Wednesday 30 July 2008

Durham Coast

Had a visit to the Durham Heritage Coast with work today, kinda an exchange thing we do. The Durham Heritage Coast is an amazing place, spoiled totally (literally) by over 100 years of tipping of colliery spoil from the coal mines along the coast. Once the mines were closed, the beaches were left covered in millions of tonnes of acidic toxic mine waste, not somewhere you would want to go for a picnic. So about 12 years ago a project called turning the tide was developed to attempt to reclaim the beaches. They are getting there and the sea is doing a good job on the spoil on that couldn't be carted away, there is still lots of it about, including big pieces of sandstone being eaten away by the acidic shale that they are cemented into. A very strange, but nonetheless, interesting place.

Blast Beach on the Durham Heritage Coast

The magnesium limestone grasslands behind are very interesting, though we didn't have too much time today to look at them and it is a bit late for the best flowers. After doing Blast Beach and Noses Point we went to Hawthorn and Castle Eden Denes then onto Crimdon to see the little tern colony. The little terns here, unlike those at the Nanny, are doing OK and despite some predation, productivity is over 2. The wardens reckon they are bringing in plenty of food this year.

The top meadow brown was caught in a spiders web, the spider can be seen killing it.

Monday 28 July 2008

Sea frets

No news from Druridge as I have been on a stag weekend to Embra (say it fast in a Scottish accent). Did get down this morning for three hours ringing before work with JF, it was quiet but steady, we did 4 willow warbs, dunnock (1 controlled), wrens, blue tits a blackcap and a robin, mostly this years young except the willow warbs. There was no wind at all and a thick sea fret so I reckon it would have been steady for the rest of the day if we didn't have to pack up when we did - damn you work!

A white-rumped sandpiper turned up at Cresswell Pond this afternoon, found by Ian Fisher, so I called by on my way back from the coast, the sea fret hadn't lifted all day so the photographers were struggling, I only managed a photo of the twitch. This is the second WR sand I've seen at Cresswell (an interesting story about two other white-rumps that day....but that's for the pub!) and the fourth I've seen in the County.

Twitchers in the fog

Wednesday 23 July 2008


Tardy - that's what I've been, hence no updates, actually I have been very busy....

Managed a few trips to Dru since my last post, no ringing again at the weekend due to more bright and breezy weather, we did spend some time clearing the net rides on Sunday though - flushing the LEO as we went. There was a dark-green flitilery butterfly by the road on the way to the Oddie hide, my first of the year, ST had seen a speckled wood over the weekend.

A brief visit on Monday didn't produce the sea birds seen elsewhere, only a handful of manxies and an arctic skua to report offshore. There were 21 sanderling on the beach and a barn owl was hunting over the Budge fields.

Last night was bright and breezy with a strong NW wind. In the sheltered areas between the woods and the Budge fields there were 100's of dragonflys, I think they were all common darter, there were also some other thin ones which I couldn't ID cos my dragonfly book is out on loan at the mo, I've put a picture below, so someone will keep me right. On the bird front, a year tick was to summer plumaged grey plover flying south, a pale arctic skua was also offshore. Bizarrely an adult drake common scoter was on the big pool, first one I've seen on the pool.
Not sure what this (or these) are...

..........or this..........nice photo though

but this is a common a weird place!

Whilst at Dru, IF asked if I wanted to ring storm petrels at Hauxley...not one to 10pm had me at Hauxley with Ian and Mike Carr, Andy Cowel joined us, storm petrel would be a lifer for him. They didn't disappoint, we caught six in total between 11pm and 1.30am. They are fantastic little birds, one of my favorites for sure - they even smell nice!

Today, I led a guided walk for work (or a guided waark for walk in ashington) from Cresswell to Warkworth, passing through the patch, there was three arctic skua offshore. At Hauxley there were two nice close roseate terns feeding in pools left behind the retreating tide and to end the walk there was a little egret on the weir at Warkworth - not a bad days work!

133 grey plover

Thursday 17 July 2008

Atlassing again

The cooncil has been on Strike for two days, I haven't, though I did manage to get Wednesday off as a flexi day before the ban, so I did a JF a favour and did her late summer atlas tetrads for her. The two tetrads were side-by-side near Raylees, south of Otterburn, well inland for me but I survived, only getting a nosebleed at Winter's Gibbett.

View from Whether Hill

It was quite windy but ok for counting birds. There were lots of mipits and skylark, highlights were two family parties of wheatear, a family of stonechats, buzzard and reed bunts. Best of all though was a a recently fledged family of goldcrests, I saw three of the fluffy youngsters perched in the tree, though more were calling from the wood, I would reckon at least six judging by the amount of calling when the adult arrived with food.

Goldcrest chicks

Called at Druridge tonight, trying to dodge the showers, other than an arctic skua offshore, nothing much to report, I guess the birds were dodging the showers too.

I was up the coast today with work, Boulmer Birder told me there was little egret on the weir at Warkworth this morning, it was still there tonight, check his blog for details...

Monday 14 July 2008


On Sunday I went up to the Harthope Valley to do my second summer atlas visit. The weather was nice so I got a good early start, I did the Langleefordhope tetrad first, just about the first bird recorded was a tree pipit with a gobfull of insects. Nearer to the shooting cottage at Langleefordhope I had three black cocks flying across the valley, a green woodpecker was in the wood and there was a few whinchat about, one with young, which weren't even in last visit. There was lots of ringlet butterflies along the track, buggers to photograph though, they never this is my best effort.

Tetrad F

Pheasant Chick - one of two

The second tetrad covers the Hawsen Burn and Cold Law, it was very quiet, whinchat and stonechat family parties were in the Hawsen and a kestrel was hunting....and only ONE red grouse in both tetrads.

Some people from my village with the Parish Council have taken over the management of the village pond and surrounding field, so I agreed to go along tonight and give them some advice on the site and particularly preparing a management plan. Hopefully they'll get it sorted. It used to be a good site for passage waders, but has too much marginal veg these days, it was also good for the occasional garganey in spring and breeding ruddy duck until Defra started it's slaughter programme.
Called in at Dru after the meeting, very windy and very quiet, so I photographed some big shiny slugs devouring two puffballs - they've made quick work of it! A barn owl was hunting over the Budge fields.


Lady's Bedstraw in the dunes

Common Restharrow in the dunes

Saturday 12 July 2008

Kittiwake ringing

Back from a good conference in Shropshire, totally whacked though - networking til the early hours....

Went ringing kittiwakes at Dunbar in East Lothian today with Ian Fisher and others. The colony is on the old castle walls by the harbour, so is easily accessible and a ringing study has been carried out for many years and I was lucky enough to go along and help. Fisher picked me up in the middle of the night to get to Dunbar for a 6am start, we started by the doing the chicks, then once all of the accessible chicks were ringed, we did some adults, some of which had been ringed in the previous years. I really enjoyed the morning, despite the wounds! great experience...kitti's are one of my favorite birds.

The colony by Dunbar Harbour

A chick and Ian up the ladder getting them

Ringed adult and an adult showing the wing - Fantastic Birds!

Called at Druridge tonight, 1900-2100 it was cold and wet at times. It was very quiet offshore, with probably only 50 terns in the whole bay and less auks. It has been quiet all month, by July standards, I wonder if the Coquet Island birds are feeding further north, I have heard that it is not a good year there, particularly for the terns. A red-throated diver was offshore, from the dunes I spotted a cream-crowned marsh harrier flying north from the pools, over the haul road towards East Chev......year tick! The rain had brought down a lot of swifts, at least 30 were hunting over the main pool and over 1000 starlings flew north in 30 minutes, presumably going to roost at Chev.

A barn owl was hunting over the Budge fields, even in the rain. I managed to photograph it from the Budge screen.

The mute swans have lost one of their young, the three mallard broods number less than they did, but the young are getting big. There was 3 large shoveler young with an adult duck, this is the first time I've seen them, so presume they've bred elsewhere.

132 marsh harrier

Sunday 6 July 2008

The Weekend

Well it's been a wet one, sod's law really, stuck in County Hell all week, weekend comes and it rains ALL WEEKEND!!!!!!

I worked from home on Friday so I had a later start and went ringing with Fish in the Chev reedbeds, we had a decent morning, mostly sedge warbs and a few reed warblers with the odd reed bunt and a willow warbler for interest. We had time to look at the orchids between net rounds, still a few lesser-butterfly orchids there but they were starting to go over. There was a female marsh harrier at chev as well as barn owl, 300 sand martin and 350 starlings.
Reed Warbler

Lesser-butterfly Orchid

five-spot burnett moth on a mist-net pole

There were some spangly-black caterpillars on nettles by one of the net rides we thought they might be peacock, but weren't sure...Boulmer Birder will no doubt put us right!

Ringing at Dru was aborted due to rainy mornings, so boring household chores were the order of the day. I managed a quick visit to Dru this afternoon, a common sand on the Budge fields a welcome year tick, broods of gadwall and mallard were on the main pool and the long-eared owl was hunting, from the Budge screen, the little egret was still about, flying north shortly after we arrived. Offshore 6 manx shearwater flew south.

Off to a works conference in Shropshire this week so news from Dru may be scant.

131 common sandpiper

Wednesday 2 July 2008

Rave On 2

The rave vid I posted is an old one - check this out.....should've gone....excellent tune