Monday 31 December 2007

Last visit of 2007

Went to Dru this morning for the last visit of the year, not sure when I'll be back, I don't do birding on New years Day...for obvious reasons!

It was cold, damp and miserable with very little to report, the wigeon numbers have picked up to 134 and there are few more snipe about. The big pool was very quiet, offshore, there was still a slav grebe and a couple of red-throated divers. I went to look for the little owl on the lane but there was no sign of it, I still haven't seen them since they returned in November. There was a nice group of 12 redwing by Scott's farm and a mixed flock of tits and finches.

I've had two patch-ticks in 07, red-breasted flycatcher, which was caught and ringed by Janet, and a sabines gull - but still no red kite!

Am lookin forward to 2008 at the pools, getting some more ringing done and finding a mega....and I will try to keep a patch year list this year....

My biggest hope for 2008 is that NWT will sort out the management of the site, especially the grazing of the budge fields. It has been totally neglected for 6 years now and it shows, I have a site meeting in the new year with the Chief Exec at the Trust so hopefully we can move things on..

Happy new Year to everyone who reads this drivel and good birding for 2008!


Sunday 30 December 2007


TAC eventually managed to get me to commit to do some tetrads for the BTO atlas, it is difficult to resist forever given that he sits across the desk from me! So today being the last day I had for the early winter visit, JF and I went to do the squares.

We had NT92 L & F, means nowt to most people, both are in the Harthope Valley in the Cheviots, NT92L includes the Hawsen Burn, Cold Law and the valley nearly as far as Langleeford. NT92F is a bit further up the valley and includes Scald Hill and Langleefordhope. I figured they'd be pretty bleak at this time of year but it was great. For the first tetrad JF estimated 8 species, I went for an optimistic 12. JF was spot on, when we had to discount the unidentified passerine, that flew of without calling, never to be seen again.....I reckon it could have been snow bunt, but to be honest it could've been owt. There were plenty of red grouse about and a flock of long -tailed tits in the valley were nice.

Hawsen Burn Car Park - busy for a winter's day

Harthope Valley above Langleefordhope

The second tetrad started slowly, but we got a green woodpecker, dipper, goldcrest and 6 black grouse males later on. On the way back down the valley we had at least 130 siskin, then further down, outside our tretrad another 170, these are certainly underestimates, there was probably something like 350-400 siskins in the two flocks....siskin way!

Some of the c400 Siskins, they were a bit like baubles on a xmas tree

Back in the first tetrad we saw loads of birds we hadn't seen during the timed visit (sods bloody law!) including crossbill, grey heron and 5 mistle thrush.

All in all a very enjoyable day, 20 species in total, more than I expected and lobster and trout sarnies, thanks to Janet. It was great to see the black grouse at this site, I have been watching this lek for a number of years now and the population is increasing and green peckers are always nice to see in Northumberland. I am looking forward to doing these tetrads in the breeding season, they should be really good.

Friday 28 December 2007

First a rant.....

Well, the trip to Wigan was a hoot, 370 mile round trip (I was driving), 3 piss-head mates who left my car looking like 15 wino-vagrants had been sleepin in it for a month, quite possibly the worst I have seen the toon play in the premiership (certainly since the dark days of Souness) and we were very possibly the last Geordies to arrive back on Tyneside.....still could be worse....could have been at the January sales or back in County Hall!

FAT SAM HAS TO GO!!! - I can't believe he blamed the players for his bad tactics, spineless tosser!

Ok, that's it, rant over...back to birding...Two bullies at Druridge today, a pair, perched on dock just near the entrance to the hides when I arrived, needless to say they had flown by the time I had got my camera and scope set up, but I did manage a crap 'through the twigs' shot later. Bullies are rarities at Dru, so was v.happy to see them - second patch year-tick of the xmas break - Cool.

It was a lot milder so the teal and wigeon have migrated to the now unfrozen wet meadows, not much on the main pool, 140 pinkfoot flew south and 40 greylag north, oh and sprawk went through pushing some siskin out of the wood, I saw another further south at Bell's farm carrying what looked like a stonechat on the way to Dru.

Bully through the twigs

Offshore 4 red-throats were loiterin and one flew north and the great-crested grebe's were still about.

And...the Druridge Grazing Force has been increased, one of the beast has had a calf, maybe this could be NWT plans to restore the grazing to an appropriate level, it may take a few years!! Photo's of the new arrival will follow when they get a bit closer.

Tuesday 25 December 2007

Merry Xmas

Firstly, Merry Xmas to you all. It's been a bit hectic on the social front of late so it was nice to get down Dru today, Christmas Day. I don't normally get out birding on xmas day itself, normally because of a huge hangover.

Christmas Day at Druridge Pools

It was a lovely, but cold, bright morning with great light, clouding over later. I met JF and her Dad down at Dru, we went to look for the Otters on the pool, the Dog was on the island when we got there, then he caught a huge eel and dragged it off to the bank.

Most interesting though was a water rail (patch year-tick!!) which we spotted on the far bank, amongst some reed, which was obviously eating from the carcass of a freshly dead black-headed gull ( I feel a note to BB coming on...and not the Boulmer Birder!!). Crap pics, but you can make it out. We watched it on and off for about 20 minutes, until a crow came down to eat.

Of note away from the pools was 30 siskin in the wood, a slav grebe, 2 great-crested grebes and a red-throat offshore. There were also a lot of blackbirds still about, with some coming in off the dunes (freshly arrived??) with redwing and mistle thrush also.

Off to get drunk and then Wigan tomorrow for the footie.

Wednesday 19 December 2007

hectic week

I finally managed to get down to the pools on sunday to do my Webs, god it was grim, freezin cold, a proper lazy wind and very few birds. The Budge fields were totally frozed, highlights were 6 whoopers in the adjacent field and 3 goldeneye. I looked for king eider on the sea, but it was so cold, it froze my eyelids shut so I gave up.


Grim - look at the depth of the grass, what self-respecting wader is going to breed here?

On a positive front, NWT have sprung into action - no more cows unfortunately, so breeding waders again next year, but they have removed the roof offuv the little hide and strimmed some of the banks of the bund (first time in a few years - and they didn't do them all, but hey, it's some progress)


Still it was better than my other WeBS site, Ellington Pond, which was 98% frozen and 6 teal and 5 moorhen!

It's been a hectic week on the social front, hence Sundays stuff today, went to see the Widlhearts supported by the mighty Wolfsbane last night - Fantastic! Office parties and other xmas (just to annoy BB) hilarity to follow.

Tuesday 11 December 2007

post holiday birding blues

Well, as usual, I am suffering after being on a great trip and cannot face birding in Northumberland......this took me months to get over after India in January, but I will make the effort to get to Dru at the weekend, promise, anyway I need to do my WeBS count...counting Mallards......mmmm........not quite the Elkhorn Slough...

Anyway, as I can't be arsed to go to Dru, here are some more pics from the states.
Heermans Gull - San Francisco
Western Gull - not on my car thank fek

Marbled Godwit at Elkhorn Slough

Elkhorn Slough - See what I mean about going back to Druridge to count bloody mallards

Greaterlegs - Kern National Wildlife Refuge

Sunset at the Big Sur

House Finch near Lake Isabella

My compact economy - a 3.8 lire V6 Pontiac aka The Silver Beast - halfway up Mt. Whitney

Saturday 1 December 2007


Well, that's me just back from a fab trip to California and Las Vegas, what a fantastic place! This time last week I was in Santa Cruz near Monterrey watching live bands, tonight I was in the Ellington Miners Social & Welfare Centre...........
Anyhoo, as well as a wedding, gambling, massive drunkeness, I did manage to get some birding in too. Highlight had to be my 'fishing' trip offuv Monterrey...Cummmon..Albatross way. Saw 3-5 black footed albies as well as pink-footed, bulwers, flesh-footed, short-tailed and black-vented shears, elegant tern, rhinocerus & cassin's auklet, pigeon guille and elegant tern as well as the 'common' gulls etc..superb!

Also did the parks in SFO, Big Sur, including the banding station at the Andrew Molera sate park, Elkhorn Slough, Kern Valley (how nice are canyon wrens?) and Death Valley. All in all pretty cool, here are some of the better pics.

Stellars Jay, golden gate park SFO

Fulmar eatin' a huuoge orange fish


Western Meadowlark

Nuttall's Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Fox Sparrow

And in the hand...

Black Phoebe

Friday 9 November 2007

That's all folks.........

....well for a couple of weeks anyhow, I'm off the States for a wedding and a spot of birding too. Meanwhile here are some shots from me'n'janets last ringing session at Dru last Sunday. Pics are Janets and Alan Gilbertsons cos I forgot my camera. We ringed over 50 birds, our best day of the Autumn at Dru. L8r

Long-tailed tits, we caught the whole flock....3 TIMES!

Lesser Redpoll

Sunday 28 October 2007

Bashed the patch

Bright and sunny with strong westerlies - not ideal October birding weather, so I decided to give the patch a right good thrashing. Budge fields were desolate, just the cows not eating anything (more fantastic reserve management on the Bay from NWT). did the pool next, as I arrived this almighty fight broke out between two redshank, not kidding they were at it for at least 5 minutes.

The fight breaks out

Peace resumed

The Otters were about too and a few wigeon and gadwall and a greenshank. Sam joined me and we walked to the ruined preceptory at Chibburn, no birds of note here, 3 yellowhammers in the hedge along the track were nice though.

Chibburn Preceptory

Arty-type photo

At Scott's Farm, there were a handful of chaffies and a tree sparrow. We walked back along the road to the hamlet and back along the road to the cars, nowt of any note.

A quick look on the sea, 66 common scoter, 11 RTDs, 2 merganisers, and very late adult puffin. Then walked thro the dunes to the Druridge Bushes, a flock of 20 goldfinch was all of interest, no birds at the bushes but the white rabbits are still abundant.

Was at work (well if making damper and cooking sausages and jew's ear fungus on a campfire is work.....) yesterday, had a coastal raven at Glororum, I've seen raven north of Berwick on the coast but not down here...oh for one at Dru......Called in at the Boulmer Birders on the way home for a cup of tea and a craic. I can confirm the description of Bunty being a terrier x crocodile cross is pretty much bang on! She is a cutie though - when she's not biting!

Friday 26 October 2007

Ringin at Dru

A flexi day off, so was ringing with Janet at Dru, it was quiet tho, we did re-trap a goldfinch that had been caught here as a juv in 2004 which was nice. Also greenfinch, redwing (2), wrens, blackbirds, blue tit, more goldfinch, goldcrest etc. The wind came round out the west so we packed in by 1pm.

3 year old goldfinch

Nice greeny

Janet was ringing yesterday, I called by briefly on my way to work (grrr, damn you budget meeting!). After I left she caught this mizla, a patch ringing tick!

Sunday 21 October 2007

Gutted - Quite literally!!!

Well, I am totally gutted, but not as gutted as the Leach's Petrel that was seen off Dru this morning, being killed by gulls then eaten by a cormorant. All while I was on the patch taking nets down or ringing or summick. This bloke wanders up to me and says " have you seen the otters?" then "oh and some bloke in the hide has seen a leach's petrel gettin killed offshore". I'm like "what, here? - when" "SHIT!!". Not only would Leach's have been a patch tick, but a British tick! Bugger!

Even though there was absolutely no point in going to look on the sea, I couldn't even tick the remains as the cormorant had gobbled them up, I went anyway. I called the Boulmer Birder to see if it was on his pager, which he confirmed and went onto to remind me that ringing puts an end to proper birding. grrr. Richard Dunn joined me, we had about 12 RTD offshore and a velvet scoter and two common terns going south. 29 sanderling were on the beach and a couple of fieldfares came in off the sea into the dunes.

Before all of this kerfuffle, Janet and I had been ringing and butterfly spotting on the sunny side of the wood (4+ red admiral, 1 small copper and a comma). Ringing totals were:

blackbird 2

blackcap 1 fem

goldfinch 1

redwing 1

goldcrest 1 (retrap)

wren 2 (1 retrap)

great tit 1

coal tit 1

robin 2

flocks of long-tailed tit (8) and siskin (8) were flying about but we didn't catch them, still plenty skylark passing over too.

Saturday 20 October 2007

Great Spot! - him'n'her

An overcast morning with no wind at all, the cloud burned off by 09:30ish, but we still caught some nice birds, most of which we reckon were new arrivals. Best of the bunch for me were two Geat Spots, both juvs, one of each sex. Despite them drawing blood from both me and Janet, they are stunning birds.

We also caught a handful of blackbirds and wrens and a couple of dunnocks, goldcrests and a single redwing, I do like redwings they are just nice! skylarks were passing overhead still this morning and there were still thrushes coming in off the sea.

Mega rare fro Dru, my second and third records, were two comma butterflies, there were many red admirals too as well as common darter and a hawker species of dragonfly. The beeb forecasts fog tomorrow morning and a very southerly....we will see.

Monday 15 October 2007

Windy, from the west

A strong south-westerly at Dru this morning, things didn't look promising. Checked the sea first, it was still there, oh and there was a drake scaup on it with some scoter and rtd's. A harbour porpoise was in it too. Then to the pools, a quick scan - it looked quiet, but everything comes to he who waits. First to appear was a greenshank, then 4 goldeneye, then two otters, then the kingfisher and I even managed to grab a photo of it.

Kingfisher - a mega rarity for the pools!

Despite the strong SW wind, I decided to check the bushes, there were a few redwings and blackbirds kicking about in the whitebeams and a few wrens and dunnock, little else of note. 69 greylag and 16 pink-foots flew south and 2 skylark appeared to come in off the sea. Off to pray for an easterly for the weekend.