) and searching for 2007-215. Supanet web site has been down all day. I’m in the process of slowly migrating all materials off Supanet and this may hasten the process. All recent Honey Buzzard information can be found by going straight to http://nickrossiter.org.uk/hbweb/ or by searching in Google for ‘Honey Buzzard’ – it’s currently number 2! Indeed the Supanet page now is just a re-direction to the url above. Anyway off to the Welli and then popping out to I-ESA! One or two things will be missed.

March 22nd: a little snow early on at Ordley with view to The Lee which you can buy if you want to be within waving distance!Decided to see some real snow so went up to Blanchland where about 15cm on the fields and found a good viewpoint for main raptor woods in area which will be useful later in the season. But no raptors today except for a calling Tawny Owl at midday. Watched Wagner’s Siegfried Act II on DVD this evening as preparation for approaching Honey Buzzard season: it’s all set in deep forest and is complete with singing birds. Mind you there are no dragons in Northumberland as far as I know and I’m waiting to be led by a songbird to a beautiful lady, Brünnhilde, who actually with Wagner’s original extended families is Siegfried’s aunt! It’s snowing again late evening, maybe lower levels in the east will be better tomorrow for the odd Red Kite. Video from 3rd June 2007 in South Tyne has been analysedand the html will be imported into the video file tomorrow.

March 21st: the equinox, start of official spring! In the ‘Shire flurries of snow on a biting N wind so started getting the garden straight (digging!), painting the new upstairs bathroom and watching the local birds. Just two raptors were seen, the pair of resident Common Buzzard, but a Chiffchaff was heard calling which is the first summer visitor noted. Found some close-up video of Honey Buzzard from last June in the South Tyne which is well worth publishing. Wednesday had its highlights, including the gorgeous ff and her racey friend. Tonight off to the Welli: the snow is settling but you’ve got to get your priorities right!

March 18th: on Sunday (16/3) did go west to Staward Gorge — weather was not quite as sunny as expected but it was not bad and raptors were in very good supply and variety with some spring fever even if display was not prolonged. Total for day (4.5 hours, 11:00-15:30) was 22 raptors of 6 species: 13 Common Buzzard, 3 Kestrel, 2 Goshawk and Peregrine and single Sparrowhawk and Merlin. The Merlin had two goes at a Common Buzzard, looking very petulant with its relatively small size. It will be waiting for the Meadow Pipits to arrive (next week) so that it can join them on the moors! This is of course one of the great raptor areas in the county: the valley of death if you’re a pigeon! Went to Welli on Sunday evening: again very intriguing on 2 counts! Finally updated web pages (African raptors) with video of Wahlberg’s Eagle and its interaction with Crowned and Black Eagles. There’s still some more to process from this trip. Consultancy in Gateshead has been moved to Thursday this week. After 2 long days in the office, roll on Wednesday, especially the late afternoon!

March 15th: good day in the field yesterday (14/3) at the back of Prudhoe, south of the hospital, with 13 raptors of 5 species around 13:30: 4 Kestrel at 3 sites, 3 Sparrowhawk at 2 sites, 3 Red Kite soaring together over Hyons Wood, 2 Common Buzzard and a Rough-legged Buzzard. So Red Kite look well-established in Hyons Wood now and the Rough-legged Buzzard is of course a rarity, a winter visitor from Norway presumably now mobile and moving N back in the general direction of Scandinavia. Popped into area after visit to Gateshead to collect computer, which has not been tested yet because it needs a male-to-female video lead instead of the normal male-to-male (these are legitimate technical terms! now in the post I hope). Weather was perfect with sunshine and a moderate W breeze. It was also warmer so stripping-off can begin! Returned to Hexham for lunch in Nero. The ffis looking very cool and professional! Out to the Welli later where full house of seven in our group. Rain today did not bode well for raptor searching so finishing Wahlberg’s Eagle script and tidying up for the cleaner, but tomorrow looks much better, particularly in the west.

March 13th: bringing together various clips of Wahlberg’s Eagle from Ulusaba for web pages. This is a very characteristic eagle in flight and should be the first to be sorted out in any visit. New computer received yesterday morning at work and installed it yesterday afternoon. It’s a pretty standard XP pro machine. Went to Tap yesterday evening: always a good experience particularly the walk there! I think this week is on the slide — POETS day tomorrow and POETS eve today! Need to collect from Gateshead tomorrow the new home machine which will hopefully be really up for it with HD video processing. May even see a Red Kite on the way back. Had a paper accepted for a workshop in the Berlin conference (to add to the full paper): they rejected my first effort so Mike re-jigged it, taking note of their comments, put his name first and re-submitted to the other co-chair who accepted it. Nice to work with a lawyer! This is our 170th joint publication since we started working together in 1980, quite a partnership!

March 9th: quite a lot of train travel on Friday (7/3), leaving car at Nick’s house, going from Stocksfield-Durham for research meeting and then over to Oxenholme via Carlisle where caught up with Nick in the Lakes. Stayed at the Sawrey Hotel, near Hawkshead, for 2 nights on western side of Lake Windermere. Total for trip was 17 raptors with 14 Common Buzzard, 2 Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk. On Saturday (8/3) weather was dull with one heavy shower but nothing like the rain elsewhere in parts of northern Britain and did 11km in a round trip from Far Sawrey to Belle Grange Bay. Woods on the west side of Windermere are reputed to hold Honey Buzzard and the area around The Heald looks ideal, as does Castle Wood with Grizedale behind. Goosander (this shot a still on camcorder) were present on Windermere in good numbers with a total of 9 in territory and Robin were very tame, obviously being fed by fishermen. On Sunday (9/3) went up Latterbarrow (244m) from Hawkshead in much better weather with good views over to Ambleside. Got back late afternoon to take daughter to airport who’s been revising really keenly for some imminent exams on safety. Made the Welli on Sunday night – got to get back in the swing quickly! It’s more interesting on Sunday night than I had anticipated.

March 6th: new computer system on order from a London Internet company — Intel Multimedia HD02L with many customisations — which will help with video processing from the camcorder. New computer also being secured next week at work, a bit of a coincidence with existing machines both 5-6 years old. Too much work again this week and no respite over Easter itself with the new system of secular holidays, but there is a potential three-week break in the first three weeks of April. Took the daughter to the Welli tonight for a meal – very enjoyable!!

March 4th: records reported for Red Kite to date in 2008 are available from the BTO’s BirdTrack system, which includes all the records in the study area along the Tyne Valley. It’s an encouraging picture for the North East. The effort put into the Honey Buzzard web site over the past year has paid off with the site now about 6th internationally in a search for Honey Buzzardon Google. Mind you this rating is obviously biased towards English sites as there are a number of good continental sites with different names for the species. Trip to Africa might have to be postponed as it’s being squeezed out — major family wedding (nephew) in London mid-April with instructions that drifting around Africa is not a valid excuse for absence! In the near future I’m going to Germany for almost a week for an interoperability conference so it might be nicer to be a bit more settled up here!

March 3rd: added another video (2007-268) to the web pages, this time one taken last year in Hexhamshire on 16th August of a pair of adults coaxing a juvenile into the air; I don’t think this sort of activity by Honey Buzzard is that well documented and there is even debate about whether juvenile Honey Buzzard get up above the canopy before setting of on their migration. Well they clearly do and it defies common sense that a juvenile Honey Buzzard would set off on the long trek to tropical Africa without some serious practice in the air beforehand. Today working at home. Nice not to have to go into Newcastle and see the beauties of Hexham instead: such eyes full of northern promise!!! Dinner with daughter on Saturday at the Travellerswas very good. This week sees opera in Newcastle on Wednesday (Peter Grimes) with Nick, research meeting in Durham on Friday with Mike and trip to the Lakes with Nick for the weekend. Yesterday (2/3) was another bright and breezy day. Out to Blanchland and after 2 hours 30 minutes at 13:10 finally got a Red Kite coming out of a large wood and flapping hard to W. This was ten minutes after a Common Buzzard had made almost the same move, though its flight was straighter. The stats don’t look bad: 6 raptors of 5 species with 2 Kestrel and single Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard, Red Kite and Merlin, the last named flying SW towards the fells where it will most likely breed. But with the breeze none were in view for very long. Still there are no complaints: it’s great to see such a variety of raptors in an area which has long been a desert for them. Red Kite now move to six sites in the study area with pairs and singles at three sites each. Unresolved is how many of the sites with singles really hold pairs.

March 1st: the tempo increases as spring gets well under way. Today went east to Hyons Wood to try and find a pair of kite. In a fresh W breeze but with plenty of sun had a good showing from 11:00-14:00 with 9 raptors of 5 species: 3 Sparrowhawk, 2 Common Buzzard and Red Kite and single Goshawk (female) and Kestrel. I didn’t know at the time whether it was a plus point or not but the 2 Red Kite were not a pair with one diving into Hyons Wood calling (hopefully to its mate) and another almost 2km to the east floating over The Guards where a first unsuccessful search was made in even windier weather on 27th January. On reflection it’s a plus point of course as the evidence points to 2 sites, not one! In Hexham on the way back the Saturday substitute was on view: nice but the regular has more allure!! Tomorrow hope to have another bash in the Blanchland area and tonight out for a meal with the daughter. I’ve had an email from Marian Cieślak in Poland over the measurements of the Common Buzzard and Honey Buzzard feathers. She confirms that c60% of the birds for both species were juveniles and promises to give separate statistics for adults and juveniles when they find time, on completion of a current book on owls. A note to this effect has been added to the web page on the relative feather lengths. It’s good to have such active collaboration!

February 27th: added information and comments on Honey Buzzard in Notts from 1971-1979 to web pages yesterday. A very interesting aspect is the variability reported for Honey Buzzard plumage, much more so than allowed in some current field guides which are simply misleading. Submitted the four Red Kite sites found in Northumberland to date in 2008 to RSPB coordinator and well received: the impression is that Red Kite are not being picked up by birdwatchers in Northumberland in spite of this species being one of the easiest raptors to identify! No real fieldwork this week – far too much work – but disappointing visit to Hexham on Wednesday afternoon although better on Thursday morning when the ff looked very cool! Daughter is coming to stay tomorrow for 10 days, flying up from London in the afternoon.

February 25th: back from the second trip to London, this time for a meeting in Portland Place on how the Bologna proposals will affect UK university doctorates (or something like that!). Well balanced trip with a quick walk in Regent’s Park after the meeting: quite a range of species there but no raptors. On the way down 09:00 train was overcrowded (after cancellation of my original 08:30) and struggled to work on a second computing paper for Liège. On way back on 17:00 much better and analysed to death on the laptop a monograph on breeding Honey Buzzard in Nottinghamshire in the 1970s which I’ve bought recently on Ebay. The results will soon be on the Honey Buzzard web pages. I’ve also bought recently Munch’s classical book Der Wespenbussard: it’s in German, I’ll have to chat up nicely my Swiss relations (indeed connected with yesterday’s news, I’ve just got an invitation there!). Tomorrow is going to be busy with two days’ meetings in one, but Wednesday for interest’s sake will most certainly be back to normal!

February 24th: walk today up to Whitfield Lough (500m), taking five hours for a 12km circular from Eals Bridge on the South Tyne. This is the easiest way in as while you start at fairly low altitude (170m), you can follow a track for over half the way. Whitfield Lough is like a Scottish lochan and is an important breeding area for some birds more normally associated with Scotland (e.g. Dunlin, Wigeon). In very mild conditions for time of year (including a sleet shower!) had Golden Plover already displaying on Snope Common with their evocative calls and Red Grouse all over the place. Lower down there was much more activity with Lapwing gathering in numbers and a pair of Oystercatcher on the South Tyne; this picture was taken at x20 as a still with the camcorder. Raptors were all at lower altitude with 9 Common Buzzard and 4 Kestrel in the South Tyne Valley. At this time of year you walk the tops for exercise — very welcome after the last relatively sedentary weekend and a sombre end to the week (see last year’s noticeboard). Friday though was very nice: into work late and sightings of 10 newly-arrived Oystercatcher at Merryshields and the sublime ffin Hexham. Yesterday (23/2) went looking for Red Kite in the Beldon Burn as persistent reports from this area. None were found in the western area but did see 5 Common Buzzard, 3 Kestrel and a displaying Goshawk. The Blanchland village area seems to be reformed as regards raptor persecution: it’s difficult for the estate to claim credit for this though as they have the ‘when did you stop beating your wife?’ problem! This opens up a considerable very suitable area for Honey Buzzard and Hobby. Anyway off to the Welli; last night watched the exciting rugby in the Tap.

February 21st: so the Canon EOS 400D camera is proving easy to use and the paparazzi mode (technically, burst!) is proving very useful for taking raptors as they turn. With 3 shots/second you get sparse video in effect but with very high quality at about 6Mb/image on the jpeg high-quality setting and autofocus between each shot. The new Sony HD-SR8 camcorder is also proving easier to use than the old one as its viewfinder is much clearer for picking up ‘specks’. The resolution is fantastic even at less than optimal quality to make the file sizes more manageable. Another change to the default settings, because of the smallness of the targets, is to allow digital zoom up to 20x: the quality is still good with this high setting. However, as expected there are some very interesting problems in getting a web presentation from such large data files in a new format. I think replacing my 5-year old computer processor might be the first step. I knew the HD would set off a chain reaction! The ff is looking very, very fit!! Off to London again next Monday but this time for work to a meeting at the Institute for Physics on PGR matters. Pub score this week looks like O’Neill’s 1, Centurion 1, Tap 2 and Welli 2.

February 17th: back from 3 days in London, travelling by train, seeing the clan in this part of the world and staying with elder sister in Ealing. Today went out to the Chilterns at Watlington (views 1 2 3) and in very sunny crisp weather in a two and a half hour walk saw 30 Red Kite, 3 Common Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk. On the road from Ealing-Watlington and back by different routes saw a further 49 Red Kite and 4 each of Common Buzzard and Kestrel. On Saturday (16/2) had a Sparrowhawk soaring over the suburbs of Ealing. So grand total for weekend was 92 raptors of four species: 79 Red Kite, 7 Common Buzzard, four Kestrel and 2 Sparrowhawk. The Red Kite were everywhere west of Marlow and Beaconsfield with funnels of up to ten birds at a time: the numbers must now rank on the international scale for raptor spectacles, particularly for what is an uncommon species internationally. Interesting weekend — at Saturday lunch when all present and after the successes of last year — had 5 PhD around the table: sister (biochemistry), brother-in-law, niece (both biomedicine), myself (chemistry) and son (political philosophy). Went to concert at Barbican on Friday evening (15/2) to hear Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, which was very exciting and great to see so many lively people there, followed by a few drinks at the Kings Head near Moorgate! Took daughter and son out for a meal in Notting Hill (Med Kitchen) on Saturday night to catch up on all the latest info. All in all I love London for the odd visit but I don’t think I’d like to live there because the surrounding countryside is not wild enough. Next visit to Africa looks like Tanzania in April. Kenya is probably safe now but you can’t be the only tourist target available for the touts if you’ve any sense. Will go through Nairobi though with Virgin Atlantic. Anyway back to work tomorrow and the continuation of my agenda up here!

14th February: Got my licence renewed from Natural England for disturbing Honey Buzzard, Hobby and Goshawk in the study area in 2008. The licence does cover NZ05 and NZ16 so it’s tempting to add these to the load but the caution is that it’s easy to think it’s feasible in February, but what is the reality in May and June? St Valentine’s day! All the birds were singing well at Riding Mill station this morning. Appropriately acknowledged with a VC to the fancied one! Off to see the ‘kids’ and perhaps a lot more Red Kite.

11th February: updated web pages on the Scottish Honey Buzzard population with the very extensive information provided in the new Birds of Scotland published by SOC and a comparison of this information with that for Northumberland. The more open approach in Scotland to revealing information is very welcome indeed. Yesterday (10/2) did go to the Tyne Valley, intending to go to Bywell, but the fog was very slow to clear and went to Hedley on the Hill instead which was very sunny but totally devoid of raptors except for one Kestrel. Today in very fine weather went up the ‘Shire in the morning where had 8 soaring Common Buzzard and a soaring male Goshawk which petrified all the corvids in the area. Lunch in Hexham at CaffèNero had its attractions, particularly the ffstrolling by! Then into work until 21:00: nice to have flexible hours! No Red Kite were seen in either of the two visits reported here.

9th February: amazingly good weather for mid-February with warm sunshine and light to moderate SW breeze. Went to West Allen from 10:40-13:00 and got another pair of Red Kite which were in full display at one point. Wing tags (green right wing, red left wing) were obvious on one bird but not on the other. So colonisation now well under way for Red Kite in S/SW Northumberland with four sites found this year so far. Raptors in general were very obvious; indeed this was the area written about in the Hexham Courant on 28/12/2007. Altogether 17 individuals were seen of 5 species: 12 Common Buzzard (including one group of 9 soaring together), 2 Red Kite and single Kestrel (male), Merlin and Peregrine (immature female). Early spring features were singing Skylark and a flock of 90 Lapwing. A Short-eared Owl over Stublick Common on the way there was the first seen in the SW for about 27 months. Hexham later lacked interest. A flash of green distracted me from the Goshawks on the way to the station yesterday! Friday (8/2) was pretty full with research meeting with Mike in Durham all day, then meal at Marco Polo and concert at Sage (Bach) with Nick, last train back and in the Welli until 00:30. Tomorrow may go E for more kites before ending up in the Tap for the rugby. Birds are definitely getting ready for the customary mating day next week!

7th February: a good morning for accipiters with a female Sparrowhawk at Ordley on leaving the house at 08:30, the first of the year in Hexhamshire, and shortly after a pair of Goshawk in vigorous display at Prospect Hill. Sparrowhawk prefer to stay at low altitude in the winter. Goshawk are often active at dawn. It’s one reason why they’re overlooked as they catch a pigeon early on and then put their feet up for the rest of the day, except in the peak of the mating season! Two exciting sightings this week of the femme fatale in Hexham. Added to web pages a video (2007-275) of a soaring juvenile Honey Buzzard in the Tyne Valley on 24 August. While instructive as to the instinct of young Honey Buzzards to conserve energy in the air, it is somewhat like ‘watching paint dry’ to see the bird soar for six minutes without a single proper wing flap! Also added to the African Raptor pages two short videos from Ulusaba of Steppe Buzzard and African White-backed Vulture. It’s interesting to hear what the wardens have to say. This completes processing for 8/11 but there is quite a lot left from 9/11 and 10/11 to do. I should really complete this processing (and that of the gulls) before my next trip there.

3rd February: almost obsessively trying to pin down a pair of Red Kite between Hexham and Haydon Bridge. It’s a very difficult place to study in peace because the A69 is so busy (at least in Northumberland terms!). Spent an hour on Saturday (2/2) in the snow at Greenshaw Plain where I’ve made several visits over the last month trying to track down the birds that attempted to breed here last year. I think they failed having unfortunately chosen a wood which was very overcrowded with other raptors. Today made a determined attempt on the other side going from Wood Hall to Langhope where still no luck although many raptors: 8 Common Buzzard, male Goshawk displaying and adult female Peregrine patrolling. This area used to be covered in heather when it was Hexham West Common in the 17th century. Finally stopped again on A69 in between yesterday’s and today’s visits and success within ten minutes with 2 Red Kite out from a wood, plus a Kestrel, giving a total of 5 raptor species for the day. This site is top secret! Snowy weather on Friday (1/2) as usual had Ordley on the edge but Slaley Forest was predictably snowed under. At work there have been so many publication deadlines in the last week but five papers in final form have been delivered – it’s quite a creative patch at the moment! Watched the rugby in the Tap yesterday – a lot of customers were not amused (perhaps even horrified!) at Wales’ recovery. Estate agents often get a bad press but I think I may be viewing them a little more sympathetically after the past week!

28th January: finally completed annual report to Natural England on results from studies of Honey Buzzard (22pp), Hobby (3pp) and Goshawk (3pp) and sent it off. It’s a requirement for the disturbance permit that such reports are completed to show that proper use is being made of the licence.The final results for Honey Buzzard and Hobby have now been incorporated into the Northumberland Honey Buzzard and Hobby pages. Best not to say too much about the weather of the last few days: at wuthering heights the wind has been gale or near-gale westerly from Wednesday (23/1) to Sunday (27/1). Sunday was slightly better as the sun came out and tried the area south of Prudhoe Hospital where got a Goshawk, 2 Sparrowhawk and a Kestrel but none up for very long. This area is rather similar to that around Hindley on the Stocksfield Burn. I would expect it to hold Red Kite but too windy today to draw any conclusions. Today got a Red Kite at Newburn from the train in much better weather and a captivating moment at Hexham on my way to the Tap to fetch a repairer for a grandfather clock. Camcorder has been very promising in quality of image, once out of night mode! But no birds lingering in the air to oblige.

24th January: collected new camcorder (Sony HDR-SR8) from Gateshead this morning and managed to sneak in a visit to Wylam where had 2 Red Kite around the River Tyne with on the road 3 Kestrel and a Common Buzzard. Red Kite have a very similar primary wing formula to Honey Buzzard with five primary tips showing on the spread wing and P10 slightly longer than P5 or the same length. You can see the red wing tags (on the leading edge) put on as part of the release programme.Last Sunday (20/1) had 5 Common Buzzard and a Kestrel at Warden. So some increase in tempo is occurring in spite of snow on Monday (21/1) which gave 15cm of slush on my journey home: it’s a good thing I’ve got an all-weather Ka! Some fine sightings around Hexham this week. I was interested in the Relocation Relocation programmelast night on Channel 4: the obvious (and final) choice was Dotland in Hexhamshire from where at some distance you can view 4 Honey Buzzard sites. I doubt that figured in the valuation!

19th January: well it’s very late winter raptor-wise now with spring imminent! Today did the area from Stocksfield-High Mickley in very good conditions (bright and breezy) and got 14 raptors of 5 species: 8 Common Buzzard, 3 Sparrowhawk and single Kestrel, Goshawk and Red Kite. The last named was a grand sight over Hyons Wood with some territorial soaring, while the Goshawk was closer to Stocksfield. Common Buzzard over Cottagebank and Sparrowhawk over Guessburn were beginning to display. Priorities will be changed this year for Red Kite (up to 3) and Goshawk (from 3 to 4) as it is important to monitor the spread of the Red Kite out of Gateshead. Until the Hobby and Honey Buzzard start to arrive back from Africa in late April, this effectively makes Red Kite top target.

16th January 2008: a number of additions made to web site including the video from 20 July 2007 on a visit to a Honey Buzzard breeding site in Hexhamshire. The material from South Africa is still being processed and a Black Kite video has been added to the African Raptor pages. Some more video from Africa awaits capture as movie files. Getting ready to replace camcorder with an HD model to improve resolution of the images, even if the web at present will not do justice to the results. Mbps rates are increasing each year so what is unfeasible now may well be straight-forward in five years. Still bashing the moors to keep fit for the next season. Went to Whitfield Moor last Saturday (12/1) and walked in fog over frozen ground from the county boundary on the Alston-Hexham road to Whitfield Law (522m). It was only 6km in 3 hours but the ground was very rough, being generally frozen but with hazardous soft spots, and planned extension to Whitfield Lough was abandoned when fog did not lift. Made the Welli 3 nights in a row last week (10/1-12/1) with the last for a meal to celebrate my birthday! Has somebody changed their car? Of course she has! Busy in publishing mode at work with full papers for Liège, Vienna, Berlin and Cardiff, all in final stages or completed.

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).

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