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