Monday 31 August 2009

Rough as a badgers....

Just back from Leeds Festival and feeling as rough as badgers arse, 4 days of little sleep, camping in filth and drinking way to takes its toll, I sometimes wonder if i am getting too old for it all? Obviously not, cos tomorrow I am going to buy tickets for next years festival!

I eventually summoned up some energy to go to Druridge tonight, the sky was pitch black and it wasn't long before the heavy rain arrived, so not much birding done. There was four arctic skuas offshore and a handful of manxies.

There looks like there might be a localised low pressure system with rain over us by midweek which might be useful on the migrant front.....I'll be keeping an eye on UK wind map

Tuesday 25 August 2009


Only a quick visit to Druridge tonight, a look offshore produced a single juvenile great-crested grebe, 40+ common scoter and a few dunlin and ringed plover. There was also a steady stream of swallows moving south.

Today I was out on the coast with Clare Balding recording for the Ramblings programme on Radio 4, accompanied by TAC, we walked from Spindlestone Mill to Beadnell. The programme should go out in September.

Monday 24 August 2009

Twitching and the birdfair

I am just back from a hectic weekend at the British Birdfair at Rutland Water and I am totally cream crackered. The weekend was good fun, but exhausting, I was working on the Birdwatching Northumberland stand again. The weather was gourgeous but it meant the marquees ended being like sauna's by early afternoon.

There was smattering of Geordie's either visiting the fair or working at it, away from our stand Mike Hodgson was flogging tripods and Alan Tillmouth, Adrian Pitches, Tony Crilley, Martin Davidson and Anne Middleton were spotted among the crowds.

Martin Kitchen could be seen out harassing innocent minor celebrities

I am NOT drunk I'm telling you, they were otters!

"If you try to sell me one more pelagic trip, I'm gonna stuff your leaflet down your throat"

Janet Fairclough on the ringing demo

I am always very tired after three days at Birdfair, but this year was worse! Coming home, we got as far north as Retford when the transit van blew up, we waited nearly five hours for the AA to come and rescue us and return us home (via Sheffield), eventually arriving home a six am this morning, 12 hours after leaving Rutland.

So when news broke of a yellow-breasted bunting on Inner Farne, it was decision time - to twitch or not to twitch....Sod it, who needs sleep anyway?

So four o'clock had 20 or so optimistic twitchers, including me, heading for Inner Farne in hope....not before the Boulmer Birder had stocked up on a dozen donuts for the trip

After a short time scanning the more open areas of Inner Farne and the fat-hen covered plateau type bit in the middle, an juvenile ortolan bunting was discovered sat out on the rocks behind, very nice bird, a County tick for me and a few others, but not the one we were after. There were other migrants on the island including a pied, fly two or more garden warblers and a rather smart cuckoo, but not the one we were after.

A worried look "I think we might have dropped a clanger" thinks Mr Steel

Steely looked worried, could the 'two-bird' theory be rolled out or had they made a grave mistake?

He had the balls, which most of us wouldn't, to admit that the ortolan was likely to be the bird they had seen. Another bird, still unidentified for sure did fly out and away, last seen heading for Bamburgh, it was pale underneath and white or pale colours in the wing , it was silhouette and didn't call, it wasn't a yellow breasted bunting - but what was it?

Andy Cowell was a happy man -ortolan was lifer for him

Thursday 20 August 2009


I am off to the Birdfair a happy man, I've got semipalmated sandpiper on my list (shame it wasn't at Druridge though - maybe it would have been if NWT had gotten more cows on and earlier) and the toon won (though it wasn't pretty!)

A note to NWT if you are reading, the semi-p and all of the waders were feeding on the north of side of the causeway at Cresswell, there are also lots of cows on that field -


If you are coming to the Birdfair this weekend, drop by and see us on the 'Birdwatching Northumberland' stand in Marquee 1.

Tuesday 18 August 2009

Life history of a colour ringed sanderling

Remember the colour ringed sanderling I saw on Sunday ?

Well, I've just heard back from the man who ringed it, it was ringed at Sandergoi "first beach" in SW Iceland on 12th May this year, it was seen on several dates until 27th May at the same place. Jeroen reckons it would likely then have moved off to Greenland to breed and then I saw it on Sunday at Druridge - Amazin

Hopefully if it is seen again Jeroen will let me know.

I spent an hour before dusk going through the Druridge gull roost, there were about 1400 in total 65-70% common gull, 35-30% black-headed gull and one or two herring and lesser black-backs. There were at least that number again offuv Chibburn Mouth. There were also four arctic Skua in the bay (also present this morning, when two off them were sat on the beach for ages offuv Hemscotthill Links.

Had the moth trap out at home last night, I've decided I like the easy ones like vapourer and centre barred sallow? I also had either a grey or dark dagger - seemingly a dissection of the genitalia is required to separate them, I think I'll leave that to someone else!

I think I might be emailing some piccies to Tom Tams!

Monday 17 August 2009


A very quick visit to Druridge tonight, the highlights were 12 knot flying south with oystercatchers and 4 arctic skua's offshore (2 pale phase and 2 dark)

That's it

nowt else

Sunday 16 August 2009

Bird Free Zone

We went to Druridge this evening, once the wind had dropped and it was actually quite plesant, but there weren't many birds about, very, very quiet.

On the beach at dusk there were very large tern and gull roosts offuv E. Chevington involving about 2000 birds, mostly common gulls, there were another 1000 gulls, again mainly common and black-headed to the S between Druridge and Hemscotthill. There were also 50 or 60 terns off E Chevington. Sadly there were only a couple of hundred gulls in front tof us at Druridge, all common and BHG's.

There was also a colour ringed sanderling on the beach, from the dunes we could only see what appeared to be a large white ring, on closer inspection it was carrying four colour rings and a green flag - fully loaded!

The colour ringing website led me to the site for the sanderling project I have emailed the chap with the details, but he is up in Greenland at the moment so we won't find out for a bit the birds history - but when we do you can read it here first!

Friday 14 August 2009


We got up early and went ringing this morning, unfortunately metcheck and xcweather had it bang on and and rain duly fell at 10am, their predictions were even more spot on this afternoon that the strong westerly has arrived.

So, before the rain, we managed to ring six birds:

willow warbler - 1 adult
blackcap - 1 juv
wren - 2juv's
robin - 1 juv
dunnock - 1 juv

Blackcaps and willow chiifs were calling all morning but we didn't catch 'em.

Other than that, two greenshank went over calling and there was a little meadow pipit passage. A pale-phase arctic skua was offshore.

Thursday 13 August 2009

Patch Tick

I had a patch tick today, not a bird but a butterfly - a speckled wood!

This is also the first speckled wood I have seen in the County, talking to the Boulmer Birder the other day, he was telling me he sees them at Howick. The book reckons the population is expanding, well, it's expanded all the way to Druridge Bay! I've only seen this on visits further south to places like Arnside and Silverdale.

I had two visits to Druridge today, this morning was a stunning morning, sunny, no wind, a great morning to be out. I birded along the road looking for migrants, there were lots of common migrants in the bushes, chifchaffs, willow warblers, blackcaps, common whitethroats etc, I was hoping of a redstart or whinchat, no luck there though.

willow warbler in the bushes

As well as the speckled wood MEGA there were also lots of walls, I caught this pair 'urn the jurb'

wall butterflies - humping
Good news(ish) on the NWT front, five more cows have arrived on the Budge fields, well two of them are really only half-sized cows so we'll call them one, bring the grand total to 10! We could do with 35, not 5, to get the job done quickly enough if we are to see any passage waders at all this autumn! Maybe NWT don't understand the needs of birders.........

New kid on the patch - get munching you lazy bugger
My second visit was after work, this evening. The wind had come around out of the SE and it felt a lot cooler, I did an hour and bit seawatching and saw
manx shearwater 87
arctic skua 4
teal 8N
common scoter 140
dunlin 2 on beach
roseate tern 2
and the usual collection of terns, gulls cormorants and stuff...

Monday 10 August 2009


It was too wet to ring this morning :-(

I did an hour and a half seawatching this evening after work, there was a NNE force 3 which strengthened to a 4.

Highlights were 1 bonxie, 1 pale phase arctic skua and 1 drake velvet scoter (all north). There were a couple of flocks of small waders way out on the edge of science and a flock of 1 ringed plover and 6 dunlin closer in.

The most interesting thing was white butterflies, presumably large white's, migrating, you could actually watch them coming in off the sea, I counted at least 25 though there would have been many more.

Otherwise there were lots of terns, including at least three roseys, one manxie, quite a few kitti's and gannets but very few auks, just a few loafing guillies with their young on the sea. There were about 140 common scoter in the bay and a red-breasted merganser and oddly a hang of 52 eiders have suddenly appeared in the bay, mostly moulting drakes.

130 bonxie

Sunday 9 August 2009

I only had time for one visit to Druridge this weekend and that was a quickie, mind you, there isn't an awful lot to see.

The six cows on the Budge fields can't munch quick enough so once again, herds of wilderbeast with cattle egrets at their feet could be on there and you wouldn't see them. NWT promised extra cows this week......I won't be holding my breath. NWT have been busy though, they've painted the outside of the Oddie Hide with green paint.

On the big pool, the Mute Swan younguns have been reduced from 5 to 3, maybe the otters have claimed the missing two?

So nowt on the Pools or fields, offshore wasn't much better, the highlight s were 140 common scoter, 1 red throated diver and a rosey!

There were a lot of butterflies about today, especially 'whites' as well as painted ladies and walls.

Sorry there no piccies tonight I have left my camera lead at work. Hopefully ringing tomorrow depending on the weather.

In the moth trap in the garden overnight we had a Lempke's Gold Spot.

Thursday 6 August 2009

Walk on the beach

We had a walk along the beach at dusk tonight, the gull roost was bigger than last nights, again it was mostly common gulls and there were at least 1000. The most interesting birds among it were two summer plumaged adult little gulls and a scallopy juvenile.

There was a fantastic pink sunset reflected perfectly on the tidal pools, which would have made a great photo had some wazzack not left his camera at home.

Wednesday 5 August 2009

back on the patch

I'm back, and still recovering, from a trip to the Aiguamolls Natural Parc in Empordia near Girona in NE Spain, it was a work trip and was incredibly hard work, but very enjoyable.

Aiguamolls is a bit like a massive Druridge, imagine if East Chev, Druridge Pools and Cresswell Pond and all of the surrounding farmland were managed as one huge wetland - that is a bit like Aiguamolls. The reserve is both fresh and brackish water and is grazed year-round on rotation using camargue horses, they also use pumps to manage the water levels between ponds and fields.....If only Druridge could be like that.....SNAP OUT OF IT IPIN IT'S JUST A DREAM!!!

Not Druridge

I have had two visits to the patch since I got back, both brief. On monday evening there appeared to be a lot of passerines on the move through the bushes, willow warblers, chaffinches, sedge warblers etc.

Also, in the small patch of reed in the SE corner of the big pools, several sedge warblers and a reed warbler moved along the edge, reed warbler is a year tick.

Tonight, a quick look offshore and through the gull roost on the beach. There are about 180 common scoter in the bay with a single drake velvet scoter amongem. There was a huge gull roost on the beach by Chibburn Mouth and a smaller one at Druridge, common gulls making up the majority (about 60%) with BHG's the majority of the remainder with a handful of great and lesser black backs and herring gulls.

There were a few arctic and sandwich terns, 12 dunlin, 5 sanderling, 1 curlew but star bird went to a stunning summer plumaged grey plover.

128 reed warbler

129 grey plover