Sunday, 9 July 2017

A bit of ringing

Well, the bloody weather forecasters got it wrong again.

With thoughts of ringing this weekend, I've been checking out the forecast for this weekend since Thursday and it was constantly changing. By Friday night it looked like Saturday would be the better morning for ringing, dull with light westerlies, so I left home at 5am to set some nets up. When I pulled out of our street the wind turbines on the horizon were moving too quickly for my liking and it was glorious sunshine.

And so it was... bright and breezy with the wind out of the west. The worst conditions to ring at Druridge. I persevered, but gave up by 9am having only caught 6 birds.

Today was supposed to be bright and breezy again, but the wind was to be stronger and move more southerly. I didn't wake up until 7.30am (it had been a late night) and looked out of the window - still calm and overcast... I was at Druridge and nets up by 8am.

Despite the late start, I caught 20+ birds, mostly juvenile warblers.

There were two highlights. The first was catching a whitethroat that we first caught in July 2014 as an adult female - so the bird was at least five years old. Not a record by any means - the BTO record longevity record is seven years and nine months, but it does man that this little bird, weighing only 13 grams had crossed the Sarah desert at least eight times.

Five year-old whitethroat
The second highlight was controlling ( this means catching a bird that has been ringed elsewhere) a reed warbler. We will have to wait to hear from BTO exactly where it was ringed. Reed warblers are a bit of a success story at Druridge. They started breeding in the little Phragmites reedbed in the south-east corner of the big pool about six years ago with one pair, before that they were a passage migrant.This year we have already ringed six breeding males and three females and today, our first juvenile of the year.

Controlled reed warbler
On Friday I popped down to the patch after work. Terns were feeding close into the shore including a handful of roseate terns, I even managed a photo of one of them.

Sandwich tern
Sandwich tern
Roseate tern

Offshore, a good flock of common scoter has built up in the bay, numbering up to a thousand. They were dispersed into several smaller groups on Friday, here are some of them...

Some of the 1000 common scoter in the bay at the moment

On the Budge fields there were two wood sandpipers, a little ringed plover and 15 black-tailed godwits. These waders were joined by a whooper swan on Saturday that has been knocking about on the bay. A water rail was calling from the corner of the big pool this morning and a few whimbrels were in the silage fields with the curlews

Ian Fisher and I have been checking the egrets and herons in the shelterbelt this year, we did our final check tonight but I'll write about the outcomes next time.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Patch Tick - White-winged Black Tern

A belated post about a patch tick.

A dead computer means I haven't been able to post about the latest addition to my patch list - white-winged black tern.

Saturday gone was a long day...

We were down at Druridge shortly after 5am for a ringing session - our first of the year. We had a good morning catching over 30 birds, mainly resident warblers and remarkably five reed warblers, all by the little the reedbed in the SE corner of the big pool. Reed warbler is recent colonist to Druridge Pools and seem to be doing very well, as they are at other wetland habitats in the county. A green sandpiper flew over the site first thing with swifts !

After packing up the ringing site and checking the heronry with Ian Fisher, I thought a quick check of the sea might be in order as others had reported skua activity. The light was awful and just as I was about to leave, a message about a white-winged black tern at Chevington came through.... Interesting.

I hung around, scanning inland when Twitter said it was at Druridge Pools. But where? Big pool or Budge fields?

I sprinted to the top of the big dune, my heart was pounding when I got there, figuring I could see the while patch from there. I was right and picked up the bird feeding over the Budge fields. And what a stunner it was - an adult white-winger in breeding plumage.

It flitted back and forth between the Budge fields and the big pool for an hour or more. Sadly no photos for me as my camera was in the car but others did well.

A bonus came on Sunday when I was scanning the sea and a message came through from Martin Kerby who was watching a pectoral sandpiper from the Budge screen. I was soon in the hide and watching the bird, albeit occasionally, as it moved through the emergent vegetation and stands of rush.

White-winged black tern takes my Druridge Pools list to 243, creeping ever-so-slowly towards that big 250!






Tuesday, 27 June 2017

It's been a while

It's been a while since my last blog post. My excuse for this tardiness was a two-week trip to Finland and Norway and an ailing computer that now struggles with big RAW files.

I'll hopefully have some Finland and Norway photos processed soon and up on Flickr. But here is a video of me enjoying my 'summer holiday'.

video

Summer in Varanger
I've managed a few visits to the patch since I got back, but have been busy catching up with work, the garden and chores. A combination of the above and changeable weather has meant no ringing yet.

On 18th June There were 18 black-tailed godwit on the Budge fields - having been away, I was trying to work out whether these were late birds headed north, early returning birds or loafing non-breeders - I suspect the latter.

Barn owls from nearby farms are being seen regularly, hunting in the dunes and grass fields and attracting their share of photographers. A cuckoo in the dunes has also attracted attention.

Offshore, there have been some good rafts of scoter, but these have often been distant. A few manx shearwaters have been noted passing-by.

NWT have been busy getting their new Hauxley Discovery centre ready to open (well worth a visit just for the building) so I helped them out by strimming in front of the hides. It was a very warm evening and I sweated buckets! Hopefully the photographers will appreciate it, I know that the resident swallows will.

Strimming
On 20th June there were two avocets on the Budge fields - still an uncommon visitor to Druridge Pools despite their increasingly colonisation of South East Northumberland.

On 22nd whilst checking the heronry, a male marsh harrier passed through - my first on the patch this year. A pair of curlews had a chick or chicks in the silage field. I knew it was going to be cut, so alerted the farm who looked out for them.

This weekend, I saw my first patch roseate terns of the year, with at least two feeding offshore on Saturday, a few manx went through too.

An early morning visit on Sunday was nice, through cold and blustery -  we've had our summer I think. I was kitted out in a jumper and fleece jacket (and was still cold). I wandered up onto the dunes for a look on the sea and there, strolling, nay marching, along the beach, was a bloke who was completely starkers. A braver man than me.

There were at least 200 swift feeding behind the bushes, taking advantage of the shelter they afforded from the strong wind.

On the Budge fields, it felt autumnal with little-ringed plover and wood sandpiper. Three spoonbills were also on the fields - doing what spoonbills do best, sleeping.

Sleeping Spoonbills



The warmer weather of last week had obviously brought a few butterflies out - there were lots of ringlets, red admirals, speckled woods, large skippers and meadow browns in the shelter of the bushes. There were also common blue and blue-tailed damselflies on the wing.

Speckled Wood
Ringlet

Large skipper
Red Admiral
Common blue damselfly
Blue-tailed damselfly
Two collared doves headed north were a year tick.

In the evening, the LRP and wood sand were still on the Budge along with 18 black-tailed godwits and there were now at least 300 swifts feeding in the lea of the bushes.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Not seeing red...again

You may remember this post from April? It was about me not seeing a red-rumped swallow and red kite on the patch because I was at work.

Well, it happened again yesterday. Stuck at work in a meeting when news comes through of another red-rumped swallow at Druridge and then it gets worse... there were two! Worse still, straight after my meeting I have to go to an evening event in Bamburgh and don't get home until after dark. So no chance!

Meanwhile, lots of birders are enjoying crippling views of the birds over the path to the Oddie hide and getting some great photos to boot.

Oh well...

I have had some luck this week, I caught up with a few good birds on the patch. On 8th I managed to see jack snipe and a channel wagtail from the little hide at the same time. The jack snipe was just in front of the hide and I managed to get this nice video of it bobbing along.


The Channel wagtail was close enough for a photo too. This was my second 'Channel' wagtail at Druridge, the previous one was on 18th May 2010 which you can see here. There were also six yellow wags and five ruff.

'Channel' wagtail
On 9th, two little ringed plover were with a group of dunlin and ringed plover and there was a velvet scoter offshore.

On Friday, I was working at home when a message came through about a citrine wagtail just down the road at Lynemouth flash - I could be there in five minutes. So a midday lunch break was taken and I was soon enjoying close views of a stunning citrine wagtail. Only my second ever in Northumberland and the best I've seen away from the breeding areas in Poland.

Citrine wagtail off-patch at Lynemouth flash


We popped into Druridge on our way home where there were two avocet and a drake garganey on the Budge fields.

On Saturday the drake garganey was still present with a wood sandpiper. Reed warblers were back in the little reed bed and a long-eared owl flew across the Budge fields. Offshore, I saw my first puffins of 2017.

Sunday was WeBS day - the wood sandpiper was still there with two black-tailed godwit and a nice male ruff.

Drake gadwall
Coot
On Sunday evening it was obvious that Cresswell barn owl botherers had decamped to Druridge in hope of long-eared owl photos - there wasn't a sole at Cresswell. It was nice to bump into Cain and Heather.

'Toggers'
Tonight, there were plenty of swifts and hirundines but no red-rumped swallows. There is a lapwing on eggs on the budge fields, she got disturbed by the arrival of a heron and I managed to get this video of her returning to her nest.


The year list now stands at 132 - still missing collared dove though.


Monday, 1 May 2017

Mayday Mayday

Life has been pretty hectic lately, so much so I haven't been able to update my blog. Since the last post I finally caught up with a patch RING OUZEL on Saturday . The bird had been reported two days earlier by a visiting birder in the dunes to the north , I had two brief chances to look for it on the Thursday but couldn't find it. After another couple of hours on the Friday I finally found it in what remains of the Druridge bushes (the cows have hammered them lately). No photos unfortunately as it was a skulker.

On 10th April a spoonbill arrived and was joined later by a second bird.

Since then I have been visiting the patch whenever I get a second. As I was away to Jersey for a long weekend last week, Saturday brought a flurry of year ticks. First off was this reeling grasshopper warbler - so much for being a skulking species, this one hadn't read the rulebook, it's been singing from this fence for three days!


It was amazing to watch at close hand, it's entire body vibrating when it was reeling.

Next up was a drake green-winged teal on the Budge fields. This bird had been around for a day or two, so it was nice to catch up with it - mind it took some finding! Other highlights on the Budge fields were three to four ruff, an amazing 28 whimbrel - which flew off when the cows arrived, a stunning brick-red bar-tailed godwit and a few blackwits. Also new for the year was sedge warbler, little owl and common tern.

Little Owl

On Sunday I had a quick around through the dunes to the north looking for migrants - it was very windy but a count of 15-20 wheatear in the grazed dunes was impressive.

One of the wheatears
 This poor hedgehog must have investigated the pipe socket that is by the turning circle and drowned itself or decided it couldn't face a bank holiday weekend at Druridge and did itself in.

Suicide?
Today the wind was a bit lighter but still out of the east making it feel cold. I headed for the Budge screen and bumped into Peter Williams of Patchwork Challenge fame. Peter picked out the wood sandpiper that arrived yesterday. Also of note were at least five ruff, two of which were starting to look a bit dapper, a handful of blackwit and a single dunlin. No sign of the green-winger.

I mentioned cows earlier - four have arrived on the Budge fields and the timing couldn't be better for the breeding and passage waders so 'Well done' to NWT. (seemingly, according to the local farmer they had been released last week but had escaped - anyway it is good to see them.

One of the 'Druridge four'
I've got another couple of busy weeks ahead of me but hopefully I'll find time for a visit to the patch.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Not seeing red

Whilst I was trundling up the A1 on the way to work on Monday spoonbill watchers at Druridge reported not one, but two species that would've been full patch ticks for me.

Firstly Alan Curry had a red kite flying through - A species that I have been predicting as my next patch tick for ages and still am - see left hand column of this blog.

Secondly a red-rumped swallow  - tracked down from East Chevington and seen by several birders seemingly.

Red kite has been recorded on the patch before (28th March 2016) but as far as I am aware red-rumped swallow is a new bird for the Druridge patch - taking the overall patch list to 264 species.




Sunday, 9 April 2017

(not so common) Crane - Patch tick

I popped down to the patch this evening after a full day on the allotment and thought I would try a bit of viz-migging for an hour. Common crane and spoonbill had been fly-overs further north or I might even fluke something rarer like an Alpine swift.

What was obvious was a big influx of hirundines, adding my first swallow of the year to my year list. Not seeing much else and thinking of packing up when I was approached by a birder called Graham who said he had been watching a common crane from the Budge screen. We both hurried back there but couldn't see it, despite scanning the fields several times. A blackcap was singing behind the hide which was new for the year.

Graham headed off north and I decided to scan the surrounding fields from the top of the big dune. I re-scanned the Budge fields first - and there it was, a common crane standing in the middle of the field. A full patch tick!

It must've been behind some of the taller rushes when we checked from the hide.

I've dipped two cranes before that have been reported as fly throughs from nearby so it was nice to finally nail one. A handful of birders came for a look whilst I was there, including Hector who managed to pick me out a red-legged partridge perched on a fence by the cottages. A brucey-bonus indeed! Red-legs are very scarce on the patch and this was my first since 2014 - they are a species I usually associate with harsher weather.

The great white egret appears to have gone.

The crane takes the patch list to 241 species. Hopefully it's not the last addition of the year.