Sunday 30 July 2023

And it was all yellow...

Hot on the heals of last month's patch tick (Night Heron), along came another on Saturday evening. Yellow-legged Gull - a spanking adult on the beach at where the Dunbar Burn runs out. 

This is a first for me at Druridge and a first for the patch as far as I am aware.

Stands out a bit

I first got onto the bird from some distance away, it was at the end of the burn and I was in the dunes opposite the path to the hides. It was a 'Herring-type' large gull but the darker shade of the mantle rather than leg colour that alerted me to something different. The birds looked settled and there was nobody to disturb them, other than a couple with a dog at heal. Nothing is that straightforward, by the time I got there, the bloke had decided that the pool between the two spits that gulls were roosting on, would be the ideal place for a swim. 

The birds hadn't moved far, just a little way up the beach. I got onto the bird, my suspicion was correct, yellow-legged gull. The bird gradually made it it's way back to the end of the burn, where I managed to get some photos.

Some of the hundred-plus gulls. Can't spot anything odd here, but the bird in the middle looks a bit odd. 

I've seen thousands of yellow-legged gulls on my travels, but this was only my third in Northumberland, the last was a East Chevington in July 2006 and the first at Bamburgh in 2000. This takes my patch list to 256 and the overall patch list to 276. 

I was back on the patch just after 6am this morning. There was still a small rave going on! The drum'n'base didn't bother this female barn owl.

The Barn Owl was mobbed by five yellow wagtails as it hunted, when they settled, one of the adults looked to be 'flava' race or maybe 'channel'. I'd seen two yellow wags on the beach earlier, which I assumed were different birds. 

Yellow wagtail

Meadow pipit about to feed it's young

Another yellow wagtail

Wednesday 28 June 2023

Another good tern

The white-winged black tern found at East Chevington yesterday evening finally made its way down to Druridge Pools this afternoon. 

An adult white-winged black tern - what's not to like?

Despite the grey and drizzly conditions, the light wasn't as bad as I expected it to be. The tern had a route around the pool, starting in the NW corner, flying south then into the little bays, before flying east past the hide, into the SE corner and flying back up the northern edge to start again. Like clockwork, for half an hour when it went to the Budge fields. Amazingly, for that half hour, Janet and I were the only ones in the hide. That's Northumberland for you!

This is my second patch white-winger, the first was on July 1st 2017 - again another adult summer plumage bird.

This cormorant entertained us briefly, wrestling with an eel.

Cormorant with Eel

Somewhere around the Little Hide, there is a pied wagtail feeding chicks.

Thursday 22 June 2023

Midsummer Night (Heron)

Midsummer night, the summer solstice, everything must've been aligned and luck was on my side.

A beautiful evening, the wind had dropped, the sky, and the sea, were pink  and I just watched a minke whale making its way south and had watched a merlin through hunting through the dunes and I was still birding at nearly 10pm. I headed to my car a happy patch watcher.

I was just about to leave when a couple came along the road, headed for the path to the hides - Richard Hopwood and his partner Sharon. They proceeded to tell me they were trying to get hold of Alan Tilmouth as they were sure they'd just seen a night heron flying over the Budge fields. Their description sounded good, Sharon thought it might have landed in the corner of the budge fields so we headed that way. Nothing from the Little Hide, so I suggested we go along the path to the corner of the Big Pool as that was more likely habitat. We heard it calling before we got there.

We were no sooner scanning the big pool when both Richard and I found our bird - perched on a tree stem just above the water in the north west corner of the pool. We got the scope on it, confirmed ID and put the news out. It was 9.53pm!

Black-crowned Night Heron  - in fine breeding plumage, lovely long white plumes from the crown, the red eye just visible in the fading light. What a bird! It continued to call, every 10-20 seconds or so.

Here is a sound recording

best effort of a digi-scope shot in fading light. 

I took a short video

We watched the bird for 20 minutes or so, it didn't move far from the branch and then, it took flight, calling as it flew, away to the southeast. We lost it from sight, but the calls seemed to move more to the north east, then silence. We assumed it had gone. 

A great end to the evening for the three of us.

Part of a mini-influx of this species, probably due to habitat loss on the continent due to drought. The way the bird was constantly calling, I thought it could be a male looking for a mate. 

A new bird for the patch, taking my patch list to 255 and the overall patch list to 275. I've only seen one night heron in Northumberland before this, a juvenile which was at Cresswell Pond for a few days in the autumn of 1997.

I had another first for the patch last week - a new hoverfly. A Parhelophilus species, sadly it can't be got to species from the photos, but certainly a new hover for the patch.

Parhelophilus sp on Water Hemlock Dropwort

Saturday 19 November 2022

Last gasps of autumn

The forecast didn't look too promising for this weekend and I felt like autumn was slipping away without a final finale. However, on Thursday things started to look better, with an easterly and some good seawatching. Instead of seawatching, I was sat in my office in zoom meetings all day.


As there looked to be a slim chance of a late migrant or two, I took a flyer on Friday afternoon and headed to the patch with Janet. We started with a look on the sea but it was quiet, a bonxie going south, only my second of the year, was the highlight. Not an auk in sight. Janet found a snow bunting on the beach which was a year-tick.

Female snow bunting in poor light

Same bird, different pose

We headed for the bushes, checking the area around the start of the path to the hides first. A female blackcap was a good start. I got onto a small bird flitting about in the branches, above the blackcap - I called 'yellow-browed warbler' to get Janet onto it, but it had flitted off. Even though I had the briefest views - Strong wing-bar and supercillium, pale tips to darker secondary feathers, it wasn't right for a yellow-brow. It was duller than a yellow-browed, almost with a grey cast. Hume's warbler sprang to mind but I needed better views to be sure and Janet needed to see it. I put the news out as 'a probable'.

We didn't have to wait long, as the bird re-appeared to the right and gave tantalizingly brief views as it flitted quickly through the branches. It had a colder, greyer look to it than a YBW, the wing bar and the supercilium were more off-white without yellow tones and the bill and legs appeared to be dark. It hadn't called at this stage, but we were both confident that it was Hume's and put the news out.

A 'bird wave' of tits and goldcrests came through, which also brought a willow tit and chiffchaff to the party. We lost the warbler in the melee, when we refound it, it was further right and it flew and called - a short, sharp two-tone call, not like yellow-browed's more drawn out 'twoo-eeee'. It did this twice before flying off south. 

We suspected it might have gone south with the tit flock, so I headed down towards the Budge hide but couldn't relocate it. Two ruff were on the fields and water rails were calling. We couldn't relocate the warbler by dusk so headed home. I would be back in the morning.

I had a likely Hume's warbler many years ago by the Budge hide. It's in a long-lost notebook and was never submitted, so technically not a new bird for the patch. I've seen three others in the county, at Whitley Bay (2006), Lynemouth Power Station (2002) and East Chevington (2001). 

Robin - ever-present and singing a mournful autumn tune


I got down to the patch at about 9.30. A handful of birders including Ashington Gary and Paul from Gateshead were loitering on the path but had not seen the bird, I headed north for a look through bushes. Two female long-tailed ducks were on Druridge Pool. With no further sign, I headed south to the Budge hide and checked the bushes there. It was quiet, so I checked the Budge fields and picked up a water pipit on call, which I eventually found feeding on wet grassland to the left of the hide. Bonus!

I wandered north through the bushes, when a tit flock came through and I picked up a firecrest amongst them. Nice. This was my third of the year on the patch! The flock headed south, so I followed them. I called ADMc as I know he likes a firecrest. Andy, Paul, Bob and Steve arrived - the bird was tricky to pin down, but they all got onto it eventually. 

Not sure this photo will make the Annual Report.

Whilst scanning for the firecrest, I found yesterday's Hume's warbler in a big willow. It was really tough to get people on it before it flew north over the path with some long-tailed tits. I found it again in a lower willow but it was lost to view after that and not seen again. I'm not sure how many people saw it - So frustrating!

A treecreeper was added to the day list - a scarce species on the patch.

I think that might be autumn over...

Friday 21 October 2022

Strokes of luck

Several strokes of luck led to a full-fat patch tick today  -  Pallas's leaf warbler

Firstly  - I decided to take today off work today instead of next Friday

Secondly - When news broke of a Radde's Warbler at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea and Wood lark at Newton, I stuck to my plan and birded the patch

Thirdly - I bumped into Darren Woodhead and his son Corin.

I set out, as planned, to bird the patch, I was there for 7.40 and it was just light but foggy. I followed my usual plan of attack, to work the bushes by the entrance and the plantation before heading north.

Not long out of the car, I got onto a classic Siberian (tristis) chiff, grey above, green in the wings and off-white below, not warm at all. And it called a thin 'toot'.

Two birders, that I'd not seen before, arrived shortly after me and started birding the plantation. They also had a sibe, when I went into the plantation, it also called - 'toot'  - two birds (?). They were on a yellow-browed warbler. Darren and Corin Woodhead from Lothian. I recognised Darren - and now I know from where - I've often admired his artwork on my annual trips to Birdfair.

record shot of Yellow-browed warbler

Yellow-browed warbler

I spent the next hour or so in the plantation with repeated views of the yellow-browed, lots of crests, robins, wrens and a steady trickle of skylarks overhead and a group of c25 siskin south. Four brambling dropped in and fed for a while. 


Back at the 'entrance bushes' I was watching a yellow-browed when a second bird called from the sycamore at the plantation- two. Redwings came in overhead. News broke of a Radde's warbler at Newbiggin - I ignored it. 

I moved up to the middle plantation, where Darren and Corin were scouring the trees. I joined them, Darren and I were looking through the pines and sycamores, but Corin was watching the scattered scrub to the north and exclaimed suddenly  'Pallas's'!

mega-cropped record shot of Pallas's leaf warbler in flight -  6400 ISO

We got straight onto it - a Siberian gem, flitting around a crab apple tree. A patch tick for me and a great find for Corin. We enjoyed the bird for a good while before it flitted off. ADMc and others joined us, Whilst scouring the goldcrests for the Pallas's, I got briefly onto a firecrest, thankfully it showed on and off for the next 30 minutes, as did the the Pallas's. Another yellow-browed warbler was calling in the bushes to the north. 

Further north I found another firecrest in a small flock of crests and tits behind the Budge hide. 

Up at the path to the hides, by the timber screen, a 'bird wave' passed through with a long-tailed tit flock. There were at least five chiffchaffs around that area. This one has me stumped though - not a classic Sibe, I thought, too 'warm' but also too brown for a bog standard collybita. I know that Sibe's can be variable though and light plays a huge part.  It didn't call. Not sure on this one...

'brown' chiff
same bird
'Bog-standard Chiff'

I heard a lapland bunting calling, it passed overhead behind three skylarks, all going south. A flock of about 18 lesser redpoll fed in the alders and I found a few more siskin further north before I headed home. 

lots of these miserable-looking birds 

and these
a few of these

This afternoon, I acquiesced and went to the Ash Lagoon Banks at Newbiggin to look for the Radde's. No luck there, although others claimed it, but a roosting long-eared owl was worth the trip and new for the5km2 patch. 

I'll be back out again tomorrow. 

Sunday 31 July 2022

Med Gull Madness

 After a walk up to north end of the patch and back on Friday after work, I did a bit of an evening seawatch , until it was nearly dusk. 

It was relatively quiet, but there were a couple of close scoter flocks, numbering around 350 birds combined, so I went through them looking for a velvet or better. Three great-crested grebes and a red-throated diver were I could manage. Interestingly, the scoter flock was made up of over 95% drakes. 

Otherwise, a few terns and gannets... that is, until I noticed a couple of Mediterranean gulls flying south and then for some reason, I turned to look inland to see a small flock of Meds head south behind me, they were soon followed by another flock of 25 birds, they were all flying south, over the reserve, as far away as the shelterbelt. Several more flocks followed and they were still passing, in small numbers by the time I left. My final count was 72, there were also 15, including 5 juveniles, in the gull roost on the beach.

One of the passing Meds at dusk

I can only assume that they had been feeding in fields north and west of Druridge and headed south to roost at Lynemouth or Newbiggin. 

There were 48 sanderling on the beach, the adults molting out of breeding plumage. 


On Saturday, it was a still and humid evening. Janet and I had a walk along the beach, there were plenty of Sandwich terns offshore including a few juveniles which is promising. 

Sandwich Tern
Sandwich Tern

There was big southerly passage of sand martins, we counted at least 200 passing through. 

Sand Martin

Today (Sunday), there was a northerly wind for most of the day, so I tried an afternoon seawatch but it was quiet. 15 Manx went north and there were at least 8 Roseate terns offshore. A flock of about 30 southbound redshanks were noteworthy.

Here are some photos of the stonechat family in the dunes. 

Male stonechat



Thursday 21 July 2022

New Hovers

It's that time of year again - birding is quiet and the macro lens comes out instead of the 400mm.

I've managed to find three new hoverflies for the patch over the last couple of weeks. The first was Eristalinus sepulchralis - one of the 'spotty-eyed drone flies'. Not something I was expecting on the patch, although Chris Barlow has seen them here before. A new hoverfly for me. This one was along the track to the hides, between the bunds. I am disappointed not to get the whole creature in focus - the joys of macro photography. I'll update the hoverfly gallery which can be found in the top menu.

Eristalinus sepulchralis

Next up was Leucozona laternaria - not a common hover in Northumberland I think. This one was by the road, where the track heads to the hides. 

Leucozona laternaria

The last species that was new for the patch is under-debate, as to whether it is one or more species. At the moment it is regarded as 'complex' of  Melangyna compositarum/labiatarum. Complex Melangyna compositarum is how it remains on my list.

Melangyna compositarum/labiatarum

This Cheilosia sp could be new but it can't be identified to species form these photos.