Tuesday 23 February 2010

Off patch

There'll be no updates from Druridge for a little while. I'm all packed for my flight tomorrow to Fuerteventura, hopefully picking up the houbara bustards displaying and the Fuerteventura chat and you never know, maybe a oddity along the way. A yellow-billed stork has been hanging about there, that would be a nice addition to my western palearctic list!

I am quite relaxed about going away in February, it's a reasonably safe bet that nothing mega will turn up on the patch whilst I'm away. I've not recovered from the stress of last years glossy ibis turning up when I was in Spain and still go through bouts of depression at the thought of the lesser yellowlegs I missed when I was in China in 2008.

Sunday 21 February 2010

WeBS Day

Today was WeBS count day, both the Budge Fields and Big Pool were completely frozen again, though there were a few birds gathered on the ice, mainly teal and gulls. There were some curlews on the field to the west and some greylag geese on the fields to the north.

There were also about 2000 grey geese, mainly pink foots, on the fields N of the Haul Road, outside my recording area. I spotted one bean goose form the hide and was reliably informed there were at least two. I went for a better look at them (and to look for a reported merlin) from the end of the road, I had just gotten out of the car and started scanning when this happened.......

And why did they all fly up?

Because this whazack in a microlight came flying over. Microlights are a bloody menace, they always put everything up when they come over and with BTO/RSPB etc telling us to avoid disturbing feeding and roosting birds during cold weather it's just not on!

When I worked 'on the bay' there was some kind of a agreement with the local microlighting club that they shouldn't fly over the reserves on the bay and we used to report offenders to the club. I took this guys number down so will be giving them a call tomorrow.

Another thing got me thinking today, there was a gang of menacing looking marauding magpies at Druridge today, moving around the reserve looking for bother. If even a third of this lot hang around and breed, imagine the dint it could put in the number of lapwings getting away this spring. I wonder if NWT have a predator control policy on reserves? That's two phone calls to make tomorrow....

81 long-tailed tit

Friday 19 February 2010


Today, I had a day off work and woke to a nice, bright morning. I was given a choice, do the last visits to our atlas squares or paint the house.......

No Brainer!

The late winter visit would complete our Lanton/Copeland and Hethpool and West Hill squares. I've really enjoyed doing these two squares, they are quite different, even though they are adjacent to each other. Lanton and Copeland is in the river valley, an area I've not explored before and the Hethpool Linn square is very much an upland square with nice wooded valleys.

Looking down towards the Millfield Plain

Back up the track looking at Easter Tor

Today was much like most of this winter - very cold! with a bit of snow for good measure and I was interested to see how the birds had coped.

The most striking effect was the complete lack of a wren in either tetrad - not one seen, not one heard. Compare this to our early winter visit in early December when we had 5 in each tetrad, the cold spell as certainly hammered them.

Otherwise, around Lanton and Copeland there were good numbers of birds, highlights were 5 buzzards and a pair of great spotted woodpeckers - him drumming then chasing her round the wood. Despite the prolonged cold, there were plenty of chaffinches, house sparrows and even a few greenfinch.

Around hethpool, things were much quieter, a small flock feeding fieldfare were nice, but I was near the end of the square before I saw any more birds, but it was worth the wait - three ravens all together, it looked like two males displaying to a female, fantastic to watch.

Two red grouse on the flank on Easter Tor were the only other highlight. There were also lots of feral goats on Easter Tor, but this lone individual at Hethpool Linn wasn't phased by me as it howked lumps of bark from a tree.

My morning out was great, but by mid afternoon, I was back home, roller in hand, painting ceilings. Ho Hum.
Tomorrow I should have been at Druridge and getting paid for it! Coppicing the woods with our Young Rangers group, but due to the weather we have cancelled. So, what to do?

Painting or St James Park........No Brainer!

Sunday 14 February 2010

Ensemble of sawbills

I only managed to squeeze one visit to Druridge in over the weekend as painting and decorating is still top priority in my life at the moment.

We went to Druridge mid-morning today to meet up with Kevin the National Trust warden to discuss this winters coppicing programme in the woods. Kevin was with a group from the Northumberland Coast Conservation Team coppicing a block near the path to the hides.

Volunteers coppicing the wood - good work!

We had a look through the wood, flushing a woodcock out as we went, then checked the pools. On the big pool it was great to see all three of our regular sawbills on the lake together. The four smew were still present, joined by two drake red-breasted mergansers and drake goosander, it was nice to get goosander on the year list in February, they are normally an Autumn bird at Druridge. A buzzard flying north was also a year-tick.

smart drake merganser

Goosander and red-breasted merganser drakes

We had a quick look on the sea too and it was actually quite pleasant on the dune, despite the car saying it was only 6 degrees, there was some heat in the sun and it felt very spring like. There were at least 32 red-throated divers offshore and a handful of shags, it won't be long until the likes of kittiwake, gannet and lesser black-backed gull are making it onto the year list.

This was the sunset on Thursday evening on my way home from the office
79 goosander
80 common buzzard

Wednesday 10 February 2010

Norwegian Blackcap

Back in October 2004 Janet Fairclough and Gary Woodburn caught a first year male blackcap at the Druridge Links ringing site which was wearing a Norwegian Ring, Janet heard back from Norway this week with details of the bird:

It was ringed in Froyland, Sokndal, Rogaland, Norway on 17th October 2004 and Janet caught it at Druridge on 30th October, 13 days and 591km later.

Isn't migration a wonderful thing!

View My Saved Places in a larger map

Tuesday 9 February 2010

Early Birding Memory

Alan Tilmouth's latest post about the demise of Longhirst Flash brought back one of my earliest birding memories. I was about eight or nine I think, out with my friend Trevor and his dad who was a farmer at Alcan Farms.

His dad was ploughing a field (I think, it may have been seeding) just behind Longhirst Flash and Trevor and I were in the cab (which we were a lot of the time, no health and safety then), Billy, Trevor's dad, spotted a lapwing coming off a nest in front of the tractor, so we stopped and moved the nest and contents, ploughed the patch and Billy put it back, we watched and soon enough the adult came back down to the nest. Alcan Farms always ahd the biggest tractors in the area and still do, I wonder if the tractormen driving the big machines today would stop for a lapwing?

I went to Longhirst Flash a few times with Billy and Trevor because it was on Alcan's land and was looked after by the fishing club. My first ever trip to the Farne Island's was with Trevor and his family, who knows, without their influence I may have never taken up birding and my life would be much the poorer, I have a lot to thank them for!

Monday 8 February 2010

Smew, Smew, Barley, McGrew

I tried to get to Druridge this morning, but when I got to Cresswell Pond and saw that the pond now covers the road and a tranny van was struggling to make it, I turned around.

I did have an impromptu lunchtime visit, the Boulmer Birder texted to say there was a drake smew at Druridge, I presumed an adult drake so went for a look. Yesterday's four red-heads where there but no sign of any adult drakes. On closer inspection through the gloom, one of the redheads was a first winter drake, a quick call to Stewart and all was cleared up....ahh well, never mind.

I did notice an oyc wandering about on 'Douglas Island', is this the first bird to go onto the 'douglas island list'?

It was really too dull for photo's today, but I quite liked this pochard...quite atmospheric I thought.

Sunday 7 February 2010

Down Tools

Renovating my old house seems to have taken over my life at the moment, I spend all my days stripping, scraping, sanding, filling or painting.

Today was no different, Janet was just about to put the roller into the paint when I got a text message from RBA "4 smew at Druridge Pools" - tools were downed we were off, smew are scarce birds nowadays, so I needed to see these. They were still there when we arrived, all redheads, all at the far seaward edge of the pool so no photographs.

The last smew I saw at Druridge Pools was a redhead that hung around for a month or so in February and March 2006. When I used to work at Druridge Bay Country Park in the mid 1990's, smew were still regular there - not so these days.

On the way home, we needed to buy onions, so went to the farm shop at Widdrington - thankfully! As we got just passed Druridge hamlet there was a mini-twitch (at least three birders!) at the double bends, Mike Hodgson was there, the tundra bean goose that Davey Elliott had at Hempscotthill yesterday was now in the first field with a load of pink-foots, in fact, there had been four tundra bean geese reported, we could only pick out two amongst the pinks though. There was also eight barnacles and 3 dark-bellied brents, all welcome year-ticks.

I had a good look through the pink-feets for a white-front with no joy, it was cold, damp, day so we didn't hang around too long and after all, there was DIY to finish!

I did escape the DIY yesterday to grab an hour at Druridge but there was nothing out of the ordinary there, other than ADMc - a year tick!

I've just checked RBA and someone had a merlin at Druridge this afternoon, hope I manage to catch up with it!

75 smew
76 bean goose
77 barnacle goose
78 brent goose