Monday, 16 May 2016

First ringing session

Finally there are enough leaves on the trees and bushes at Druridge to attempt a ringing session, with light winds and cloud first thing on Sunday morning the weather was ideal. The forecast said the wind would ease further throughout the day and become more cloudy - of course it did the opposite.

It was a good first session though with only three nets up. I caught a good number of warblers including grasshopper, reed and sedge along with willow, whitethroat and blackcap. I had some interesting retraps including a willow warbler first ringed in 2014, a blackcap ringed as an adult in 2013, a blackcap ringed as a juvenile in 2013 and a whitethroat, also from 2013.

A great white egret was found on the Budge fields on Friday morning by Time Dean, I saw it then and saw it again flying north over the big pond as I was ringing. A drake garganey was also on the Budge fields along with a three ruff, two of which had 'ruffs' and smart male yellow wag.

The warm weather had brought a few butterflies out - speckled wood were the most common and I saw my first orange-tip of the year.

This family of Canada geese goslings kept me amused for a while.

At least one of us can manage to stay awake
Pied wagtail
Still a few wigeon about - Mrs wigeon
Mr Wigeon









Sunday, 8 May 2016

Should've stayed at home

On Saturday I went down to Villa Park to cheer on the Toon to what should have been a straightforward three-points. Nothing is straightforward with Toon and we came home with a draw, which probably means Championship football next season. I should've stayed at home and gone birding on the patch.

Since my last blog post, I have had a couple of quick visits to the patch, adding a handful of summer migrants to the year-list including common tern, arctic tern, house martin, puffin and swift.

I had an evening visit to the patch today to do the WeBS count having spent the morning checking nestboxes. Wintering duck have all but gone with only two teal and four wigeon. The highlight from the WeBS count was 12 whimbrel on the Budge fields and a great-crested grebe still hanging around the big pool.

No lapwing chicks to report yet, but there are plenty of birds sitting on eggs, I guess the winter conditions we had for the best-part of two weeks put them back a bit. There is also an oystercatcher on eggs - a very rare breeder at Druridge.

Sedge warbler was the only new bird for the year - and there were plenty of them, at least five singing males between the Budge screen and the Oddie hide.

Offshore there were plenty of terns and 12 red-throated divers in a range of plumages including some in full-breeding garb.

There were two mallard brood on the big pool, one of two and another of six.


This little chap got left behind
Mum with family


Monday, 2 May 2016

At last... a change in the weather

This weekend brought a change in the weather,  something more resembling the spring-like conditions we should be expecting. That-said there were some vicious hail storms coming through until this evening.

Leading up until Sunday, conditions were decidedly wintery and not conducive to birding or I am sure, for our newly arrived migrants, a bit of a shock!

Snow storm approaching
The conditions, alongside an important football match to attend meant little time for birding the patch, although the Bank Holiday Monday gave me an opportunity today. The two visits that I did manage brought a little flurry of species that were new for the year. Yesterday I saw fulmar, sandwich tern, ringed plover and grasshopper warbler (one reeling by the path to the hides last night) and today brought whimbrel (several flying over and eight coming in to land ahead of a hail storm), goosander and whitethroat.

There was a pair of red-breasted merganser on the big pool. Sadly the goosander was distant and in direct sunshine.

Red-breasted merganser pair
Drake red-breasted merganser having a stretch
This white wagtail was on the Budge fields - apologies for the heavily cropped pic.

White wagtail  - apologies for the heavily cropped pic

Finally, we had interesting news of a ringing recovery this week. A first-winter male siskin that we caught at Druridge on 16th November 2014, our last ringing session of that year, was caught by ringers in Warsop in Nottinghamshire on April 9th. A distance of 228 kilometres.

My year list now stands at 116 species.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

A Changing Landscape

Only one visit to the patch this weekend - Saturday was spent watching the Toon get three points, too little, too late I fear.

So today wasn't an early start. I checked the dunes from the haul road first - there is a nice little flash pool holding water again on the northern boundary of the patch, just along the haul road towards to East Chevington. If it doesn't dry up this week, it will be worth checking for waders. There were only two gadwall on it today.

Under construction
The new wind turbines have been delivered this week for the wind farm next to the inland sea at Widdrington. Now I am not anti-wind farm, as long as they are in the right place. This place would have been okay had the opencast mine not left behind a massive pond that would obviously, and has, attracted birds. Not much thought or planning gone into either scheme which results in nature losing out again.

It will certainly change the landscape of the patch - I will try to get down more often and document their construction.

Back to birding, with my back to the new wind farm. There was a steady swallow passage with a bird headed north every minute or so along the dunes whilst I was there. There was very little on the sea other than a handful of red-throated divers - some of which were sporting their summer garb. Strings of gannets heading north on the horizon were a welcome year-tick. No terns were in the bay.

A willow warbler was singing by the car when I headed to the Budge screen, with another by the screen hide.

Jonathon Farooqi had been to the Budge before me and reported an adult little gull. I couldn't find it, but did see the three ruff and four black-tailed godwits that he had also reported. There was a second-summer med gull amongst the black headed gulls.


Patch year list 109
PWC Points 139









Sunday, 10 April 2016

Arriving, departing or just passing through

I like this time of year - birds are on the move. I am fascinated by migration and at this time of year we have birds arriving, freshly returned from their wintering areas in Europe or Africa. We have birds that have spent the winter here in Northumberland moving on to breed in continental Europe or high into the Arctic tundra. And we have birds passing through our patch, on their way from wintering grounds to breeding areas - just stopping on their way or flying overhead.

This weekend has seen the arrival of a few summer visitors onto the patch - chiffchaffs are singing, a stunning male yellow wagtail was in the dunes (my earliest Druridge record by four days) - he may of course be just passing through and swallows and sand martins have increased in number. There's a lot more skylarks and meadow pipits around too.

Birds just passing through include wheatears, these early ones will probably be staying in the UK, soon the Greenland race will pass through - headed for much more northerly climes.

Some of the birds leaving us include whooper swans and pink-footed geese - the five remaining whoopers that have been in the front field for the last month or so have gone this afternoon. A skein of 60 pink-foots flew high to the north and about 30 whoopers passed through in the same direction today. Wigeon and teal numbers have decreased rapidly but there are still about 120 curlew in the vicinity of the Pools.

A jack snipe was out in front of the Budge screen this morning, probably its last stopping point before crossing the North Sea as it heads for its breeding grounds. I love jack snipes and this one gave us some great views, watch it bobbing in this video.




Jack Snipe Druridge 100416 from Iain Robson on Vimeo.

There's been a huge influx of black-headed gulls onto the Budge fields this weekend and with them some Mediterranean gulls. For my WeBS count today  I estimated 750 BHGs and there were a minimum of four Meds. Jonathan Farooqi counted a minimum of ten Meds yesterday - easily a patch record.

There'll no doubt be some more arrivals in the next few days, willow warbler is overdue - it will soon be followed by the other warblers from Africa.

Patch year list is 107 species.


Monday, 28 March 2016

More like winter than spring

Maybe it is just because I have just come back from Cuba, but I thought this weekend felt more like winter than spring. Even on Friday, which was certainly the best day of the weekend, it still felt like winter at Druridge and the lack of any migrants reinforced my thinking.

Cuba was excellent - great birding in a really interesting country. Cuban tody stood out as 'bird of the trip'. I will sort some photos and put them on Flickr soon and might even get around to writing a trip report.

Cuban Tody
Good Friday was my first visit back to the patch. It wasn't that good... although I did add a few common species to the year list - meadow pipit, kittiwake, eider, snipe, great crested grebe and oystercatcher. There were still four pintail on the Budge fields, a female scaup on the big pool and seven whooper swans on the front field.

No proper migrants were seen.

Despite the forecast of a southerly airflow for today, the wind was plumb out the north first thing, moving through to a strong and very cold nor'westerly later. Any migrant with thoughts of self preservation will of headed back south. So, I only added lesser black-backed gull to my year list. 

Interestingly, Andy McLucky reported a red kite over the Budge fields this morning  - a long-overdue addition to the Druridge patch list. This takes the patch list (my own sightings with any other published sightings) to 259 species. I've seen 238 of them. I would like to think I will add red kite to my own list this year. I might post a list of the things I haven't seen on here at sometime.

For this year, I am on 99 species. Hopefully I will add something else before the month ends, but unlike most of the birdwatchers in Northumberland, I am back at work tomorrow.


Saturday, 20 February 2016

Long-billed Dowitcher on WeBS count

I did my WeBS count today.

There was a very blustery SSW wind blowing which didn't make counting easy. A lot of birds were seeking shelter behind the tussocks of reed so I have probably under-counted some species.

Whilst counting ducks from the little hide, the curlews and redshanks that had been over by the Budge screen lifted and and settled a bit nearer to me. As I was counting the curlews, a smaller bird shoved its very long bill under it's wing and went to sleep - "that's the dowitcher" I said to myself as there was nobody in the hide.

Curlews counted (53) I came back to the long-billed bird. It was now obscured by sleeping curlews. Patience eventually paid off when the pack reshuffled and the dowitcher was exposed in all its glory - having a bit of a preen.

This is the third time I have seen this bird at Druridge. I am sure it must get up here more often than it is reported. There are definitely less birders getting to Druridge whilst the road up from Cresswell is closed which is no bad thing.

Amongst the wader flock were also two dunlin, two black-tailed godwits and a ruff. There are still about 300 wigeon and 70 teal on the Budge fields.

Away from the WeBS count, there was little to report. The National Trust were having a bush-craft day for kids.



Four whooper swans were in the field in front of the cottages, hanging around the feeding troughs with a couple of mutes and a greylag goose.

Whooper swans - a family party?
Mute swan