Sunday 25 December 2011

Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas to you all.

A quick festive stroll around the patch this morning. We got sand-blasted on the ebach by a force 6-7 westerly, a few sanderlings were the only birds of note.

On the Budge fields, we showed my father the wildfowl. By the time we left he identified teal, wigeon, mallard, shoveler and pintail there were three of the latter, all drakes.

Time for wine.......

Sunday 18 December 2011

A Yank! But not the one I wanted.

There was a Yank on Druridge Pools this afternoon, not quite the one I wanted though. It looks as though the greater yellowlegs has moved north (why?) so no chance of it now. So I had to make do with a green-winged teal. 

A good year-tick and WeBS bird though and my first at the Pools since 2008. It must be the same drake that has been hanging around at East Chevington for the last month or so. It was asleep on the far bank for most of the time I was there, so I only managed this very-poor record shot.

Can you spot him? green-winged teal
This Eurasian teal was a bit easier to photograph.
Eurasian teal
If only this had been a yellowlegs.

As I wandered up to the pools, I got onto a chiffchaff making its way along the bund. It wasn't a greyish bird as I might of expected and hoped for, it was very yellow-green-olive with quite pale legs. It flew off before I managed a better picture than this.
December Chiffchaff

There wasn't much else of note today. A few long-tailed tits moved through the bushes with lesser redpolls and other finches for company. Offshore, there were a few red-throated divers, shags and mergansers.

160 green-winged teal

Sunday 11 December 2011

What's wrong with Druridge Pools?

What is wrong with Druridge Pools?

Before you switch off, this isn't a rant about the lack of grazing.

Mr (or Mrs) Greater Yellowlegs mustn't like the look of something. It has been commuting between Hauxley, Druridge Bay Country Park, Chev and Cresswell Pond for the last three weeks, so it must be flying over Druridge Pools, why has it never landed?

I've just looked its movements up on the RBA website and it has never been reported from Druridge, so I am presuming it hasn't been seen there - unless somebody knows otherwise (do let me know). Today, it was a stones-throw away, on a small flash pool just north of Hemscotthill Farm. How frustrating! I could see the twitchers watching it from the little hide. Is this as close as I am going to get to it? The chances of seeing it fly over as it commutes along the bay are very, very slim.

The water level on the big pool is as low as it has been all year, so there is loads of 'edge'. Three redshanks thought it good enough this afternoon, so why not a yellowlegs. Maybe it's a snob, come from Boston or New England and doesn't like the look of down-trodden, rough-around-the-edges Druridge pools?

My mood was lightened by a year-tick, snow buntings at long last. Six of them flew off from the beach over the dunes towards the big pool. A patch-record was also broken today with a mahooosive count of 21 collared doves at High Chibburn Farm, easily smashing the previous total.

There was a huge flock of mixed finches on Hemscotthill links, including about 60 twite, certainly worth a scan through them if your passing.

Sunday 27 November 2011

WeBS...week late

Wind, dark days, conferences, football, hangovers, new chainsaw.....

All added up to me doing my WeBS count a week later than when it should have been done. The wind has died down by early afternoon which made birding a bit more pleasant.

Not much wildfowl about, only a handful of ducks on the Budge fields. This is due to the amount of thick rush around the edge of the scrapes and vegetation in them. Horses and sheep are OK at grazing grassy swards, but they are selective grazers, nibbling away at the tasty soft-stuff and leaving the rest.

NWT really need to get in and control the rushes, they have done some cutting but only a drop-in-the-ocean. The ground is still dry, they could get a tractor-mounted flail in there if they are quick. Ideally some highland cattle should then be brought in to munch any re-growth.

The water levels on the big pool are the lowest they have been all year, which shows how dry this autumn has been. There's lots of 'edge', ideal for any greater yellowlegs that are passing over (hint). Highlight of the WeBS count was a water rail, poking about on the edge of the reedbed. Water rail is often heard at Druridge but rarely seen, so it was nice to watch this one. Also of note was a shelduck, a very rare bird in winter at Druridge.

Not sure when I'll be back on the patch. It'll be March before I can do any pre or post-work birding again.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Druridge...where's that?

It's so long since I was last on my patch I might not remember where it is next time I get a chance to go.

Last weekend was taken up with a trip to see the Toon end their unbeaten run at Manchester City followed by the Northern England Raptor Conference in Durham on Sunday (followed by the Lumiere least some of it).

I had a chance to twitch the eastern black redstart on Holy Island this morning. As regular readers of the twaddle will know, I rarely twitch, even in Northumberland, but this bird looked a cracker. I only had an hour and a bit on the Island before the causeway closed, it pissed it down the whole time I was there. It cleared quickly as soon as I was off the island and there was blue sky before I finished my work on the mainland.

No news either way on RBA of the bird today, so looks like I've dipped again.

Hopefully I'll do a belated WeBS count at Druridge before work tomorrow.

Sunday 13 November 2011


I've not spent much time at Druridge this weekend....

On Friday morning, I had a couple of hours pre-work birding. It was a pretty miserable morning and there were few birds about. I tramped the beach and other likely snow bunting habitat with no success.

On Saturday it was too windy to put the nets up,  we were just about to head to Druridge when the RBA Mega alert went's bound to be in Cornwall we thought... Probable GreaterYellowlegs, East Chevington... quickly followed by a call from Blakey to confirm it. When we got there it had just flown onto south pool, with no visible edge. It was spotted flying back onto the north pool and we were soon enjoying great views of it on the edge of the pool. Superb!

A County and Western Pally tick for me.

Whilst we were watching the yellowlegs, I got a message from Choppington's finest wildlife guide, to tell me he had just seen a nuthatch at Druridge...GRIPPED! Nuthatch would be a patch-tick for me. MSK wasn't as keen to gloat when I told him what we were watching!

Would I swap a greater yellowlegs at East Chev for a nuthatch at Druridge? Probably not.....

To wet to ring today and probably just as well, as one of the ringing team had too much to drink the previous night and for once, it wasn't me!!! We had a wander around Lynemouth Sewage Works in the mizzle. We need to find a way to catch pied wags, there were 18-20 on the filter beds (nice!). As we checked out potential net rides, a few blackbirds and robins moved through as well as a blackcap. Lynemouth is really hard to bird as the willow is so dense, I think ringing will be the only way to reveal what is really lurking in there.

Hopefully, if the weather behaves, we'll be ringing there tomorrow morning.

Sunday 6 November 2011


Ringing didn't happen this morning....I'm blaming the 12.45 kick off for yesterdays match.

I did make it to Druridge eventually though. I wasn't too bladdered to look through the RBA reports for yesterday, snow buntings appeared to be everywhere, so that was my challenge today - find snow buntings at Druridge. I've not seen snow bunting on the patch since 2007.

Despite checking all of the potential snow bunting habitat, nothing. The glorious autumnal sunshine had brought every dog owner this side of the Cheviots down to Druridge to empty their pooches, so any snow bunts on the beach will have been well gone by the time I crawled down there.

There were some other white birds on the beach though, a small group of sanderling seemed nonplussed by the dogs and their owners and allowed me to get quite close.

Sanderling on the beach at Druridge

They spent most of their time asleep - probably worn out after the 100th dog of the day had chased them

Caught one awake
I love the way they do little jumps when they run!

Friday 4 November 2011


A day offuv work today, the weather forecasts earlier in the week looked promising for some migrant action on the North-East Coast, but it turned into a bit of a damp squib...literally!

I trudged around the patch in the drizzle anyway. Last weekend's bullfinch has been joined by another male, they looked well chunky, but not 'northerns'. Bully is still a very scarce bird at Druridge, a species not logged every year!

A flock of about 18 long-tailed tits moved through the bushes, and, despite ringing 37 in the last 15 days or so, not one of this lot sported any jewellery! I reckon flocks are just moving down the coast, not stopping in the same area for long. If we hadn't ringed any of these birds, one would have assumed that, on consecutive visits,  the lotti flock was the same group of birds - not so!

Two chiffchaffs (both sporting jewellery) were the only other highlight. There was no sign of the mixed siskin/redpoll flock.

An early start (9.30 bus!) for the footie tomorrow - so that's Saturday written off, hopefully we'll be ringing on Sunday.

Sunday 30 October 2011

Weekend catch-up

My first chance to catch up with the blog after a hectic weekend.

With the prospect of 'fall conditions' for the end of last week, I took both Thursday and Friday mornings off work. Sadly the big fall didn't happen, but there was a bit of an 'influx' of birds. On Thursday, there were song thrushes, blackbirds, wrens, robins and dunnocks moving through the bushes, no warblers to be had, which was disappointing. A couple of big finch flocks were nice though, with 70-80 goldfinch, 30+ siskin and 18 or so lesser redpolls amongst them, I grilled all of the redpolls but couldn't find a mealy.

On Friday morning, we were ringing. The first net-round was very productive and the pick of the crop was this treecreeper.

This is only my second-ever treecreeper at Druridge, the first one was in 2008 and also came from a net. The bright-white supercillium on this bird would suggest it was a northern European familiaris race bird,  the underparts where tinged-brown, but not extensively.

There was steady skylark passage over all morning. After I left for work, Janet caught a few finches and a flock of 16 long-tailed tits, this takes the long-tailed tit tally to 37 between 15th and 28th of October.
lesser redpoll

female siskin

I had a bit of a wander about the patch today. I felt as though I had neglected the pools and the sea in favour of the bushes lately, having checked neither since I got back from Jordan. On the sea, there was a single great northern diver and 13 or so red-throats, also eight red-breasted mergansers.

On my way to the pools, I spotted a stunning male bullfinch in the bushes, a welcome year-tick and a bird I didn't see in 2010. On the pools, there was a lot of wildfowl, the wigeon numbers are building (189) but there weren't many teal yet. Due to the lack of cows and minimal rush control, the Budge fields aren't attracting any wildfowl at all.

Archaeology time....

This ships mast has been uncovered on the beach at Druridge by the shifting sands (probably as a result of the recent easterlies). It is quite ornate, I wonder if it still connected to the ship?

Ships mast uncovered on the beach at Druridge. 

158 treecreeper
159 bullfinch

Ringing totals for Friday (retraps in brackets)

blackbird 11 (2)
robin 4 (1)
treecreeper 1
blackcap 2
long-tailed tit 16
redwing 1
dunnock 1
blue tit 5 (3) + 1 control (probably from Hauxley - but we will see!)
wren 2
goldfinch 2
siskin 6
lesser redpoll 3
great tit (1)
goldcrest (3)
coal tit (1)

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Many, many beiards

I'm back.... I've been to Jordan...where there were many, many, beiards (as the Jordanians told us constantly - they were right and they were the friendliest people I have met). But more of that later.

The weather conditions as forecasted last night, looked good for the possibility of many, many beiards on the east coast – so I took a flyer from work and headed to the patch.

It wasn’t as good as it could have been, tomorrow might be better? I only managed to get from the plantation at the entrance to the track to the Oddie hide. There has been an influx of birds, most evident were blackbirds, robins, goldcrests and blackcaps. Fieldfares and redwings were flying over in small groups.

Bird of the evening was a short-eared owl, disturbed from its perch in the bushes, it flew out onto the Budge fields and just sat there. Of course, my camera battery was flat so no pics.

An awesome spectacle reminded that patch-watching and birding isn’t just about rare birds. The common starling, albeit over 3000 of them, was perhaps the highlight, as they came into roost in the tiny reedbed in the corner of the big pool. I had hidden myself away and watch flock, after flock, come into roost. It was complete chaos as they jostled and moved for position and then….silence…..amazing!

Let’s see what tomorrow brings!

Jordan was awesome! Great country, great birding and fantastically friendly people. A wadge of Western-Pally ticks for me  including little green bee-eater, Palestine sunbird, white-cheeked bulbul, yellow-vented bulbul, Arabian warbler, Arabian babbler, Asian desert warbler, Tristram’s serin,  Indian silverbill (tarts tick) and Armenian gull. Bird of the trip probably went to the northern Jordan endemic race of desert lark ‘annae’ – they were really cool.

Common...and not so common. Sinai rosefinch and great tit at Dana

Sinai rosefinch feeding station...some of the 230 bieards in Wadi Rum birds and they were everywhere

Bird of trip...annae race of desert lark in the 'Basalt Desert'
156 redwing
157 fieldfare

Monday 26 September 2011

Been a long time

It's been along time since I posted anything on the blog. I was bored with our English summer (cough) so decided to head down to Tarifa in Spain to watch some migration in the sunshine.

Back to Druridge on Saturday. Janet was doing a ringing demo for an NWT group, I got the job of extracting the tit flock from the nets before going to work. I didn't even get to ring anything. Any ringer will tell you that blue tits are the most vicious of birds and will quickly find any wound on your hands to have a go at!

I also managed to call in briefly on the way home from work on Saturday afternoon. Martin Kitchen had reported black-throated divers and a minke whale in the bay earlier in the day so I thought a quick look on the sea might be useful. A few red-throats and decent scoter flock of 230+ birds kept me busy, there were also a handful of teal and wigeon in with them.

The highlight of the day came when I was walking back through the dunes and a blokes springer spaniels flushed a bird from the bushes in front of me. Merlin was my initial reaction, until I got the bins on it and saw it was a cuckoo!

phone-scoped cuckoo
It landed some way off on a bush, where it sat long enough for me to get some crappy phone-scoped shots. I was thinking it was very late for a cuckoo, thoughts of oriental cuckoo came to mind, but I couldn't turn it into anything other than a very late common cuckoo.

Sunday 11 September 2011


An early start at Druridge this morning, making the most of the calmer conditions before the gale force winds arrived.

Walking along the road, it was soon evident that there were a lot of birds on the move. Linnets were the most obvious at first, with small parties moving south, hardly any of them stopping to feed, a few goldfinches among them too. Then a group of 12 lesser redpolls moved through, stopping briefly in the bushes.A couple of grey wagtails, my first of 2011, flew south, calling as they went.

There were also lots of hirundines and pipits moving through, along the dunes and over the bushes. I climbed to the top of the highest dune to give myself a good vantage point. I sat there for two and a half hours, just watching the spectacle of visible migration.

I always struggle to count such large numbers of birds on the move, the same with sea-watching unless I keep a tally. Swallows were the most numerous and I estimated about 350-400 per hour, then probably 150/hour house martins and less again of sand martin. I reckoned on about 100-150/hour for meadow pipits.

Throughout the morning small parties of linnet flew south and few goldfinches (but these could have been local birds?). I also had three more grey wagtails, a collared dove, three skylarks and a merlin.

There were also a LOT of racing pigeons, mainly headed south, they were just clearing the top of the dune, so close I got a couple of gliffs.

Also of note this morning was a male marsh harrier and about 360 canada geese on the stubble fields, moved on by a man with a gun, they dispersed into smaller parties.

154 grey wagtail
155 lesser redpoll

Saturday 10 September 2011

The fourth falcon

After yesterdays three falcon day, one of the first birds I saw at Druridge today was a juvenile peregrine, falcon number four of the weekend.....I'll struggle to get a fifth!

On the sea this morning were about 12 little gulls, just floating about, surely the same group that were on the beach yesterday. A brief seawatch produced little other than a stonking pale pomarine skua, picked up travelling south, before resting on the sea just off where I was stood. gannets were feeding and loafing very close to the shore, many of them were grey juvs. A great-crested grebe was on the sea.

The bushes were quiet, a few chiffs and a blackap or two. A few meadow pipits and a stonechat on the dunes.

One the big pool, a female scaup was the highlight. There were a few female tufties with a lot of white around the base of bill and a pucker scaup amongst them. Over by the haul road, male marsh harrier was hunting and getting harassed by crows.

A huge storm passed-by, to the west of Druridge, then around to the north over Coquet Island. It appeared dark on its leading edge, but the sky was white behind it, I wonder if it was hail stones? During the storm, the wind really picked up and moved from the south-east around to the south-east....very odd.

Friday 9 September 2011

Three Falcons or Thirteen Little Gulls

A three-falcon day at Druridge today vied with 13 little gulls on the beach for the highlight of the day.

The first falcon came this morning and was the scarcest, a hobby, a juvenile picked up scattering a group of hirundines, before heading strongly south. This is my fourth hobby of the year at Druridge (although two records were undoubtedly the same individual). Before this year I'd only ever seen four hobbies at Druridge in all of the years I've birded it.

I dropped into Druridge this evening, a lovely evening with great light. The hirundines again alerted me to a raptor, a small falcon among them, then dropped to fly behind the trees, a merlin, which was seen again later perched on a hawthorn in the dunes, Finally, as dusk approached, a kestrel was hovering over the paddock south of the plantation.

This morning, I had a scan through the gulls on the beach. I got onto three little gulls, an adult and 2 juvs. They were dip-feeding into the pools left behind, presumably taking small sand eels? I counted the red-throated divers (33) on the sea and a slavonian grebe, when I went back to the gulls, there were 13 little gulls all feeding in the same way.

This afternoon, I treated Janet to a romantic Lynemouth Sewage Works. Lynemouth and sewage,it doesn't get better than that!

We've now got permission to ring there, so I was doing battle with brambles - they won! We caught five birds whilst we sorted the nets out. The site looks excellent, all we need now is some easterly winds.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

A tern up for the books

Once the rain cleared this evening, I popped down to Druridge, my first  visit since Birdfair. (Actually, not strictly true, I called in on my way home from work but it was hoying it down with rain, so I went home for tea).

It was too late to check the bushes for passerines, so I had a look through the gull roost on the beach, again 90% common gull, not so many as last week, maybe 1400 at Druridge with another 2000 or so off Chev. 

In among them was a juvenile black tern, there was only seven or so terns in the whole roost, so for one of them to be a black tern was a really good find. I've had a couple of black terns before in the gull roost in Autumn  always juveniles, but this is my first since 2007.

Also on the beach, three whimbrel and 11 sanderling were noteworthy.

Black tern puts me on 150 for the year, which is excellent for Autumn, given that i have finished on 158 or 157 for the last three tears. I am still missing some nailed-on passage and wintering species so this could be a very good year!

150 black tern

Whilst I was at Birdfair, Dave Elliott was good enough to let me know that he was watching a cracking wood warbler at Druridge. Wood warbler would have been a patch tick for me.....humph....

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Coitus interruptus

I am not sure who got the biggest shock, but I know who was the most embarrassed!

I called at Druridge tonight on my way home from work, first stop was the Oddie hide to check for waders. As I approached the hide I thought I heard a noise, stopped, nothing, so went straight in.... discover a young couple in, shall we say, a compromising position, . It was very amusing as I said "Oops, sorry, did I disturb you? Will you be long?". The poor girl was left to respond, as the chap was lurking behind the boards. "2 minutes she replied sheepishly".

I beat a retreat to the little hide, to allow them time to 'gather their things'. They had obviously come prepared, complete with a blanket on the floor. Even with a blanket on the floor, the Oddie hide isn't the most romantic of spots, it stinks of piss for a start. Maybe they wanted to get caught? It wasn't like it was late at night, it had just gone 6pm! Not the strangest thing I've seen at Druridge over the years, but amusing nonetheless.

They soon fled, leaving the hide smelling of sweat and perfume. Shutters quickly opened to reveal a common sandpiper on the bank, the only wader to be seen.  Also noteworthy was the gathering of little grebes, at least 12.

On the Budge fields, a creamy-crowned marsh harrier was hunting. There must be life on there somewhere, damned if I can see it.

Offshore, the red-throated diver count was up to 19 and there were four Arctic skuas.four ringed plover were on the beach.

I'm off to the British Birdfair for the weekend, If you are heading to the fair, pop along to the Birdwatching Northumberland stand (Marquee 1, 53 & 54)and say hello.

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Hobby again

We had trip to Lynemouth Sewage Works tonight to check out hirundine activity, of which there was very little. So we headed up to Druridge and much the same as the previous two nights 2500+ martins and swallows over the pool between 8.30 and 9pm. They were all into roost by 9.10 tonight and we had a hobby through the flock again at about 8.50 pm.

So if any Northumbrian birders still need hobby for their year lists, get down to Druridge for about 8.15 pm tomorrow night, get up onto the dunes and watch the flock, it's an amazing sight. And if you get bored of small birds, turn around and scan through 4000 gulls on the beach (so long as there aren't too many dog-emptiers).

If anyone is down at Birdfair this weekend, pop by and say hi. I'll be on the Birdwatching Northumberland Stand, Marquee 1 stands 53 and 54 for the whole weekend.

Monday 15 August 2011

More big roosts

Still no internet connection, still waiting for BT, so another post from my phone.

Two huge roosts at druridge tonight again. On the beach well over 2000 common gulls came into roost with a handful of black-headed and large gulls. Too much disturbance on the beach within the patch, so the biggest gathering were to the north at Chibburn Mouth and to the south.

Also at dusk, circa 2500 hirrundines came into roost again in the small reedbed. I would guess about 60-65% sand martins. Quite a sight against a red sky. No hobby tonight, just an idiot in a landrover driving through the dunes!

Sunday 14 August 2011

Amazing spectacle

The internet is down at home, so this is coming from my mobile, so will be brief. There was an amazing spectacle at druridge tonight, at least 2000 hirrundines roosted in the little reedbed tonight. Before they roosted, they flew over the pool, they were rattled by a hobby which seemed to be enjoying itself.

There was also a single swift in with the flock. On the pool this afternoon, there was 2 common and 1 green sandpiper, not spotshanks though. We ringed on friday before it rained, we only caught 5 birds, hardly worth the effort.

Tuesday 9 August 2011


An evening visit to Druridge tonight started with a bit of a seawatch. It didn't look promising as I drove towards the patch, there was a fine mist coming of the surf and I feared poor visibility, but on closer inspection it was OK, if you looked straight out to sea. Much to the north and south was obscured.

Three very close manx shearwaters made up my mind that it was worth it. Shortly after that, two bonxies powered north in quick succession and then a few more manxies supported by one or two fulmars and roseate terns. 

Then, about half way out, low over the water, came a skua - different flight this time, deep wingbeats and looking purposeful, it had very pale underparts, almost white. It looked good for a pom. It frustratingly disappeared into the deep troughs, but when it re-emerged level with me it showed really well... Pom, in the bag.

After an hour or so, the visibility worsened considerably and I had only added a few more manxies, 70 odd oystercatchers and a roseate tern or two, so I packed up and headed for the Oddie hide.

Still lots of wagtails around the edge and in the reedbed including at least 20 yellow wags, mostly juveniles. There was also reed bunting, meadow pipits, reed, sedge, willow and grasshopper warbler around the edge of the pool. 

No sign of the oft reported spotshank again, only a single dunlin, 2 ruff and a greenshank on the wader list. It's spotted crake time of year so the edge is certainly worth checking.

Closer to home, I have heard a quail calling in the fields nest to my house since Thursday - I'm glad I live in the sticks sometimes, I might not have a bus service after 7pm but I've got quails and there's no hoodie-clad chavas nicking x-boxes!

Tuesday 2 August 2011

Home to roost

A late evening visit to Druridge today, in fact it was nearly dark when I left but still 17 degrees C! It was muggy and misty and visibility was poor, meaning the gull roost couldn't be grilled.

I did see another roost though and it was way more spectacular. It started on the big pool, where I saw many wagtails around the edge of the pool, mostly pied juveniles but also a few yellow wags, including some adults.

As I watched them, I noticed some heading for the reedbed. I say reedbed, this is a small patch of Phragmites in the corner of the pool, maybe only 40m square. Many more wagtails were dancing about over the reed before going to roost, joined by the others from around the pool. I estimated that at least 60, quite possibly many more, went into roost. The yellow wagtail count was at least 20, maybe 25. This is remarkable for Druridge!

After they roosted I went up to the dune to check what I could of the gull roost, however, a big flock of agitated hirundines took my attention. They weren't agitated like they are when there is a hobby about, just 'busy'. I watched them fly around for a bit, estimating there to be about 600, mainly swallows, before they too flew down into the tiny patch of reeds to roost. Amazing!

I've seen smaller flocks roost in this reedbed, but never this many. I'll be checking it out again tomorrow. Tomorrow, I am walking deep into the 'Boulmer Birders' patch, as I am leading a guided walk from Warkworth to Craster, hope I find something tasty along the way!

Monday 1 August 2011

Weekend Catch-up

These long, light, evenings are making it impossible to catch on paperwork and blog writing, shouldn't grumble though, I'd much rather be out birding than writing about it.

So, back to Friday, a northerly continued all day, so I though an hours seawatching before tea would be worthwhile, it wasn't. The best bird was yellow wagtail over. I guess Fridays northerly was quite localised.

After tea, we had an aborted attempt to catch storm petrels. Aborted due to a technology failure, we need to find a louder recording to use as a lure..oh well, at least everything else worked. There was a BIG gull roost on the beach at dusk and a barn owl hunted through the dunes.

A lie-in on Saturday then a good wander around the patch, it was very quiet, especially for passerines in the bushes. On the main pool there was a gang of juvvy pied wagtails and a stock dove with plenty of hirundines feeding over the water.

A quick look offshore produced a close great-crested grebe and a few red-throated divers but nothing was moving, until, I was just about to pack up when a sooty shearwater went north, really close in. So I though I give it a bit longer, 40 minutes longer and only a handful of manxies and 3 roseate terns to show for it.

On Saturday evening we ringed at Ellington Pond and on Sunday I was ringing at Gosforth Park.

On Sunday afternoon, a strong SE had picked up so I thought I would have look on the sea again at high tide. Again, little was moving, though there was a movement from oystercatcher with about 70 going south in small groups, 3 turnstone also flew south, my first of the autumn and first of the year at Druridge.

Late evening I returned to check out the gull roost, gulls arrived steadily as dusk approached and were still arriving when I packed up at half-nine. The majority were common gull, I estimated 1800 (and this was only the birds in the patch, not the birds roosting at Chibburn Mouth), there were also 450 black-headed and smattering of large gulls. Two Mediterranean gulls were my first of the year and whimbrel flew south.

142 sooty shearwater
143 turnstone
144 mediterranean gull

Tuesday 26 July 2011


The east coast stormie fest continued yesterday whilst I was at work/pub quiz. How long would it last?

I wasn't going to go to Druridge this morning, I thought I would go for an evening seawatch instead.

A text from Dave Elliott at 8am changed that plan "still stormies in the bay".....I had to go. The first 20 minutes nothing, then the first storm petrel, then another. Three in ten minutes, a full on PATCH TICK, my second of the year following hot on the heals of the white stork back in May.

So I went to work a very happy boy. I returned to Druridge this evening, at about 6pm, for my planned evening seawatch and it was very quiet, other than a south-bound bonxie - nothing, nada, zilch. The visibility gone by 7.30pm as a light mizzle set in.

If Dave hadn't texted or I had ignored it and gone straight to work, it would have been a very different story.

140 STORM PETREL (No. 224 for the patch)
141 Bonxie


Storm petrel finally on the Druridge list. More on this story later!

Monday 25 July 2011

My best chance?

Today was probably my best chance of adding storm petrel to the Druridge List. An overnight northerly had pushed them into the north sea and this morning they were being noted from coastal watch points in BIG numbers.

I spent most of the morning in bed, I've just returned from the Netherlands on a work trip, with little sleep in the last 3 days so I took the choice of a lie-in.

I eventually made it down to Druridge by 12.30, staying til 14.00. The light was crap, I did see a handful of manx shearwaters and 4 velvet scoters. I also had another try this evening for an hour and a half before dusk, again with no success. Druridge is never going to the seabirds that are seen at Newbiggin or even Snab point, a few miles south and visible from Druridge. I think today, if I had been down there early enough, I might have mailed a stormie?

139 velvet scoter

Monday 11 July 2011

Cuckoo confusion

Apologies for the lack of blog-action over the last couple of weeks, work and other commitments has meant little time to visit Druridge and even less time for blogging and it isn't going to get any better over the next two weeks.

To make up for long-days, I took a half-day today to get the nets up at Druridge. Ringing was slow, catching ten or so warblers, sedge, willow, whitethroat and blackcap. We bumped into Mike Hodgson, he spotted a cuckoo flying over the road, first at Duridge this year, I remarked "hope it's flown into out net" - well it did.

Ageing and sexing it has proved somewhat tricky however. We are sure it isn't a juvenile or an adult male. Which leaves the female, which in cuckoo comes in two morphs - grey, very much like the male, and brown or rufous.

Our bird showed some of the characteristics of a brown morph female but not all, more like something in between. A trawl of internet images hasn't helped much, other than apparently ruling out a juvenile due to the lack of white fringing on the upperparts. Looking at Collins, the brown morph is barred dark/rufous brown and the upper tail/rump are also rufous brown, our bird had a grey/brown uppertail and rump.

This bird has a grey/brown uppertail. This one closely resembles our bird and has been labelled 'hepatic morph female'

Seemingly there is much variation - Any thoughts?

This is the second cuckoo caught and ringed at Druridge, Janet caught an adult may here in July 2007. This one was a ringing-tick for me.

Here are a couple of other photos from today's ringing.

juvenile robin

Fresh juvenile sedge warbler

juvenile blackcap
Other highlights today, Janet saw an adult hobby at close quarters, before it headed towards the dunes then south. I was checking the nets at the north end... There was also an adult merlin hanging about -  I always think that mid July is a good time for merlins on the coast.

Last night, about 8.30pm, the sea was like a millpond, with a light pink sky as the sun started to set. I was watching a 'gang' of arctic skuas harassing the terns on their way north to Coquet Island - I counted at least six by the end of the night. The highlight was mammalian, rather than avian - a pod of white-beaked dolphins about half-way out, visible with the naked eye because the sea was so flat. At first they were in a tight group, with much activity, before spreading out over 300-400 metres. Amazing!

yesterday I had both green and wood sandpipers on the big pool and on Saturday evening I watched a little egret going into roost in the heronry  -amazingly, my first of the year!

133 garden warbler
134 great-spotted woodpecker
135 little egret
136 green sandpiper
137 merlin
138 cuckoo

Sunday 3 July 2011

Busy times

I've been rushed off my feet of late, so both Druridge and my blog have suffered as a result. I did a territory mapping session last Thursday and had a quick visit on Friday morning. Then it was back to Scotland, Dunbar this time to ring kittiwakes. Today was an atlas work, the last atlas work until the next atlas. I was in the Goldscleugh Valley in the Cheviots.

Tonight I had an hour or so at Druridge, the highlight was ten or so white-beaked dolphins offshore. Hopefully I'll catch up the blog with some pictures and a better update before I head off to Cornwall on Tuesday for three days. Hectic times!

Monday 27 June 2011

It's been a while.....

Sorry for the lack of blog activity lately. A combination of ringing (not at Druridge), work and a twitching weekend to Scotland has meant little time to get onto the patch and i can't see things improving this week much either.

The twitching trip was mixed bag. On the plus side, king eider at Ythan was a new bird for me. On the negative side we dipped the white-winged scoter. It was great to see four surf scoters though, 3 adults and first summer and at least 60 velvets.

It was nice to hear corn buntings singing in the UK again, now they are extinct in Northumberland. There is a nice little stronghold of them in Aberdeenshire.

Hopefully back on the patch on Wednesday morning.....

Sunday 19 June 2011

Dodged the showers

I dodged the showers this afternoon, only for an hour mind, then the heavens opened. 
Dark, omminous skies at #druridge #northumberland
Foreboding skies
I managed a quick look offshore and had my first arctic skua of the year, a pale-phase bird harassing terns half-way to Norway. I also had one, maybe two, harbour porpoise breaking the surface.

I went to check the bushes and the heavens opened. It looks like it's going to be a changeable week ahead....

132 arctic skua

Saturday 18 June 2011

A great hobby

I had the best weather of the week to do my territory mapping exercise yesterday morning, a lovely sunny morning. 

No 'fawn yawns' yet
Two large flocks, one of linnets and one of starlings, were on the short grass by the entrance, the latter were all juveniles. It'll be worth checking through these starling flocks soon for 'fawn yawns'.A single spoonbill was still loitering on the Budge fields.
surprisingly awake - spoonbill on the Budge fields
Still sedge, willow and grasshopper warblers, whitethroat and blackcap singing and a pair of reed warblers in the little reed bed. This lapwing was showing off in front of the Oddie hide.
"Look at me, aren't I smart" said the lapwing 
Beyond the hides, a barn owl took off from the fence, to quick for photo's, incredibly my first of the year on the patch, bird of the day surely?

A walk around to High Chibburn and back to the hamlet and a pair of breeding yellow wagtail, he was feeding the grass, she was going mental at my presence, scolding me until I moved on.

"Piss off" said Mrs. yellow wagtail
Just beyond the hamlet, I simultaneously heard the hirrundines alarm calling and spotted a  raptor flying low over the field, sparrowhawk I presumed, until I lifted my bins and saw a moustache...peregrine, no too small, the earlier barn owl was relegated to second best bird of the day. I was watching a hobby. It flew powerfully, low over the field, before banking up to get some height by the barn conversion, showing its red trousers in the process before heading due south, towards Hemscotthill Farm. 

With one, probably two, juveniles last autumn and this adult, hobby are becoming more common on the patch than merlin - a sign of the times?

meadow pipit
130 barn owl
131 hobby

Thursday 16 June 2011

white gull - new evidence

I've received two lots of photo's now of leucistic herring gulls. This one came from Richard Dunn (thanks) of a bird at South Shields
Leucistic HG at S. Shields (from Richard Dunn)

And Tim Sexton and Alan Tillmouth sent me this link

The bird as Druridge had grey scapulars like the bird above, but I didn't notice the yellowy-brownish outer primaries that this bird has, mind it was a long way off. I am convinced it was a leucistic HG though.

On Tuesday night, Hugh Hanmer and I ringed four little owl chicks from a nestbox on the coast, they are fantastic little birds. I've not ringed them before, compared to barn owls they are 'wide-awake' and interested and a wee bit feisty!

Little owl chick, one of four ringed on the Northumberland Coast AONB

Tuesday 14 June 2011

I saw a white-winged gull on the beach at Druridge tonight. At frist I thought it was a glaucous gull, but it didn't 'look right' for a glauc. It was a fair way off, on the edge of the tideline.

My conclusion is, without better views, that it was a leucistic herring gull. The head shape and the depth/length/shape of the bill looked good for herring gull. It certainly was odd and looked like a full adult or maybe a third summer bird? It was generally all-over white, apart from some light grey on the wings, it looked a bit 'bright' for glaucous gull too.

Any local birders seen it about?

Sunday 12 June 2011

Wagons roll....YEEEEHAH

At high noon they hitched up their trailers and rolled on outta town....Yeeehah!

Well at 3.30 this afternoon the honest romany folk left Druridge in convoy. Who knows why? They normally stay for the summer, hopefully they've gone for good. Sadly I have no photo's of the joyous moment, with any luck things can now return to normal. Once the slugs and snails have eaten all of the 'human eggs' we can recommence our ringing activities.

Like a weight lifted from my shoulders, I continued the WeBS count, good to see three broods of gadwall (1 large duckling and a brood of 6 (was seven) and 8 small ducklings), gadwall  is still a species considered by the rare breeding birds panel, but for how much longer?

In the bushes two family parties of great tits were roaming about and a reed warbler sang from the reeds (where else?)

I tried to do a seawatch, but the rain beat me, a ringed plover was on the beach and a red-throated diver flew north.

129 ringed plover

Saturday 11 June 2011

Winter's here

Winter's here, at least it feels like it. 8 deg C, rain and a force four NW wind.....this is June not February!

With ringing curtailed at Druridge by the presence of our travelling friends (already a good collection of 'human eggs' in the bushes), we ringed at Ellington Pond this morning, until the rain set in, catching 28 birds including this ugly blighter.

moulting great tit, we renamed him 'vulture tit'
A combination of the honest romany folk and the Arctic-like conditions put me off going to Druridge this afternoon. I had a couple of hours on the patch yesterday morning however.

A fine vista - what better place to camp?

It was nice to see these sedge warblers feeding young, no chance of ever finding the nest though.

Sedge warbler feeding young

Spot the male

Offshore there were thousands of birds in the bay, the easterly wind must've have brought food with it.

One of several feeding frenzies

There were several of these 'feeding frenzies' with gulls, gannets, terns and auks all after the same food. away from these gatherings, there were large rafts of guilliemots and puffins with the occasional razorbill.

The drift-netters are also active in the bay and by some strange coincidence, the first freshly dead puffins of the year appeared on the strandline.


On the big pool, this pair of displaying common terns kept us amused and on the Budge fields there are still two spoonbill and amazingly, they were both awake......well, most of the time.

perfect choreography

Tuesday 7 June 2011

Honest Romany Folk

Imagine my delight when I called in at Druridge to find that the honest romany folk have returned for the summer.

 It's great to see these friendly characters back on the patch. I can't wait until they get out and about, helping the old and vulnerable to cut down leylandii hedges and overgrown shrubs, then bring them down to Druridge and pile them up as valuable breeding and roosting habitat for birds.

I'm also looking forward to the extra 'bulky organic matter' they'll deposit, free of charge, in the bushes, helping the trees to grow and prosper.

The dog walkers, birdwatchers and beach goers will feel safer too, knowing that they are camped nearby, watching over their cars, making sure nothing is stolen.

It's really great to have them back. And remember, last time they were here, they attracted a red-backed shrike into their camp, wouldn't that be super!

Monday 6 June 2011

A nicer day altogether

This morning started bright and sunny and I was up early to do the last but one territory mapping thingy. There was still plenty to record on the breeding front, there were a few family parties of birds and some independent fledged young, some pied wagtails and  these stonechats.

juvenile stonechat - not from the brood we ringed
The grasshopper warblers have started singing again, they sing when they arrive, then go quiet whilst they are on eggs, then, when it is time for a second brood, they start reeling again. I recorded two pairs of grasshopper warblers this morning. This one was doing its dinger.

Doing its dinger - gropper in full reel
This magpie was nearby, probably looking for freshly fledged gropper chicks.

hungry-looking magpie
A female yellow wagtail was a nice find. The male linnets are looking very smart at the moment, but it is difficult, nay impossible, to record territories for them as they are hanging about in one big flock of about 35 birds. Still plenty of sedge warbler, whitethroat and blackcap activity.

smart black-headed gull

gratuitous cute bunny shot!

Sunday 5 June 2011


A cold, wet, grey day on the Northumberland Coast today, what a change from Friday, 25 degrees C to 10 in a matter of hours.

My only visit to Druridge since the moth night was to do an hours seawatch this evening from 18:10 to 19:10. I thought the north-easterly wind might bring some passage. It certainly brought the birds closer, with terns and gannets virtually filling my scope.

A decent passage of manx shearwaters was notable, 58 in an hour. also of not was 5 fulmar and 2 roseate terns.

I gave up counting gannets and the commoner terns, hundreds of each, other totals were:

fulmar 5
gannet 350+
kittiwake 68+
puffin 51+
black-headed gull 23+
herring gull 33+
guilliemot 70+
eider 3
razorbill 6
roseate tern 2
manx shearwater 58
great black-backed gull 3
lesser black-backed gull 4

Saturday 4 June 2011

Mothing and ringing aren't complimentary

Much excitement last night at Druridge, well there was if you like your moths.

NWT organised a moth trapping night with Tom Tams and his trailer set-up, there was also a crowd of batty people doing some bat survey work.
Tom's trailer, complete with lamp and tablecloth
The moth people were out before dark with the sweep nets, I retreated tot he top of the big dune to look for owls. On Thursday night I had an hour at Druridge before dark looking for owls, I had had no success until Bob Dack arrived and almost immediately picked up on a long-eared owl, quartering the silage field beyond the Budge fields. We watched it for 20 minutes or so, a species I didn't see last year.

No luck with LEO's last night, but I did have a tawny owl calling very close, I've not heard tawny at Druridge for many years. Tawny owl is a species I am happy to year-tick on call only, like quail.

The batty people recorded noctule and pipistrelle, they aslo saw and recorded long-eared bat, which would've been a new bat for me at Druridge - I was busy looking for long-eared owls!

Once it was dark, Tom got the mercury-vapour bulb going on his trailer and the moths started to flock to it, they also had a few traps scattered about.

Excitement as the moths come in

my kind of moth - small elephant hawkmoth

fox moth laying egss on a pot-lid. I transported the moth and eggs to the grass to let er continue in peace.

This hedgehog put in a brief appearance.

 It was after 1am when we left, so the plans to ring at Druridge this morning were scuppered, it was too windy by the time we got up. With hindsight, we should have put the nets up before dark and stopped down there, hindsight is a marvellous thing.

127 long-eared owl
128 tawny owl