Saturday, 18 October 2014

Friday and Saturday

Friday 17th

A brief visit before work, Janet had already started to put some nets up when I arrived. The first bird I heard, then saw, when getting out of the car was a yellow-browed warbler. It was flitting about the whitebeam berries in lovely light.

I left Janet to it, to go to Amble and take a whole class of seven year-year-olds on a birdwatching walk around Amble. We didn't see very much, but they enjoyed learning about common species like jackdaws and collared doves.

I took the afternoon off and relieved Janet at the ringing site. A shift system. She had caught about forty birds - wrens, robins, blackbirds, goldcrests as well as a redwing (our first of the autumn) and a blackcap.

After I arrived we caught a flock of long-tailed tits and this great-spotted woodpecker.

First-winter male great-spotted woodpecker
The yellow-browed warbler was moving about with goldcrests all afternoon.

Saturday 18th

Curry night at the local and a few pints of ale made for a later start this morning. I checked the plantation which contained the usual suspects and a bunting, which I only saw twice, for about 30 seconds each time. It flitted about, a bit like a leaf warbler, amongst the pines. It had a really strong supercillium, but I didn't get much else on it. Despite looking quite sparse, there is a lot of cover in the plantation  and it easy to loose birds (as I know only too well.....

I gave the bunting 40 minutes with no further sign and headed north. There are still butterflies and dragonflies on the wing. The butterflies are looking at a bit tatty now.

tatty-looking speckled wood

There was about six migrant hawkers amongst the bushes and on the sheltered edge and some common darters too.

male migrant hawker
Bird-wise I found little else of note.

On Wednesday morning I saw a brambling in the plantation - my first since 2011.

167 Brambling
 PWC Score = 259

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Long weekend

I took Friday off work so I had a nice long weekend to do some ringing and birding on the patch.


An early morning, pre-work visit. There seemed to have been an arrival of birds overnight with more robins, goldcrests and wrens than the previous day. There were also three great-spotted woodpeckers, blackbirds, lesser redpolls and a single blackcap - all new arrivals.

grey heron over

Work beckoned though....


I spent Friday morning checking the bushes, from the plantation in the south, up to the north end. Robins, wrens (over 32 counted), goldcrests and chiffchaffs were really evident. Thursdays redpolls had been joined by a flock of siskins and blackcap and great-spotted woodpecker were still present.

I finally got my yellow-browed warbler, just off the 'Mike Carr' path. picked up on call and found with goldcrests and a chiff in the willows. It didn't hang about. The birds were moving in waves like you get in the tropics.

One of many  robins
 There was at least nine stonechats in the dunes - showing how good a year this species has had.

Male stonechat
Vizmig was obvious with a constant movement of skylarks (35+) and meadow pipits (24+) moving south in small groups. A juvenile marsh harrier flew south, low over the bushes.

Pink-footed geese were also on the move. I estimated this skein at 150 when they flew over, I counted them on the photo and there were 151 - how's that for accurate guesswork?

151 pink-footed geese headed south


We put some nets up on Saturday. It was 3 degrees C when we arrived and there was light frost, first frost of the year on the patch.

We caught 43 new birds, including an incredible 16 wrens. We also caught five song thrushes, which must have been freshly in. We didn't catch any chiffchaffs, but we did ring a single willow warbler, which is quite late. A great tit was a control (meaning that it had been ringed elsewhere, it had a larger 'B' ring on, so it was probably ringed as a pullus from a nestbox.

Goldfinches eating last years alder cone crop - this years very good crop is not quite ripe yet.
Yesterdays yellow-browed warbler called from the bushes. Skylark and mipit migration was still evident.


Today was WeBS count day. My attempt at an early start was thwarted  with car problems. After a jump start and a trip to Kwik Fit for a new battery, I got down to patch at 15.40, £110 lighter.

An interesting wader on the far bank of the big pool had a few of us guessing for a bit. It looked a bit like a dunlin, but the jizz was wrong and some features didn't tally. It looked 'rounded and compact' and small, but difficult to judge size at such range with no comparison. It had no pectoral band, with colouring only reaching the throat. We decided that it was just a odd-looking dunlin. Interesting though.

Notable on the WeBS count was 18 little grebe, 26 gadwall and a great-crested grebe.

164 lesser redpoll
165 siskin
166 yellow-browed warbler

PWC Score - 258

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

A lark on the shore

I was at work today, which is a thing that less and less birders appear to be doing, when I saw some tweets, from those without jobs, about a shore lark at Druridge.

Luckily, I wasn't far away from Druridge and had eaten my lunch on the hoof, so could afford a quick dash to the patch.

When I arrived, some more birders without jobs were walking along the road "You'd better be quick, it's on the beach but the tide is coming into the base of the dunes"....

I had the forethought to put my wellies on, and legged it to the beach, when I got to the top of the dune, the tide was well and truly in - I feared the worst. 

Further north, at the Dunbar burn, I spotted some photographers, lenses pointed down the dune front, they kept moving and I presumed the bird was too. At this rate they'd chase it to Chevington. 

I staggered along the beach, wading the burn (thank god for the wellies), the incoming waves lapping at my feet as I set up my scope. And there it was, the shore lark on the front of the dune, about level with the Druridge bushes.

Shore lark on the dune front - iPhone scoped shot
I watched it for a while, it was going down onto the beach to feed between waves, flying back up to the dune when a breaker rolled in. I managed to get some video of it, just hand-held the iPhone up to my scope.

Shorelark druridge from Iain Robson on Vimeo.

This is my first shore lark since the spring bird on 5th April 2011

The tide was huge (5.2m at Amble), with a big swell. Quite impressive - could be good for grey phalarope somewhere tomorrow.

Big seas  - looking south
And looking north
On my way back to the car, I popped into the bushes (as you do) and flushed a woodcock, my first of the Autumn.

163 Shore lark

PWC Score = 250

Sunday, 5 October 2014

More Meds

I only managed two very brief visits to the patch this weekend. Unfavourable winds and yesterday mornings rain meant I had the chance to catch up with some chores and drink too much wine.


Not much to report. Goldcrests, robins, wrens and chiffchaffs in the bushes, the other highlight was an arrival of six mistle thrushes. They arrived from the northeast and settled in the lone pine at the back of the plantation, calling, before flying off north. I am presuming they were freshly in.

teal from the Oddie Hide

Another afternoon visit. The bushes were still quiet, coal tits have been omnipresent in the plantation since the start of September, making the most of the pine cone crop.

coal tit with a pine seed
As a result of the recent warm weather, there are loads of insects about. Butterflies included comma, red admiral and speckled wood and a (migrant?) hawker was still on the wing. There were also lots of mozzies and midges. I had a go at photographing them.

On the beach, the gull roost was building up. Amongst about 350 gulls (mainly black-headed and common), I counted SIX Mediterranean gulls - easily a patch record count for me. They seem to be much more common this year.

Spot the meds - there are two in this shot
One of Meds was carrying a green darvik ring, with a white three figure code, I couldn't get the actual code but it would appear that it was ringed in France.

So, mistle thrush puts me on 162 for the year. Already an above-average year and there is still time for a fall....I need nine more species to equal last years 171.

162 mistle thrush

PWC Score = 248

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Westerly Woes

A settled high pressure with westerly winds has meant that this weekend has been a lot more sedate than last weekend was.

Sedate = boring. Bring back the easterlies please.

It felt like summer at Druridge yesterday morning. There were lots of butterflies out, mostly red admirals and speckled woods with a single dark-green fritillary which must have been off a second hatching?

Red admiral on whitebeam berries
Speckled wood

These drake gadwall thought it was spring - chasing a duck around for five minutes or more.
Birding was very quiet, robins, wrens, dunnocks and chiffs most notable in the bushes. Overhead, skylarks were moving south throughout the morning with a sprinkling of meadow pipits and swallows.

There was a hint of winter though, pink-footed geese are back.

Pink-foots, headed south
Today was even warmer, but more cloudy. I could only manage some evening birding, by which time, the wind had dropped to almost nothing. It was high tide, so I had a look on the sea, hoping for some fly-by waders, pushed off the rocks.

There was an incredible 71 divers in the bay, but all I could pick out was red-throats. In amongst them were five red-breasted mergansers and a great-crested grebe.

In common with elsewhere, Druridge has had an influx of little gulls, not an impressive count in comparison with other sites, but there were about 12-15 which is good for Druridge. Most of them were distant, with a feeding frenzy of bigger gulls, well offshore.

I had a really frustrating episode with a gull, when I picked it up in my scope, it was heading south and it didn't deviate from it's course, it didn't bank or turn once, just kept on going. What I saw, and its jizz, was good for a juvenile sabines, but I will never know.

At dusk, the two juvenile kestrels that have been hanging about were joined by a third. I got a couple of pics before it go too dark, after I abandoned photography due to bad light, they put on a great display over the dunes in front of me, tussling with each other.

juvenile kestrels at dusk

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Risky strategy paid off

As reports came in of a Fea's Petrel being tracked up the north-east coast this afternoon, I got twitchy and had to make a tricky decision. Do I go to a good seawatching spot such as Newbiggin or Snab Point and give myself a better chance of connecting with a lifer, or do I stay loyal to the patch and hope I can see it there.

I decided to go to Druridge. To be honest, the decision was easily made but I was aware that it was a risk. When I set off the bird had only just gone past Seaham, so I had plenty of time.

Not long after I was set up I had an unexpected bonus, an adult Sabine's gull was flying around offshore, about half-way to the pot flags, I watched if for a good three minutes as it zigzagged in a generally southerly direction, before it flew south-east into the gloom. I tipped off Neil and Tom and Snab. 

A few minutes later, what I presume was the same bird, an adults Sabs, flew north, again not very far out at all. A fantastic start and only my second ever patch Sabine's gull, the first was back in 2009.

I was joined on the dune by Alan Hall, as news came through of the Fea's northerly passage. A risky strategy for Alan too. So news in came in from Newbiggin and shortly after from Tom and Janet at Snab. What seemed like an age passed, and then two manx shearwaters came through, as I watched them, I saw another bird bank and tower quite high with a different jizz all together. It looked quite a bit bigger, the dark, almost black wings, looked really obvious when it banked and turned - it did this twice before dropping down. I was struggling to get Alan onto it though, there were too many black and double-black flags (we should have been more organised with hindsight and made sure we were on the same flags).

I lost it behind a wave and couldn't re-find it after re-positioning my scope.

I was gutted for Alan, but delighted to have seen it myself. These 'tracked' seabirds certainly get the adrenaline going.

It was followed by a sooty shearwater, the first of five that I saw. I continued to seawatch until after six o'clock but it had really tailed off after five.

Red-throated diver 4S, 3N
Sabine's Gull one adult southeast then north
Pale-bellied brent 4N
Manx Shearwater 8N
Fea's Petrel (1620ish) N
Sooty Shearwater 5N
Bonxie 1N
Arctic Skua 1N
Velvet Scoter 1 drake with flock, 1S with smaller flock
Dark-bellied Brent 5N
GC Grebe 1N
harbour porpoise 2

So Fea's takes the patch list to 236

I took Friday off work as it looked like the easterly winds were going to end. I had planned to ring from first thing, but the heavy, almost drizzle-like, fog persisted until mid-morning. I tramped the bushes, but it felt very quiet, almost as if there had been overnight clear-out. Pied flycatcher was all of note. 

I put some nets up by 11am, but only caught 12 birds. Hardly worth the effort.

158 grey wagtail
159 Sabine's Gull
161 sooty shearwater

PWC Score 247

Monday, 15 September 2014

In the bushes

I called in at the patch before and after work today. Yesterday's red-breasted flycatcher was still in the plantation this morning joined by a pied flycatcher. 

It had been seen on and off all day and some photographers got some good shots this evening. 

I walked the length of the bushes tonight. There were plenty of robins and wrens, but the only warbler activity was with a tit flock by the feeders at the Budge screen and a couple of chiffs by the 'Mike Carr Path' (as it is now known). Otherwise the bushes were quiet. 

I probably won't have time to get down there tomorrow, which is a pity, as there must be a yellow-brow somewhere.