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!

Sunday 14 September 2008

Who needs Prince Charles when we've got MARTY!!

Mighty Marty to the rescue.... As Prince Charles and Camilla didn't visit Dru on Friday to see the dead and dying sticklebacks - the forgotten victims, nay, heroes of last weekends floods, it was left to a superhero to save the day...Mighty Marty. On seeing the poor creatures plight, mighty marty scoured the beach for a plastic bottle which he then fashioned into a nifty fish-rescuing device to extract the survivors from the quickly diminishing pool. The world needs more Marty's!

As for the birds, well the highlight of the day, surpassing yesterdays rb shrike and for me equally as thrilling as last weeks greenish was a wryneck ITN (in the net). We found it on the third net round, in the most northerly net.....geddin. Wrynecks are just fantastic birds in the hand, I've seen them before in Malta in the hand but never in Britain and as JF had already done them, I got to ring it too!

Wryneck's not a patch tick, BB found one a few years ago in the entrance willows, I think it was the last year of the patch comp. Check out this vid of it wrynecking.

Ringing was steady otherwise, we caught 33 birds of 14 species with 2 retraps...not bad considering we didn't have all the nets up. Jf got a sprawk when I was away taxiing my folks about...grrr...There wa slots of viz-migging going on this morning, I'm not very good at this as I am tone-deaf (too much heavy metal music), there were hundreds of mippits first thing, a constant movment of groups of 20-50 birds. Pied and yellow wags also moved south. The latter part of the day was spent creating a new net ride at the north end.


Dru was very busy today, at 10ish, some people turned up in a 4X4 with the worlds biggest BBQ, Blakey managed to get this pic. Unlike last weeks quad-bikers, the BBQ pushers failed to get there kit through the gap in the fence, so left in stranded with one of those cheap'n'nasty gazebo's over it - classy! Whoever they were, they were popular, there were at least 40-50 cars there...maybe it was Mike Ashley? Anyhoo it created parking chaos, along with most of the county's birders and photographers turning up at some time to see yesterdays shrike, all of who no doubt got better piccies than me.


Anyhoo that's it from me for a week or so, I'm off to Fife tomorrow for work then Tenerife for a week (if Jet2 haven't gone bust by then) to catch up with some endems, sunshine and topless tottie!

T'ra for now!

Ringing totals:

goldcrest 6
linnet 1
wren 3
willow warbler 5
robin 3
redstart 2
wryneck 1
goldfinch 4
song thrush 2
chiffchaff 1
sparrowhawk 1
whitethroat 1
spotfly 1
blue tit 2

wryneck 146

Saturday 13 September 2008


Last weekend I said to Janet, wouldn't it be great to see something like a red-backed shrike perched on top of the pile of fly tipping next to the honest romany folks caravans, just to put ' bird showing well on pile of pikey's tipping' on the pager....well it nearly happened today.
We decided it was too wet'n'windy to ring this morning, but JF and I decided to go birding at Dru and check out places for new net rides. There were still a few migrants about like redstarts, whinchat, whitethoats, spotfly etc as we worked the bushes at the north end, I even went through the 'mugwort' valley of death in hope of a bluethroat and then waded neck deep along the lake outfall - no luck.


After checking the pools, we headed towards the entrance willows via the bushes by the new NWT bridge, just beyond them we picked up a juvenile red-backed shrike on the fence. I put it on the pager as being opposite the gypsy camp, only then it flew directly to their pile of fly-tipping and perched right on top! A premonition or what! Good bird for the patch, I've had one here before, a good few years ago. I missed the one Boulmer Birder had by the farm in the last year of the patch competition - then again so did everybody else.......there was a whitethoat there.....

The RB shrike caused a bit of twitch, no doubt to the amusement/dismay of the HRF, maybe they were aggrieved that we had invaded their privacy.

Earlier a quick look offshore produced a red-necked grebe (moulting into winter plumage) and another, smaller, unidentified grebe.

On a sadder note, the receding floodwater have left pools behind on the path conataining hundreds of dead and dying sticklebacks - the forgotten victims of last weekends floods, we didn't see Prince Charles and Camilla coming to rescue them!

The dead and dying....

144 red-necked grebe

145 red-backed shrike

Tuesday 9 September 2008

Still some birds about

Overcast S1-2 mild

Although a lot of the weekends 'fall' birds have cleared out, there are still a good few around. I went to Druridge before work this morning, just for an hour and a bit, only birding the entrance willows, the next clump of bushes and around the Budge screen. Still got 6 redstarts, 5 pied fly, 3 spotfly and several willow warblers and blackcaps....still no wryneck

Two pairs of yellow wag flew south calling within minutes of each other, three whimbrel flew south and the juvenile marsh harrier was perched on the fence across the Budge fields for the whole time I was there.

It looks as though there maybe easterlies forecast for Saturday and Sunday - fingers crossed!

Crap record shot of marsh harrier

Monday 8 September 2008

Ringing at Dru

Was ringing at Dru before work this morning with JF, some of yesterday's birds had obviously cleared out but there were still plenty of birds about. We managed to get another couple of nets up now that the waters have subsided and did quite well, nothing startling but a good mixture of common migrants.

Ringing totals:

redstart 3
whitethroat 3
blackcap 2
garden warbler 4
dunnock 1
pied fly 1
spotted fly 1
goldcrest 2
willow warbler 1
chiffchaff 1
sedge warbler 1
reed warbler 1

Also on the patch were a at least 7 redstarts, and a few blackcap and garden warblers. The majority of yesterdays wheatears had obviously gone, but a couple were still by the road. A big female sparrowhawk sat on the fence by the Budge screen and my camera was in the car. Lets see what tomorrow brings......

Sunday 7 September 2008

The aftermath........

The outcome of yesterdays horrendous weather and floods should of equalled good birds and it didn't disappoint!

Naturally I headed for Dru, via Widdrington as some wazzack had abandoned his VW Passat in the middle of the flood, blocking the road. The wind wasn't as strong as forecast, so JF decided to put the nets up - however we were thwarted..the track to the Budge screen was at welly height, so we got that one up, and the top end was OK but the rest were just too deep. Basically the pool was now in the wood. There were hods of birds about though and if we had had've had more nets up we would've done well.

Scary...where is the bridge?

Redstarts were everywhere, we caught 3 but there were counted at least 29 more, spotflys and pied flys were also everywhere, the highlights though were firstly barred warbler, a first year bird going through the bushes where we were parked and a greenish warbler, which I first picked up by the track to the hides (impassable) with about 20 willow warblers, which we lost, after a net round we heard it calling then saw it again, briefly, shortly later walloping a green caterpillar off a twig. There may well have been two greenish, as the earlier bird was a bit distant from the second??

The wood and fields were lifting birds with birds til mid-afternoon with at least 60 wheatear on the roadside and field. Considering most of the woods were inaccessible and we were ringing which slowed down birding, most of our numbers could easily be trebled. Looking at RBA tonight most places got wryneck but we didn't..hopefully the waters will subside overnight giving us access to the other net rides tomorrow.

Pied fly

Still - a fantastic day...greenish and barred were both patch ticks and a handful of year ticks - hopefully some of these birds might hang arond til tomorrow?

Key Totals

redstart 32 (3 caught and ringed)
pied flycatcher 10 (1 caught and ringed)
spotted flycatcher 10
willow warbler 31 (2 caught and ringed)
garden warbler 4
blackcap 4
barred warbler 1
wheatear 60
greenish warbler 1
whinchat 2

lastly, i went to the Chute (ta BB) to get my veg...

"canny marra yungun"

139 pied flycatcher
140 garden warbler
141 barred warbler (215)
142 greenish warbler (216)
143 whinchat

Saturday 6 September 2008

Druridge...my Island

When I left her at lunchtime, Druridge was virtually an island...The road from Cresswell was totally impassable to normal cars, the road to Widdrington was only just passable to my car by 1220, a bow-wave riding over the top of the bonnet as I went through....Most of Northumberland is apparently under water, it was even difficult finding a route to the Indian takeaway in my village tonight!

So why was I as Dru in such ghastly conditions? Well this weekend was the BioBlitz weekend, I was supposed to be doing a 'Big Sit' on top of the big dune at Dru, but as it pissed it down all weekend with 35mph north-easterlies, that wasn't a particularly attractive option. So we retreated to the (comfort!!??!!) of the hides for the two sessions - Fri 1400-1900 and Saturday 0800-1230. Martin Kitchen, Trev Blake and Janet Fairclough joined in with this lunacy from time to time....none of the 'normal' general public showed up, tho I bet the sign saying 'bird and cetacean watching' pointing towards the Oddie Hide might of confused people.

Trev and Martin - part of the BioBlitz team

We were rewarded with some good sightings, and 80+ biological records for Dru...highlights were a juvenile marsh harrier on both days, bullfinch (year tick)and otter. I like the idea of a Bioblitz - anything that sparks interest biodiversity in the County has to be a good thing.

marsh harrier over Dru

Final score

Let's hope the waters subside and I can get to Dru tomorrow morning...there's iccies, wrynecks and flycatchers all over the coast (I was damned certain I had an iccie on the track to the hides this morning - it was calling, but I lost it in the torrential rain)...A conundrum though - got to Tynemouth for red-throated pipit - a British tick (tho I've seen hods of em Europe) or got to Dru and bash the patch......I guess there is only one winner!

Talking of winners - I had to vacate my post at Dru this morning to get my vegetables to the Ellington Miners Welfare Centre, Horticultural Society Show - or the Shur as it is known in these parts. I called by there tonight to see how I had done and have a pint....1st prize for my vegetable marrow (marra) and 1st for my summer turnip....Pics to follow tomorrow (alongside all of the rares from Dru!!)

138 bullfinch

Monday 1 September 2008


SSW 3 Sunny 16 deg C cooling to 12 deg C 1800-1930

Tonight I checked the sea where there were 10+ RTD's mostly in something resembling summer plumage and not much else of note. Inland there were 65 lapwings on the silage fields, I know cos I counted them and felt rightly chuffed cos when they were flying I guessed 65....not very often I'm right!

Nowt on the fields or big pool, well saying that, a heard of zebra and some giraffe may well have been on the fields but the grass is so high you wouldn't see them...oh no, I feel another rant to NWT coming on...I'm off to take the medicine. Enjoy the mute swan pics.

Oh and as I left I noticed the HRF have multiplied with another caravan appearing today, they had three full pick-up loads of hedge tree clippings parked up, no doubt off to a fully licenced waste disposal site tomorrow morning where the HRF will pay the tipping fees gladly, rather then dumping them in the nearest lay by or at the end of the road.....

And another thing, check out this weather site http://www.xcweather.co.uk/?Loc=GB looks like strong north easterlies on Saturday, might be some seawatching on the cards?

Sunday bloody sunday

Sunday was really desolate at Dru, I went hoping for whinchat (ADMc had 4+ at Chev), nowt, the tide was out and the fog was in so seawatching was out of the question, I wandered aimlessly, I went home and dug the garden.....

Let's hope it improves for next weekend, I am doing a 'big sit' on the big dune for the bioblitz event at druridge. A Bioblitz is a race against time to count as many species of plant and animal as possible at a particular site in a 24 hour period. it's been organised by the Druridge Bay partnership and will be based around the Country Park VC from lunchtime Friday to Lunchtime Saturday, there's loads going on, check it out at http://www.northumberlandbiodiversity.org.uk/ You can download a full programme.

If any local birders are around and want to join me for an hour or two please do, the more the merrier (It would be useful to show punters what is going on on the land and the sea) . I will be on top of the big dune at Dru from 1400 Friday til dusk and 8am til lunchtime Saturday.