Thursday 30 December 2010

Out like a lamb

The new year didn't really come in like a lion at Druridge and it looks like it might be going out like a lamb....

Probably my last visit of 2010 to the patch and it was very, very quiet. There is a bit of a thaw on, even some green grass showing in places, but the budge fields are still frozen solid, so is the big pool apart from a postage-stamp sized bit of open water which was occupied by bathing gulls. The wigeon and teal stood around it, together, for safety.

Grey partridge are still easy to spot and two coveys of eleven and twenty were at  the north end.

The farmer at High Chibburn has agreed to put up a little owl box in his barns, so I called in there to drop him a box in. I've been seeing a little owl regularly on Druridge Lane and there has been one around the hamlet too, so hopefully they will find the box in the new year.

All going to plan there should be an annual review posted tomorrow before I sign off to celebrate the passing of another year with copious amounts of lager.

Saturday 25 December 2010

Christmas presents don't get better than this - A FULL PATCH TICK!

Christmas comes but once a year.Nowadays patch ticks don't come much more frequently.

We had our traditional Christmas Day walk at Druridge this morning,the first bird was a barn owl hunting by the road -  a year tick. The other highlights were an ermine stoat, it's aeons since I last saw a winter stoat - this one still had some brown along the ridge of its back, otherwise white, and a merlin.

As the road between Cresswell Village and Cresswell Pond is now pretty much impassable, we headed home via Widdrington and thank god we did!

Just as we rounded the double bends, I spotted a bird crouched by the roadside. Bins on it, it was a partridge, but not a grey partridge, common at Druridge, especially lately  - this one was a red-legged partridge!

Then there were two, then three, then a whole covey of at least 18 birds! Amazing! What better Christmas present could a patch worker want than a full patch tick?

I see red-legs all over Northumberland, often within two miles of Druridge, but I've never actually seen one on the patch - until today

It has to be said though, only a patch watcher could get excited about seeing red-legged partridges!


Merry Christmas to one and all!


Friday 24 December 2010

Christmas Greetings from a bright, white, Druridge

Not much snow on the land today, but as I slid my way to Druridge today it was certainly snowing offshore from Cresswell.
Dramatic snow storm out to sea (best place for it)
Druridge was white and bright, a crisp, cold day. There wasn't many people about either, though it sure to be busy over the next few days, the road is well dicey near Cresswell Pond so that might have a few people turning back.
Bright and White - Druridge today
I walked along the road via the Budge screen and back along the beach. There were a few thrushes about and I soon had all the common winter thrushes in the bag, including this fieldfare gulping down haws.

fieldfare gulping down berries

There was a large flock of siskins moving through the bushes, feeding on the bountiful alder mast, I counted about 40 and grilled them for redpolls without any luck. There were a few goldfinches in with them though, this one was obviously bored with alder seeds and feasted on a teasel instead.

siskin - one of about 40

Goldfinch - enjoying some teasel seeds

There were still lots of woodcock about, it was almost comical to see several trying to feed in amongst the sheep like the grey partridges were doing not far away, plenty of them too with coveys of 10, 11 and 25.

One of several woodcock in among the sheep

The beach was almost devoid of birdlife sparing a pied wag and a handful of sanderling.

It just leaves me to say "Merry Christmas" to you all and enjoy your festive birding!

I'll be at Druridge for our traditional Christmas Day walk tomorrow, I am not sure the blog will get updated though!

Monday 13 December 2010



That's what!

Firstly, Janet and I arrive in the Oddie hide this morning, having taken a day off work, get talking to a photographer chap who tells me he had a snow goose over Druridge Pools yesterday. I've seen snow goose before at Druridge but it was yonks ago and it would have been a great year-tick.- Gutted!

Secondly, after we found a little owl (my first and only owl species of the year at Druridge) being mobbed by small birds in the pine plantation, we split up, me going down the field side of the willows, Janet along the road. She gets onto a great-spotted woodpecker (a year-tick), calls me over, it flies off, I don't see it - Gutted.

Thirdly, I read the comments on yesterdays post, ST telling me had been watching two barn owls at Druridge on Friday. Two more than I've seen this year.


Still lots of woodcock about and a rock pipit on the beach

Just heard there's a lesser white-fronted goose in Norfolk, that would be nice!

Sunday 12 December 2010

The Thaw

The snow has virtually all gone from the coast now, the fields are all holding water and the Dunbar burn is running at 'full howk' over the beach.

I only had a hour or so on the patch this afternoon, trying to get out between the showers. The wet fields all had waders in them, mostly redshank and curlew and in the fields to the north there were at least 1600 pink-feets, which flew over the patch after some shots were fired, so much for shooting bans.

Pink-footed Geese

Other birds are concentrating on feeding up after the snow, not really bothered where they do it, there was family of mute swan and a dozen redshank right by the side of the road

Saturday 4 December 2010

Nice to be back

I was so pleased to get out and go birding today, having fought my way to work and back every day and stuck at home all last weekend it was great to be back on the patch. What made it even better? Quality winter birding!
To kick off - lots of geese between Druridge and Hemscotthill, approaching 1000 pink-foots with nine pale-bellied brents in with them. I didn't get the scope for out for fear of scaring them, so I didn't get a chance to grill them for any other species.

Pink-footed geese near Druridge Hamlet
I had a good walk around the patch, the most obvious and amazing thing was the number of woodcocks, they were everywhere! I din't need to walk through the bushes, there were four in the willows by the Budge screen, twelve in the pine plantation by the entrance, four in the scabby blackthorns at he north end and even one in the mugwort valley of death. There was shooting going on in the surrounding shelterbelts all day - I wonder if it was woodcock they were after?

The only woodcock  curlew photo I managed to get - I think a fox may have got it first
 Whilst looking for woodcocks to photograph, I saw a stoat prancing about after something, no photo's sadly but great to watch.

The big pool had lots of wildfowl on it, nothing unusual, just common winter ducks, wigeon was the most numerous at 250.
Winter wildfowl on the big pool
There were lots of small birds on the move too. A flock of 50 or so skylarks were put up by a sparrowhawk, 60 twite where in the dunes to the north, two flocks of long-tailed tit and a flock of 55 goldfinch were roving about.
goldcrest on teasel
Nothing of note on the beach other than this gruesome dead grey seal minus its eyes and a peregrine over the dunes.
Not looking good.....

At High Chibburn Farm an incredible 29 yellowhammers were keeping their feet warm on top of the cowsheds and 20 or so skylark fed on spilled grain by the barn.
One of 29 yellowhammer son the roof of the barn at High Chibburn Farm
So not a bad days winter birding - 51 species without even trying.

Friday 26 November 2010

Service - Second to none

WOW - I am so impressed!

In this age of internet shopping and especially my recent dealings with courier firms, I thought the days of good, even bog-standard, customer service were over.

They're not, not if you buy from Swarovski.

A week or two ago, I caught my Swarovski's on the boot of the car, breaking the little plastic clip on the strap, not a disaster, but not good.

On Wednesday, I emailed Swaovski to ask for a new clip, I thought the strap was looking a bit shoddy (they are 10+ years old and have been most of the way around the world), but thought it cheeky to ask for a strap.

So today, while I was snowed in, the Postie arrived with a package from Swarovski, not just a clip but a whole new strap, in less than 48 hours since emailing them.....Amazing!

My Bins have been back to Austria twice, once my fault, once a design fault, both times they sent me another pair to use whilst mine were away.

I've not been to Druridge today, there was 6-8" of snow overnight and I thought it was unlikely the road to Druridge would have been treated. Should get down tomorrow, but as I write this the snow is beginning to fall again.

These pics were taken from our ringing site at Ellington

Monday 22 November 2010

heading for a cold snap

The long range forecast predicts a cold snap for the weekend, freezing cold northerlies from Thursday with a dump of snow for the east coast...could be interesting. The north wind will be particularly strong on Friday and I've got the day off.

Sunday 21 November 2010

White bird brightens grey day

I went to Druridge this afternoon, it was grey, wet and miserable. I saw a little egret flying over the Budge fields, it landed by the little hide, it brightened my day.

It rained, I went home.

Monday 15 November 2010

Well travelled sanderling

I recently received an update of one of the colour ringed sanderlings I saw at Druridge back in 2009 and again earlier this year. .

This individual is ring number 896110, here are a few key dates:

16/05/2009 Sandgerði, "first beach"   Iceland   64.02.35 N 22.42.54 W  Bob Loos

27/05/2009  Sandgerði, "second beach"    Iceland  64.02.39 N 22.42.54 W
16/08/2009  Druridge Links, Morpeth, Northumberland   55.16.34 N 01.34.05 W Iain Robson  Janet Fairclough
23/12/2009  Le Curnic, Guissény, Finistère   France    48.38.26 N 04.26.50 W Pierre Leon
28/12/2009  East Chevington, Northumberland   55.17.29 N 01.34.05 W David Elliott
03/01/2010  Druridge Links, Morpeth, Northumberland   55.16.34 N 01.34.05 W Iain Robson                               
28/03/2010   Low Newton-by-the-Sea, Northumberland  55.30.45 N 01.36.52 W Chris Redfern
16/05/2010   Sandgerði, "second beach"    Iceland      64.02.39 N 22.42.54 W  Jeroen Reneerkens    
18/05/2010   Sandgerði, "first beach"    Iceland     64.02.35 N 22.42.54 W     Jeroen Reneerkens   Bob Loos
25/10/2010  East Chevington, Northumberland   55.17.29 N 01.34.05 W David Elliott

Not bad eh? What made it travel from France to East Chevington in less than five days in December, maybe it was the weather, maybe just catching up with the family for Christmas?

Thanks to Dave Elliott for the update

Sunday 14 November 2010

End of another ringing year

As there are now no leaves left on any trees at Druridge, at all, it's time to pack-up the ringing site, which basically means taking away our bamboo net poles for winter storage.

I've not had time to work out how many birds we have done this season, but I will and post some figures on here soon.

The wind had moved some of the poles deep into the bushes, so I spent most of this morning crawling under and through blackthorn and hawthorn bushes to retrieve them (seemingly it's what trainee ringers are there for). I now look like a self-harmer.

Whilst retrieving the poles, I came across a mixed flock of finches, mostly siskins (about 20 of these) moving through, feeding on alder cones.

Today was also WeBS count day, the Budge fields and the big pool are both brim-full, a large sand bar was blocking the Dunbar Burn mouth, it's flowing a bit now, but is well backed-up. If you are heading to Druridge soon, take your wellies, you'll need them to get to the Oddie hide.

The cows have mysteriously disappeared from the Budge fields, have they been rustled? I thought they were supposed to be on the for the winter, there is certainly more work for them to do.

Lots of teal on the Budge fields (I notice the green-winger was at Cresswell today, it would be nice to see it at Druridge before the turn of the year!), the wigeon were all on the big pool and 35 curlew were on the adjacent fields.

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Stormy Seas

No Druridge today unfortunately, the necessity that is work got in the way again.

I was out and about a bit though, this morning I was in Rothbury and on my drive there and back I saw flocks of thrushes, fieldfare and blackbirds mainly moving about, looking as though they had just arrived.

Boiling seas at Howick
This afternoon, I had to go out on site in Stewart's patch. Two days of near gale force easterlies have certainly whipped the North Sea into a frenzy, as we drove along the coast road, clods of foam were flying over the car, landing amongst the sheep in the filed next to us.

The sea was boiling and although the wind had eased a bit, was still blowing spray our way - it was quite exhilarating! In the small, stunted hawthorns by the Coast Path, we saw a few newly arrived goldcrests busily feeding and a couple of blackbirds. Goldcrests never cease to amaze me, such tiny creatures making it over the north sea in such horrendous conditions.

The boys from 202 Squadron at RAF Boulmer were using the bad weather to get some flying practice in.

202 Sea King over the Bathing House

202 Sea King over Rumbling Kern

Sunday 7 November 2010

Another Stonechat Picture

Yet another picture of a stonechat at Druridge...

Another stonechat at Druridge

I know, I always have photo's of stonechats but they are nice and they do ask to be photographed. And today, there was precious little else to take photographs of.

Druridge was just about devoid of any for of life other lots of people taking advantage of crisp sunny autumn day. despite a chilling NW wind, it was rather pleasant and a stroll on the beach in the sun, sheltered by the dunes, it was actually quite warm.

The wind is going to turn though, with strong easterlies and rain forecast for the next couple of days. It is getting a bit late for a big fall, but we might get a mega rare, hopefully at Druridge. I would be happy with a brown shrike.

Druridge hamlet in the autumn sunshine

Saturday 30 October 2010

Ringing Recovery

We've just had word of another ringing recovery from Druridge. We don't get many recoveries, so it's quite exciting when we do - even if they've not gone very far.

This one didn't get very far...

It was a goldfinch, ringed by me on 31st October 2009, it was caught on 29th June 2010 at Swarland, having travelled all of 13km!

View Goldfinch X370587 in a larger map

I was ringing at Cherryburn today, we didn't catch much, two redwings were the highlight. I won't get to Druridge tomorrow either as there is a rather important football match to attend....everything is crossed!

Sunday 24 October 2010

Mermaids Tears

Finally back on the patch after too-long an absence. It was bright and breezy, with the odd icy  shower thrown in, a brisk northerly keeping the temps well down. The weather wasn't conducive to finding passerines and as a result the list of species recorded in the notebook was poor for October.

A walk along the track first, checking the Budge fields and big pool from the hide then a walk back along the beach, with nothing really noteworthy seen along the way. A covey of twenty one grey partridges in the dunes was impressive, so was the sea, boiling after the recent northerlies.

We were saddened to find a lot of mermaids tears along the strandline.

Mermaids Tears
The technical name for these 'mermaids tears' is nurdles. Nurdles are small plastic pellets and this is the form in which plastic as a raw material is transported around the world. Nurdles get into the sea directly from plastic factories via the the drainage and river systems, they also leak from containers and ships. 

Nurdles can now be found on virtually any beach in the world. Mermaids tears are ingested by sea creatures, including birds, which are both poisonous themselves and attract other toxins in the water, poisoning the creatures that swallow them.

The recent storms have changed the beach profile dramatically, taking the dune fronts back a foot or two. I have never seen the second row of tank blocks exposed this much in all the years I have been going to Druridge.

Second row of tank blocks well exposed
tank blocks

There was nice light this afternoon

Druridge Beach looking south

I was also disappointed to see the appearance of second Dalek by the entrance to Druridge.

Not one, but two pointless bins

When will people learn that bins in rural, coastal locations don't work? Not only do bins and other bits of pointless clutter ruin the countryside, they actually cause more litter than they solve. People who get as far as these bins have already made the decision to take their litter with them. Moron's who drop litter will drop it no matter how many bins there are. All that will happen now is that they will fill with picnic waste and chip wrappers, people will dump stuff by them and the gulls, crows, foxes and badgers will tear the lot to shreds and scatter for it miles.

I despair, when are people going to be made to be responsible for their own actions, if you take stuff out into the countryside, take the rubbish home with you!!

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Not so Sloe

I had a day offuv work today, I had two chores to do at Druridge, moving some poles around our ringing site and picking some sloes for the sloe gin. I had also had to do the WeBS count.

A great-crested grebe was the only interesting bird on the pool, the Budge fields still being thigh high vegetation.

A lot of birds have moved out since the weekend, but there are still birds arriving. I saw a few small groups of thrushes coming in over the dunes.

Skylarks were moving, mainly south, all morning. Impossible to count, maybe a hundred in a couple of hours, including one flock of 25. There are still good numbers of migrants in the bushes though, robins and goldcrests being the most obvious.

Last year we hardly saw a goldcrest on the coast so it is nice to see these cheerful little chappies flitting through the bushes.

A few blackcaps and chiffchaffs went onto the list as did a single garden warbler.

The most important thing though, I got the Sloes picked and they are now happily soaking in some gin, the book reckons you should keep it for 18 months. Two chances of that!

Monday 11 October 2010

Worth a punt?

Looking at RBA tonight, there's still good birds about so I've taken tomorrow off work to do some household chores that didn't get done at the weekend.

We need some sloes to make sloe gin, so I'll have to pop down to Druridge to  get some, not sure I'll get time to do any birding though......

Yeah, right!

Sunday 10 October 2010


Another long day at Druridge and I am now totally zonked!

We were ringing from 6.45am until 5.30pm, we caught 116 birds including 4 retraps  - not bad at all!

We caught a gint of goldcrests and a hod of robins too, we caught nothing unusual or even scarce and we were so busy ringing I didn't even have time for any birding between net-rounds. Best birds of the day were pied flycatcher, garden warbler, meadow pipit and two blackcaps.
nice bright male siskin

meadow pipit

pied flycatcher

We failed to catch yesterdays barred warbler or 'dark phyllosc'

Between net rounds, a skein of c800 pink-foooted geese flew south at dawn and for the first three hours there was a steady stream, of skylarks moving through, maybe 30-40 per hour. A nice male brambling was on the short grass near the dunes and a kestrel, mobbed by ten pipits and wagtails was hunting in the dunes.

Ringing Totals:

robin 28 + 2 retraps
blackbird 3 + 1 retrap
goldcrest 43
blue tit 9
meadow pipit 1
siskin 9
blackcap 2
chiffchaff 3
long-tailed tit 5
garden warbler 1
song thrush 3
goldfinch 1
pied flycatcher 1
wren 3 + retrap

A year to the day, Tom Cadwallender, Neil Anderson and myself caught this little beauty at Druridge...

Radde's warbler

Saturday 9 October 2010

Blue Tits not Bluetails

Eleven and a half hours! That's how long I spent at Druridge today - unhealthy obsession? - probably!

No bluetails for us, we had a few blue tits though, still we're not complaining, our ringing session netted us 62 birds - not bad considering we only had four nets up.

The morning started quite damp, with a ESE wind, we were at Druridge before first light (not bad considering we were at chez Biggs til midnight - there were redwings going overhead then!), being so damp we only put the most northerly nets up which are the best for catching stuff after a fall.

We caught nothing amazingly rare, not even scarce, just good numbers of some common migrants. Robins were by far and away the most numerous. goldfinches, long-tailed tits, blackbirds, song thrushes and goldcrests also featured heavily.

We also controlled a blue tit, a first calendar year bird, sporting a newish looking ring, so it's probably just come from Hauxley.

Not many pictures of ringed birds - it was a bit gloomy, but here is a nice chiffy and a rather drab looking siskin, but it was our first of the year.

drab siskin

nice chiffy
We packed in ringing around half past two, when the wind picked up. Time for some real birding!

As we had been ringing at the north end, I checked the bushes and plantation by the entrance (whilst Janet got me a tremendous bacon, potato and onion pasty from the Widdrington Farm Shop), then the Budge Screen before walking along the Channel to the path. Picking up blackcap, redstart, pied flycatcher and whinchat along the way, with lots more robins, song thrushes, blackbirds, chaffinches and goldcrests.

In one tiny alder, all out on it's own by the edge of the pool, I had three chiffchaffs and a garden warbler, then this other warbler flew in, chiffchaff sized, but very dark, then it promptly flew out again, back into the thick bushes.....gone!

Back in the bushes I got onto my second barred warbler of the year, this one was lumbering about in the alders.

barred warbler

Other highlights of the day included  a water rail flying out from under my feet, two lapland buntings over, south, c10 swallows and 50 redwings (how come we didn't catch any?)

We'll be back ringing again in the morning and will be putting a net up where the 'dark phyllosc' disappeared to.

Ringing totals for today:

robin 18
goldfinch 7
dunnock 2 + 1 retrap
coal tit 1 + 1 retrap
blue tit 2 + 1 control
long-tailed tit 6
chiffchaff 3
blackbird 6
song thrush 5
chaffinch 2
goldcrest 4
siskin 1
reed bunting 2

150 Siskin

Thursday 7 October 2010

A Pile O' Shite

A very large pile of shite has appeared on the patch

A large pile of shite
Closer inspection revealed it not to be shite but a pile of the compost the Council produce from garden waste, still, it might bring a few birds in. The farmer used to leave piles of chicken muck lying around and it was good for all sorts of birds.

Anyhoo, there were no birds on it tonight, and not many elsewhere on the patch, the bushes were pretty quiet. I checked out the beach for snow buntings, there weren't any, but a wheatear and a rock pipit were nice finds. 

There was also this dead seal pup, not very old (less than four weeks?) It looked a little different and I was thinking it might be too early for grey seal pups, especially this far from the Farnes, unless they are pupping on Coquet Island this year. Might it be a common (harbour) seal pup? They are tricky and head shape and nostril pattern are good indicators - I didn't photograph the nostrils but the head/nose area was pretty mangled anyhoo. Maybe Steely offuv the Farnes can help?

Dead Seal Pup - common or grey?

Its heed
To be honest, when I first saw it, I thought it was a small white dog.

This spotted flycatcher was on the fence at dusk, it looked really orangey at time sin the setting sun.

Spotted Flycatcher
small flocks of birds flew in, or over, at dusk, including a small group of redpoll and some linnets.

And a nice sunset to round of the evening.

Sunset through the dunes
The wind will be coming out of the east over the weekend, SE to begin with, then swinging more northerly, with good, clear conditions on the other side. All we need is some murk and mizzle to drop birds in, but it is looking unlikely, though XCweather is predicting some mist tomorrow evening. We'll have the nets up whatever.

Sunday 3 October 2010

Nets up, Nets down

We were down at Druridge before dawn this morning, but a soon as the nets were up they had to come back down as the rain set in and it looks as though it is here for the day. We caught one bird - robin.

Yesterday was a different matter however, many birds were still at Druridge after the midweek fall so we caught a good few birds, well, Janet did, I had to leave at 9.15 to go to work. Both at Druridge and at Seahouses, there was a continual movement of skylarks overhead.

The good fall of song thrushes was evident, this was the first of eight.
song thrush
Dunnocks and robins were still about and a few warblers were moving through the bushes but we didn't catch many, this blackcap and chiffchaff along with a reed warbler were the only ones caught. The last image is a goldcrest, we only caught one which is one more than we caught last year.

This great tit (or should be grey tit) was an interesting one, a partial leucistic bird, which had a generally greyer appearance with virtually a white tail and a light grey rump - very odd.
leucistic great tit
No sign of last weeks barred warbler now, this rain may drop coasting birds in,  so it will defo be worth a look down at Druridge on Monday, meanwhile I'm off to the pub to watch the footie.

Ringing totals:

song thrush 8
robin 4 (and one today)
blue tit 3 (+1 retrap)
goldcrest 1
dunnock 3
chaffinch 3
blackcap 1
blackbird 2 (+1 retrap)
great tit 1
wren 1
reed warbler 1
chiffchaff 1
coal tit 1