Saturday 31 October 2009

A day of two halves

Today was a day of two very different halves

But before any of that, yesterday I went to Holy Island with work, there were stacks of thrushes, mainly blackbirds, all over the island with good numbers of redwing, fieldfare and song thrush too. I saw nothing rare but it was nice to witness a big fall of thrushes, there were a few woodcocks on the island, one of which seemed to be doing circuits of the village.

This morning, Janet and I put some nets up at Druridge, we only had half the nets up, only at the north end. We chose to net the north end because that is best for thrushes and as there were so many of them on HI yesterday...

We were only ringing between 0730 and 1100 but managed to ring 15 new birds and 2 retraps.

NOISY song thrush


coal tit

Not much else to report from Druridge, there were still 3 greenshank on the pool and an increasing number of ducks.

By 1130 setting sail, on the 'Shockwave' boat for Coquet Island, in absolutely glorious weather, sunny, warm, hardly any wind.....perfect for messing about on boats and islands.
Not many people get the chance to land on Coquet Island, but along with our Young Ranger group from work, we were working for RSPB to begin getting the island ready for next years breeding birds.

Yesterday, I had high hopes of finding something rareish on the Island, but by this morning it was obvious that the majority of birds will have moved onto the mainland.

me, working......

As I working, we didn't have a chance to do too much birding, but Paul the warden was keen to have a bird count done, so after lunch, we went off around the island checking the bushes and gardens. Again, nothing rare but some migrants and wintering species including 72 twite, 30+ blackbirds, 10+ song thrush, 4 redwing , 9 rock pipit, 1 woodcock, 3 snow bunting, 1 black redstart and 14 purple sandpipers.

some of the twite flock, which apparently winter on the island..
Looks like birding tomorrow will be a non-starter as our bit of coast is going to be ravaged by strong SW winds and heavy rain all day.
Ringing totals:
goldfinch 4
blackbird 5
song thrush 2
coal tit 1
blue tit 1 + 1 retrap
wren 2
Robin 1 retrap

Thursday 29 October 2009


I went to Druridge at the crack of sparrows to look for the reported pallas's warbler - no sign, in fact no sign of any phyloscs.

It must have gone overnight...

There were lots of siskins, redpolls and goldfinches moving through the alders, emptying the cones as they went, nice to see the siskins back, my first of the year at druridge. There were redwings flying over at dawn when it was a bit murky, any coming later would've been miles high. A few thrushes in the bushes making the most of the hawthorn and whitebeam berries.

Crappy redpoll pic
There was amazing sky first thing, like the ripples left on the hard sand when the tide goes out...

152 little owl

Tuesday 27 October 2009


So, here's me, doing the ironing, glass of wine, bit of Eagles of Death Metal on the stereo..until about 10 minutes ago when a text comes through from RBA

"Probable Pallas's Warbler Druridge Pools in trees south of Budge Screen path at 1pm"

1pm FFS!!!!! 1pm when it was still light, 1pm when I could've nipped away from work to check it out, 1PM!!!!!!!!


How come it takes til 2015 to appear on the pager, don't these people realise I still need Pallas's for Druridge, I've only been predicting it as my next patch tick for the last two years.

The boss gets back from her hollibobs tomorrow so I've to get her from the airport in the morning, time to squeeze a quick visit to the patch in first though.

Though to be fair, 'probable' in RBA speak probably means it wasn't one anyway, probably a chiffchaff! Still it needs to be checked out.

Sunday 25 October 2009

No Birding

I've not lifted my bins since Friday, yesterday I was the footie and then went to see a storyteller doing 'Frankenstein' at Northern Stage which was great.

I did intend to go out today, but the near gale force westerly put me off, I had at least wanted to pick some sloes from the blackthorns on the patch to make sloe gin, but didn't even manage that, DIY took over and I spent the day stripping paint offuv the stairs.

Dave Elliott texted to say that he had found my owl again in the plantation and it was little owl, I knew that's what it was....

Looks like westerlies for another day, then swinging SSE then South...

151 little owl

Friday 23 October 2009

Crowned it!

Despite my reservations last night, I gave in and went, I still hate twitching, but this one was worth it and I had to really, a first for Britain only 30 miles from home. Shame it hadn't been a few miles further north, to save crossing the Tyne into mackem land! Thanks to Alan Gilbertson for the lift down there!


The bird showed really well, if briefly, but the short glimpses I got were excellent. The twitch was quite well behaved, one chap got particularly angry with people encroaching and started shouting and other than a really annoying woman in a bright red coat no-less, who's pager on loud mode went off every 30 seconds, I didn't feel the need to abuse anyone! One chap did make me laugh, on arriving he proclaimed "I left the house so quickly, I didn't have time to look to see what this bird looks like" he then thumbed the index of his Spotters guide to common British Birds or similar and then quietly put it back in his rucsac....

Back to the sanctuary of Druridge....

Despite going to mackem land and back, I still managed nearly six hours on the patch...and I was rewarded. Pre-twitch from 0750-0940 I didn't see a lot, highlight was unidentified owl. I was alerted to it by a bunch of robins, wrens and tits giving something hell in a lone pine in the plantation, as I approached, it flew out never to be seen again. All I could make out was that it was small (Smaller than SEO or LEO) and brown and appeared to be streaked...I think it was probably a little owl.

Post twitch I went back to the plantation to look for the owl and found a firecrest, in the dense stuff at first then favouring the sycamore and pines by the road. It was a stunningly bright male, sadly no pics as it didn't stay sill long enough. I always work this plantation first during the Autumn, it is normally representatvie of what is about. There were two chiffs, including a grey looking eastern bird, 3 goldcrests, 2 blackcaps and at lest 20 robins in here.

I continued to work through the bushes, right to the north end, seeing more chiffs and goldcrests, a great-spotted woodpecker and lots of robins, but no woodcocks?. At the top end by the whitebeams, there were a few thrushes including three nice redwings and a tit flock, as it moved through I picked up a goldcrest, a chiff and then a yellow-browed warbler in amongst them...nice! I would have loved to turn it into a Pallas's but sadly couldn't so that will remain an obvious gap in my Druridge list for a little longer.

The weather looks crap for birding for the next few days so it'll be lager, football and DIY!

148 firecrest
149 great-spotted woodpecker
150 yellow-browed warbler

Thursday 22 October 2009

Redwings still cometh (to twitch or not to twitch?)

A very quick, nearly in the dark, visit to Druridge tonight after work. Still lots of robins about and a three or four goldcrests near the entrance so it might be boding well for tomorrow's day off.

Redwings still coming over and dropping in at dusk...fingers crossed. If the weather is good we may ring tomorrow afternoon.

22:10 - That plan might be out of the window as MEGA - E. Crowned warbler South Shields Trow quarry has just come on the pager....

What to do?

There'll be loads of wazzacks there, I'll just get annoyed, I've seen lots of them in China, I might miss a new bird for Druridge, there might even be one at Druridge? we might even catch one and ring it?

but... It is virtually on the doorstep and I have got the day off and it is a Monstrously rare bird...

Sunday 18 October 2009

Sunday morning

Not much to report from Druridge today, the bushes were devoid of migrants other than robins. The ibis had cleared off earlier in the morning, spooked by photographers on the baffle banks and flew off north seemingly, I hope it's gone to Hauxley and never comes back and all of the annoying photographers cluttering up the hide will go with it!

Was that a rant?

No news on it either way on RBA tonight. People will still continue to turn up though as there was more NWT spin in yesterday's Journal, strangely NWT didn't mention that the Radde's warbler was actually caught and ringed on the NATIONAL TRUST site....odd eh?

Still a greenshank hanging about and offshore there were at least 18 red-throated divers.

I bumped into Alan Gilbertson today and he gave me an aerial photo of Druridge in 1972 when the site was still being opencast mined for coal. You can make out the dunes and the existing road and the preceptory which was left intact during the mining operation. You can also see 'Big Geordie' the dragline machine There wasn't enough material left to fill the hole, hence the incredibly deep Druridge Pool. Very interesting, thanks Alan!

Friday 16 October 2009

Migrants have cleared out

I thought yesterday's murkiness hanging about until late last night might have kept any migrants on hold and even dropped some more in....not to be!

A few chiffies, blackbirds, robins and redwings and not much else, despite giving the patch a thorough flogging.

At least 1700-1800 pink feet flew N during the morning with a single skein of over 1000 birds.

A bit of excitement this afternoon, some photographers had a jack snipe right out in front of the Oddie hide, I went to twitch it but it had disapeared, so went home for lunch. Alan Gilbertson and Roger Foster found it again later and after much searching I got onto it, fast asleep on the bank, totally camouflaged. A pair of scaup were also on the big pool.


After that a quick seawatch, lots of kitti's and gannets, red necked grebe, 12 red-throated diver, 6 goosander and then 2 skuas, together, the first was a steely grey bird, the second was a pale phase bird, both had a 'jerky' tern-like flight, both distant. I would have put them both down as arctic, but the first was so like a juvvy long-tail, with a real steely grey look......they both had the same 'jizz' , more like long-tailed than arctic....I'll leave it there.
Seawatching at Druridge can be so frutsrating!
147 jack snipe

Thursday 15 October 2009

Flying visits

Two flying visits today, crack of sparrows and then lunchtime. Nothing much new at lunchtime, but first thing it was obvious that birds had come in overnight, I only checked the plantation and willows by the entrance, there were lots of robins, more goldcrests, redwings and blackbirds. There were also at least six chiffs and four brambling in the plantation.

I am off tomorrow so will give the place a thorough thrashing, it looks like this murk will stay with maybe a little rain overnight, then turning northerly, quite strong and getting brighter.

Next Tuesday/Wednesday might be interesting too!

There was an article about buses of birders, ibis and Radde's warblers in today's Northumberland Gazette, with quotes from NWT......

It might not be legible from this scan, sorry.

147 brambling

Wednesday 14 October 2009

Lunchtime Quickie

A very quick visit to druridge this lunchtime, I only managed to check the plantation and willows at the entrance, there were lots of birds in the bushes, blackbirds, song thrush, robins, coal tits with a goldcrest in the plantation. A large flock of starlings were feeding on insects quite high up, flying ants?

Birds were still going overhead, in the gloom, with a few redwings, meadow pipits and a couple of redpolls.

Redpolls and redwings flying over my garden this evening too.

146 lesser redpoll

Sunday 11 October 2009

A good flogging!

That's what I gave the patch today, a damn good flogging, hoping for a firecrest or yellow-browed warbler - anything really, at least it got me away from the masses trying to see yesterdays' Radde's warbler (seemingly somebody was blasting it with a tape/MP3 this morning, no wonder it cleared off - so much for fieldcraft!)

I did the WeBS count first, some good birds on the big pool, of course there was the ibis, there was also two greenshanks, a green sandpiper (year tick!) and two scaup (him'n'her). My counting was put on hold for half an hour as the weekends second bus trip descended on the pools, this lot where mackem birders from south of the Tyne....'weees keees are theeese keees'

The mackem's bus with cars as far as you can see.

This greenshank was feeding on small fish along the edge of the pool, presumably the same fish that are keeping the ibis alive. It looks as if it here for the winter, at least until the cold gets it, a bit like the squacco heron at E. Chevington a few years ago.

Anyhow, my good thrashing of the far-flung reaches of the patch produced little in the way of migrants, there were skylarks calling overhead again and a few meadow pipits. A group of 30 redwing came in off the sea, looked as though they were going to drop into the plantation then flew straight on inland. that was it other than a few robins and blackbirds.

Alan Gilbertson sent me this pic of one of those nice grey robins.

There were lots of these too....

Red Admiral

Some other visiting birders told me they had seen a black-throated diver on the sea, drifitng north. It must of drifted to Hauxley cos it was gone when I looked for it. Still a few red-throats in the bay, but not as many as yesterday.

Tomorrows predicted northerly looks as though it may stay to the west side of north, but Wednesday might have a localised easterly...

144 green sandpiper
145 bar-tailed godwit

Saturday 10 October 2009

Raddecal Birding

Janet is away in Canada for a few weeks, in her absence she was keen to have Druridge 'covered', so tom Cadwallender agreed to supervise any ringing operations in her absence. I texted her last night to tell her that Tom, Neil Anderson and I would be ringing there on Saturday morning, her response was "Have fun but don't catch anything rare though!"....

As if....

We only went and caught a Radde's Warbler!

Breast and Chin




This is my first ever Raddes's warbler in Britain, my second patch tick in a week and a new bird for the patch (I think).

We put the news straight out to enable people to see it before we released it and it caused quite a twitch!

These are really stunning birds, I saw loads of them in China last year but it was a real thrill to catch one here. I didn't get to ring it though, trainee's are last in line for such birds! I am not too fussed though, it was a good ringing tick for Neil!

Radde's is no longer a BBRC description species, so it will just go to the County Records Committee so we'd better not put my name on the description or it will get canned for sure!

It was seen again later by Jeremy Crate and Stef McElwee near the channel on the path to the Oddie Hide.

Other than the Radde's ringing was quite tame, we caught 17 new birds and 5 retraps, other highlights were a female redstart, a chiffchaff and this nice grey-looking robin, surely a continental bird?

After the excitement of ringing I has mosey around the patch, I still couldn't manage a decent photo of the ibis, though the hide was full so I didn't hang around. Instead I went up to the Preceptory and then the farm and back by the hamlet and saw very little, though a covey of 14 grey partridge feeding in the barn at the farm was nice and two grey wags flew over which are scarce at Druridge.

All morning we had skylarks moving overhead, impossible to say how many.

Next was a look offshore, nothing was really moving as such, but there was loads of birds loafing on the sea, the light had gone a bit and the sea was very choppy so viewing was difficult but there were at least 58 (yes 58!!) red-throated divers, 55 common scoter with a single drake scaup in with them, 110 teal and harbour porpoise.

Now, regular visitors to Druridge and readers of this blog will know that strange and obscure behaviour is a regular occurence down here, well, today was no exception. As I was looking on the sea, getting towards dusk, my attention was drawn to a huge 52 seater coach, reversing - I kid you not, along the narrow Druridge track, all the way to the entrance to the hides!

WTF? What is going on here I'm thinking to myself...

So it pulls to a stop and then, the really strange thing, about 20 or so scone munchers clamber off with bins and scopes....obviously twitching the Radde's or maybe the ibis...or maybe both

You can clearly see the lead chappie here sprinting away which suggests they might have been after the Radde's as the ibis has stayed rooted for nearly two weeks, I wonder if they saw it?

What really made me laugh was that they all sat aboard the huge coach as it gingerly reversed along the single track road, if they had got out and walked from the entrance they might have seen some birds!

Ringing Totals

goldfinch 4
wren 5 (1 retrap)
blue tit 1 (2 retraps)
redstart 1
chiffchaff 1
blackbird 2
song thrush 1
robin 1 (2 retraps)

Patch List

Radde's Warbler 219

Year List

Radde's Warbler 141
redstart 142
goldcrest 143

Friday 9 October 2009


Regular readers of this blog will remember I mentioned recording an episode of 'Ramblings' with Clare Balding on Radio 4, alongside Tom Cadwallender. It is now on BBC iplayer at

Have a listen!

Wednesday 7 October 2009

Unexpected Bonus

I arrived back from my trip to Andalucia late last night, with one thing on my mind.....GLOSSY IBIS!

So first thing this morning I went straight to Druridge, I had to be in Berwick by nine o'clock so not much time, I went straight to the Budge screen, no sign...The hunters were shooting woodpigeons or pheasants over by the haul road, my fear was that the shooting might have scared it off for good.

My fears were allayed somewhat when I heard from Alan Gilbertson that it was spending most of its time on the big pool, so straight after work i was back down there, some people walking back from the hide assured me it was showing well in front of the hide! I was sweating like a fat lass at a disco I can tell you!

Anyway, when I got there, it had gone from in front of the hide, thankfully only to left a bit, crap light but it was on the list...PHEW!

I would have been totally gutted if I had missed such a monstrous bird for the patch, thank gos it stayed around long enough for me to see it. The excitement didn't end there though, there was more.

AG had also told me about a buff-breasted sandpiper and honey buzzard at Cresswell today. As I watching the ibis, I noticed a small wader on the waters edge to the left of the hide, it was behind vegetation and in silhouette, but it looked different then I lost it. It re-appeared some minutes later further along the shore near to the ibis, a grey heron and two greenshanks. I pointed it out to some photographers in the hide and that I suspected it could be the buff-breasted...

Just as I did, it flew off doing two circuits of the western end of the lake, flying fast, resembling a bat in flight and showing a pale underwing with an obvious crescent. It landed among the rocks on the far shore, in better light, but head-on, so not much better views but enough with the flight views to clinch it! One of the photographers moved the scope and I never re-located it, the light was going quickly too, hopefully it will still be there tomorrow. I've had buff-breasted at Druridge before, right in front of the Oddie hide, so not a patch tick but a cracking year tick and a really unexpected bonus to the ibis.

Oh and by the way, Spain was fantastic, great weather for October, i missed most of the raptor migration at Tarifa, but I did see Rupells vulture, my target species and really good short-toed eagle passage. Andalucia is a fantastic place, I could move there tomorrow!

Patch list


Year list

glossy ibis 139
buff-breasted sandpiper 140

Thursday 1 October 2009

Not so glossy for me!

Hola from Spain

Isn´t that just typical, you go away for a few days well deserved holiday and two mega´s turn up on the patch......Yeah you´ve all heard about the glossy ibis, I heard about it form lots of people, even here in Tarifa!! Seemingly it´s still there according to the Boulmer Birder who texted me today.

But Ian Fisher texted to say whilst he was looking from the ibis he had a JAY! I´ve never seen jay at druridge and to be honest a glossy ibis will probably turn up again before a jay does!

I´ve seen glossy ibis this week near cadiz but it jusn´t the same!

Hopefully it will still be there next Wednesday