Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Ringing on Saturday

The weather forecast for last weekend went a bit wrong, Sunday was forecast to be quite windy from the west  whilst Saturday was due to be calm, but bright.

Saturday was calm and bright. Sunday started very calm and was overcast but the wind picked up later.

On Friday we worked to clear some vegetation from our net rides and it was obvious then that there were very few birds around, other than a large number of goldfinches. Migrants were particularly thin on the ground with a only a few 'wheeting' phyloscs and one or two goldcrests, but quite a few robins.

 So on Saturday we decided to try a ringing session despite the forecasted sunshine and the lack of any migrants (the clear, calm night with light westerlies would not drop anything new in). As predicted we didnt catch many birds, only 20 in fact. We caught a few robins, goldcrests, goldfinches and a nice juvenile siskin. This whitethroat was our only warbler, it was carrying a lot of fat so was obviously on the move.

migrant whitethroat caught and ringed
There was some vizmig going on, with a few skylarks headed north, a grey wagtail over (always a autumn bird at Druridge) and a few siskins and lesser redpolls moving through or joining the goldfinch flocks.

Car problems have prevented any further visits to the patch.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Back to the patch

Back to the patch (proper) this evening after a trip down to Tarifa for migration. I say 'proper' because I did run briefly onto the patch on Wednesday evening to tick the red-footed falcon.

After watching tens of thousands birds migrate through the Straits of Gibraltar and then coming home to a red-footed falcon on the patch, the patch was going to have to conjure up something spectacular not to disappoint - it didn't

Adult male honey buzzard roosting in gale-force winds in La Janda near Tarifa
There was a few good birds reported from Holy Island and the Farnes today, so it was always going to be worth a look through the bushes. All I found was a few willow warblers and blackcap, it was getting on for dusk and quite breezy.

There was a migrant hawker flying around the bushes, it didn't land, but this common darter did.

Male common darter
So no scarcities at Druridge tonight but the forecast for the weekend through to Monday looks a bit tasty and will hopefully drop some birds in.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015


Red-footed Falcon on the patch today is a FULL, FAT, PATCH TICK!

As I turned up with no scope or camera, I've nicked this from Tom Cadwallender (cheers Tom)
I was in Warkworth this afternoon watching the Tour of Britain cycle race come through the Northumberland Coast AONB, as I was leaving I got a phone call from Frank Golding who said "I think I might have had a red-footed falcon over Hemscotthill Farm"  - Frank had also been watching the TofB but had put his camera away when the bird cam by and he hadn't seen where it went.

I had some more work to do, but I drove by that way on my home, checking fence-posts and overhead wires as I went, not seeing anything.

An hour or so later, I got a phone call from Dave Elliott to say he was watching a male red-footed falcon just north of Bell's Farm. I was soon on the scene (without a scope or camera, luckily I had my bins) to watch a fantastic male red-footed falcon sitting on some straw bales by the side of a field that was being sown, eating a worm.

Not technically on the patch, but the rules of PWC are that if it is seen from the patch - it counts. So off I ran, up the road, with Janet's scope, to watch it from my patch boundary.

We watched it for a half an hour or so, getting good views as it flew from the straw bales to the fence and back. There were two generations of feathers in the wing and it was in active moult, showing it to be a second-calender-year male. - A stunning bird!

A good handful of county-listers came for it, but a lot hadn't arrived when the red-foot was flushed up by a passing marsh harrier. It flew off, north... right over the patch (so it is a proper patch-bird now) and just kept going. It was last seen heading over the plantation towards Low Chibburn and Red Row.

The addition of red-footed falcon to my patch list takes it to 237. I did wonder whether I would see any new birds on the patch this year after an incredible five new species last year.

R-FF was also a new bird for Northumberland and Britain for me.

Big thanks to Frank and Dave!

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Quiet start to the Autumn

Autumn has started quietly on the patch. On Wednesday I put some nets up for a ringing session. I caught a mixture of adult and juvenile warblers (chiffchaff, willow and sedge warblers, blackcap), which I presume were all local birds as nothing was carrying any fat. I also caught a grasshopper warbler, a female with the remains of a brood patch, very close to where a male was singing for a few nights four weeks ago. A bullfinch was calling nearby but I didn't catch it.

I also caught a few robins, wrens, a chaffinch and a tree sparrow. I watched a stunning juvenile marsh harrier flying over the Budge fields, right in front of the little hide - no photographers at that hour!

I spent some time on the patch today. A Saturday night out at the Cluny meant it wasn't an early start. I think all of the birds were asleep by the time I arrived.

Little grebe - asleep
Mute swan  - asleep
This common gull must have had no 'craic' as the black-headed gull was obviously bored
There were three juvenile ruff and black-tailed godwit (which was also asleep for much of the time) from the little hide and two common sandpipers on the far bank of the big pool.

There were a few 'wheeting' phylloscs in the bushes and a family of four juvvy blackcaps. I checked the fences and bushes at the north end for whinchats but none were found. I photographed some insects as there were no birds about.

Lime-speck Pug on wield

Noon fly or Noonday fly on knapweed
I headed back to the patch this evening, hoping the high-tide might have pushed some waders off their usual haunts. Six oystercatchers and five turnstones flew south, but not the hoped-for knot or grey plover. Three red-throated divers were on the sea - they were asleep too!

Sunday, 9 August 2015


Not much to report, spent the weekend pointing brickwork and watching football, but before all of that we went to Druridge on Friday night to try and catch storm petrels.

We set the nets up on the beach at by 11pm and had caught two bird by 11.40, one new bird and a control. By 1230 a big, bright half-moon appeared on the horizon and the mini-rave/beach party further up the shore was louder than our set-up so we packed in and went home.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Under the weather

What is going on with the weather this Summer? Even  the forecasters can't get a thing right.

Last night, I checked all of my usual sources of weather information and it all looked good for putting some nets up this morning. Based on this research I got up at 4.30 and headed to Druridge and got some nets up, no wind, hazy sunshine and the weather forecast still saying no rain. First net round done and it starts to rain... light but persistent. Nets furled.

A quick check of the Rain Alarm app showed rain heading our way for a considerable time...Nets down.

I did manage to catch some juvenile willow warblers and adult sedge warbler, willow warblers and a whitethtoat. The sedge warbler was quite fat, looking like it was on its way south.

Back at home drying me and the nets, I got a message from Jonathon to say he was watching a green sandpiper from the little hide. I do like a green sandpiper and it is a species that can be missed at Druridge so I headed down for a gander. It was wandering around the mud in front of the hide with a common sandpiper, an adult dunlin in summer plumage was lurking in the wings.

On Thursday evening I had a 45 minute seawatch, the highlight of which was a single sooty shearwater heading north about half-way-out. Other totals - 42 manx shearwater, two arctic skuas, one goosander,  two Med gulls and 15 common scoter north.

On Friday evening there was a common sandpiper and a yellow wagtail on the Budge fields and a whimbrel flew south, calling. Offshore, four arctic skuas, including a stunning pale-phase bird with huge white flashes in the wings, were loitering in the bay, parasitising terns. A few red-throated divers have returned and are still looking smart in their summer garb.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Hard Graft

Not much to report this week. A couple of short visits to the patch produced little of note other than some rather smart summer-plumaged sanderlings on the beach.

Today I spent the morning at Druridge before the rain arrived. First I checked the Budge fields where a common sandpiper on the mud was year-tick, it was accompanied by a couple of juvenile dunlin, a few snipe and a handful of lapwing...oh and two yellow wagtails.

To the dunes - There was some kind of co-ordinated cetacean watch this weekend, which saw Neil and Andrea Anderson and Tom an Muriel Cadwallender spending most of the weekend sat at Snab Point slowly freezing to death. So I thought I would have a quick look in the Bay to see if there were dolphins and amazingly there was - a pod of bottlenose dolphins about half way out.

A call to Tom confirmed that they had already seen these beasts heading north passed Snab. The dolphins were very active, breaching regularly with some getting out of the water altogether, performing pirouettes. They swam pretty quickly north and were soon just specks heading towards Coquet Island.

Excitement over, I headed for the Little hide where the same common sandpiper or a different one was on the mud. Buzzards circled the far shelterbelt and a little owl was perched on the farm buildings.

I couldn't see much from the Oddie hide as the grass was so high in front of the shutters. Nothing else for it - I trooped back to the car and got my trusty grass-knife and went back to cut the grass. What seemed like a good idea at the start seemed less-good when I had only done about half the job and I had blisters on my hand and was knackered - not used to hard graft.

I persevered and eventually had the whole lot cut. I headed off, hand bleeding, to the Country Barn for a well-deserved pasty. I hope the photographers will thank me when the mega yank or eastern wader turns up this week.



134 Common sandpiper