Sunday, 11 August 2019

Wet weather

It's rained, almost constantly, since Friday and I'm bored of being stuck at home.

It's a good excuse to catch up with sorting through some photos though. Here are a few macro shots from last Sunday afternoon when the weather was somewhat nicer.

Eristalis tenax - a male looking a bit tatty. If you zoom in you can see his 'hairy eyes'  - one of the ID clinchers for this species

One of the Sphaerophoria species of hoverfly - can't get the to species level with photos alone.

A male Common Field Grasshopper - Chorthippus brunneus

A female Common Field Grasshopper Chorthippus brunneus

Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina

Speckled Wood butterfly - Pararge aegeria

Common Green Capsid - Lygocoris pabulinus

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Nocturnal ringing

It's that time of year again. No, not the annual glut of courgettes from the allotment, it's time to head to the beach in the middle of the night to trap storm petrels.

We had our first session on Friday evening/Saturday morning.We were joined by a few local birders keen to see these marvelous birds at-close-hand.

We were all set up by 10.30pm and then just had to wait. The tides weren't ideal, they're spring tides at the moment and big ones, so high tide was very high and low tide, which was at 11.40pm meant the sea was a very long way out, would it be too far for the birds to hear our calls?

After a long wait and much to the delight of those that had joined us we finally caught a storm petrel at 12.45. As usual, those that had never seen storm petrels in the hand were amazed by how small they are.

Storm petrel
We caught another bird at 01:10 and decided to call it a night at 2am.

Two birds is about our average for our visits to Druridge and over the last five years we've caught 27 individuals. We've never failed to catch any...yet - that's jinxed it.

Hopefully we'll get some more sessions this autumn. Ringing storm petrels is good value as we get both recoveries and sometimes catch birds that have been ringed elsewhere all helping to piece together a picture of these strange sea-faring birds. You can read about a couple of recoveries from 2018 here.

Monday, 29 July 2019

An influx of migrants

On the day that our new leader and his Home Secretary announce that they are are going to strengthen our immigration laws a tidal-wave of migrants from Africa arrived, via Europe, onto our shores overnight.

Even Boris can't stop these migrants however - painted lady butterflies - millions of them.

Painted Lady Butterfly
A typical scene this morning
In a short walk at Druridge this morning we counted over 250 of them. Other observers counted similar numbers up and down the coast. This is the third and most impressive arrival of painted lady butterflies this summer. What's also amazing is that we witnessed a mass movement of the same species over Athens in April - thousands passing through the city centre.

Today was a good day for butterflies at Druridge with at least eleven species noted.

small skipper
a beautiful 'blue' female Common Blue
Migrant moths were also noticeable with diamond back moths, silver Y's and a yet-to-be-identified moth all over the dunes and grasslands.

Diamond back moth
There were hundreds of these in the dunes this evening...
Whilst we were photographing some of the hoverflies a couple of visitors showed us a photo of a hummingbird hawkmoth they had just photographed and we soon relocated it - a patch first for me and only my third in Northumberland.

Hummingbird hawkmoth - new for the patch
Some hoverflies from today
Rhingia campestris - sometimes known as the 'Heineken hoverfly'
Pellucid hoverfly - Volucella pellucens
 Female Syrphus sp. possibly ribesii
female Platycheirus sp
male Eristalis sp. possibly E. tenax

Most of this stuff still needs identifying...

One of the 'picture-winged flies'
Wasp Sp. to be identified - not even to family yet...
Could be a Tenthredo sp?
Orthops campestris
Spider - underside
Same spider from above
Grasshopper Sp
Back to Birds...
Wader numbers were much-reduced from what they were on Friday. Today there were two wood sandpipers, one common sand, five black-tailed godwits, two ruff and greenshank of note. On Friday there were 10 common sand, one wood sand, one green sand, one little ringed plover, 27 black-tailed godwit, four knot, ten snipe, two ruff, whimbrel and a the first returning golden plover of the autumn.

We had hoped to try to ring some storm petrels tonight but the sea was still boiling after recent northerlies, loud enough to drown-out or speaker for sure. We did go and check the volume out though and had ten Med gulls in the beach roost including a juvenile.

Sunday, 9 June 2019


I finally got to see the red-backed shrike that has been Druridge at 8.15 tonight after it gave me the run-around this afternoon. It had been reported earlier in the day and been seen moving through the dunes, ranging from the turning circle to the just north of the plantation.

I wandered the dunes and bushes for a couple of hours or so with no joy, then hunger got the better of me and I went home for a very late lunch and to return to my chores. A lot of birders on a trip from RSPB Coventry turned up so it was also time to leave..

Visiting birders - route-marching up the road from their coach
Whilst I wandered I chanced upon a drinker moth caterpillar on a fence post, it was joined by a 7-spot ladybird and this happened (slowed down to 30% - make it full-screen for best effect)

After tea this evening I decided to have a look for either the shrike or listen for a rosefinch that has been heard recently. After a quick chat with Dave Dack I headed for the turning circle where I could see two birders on the cycle path looking intently towards the 'Druridge Bushes'... I headed their way and as I approached one of them ushered me towards them.

As I suspected they were watching the stunning male red-backed shrike - it was perched up in lovely evening light on the bushes nearest to the fence - distant but stunning.

First - distant views

closer but always obscured by twigs
digi-scoped effort
Tonight's red-backed shrike was my first on the patch since 2008 when a juvenile took up residence in the travelers encampment, and only my third ever. But this is my first spring record and it was a stunning male - as far as shrikes go, they don't get much better than that!

A passing barn owl
Some passing honkers

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

250 but for how long?

The drake Baikal Teal that was found at East Chevington yesterday after it's brief trip up to Scotland from Hornsea Mere (where it's been for a while) made a much shorter trip overnight to the Budge fields at Druridge.

That was the news that greeted me when I woke this morning. No breakfast and a creased shirt for work meant I could be there pretty smartly to find the hide already full of birders and the teal swimming about and feeding on the flooded fields.

It spent spent most of its time with it's head in the water, feeding. That and the distance made it tricky to get a decent photo of it, but it showed really well and I was pleased that made it the short hop down to Druridge to be the 250th species on my patch list. 

Heavily cropped drake Baikal Teal on the Budge fields
With rare wildfowl there is always the question - is it a fence-hopper? Will this bird stay on my list for long or will the BOURC consider it a an escapee and boot it off my list?

Well - it's there for now and if it is considered pukka - what a bird to bring up the 250!

It was also nice to see that the shoveler family still have five of their seven ducklings. Druridge Pools is the last reliable breeding site in the county for this species.

Shoveler with five shovelettes
Thanks to Ian fisher for the calls this morning to let me know. 

Monday, 6 May 2019

Tick and run for 249

I hate the tick and run culture of birding, but sometimes, needs must!

News broke this morning of a cattle egret amongst the ponies on the Budge fields at Druridge which had allegedly been found by Dave Elliott. Janet and I were in Alnwick meeting friends over coffee in Barter books when I heard about it but as soon as we could, we headed south. It was mistake to take the A1 as the bank holiday traffic had already slowed to a stop at Felton, frustration grew but we eventually made it to the patch. The egret had moved onto the field north of the pool amongst the cattle (who would've thought?) and was viewed at a distance from the turning circle. The views were satisfactory though and the bird showed well and the sunshine made the orangey colours (of the bird coming into breeding plumage) on the crown and back stand out well. Not prepared for birding, I had no cameras on me so there's no pics...

Family commitments meant I couldn't hang about, but a great bird to catch up with on the patch, if not totally unexpected. Cattle egret takes my patch list to 249 and the overall patch list to 269.

I tried a seawatch yesterday evening from 16:45 for an hour. It was quite with a couple of manx shearwaters going north, eight sandwich terns, a couple of whimbrel and nine common scoter of note.

On (or over) the Budge fields I noted all three common hirrundines and my first swifts of the year, with about half-a-dozen over the pools on the fields. Four species of raptor were also noted - kestrel (remarkably my first on the patch this year), sparrowhawk (big female over the pools), buzzard and marsh harrier - a female hunting on the Budge fields.

This rather fine lapwing caught the light outside the little hide.

Monday, 29 April 2019

The wanderer returns

I was back on the patch yesterday to do a belated WeBS count after returning from a birding trip to the Greek island of Lesvos in the early hours of the morning - how's that for dedication?. A wood sandpiper had been reported which I was keen to see despite this being easily the most common wader on Lesvos with up to 100 in one place.

This is a photo from Lesvos, not Druridge. Lesvos more than lived up to my expectations, it was a great place with excellent birding and I hope to be back there someday.

Wood Sandpiper at Kalloni salt pans on Lesvos
I did see the wood sandpiper on the Budge fields and it was nice to get it on the WeBS count. There wasn't much to count with most of the wintering duck departed and very few waders. Frustratingly five whimbrel flew over, looked like landing but carried on north.

There was a constant background noise of singing warblers - all new in since I left other than chiffchaff. Blackcap, willow, whitethroat, sedge, grasshopper in the dunes by the blockhouse, lesser whitethroat by the Oddie hide and reed warbler in the reedbed.

Also new for the year was this nice fresh speckled wood butterfly

Fresh Speckled Wood - iPhone shot. 
Tonight, prompted by the report of a little tern on the beach, I had a wander up to Chibburn Mouth to check its suitability for fencing to protect shorebirds and it looks good!

On the way there, goldfinches, linnets and skylarks were all in song in the dunes.

Goldfinch (I only spotted the ring when I looked at the photos)
Skylark on the haul road
 A lapwing pair in the fields by the haul road had four tiny furball-like chicks scampering around. I hope they all get to fledge! I walked back by the beach, there was no little terns to be seen but a sandwich tern was feeding offshore and this black-headed gull was nicely lit by the evening sun against the dunes.

Black-headed gull