Monday, 25 February 2013

Geeses..... gooses

The skies darkened over Druridge Farm, not a rain cloud which you would expect in February, but a cloud of geese.

a cloud of geese
Pink-footed geese to be accurate.  This huge skein split into two, with  half heading south towards Cresswell and the remainder settling in the fields to the north of the haul-road. I'll have a look through them later I thought.

headed south, about half of the skein

As I got out of the car a stunning male merlin flew north through the dunes, stealth like. I didn't even try to photograph it, just enjoyed the moment.

This odd looking goose was hanging around with a small group of Canada geese. Is it just an aberrant plumage or should I be questioning it's parentage?

Odd goose
I headed north to scan the goose flock, which I did until frostbite had set into my nose-end. No bean or white fronted geese amongst the flock, but I was rewarded with two barnacle geese.

A trudge across the dunes to scan the sea, which had picked up a bit of swell in the strengthening NE wind. The only bird I picked up offshore was a shag. It was bang-on high tide so there wasn't much beach, bu enough to find these two tottering about the surf.

turnstones - not common at Druridge

High-tide is always the best time to see turnstone at Druridge, when they get pushed off from Snab Point or Hauxley.

Four new species added to the patch list takes it 77 and the patch competition score to 87.

74 merlin
75 barnacle goose
76 shag
77 turnstone

Saturday, 23 February 2013

What a contrast!

Last weekend was warm and sunny. This weekend it's snowy and freezing cold.

I had to go to work this morning, by the time I got home and had thawed out, there was still a mixture of sleet, wet snow and rain coming over so I didn't make it to Druridge at all.

Instead, I've added the first installment of a mini-trip report from our recent trip to Thailand to Ipin's Birding Trips.


A taster

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Like a bank holiday...

You get two sunny days in a row and every man and their dog(s) head for Druridge. It was like a bank holiday Monday in August this afternoon, cars, people, dogs and kites everywhere.

A quick look on the sea produced a flurry of year ticks - guillemot, red-breasted merganser, eider, razorbill and kittiwake (the patch competition is very generous, awarding two-points to the latter three species!). There were also 11 red-throated divers offshore and 17 sanderling on the beach.

After nearly being attacked by a huge black shark (on the end of strings, held by a small child) we headed for the tranquility of the Budge screen.

The Budge fields still hold a lot of water and a lot of birds. The highlight were three pintail amongst the wildfowl. A visiting birder alerted us to a short-eared owl, perched on a fence to the south of the screen. It sat, perched on the same fence-post, for half an hour. It was too far away for photo's.

Two long-tailed ducks are still on the big pool. The female was being harassed by the first returning shelduck of the spring.

At the 'top-end' a mixed flock of goldfinch and linnet also contained a single greenfinch.

So the year-list stands at 73, giving me a score of 81 on the patch competition. The mini-league for the 'Coastal North' has been published for January and I am last - got some catching up to do.

65 moorhen (seen last week but missed)
66 kittiwake
67 eider
68 red-breasted merganser
69 guillemot
70 razorbill
71 short-eared owl
72 shelduck
73 greenfinch

Sunday, 10 February 2013

WeBS Count

Today was WeBS count day and the WeBS count was about all I could manage. The wind from the south was biting and sleet threatened, it was grim!

The Budge fields were full of birds and they were flighty, so counting was tricky.

plenty of birds on the Budge fields

The top five were:

Wigeon 226
Lapwing 145
Curlew 118
Teal 114
Greylag 54

Highlights were the two long-staying long-tailed ducks and three pintail. Snipe was the only addition to the year list. It was sleeting hard when i finished the count, I was freezing, so I packed in and went to the Country Barn for some sustenance. 

I managed a brief check of Druridge on Friday evening after work, the evenings are getting lighter and there was still some visibility at half-past-five. Two barn owls were hunting around the dunes and song thrush was addition to the list. This takes the patch list to 64 and the Patchwork Challenge to 68 points.

One of the two barn owls hunting in the dunes

curlews silhouetted at dusk

62 song thrush
63 barn owl
64 snipe

Sunday, 3 February 2013

February gets of to a flying start

With the toon at home yesterday and a belated birthday night out on Friday, I only managed one visit to the patch this weekend and that was delayed due to much celebrating last night, after the toon's magnificent victory.

A flock of about 450 pink-footed geese on the filed in front of the hamlet were grilled, they were all pink-foots. In the same field, three male grey partridges were competing for the attentions of a female - quite an impressive display, spring must be in the air.

The Budge fields are holding a lot of water, which has attracted a lot of dabbling ducks and few diving ducks too. Mostly wigeon and teal but also today were mallard, gadwall, shoveler, tufted duck, pintail and pochard. There were singles of each of the latter two, both new for the year list. There were also lots of curlew. On the big pool there were still two long-tailed ducks.

I saw a couple of species that I really didn't expect to see until the autumn today, great-spotted woodpecker and goldcrest. The goldcrest was in with a flock of ten or so long-tailed tits and a great tit. A passing sparrowhawk rattled them a bit!
Long-tailed tit
Elsewhere, at the north end, there was a small flock of mixed finches, mostly twite with linnet and goldfinch and on the beach, a female stonechat poked around amongst the flotsam and jetsam.

A couple of birders had seen a short-eared owl, but I didn't.

So today's effort takes the patch total up to 61 species and 65 points on the patchwork challenge.

49 grey partridge
50 pintail
51 pochard
52 great-spotted woodpecker
53 long-tailed tit
54 great tit
55 goldcrest
56 sparrowhawk
57 linnet
58 twite
59 stonechat
60 mute swan
61 cormorant