Sunday, 1 February 2015

February has started well

Re-roofing my outhouse has prevented any birding trips to the patch of late, so with the wind too strong to work up the ladder today and frost preventing any mortar-work, I took the opportunity to get down to Druridge.

And...it was bloody freezing! Nice and sunny, but the strong northerly wind, coming straight from the Arctic, made it feel very cold indeed.

The well-stocked feeders that are around the hides attracted a decent crowd of chaffinches, goldfinches and greenfinches, I am predicting a brambling in the next week or so and hopefully some redpolls.

Looking out through the gaps in the Budge screen, straight into the biting northerly, brought tears to my eyes, it was nitheringly cold, so I didn't stop there long. Just enough time to make sure there were no pintail or other interesting ducks. We walked back through the bushes flushing a woodcock as we went.

Choppington's second-best wildlife guide was out and tipped us off that there nowt of note on the big pool, so we just checked it from the bushes - he was right.

So to the dunes, for a look on the sea. It was quite sheltered, hunkered down behind the dune ridge. The northerly has blown some little auks into the North Sea and one of them was the first bird I saw, headed north, quite close in. Several more were noted in the half -hour we spent watching. A good year-bird on the 2105 list.

Also on the sea was a great-crested grebe and a smashing drake velvet scoter with four common scoter.

We retreated to the Drift Cafe for a warming lunch.

63 little auk
64 great-crested grebe
65 velvet scoter
66 red-breasted merganser
67 kittiwake

PWC Score 77

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Belated WeBS count

I skidded my way to Druridge to do my WeBS count today, a couple of days late, but Sunday was pretty much a write-off (it was my birthday on Saturday) and the weather was too grim yesterday.

I didn't get down to the patch until 11ish, I was hoping the sun might have melted the ice on the roads, but they were still like a skating rink, so I mostly drove to Druridge sideways.

Black ice on the road at Druridge
The Budge fields were frozen solid, the only birds were two crows and eight snipe (which also might have been frozen as they didn't move).

On my way to the Oddie hide, I was treated to a fantastic ermine stoat scampering along the track, it was there again when I walked back later, this time with a vole in its mouth.

There wasn't much to count on the big pool, 109 wigeon were grazing in the adjacent filed with 174 lapwings. The teal were trickier to count, as they were hunkered into the vegetation round the edge of the pool.

The highlight was pair of displaying goldeneyes, the cold obviously not effecting them!

Displaying pair

These two shots show the head-shape nicely

The mute swans were keeping their heads warm

Tufted duck

As I left the hide, I glanced up, above the door, and spotted this field vole on the beam. It was alive, but didn't look like it had long for the world.

poorly-looking field vole
Before heading home, I had half an hour look on the sea. There was a lunatic surfing! OK, I know the sea temperature doesn't vary hugely, but he was out of the water on his board most of the time...mental!

On the sea I counted six red-throated divers, 4 red-breasted mergansers and there were three sanderling on the beach.

There were about 400 pink-footed geese in the field in front of the cottages, I scanned them all and could only see pinkies.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Sunday afternoon

Only one brief visit to the patch this weekend. To be honest, I was lacking motivation, which I often do after a foreign trip. This lack of enthusiasm for the patch is even worse if I have been somewhere hot and the weather back home is horrible, which it was this weekend.

I eventually summoned up the energy to head out at Sunday lunchtime, not before stopping for a bacon butty at the Drift Cafe though.

I bumped into Steve Holliday (a real Druridge scarcity) at the Budge screen, he was scanning the fields for the green-winged teal, but we couldn't see it. A water rail had been in the open, but it disappeared into cover.

A coal tit was on the feeders and as I wandered through the bushes I flushed a woodcock and then came across a group of long-tailed tits. All good January birds for the patch, normally not picked up until the autumn.

I braved the gale and had a look on the sea. A gannet flew north, another good January bird. Other than few red-breasted mergansers and a couple of guillies and razorbills there was little to see. I headed home for a cuppa and some warmth.

56 water rail
57 great tit
58 coal tit
59 woodcock
60 long-tailed tit
61 gannet
62 guilliemot

PWC score 69

Sunday, 4 January 2015

quickie

A brief visit to the patch today.

I stopped on the road to scan some curlew and lapwing and found five golden plover in with them, always a tricky bird at Druridge. Whilst nattering to Tom Cadwallender, we had a flock of 30 or so twite in the dunes but they wouldn't settle for a good scan through then for colour rings.

A look on the sea was less-rewarding and the bushes were quiet. The ducks had left the frozen Budge fields for the big pool but I couldn't spot yesterdays green-winged teal.

53 golden plover
54 twite

PWC score will appear in my next post.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Green-winger to start the year

Another year on the patch begineth.....

I tried to start my year-list yesterday but a heavy sleet shower had me heading for home and hot soup, I am still not re-acclimatized from Costa Rica.

I headed back out today and visited the far flung corners of the patch, hoping to turn up some winter goodies. I managed 24 species yesterday, the highlight was a fly-by turnstone - a tricky bird at Druridge. I was keen to add to my total.

I headed north into the dunes, finding grey partridge and reed buntings and then a mixed flock of 300 or more goldfinches and greenfinches, with a single linnet amongst them. Three whooper swans flew south over my head as set off off along the haul road. More reed buntings were found along the track, but their cousin the yellowhammer was nowhere to be seen.

Male reed bunting in the dunes

female-type reed bunting along the track
At the Preceptory, a pair of kestrel were hanging about with the jackdaws.

Chibburn Preceptory - always worth checking
Headed towards the farm, a stock dove flew over, which I was pleased about as these can be very tricky too. I then got a tweet from Jonathan Farooqi telling me there was a green-winged teal on the Budge fields. A good bird which I was glad to hear about, but I won't get the three 'finders points' on the PWC.

A fly-over great-spotted woodpecker was a bonus over the cottages on my way to the Budge screen. When I got there the Yankee teal was asleep in the grass.

green-winged teal in the centre of the shot
A couple of bird-race teams popped by to see it whilst I was there, they were cagey about their scores, understandably. I was a bit envious of them, I used to really enjoy the winter bird race, but it clashes so often with the Toon playing, that I can't commit and therefore don't have a team (although after today's performance, I should maybe rethink my priorities).

No sign of New Years Eve's pintails sadly.

I had a look on the sea but it was quiet, with only red-throated divers of note.

So I started the year with a respectable 51 species and my first scarcity in green-winged teal.


Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Pura Vida

I was back on the patch today after a three-week birding trip to Costa Rica.

Not the most colourful of species, but clay-coloured thrush is the national bird of Costa Rica 

We had a fantastic time, seeing lots of great birds in brilliant, friendly and very beautiful country. As they would say in Costa Rica  - Pura Vida!

Some photo's might appear on Ipin's Birding Trips at some stage..if I ever catch up.

Back to reality today though, back on the patch, hoping for one more addition to he patch year-list. I tramped around the whole patch and of note were;

a small flock of goldcrest in the bushes (good winter record)

a dog otter, showing really well on the big pool

a woodcock in the plantation

and, a pair of pintail on the Budge fields

So nothing new added to the year list leaving me on 171 species, the same total as last year. As ever, some species that I would have expected were missed, notably:

garden warbler
merlin
scaup
cuckoo
grey plover

I did see five new species in 2014, which is way more than I would have predicted:

Egyptian goose in April

Woodchat Shrike in May

Stilt Sandpiper in August

Stilt Sandpiper - Image (c) Ian Fisher
Wood Warbler in August

Fea's Petrel in September

These 2014 additions take my patch list to a respectable 236 species.

I've enjoyed the Patchwork Challenge again this year, a good bit of harmless fun.

So all in all, a very good year on the patch. I would love to see another five new species in 2015...surely a red kite at least?

I wish all of my readers a very happy, prosperous and bird-filled 2015!

Happy New Year!



Sunday, 30 November 2014

Sunday sunshine

Today's  sunny spells, although brief, were very welcome after four days of dreichness. And in the sunshine, it felt quite warm.

I took advantage and had a quick roam about the patch. In the bushes, there were still a lot of blackbirds, unless there has been another influx this week? Single fieldfare and song thrush were also noted. Wrens are still everywhere, they seem to have had an amazing breeding season, we ringed 47 new wrens at Druridge this year, more than ever before.

Dunnock
Two male bullfinches were standing out like sore thumbs against the bare hawthorns  and mixed flocks of chaffinch and goldfinch were moving about.

Stonechat
I walked up to the top bushes, where one of four stonechats was sat on the fence.

I walked back along the beach, no sign of snow buntings, but there were lots of people out emptying their dogs.

These McDonalds balloons were on the beach, a sight we will no doubt see more of on the Northumberland coast when the new store opens in Alnwick.

Dangerous to wildlife, but seemingly McDonalds could give a shit.
Add caption
No new species to add to the year list on what could be my last chance of the year to visit the patch....