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

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 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:

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 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 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 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'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