Thursday 31 December 2009


Rough - what the sea was today and what I will be tomorrow......

As a result of yesterday's easterlies, there was a really huge sea running and today it was still bitingly cold as I stood on the dune scanning through the breakers - to be honest it was like weeing into the wind, I could pick up a couple of red-throated divers and some shags but the sea was too rough....and I was freezing!

Despite wearing nearly everything I own, big thick socks and waterproof over trousers, I was cold. However, some nutters on the beach were obviously tougher than me - they were playing footie in T shirts, one of them was wearing shorts and if that wasn't punishment enough, he took his trainers off and ran round barefoot for 20 minutes! Druridge doesn't disappoint - bizarre behaviour right up to the last day of the year.


The fields behind the meadows were full of birds, starlings, lapwings and crows mainly....but, also a year tick! Seven stock doves were in among the mix.

Coot - one of 11, a modern-day record for Druridge

Before the snow set in I checked the big pool, still five pochards and a record count for 2009 of 11 coots! Then I got my eye onto something odd, on it's own by the island - a duck with a cheek patch - redhead smew was going through my mind - but it was all dark. It took me a short while to fathom as the bird was totally out of context, it was a female type common scoter. I don't think I've seen one at Duridge that hasn't been offshore, it, and the drake red-breasted merganser that was also there must have gotten sick of the rough seas and headed for the safety of Druridge Pool.

Common scoter - totally out of context

So, that was it, last visit to the patch of 2009. It's been an interesting year, not record-breaking by any means. the year list stands at 157, one less than 2008.

Two new birds were added to the patch list during the year....and they were monsters, firstly, the glossy ibis in October, part of an national influx, arriving whilst I was in Spain, thankfully staying for over a month. The second addition was the raddes's warbler, caught and ringed by Neil Anderson, Tom Cadwallender and myself in October whilst Janet was in Canada, as the year draws to a close I think I am forgiven...

Two additions to the Druridge Patch list, Glossy Ibis and Radde's Warbler

Some obvious omissions from the patch list this year include both spotted and pied flycatchers (probably due to these species population decline along with many other trans-Saharan migrants), merlin, pintail, woodcock, whinchat and little auk.

Other highlights this year included spoonbills, garganey (both now almost annual at Druridge), buff-breasted sandpiper, sabine's gull, yellow-browed warbler, firecrest and long-eared owl.

NWT did much in 2009 to improve the habo on their side of the divide, getting the vegetation levels right for the spring which meant a better year for the lapwings and snipe and getting the grazing and water levels right for the wintering dabbling ducks, the grazing animals arrived too late for autumn wader passage though.
So, looking forward to 2010 - hopefully more ringing - including those still elusive twite, good spring and autumn falls and NWT to continue and improve on this years good work. I plan to a CBC style survey of the whole patch in 2010 to give a bit more focus to by patching.
So, to all the readers of this blog, I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous 2010 -BRING IT ON!

157 stock dove

Tuesday 29 December 2009

Just like buses......

You wait for two months for a year-tick and just like buses, three come along at once!

In my last post I was moaning that I couldn't see me getting another year-tick before NYE, but a good walk (slide mainly) around the patch yesterday yielded three!

It was cold yesterday, but a really nice, crisp, winters day. A good day to be out to blow some cobwebs away before hitting the drink again. The first year-tick was pochard, at least three of them on the big pool, pochard are very rare at Druridge nowadays and I didn't see any of the spring birds so these three were nice to see.

After checking the pool we walked along the dunes before skating along the haul road to the preceptory, there was a covey of 11 grey partridge along and a handful of snipe feeding along the sunny side of the ditch, I was hoping for stock dove on the piles of chicken-muck, but there were none.

Chibburn Preceptory with the snowy Simonside Hills in the background

We walked down to Low Chibburn Farm where the next year-tick was found (as had been predicted by me earlier) - yellowhammer, another bird I normally see in the spring around the farm. There were three of them in the hawthorns.

At Druridge Hamlet, one of the cottages has a new array of shiny feeders, maybe they where delivered by Santa? They attracted a lot of birds including tree sparrows (year-tick number three), I thought the Druridge tree sparrows had moved on, hopefully this lot will stay around and find our nest boxes.


Hopefully I'll get one more visit in before 12 bells!

153 pochard
154 yellowhammer
155 tree sparrow

Sunday 27 December 2009

Will I get another year tick?

Will there be another a tick for me at Durirdge this year, time is running out.....

A nice walk around the patch with the family on Christmas Day didn't produce one, as I bored them with tales of patchwatching and refusing to let them walk north or south of the patch boundary....

Sister and Brother-in-law down the dune - Not allowed beyond this point, the northern patch boundary!

Our walk did produce a great-spotted woodpecker which are very rare in the winter at dru, always an autumn passage bird, there were a few more thrushes about so maybe it arrived as part of a cold weather influx?

Today I fed the corvids twite food again, then froze my arse off looking at the sea, five red-breasted mergansers (all drakes), nine shag and two red-throated divers...that was it, before the rain came from the north and I retreated home, for hot soup.

So, what chance of a year tick now...slim methinks, probably got two more chances at it, I'm currently on 152, I got 158 last year, which I considered a poor year.

Thursday 24 December 2009

Wintery Webs

A wintery scene greeted me when I went to Druridge this morning to do a somewhat late WeBS count, this should've been done last Sunday but the combination of a gallon of red wine on Saturday night at the Cadwallenders and a 1pm kick off at St James' Park ruled that out.

Wintery Scene

First job though was to put some twite bait out, as usual the corvids were there first - here is a question for you experts out there...Can and do corvids pick up and eat black niger seed from the ground? We thought, perhaps wrongly, that their beaks would be too big to pick up the tiny seed from the ground, but maybe they can? Jackdaw, crows and rooks are the only species we have seen at the seed.

Greedy corvids hoovering up the sunflower hearts and niger?

A somewhat shortened WeBS count as the Budge fields were completely frozen and bird-free, other than a rather confused looking grey heron, which flew off as we approached, not before ungainly losing it's footing on the ice before take-off.

The ducks were congregated in the middle of the big pool, decent numbers but not as many as last month, the highlights being:
mallard 82
wigeon 208
teal 159
tufted duck 47
goldeneye 9

also an amazing, and chart topping for the year, SIX coot! The best bird though was female scaup.

Wintery WeBS

Other than wildfowl, there was little to report, a male sparrowhawk chased a couple of blackbirds and a song thrush from the bushes by the Oddie hide and three or four skylark flew over.

Tomorrow is Christmas Day and we will have our annual pre-pub walk along the beach.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish a very merry Christmas to all who read this drivel!

As a footnote, I have noticed the Boulmer Birder has gone to extreme lengths to advertise his excellent blog, maybe he has taken on Mr Tillmouth as his PR adviser?

Tuesday 22 December 2009

Vote for Druridge Pools

Druridge Pools has been nominated as a BOVRIL 'doing up the great outdoors' project - to be in with a chance of winning the £20,000 (which would be used to improve habitat and access at the site) we need people to vote!

So get voting at

Please pass this on to everyone you know to help Druridge to win!

Due to work, the cold weather, social functions, a trip the Dam and preperations for some forthcoming religious event, I haven't been down to the patch for ages. I am hopefully off work on Christmas Eve so will be down there to my delayed webs count - no sign of a thaw though so birds might be thin on the ground....

Sunday 6 December 2009

Tree O'clock

Yesterday was Tree O'Clock, an attempt by BBC Breathing Places to break the world record for tree planting. The idea was that everyone had to plant a tree between 11 and 12 o'clock yesterday follow this link for further information.

We got a free cherry tree from Focus DIY for Tree O'clock last week and I had a rowan which we got free from last years County Show healed into the garden, so 11am yesterday I planted them at Druridge, before zooming off to Newcastle to watch the Toon.

The cherry tree
The rowan tree
Both rowan and cherry are really good for birds and should do well here. Rowan is my favorite British Tree, it has everything - attractive bark, autumn colour, stunning bright red fruit and nice blossom in the spring.

Friday 4 December 2009

Sunny Winters Day

I hate the winter, especially this time of year when it is hardly light and you get days and days of damp gloominess like we've seen for the last couple of weeks. Today was nice though, a crisp, bright and sunny winters day...and I was fortunate to have the day off!

So, bright and early (despite going to see the Yeah Yeah Yeah's at the Academy last night, who were truly awesome) we headed for our Atlas tetrads near Kirknewton on the northern side of the Cheviots.
It was great to be out, giving the old serotonin levels a boost, but the only problem with the Cheviots a this time of year is that the sun rarely gets high enough in the sky to peak over the tops and shine into the valleys.

like night and day...winter in the Cheviots
We did two tetrads and, for the winter, saw a lot of birds, certainly more species than we expected too. Lots of thrushes on anything with berries, a couple of buzzards and a kestrel, two great-spotted woodpeckers...nice stuff!

On the way home we called by Druridge to check the twite scenario, again, the niger had all gone and was topped up, we did locate the twite, at least 80 of them in a mixed flock with goldfinch and linnet, maybe 130 in all, sadly they were all down in Willie Bell's Dunes at Hemscotthill. A flock like this could certainly quickly gobble up a load of niger seed, so I really need to spend some more time down there, hopefully over the Christmas break we might get to catch some.. the wrong place