Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Midweek ringing and news from the BTO

I had a well-earned day of flexi-leave today and as the weather forecast looked good, I decided to put some nets up at Druridge. Despite conditions being good for ringing, ti was a very slow start and by 8.30am I'd only caught four birds. Things did pick up a bit later and by the time I packed up at 11.30 I'd caught 14 birds -  all this year's youngsters:-

Six willow warblers, four blue tits, two great tits one blackcap and most unusual  - a treecreeper.

Treecreeper (iPhone shot)
This is only the fifth treecreeper we've caught at Druridge. The first was in October 2008, then 2011 and 2012 which were both October birds, we caught one last August and then this one. These August birds are a classic example of post-breeding dispersal. Treecreepers often travel about with roving tit flocks at this time of year so it wasn't a surprise to find this one in the net next to a blue tit.

Also of note today, two female-type goosanders flew south and on the Budge fields there were three greenshank, five ruff, two black-tailed godwit and handful of dunlin. A female sparrowhawk came through the waders and carried what looked like a dunlin off for a spot of lunch.

As I was packing up, I heard a strange noise beyond the path to the hides - so I investigated. I got quite close to where it was coming from when, probably the same female sparrowhawk, flew out past my ear. As I approached where she'd came from, a young magpie, looking a bit shaken, flew up from the ground. I investigated further and found a handful of freshly-plucked feathers. That magpie will never be as lucky again.

We had news back from BTO today of the reed warbler I caught in June which was already ringed (read about it here). It had been ringed as a juvenile almost exactly a year earlier by Ian Fisher at East Chevington which, on the face of it, isn't far, that little bird had been to sub-Saharan Africa and back since then.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Wet WeBS

Today has been mostly wet.

Once the rain eased after lunch, I popped down to the patch to do the monthly WeBS count. Nothing startling on the count, six black-tailed godwits, 20 dunlin dropped in and there were three snipe on the Budge fields.

On the big pool it was nice to see the great-crested grebe with its youngster, still sporting some stripes looking less like a humbug, there were also two pochard. Moorhen seem to have had a good year, there were 26 on the patch today.

I had been talking to a couple of visiting birders up here on holiday from Warwickshire, as I was about to leave the hide, the lady says "Is this a bird in the tree or just a branch sticking out? I got it in the bins, then the scope  - it was a bird. It was stunning juvenile cuckoo sitting out on some branches. I am presuming it was locally reared but could've been a passage bird I suppose.

I managed a quick look on the sea before the fret rolled in - three red-throated divers, about 80 common scoter and four roseate terns were the highlights. An amazing sight though, was flocks of cormorants heading north. I counted 54 in ten minutes or so, with one group numbering 24 birds. Where have they all come from?

There were a few warblers flitting through the bushes, mostly willow warblers with chiffchaffs, blackcaps and sedge.

No photos today because of the poor light and rain so here are some macro shots from last weekend.

seven-spot ladybird Coccinella septempunctata on nettle

22-spot ladybird  Psyllobora vigintiduopunctata

The Heineken hoverfly Rhingia campestris

The most distinguishing feature of the Heineken hoverfly is the long snout.  Heineken used to advertise their beer by saying it could reach the parts other beers couldn't reach.  With it's long snout the Heineken hoverfly can reach the nectar which other hoverflies can't reach - hence the name.

Eupeodes Sp
Turnip Sawfly - Athalia rosae
Not sure what this one is

Eupeodes sp
Tree wasp Dolichovespula sylvestris

Smoky Wainscot Mythimna impura
Scaeva pyrastri
Scaeva pyrastri
 These Scaeva pyrastri hoverflies seem to be quite common at the moment.

Small copper butterfly Lycaena phlaeas on sorrel

Monday, 6 August 2018

Ringing at both ends of the day

This blog post could've been called 'Burning the candle at both ends' as that is exactly what I did yesterday.

We've been keen to get the nets up at Druridge to do some ringing since we got back from Galloway, but the actual weather or the forecasted weather, which are rarely the same thing, has prevented us.

The forecast for yesterday morning was for the wind to drop by 7am and to be overcast. So not a really early start, but early enough, to let the wind drop, which it did a bit but the cloud cover was zero. We had the nets up by 7am and there seemed to be a lot of warbler activity, with lots of willow warblers or ciffchaffs feeding in the sunlight on the upper branches of the bushes. They must've stayed there as we didn't catch many. A fly-through collared dove was my first on the patch this year - it's common species like this that excite the patch-worker.

It was warblers that we mostly caught;

Willow Warbler -3
Blackcap - 3
Whitethroat - 1
Sedge Warbler - 1
Reed Warbler - 1
Garden Warbler -1

The garden warbler is indicative of migration as this species doesn't breed at Druridge and is a species that we have rarely caught in recent years.

We only caught 17 birds all morning, so there was some time between checking the nets to have a play with my new macro lens, which is also good a good 'portrait' lens for birds in the hand.

juvenile willow warbler
Juvenile whitethroat
Juvenile sedge warbler
Juvenile garden warbler - a scarce visitor to Druridge
I had a go at some insect photography between net-checking. I'll post some photos later inthe week when I've identified them all, but here is a taster...

Small copper butterfly
So, I mentioned burning the candle at both ends... whizz forward 12 hours and we were back at Druridge, just as it got dark to try to catch storm petrels on the beach. We were joined by Laura Shearer and Jenna Berry.

This is the fifth summer we've tried to ring storm petrels at Druridge. Touch-wood, we've never failed to catch birds and last night was no exception. We've only ever caught one bird before midnight and that was last summer, so it was a surprise when Janet checked the nets at 11.40 and found our first storm petrel of the evening.

We were even more surprised by the next bird, which we caught at 12.20... This one was bigger and it had a wing bar on the upper wing - a Leach's petrel.

We controlled a Leach's petrel in 2016 (read the story here) that had been originally ringed on the Isle of May and been caught again on the Farne Islands before we caught it. Last night's bird was un-ringed. 
Leach's Petrel - They have an incredibly 'steep' forehead.(Photo: L Shearer)
Janet processing the Leach's  - you can see the wing bar in this photo.(Photo: L Shearer)
We went on to catch another two storm petrels at 12.40 and 01.20. As we were about to pack up, just before 2am we heard singing from above our heads - was sleep deprivation kicking in, had we heard too much petrel noise - no, it was a Leach's petrel flying above us singing back to the tape. It didn't go into the net, but it begs the question - was it the same bird we'd caught earlier or a different bird, and if so, how many are out there?

All in all, a long but enjoyable day (and night...)

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Start of migration

For normal people, this is summer and will be until at least the August Bank Holiday. For Birdwatchers - it's Autumn.

Migration has begun...

Waders are on the move, at Druridge this was evident by large numbers (up to 76) dunlin on the beach midweek as well as the first returning sanderling. On the Budge fields this weekend there has been up to two green sandpiper, three wood sandpipers and five common sandpipers. Pectoral and curlew sandpipers have also been reported but not seen by yours truly.

Elsewhere, migrants like pied flycatchers and black restarts have been seen at coastal places.

Tonight, as I was watching the sandpipers on the Budge field, as well as a water rail out in the open, a great egret appeared on the fields, scattering the waders on it's arrival. 

Great Egret feeding on the Budge fields
and in flight

Short video of Great Egret - click to enlarge.

Once a mega rarity for the patch, the first being recorded in April 2010 (read about it here), great egret has been recorded in our four out of the last five years on the patch, which mirrors the northern expansion in the species' range.

I left the egret feeding on the Budle fields, but as I walked back to my car, it flew south overhead and continued to circle about before heading back over the Budge hide. 

Circling above the Budge hide
Since my last post, I've been away to Dumfries and Galloway for a long weekend of birds, butterflies, bikers and lighthouses. 

One of many Tysties nesting in the harbour wall at Poertpatrick - our base for two nights.
I've also done a couple of short seawatches, the highlight of which was a single sooty shearwater south on Thursday evening. Janet and I had a quick look around the patch on Friday evening and were amazed by the number of feral greylags - Druridge Pools had become like Hauxley, or a goose farm. The numbers of these and feral canada geese breeding in the area must be having some ecological impact on native species. 

Greylag Goose
Lots of Greylag Geese
It was nice to see great-crested grebes with young on the big pool as well as the increasingly scarce pochard. 

One of the remaining adult Great-crested Grebes 

Sunday, 15 July 2018


Yesterday morning I had a plan. That plan was to go to Cresswell and try some rockpool photography with the new macro lens. I' writing a beach guide for work and I'm short of a few rockpool photos so I thought I'd give it a go, but I'd have a quick look in at the patch first.

My first stop was the dunes for a look on the sea, as I scanned the foreshore I noticed lots of gulls and terns feeding in a pool on the edge of the tideline and it reminded me of photographing terns in a small pool back in 2013. I had to investigate...

Two hours and one and a half 16GB CF cards later, I headed home.

The pool had attracted over 200 black-headed gulls and hundred or so terns of three, maybe four, species (I didn't get any arctic tern photos). Here are the results...

This sandwich tern was colour ringed. It's a green ring with either EJO or EJD on it. I've not looked it up yet.
Sandwich tern in 'angel pose'

Mid-air acrobatics - I think this Sandwich tern was having a shake after an unsuccessful dive 
I've always wanted to photograph a tern just before it goes into the water...
Lift-off from an unsuccessful dive  - I love the energy in this shot
Common tern in angle pose

Common terns with  fish
Stunning bird! Roseate tern
Profile view  - Roseate tern

And not to forget the gulls in this tern-fest...

Adult Herring gull
Black-headed gull

There's hundreds more photos...

I eventually got down to Cresswell this morning to photograph the rockpools with mixed results which I'll try and put on here later in the week. This excursion meant I was doing my WeBS count at 8.30pm tonight, The Pectoral sandpiper is still on the Budge fields, with two greenshank, two ruff and a handful of snipe and redshank (someone had a wood sandpiper later which I didn't see). On the big pool, teal and wigeon are returning and two molting pochards were a rare sight. Two adult Med gulls were on the beach.

Monday, 9 July 2018

More Macro

It's usually the case at this time of year - the thoughts of bored birders, waiting for autumn migration to start, turn to butterflies, dragonflies, moths and bugs.

The local Whatsapp grapevine provides more information on banded demoiselles, fritillaries and moths than it does birds. But I'm not complaining, especially now I have the new Macro lens.

I've not strayed far from Druridge with it yet, other than a work trip to Bamburgh dunes where I photographed this Pirri Pirri flower - thankfully there's no sign of Pirri Pirri at Druridge, but I am sure it will be just a matter of time.

Pirri Pirri in Bamburgh Dunes
Back to Druridge, I was down there at before 5am for ringing session on Saturday but was packed up by 11. I was on my own so only had four nest up and caught 17 new birds - which isn't bad for a bright July morning. I'm starting to catch a few juvenile warblers now - blackcaps, sedge and willow. I've caught very few whitethroats this year, there seemed to be a lot singing when they first came in and they're usually the most abundant warbler at Druridge but not this year.

A long-eared owl was hunting through the bushes and barn owl in the dunes when I arrived. Gaps between checking the nets were taken up with more macro photography.

Silver Y moth

Dark Green Fritillary - There seems to be a lot of these at Druridge this year

Bonking Beetles - Common Red Soldier Beetle. There were thousands of these in the dunes at the weekend.
On Sunday I spent much of my two visits to the patch staring, willfully out to sea, with the slimmest of slim hopes that the Sooty tern that roosted on the Farne Islands might just pass by. After all, the bridled tern which was the Farnes almost five years to the day did pass by and Dave Elliott saw it.

On the Budge fields, there was a peak of over 100 black-tailed godwits over the weekend and the smart pectoral sandpiper was present throughout, joined briefly by a wood sandpiper.

Autumn migration has begun and thoughts of bugs and butterflies will be banished in favour of birds again.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

New Macro Lens

I've splashed out on a new macro lens - the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG to be precise. So after a quick play around in the garden yesterday I thought I test it for real at Druridge this morning. As a result very little birding was done in the limited time I had!

It's taking a bit a of getting used to, the depth of field is tiny, even at higher F stops. You only have to move a tiny bit and the subject is out of focus... I do like it though and I'm impressed by the results so far... The only problem now is identifying some of these critters!

Here are today's efforts - click to enlarge.

Not from Druridge but in my garden - Common green bottle fly Lucilia sericata
Marbled Bell moth Eucosma campoliliana - I think it should be called bird shit moth as that what it looks like at first glance - great camouflage 
Bloody cranesbill Geranium sanguineum

Common blue butterfly Polyommatus icarus
Seed head of one of the hawkbit/hawkweed type things - I though it looked nice!
Blue-tailed damselfly Iscnura elegans

Common blue damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum - male
Narrow-bordered five spot burnet moths Zygaena lonicerae emerging from their chrysalis 
Narrow-bordered five spot burnet moth Zygaena lonicerae

Common Restharrow Ononis repens
Cinnabar moth caterpillars 

Marmalade Hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus

Black and red froghopper Cercopis vulnerata - this species seems to be colonising the north-east of England

Small Heath Coenonympha pamphilus
Dark green fritillary Argynnis aglaja - there were at least two on the wing today at Druridge