Tuesday 27 April 2010

A day of two halves

This morning I did my fourth CBC survey at Druridge, I am now in Mawgan Porth in Cornwall.

The CBC survey didn't throw up anything unusual, there are now three singing sedge warblers, all of yesterdays yellow wagtails have shot through except for one, there were a couple of white wagtails about and ten or so wheatears.

As I was about to leave, the birds on the Budge fields all got up.....

Sillhoueted female marsh harrier

As this came through, a female marsh harrier. It came from the north, flew over the heronry sending them up into the air then flew high overhead picking up height over the dunes, sending the shelducks into a panic.

So a quick turn around and courtesy of Southwest Air's direct flight to Newquay I am now on the North Cornwall coast and very nice it is too! I walked along the South West Coast path for six mile sor so this evening, a gloriously sunny evening with ravens cronking overhead and stonechats aplenty in the gorse, I got loads of great photo's but this hotel computer hasn't got any decent software on it and I left the laptop at home.

North Cornwall Coast - stunning eh?

I am down here until Friday (it's work - so not all fun), then back home overnight before heading back south for a weekend on the lash with the boys in London for the toon's last game of the season at QPR, so Druridge will be somewhat neglected until Monday at least!

Monday 26 April 2010

A round up

I've had a very hectic weekend so much co that I am only getting around to updating the blog now. Yesterday I squeezed a visit to Druridge in between ringing at Gosforth park and going to see Ash at the Academy, who where excellent.

It was like proper spring at Gosforth Park with 2 or 3 grasshopper warblers reeling (we caught one), lots of sedge warblers and even a reed warbler.

Sedge warbler was back at Druridge yesterday and a fly over yellow wagtail was another year tick, six black-tailed godwits were on the Budge fields.

I called in for a couple of hours on my way back from work this evening too and I am pleased I did, at first it was looking very quiet indeed, these two black-wits at either end of the attractiveness scale didn't even bother to wake up!

I checked the sea and photographed some of the wheatears along the road, this first shot of a female looks like the Greenland race leucorhoa which always come through Druridge later than ours, the male might even be of this race too?

So by the time I got to the Budge Screen I hadn't seen much, as I was scanning a chap from Yorkshire came by, he thought he had seen a grebe from the little hide but wasn't sure, I picked up his bird which turned out to be a redhead smew!

arse on, but the only sharpish pic I got

redhead smew with tufted duck

A bit late for smew I was thinking, it'a been a good year for them in the County and particularly at Druridge. These photo's are digi-scoped record shots.

On the field between the Budge fields and the hamlet there were no less than 10 yellow wagtails! I think this could be a record number for the patch, I scanned through them all but could only find flavissimas...

I'm planning to my fourth CBC visit tomorrow morning, here's hoping for gropper!

110 yellow wagtail
111 sedge warbler

Friday 23 April 2010

Still cold but migrants are on the move

It was still BALTIC at Druridge tonight, the wind had come back out of the east and it was cold. However, this afternoon, I was out and about in Stewarts patch with work and, in sheltered areas, it was nearly summer-like.

The wind had moved a bit into the south at lunchtime and this seemed to push a few migrants through, hirrundines were everywhere and there were loads of willow warblers, chiffchaffs and blackcaps singing in Howick Dene.

Back to Druridge, there had been a mini-influx of wheatears with 10-12 on the backsof the dunes and fences along the road, despite there being up to 12 yellow wagtails at Cresswell, I couldn't find one at Druridge. A white wagtail was on the beach and other than a big female sprawk flushing the teal of the Budge fields there was little else to report.

Sunday 18 April 2010

Countis interruptus

I bumped into Andy McLevy at Druridge, just as the rain began, before I set off to count the ducks for WeBS count day. I was just in the hide when he was on the phone "there's a black-headed wagtail at Cresswell"...So the count was interupted and I headed south to Cresswell Pond.

It was worth it, the bird was absolutely stunning and gave excellent views to the gathering twitch. I did take some digi-scoped records shots but they were awful, for some quality shots check out John Malloy's blog. I've not seen this race of yellow wagtail in Britain before, shame it hadn't been a mile or so north!

I believe there is discussion about the exact racial identity of this bird, please get it sorted out and let me know what you all decide before I write my bit for the NTBC bulletin.

Back to Druridge, the WeBS count threw up nothing as exciting, a house martin was the only year-tick and there were no interesting waders, even the five black-tailed godwits Andy had seen earlier had gone. I found a meadow pipit nest with three eggs in it soI shall be keeping an eye on that.

109 house martin

Saturday 17 April 2010

CBC Visit No. 3

This morning I did my third common bird census (CBC) visit to Druridge. It was a cold start but soon brightened up and got warmer, the strengthening westerly wind meant I had the best of the day.

It was pretty quiet though, with very few migrants about, three singing willow warblers were mapped quite soon into the visit. I was out on the old haul road when things got a little bit more exciting, firstly two whimbrel flew north calling, then I noticed a skylark chasing another bird, which turned out to be a lapland bunting. It was certainly not a species I was expecting in mid-April, I had to do a double take, thankfully it posed for piccies for a short while. I bet there aren't many lapland buntings seen in Northumberland this late.

male lapland bunting on the haul road

Another nice bonus was three black-tailed godwits on the Budge fields.

By the time I got the survey finished I met up with ADMc and Roger Foster (bemoaning the surrender of his pager), a couple of swallows and some sand martins were moving through, no house martins yet though, Andy also picked a very high buzzard overhead.

It was also interesting to see how many shelduck are about at the moment, six were on the grass when I arrived and few were out in the dunes later. A couple flew over 'laughing' at me on the haul road - they weren't watching a lap bunting though.

Tomorrow is WeBS day so I'll have to go back to Druridge - Damn!

108 black-tailed godwit

Thursday 15 April 2010

A pair of handcuffs and an electric drill

A very quick visit to Druridge after work, it was quite cold, the strengthening north-easterly making is feel even colder, maybe the cloud of volcanic ash that has grounded all of the planes today was blocking out the sun?

Highlight of the visit was a whimbrel flying north, calling, my first of 2010 - nice to here them back! I think of all the waders we see here regularly whimbrel have the best call.

Apart from the odd one, all of the wigeon have gone from Druridge now and have been for a couple of weeks, I happened to drive past Bradford Kaims pond near Bamburgh today and wigeon were the numerous duck there... There were eight on the sea this evening and five red-breasted mergansers.

Now, regular readers of this blog will know that Druridge attracts its fair share of odd characters, not just the birders, but all kinds of deviants and it is good to know that nothing changes. Driving out tonight, I noticed something in the bushes, closer inspection revealed it to be a pair of handcuffs! Worth a photo I thought, when I got closer, I noticed, in the same tree, there was an electric drill.....draw your own conclusions!

The moth trap in the garden is producing a few hebrew characters and little else, one moth from this morning remains unidentified.

107 whimbrel

Monday 12 April 2010


Zugunruhe......or pre-migration restlessness, a word much-used (some would say over-used) by a colleague of mine, is what I think these whooper swans were exhibiting tonight.

They flew in to Druridge form the south and landed on the Budge fields, when we got to the screen hide they were swimming in random circles and making strange grunting noises, when we got to the little hide they were flying of......to Iceland?....Who knows?

Nothing much else to report at Druridge tonight, a big female sparrowhawk rattled the waders on the Budge fields, there was still a great-crested grebe on the big pool and a little grebe was trilling.

Great-crested grebe

Drake mallard

At the big dune hollow there was one white wagtail and one pied and by the gate a huge pile of bags full of dog shit.

It's rant time!


Last Friday, I noticed one bag there - not an uncommon sight at Druridge, today there must be 15 bags of shit. So, because one lazy bastard leaves a bag of shit behind, it is OK for everyone else to dump theirs there too? I really do despair, why go to all of the bother of picking it up only to leave it behind, in a bag, which will take half a millennium to break down.

I really feel like staking the place out one morning and naming and shaming some of these morons! They probably wouldn't care though...Scum!

Last night we had the moth trap on for the first time:

Hebrew Character 4
Common Quaker 1

Sunday 11 April 2010

A welcome boost to the year list

The combination of the toon at home, 10 pints of lager and a curry meant a later start at Druridge this morning than I would have liked, despite the late start and sore head I still managed to boos the year list by four. It was a sunny day but the cold SE wind made it chilly.

The first addition was pintail, a pair which were around yesterday, were still on the budge field, very smart they looked too! This crappy record shot does not do the drake justice.

Next, a quick look on the sea produced my first sandwich terns of the year, three of them and very little else. Walking towards the hides, there was a singing willow warbler in the trees by the panel, we were inland yesterday ringing at Stocksfield and heard a few then so nice to get them on the patch.

The first cowslips were in flower along the bank on the way to the hides and this snail was entertaining, colourful little fellow, I've not got a snail ID book so couldn't get him to species!

I had a quick look from the little hide and could see nothing out of the ordinary, so went to the Oddie hide, I hadn't been there long when Bob Dack walked in and said he had just been watching a drake garganey from the little hide, we went back and there it was, it must've been hiding when I looked. There were two reported on RBA tonight at Druridge and another at Hauxley

So all in all a good couple of hours on the patch, today is the last day of my week off work, back to the office tomorrow... ho hum.

103 pintail
104 sandwich tern
105 willow warbler
106 garganey

Friday 9 April 2010

second CBC visit

I did my second Common Bird Census at Druridge this morning, it was bright but cold with a strengthening westerly wind. There were more birds than last week but still a bit light on migrants, one singing chiffchaff with two non-singing birds, two wheatears, three sand martins passing through and my first patch swallow of the year.

Early morning on the beach before the dog-emptying masses arrive

Reed buntings are still there in good numbers with at least eight singing males, chaffinches and meadow pipits were numerous, the latter being very difficult to record accurately in the dunes. Other highlights included a water rail, shooting out of a ditch and six collared doves (four at the hamlet and two at High Chibburn Farm).

Collared doves at High Chibburn Farm - an increasingly regular sight on the patch

Interestingly there were only two singing male wrens and no willow warblers...yet!

101 swallow
102 water rail

Wednesday 7 April 2010

No more migrants but ton up!

I'm off work this week, so once the carpet fitters had finished fitting my new carpets I went of to Druridge for an hour or three.

I was hoping ( and expecting) to see a handful of new migrants but it wasn't to be, I had to make do with a white wag, a few wheatear and some straggling winter visitors in the form of 12 whooper swans who don't quite fancy the tundra yet!

I had a good tour of the patch, the GWE hasn't been seen in the last couple of days, the resident waders are settling down, a lapwing was sitting tight and snipe and redshanks are hanging about in reasonable numbers. My only year-tick of the day was three displaying stock doves.

Camouflaged Snipe!

The whoopers were all on the big pool, twelve in total, five of which were last-years young.

I had a look on the sea, the NE wind was bitingly cold and there was very little to see, I hung out for a sarnie tern until my face froze off, out of the wind behind the dunes, it was like a summers day!

I found two goldcrests in the bushes, impossible to photograph - this pic turned out to be a bit weird!!

These lichen caught my eye, I once did a 10 week lichen course, confused the hell out of me and I have largely ignored them since!

100 stock dove

Monday 5 April 2010

Great White returns

Yesterday's great white egret was back on the Budge Fields this morning, feeding quite happily on newts and frogs.

I paid it a courteous 10 minutes look before heading off in search of black redstarts, surely with such an unprecedented spring influx, there must be one at Druridge somewhere? I checked all of the likely bits of habo with no joy...

The egret had attracted a few onlookers including this lot (who saw a peregrine stooping on a short-eared owl whilst I was off looking for black redstarts...typical!).

Roger Foster did spot a sand martin going over though, first one on the patch this year.

These two didn't bother twitching the egret, way too much like hard work.

I had a quick look on the sea, there were four or five shags on the flat-calm water, in full summer plumage including wavy crest thing going on, you don't often see them in full breeding plumage at Druridge, they are normally a wintering species. My first 'patch' eiders of the year were on the sea and there were at least 18 red-throated divers. A gang of canada geese heading south added that species to the year list.

97 sand martin
98 canada goose
99 eider

Sunday 4 April 2010


How pleased am I that I got the call from Dave Elliott? The Great White egret only pitched into Druridge for an hour and half before flying south to Cresswell before heading back to Warkworth Lane ponds were Trevor first found it....Phew!

I've seen a few GWE's over the years in Northumberland, there seemed to be a run of annual occurrences in the SE of the county for a while, but, as far as I am aware that is a first ever for Druridge Pools, it certainly was for me.

Whilst admiring the new kid on the block, I managed to get some nice piccies of an old favourite - this singing (if you can call it singing!) male reed bunting

These displaying oystercatchers were amusing too, there were three of them, it would be great to see them breed, I am not sure they ever have at Druridge....

Saturday 3 April 2010

Great New Bird for the Patch

Stop Press News: New bird for the Druridge patch!

Great White Egret!

First found by Trevor Blake whilst out with his dogs at Warkworth Lane last night, then relocated to East Chevington NR this morning. I was just about to start painting and decorating when Davey Elliott called to say it had flown off south from Chev and may have dropped into Druridge....

Out the door in 30 seconds and on our way and thankfully it was on the Budge fields when we arrived, on the northern side at first before flying to the south near the shelterbelt.

It was quite happily feeding when we left. Quality patch tick!

Big thanks to Dave for the tip off

Patch list: 220

Year List: 96 great white egret

Friday 2 April 2010

Everywhere but Druridge!

Black redstarts...that's what! They're everywhere but Druridge (they've been there, I was in Birmingham).

There's half a dozen at Alnmouth, three's at Howick and Newton, several on the Farne Islands. So this morning I bashed the patch, especially the places that are good for black redstarts, like the hamlet, High Chibburn farm, the North end...not a one!

It was a lovely sunny morning but still bloody cold, eith the remains of ice on the pools and a bighting SW wind.

Of note at Druridge today was 25 Whoopers flying north (is that them away?), 45 Oyc's on the flooded fields by the haul road, a couple of wheatears and amazingly a goldcrest!

The new Druridge wetlands - if only they were a more permanent feature!

The Oycs like it

A word of warning, as well as the plebs who congregate at Druridge, there is a new danger for the unsuspecting birder - dangerous sheep!

When I was doing my Common Bird Census on Monday, I ventured into the paddock by the entrance and was attacked by three aggressive tupps! At first I thought they were just trying to mug for me food, but this one (the ringleader), headbutted me in the leg and then tried to bite me! Scaring them didn't work, so I moved away, only to be chased by all three, in the end I had to leg it out of the paddock with them all in hot pursuit! Evil, I tell ya....

**Latest update on the black redstart front - Low Newton 8-Druridge Pools 0

94 collared dove
95 goldcrest

Thursday 1 April 2010

Despite the freezing weather it is more like spring, this evening was cold but sunny and I managed my first proper after-work visit to Druridge of the year, a couple of hours of nice birding.

There were still a few wheatears on the short turf and a chifchaff or two in the woods. The Budge fields are the wettest I've seen them since the big floods of September 2008, there's not much room for breeding lapwings! The outflow burn is running out hard across the beach though.

The Budge, and surrounding fields, held a lot of black-headed gulls, a scan through the southerly mob produced nothing new, on my way to the little hide, I looked up and saw a large raptor overhead, it just wasn't right for buzzard, it was female marsh harrier - it soon lifted everything off the fields and 14 of the grey herons out of the heronry.

By the time I reached the little hide, it had vanished, but judging by the amount if birds in the sky over Bell's and Cresswell ponds I bet it had gone that way! The herons hadn't settled because some geezer was in the wood nicking timber, everything else had settled though and so had I, to scan through the gulls....BINGO! the first one I got my scope on was a adult Med gull!

I went off looking for snow buntings on the beach or a black redstart maybe, but turned up nothing new. Nice birding though...

The car said it was 7.5 degrees when I left - it felt more like .75!

I am off work for the next week so expect more regular updates from the patch

91 lesser-black-backed gull
92 marsh harrier
93 Mediterranean gull