Tuesday 30 December 2008

End of the year

Well, I'll not get down to Druridge again this year, so it's time to look back on the year. I haven't been down there since Christmas Day due to football and social events and I've got to go a mate's wedding tomorrow.

Yesterday we did my Atlas squares in the Cheviots, the first tetrad took in Threestoneburn and the second took in the flank of Hedgehope down to Langleeford. The trudge up to the crags from the Hawsen Burn had me jiggered, too much food and booze over the festive period...the diet starts in January! In both tetrads we had only 11 species, though it looks good for the summer....highlights were the number of red grouse we saw, a woodcock feeding on grit, two stonechats and a treecreeper.

Anyhoo, back to Druridge...

Well the year list ended on 161...not bad but not outstanding, 165+ is a good year. I had 4 patch ticks this year taking my patch list to 217, they were: marsh warbler, barred warbler, greenish warbler and treecreeper. Other patch highlights this year were green-winged teal, iceland gull, temmincks stint, the huge fall of wheatears, redstarts and others during the 'Morpeth' flood weekend, catching and ringing a wryneck a week later and red-backed shrike on the gypsy's pile o shite - as predicted.

Obvious omissions from the year list in 2008 were the lack of seabirds with sooty shear, pom or long-tailed skua. Among the wildfowl there were no scaup, smew, ruddies or white-fronted geese. Also missing was green sandpiper, turnstone, LRP, black redstart, yellow-browed warbler, black tern, brambling, snow bunting and kingfisher.

The biggest disappointments of the year included being stuck in China when lesser-yellowlegs turned up (and the number of text messages I received to tell me about it), the red-breasted goose turning out to be plastic, the lack of seawatching, not catching the marsh warbler and the barred warbler (and having it rejected by the CRC) and not catching any twite at our feeding site.

Also disappointing was NWT not delivering on promises in 08, although looking forward to 2009, the over-wintering cows are doing a canny job, NWT have put the site into stewardship which will mean they have to manage appropriately and a management plan has been written for the site.

So what will 2009 bring, hopefully I will get a copy of the management plan...also lots of cows in July, lots of breeding waders, good spring and autumn passage when we're ringing and plenty of patch ticks.....BRING IT ON!!!!

To my fellow bloggers and regular readers I hope you have a happy, healthy, prosperous 2009 with plenty of good birds!

Wednesday 24 December 2008

Tis the season to be merry

I have been getting merry quite a bit lately, the social calendar has been burstin at the seams and what with football and work, I've struggled to get down to Dru or update the blog..

Anyhoo the holidays started today, there's still lots of partying to be done between now and the 5th and plenty of football, but I should manage a few days out 'in the field'.

I went to Dru this afternoon, the resident cows on the Budge fileds are finaly having an impact on the vegetation and thus the duck numbers have begun to rise - on the Budge fields today were:

teal 136
gadwall 10
shoveler 2
tufted duck 1
wigeon 87
mallard 29...and a snipe and grey heron

It just needs the cows to stay on over the winter and the juncus to be flailed and we might get some decent breeding wader numbers next year. Other than more ducks, not much to report, a merlin came through and perched at the back of the fields, there were 9 red throats offshore with 1 merganiser and a few shag.

I'll be down at Dru tomorrow morning (last year we had a good views of otter and a water rail eating a dead black-headed gull) but in the meantime...

*Including those I may have offended this year such as NWT, The County Records Committee and the wazack who keeps putting common birds on the pager from Holywell Pond

Tuesday 16 December 2008

Away Days

It's a bugger trying to maintain a blog during the winter with these awful short days...sorry for the lack of blog-action!

As well as work and winter, I've been away for a long-weekend in Barcelona. Not a birding trip at all - the bins were left at home! It was a city trip, seeing the sights, eatin the food and drinkin anything they served us.
Barca is an amazing city with lots to see, some nice parks, lots of public art and some great bars and restaurants. We saw the amazing La segrada familla - a huge temple, still under construction, we went to the Picasso museum, Camp Nou (not for El Clasico though), Las Ramblas....I could go on.

We did see some birds, lots of ring-necked and monk parakeets, a flock of black redstarts and some crag martins around the castle and yellow-legged gulls at the port.

Monk Parakeet at Parc Guell
Back to Druridge briefly this morning to hoy some food down for the non-existent twite - not even any golfinches there this morning....grim!

Sunday 7 December 2008


It was a lazy wind at Druridge today, the type of wind that is too lazy to go around you, so it just goes straight through you....nithering! It was overcast by the time my hangover eased, one of those damp, cold days.

Janet and I were testing the big whoosh net, it worked OK but we didn't catch any of the goldfinch that were there, we need to get some more practice, but on a warmer day, our fingers were frozen by the time we dismantled it.
Druridge was pretty bleak, though I did get a year tick long-tailed duck on the sea, it was actually quite close in but the sea wasn't and I couldn't be arsed to walk down and try to photograph it. I did manage to photograph this little grebe though. Other than a woodcock and 4 tufties there was little else of note.
More crap pager messages over the weekend....if you put these on, OWN UP!!
Bramblings in Cramlington and Wallsend and 120 pink-footed geese at Holywell Pond - there are 4000 pink feets flying back and forward over my house every day, I don't phone RBA and stick them on!
161 long-tailed duck

Sunday 30 November 2008

Farnes Blog

I've just discovered that Steely (the head warden on the Farne Islands) has, at last, got a Farnes blog....after much nagging. Check it out http://farnephoto.blogspot.com/

Just in time for them to come of the islands for winter...

Jack's been out

Jack frost has certainly been out this weekend...brrrrrrr.

Sorry for the lack of posts lately - it's hard work during the short days!

Only got down to Dru briefly this afternoon, had to work yesterday. We were going to trial the big whooshnet today but the ground was so frozen we couldn't get the poles in...oh and Janet lost some of it!

So we had a wander around the reserve and went looking for the elusive twite. We walked north to Chibburn Mouth, but didn't see any and there are no sign of any by Bell's farm. If anybody does come across them, please let me know. We bumped into Stef McElwee looking for the snow goose that has been at East Chevington for the last couple of days. It's an interesting one, it's the same bird that has been at Holywell for the last week or so. It was with greylags (so it's bound to be an escape), it's now with pink feets (so it has to be real)...There were 3500-4000 pinkfeets in the fields north of the preceptory but I didn't see the snow goose - could I tick it if I had?

I've not got it on my Druridge list - I bet a few people have ticked it this weekend?

Stef was good enough to phone me as I wandered off to point out a little egret that had flown south over his head, it must've flown over us too - we saw it flying off over the pines at the entrance, it'll be finding feeding difficult with all the small shallow pools frozdid.

A bit of a rant now, the County Records Committee has booted out our barred warbler record from the floods...grrrrr..it won't be coming of my list though - f*#k em! It would appear that to have a record accepted, one should have attended a two-week creative writing course to enable one convey the excitement of the find, maybe the Bird Club could put on a couple of courses? Not much point in submitting the marsh warbler - lots of singing and brief glimpse - someone else can submit it, it's staying on my list!

And another thing......I get my pager messages via text messages from RBA rather than have a pager, each message costs me about 12p. I have the local channel on in case anything turns up at Dru I should know about. Can I make it clear now that I do not want to know about crossbills at wallsend, siskins at whitley bay, 3 whooper swans at Bolam, pink footed geese anywhere (especially Holywell) and especially not willow tit at Holywell....why do people bother phoning the pager company to put birds like this on?

There are thousands of pfg's everywhere, there are 60 whoopers in Druridge Bay - why do I want to know about 40 geese at Holywell or 3 whoopers at Bolam bloody Lake!

Sunday 23 November 2008

Wintery weather

The first real winter weather this weekend, I had to work yesterday, taking a couple of journo's for a walk around Howick and Craster, not much opportunity for birding though (I was at work after all), because of the extreme cold and wind, we had to retreat to the ship at Newton for lunch - tough! Did have a peregrine at Cullernose Point. Below is the Bathing House from the south and Cullernose Point with Dunstanburgh Castle in the background.

At Druridge this morning there was even more snow but it was nice and bright. We did the WeBS count and just wandered around the patch. There were geese and swans on the move, mainly south, but the whoopers seemed to be all over the place, making then difficult to count, there were at least 30 though, I managed to catch this lot going north by Chibburn Farm.

On the pools, the wigeon and teal numbers were up a bit with 50ish of each. When we arrived at Dru I predicted that today looked like a good day to finally nail peregine for the year and I was right. As we wandered towards the haul road, the waders, gulls and starlings on the fields to north all went up in a chaotic swirl - it had to be a peregrine, it was! In the sunshine it looked incredibly bright,an adult male judging by its size chasing golden plovers, it failed and went to sit in the middle of the fields, too far away to photograph. I've been waiting for one of these all autumn having failed to see one in the spring (when they are trickier), I thought I would dip, only to see one on in the first January visit.

As we walked towards Chibburn Farm, it came back over the fields containing some of the 250-300 golden plover, 200 Lapwing and 200 black-headed gulls along with starlings, corvids and other random gulls.

In the bushes there were quite a few thrushes, dunnocks, robins and wrens, nothing out of the ordinary. We called it a day at half one and retreated to the tearoom at Widdrington Village for lunch......

160 peregrine

Tuesday 18 November 2008

A good weekend

Well I had a great weekend at the Scottish Ringers conference in Breamar, tho I am now ill, not the winter vomiting bug the hotel was infected with or the drink, but some evil bug (not helped by getting a soaking at work yesterday).

Scottish ringers is certainly a friendly do, more so than the English version I'm told, I've always found the Scot's to be very friendly generally. The organisation and line up of speakers was excellent and set in a very scenic place and I also managed to catch up with a few old friends

Our team won the quiz, mostly due to Ian Fisher and his encyclopedic (anal?) knowledge of birds - we even let him keep the prize (well, most of it).
Ian, hanging on to his prize, before the rest of it disappears

Here are some of the other Northumberland contingent:
Hugh Hanmer
Martin Davidson with his feet up...

Keith 'two-pints'Brookes
Martin trying to get quiz answers from Jaqcui (BTO)

I called at Dru on Monday to put some twite food down (inspired by Dave Sowter's talk at the NTBC on Thursday night). No twite yet, but still 50+ goldfinch with a few more greenies, chaffinch and a reed bunt. Look like snow is forecast for Friday and Saturday, might be an opportunity to bring the twite in?

Some of the goldfinch flock
My mate Dave has a new CD out, check out his MySpace site: http://www.myspace.com/wingandaprayer373

Wednesday 12 November 2008


A very quick stop by at Dru on the way to work this morning, so quick I saw no birds!

Not quite true, there 50+ goldfinches at the twite food with 4 chaffinches, 3 blackbirds, 2 magpies, 1 linnet, 1 great tit and 1 crow. BUT NO BLIMMIN TWITE!

No birding and no blog activity for a day or two now cossov work stuff and them am off to the Scottish Ringers conference in Braemar. Our former County recorder tells me he has a bit of reputation at these do's, must take the camera and catch him in action...watch this space!

As for me I won't be touchin a drop!

Monday 10 November 2008


I didn't get any photo's of the bluetail or the wheatear, but others did. Check out Tom Tams and Richard Dunns websites and John Malloys blog for some cracking images. I was stuck in the office all day, so couldn't get down to Newbiggin Mound for the pallas's, humes yb and yb warblers, not sure if the latter two were seen today?

Will hopefully be checking Dru out before work tomorrow.

Twitching (Patchworker shirks his duties)

Pathchworker, that's what I am! So I was off to Dru (later than usual...you guessed it with a hangover (Friends Birthday Party) with a bag of twite food, not even out of me village when a I got a message about about a desert wheatear at Lynemouth Power Station, UUUUeeeeeeee....
So there's me wading through a lunar landscape in the pissing rain (I even beat Andy Cowell there) to join Jimmy Steele and Dave Elliott (the finder) to see this cracking male dessie - what a bird! no pics sadly but I managed to capture the scene, nice!

So the off to Dru when I get message saying the red-flanked blue tail has been seen again on Holy Island. Hardly time to feed the twite, collect Janet and some food and head north. The tide was ebbing John Richardson was waiting for no tide....we followed his lead....

It looked like a needle in haystack job, little gen to go on - desperate birders stared into gardens and bushes, no sign.....rain fell.
Blue tail twitch
But the skies cleared, hope was resumed, then a message...rfbt at Lindisfarne Hotel, and it was, being chased by the same robin Andy Mould had it chased by earlier and in time for me to see it and make it back to see the match in the boozer - Game On!
sadly, I went to the Phant (The White Elephant in North Seaton), sadly the toon lost, oh well, you can't win em all.....

Saturday 8 November 2008

A bit Sad

It was with a tinge of sadness that we packed up the Dru ringing site today for winter - well we took the poles away. Once the leaves are offuv the trees, Dru becomes too open to ring and too open to stash the poles without the local thieves finding them (two have already walked this autumn!)
So today was the day, JF and I loaded up her car with the poles, no more ringing at Dru until May......

The pole-mobile

.....well that might not be quite true, the area we have been baiting up for twite had attracted the goldfinch flock in, which is the plan, hopefully once the twite see the goldfinch, they will come in too. We will try to catch the goldfinches too - good practice with the woosh net before the twite arrive.

We did have some time for birding today, a late start again...you guessed it...another hangover after watching Motorhead at the academy, I am deaf too, they were bloody loud. Anyhoo, the birding started canny with song thrush, 10 blackbird, 5 wrens and 2 woodcock in the small willow block, but that wasn't replicated further on. We did have another couple of woodcock in the bushes and the first siskins of the autumn. Blackbird were very obvious though with a few robins, wrens and dunnocks.

I had intended to twitch the red-flanked bluetail on Holy Island if it was still there this morning, I haven't seen rf bluetail in Britain so it would've been nice to get on in the county. Years ago the Boulmer Birder and I were birding the entrance willows at Dru, about this time of year, and I was sure I had a small bird with red-flanks fly though - we never found it, but I am positive that's what it was, especially after seeing them in China this spring...oh well...

Thursday 6 November 2008

frustrating day

It's been a frustrating day! Took the day off work and got to Dru for first light to set the nets up, it was dry, overcast with a light easterly after overnight rain - perfect. We hadn't even got the nets all up when a light mizzle started, it got worse, turning light rain, the nets were furled and we only caught a few birds. What made things more annoying was that there were birds coming in off the sea all morning, mainly blackbirds, redwings, fieldfare and a lot of dunnocks as well as wrens, robins, song thrush etc.

As we couldn't ring we birded the whole patch, I flushed a woodcock out of the trees which was the first of the Autumn, there were lots of thrushes, dunnocks and wrens in the bushes.

We walked through the south paddock NT have put in where we are baiting for twite along to the new NWT access, checking the willows. There was a work team in from NWT, the chap in charge (maybe the new head of PR) told us we couldn't walk through there as it was " a demarcated area for the bay...the coonty cooncil are ganna plant trees in there". Hmmmm

What was also disappointing was the amount of firework debris left behind after bonfire night last night. I can understand people wanting to go to coast, nice and dark and no pets to disturb, but they could clear away after them, they even left all of the packaging and their McDonalds wrappers -scum!

By midday we were totally soaked so packed in and headed home.....it's still raining now! I'll go down again at first light tomorrow and check the patch before work.


blackbird 50+
redwing 15
dunnock 25-30
woodcock 1
fieldfare 25
wren 22

Wednesday 5 November 2008


Ringing briefly with JF before work this morning, we only caught a wren and a robin before I had to go to work. JF had better luck later catching 13 long-tailed tits and a great spot. While we were loitering between net round we had ten xbills over, which went south to be joined by 4 more in the pines, they flew off south when I went for closer look. There were also about 140 twite in the pines with 90+ goldfinches. The wind was from the NE with missly fog at times. There were newly arrived blackies in the bushes, but we didn't catch them. It's been a poor autumn for thrushes, with hardly any at Dru and catching even less!

Tomorrow could well bethe last easterlies of the Autumn, the long term forecast on metcheck looks like westerlies til the end of the month, so I am making the most of it and have taken tomorrow offuv work....fingers x'd!

159 crossbill

Sunday 2 November 2008


As there have been easterlies for a couple of days we tried ringing on Saturday on morning, the winds have blown all of the leaves offuv the trees, so there is little cover at Dru now and the wind fair rattles through too, so it wasn't ideal, we caught a single wren for efforts...There were very few birds about, a few robins, wrens and a roving tit flock (including some of last weeks long-tailed tits), generally very quiet.

We took the opportunity to do some sea watching between the net rounds and I went back later and did another hour between 3 and 4pm. It was canny, loads of kitti's moving north and lots of gannets too, I got three year-ticks for my troubles, velvet scoter, brent goose and black-throated diver. No little auks, white-billed divers, long-tailed ducks or grey phals here! (I was trapped at work at Alnmouth on Friday went he white-billed records were coming through, I had to lead a walk along the coast in the afternoon, I had me bins, but saw nowt).

I have actually seen black-throated diver at Dru this year, but it didn't make it onto the list, to read the sorry tale of why click here

seawatching totals (brackets pm session)

wigeon 75 (4)
velvet scoter 5 - 4 drakes together and a single
common scoter 78 (75)
brent geese 3
eider 33 (19)
arctic skua 1
teal 18 (9)
goldeneye (6)
guiliie (1)
black-throated diver (1)
redshank (2)
dunlin (6)

Also of note was a water rail by the bridge at the Budge Screen.

A brief visit on Wednesday morning brought my first fieldfares of the Autumn at Dru, with 4 coming in of the sea. There was also 60 whooper swans in the fields north of the haul road.

Some positive news on the management front, NWT have put Druridge pools , along with other reserves into Higher Level Stewardship, this is basically agricultural support for farmers to manage their land in a sympathetic, wildlife friendly way. The agreement is with Natural England who look after the scheme, NWT have committed to manage the grazing and water levels for the benefit of breeding waders. So to get their cash they have to get the sward length down to 5-15cm across the majority of the site, they also have report back to NE the success or not of the scheme by providing them with breeding wader data. NWT have also prepared a site management plan for the Pools, which I am looking forward to seeing.

So we should see some major improvements over the coming 9 months - watch this space!

156 brent goose
157 velvet scoter
158 black throated diver

Wednesday 29 October 2008

dawn and dusk

We've started baiting an area up to try and catch twite at Dru, so have been down at dawn and dusk the last couple of days checking that. Tuesday morning was cold with the first frost on the car, as I approached the baiting area I had 19 grey partridge fly off in a group of 9 then 10, that might be my largest dru count for them, I also had a deranged whooper swan, which was on the track at the north end looking at me through the gate, when I approached it made a half-arsed effort to fly into the field and went and stood, facing into the corner, like a naughty schoolboy. Maybe it had just arrived and was suffering from a lack of blood-sugar causing it to be dopey - a bit like me in the office by 2pm if there is no cake!

No photo's as I had no camera :-(

As the partridge had eaten all of the seed, I went back this morning to bait up, it was blimmin cold again but bright. The crows were having a go at something beyond the wood - then a merlin flew out and headed off towards Chev, with the corbies in hot pursuit. A mixed flock of all sorts was moving through the bushes.

I called in tonight on the way home from work, it was nearly dark and the car said it was 0.5 deg C! bloody bitter! I was only there 10 minutes or so and had two year ticks! The first was a short-eared owl, there might have been two....I had one flying from the roadside over the wood then over the pool, which then went back over the Budge fields. Later the crows and magpies were mobbing on by the Budge screen, not sure were it went, but soon after there was it or another high over the deep pool. The second year-tick was a water-rail, which was poking about in the lake outflow channel by the bridge. 250 golden plover came offuv the fields between Dru and Chev and flew over the north end, not sure what put them up, maybe it was a peregrine...if only!

The pink beast (aka my RED VW Bora), will no longer be seen at the pools, I've bought a new car - pictures will follow....

154 short-eared owl
155 water rail

Sunday 26 October 2008

A walk around the patch

I took a walk around the patch on Friday morning, it was a nice, crisp, autumnal morning, westerlies have predominated the last two weeks, so I knew there would be nothing startling on the patch, but still, I wasn't in the office.

I did see a good number of species including a patchyear-tick, great northern diver just offshore, but too far to photograph. I also saw at least 36 long-tailed tits, some of the ones we ringed and whole lot more and a female bullfinch, which are rare at Dru...but I still came away feeling very frustrated and somewhat depressed - why?

Well on the bits managed by NWT (budge fields and pool) I saw:
mallard (3)
teal (8)
mute swan (6 been there all year)
moorhen (6)
carrion crow (1)

...and a fly-over grey heron

All very nice but the list should read more like teal (250 and a green winged), wigeon (300), Lapwing (200) etc etc. The Budge fields and the deep pool are deserted of wildlife, there is nothing there.

I was at the second half of the NTBC 50th anniversary conference last night (after going to the stadium of plight to watch the scum turn us over) and the desperate state of Druridge Pools and the other Druridge reserves was a hot topic of conversation, the Pools even got a mention in the last lecture for their lack of birds!! People were telling me they don't even bother to go to Druridge Pools now, they drive straight past, if local birders aren't even going, what are visiting birders going to make of it all?

Here is the picture 15 years ago (1993):

teal 260
wigeon 250
shoveler 16
tufted duck 70

even ten years ago (1998):

teal 258-273 (and green winged teal)
wigeon 140
Mallard 283
Pintail 1-5
Pochard 15-16

These are all peak 4th quarter counts.

That says it all I'm afraid..........I feel there is nothing more I can do, I despair!

Sorry for the rant, I'll leave this post with some arty shots of sanderling on the beach. I'm off to bait-up our twite ringing site.

153 great northern diver

Sunday 19 October 2008

Big Chopper

A huge hangover and very strong westerly winds ruled out ringing today and to be honest, if it hadn't of been WeBS day, the severity of the hangover would have ruled out birding of any kind. In fact it's now after 9pm and i am still suffering!

Anyhoo, I went to Dru to do the count this afternoon, on the way, there was bit of a to do, a car had left the road at the double bends near Scott's farm and appeared to have taken out the electric pole. There was two plod cars as well as three electric board vans and lots of activity as we drove by. We had just finished counting the ducks on the Budge fields when the Police helicopter arrived overhead, they flew about for some time, low at times, seemingly looking for something or someone? Maybe the chap who drove into the pole had absconded? The police dog van was there too...

Anyhoo, the helicopter managed to flush up 16 snipe and 19 dunlin and a load more teal making the count more accurate - see the police can be useful! It's just as well there was some commotion, cos birdwise, druridge was dead...there was 9 goldeneye on the lake, my first of the winter at Dru. Still no more cows on the fields, despite the assurances from NWT.

Tuesday 14 October 2008

Ringing again

I took the morning off work today to go ringing with JF this morning. We had a steady morning catching 34 new birds and 3 retraps, nothing startling among the 12 different species. The long-tailed tit flock has increased in size since Sunday, to about 20 birds, we caught another 6 of them today and 11 more of the goldfinch flock.

There were a few birds on the move this morning, including two year ticks! A spotshank flew over heading SW calling and a single (lesser) redpoll flew south, taking the year list to 152. Also over were five....yes FIVE grey wags, 2 whooper swans, 41 pink feet, 21 greylag, 4 siskin and 9 skylark.

The National Trust vols were burning the shit left behind by the gypo's.

Ringing totals
goldcrest 5 + 1 retrap
chaffinch 1
chiffchaff 2
goldfinch 11 + 1 retrap
greenfinch 1
robin 1
blue tit 1
great tit 1
coal tit 2
song thrush 2
wren 1
long-tailed tit 6 + 1 retrap
151 spotted redshank
152 lesser redpoll

Sunday 12 October 2008

Awright Treec?

We were ringing at Dru this morning and only went and caught a PATCH TICK! nothing rare (except at Dru like) but a patch tick nonetheless.......Treecreeper! Bit of a tart's tick I know, they are bound to move through every autumn/winter with roving tit flocks etc, but I've no seen one so I'm chuffed! That'll be 217 in my tiny little patch.

treecreeper - patch bird No 217

It was a good mornings ringing, we caught 44 new birds, 13 different species, 3 retraps and a control. The control was great tit, it was an adult but had been ringed as a pullus, probably from a nestbox, we know this because it had been ringed with a 'B' size ring, which are only used on great tits when they are pullus, A's are used on fledged birds. So we will have to wait to see where it has come from..

Controlled great tit

There was a flock of 13 long-tailed tits moving through, we manages to catch nine of them, they are very funny birds, the four we didn't catch 'hung-around' in the trees next to the car while we ringed their mates, calling to the birds in the bird-bags - which were calling back, very sociable birds lotti's. We also caught 5 greenfinches which is quite unusual for Dru, they must be on the move.

top greenfinch, above long-tailed tit

Also on the move were skylarks, moving south early on, we heard at least 12 going over and some geese, 3 skeins of 60-70 pink-foots south and 47 greylag north and a grey wag and 5 swallows going south together....

Offshore there 26 divers in the bay - all of them red-throats in a wide range of plumage's, a great-crested grebe was among them.

Ringing totals

goldfinch 13
treecreeper 1
goldcrest 7
dunnock 2
reed bunting 1
blackbird 1
great tit 1 + control
long-tailed tit 9
coal tit 1
wren 2 + 1 retrap
greenfinch 5
robin 1 + 1 retrap
blue tit 1 retrap

PATCH TICK 217 treecreeper

149 treecreeper
150 long-tailed tit

Tuesday 7 October 2008

Not much doin

Not much doing at Dru tonight, I called in for an hour or so after work and ended getting absolutely soaked. I did get a year tick though, two grey wags flying south whilst I was chatting to another year tick - Duncan from NWT who was feeding the cows!

After checking the pools and bushes, which a held a scattering of thrushes including a redwing, I walked back along the beach to see if there were any seabirds washed up after the oil slick (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7657120.stm ) - not a one, maybe someone has been and gathered them up already? It was when I was at the top of the beach, furthest away from the car, that the heavens opened - it create this spooky sky though, it got weirder but camera was already soaked.

I took this shot of one of the mad sheep that have been grazing the National Trust bit around the entrance willows - and doing a good job!

148 grey wagtail

Thursday 2 October 2008

Last Stand

Tonight was my last ever committee meeting of the Northumberland and Tyneside Bird Club (NTBC), I've been on the committee for about six years and it's time to stand down and make way for new blood.

As with any organisation it always falls to a small minority to do all of the work, the NTBC is no different. There are about 20 people out of a membership of about 250 who work really hard to keep the club going. So if there are any NTBC members reading this, there are two spaces on the committee after Thursday's AGM, why not give it a go....it's your club too!

If you are interested contact the chairman, Paul Stewart, details on the website.

Wednesday 1 October 2008

Winter's here - official

The geese have arrived, but I saw a true sign that winter's here today - my firsts redwings of the winter.

I had lunch on Wooler common today and had 15-20 redwings in large flock of 40-50 mistle thrush - I reckon that's the biggest mistle thrush flock I've seen in the County. Hopefully we'll be catching a few nice thrushes next time we are ringing at Dru.....

Mistlers in a hawthorn at Wooler Common

The pressure charts show a huge airflow from the north with strong northerlies on friday...could be good for seawatching?

Tuesday 30 September 2008

quiet end to the month...but not on Malta

A quiet end to a really good September, westerlies predominate this week has meant little of note at Dru. Two hours spent wandering around the patch tonight produced very little, I should have gone through the gull flock on the sea, there were 1000's of common gull and a canny few BHGs. Highlight on the inland bit was a merlin and a collared dove shooting through heading north, my second of the month, they're not common at Dru.

check out this report from Malta from the leicester llama or go straight here to see the video - sickening!

Also check this out on You Tube

Join BirdLife Malta here

Monday 29 September 2008

The Weekend

Had two visits to the patch over the weekend;

Saturday was quite still, but sunny and in hindsight, we should've had the nets up. It was pretty quiet but a great-spotted woodpecker by the plantation was a year-tick. There seems to be two goldfinch flocks, one by the entrance willows and another by the Druridge bushes, numbering about 40 each, with a linnet flock in the dunes numbering about 40 too. Offshore 12 geese moved north which looked like brent, but they were miles out and the heat-haze was strong, there were 12 RTDs and 17 tufted duck moved north.

On Sunday I resisted the temptation to twitch the stilt sand in Cumbria in favour of Dru...it was a cold start but warmed up to 18 deg C by lunchtime. JF and I were ringing and had a canny morning, nowt startling but steady:

reed bunting 3
wren 4
robin 2 + 2 retraps
goldcrest 6 + 2 retraps
goldfinch 6
coal tit 2
blue tit 1
sparrowhawk retrapped male from last visit - nice!

There has been an influx of blue and coal tits since I came back from Tenerife. All the time we were ringing pink-footed geese seemed to be moving south above us, we counted at least 400, but many more would have gone over uncounted whilst we were ringing or checking the nets. A few mippits and skylarks were on the move too.

Oh..and there appear to be more cows on the Budge fields, I counted 11 on Sunday, a case of too little, too late! Maybe next year eh?

147 great-spotted woodpecker

Friday 26 September 2008

Back to reality

The pikey's have gone, I went to Dru before work and all that's left is the skip the cooncil provided and piles of fly tipping - good riddance!

Lots of wrens, robins, dunnocks and goldcrests in the woods as well as the increasing goldfinch flock, nowt of else of note. I am revising my next patch tick prediction to pallas's warbler.

Thursday 25 September 2008

Tenerife and La Gomera

Well that's me back from a great trip to Tenerife and La Gomera in the Canary Islands. The aim of the trip was to see the endemics and have a general mootch about, so all in all the trip was a success and as we were camping it was quite cheap too.

The endems were pretty easy, berthelot's pipits were everywhere from Mount Teide base station (we never got to the top due to high winds) to the beach and was our first tick outside the tent on the first morning. Canary islands chiffchaff and plain swift were also easy in the campsite and then everywhere else and the Tenerife goldcrest was also quickly caught up with.
Berthelot's pipit

Canary Islands chiffchaff

We had to travel for the more specialised birds, the two endemic pigeons were our next targets, we headed to the neighbouring island of La Gomera for these. Bolle's and laurel pigeons inhabit the laurel forests which cover the north of La Gomera and some bits of Tenerife between 500 and 1000 metres. A bit of a wait at a recommended view point produced good views of both species, you never see them perch out though, just flying by. Nice birds!


We also saw our first Canaries on La Gomera, though we saw 10o's more throughout the trip. The boat trip to and from La Gomera is suppose to be good for seabirds, the outbound trip was quiet, we returned to Tenerife in the late afternoon and this was more productive, but only for cory's shearwaters with at least 150 seen from the ferry.

Next job was to ascend to the pine forests which are between 1200 and 2000 metres, to look for blue chaffinch which is only found in the pines. We camped at what is regarded as the best site for them with the hope of seeing them early in the morning, maybe we were too early as we saw none. The night skies more than made up for it though, I've seen some amazing night skies in the Gambia and India, but this topped them both, no wonder the astrologers regard Tenerife as one of the best places for star-gazing. We saw lots of blue chaffinches further down the road at Chio as well as great-spotted woodpecker (ssp canariensis), the chaffinches are amazingly tame and we approached them to 3-4m at a drinking pipe. So that was the endemics in the bag!

Blue chaffinch - very approachable, we got within feet of this female

great-spottted woodpecker - canariensis subspecies

Tajinaste rojo plant in stunning geology

Other notable birds were macronesian shearwater (used to be little), sub-alpine warbler and the endemic or near endemic sub species of yellow-legged gull, sparrowhawk, common buzzard, kestrel, long-eared owl, lesser short-toed lark, grey wagtail, blackbird, spectacled warbler, sardinian warbler, blue tit, southern grey shrike and chaffinch.

southern grey shrike - koenigi subspecies

blue tit - teneriffae subspecies - very different to ours!

We also found time for lots of good food and wine, exploring the geology, visiting a 1000 year old dragon tree and chillin on the beach (or roasting on the beach....), all in all a very good trip. A trip report might follow if I can be arsed. Now back to Druridge!

Mount Teide

A test for Boulmer Birder!