Friday, 10 July 2020

Dodging showers

Janet and I headed to the patch for some fresh air after work today. It was fresh n'all  - 13 degrees, it was sunny when we arrived and there were a few hovers around as we wandered up to the little hide but the sky was black all around us - rain was on the way.

An adult Water Rail was showing nicely on the muddy edge from the little hide, just too far away for photos but this Hare was in range as it scampered away. A big flock of dunlin and other waders swirled around in the distance towards the Budge screen that would need a closer look.

Brown Hare - legging it across the field
The sky darkened further as we headed back towards the road and eventually we had to make a dash for the shelter of the car as the heavens opened. From the car we could see one of the juvenile Common Cuckoos, that has been much coveted by the photographers lately, sat on the fence, before it dropped in closer onto a Ragwort plant where it gobbled up several Cinnabar moth caterpillars.

Juvenile Common Cuckoo taking Cinnabar moth caterpillars from Ragwort
The rain got heavier and the Cuckoo flew even closer to the road and our car and at one point was too close for my 400mm lens - 3.5m.

Here it is, un-cropped, on the edge of being in focus.

Once the rain eased we headed for the Budge screen to scrutinise the waders. There were five Ruff, four adult males and a juvenile bird and an amazing 45 Dunlin - all adults. One can only assume, as no juveniles are present,  that these are failed breeders heading south? There were 14 Black-tailed Godwits - at least eight of them were assignable to the icelandica race and the others were a good fit. A Little Ringed Plover and three Little Gulls were nice to see.

The Budge fields have been the best for breeding waders for as long as I can remember. Lapwing have done well, despite heavy losses to Corvids and Herons. There have been at least two successful broods of Redshank and Avocet is a new breeding species. The first brood of Avocets are nearly adult-size now and will fledge but the second brood is now only one very small chick. It looked incredibly cute tonight though, in the mud, with it's little up-turned bill. The adults seemed to be paying it little regard though - waders are crap parents.

I think a combination of a very wet winter which suppressed the marginal vegetation, followed by an incredibly dry spell (lockdown) along with the grazing by the six ponies has created the prefect sward height... maybe not for Snipe though which are pretty-much absent this spring.

Full list here

A bit of this and that

I've done a bit of this and a bit of that this week - seawatching, ringing and looking for wee beasties.

On Monday evening I had a look on the sea - lots of terns feeding now with  Roseate Terns being particularly noticeable - given that there are at least 129 pairs on Coquet Island that makes perfect sense. From my vantage point in the dunes I can also look the other way and from there I saw three different barn owls successfully hunting for food for their growing broods, one or more probably two cuckoos in the dunes and a short-eared owl. The latter has been reported between the Pools and Chevington and is now keeping the 'toggers' happy. If felt autumnal  - the gull roost on the beach is starting to pick up and I had my first Great Black-backs of the autumn.

List here

On Wednesday morning I got up at 04.30 and set some nets up to ring. I had to get back for work by mid-morning so only put up four nets. The catch was mostly warblers - a mixture of adults and juveniles. I did catch a juvenile Coal Tit, Coal Tits are normally birds of autumn and winter here but I know that they have bred in the plantation this year. A good breeding record.

I caught 37 birds including retraps, warbler numbers were:

Blackcap  - 2 Juvenile 4 adult
Whitethroat - 2 Juvenile
Willow Warbler - 3 adult
Chiffchaff - 2 juvenile
Reed Warbler - 4 adults (2 retraps)
Sedge Warbler - 4 adult, 1 juvenile
Grasshopper warbler - 1 juvenile

Cuckoos, short-eared owl and barn owls were still about.

Between net rounds I tried to photograph some digger wasps on the fence posts

Digger wasp Crabro cribrarius - A male, you can make out the enlarged plates on the forelegs
Last night I had half an hour looking for hovers and bugs before the light went and an hours seawatch. Two Cory's shearwater had been tracked up the Yorkshire coast yesterday but hadn't been seen north of Seaham, still worth a look I thought. Highlights were:

Manx Shearwater - 30,  all north in groups of up to 10
Arctic Skua - one roaming around harrying terns
Whimbrel - 1 north
Curlew - 2 'in-off'
Common Scoter - a raft of about 750 birds off Chibburn Links

Distant arctic skua
black-headed gull
The 'toggers' were out in force for the cuckoo and short-eared owl.

List here

Some macro shots from last night

Small skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris)
Marmalade hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus

Hoverfly Eristalis pertinax on ragwort
Potato Mirid - Closterotomus norwegicus

Spiny Sheildbug - Picromerus bidens

Leucozona lucorum

Scorpionfly species - a female Panorpa sp.

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Blustery Day

Today was sunny and bright but blustery with a gusting s'westerly, strong enough to encourage most birds to seek cover. Janet and I had walk around the patch but didn't see a lot of birds until we got to the Budge fields. A pair of stonechat were with a single juvenile north of the of the bushes.

Stonechat amongst the mugwort
Even with the hides as shelter, viewing conditions were difficult as the SW wind was blowing straight in through the windows of the little hide. There were lots of waders including at least 56 black-tailed godwits and three ruff.

Some of the 56 black-tailed godwits
We tried viewing from the Budge screen but that was worse. I didn't have my scope with me but it was probably just as well. The three avocet chicks from the first brood are getting big now and should fledge, I couldn't see the two from the latest brood or the redshank chicks.

Despite the wind, it was warm in the sun which brought quite a few insects out. I didn't have the macro lens with me so just some iPhone shots to identify the species - a job for later in the week.

Yesterday started-off awful with thick fog followed by a mixture of mizzle and drizzle. By late afternoon, visibility had really improved so I headed down to the patch. I thought I might have a look offshore, just on the off chance of a passing albatross. After a few minutes scanning the sea, I realised that the strengthening SW wind had brought the terns closer inshore to feed, so despite the awful light, I had a go at photographing them. The sandwich terns were the only species that fed within range, the common and roseate terns were a bit further out and the Arctic terns stayed well out of reach as did the pair of adult great-crested grebes.

Here's a few of the shots

Action shot


Common scoters - there were about 550-600 in the bay

Having a shake

This one was colour-ringed with black letters on a yellow ring - I've tried blowing it up to read the number, but it's the wrong way around.

On my way back to my car through the dunes, the cuckoo that has been around the dunes the last few days flew by me and I grabbed a record shot.

Heavily-cropped cuckoo
This young carrion crow entertained itself picking among the detritus of a bonfire - they are so inquisitive, even at a young age.

This looks fun!
Despite the pubs being reopened, I had no fancy for going to one. The Drift Cafe were open 'til 7pm with an American Burger menu so we went there instead - my first beer away from the homestead since lockdown.

Friday, 3 July 2020

A lunchtime wander through the dunes

I took a longer lunch break today to have a wander through the dunes whilst the sun shone between the days of rain. The dunes really are at their best right now, carpeted in bloody cranesbill, common restharrow, lady's bedstraw and cats ears.

Dune flora
Bloody cranesbill Geranium sanguineum
Common restharrow Ononis repens
My target was to photograph dark green fritillaries - they were on the wing now but rarely rest and when they do they're easily spooked. I think that the 400mm lens is better for this species. I managed a single distant shot.

Dark green fritillary Argynnis aglaja
My other plan was to look for hoverflies, hoping that there would be something different to the species that I find along the track and in the bushes. There wasn't much variety but some nice hovers and better photos of some species I've seen before.

Cheilosia illustrata
I saw Cheilosia illustrata for the first time last week so it was nice to get a better pic.

Sphaerophoria sp (female)
Sphaerophoria scripta (male)

Eupeodes corollea (male)
Eupeodes corollea (female)
I also found this groovy blue beetle. It's one of the Altica species of metallic flea beetle, probably Altica lythri.

Altica - probably A. lythri
As well as the dark green fritillaries, there were ringlets, common blue, meadow brown, small tortoiseshell and small heath on the wing in the dunes.

A worn-looking ringlet
Common blue (female)
I only found one cinnabar moth but plenty of their caterpillars on ragwort. Narrow-bordered five-spot burnet moths were everywhere and I found more Pammene aurana on cow parsley - the species I found last week.

Cinnabar moth Tyria jacobaeae and caterpillar
Narrow-bordered Five-spot burnet moth Zygaena lonicerae
Pammene aurana
I only walked about 150m in an hour and a half but there was plenty to see - all very enjoyable.

Field grasshopper Chorthippus brunneus
Blue-tailed damselfly Ischnura elegans

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Someone has turned the volume down!

I squeezed a quick hours walk around the patch before work this morning, just up to the turning circle and south as far as the Budge screen but compared to recent mornings it was like someone had turned the volume down.

There were still a few warblers singing - willow, chiffy and sedge, the odd wren and meadow pipits and reed bunting in the dunes but otherwise birds have fallen silent. A song thrush (a scarce breeder at Druridge) hadn't got the memo and belted out his repetitive song the whole time I was there.

Even at 8am there were plenty of butterflies on the wing - large skippers, ringlets, speckled woods and red admirals as well as lots of blue-tailed damselflies.

large skipper
Speckled wood - looking a bit worn now
There were a few of these latticed heath moths basking in the sunshine too.

latticed heath
Other than the aforementioned warblers and stuff, a family party of magpies were making a row up by the turning circle and 40-50 swifts fed low, just over the bushes. As I headed south a little egret flew over and from the Budge screen there were two spoonbills, fast asleep as usual. There were also at least 20 black-tailed godwits, most of which were the islandica subspecies. A couple of ringed plover fed on the mud.

Little egret headed north overhead
As I headed for home a grasshopper warbler piped-up from the dunes and started to reel. It's not quite autumn yet.

eBird list here

Great tit youth