Thursday 28 January 2010

Ruff morning

No...not hangover for a change (though i did have a few pints at the match last night)..I saw a ruff, on the Budge fields this morning in a quick visit before work! Because we have had a reasonably dry week, the Budge fields have dried out a little leaving a muddy edge and as a result there were lots of waders there today, mostly redshank and curlew but also dunlin, oystercatcher, lapwing and a single ruff.

I put some more niger out for whatever is eating the stuff???? and was pleased to see a few tree sparrows at the man in the cottage's mammoth feeding station. I'll try to get a piccie of the feeders at the weekend, all brand new, I think he may have got them as Christmas Pressies, there was nowt on them on Sunday but there was a few birds today.

72 ruff
73 tree sparrow
74 house sparrow

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Evasive pintail

A quick, pre-work visit to Druridge this morning hoping to catch up with the weekends drake pintail on the Budge fields. Despite a good scan through the ducks there was no sign of half past nine.

I got a text this afternoon saying it had been seen at 10am GRRRR!

I did get some reward though, at the weekend we had a flock of small birds lift out of the small copse at High Chibburn Farm, they didn't call and flew off as silhouetted specks. Driving towards the farm this morning, a flock of small birds lifted from the hedge and flew into the same copse, they were all yellowhammers. I counted at least 28, though more could have been obscured, an excellent count for the patch at anytime, but given the recent weather it was particularly nice to see them.

Ian Fisher sent me this from YouTube, I wonder if the MCGA or Coonty Cooncil will try this technique at Beadnell - I hope they have more success than these yanks!

71 yellowhammer

Monday 25 January 2010


As I arrived in Seahouses for a morning meeting, I got a text message from the office to say a sperm whale was on the beach at Beadnell.

I met the rest of our team down there at lunchtime, the whale was dead and we have it on good authority that it had been dead for some time, not as the BBC claim, that it died on the beach at Beadnell. The waves of the retreating tide making it look like it was moving.....

Dead sperm whale at Beadnell

Quite a twitch was developing to the deceased beast and although sad to see it dead, it was still pretty impressive.

whale twitchers and other 'official' types

Whale twitch brings traffic chaos to Beadnell (well, by Beadnell in january standards)

Funnily enough, at work last week I was researching the issue of seals on the beach and read about stranded, dead, cetaceans. Seemingly, any dead whale, dolphin, porpoise or sturgeon on the foreshore becomes a 'Royal Fish' and is the property of the Queen and such, any of these species over a certain length must be reported to the Receiver of Wreck.

I doubt Her Majesty will want this creature, but no doubt somebody will and it will be interesting to see them trying to get it off the beach. Shame really, I could just see an ivory gull coming down to it.

A team of people, led by Ian Douglas, are going to attempt to install a new floating island on Druridge Pool this Saturday. Sadly, I am of to Leicester to watch the toon, so will not be around to help. Rest-assured that photo's of the new island will be on here on Sunday though - hangover dependent!

Sunday 24 January 2010

Gloomy day

Well, I reckon the birding at Druridge won't get any more exciting now until late March when the first migrants turn up.

Our plans to do atlas squares today were thwarted by early rain, so the weekends only birding was a quick visit to Druridge this afternoon. It didn't really get light today, a cold, damp, January day. We checked out the Budge fields and big pool, the highlights were a male sparrowhawk hunting over the fields and a drake red-breasted merganser and great-crested grebe on the pool.

We then went over the fields to Chibburn Preceptory and back by High Chibburn Farm (a woodcock was there) and the hamlet where the family party of whooper swans are still in the field. On the sea, there were 250 wigeon and sizeable common scoter flock. 35 species in total including seven new ones for the year.

I am still putting niger out for the twite, it is still getting eaten by something, but I've still not seen any twite there :-((

No photo's today - it wasn't light enough!

64 sparrowhawk
65 red-breasted merganser
66 great-crested grebe
67 shelduck
68 feral pigeon
69 blue tit
70 greylag goose

Sunday 17 January 2010


Today's my birthday......37 since you ask.

I normally like to be somewhere warm for my birthday, but today I was not only in the UK but also had to go to work! It wasn't too bad though as work today was assisting on a press trip for a journo from 'Birdwatch' magazine to the Druridge area.

I met Dave and Martin Kitchen at Druridge at 11.00 am, it was a nice sunny morning, in total contrast to yesterday. There was a light westerly wind and a bit cold, but generally very nice. As we walked to the Oddie hide, we spotted this rather skimpy pair of red pants hanging in the tree by the little hide - welcome to Druridge Pools!

You would have thought has been far to cold for any of that carry-on!

There was lots of wildfowl back on the pool after the big freeze, including seven goldeneye and ten pochar, offshore there were at least 15 red-throated divers, a guillie, a couple of razorbills and 60 or so common scoter further north. These feathers were on the path to the oddie hide, they look like they've come of a game bird, pheasant was my guess, but I'm not good at feather ID - any thoughts?

We took David for lunch at the Country Barn at Widdrington, stopping to see this family of the whooper swans on the way, then to Cresswell Pond where a nice barn owl was showing off and a skein of 800 or so pink-feeted geese came over. At the north end there was a covey of 16 grey partridge, good to see they, and two stonechats, survived the freeze.

Then it was back to Druridge for me to the WeBS count, hightlights were 281 teal, 124 wigeon, 2 shoveler, 81 tufted ducks, 35 curlew and 27 redshank.

A few more year ticks today too.

51 grey partridge
52 whooper swan
53 mute swan
54 stonechat
55 twite
56 coal tit
57 chaffinch
58 woodpigeon
59 guilliemot
60 razorbill
61 starling
62 shoveler
63 little grebe

Monday 11 January 2010

The thaw continues

It's raining here now as the big thaw continues, but I kinda miss the snow, everything looks a bit dull now, what snow remains has turned into a grey-brown colour or is piled up in huge mountains in supermarket car parks - I wonder how long they will last?

The thaw is good for the birds though, if the cold snap (can we still call it a snap after nearly half a month?) had prolonged, a lot of birds unable to move would have succumbed, as the Boulmer Birder points out in his latest post it will already be too late for many. Alan Tilmouth has mobilised the NTBC and launched Bird Aid - a supplementary feeding project for hard-pressed farmland birds, I hope to be able to find a spot to feed the Druridge residents.

This cold winter, if it continues, may delay my predicted arrival of Cetti's warbler to Northumberland as breeding species in the next five years, will have to think again on that one.

We've just booked our next birding Fuertaventura in February, hopefully to add houbara bustard and Fuertaventura stonechat to my Western Pally list as well as seeing lots of other nice desert species and escaping the British winter for a week. February is safe time to be away from the patch as it is unlikely anything mega will turn up.

Back to reality...I'll call by Druridge in the morning on my way to the office and check that ring-feeder for buntings.

Sunday 10 January 2010


A bit of a thaw has started over night, quite a lot of snow had gone from the garden, uncovering the apples I put out for birds last week. There was a force 6 easterly wind though, which made the 4 deg C the car said it was, feel more like -4.

Budge Fields, looking towards the hamlet - frozen!

Today was only my second visit to Druridge of the year, I have been on Jury service all this week so no chance of a mid-week visit. Despite the thaw, the Budge Fields were still completely frozen and the only bird was this grey heron, poking at some unidentified food item it had found.

grey heron on the frozen Budge Fields

The big pool was also pretty much frozen solid, other than a small pool of open water in the middle, occupied by bathing gulls, all of the four common species were there, other than a small group of mallard and teal and a couple of coot on the bank, the pool was deserted.

Gulls making the most of the unfrozen pool

Despite the strengthening, freezing cold, easterly, I trudged up the road to the north end to check out the area where the farmer is over-wintering his stock, where I had a few meadow pipits last week.

I was surprised to see a flock of about 30 skylarks feeding by the cattle and even more surprised to see (and hear) a lapland bunting amongst them. As I started scanning the flock for more, they lifted, a bird of prey came through them, I saw it take a skylark out in flight, the bird of prey was a male kestrel!

I have seen kestrels take ground dwelling birds before, but I have never seen one actually take out a flying bird in the same way a merlin or sparrrowhawk might. I guess the kestrel has been finding pickings to rather lean during the last few days and has resorted to whatever means it can?
The feeding flock moved over the ridge and I left them to feed in peace, I will check them again this week though.

Predictably the sea was monstorously rough, I love it when it is like this, with great clumps of foam blowing up the beach into the dunes. There were a lot of waders on the shore, including, 35 sanderling, 6 turnstone, 16 redshank, four dunlin and a ringed plover.

It was too windy to do any seawatching, so I went back to the DIY....
48 reed bunting
49 lapland bunting
50 ringed plover

Sunday 3 January 2010

Skylarks on the move

My first visits to Druridge of 2010 today, I've not managed a patch visit thus far due to partying, a cold (caused by the partying no doubt) then dismal weather.

More snow over night, but the morning was quite bright, so despite having manflu, I braved a visit to Druridge. It was a bit gloomy when we arrived but crisp and snow was falling out to sea, the first year-tick was Davey Elliott who had just been watching a bittern at East Chev.

A bit gloomy but nice - my first view of Druridge this decade

We walked up to the Oddie hide and had our first flock of skylarks going over, about 16. The big pool was full of ducks, including a single scaup, four pochards and a dozen or so goldeneye.
The walk back to the car was very picturesque in the sunshine.



We went up onto the dunes for a look out to sea, with more flocks of skylarks, all going south, overhead. Our first scan produced some mentalists emerging from the sea...crazy! They're legs were so cold they looked like the redshanks on tideline brrrrr (I talked to a bloke who was with them and it was a charity stunt...still doesn't make them sane in my book). So bizarre behaviour at Druridge continues into 2010.

From the dunes we could actually see flocks of skylarks coming in off the sea, I picked up some so far out that they could not just have been cutting the corner from Coquet Island, these birds looked as if they've come from the continent. We had numerous flocks of 15-65 birds either flying south or west, this continued to dusk. I am always amazed by visible migration, but to see single species flocks on the move all at once like this was awesome. I reckon I counted at least 800 between 1100-1230 and 1330-1530. One poor individual was on the strandline, looking very bedraggled like it had crawled up the beach. We were cold so we went home for soup.

I enjoyed my morning visit so much I returned after lunch and walked along the dunes and beach, skylarks overhead virtually all the time. Where the burn runs out of the pool, I found a species I didn't see last year...rock pipit, there were two of them along the edge of the burn, I saw a third near the block house a the edge of a tidal pool, there were also meadow pipits along the beach and another good year tick - turnstone.

This poor seal isn't going to have a great 2010 - let's hope it fetches an ivory gull in!

I flushed a woodcock, another bird I didn't see in 2009, from the base of little sycamore in the dunes, obviously freshly arrived and I also spotted the colour ringed sanderling I first saw in August.
So hundreds of skylarks, lots of song thrushes and mistle thrushes on the patch and a freshly arrived woodcock...what else could come in?

Just as I was leaving at dusk, this flock of skylark came over

and there was still time for more bizarre behaviour!

yes...they were dragging their kids on a sledge behind their car!
Year list now stands at 47:
1 carrion crow
2 rook
3 blackbird
4 song thrush
5 mistle thrush
6 wren
7 robin
8 dunnock
9 pheasant
10 kestrel
11 mallard
12 coot
13 pochard
14 scaup
15 goldeneye
16 wigeon
17 teal
18 tufted duck
19 skylark
20 common gull
21 herring gull
22 magpie
23 gadwall
24 redshank
25 great black-backed gull
26 sanderling
27 dunlin
28 shag
29 red-throated diver
30 black-headed gull
31 pink-footed goose
32 redwing
33 goldfinch
34 cormorant
35 curlew
36 oystercatcher
37 lapwing
38 moorhen
39 grey heron
40 jackdaw
41 snipe
42 pied wagtail
43 meadow pipit
44 turnstone
45 rock pipit
46 woodcock
47 common scoter