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.