Thursday, 2 January 2020

Two things are guaranteed...

Two things are usually guaranteed on New Years Day on the patch:

1) I will see a species that I didn't see in the previous year. Over the years this list has included merlin, peregrine and slavonian grebe amongst others. This year it was pochard.

Two drake pochards heading south
I half-expected it to be long-tailed duck as one was reported on New Years Eve and it was LTD I was looking for when I saw the two drake pochards on the big pool.

2) Some mentalists will be in the sea

At least this girl kept her bikini top on, the two in 2018 didn't!

New Years Day was beautiful day and Janet and I had a good wander around the patch, taking in the big pool, Budge fields, bushes, sea and dunes to the north and saw 56 species - not a bad start to the year list. Other than the two pochards, other highlights were two velvet scoters flying south offshore, 60 twite in the dunes, a goldcrest (very rare in winter), a pair of pintail, a kestrel (first since July!), 250 golden plover and two of the four ruff from last week. We scanned through the pink-footed geese in the front field but couldn't find the white-fronts.

Busier than a summer day
By the time we headed home just before 2pm, the place was rammed, everyone and their dog(s) had descended on Druridge Bay. When we left, we had to queue to get out because people had parked on both sides of the road, leaving no room for cars to pass. It was like August Bank Holiday Monday!

Link to eBird list for NYD

Today was colder with a stiff breeze from the SW. I quickly checked through the geese (still no white-fronts) and the Budge fields where the four ruff had returned and had been joined by a dunlin. I also added blue tit and shelduck to the year list

List from today

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

End of the year, end of the decade

The sun sets on the last day of the decade at Druridge Pools
The end of the year, the end of the decade...

Despite being out of action for pretty-much all of May and June this year and having done no ringing at all, it's been a reasonable year on the patch.

One, hopefully two, new species were added to the patch list. The first was Cattle Egret on 6th May , the second is a bit more dodgy - Baikal Teal.

It first showed up at East Chevington on 3rd June and overnight moved to Druridge Pools where it remained until at least 7th July. Rare wildfowl are always treated with some caution by the rarities panels, given the number that are kept in captivity and that 'jump the fence'.  If it does get accepted, it will be my 250th species for the patch.

I finished the year on 162 species - the worst year since 2015 but very much related the lack of observer effort. Notable missing species include (last seen and number of years in last ten in brackets ):

Garganey (2018 - 9/10)
Pochard (2018 - 9/10)
Long-trailed Duck (2018 - 6/10)
Slavonian Grebe (2018 - 8/10)
Hobby (2015 -6/10)
Little Stint (2018 5/10)
Turnstone (2018 9/10)
Little Gull (2018 6/10)
Little Auk (2018 5/10)
Long-eared Owl (2018 7/10)
Short-eared Owl (2018 8/10)
Spotted Flycatcher (2018 5/10)
Whinchat (2016 7/10)

Other highlights included  - Bewick's Swan (fist since 2002), Long-tailed Skua (first since 2013), Marsh Warbler (first since 2013), Red-backed shrike (male) - first since 2008 and Willow Tit (first since 2000),

If I had time, I could've done some jazzy stats for the last ten years but I haven't.

I've been on the patch every day over day over Christmas but I failed to add anything new to the list. I'm off out now curry but will be back on the patch tomorrow to kick of the 2020's and year list.

Thanks for reading this drivel over the last year and sorry it's been a bit patchy.

All the best for 2020!

Friday, 6 December 2019

Days off

I've taken a couple of days off work to coincide with a trip to Sheffield Utd last night to watch the Toon win.

I've also managed a couple of short visits to the patch. Yesterday was a bit gloomy with a strong SW wind. I stopped to look at the geese in the fields to the south of Druridge Farm, there were a good number pink-feet in the second field from the road and after a few scans through them, I finally picked out two Eurasian white-fronted geese.

By the gate opposite, at least 50 twite were feeding and there were 10 grey partridge.

twite in very gloomy light
The little owl was in the 'round window' (and again today) and there were lots of wildfowl on the Budge fields which are still brim-full of water.

Full list here

Today was brighter with some sunny spells and quite mild for the time of year.

I headed north from the turning circle and the first bird I go onto was a juvenile merlin in pursuit of a finch. It was so fast, twisting and turning, the camera just couldn't lock onto it - I did manage a couple of shots though - great bird.

first-winter merlin
Heading north along the haul road, there were ten whooper swans and over 1000 pink-feet just off the patch behind Chibburn Links. There didn't appear to many finches in the dunes compared to recent days.
distant whoopers at Chibburn Links
Coquet Island with a 400mm lens from Druridge
There was very little on the sea, a few sanderlings and couple of pied wagtails on the beach.
Pied wagtail on the beach
 The pheasant shooters were out in force towards the Preceptory which was spooking the wildfowl and waders on the Budge so I gave it a dodge and headed home.

Full list here

Sunday, 1 December 2019

First day of winter

Today was the (meteorological) first day of winter and it felt like it. Mind, I think it's felt like winter for weeks.

A cold and frosty start, even when I got down to the patch at 11 o'clock, the grass was white. It was pleasant in the sunshine but a light NW wind gave it an edge. Autumn is over and hopefully we've seen the back of the rain that has dominated things recently.

I had a wander through the dunes to the north of the turning circle. Beyond the haul road in the recently-sown field, a peregrine sat, perched on a divot, probably full up with lapwing or some other unfortunate wader.

The dunes were alive with a feeding flock of mixed finches. They wouldn't settle and swirled back and forth behind the dune ridge, making counting them very tricky. I finally guessed at 250 Goldfinch, 50 linnet, 30 twite and a handful of chaffinch and reed buntings. No tree sparrows though - a much scarcer bird now the feeding has stopped in the bushes. Four grey partridge flushed - I wonder if the nearby release of red-legs will do for them, I hope not.

Some of the twite flock
Reed Bunting in the weeds
On to the Budge fields. From the midget-screen (being vertically challenged myself I can say that) not much could be seen on the fields. In the willows along the path a very late (or wintering maybe) chiffchaff flitted about, calling as it went. A very vocal water rail was in the bushes at the other side of the path but it didn't show itself.

Blue tit feeding on Alder cones
Down to the Budge hide. The fields were mostly frozen with a little bit of open water concentrating the fowl. Waders -  lapwings and curlews stood on the still-white ridges until they were flushed by a huge female sparrowhawk. She put up a snipe and an aerial battle commenced, the snipe was the victor as the large sprawk flew off to the fence without its prey.

Passing Mute Swan
I've been checking the fields for the Cresswell dowitcher. As it hasn't been seen at Cresswell for a couple of days I had high hopes... The last long-staying Long-billed Dowitcher stayed at Cresswell until New Years Eve when it relocated to Druridge so I could get it on two year-lists. Maybe history will repeat itself.

From the dune, the spring tides of the new moon meant that the sea was on the horizon. A flock of 120 wigeon and some scoters all of note.

Female stonechat in the dunes

Full list here

Sunday, 24 November 2019

A proper 'back-end day'

Today was a proper 'back-end' day or as the Scots would say 'driech'. Unlike yesterday when it rained non-stop, it didn't really rain today but it wasn't dry if you know what I mean. A day typical of the 'back-end' of the year.

Having been confined to barracks yesterday, by lunchtime today cabin-fever had begun to set in so I headed out for a walk around the patch. It was so grey and with the threat of heavier mizzle, I left the camera at home, so there are no photos on the blog today.

I walked a loop out to the Preceptory, returning by High Chibburn Farm and Druridge. Before I did, I stopped to check the front field at Druridge for geese as a white-fronted geese had been reported earlier. There were no geese but there were two snow buntings in with the beast at the top end of Hemscotthill Links.

Back to my walk - lots of wigeon and teal on the Budge fields with other ducks and a herd of canada geese. The waders were all on the recently resown grass ley beyond, 134 curlew, 149 lapwing and 160 golden plover and three roe deer.

There was little of interest until I go to the farm where five grey partridge flew out. I stopped to chat to Richard the farmer and got on to three yellowhammers in a hawthorn. A scarce bird at Druridge these days and 'new for the year' for me.

Pheasants were everywhere, I estimated 64 on my route but could easily have been double that. Widdrington Farm have been putting them down for the shoot but they seem to favour the coast it seems.

Not much else of note. It's that time of year.

Full list and route here

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Winter WeBS

After what seems like weeks of non-stop rain, it finally dried up today... well almost, which was good as it WeBS count day and I was keen to get out on the patch.

The wildfowl numbers have really built up in the last couple of weeks, especially wigeon, which only numbered four on last months count. There were 363 today with 223 teal and 56 mallard. A female pintail was nice to see.

There were also good numbers of waders with 83 curlew and 56 lapwing. Among them were four ruff and two black-tailed godwit and 12 dunlin flew off during the count. I was hoping the Cresswell long-billed dowitcher might put in another appearance but it hasn't yet.

There was a big flock (for Druridge) of 425 black-headed gulls on the Budge fields when we arrived which had two adult Mediterranean gulls amongst them - they all slowly moved off south into the fields by the time we left to go to the 'other side'...

Before we got there a finch flock moved through the alders by the new 'dwarfs screen'  - lesser redpolls, siskins, goldfinch and three bullfinch - a good record for the patch.

On the other side, it was very quiet - brim full and very brown. A sub-adult great-crested was noteworthy.

As we walked up through the dunes to look at the sea, a flock of 90 or so golden plover flew in-off. There wasn't much of note on the sea (which was a long way out) - a great-northern diver headed north was the highlight.

Full bird list here

This spider was on the perspex window in the hide, which I think is Metellina segmentata which has a common name seemingly - Eurasian Armoured Long-jawed Spider. A new one for me.

Metellina segmentata (I think)

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Hungary for birds

There's been no updates from the patch lately because I've been to Hungary.

We went for a short winter birding trip and a quick mooch around Budapest where we met up with our friend Gerard Gorman for a beer or two and got some guidance for our days of birding. Rather than target species, which I did have two - red-breasted goose and lesser white-fronted goose, it was the 'birding spectacles we were interested in.

The first of these spectacles was the great bustards in Kiskunsag National Park, where we saw a group of over 60 in one field.

Some of the great bustards in Kiskunsag
Then it was on to geese. Both Kiskunsag and Hortobagy National Parks attract huge numbers of Eurasian white-fronted and Eursian greylag geese as well as a LOT of other wildfowl. We weren't blessed with good weather, most of a whole day in Kiskunsag was written off due to rain and when it was raining it was grey and damp. I took hardly any photos and what I did take are silhouettes against a grey sky.

white-fronted geese at Hortobagy
Greylags and a great egret at Hortobagy
The next great spectacle was watching thousands of common cranes coming in to roost at Hortobagy. great long lines of them flying in at dusk - an amazing sight.

Finally, the surreal experience of an urban long-eared owl roost in trees in a residential cul-de-sac int he middle of a large town. We counted at at least 30 individuals in a handful of trees.

One of at least 30 roosting long-eared owls
I managed to see six red-breasted geese after a long walk in to the main fish ponds at Hortobagy but the lesser white-front was literally liking for a needle in a haystack and with poor light it was even trickier.

Raptors were good with plenty of hen harriers and white-tailed eagle, an adult imperial eagle and a couple of saker falcons were great to see.

Anyhoo - back to the patch.

Yesterday (Saturday) I had a quick wander out before the football. Gary Wren had reported a snow bunting on the haul road so I headed for that and met Gary who was watching the very-confiding bird on the northern boundary of the patch.

Snow bunting on the haul road
It wasn't long however, before it was chased north by a dog (literally) and I headed south through the dunes picking up some twite with a roving flock of goldfinch and linnet. A long-tailed tit flock roamed through the dunes and a second flock was by the path to the hides. Not much else to report. Full list here

When I was nearly in to Newcastle on the bus to the match, a report came through of nine waxwings moving south towards tot he Budge screen. I've still not seen waxwing on the patch so was more than a bit gutted but at least the toon managed a win.

Janet and I went for a walk this morning in the vain hope that the waxers might have hung about but as I suspected they'd just been fly-throughs.

There was a group of barnacle geese, maybe 14, with about 300 pinks on the front field, the bushes were quiet however - a few long-tailed tits. We met up with David Elliott and got on to a finch flock which included a bullfinch and a lesser redpoll.

Some of the pinks in the front field
We walked back by via the beach looking for snow buntings, we didn't see any but the sanderlings kept us entertained.

Full list here