Thursday 28 April 2011

I've spent the last couple of mornings on the patch, having a good wander about but not turning much up. Yesterday, a singing blackcap was my only year tick since THE stork.

drake garganey on the Budge fields

Today, once the Budge fields had been checked and a natter with John Richardson, I spent the rest of my time looking for meadow pipits nests in the dunes. Meadow pipits are always plentiful in the dunes, which is quite amazing given that the dunes at Druridge seem to be the most popular dog walking spot in the Western World!

This one had it's eye on a passing St. Mark's Fly, which are also plentiful at the moment.
In the bushes I came across this speckled wood butterfly, easily the earliest I have seen at Druridge.

speckled wood butterfly, early?
And to round things off, a stonechat picture, no blog post should be without one. I'm off to the Island of Mull tomorrow, extreme lengths to avoid a certain wedding so hopefully nothing rare turns up on the patch whilst I am away.

male stonechat
111 blackcap

Tuesday 26 April 2011

Greenland wheatears??

I've been looking at wheatears amongst other things today. There are still lots of them coming through Druridge, favouring the short turf behind the dunes and the haul road.

Many of the wheatears coming through at this time of year certainly look different to those that come through in late march and are often thought to be of the subspecies leucorhoa or 'Greenland' wheatears. I've been doing some research into this and it appears to be less than straight forward. Most references seem to suggest that without taking biometrics it is not clear-cut and these 'big orangy wheatears' that come through here in late April could be of the nominate oenanthe race breeding in the Fenno-Scandanavian steppes.

Here are two from today:

This could be a candidate for 'Greenland', with rufousy underparts extending down to the belly and looks long winged and legged?
This one is still rufous, but not as pronounced down to the belly and although not as obvious in this photo didn't stand as 'upright' as the bird in the first photo.

I would like to have a go at trapping some of the 'big boys' to get some biometrics from them.

On the Budge fields, there are still a pair of pintail, garganey and ruff. Regular readers of this blog will know I like a photo of a stonechat, so as not to disappoint...

Daddy of the brood we ringed yesterday. The pair were feeding the young today .

Monday 25 April 2011

PATCH TICK!!!! White Stork

A species that has been on and off my Druridge list before is now firmly on it. No. 223 White Stork!

This afternoon, I had been to the Budge screen and found a pair of garganey (at last), returning to the car to retrieve my camera, I heard some commotion, looked up and saw a white stork flying no more than 20 metres over my head, it looked like it was coming into land, I ran back to the Budge screen and watched fly low, without much purpose over the big pool, then NW into the farmland inland from East Chevington. I lost it as it cleared the trees heading towards Red Row. Amazing! White Stork is also a British tick and takes my Northumberland list to 301.

I called a few people, but nobody was nearby. A couple who had just seen it at Cresswell Pond joined me in the hide. An unringed white stork was reported from Kibblesworth in Durham this morning - surely the same bird?

I have seen a white stork before at Druridge, in the final year of Alan Tillmouth's patch competition, Mike Henry watched it fly over before dropping into to Warkworth Lane ponds. A few of us went to see it there and found it sporting a plastic ring - the wandering escapee from Harewood House, the lads took great joy in seeing it removed from my list.

A great end to a good weekend, Yesterday, we set the ringing site up. We only ringed until 11am as a luncheon engagement was beckoning, but we did well, catching nine birds. Star of the show was this lesser whitethroat, a bird I didn't see at Druridge in 2010.

lesser whitethroat

grasshopper warbler

Also of interest was a sedge warbler control, it's probably only come from Hauxley or Chevington but still interesting.
controlled sedge warbler

willow warbler

Whilst chewing the fat with John Richardson, I got onto a large bird, flap-flap-gliding behind the trees over the bi pool, I called marsh harrier until it came into view above the trees and it turned into a short-eared owl, another species I didn't see in 2010.

This afternoon, after the excitement of the stork, Janet and I ringed three stonechat pullis from a nest I've been watching and then we went to check on the grey heron colony. Phil Hanmer joined us, we only managed to ring one young heron, some were still too small and some were to large, legging it across the branches out of my reach.

Phil with the young grey heron, just before it shit on him
On the big pool tonight, strangely three female goosanders have turned up.

I'm off work for the next two weeks so should be bale to boost the year-list a bit.

105 greenshank
106 lesser whitethroat
107 short-eared owl
108 garganey
109 white stork
110 goosander

Patch List 223 white stork

Friday 22 April 2011


I love living on the Northumberland Coast.....most of the time.

The only problem is, sea frets! All it takes is one or two sunny days and a light easterly and we get banks of fog rolling in of the North Sea. Five miles inland it can be a beautiful sunny day, I get home or down to Druridge and it is a proper pea-souper and a temperature difference of ten degrees C!

We've had sea frets (or the Ha') since Wednesday evening now, yesterday and today in hardly budged at all from the coast.

So, this morning I set out to do my territory mapping visit in less than ideal conditions, relying on my ears rather than my eyes more than usual. Two of the more recently arrived breeding species were giving it some! Grasshopper warbler (at least eight reeling birds on the patch) and willow warblers. The residents breeders like reed bunting, chaffinch and dunnock have gone a lot quieter and the poor wrens haven't even started.

Two new arrivals today, single sedge warbler and whitethroat singing. On the passage front, any hirrundine movement was obscured by the fret, wheatears were numerous with at least 15 counted along with five white wagtails.

Tomorrow we are doing a ringing demo at Ellington Pond, so if you're in the vicinity call in, we'll be there from 10am until 2pm.

103 sedge warbler
104 whitethroat

Tuesday 19 April 2011


A quick visit to Druridge after a work and a quick blog post.

There was a ruff, well to be precise, a reeve on the Budge fields this afternoon. There are elast five gasshopper warblers reeling now.

Nothing else significant to report.

102 ruff

Sunday 17 April 2011

A bit of ringing, a bit of twitching (the big 300) and WeBS..

I couldn't help it, even though I will be at Bamburgh for work purposes tomorrow lunchtime, I had to go to see the black scoter.

I couldn't go on Thursday or Friday so yesterday morning we went for it. We got very good views of it among the common scoters for comparison, though it didn't much like it's European cousin's. A lifer for me and my 300th for Northumberland, not a bad bird to get the triple century with, though I wish it could have been Druridge obviously.

After celebrating with not one, but two of Carter's finest Sausage Rolls, it was down to Druridge to do the WeBS count, a day early because a full days ringing was planned for Sunday. Two pintail were still on the Budge fields as were 44 teal and 13 shoveler. Once a really rare bird at Druridge it was great to see count at least 17 gadwall, hopefully there will be a few broods of duckings in a month or two.

Offshore there were a further four pintail, at least 500m out with four wigeon nearby and19 red-throated divers was a good count for this time of year. A grasshopper warbler was reeling from the bushes.

Grasshopper Warbler at Druridge Pools Photo (C) Alan Gilbertson

This morning we were ringing at Ellington Pond, a good session ringing 26 new birds of 13 species including willow warbler, chiffchaff and four blackcaps. Then it was off out west for tawny owls, but there were none to be had, so back to Druridge for a quick gander. Nothing much to add from yesterday other than a single puffin offshore which takes the patch list 101.

101 puffin

Wednesday 13 April 2011

Ton up..but still no garganey

I smashed the 100 mark this morning.

100 species of bird seen on the patch since January 1st, six days later than in 2010. The two new birds this morning were yellow wagtail and greenfinch, not really exciting I know.

I did my territory mapping survey this morning, there has been an influx of willow warblers with at least eight singing males heard. Up to seven chifchaffs were chiff-chaffing and a single gropper was reeling away from the reeds.

Out on the haul-road, the piles of chicken muck attracted eight wheatears, two white wags and a yellow wag as well as numerous meadow pipits, chaffinches and linnets. The retired birders might to worse than to keep an eye on the shit piles, I turned a lapland bunting up there last spring.

It was a lovely sunrise this morning, this was taken from Cresswell.

99 greenfinch
100 yellow wagtail

Tuesday 12 April 2011

Retired Birders 3: Ipin 0

Another day of garganeys being seen at Druridge for what appears to be most of the day by the massed ranks of retired Northumbrian birdwatchers. I arrive after work, no sign, despite staying until dusk.

And it gets worse, Trevor Blake called me today and slipped into the conversation that he'd seen a male ring ouzel in front of the Budge screen...last Thursday!! Ring ouzel would've been a new bird for the patch for me. He did call me but I didn't answer. humph!

I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have a patch where nobody else goes to. Living in blissful ignorance of anything you didn't find for yourself. It would be a lot more satisfying and a lot less stressful! I'll have to ask Stewart what its like!

Anyhow, a black redstart was found this morning by some of the massed ranks of retired birders (I need a collective noun for these people - any thoughts?) in the 'Druridge Bushes' which made up for the disappearing garganeys. 

first year male (probably) or female black redstart
A crap photo, but the light wasn't good. I've not seen a black redstart on the patch since 2007 (although others have), the bushes were the last place I would have looked, they are normally to be found around the hamlet/entrance. That's me on 98 species for the year, will I break the ton tomorrow when I do my third mapping visit?

98 black redstart

Monday 11 April 2011


I got lots of messages about garganey's at Druridge yesterday whilst I was cooped up in the back of a van for eight hours, with only 90 minutes of some mind-numbingly dull football breaking it up.

I went to look for them tonight after work, after a good grilling of the Budge fields I concluded that they'd gone. Two bonuses were a willow warbler singing and gropper reeling at the north end, just before dusk. A little influx of sanderling on the shore included a colour ringed bird, probably from greenland. Three pintail are still present and about 13 shoveler are still on the Budge fields.

There was no lapwing activity at all tonight, it was quite windy earlier on but I fear that they might not breed this year at sad...

96 willow warbler
97 grasshopper warbler

Friday 8 April 2011


There was lots of contrast on show at Druridge today, the first to catch my eye was amongst the red-throated divers loitering offshore, at least 45 of them!

I scanned through them for one of the big divers with no luck, but the contrast in plumages was striking, from almost breeding plumage including the red throat through to perfect winter plumage birds and everything in between.

Also offshore were two slavonian grebes, one was virtually in breeding plumage with nearly complete golden-yellow tufts, whilst the other one had just started moulting, which, at distance, had me thinking it might have been a black-necked grebe initially (that would be nice - not see one of those for while!)

There was even contrast amongst the much maligned pheasants. The really dark male that has been frequenting the area around the Budge screen was out in full view tonight. He is a dark iridescent green, nearly black in some lights - quite striking!
very dark iridescent green cock pheasant
The shore-lark hasn't been seen today, it was still showing well in the same spot yesterday evening, it's quite sad to hear numerous tales of twitcher/photographer rage whilst it has been there. I dread to think what might happen when something really rare turns up. Good views of the twite flock on the same grass tonight, they are also in breeding plumage and showing quite a lot of contrast, especially in the pinkness of their rumps.

Only one year-tick today, a fly-over bar-tailed godwit.

95 bar-tailed godwit

Wednesday 6 April 2011

Bird Race with a difference

Regular readers of this drivel might remember me waffling on about a car-free bird race some while ago, well the good folks down at the North Pennines AONB have only gone and organised one.

The North Pennines isn't an area I am familiar with, other than several trips down there to look for the elusive SW Northumberland race of honey buzzard.....but this could be fun.

But even I, a committed coastal type who gets a nosebleed if I venture west of Morpeth, might well give this a go. I do like the principle of it, even if I have use to half a tank of diesel to get there.

Do they have buses in the N. Pennines? - I'd best find out. I wonder how many teams will have honey buzzard on their lists?

Tuesday 5 April 2011

Larkin aboot

A shore lark was found at Duridge this afternoon, on the short grass, just north of the plantation. It was there from lunchtime, seemingly found by Winnie Banks, a very nice find indeed!

To me, it looks like a female, smaller horns, yellow on the face not as bright as the male and more streaky. I found a shore lark a few springs ago which was  certainly a male, big horns and bright yellow on the face. I could well be wrong though....

Shore lark at Druridge (c) Alan Gilbertson
Shore lark isn't a new bird for me at Druridge, I can't find it in the database (still 10 notebooks to go into it!) but it was in the autumn and a good few years ago. Great bird though, especially in the spring.

There were seven twite on the grass with it which gave excellent close views until they were scattered by a dog walker.

Thanks to Alan for the piccie and letting me know about it.

94 shore lark

Sunday 3 April 2011

Territory mapping: Visit B

An early start at Druridge this morning for my second mapping visit of the breeding season. A little bit of light rain first thing soon cleared to leave a bright, sunny morning.

Generally, it seemed quieter than ten days ago, which is a little odd. Skylark and meadow pipit numbers are back up to full strength and it was really encouraging to see a pair of stonechats carrying nesting material and at least five pairs of grey partridges and eight singing reed buntings.. Worrying though was the lack of dunnocks (1 singing male) and wrens (two singing males).

male stonechat
female stonechat with nesting material
On the migrant front, two more swallows were logged and at last, three wheatears were added to the list.
one of three wheatears
In the dunes, the common dog violets are flowering amongst the even more common dog shit.

common dog violet
 93 wheatear

Saturday 2 April 2011

could it be summer?

Three things make me think it might be summer.

1) I saw my first swallows at Druridge today
2) Racing pigeons - loads of them passing through
3) Some mental bloke was swimming in the sea

All signs of summer in my book, all that was missing was some charvas in a clapped out corsa burning fenceposts and swigging from 3ltr bottles of super-strength cider.

I managed five year ticks at Druridge this afternoon, not bad going if I say so myself. It got me over the disappointment of seeing a snow bunting less than 200m from the patch boundary :-(.

I hadn't even stopped the car when a swallow came over, not the earliest swallow I've seen but certainly close and a full eight days earlier than 2010. A chiffchaff was singing in the bushes. AG had tipped me off about a pochard on the Budge fields, right enough it was there. I was looking for garganey, I was sure I would get one today, sadly not. There were three pintail still on the Budge fields, a pair and female and 18 shoveler with lots of displaying, making eight species of duck on the pools (also three species offshore).

Little grebe - this fella was trilling like crazy!
A pair of sparrowhawks were chasing each other, even talon grappling at one stage, near the Budge screen, good sign they'll be breeding at Druridge this year.

Offshore I picked up my first sandwich tern of the year, flying north, just the one though. There were a few sand martins over the dunes and two more swallows, feeding in front of the dunes - an invasion!

So, still no wheatear or puffin on the list yet, but the year list now stands at respectable 92. I plan to a territory mapping visit tomorrow so hopefully I'll add a few more species?

88 swallow
89 chiffchaff
90 kestrel
91 pochard
92 sandwich tern