Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Seawatching - a great hobby?

I've squeezed two short sea-watches in after work over the last two evenings.

Birds were few and far-between on both. I saw none of the 'big' shearwaters that the those without proper jobs have this week, not even a sooty.

I did manage a fully-spooned pom tonight, about 2/3 of the way out but in good light. That light deteriorated rapidly at 1930 and I packed in by 1950, just after a single bonxie went north.

Last night was even quieter. Highlights....

Tuesday 19th 1830-1930

Arctic Skua 3
Fulmar 20+
Ruff - four on beach

Wednesday 20th 1830-1950

Manx shearwater 32
Fulmar 78
Pomarine Skua 1 (1920)
Bonxie 1

On my way down from the dunes, there was mega-panic among the hirrundines as a juvenile hobby went north-west amongst them, just over the bushes then the big pool.

148 pomarine skua
149 hobby

PWC Score = 210

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Another new breeding species for the County

After marsh warblers successfully bred at Druridge last year, Druridge has another new breeding species for the county this summer - little egrets

It was just a matter of time before little egrets were confirmed to have bred in the county, given the rapid expansion of the population across the UK. Little Egrets first bred in the UK at Dorset in 1996

It was the appearance of what appeared to be a  family party of little egrets on the Budge fields back in mid July that got me suspicious. There were seven birds, that appeared to be two adults and five juveniles, but they were difficult to see. They certainly behaved as though they were a family.

This led me to check the heronry as I had recently learned from colleagues in Arnside & Silverdale that little egrets breed later than grey herons. The first tree I checked had an old heron nest in it (I wrongly presumed they bred in old heron nests), there was broken shells on the ground that were about half to two-thirds the size of grey heron eggs, there was also white feathers. Very suspicious.

Left - grey heron eggshell. Right - little egret eggshell
So I climbed the tree and just below the heron nest I saw this out on a limb

Two little egret chicks on the nest
Not much bigger than a woodpigeon nest, with two white egret chicks sat on it - I nearly fell out of the tree!

This is them taken from the ground
We returned with Ian Fisher and ringed one of the chicks the following day.

The little egret chick we ringed. Photo: Ian Fisher
I never confirmed that the group on the Budge fields were a family party or had bred locally, but I suspect that they might have.

I suspect this is the juvenile we didn't ring, the ringed bird was nearby but too distant for a photo. Photographed on 3rd August
So breeding marsh warblers in 2013 and little egrets in 2014. Could Druridge be on for a hat-trick in 2015?

Sunday, 10 August 2014

WeBS Waders and a wasted opportunity

I'm a bit gutted. Druridge was 'hotching' with warblers today, I should have had the nets up for a ringing session but I didn't...."Why?" I hear you ask.

Well, all of the weather forecasts for this morning was for heavy rain by 9am, some forecasting it earlier. So, based on that we decided not to ring. When did the rain finally arrive? After lunch - typical! 

I did my WeBS count this morning instead. Just as I got the scope set up in the Budge screen hide, a big female sparrowhawk put everything up, so I headed for the other hides and met this unlikely double-act on the way.
Scarce and rare visitors to patch
One of them admitted to not being to the pools for at least three years, the other couldn't remember how long it was. Rarer than barred warblers at Druridge, the pair of them! Nice to see them though, don't leave it so long next time!

By the time I got to the little hide, the waders had settled back down. Two, maybe three wood sandpipers, one green sandpiper (which alluded me yesterday), one greenshank and three common sandpipers with several dunlin and over 25 snipe.

Other WeBS highlight were a good count of 191 mallard, 14 little grebe, two little egret and the pair of nesting great-crested grebes.

Cormorant from the Oddie hide
Yesterday there were five greenshanks, a calling green sandpiper, two wood sands and a single common sandpiper. There were also dozens of visiting birders, from Tyneside, Cumbria and even yorkshireland! Despite the little hide being full to capacity for much of the morning, it didn't deter the swallows from feeding their rapidly growing chicks.

Swallow feeding young in the little hide
Butterflies on the wing over the weekend included wall, red admiral, meadow brown, painted lady, peacock, comma and small copper.

painted lady
Head on - a rarely photographed view of a red admiral
Dragonflies have been very scarce at Druridge this year, but not elsewhere seemingly...odd?

Female common darter in the plantation
On Thursday night/Friday morning we had another go at catching storm petrels on the beach, with moderate success, catching three. Two of them were already ringed, which isn't a bad thing, catching them again helps to increase our understanding of this species.

Finally, just to show that we get a better class of vandal at Druridge...

Seemingly Maria was there too.

147 Green sandpiper

PWC Score 207

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Knot a stilt

It looks as though the stilt sandpiper has relocated back to Cresswell Pond... for the time being. Here it is in all of it's glory - taken by Ian Fisher

Stilt Sandpiper (c) Ian Fisher
The Budge fields were pretty much bereft of waders tonight with the wader-highlights coming elsewhere. A common sand was in front of the Oddie hide, 13 oystercatcher flew overhead and on the shore, four knot flew south and 12 sanderling pottered about.

Passage migrants seem to be on the move, there was much willowchiff activity in the bushes and blackcaps were calling.

willow warbler
The only butterflies showing on the bunds tonight were peacock, meadow brown and a comma.


146 knot

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Mega Patch Tick

The early bird catches the worm, so they say.

Well I was at Druridge early this morning and it certainly paid off when a scan of the waders turned up a STILT SANDPIPER!

Here's the tale..

I bumped into fellow patcher Dave Elliott on the way into the Budge screen (you have to be up very early to beat Dave), he was telling me of a wader that he had seen yesterday but wasn't sure about as the light was could have been stilt sandpiper or it could have been a wood sandpiper, he wasn't committal.

I started scanning the mud and amongst the snipe was something different, it was arse-on at first, then it raised it's tail to reveal strong barring on the underside and the dark centres to the feathers stood out really well. We didn't need to see any more - Stilt Sandpiper - the bird that was at Cresswell Pond until Thursday had turned up on my patch. Patch mega!

crappy iPhone-scoped shot of the Stilt Sandpiper.

We had really good views of it for a while, Dave went off to check the rest of his gigantic patch and it slipped off into the rushes. Then one of the Chevington marsh harriers turned up and scattered everything, including the curlews and spoonbills and there was no sign of the stilt sand for nearly 20 minutes. The marsh harrier had another go at it re-appeared back on the mud and was seen on and off for the rest of the day and was enjoyed by a good number of birders.

marsh harrier arrives....
....and causes havoc
This bird is the second record for Northumberland, the first being two years ago on the Stringers patch at Newton. I saw that bird and only one other, ever, in Texas.

This is the second new patch bird this year after May's woodchat shrike, taking the patch list to 234. Seemingly, as this bird was re-found, it counts as find for the patchwork challenge, thus netting me a whopping 15 points.

Elsewhere on the patch three little egrets were on the edge of the shelterbelt, one of them was the colour ringed bird DE had at Chevington, the other two were juveniles. They relocated to the big pool soon after.

Juvenile little egret. The yellow/green legs and yellow tinge to the lores as well as being 'fluffy' give it away as a juvenile.

Also on the big pool was LRP and common sandpiper. This stunning red admiral brightened up the track.

red admiral
Druridge version of oxpeckers
So what chance of another patch tick this year. Well, I reckon so and my money is on red kite.

Patch List 234

Year List 145

PWC Score 205

Saturday, 2 August 2014


On Thursday night we attempted to ring storm petrels for the very first time at Druridge. Having finally got the right sound equipment, some good Mp3 calls and some new poles (big thanks to Paul Stewart) we were just waiting for the right weather.

So, the weather was good, but the tides not weren't as good with low water at 01.30, but we gave it a go and were successful, catching seven birds in total.

One of seven storm petrels caught overnight
It was still quite light until 11.30, so all of the birds were caught between midnight and half past one. We caught the last one as we were about to take the nets down, so could well have caught more if we had been prepare to stay up longer, even though the sea was a mile away by this time.

One of the birds was already ringed, so it will be interesting to find out where it has come from. We will certainly be having some more attempts if the weather is good.

We had a wander around the patch in the evening before ringing. Two spoonbills were back on the Budge fields and there were at least two little egrets, but there weren't many waders - about ten snipe, four dunlin and one whimbrel.

grey heron the Budge fields
There is a decent number of yellow wagtails both on the Budge fields and around the edge of the big pool. The stonechat pair near the concrete blockhouse have successfully fledged another three young, I make that three broods for that pair this year.

Offshore the common scoter flock numbered about 350.

144 storm petrel

PWC Score 190

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Summer birding

Summer birding can be at a bit slow at Druridge, both in terms of birds and birders, with most of the 'regulars' off hunting butterflies or dragonflies at ne'er previously encountered ponds.

The mud on the Budge fields is keeping me interested, it hasn't turned up anything unusual this week but looks as though it could. Ruff was the best of the bunch mid-week when I also saw my first peregrine of the year, turning up bang on-cue with the returning lapwings. There has been good counts of yellow wagtails this week too.

The swallows in the hides seem to be doing well this year, with broods of three, one and five all fledged another four nearly ready to go. I've managed to ring them all.

The great-crested grebe pair are still persevering on their very late nest.

Stonechats are also doing well. This pair look like they are going to triple-brood
I had a ringing session yesterday but only caught 11 new birds and two retraps. I was very bright with a strengthening easterly wind, so not ideal conditions. There seems to be some drift migration going on as I caught four willow warblers which I don't think were locally bred. I also saw a juvenile yellowhammer by the Dunbar burn, yellowhammer don't breed at Druridge so that one was definitely doing some post-fledging dispersal.

The strangest sight yesterday was an off-white, tinged yellowish, small finch. I didn't have my bins on me, but it stood out like a sore thumb. It was either a escaped canary or an albino goldfinch (seemingly there has been a canary seen recently at Hauxley and Cresswell??). Either way it will soon be sparrowhawk food I fear.

common blue in the dunes

142 peregrine
143 yellowhammer

PWC score 188