Sunday, 23 November 2014

Sibe Chiff

An afternoon visit to the patch, catching what was probably the best weather of the weekend, hardly any wind, cold but bright.After a quick look around the plantation, which held the a few goldcrests, robins, wrens and the like, I set off for the bushes, hoping for a Hume's or Pallas' warbler. 

Just north of the second clump of trees at Druridge, there are few sparse willow and alder bushes, which are always worth checking, which I did today. I was almost past them when I spotted a warbler out the corner of my eye. I retraced my steps for better light and got onto a chiffchaff, a very grey looking bird, almost off-white on the underparts, with only some buff in the flanks. It looked every inch a classic tristis chiff. It was showing well in the afternoon sunshine and gave a few calls - tristis it was. I gave DE a call and a few other birders called into see it, although it was much more skulking later on.

I think this is only my third Siberian chiff for the patch. It scores me some extra points for the PWC comp as well.

Elsewhere, there was collybita chiff nearby and a few groups of feeding finches in the bushes, making the most of the good alder crop.

Twelve whooper swans flew south and there were at least a dozen pied wags on the beach.

Whooper swans headed south

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Last ringing session

Today was the last ringing session for the year at Druridge, with no leaves left on the trees, it was time to pack up and close down the site for the winter.

To be honest, I thought last week might have been the last week and it would've been if I'd had more time to take in the poles last Sunday. I am pleased as I didn't though, as today was very worthwhile, with variety being the name of the game, catching 59 birds of 15 different species.

We ringed six species of finch including three bullfinch, which are scarce at Druridge, nine siskin and six lesser redpolls.

You can't beat a bit of bully on a Sunday!

One of six lesser redpolls 
 We also caught a very late chiffchaff.

All packed up and ready to go
There were lots of pink-feet moving south this morning and this afternoon a well-marked barn owl was hunting the dunes.

Yesterday, I did my WeBS count, a week late, but better late than never I suppose. Wigeon numbers are picking up with 55 present along with 61 teal. Also of note was a single black-tailed godwit on the Budge fields and on the big pool, a great-crested grebe and a drake red-breasted merganser.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Patch year listing

So, I'm now now on 171 species for the patch this year, matching last years total and there are still some species that I have a reasonable chance of seeing, namely:

Scaup - seen in six out of the last six years (6/6)
Merlin (5/6)
Grey plover (5/6)
Goosander (4/6)
Little owl (3/6)

With some outsiders including smew, rock pipit, treecreeper, kingfisher and the two white-wingers - Iceland and glaucous gulls.

I've missed some species I've no chance of seeing now including cuckoo (6/6), garden warbler (6/6), redstart (4/6), little tern (4/6) and barnacle goose (3/6).

It has been the best year for patch-ticks for ages, with five in total, which I would never have predicted;

Egyptian goose
Woodchat shrike
Wood warbler
Stilt sandpiper and
Fea's petrel

I have got records going back to beyond 2001 other than for two months in 2007 due to misplaced notebook. One of these winter nights I will add them to my spreadsheet.

I am out of action for much of December so have only four weeks left on the patch this year. 175 would be nice....

Monday, 10 November 2014

Little Auks and Long-tailed Tits

The northerly blow during the middle of last week brought some seabird action. I was at work on the Wednesday, so missed the main action, but I managed a 30 minute seawatch before work on Thursday. Between 0830 and 0905 I counted at least 68 little auks headed north, most quite distant in poor light, but some little flocks came in a  bit closer.

I also saw two great northern divers, one headed not and one south. The other highlight was two small groups of fieldfare coming in-off the sea, 23 in total. I love to see thrushes, or any migrants, coming 'in-off'. Vizmig at its best.

There was evidence of a small fall of birds on Friday afternoon. I only walked a short section of the bushes and counted 40+ blackbirds, a few song thrushes and great-spotted woodpeckers.

By Saturday morning, most of the blackbirds had moved out. There were four black-tailed godwits on the Budge fields and the water rails were very vocal.

In the dunes to the north of the bushes, there were hundreds of finches feeding on thistle, ragwort and burdock seeds, over 350 goldfinches and at least 60 greenfiches with a few chaffinches, linnets and a handful of reed bunting among them.

The only flying thing I managed to photograph all weekend
On Sunday morning we put some nets up to ring some birds, probably for the last time this year. We caught an amazing 75 birds,  25 of them being long-tailed tits, 14 goldfinches, our first two siskins of the year and a great-spotted woodpecker amongst others.

The addition great northern diver puts my patch year-list onto 171, the same as last year and my equal best in eight years. There's still time yet....

170 little auk
171 great northern diver

Sunday, 2 November 2014

October ends, November begins

So that was October.... It flew by - and now we're into November. Autumn is running out.

I've been scanning the pressure charts all week, things were changing, but by Wednesday afternoon I had decided to take Thursday off work. A good decision as the easterly wind and overnight rain brought a lot of migrants in. It wasn't a classic fall, or even a fall, but it was exciting.

A bright start gave way to a short spell of rain. Once that cleared, I got out for a proper wander. By now, thrushes were piling overhead, in flocks of about 70-100, mainly redwings with a few fieldfares. They were mostly high and just kept going west. Some of the later arrivals rested on top of the bushes for a while but were soon off, inland.There were a handful of woodcock in the bushes, exploding out as  walked through.

The forecast had been for strong winds, but they didn't materialise, so I could have had some nets up, but it was too late. It was unseasonably mild, 18 degrees C according to the car. There had been an influx of blackbirds, but no song thrushes and there were plenty of wrens, robins and dunnocks.

I saw my first bullfinch of the year, just a fly-through,a male, piping as it went. Bullfinch is a scarce bird at Druridge, not annual by any means.

On the pool, there had been a inundation of goldeneye, I counted at least 26 and six black-tailed godwits flew over calling.

No birding on Saturday due to the Toon being at home with an early kick-off which all led to a later start this morning.

There was still a couple of woodcock about and three song thrushes in the plantation were indicative of an over-night arrival. There were one or two redwings still and a handful of blackbirds, but they've mainly headed out west.

The water rails have been very vocal the last few days, on the edge of the big pool by the phragmites bed. I spooked one, a juvenile, which flew off without calling.

169 bullfinch

PWC Score 261

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Wild Westerlies

Strong westerly winds dominated the weekend's weather, not conducive to good autumn birding. A slow start on Saturday morning following a night at the Cluny, we met up, over a cup of tea and a bacon buttie, with Steve Taylor and Dave Elliott at the Drift Cafe, to swap gen on Poland and Spain.

Onwards to Druridge, Janet and I had a good wander around the patch seeing not very much. From the Oddie hide, lapwings, golden plovers and curlews were put up by a passing helicopter from RAF Boulmer. The lapwings gave some nice views from the hide, the goldies were much higher (later settling in winter wheat at Hemscotthill). A late swallow flew south and a buzzard was floating around to the north - it was well-grilled, given the recent records of rough-leg nearby.

Two views of passing lapwings
We decided to walk to the Preceptory, to check it for roosting owls. It was empty, not even a skemmie or jackdaw. We walked back via High Chibburn, I had my heart set on year-ticking bullfinch - the long shelterbelt by the farm is often good for them, but not today...

Cows at High Chibburn
On the way back to the car, a great-spot called from the bushes. A quick look on the sea yielded nothing - the strong westerly had whipped it up and nothing was passing.

With even stronger westerlies today, I didn't even venture out.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Friday and Saturday

Friday 17th

A brief visit before work, Janet had already started to put some nets up when I arrived. The first bird I heard, then saw, when getting out of the car was a yellow-browed warbler. It was flitting about the whitebeam berries in lovely light.

I left Janet to it, to go to Amble and take a whole class of seven year-year-olds on a birdwatching walk around Amble. We didn't see very much, but they enjoyed learning about common species like jackdaws and collared doves.

I took the afternoon off and relieved Janet at the ringing site. A shift system. She had caught about forty birds - wrens, robins, blackbirds, goldcrests as well as a redwing (our first of the autumn) and a blackcap.

After I arrived we caught a flock of long-tailed tits and this great-spotted woodpecker.

First-winter male great-spotted woodpecker
The yellow-browed warbler was moving about with goldcrests all afternoon.

Saturday 18th

Curry night at the local and a few pints of ale made for a later start this morning. I checked the plantation which contained the usual suspects and a bunting, which I only saw twice, for about 30 seconds each time. It flitted about, a bit like a leaf warbler, amongst the pines. It had a really strong supercillium, but I didn't get much else on it. Despite looking quite sparse, there is a lot of cover in the plantation  and it easy to loose birds (as I know only too well.....

I gave the bunting 40 minutes with no further sign and headed north. There are still butterflies and dragonflies on the wing. The butterflies are looking at a bit tatty now.

tatty-looking speckled wood

There was about six migrant hawkers amongst the bushes and on the sheltered edge and some common darters too.

male migrant hawker
Bird-wise I found little else of note.

On Wednesday morning I saw a brambling in the plantation - my first since 2011.

167 Brambling
 PWC Score = 259