Tuesday, 26 May 2015

A quick summary of a long weekend

Friday 22nd

Finally caught up with the very mobile spoonbill (118) which was fast asleep on the Budge fields also managed to nail for certain, Arctic tern - previous likely terns have gone down as 'commics', though no sign of the reported great northern diver offshore. Also of note - two whimbrel north.

Saturday 23rd

Ringing from 0445. Caught three whitethroats and re-trapped a willow warble that we ringed as an adult last May, a greenfinch was an unusual species to catch in May - brought in by the addition of feeders to the patch. Definitely two, maybe three barn owls hunting first thing. Year-ticked collared dove at the farm (120).

Monday 25th

An early start (for a Bank Holiday) to be on the patch and away again before the masses arrive. There appears to be four active swallow nests in the Oddie hide now, twice as many as last year.

In full song outside the little hide
The mute swan family were asleep outside the Oddie hide, with all six cygnets hiding under the female when I arrived.

This photo amused me, it looks like a two-headed swan! A first for science at Druridge Pools.
'In tow' the female followed by her 'otter food'
Showing off! "I can break a man's arm you know"
A little grebe was, incredibly, my first of the year - what had happened to them this year, is it just Druridge?
My first speckled wood of the year in the bushes (iPhone shot)
With reports of little gulls at both Chevington and Cresswell Pond, I returned for an evening visit to try and catch up with this species. When I arrived, there were over 150 black-headed gulls hawking St. Mark's flies over the bushes. I plonked myself on top of the big dune to find the little gulls among them. I only found one, a first summer bird (122).

I am slowly making up lost ground in the Patchwork Challenge, with the latest additions giving me 155 points. I am going to have find some serious rares to top last year.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Stints in a storm

I called in to Druridge after work this evening to give the Budge fields a quick check. A black-tailed godwit was out front, as I scanned the mud a single little ringed plover dropped in, but it didn't stay long.

I got onto two small waders way out in an area of shallow water and plants. They were stints, distant and up to their bellies in water. My first thought was to go with the most likely - little stints as they had been seen recently, but I couldn't rule out Temmincks.  I called Dave Elliot to let him know.

I continued to watch them and as the light improved my suspicions grew. Dave arrived but the birds had moved, we soon picked them up on some mud and could get more on the 'jizz'...but now there were four of them.

We watched them for ages, the upperparts were greyish, with little rufous and no sign of any pale 'braces', we couldn't do anything with leg colour at this distance, but they appeared at times,  to have the creeping gait that Temmincks have.

The birds were flushed and flew, showing white a white outer-tail - things were looking good for Temmincks. After flying for a while, the birds settled nearer the little hide, we headed for that hoping for a better view, which we got. The light was still awful as a storm brewed to the north, but against a darker background we saw the leg colour was greenish, not dark. We were both happy they were Temmincks stints.

16 Black-tailed godwits arrived and so did Trevor Blake (wearing a T Shirt!) as the rain began to fall and the thunder and lightening started. By the time Andy Cowell arrived the rain and turned to hail. An almighty storm passed through with massive hailstones and virtually constant rattles of thunder. I wished I had brought my SLR camera to capture it well. We were joined in the hide by some swallows seeking shelter.

I saw something I have never seen before. At the height of the storm, two black-headed and a common gull dropped in, onto the pool in front of the hide. As soon as the landed, all three tipped their heads backwards and pointed their bills directly upwards into the air. They stayed like that until the hail ceased, a few geese and ducks were doing the same. We presumed they were doing this to protect their skulls from the large hailstones?

Jonathon Farooqi and his father arrive, crunching through the hail
Looking a lot like Christmas!
iPhone shots - I wished I'd taken the SLR!
I called briefly at Druridge this morning on my way to work, after DE had reported a spoonbill, no sign of it, but an avocet was on there.

Later in the day 'lucky' Andy McLevy had an Osprey at Druridge. I've only ever had one 'patch' osprey, a spring bird, back in the late nineties. I'm long overdue another one!

117 Temmincks Stint

PWC Score 147 (self found bonus points for Temmincks)

Monday, 18 May 2015

Back for a stint

There has been no blog updates for a while as I have been in Spain for a week. We started in Valencia and headed down in to Castilla-La Mancha to the La Mancha wetlands where we saw lots of these:

Flamingoes at Laguna Larga
Next we headed to Sierra de Andujar in search of lynx, it was unseasonably hot which meant we didn't see lynx or many birds. We did see lots of these:

Azure-winged magpie at Sierra de Andujar
We finished the trip checking out saline lagoons and salt pans on the Murcia/Alicante coasts. it was interesting to see the breeding little terns there, making their scrapes on the banks between the salt pans.

Little tern at Las Salina de San Pedro del Pinatar, Murcia
It was also interesting to see some passage waders coming through including a lot of curlew sandpipers, little stints and even turnstone.

It wasn't long until I would see little stint again..

Back to reality on Sunday morning, back to Druridge to the WeBS count in the freezing wind. There was crowd of folk in the Budge screen when I got there, I thought it was a twitch! A drake garganey and two wood sandpipers were soon pointed out and four little egrets were out on the fields - canny start to the count!

Soon after ADMc had left to look for a little stint at Cresswell, Bob Biggs picked up three small waders in flight, over the fields, which appeared to head off over the big pool. They hadn't, as I soon picked them up on the mud, two dunlin and a little stint. Little stint is a bit of rarity at Druridge, I've only seen them in three of the last eight years.

I had a quick visit to the Budge fields tonight. One of the wood sandpipers was still there and a little ringed plover was out on the mud.

115 little stint
116 little ringed plover

PWC Score 141

Friday, 1 May 2015

Waders, wagtails, wheatears and a weasel

A quick visit to the patch last night to check the Budge fields for waders and garganey with no luck on the latter.

There were a few waders on the mud. There were either four or five ruff, including a new orangey-brown individual (which was on the fields to the south this morning), two dunlin and black-tailed godwit. A whimbrel flew in as I was leaving, but seemingly over 100 whimbrels dropped in after 8pm.

Also of note were four pintail, two drakes and ducks, a pair of little egrets and white wagtail.

Another quick visit this morning produced my first yellow wagtail of the year, a nice bright male which was at on a fence only three posts from a kestrel. On the dunes, there were a few wheatears and this cheeky chap popped his head up before scampering off.

Willow warbler by the Budge screen
110 Yellow wagtail

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Football or birding?

On Saturday afternoon I had the choice - go to St James' Park and watch the Toon or go out birding. My patience with the regime at SJP is all but worn out, so at the last minute I abandoned my plans to catch the bus and went birding instead.

The birders I met at Druridge were very surprised to see me there I think. It proved to be a profitable visit to the patch - quite the opposite to a visit to SJP!

I stopped at the southern end of the patch to scan for hooded crow that had been reported the previous day. There were lots of carrion crows and jackdaws but no hoody to be seen. All of my Druridge 'hoodies' have been seen in mid-April. A couple of wheatears in the dunes were my first for the year though, so not all lost.

Next I headed for the Budge screen, where a wood sandpiper had been reported. A male blackcap was singing in the bushes on the way to the screen.  As I scanned the mud, I picked out three nice, summer-plumaged 'islandica' race black-tailed godwits and there were at least five ruff, including the striking black and white bird. Six whimbrel dropped in with some curlew.

A little egret flew in towards the Budge screen and began to feed, so I took some video of it ( click the 'turn on HD thingy for better resolution)

Little Egret from Iain Robson on Vimeo.

Whilst I had the camera on the tripod, a wood sandpiper type wader wandered across the mud in front of the little hide, so I had a wander over there.

From the little hide the wood sand could be seen much better, but it was still frustrating because of the amount of rush on the pool.

A walk through the bushes by the big pool produced two or three singing sedge warblers and singing common whitethroat, which was ringed.

There were still 50+ red-throated diver on the sea and at least 20 red-breasted mergansers. 

103 great northern diver (from Wednesday)
104 blackcap
105 wheatear
106 wood sandpiper
107 sedge warbler
108 whitethroat

PWC Score = 129

Sunday, 19 April 2015

One hundred and counting...

A little flurry of migrants lifted my patch year-list to 100 species today.

I was out on the patch for a short ringing session n Friday morning, the first of the year. With only two nets up I caught a few birds including three willow warblers and chiffchaff. 

willow warbler - first bird ringed on the patch in 2015

Whilst checking the nets, I had a whimbrel fly over and a very early reed warbler was singing in the little reed bed in the corner of the big pool. Offshore there were 47 red-throated divers and 26 red-breasted mergansers on the sea - both good counts. There was also a handful of puffins on the sea, a common tern and fulmar as fly-through's were all new for the year.

Today was WeBS count day. I was sure I was going to  a garganey or an avocet, but I was disappointed, however, the first bird I saw was a little egret, just in front of the hide, which was my first of the year on the patch. 

There were only four wigeon left on the Budge fields, still a few teal main though with about 30 or so, they'll be gone soon and at this rate, shoveler will replace them as the commonest duck on the patch - there were 19 today. There was a pair of great-crested grebes on the big pool.

Whilst I was counting ducks, two or three house martins were feeding over the Budge fields - my first of the year.

That little flurry brings my patch list up to 100 for the year.

93 willow warbler
94 reed warbler
95 whimbrel
96 puffin
97 common tern
98 fulmar
99 little egret
100 house martin

PWC Score 118

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Natural Causes or Suspicious Circumstances?

I had a short wander around the patch yesterday afternoon. I walked back along the beach and made a diversion through the plantation.

My pleasant afternoon was spoiled by this gruesome discovery...

A dead barn owl. It looked as though it had been dead a while, it was quite smelly and I disturbed a sexton beetle when I turned it over. It was a second calender year male and was wearing a BTO ring, it had been ringed by me as a nestling in June 2014 at a nearby farm.

I knew that an owl had been using the plantation as there has been pellets under a tree for a few weeks.

So, what caused its demise? Well it could, of course, be natural causes. It may have also ingested some poison destined for something else or it could have been shot.

This isn't the only owl to die in odd circumstances at Druridge recently.

On 5th May, last year, I caught a long-eared owl in a mist net, an adult female with a brood-patch We received information back from BTO that it had been found at 'Druridge Bay' 12 days later, without a head.

It isn't unusual for mammalian predators to remove heads of prey by shaking them, foxes and dogs for example would do this. What would be unusual, would be for a mammalian predator to catch a long-eared owl. My suspicion was that this bird had been shot. I tried to find out more about the circumstances in which the bird was found, but didn't get anywhere.

Lads with guns are regularly seen at Druridge, mostly after rabbits. Some of them, however, fall in to the 'shoot anything that moves' camp. I've always been reluctant to call the police as, because the incident involves a firearm, they send the armed response team. I have spoken to the local Police wildlife crime officer about this and he encouraged me to give them a call, at least with information.

If you are at Druridge and see lads with guns, give the police a call on 101 and take down as much information as you can. They will be on National Trust or the next-door farmers land and they haven't got permission to be on either.

On a more positive note. There were eight yellowhammers at High Chibburn today in a mixed flock with tree sparrows and reed buntings. I only saw one yellowhammer at Druridge last year.

A sand martin was at Hemscotthill on my way home, but none on the patch yet.

sparrowhawk 84
yellowhammer 85

PWC 2015 Score: 98