Thursday 27 December 2012

That's me done

Well that's me done on the patch for 2012.

It hasn't been a great year as far as birds are concerned, posting my lowest patch total in at least the last five years, of 146 species, fourteen species down on 2011. I added two new species to the patch-list in 2012 though. A self-found and overdue Honey Buzzard in August and Mandarin Duck in July.

This is how it broke down over the year.

The low total can be blamed on a few things:

1) The weather. Awful
2) Grazing (or lack of) on the Budge Fields - too little, too late resulted in no passage waders
3) Effort - Work getting in the way of birding. (I had 82 separate visit to the patch in 2012)
4) I missed the 'mini' autumn fall and good seawatching days.
5) We only managed four ringing sessions

I had hoped to a nice end-of-year report, but I've run out of time. I'll do a five-year patch report sometime in the new year.

In the meantime, here are some of absentees from my 2012 list

barnacle goose
red-necked grebe
sooty shearwater
green sandpiper
wood sandpiper
common sandpiper
pomarine skua
grey wagtail
grasshopper warbler 

I have a new focus for 2013. I have joined the Patchwork Challenge , along with the Stewart Sexton, Dave Elliott, Alan Tilmouth and James Common.

The patch competition that Alan ran way-back really spurred me on to work the patch a bit harder so hopefully this might too.

It just leaves me to say Happy New Year to you all and I'll see you in January with a refreshed blog and hopefully a refreshed Ipin!

Sunday 9 December 2012

A first for Druridge?

On my visit to Druridge yesterday I might have seen a first for the patch - an inland turnstone.

I'm saying inland, it was in the field west of the Budge fields, which is quite inland for a turnstone. It was feeding with some redshank, curlew and lapwings and it wasn't even high tide. Normally, the only turnstones at Druridge are fly-by birds pushed off either Snab Point or Hauxley rocks at high tide. Very, very occasionally they are on the beach.

The 'turnstone' field was quite good for waders with 91 curlew, 41 redshank and 76 lapwing, there was also a small flock of 20 odd fieldfare with a single redwing.

Two kestrels were still about the patch and a handful of lesser redpolls moved through the alders.

My patch year-list for 2012 currently stands at 146, ten off my usual year tally. I will be very lucky to get another year tick before I go on holiday on 28th December - my worst finish in years is on the cards.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Short-lived Owl

I received some bad news yesterday. A barn owl  we ringed  in the summer at Low Chibburn Farm , just outside my Druridge patch,has been recovered as a road casualty.

It hadn't ventured very far. We ringed it as pulli on 1st July and it was found only 2km at Widdrington as a road casualty only 51 days later.

One of these two little fellas is no longer with us
I pick up a fair few barn owl corpses each year, mainly off the A1. They are 90% first winter/spring birds, if they survive the first year they must get a bit more street-wise. If you do see a barn owl by the side of the road  and it safe to do so, stop, and check its legs for rings. The information from any recovery is really useful.

Ringing is just part of the magnificent work of the BTO. If you use my name, you can join the BTO for only £1. Be quick as this offer ends soon. Follow this link and put my name in the referring members box.

Sunday 2 December 2012

It's been a while......

My first blog post since November 4th. That's because today was my first (proper) visit to Druridge since November 4th.

I've been busy with other things at weekends since then and until February I go to work in the dark and come home in the dark. To be honest I was lucky to make it out today, felled by a dose of manflu over the weekend but I just had to get out.

Predictably at this time of the year, Druridge threw up no suprises... no great grey shrikes, no hume's warblers, nowt of note at all really.

Even offshore there was nowt, one red-throated diver and a pochard flew north with a gang of mallard.

This pheasant was a highlight....

male pheasant - smart, isn't he?

This first winter or female kestrel was knocking about. You can just make out a ring on it's leg, even zooming up the RAW file I couldn't make the number out.


At Cresswell over 4500 pink-footed geese in the winter cereal field behind the Drift Inn Cafe (now deceased) were a sight to behold.

Just some of the 4500 pink feet at Crfesswell this afternoon

Next weekend has promise if I survive the manflu. No work, no football so hangovers aside I might get some birding or ringing in.

Sunday 4 November 2012


This morning was a lovely, bright, crisp morning at Druridge. There was hardly any wind, it was quiet.  No geese overhead, the wigeon were silent on the pools - even the tourists were quiet....silence!

It was also quiet on the birding front. Dave Elliott had a whinchat yesterday which had been seen by others today, but not me. Shame that, good November bird.

A small tit-flock moved through the bushes which included at  least 3 coal tits and a mixed finch flock moved around, mostly goldfinch with a few greenfinch and lesser redpoll, the siskin appeared to have moved through.

coal tit

Goldfinch -  a juvenile, still in post-juvenile moult. You can just see some red feathers growing into the crown

I bumped into Roger Foster and we had a look on the sea which was a long way out. There were good numbers of shag (20+), 24 red-throated divers, eight razorbills and a handful of gullies. 28 sanderlings were on the beach.

There are loads of burs on the burdocks in the dunes in the dunes this year, my strides and fleece jacket were covered in them and so was this poor cow!

Nice head-dress! 

Sunday 28 October 2012

Dovekies, a patch record and the 'Bush of Plenty'

I managed two visits to the patch this weekend


Saturday's highlights were out to sea. An afternoon visit once the worst of the weather had passed, I went straight to the dunes for a look on the sea, little auks had been much reported and I was keen to see some, I wasn't disappointed.

I saw four, probably five 'dovekies' in an hour, one of them was really close, just beyond the breakers. These were my first little auks on the patch in five years! This doesn't mean there hasn't been little auk passage in the last five years, just that I have aversion to standing on the dunes in freezin cold north-easterly to look for them.

Other highlights from my one hour seawatch were seven pochard flying north and a great-northern diver on the sea. Gannets were scarce, shag numbered seven and there were a few kittiwakes.

Away from the sea a patch record was broken, for the maximum pheasant count in a visit. A huge tally of 31 of gormless individuals in a stubble field in front of High Chibburn Farm, they must've been on by shooting somewhere nearby. A small flock of 12 golden plover were by the haul road flash with 2 bar-tailed godwit.


I had a good bash around the patch today, it was grey, cold and miserable and the birding reflected the day. This silhouette of curlews sums the day up.

grey skies with two curlews
The outstanding highlight was a merlin, lifting a flock of starling of the fields by the haul road flash before bombing on through the dunes and out of sight. Passerines had been thin on the ground until I got to the 'Bush of Plenty'!

A small, somewhat isolated bush by the fence on the edge of dunes. Hardly worth a second glance normally, but there was stonechat perched on-top, always worth a check for a sibe.


It was soon joined by a male stonechat, then a chiffchaff popped out, pursued by a great tit, giving it some grief. A wren soon appeared, followed by two dunnocks and a robin. They thought this mediocre bush too small for them all and flitted over the road to make way for a couple of meadow pipits and another stonechat. This small, innocuous hawthorn bush had just about doubled my passerine tally and shall, from this day hence, be known as the 'Bush of Plenty'.

145 little auk
146 pochard

Monday 22 October 2012

More thrushes

I took today off work on the strength of the weather forecast, hoping for a good fall of birds. There was fall, but it was pretty-much limited to thrushes.

I arrived at Druridge just after eight, still slightly hung-over after having too many Abbott ales watching the derby game in the pub, and redwings were coming in off the sea overhead, in small flocks of about 50. Maybe four or five of these little flocks came in whilst I was around the entrance. Some of them heading straight for cover in the willows or plantation, the majority flying straight over.

In the bushes there were many blackbirds, more redwings and a few song thrushes. A handful of fieldfares were seen too, though this more powerful thrush seems to keep going, dropping in much further inland.

There was no obvious arrival of smaller birds with goldcrest numbers no more than Saturday. There were a few grey-looking robins that looked newly arrived. Bird of the morning was a short-eared owl which I disturbed from the bushes by the big pool, it flew off, into the trees in the western corner of the pool.

Other highlights were a few snipe coming in and five bar-tailed godwits on the flash.

I had a good thrash around the patch on Saturday morning too. Janet was out-of-action so no ringing this weekend. Still a few lesser redpolls lingering, two great-spotted woodpeckers, three coal tits, a chiffchaff and blackcap were new arrivals.

Skeins of pink-footed geese flew over most of the morning and this  common newt dodged death on the road (I rescued it from certain death)

Lizard Smooth or Common Newt

A slavonian grebe was the highlight on the sea where there were also 22 red-throated divers and a great-crested grebe.

Greenfnch isn't a common bird at all at Druridge so I was very surprised to count about 40 of them in a mixed flock with an equal number of goldfinches, roaming about the dunes.

Sunday 14 October 2012

WeBS count

We decided to ring at Lynemouth sewage works this morning, a bad idea. All of the weekends migrants seemed to have moved through, we only caught six birds for our efforts.

Ringing in the morning meant that it was afternoon visit to the patch to do my WeBS count, which proved to be as disappointing as the morning's ringing session. For some reason, when the big pool is brim-full, like it was today, birds avoid it. Obviously species like teal and wigeon like an edge where they can get out graze, but the diving ducks also seem to avoid it when it is full. So the highlight of the count was six whooper swans, which soon flew off, finding Druridge to be to their disliking

Two of the whooper swans
Off they go. One of them is sporting a yellow ring. Even blown up it is difficult to make out the code, I'll send it to  WWT anyway.

Despite the arrival of six cows on the Budge fields, they haven't made a mark on the tall vegetation yet, there could've been cranes and storks out there, you wouldn't see them! . There were some curlew visible in front of the Budge screen and a juvenile and adult little grebe on the big pool.

curlew on the Budge fields

juvenile little grebe
In the bushes a few cresties were moving through and a chiffchaff 'wheeted', otherwise it was quiet. A look on the sea didn't bring my hoped-for grey phalalrope so I headed home.

WeBS count

curlew 12
mallard 8
coot 9
teal 10
whooper swan 8
little grebe 2
wigeon 2

Saturday 13 October 2012

Ringing Demo

A long time ago, we were asked if we'd do a ringing demonstration at Druridge for ERIC volunteers. To be honest, we had forgotten all about it until Steve Lowe reminded us during the week. We would have probably ringed at Druridge this morning anyway, but having to do the demo made sure we did.

The session stated well, before the group turned up we had caught a treecreeper. In fact we caught it before the net was properly up. This is only the third treecreeper we have ever caught at Druridge, so it was nice to catch it.

The group turned up shortly after and waited patiently whilst we checked the nets and we returned from our net-round with a good catch to show them. 

The assembled group
The highlight for us was a yellow-browed warbler, the first one we have ever caught at Druridge. The assembled group were amazed that this little bird had come from Siberia to arrive at Druridge, that said, they were equally impressed with the blue tits that were taking the skin from my fingers.

yellow-browed warbler
We caught 18 lesser redpolls today, not a species we normally catch a lot of at Druridge. They appeared to be feeding on the seeds of meadowsweet. Most of them were this years' juveniles, this one caught Janet's eye when she extracted, nothing unusual, just some leucism. 

leucistic lesser redpoll
Interestingly, yesterdays' fall of thrushes had virtually cleared out, we only caught three blackbirds and two song thrushes.

We caught 59 new birds and 5 retraps in total. Not bad for a bright and breezy morning with westerly winds.

Six cows have appeared on the Budge fields. Too little, too late,  but it is encouraging to see them, hopefully they'll be here to stay.

Ringing totals

treecreeper 1
long-tailed tit 11
goldcrest 7 (1)
great tit 1
song thrush 2
blackbird 3
dunnock 1 (1)
chiffchaff 1
wren 2 (1)
robin 2 (1)
lesser redpoll 18
yellow-browed warbler 1
blue tit 6 (1)
goldfinch 1
blackcap 1
siskin 1

143 treecreeper

Friday 12 October 2012

From the east

My decision to take a day off work after a look a the weather forecast paid off today. No patch-ticks, but a yellow-browed warbler and a big fall of thrushes were well worth the effort.

I was down on the patch at 7.30am, it was still quite gloomy, small groups of redwings were coming in off the sea and there were lots of blackbirds in the bushes. In the pine plantation by the entrance, sixty blackbirds were pushed through from the dunes, by a dog-walker with a now-empty dog.

Small groups of thrushes continued to come in off the sea for a couple of hours, before easing off by 9ish. Many of the redwings seemed to keep going, the majority of birds in the bushes were blackbirds. There were a few song thrushes and three fieldfare in the bushes and a single mistle thrush at High Chibburn Farm.

Highlight of the day though was yellow-browed warbler. I was just about to give up for the day, deciding to check the bushes by the Budge Screen on my way out and I am glad I did. A stripy eastern gem was flitting about the willows, calling as it went about with some goldcrests. I lost it for a while after it had a stand-off with a robin. It came back, but never close enough for a photo so I had to make do with these long-tailed tits.

Other highlights were a whinchat and three chiffchaffs amongst the regular finches and tits.

This was my first yellow-brow since the autumn of 2009 and only the second in the last five years...nice!

141 fieldfare
142 yellow-browed warbler

Sunday 30 September 2012

End of September...

The last day of September, Autumn is slipping away into winter and my year-list for the patch is well down on what it should be.

On Wednesday I did pre and post-work visits to the patch. On Wednesday morning, there had been an obvious overnight arrival of common migrants, song thrush were the most numerous with 50-60 passing through. There were ten+ redstart, lesser and common whitethroats, garden warbler  15+ blackcap, ten+ chiffchaff, two willow warbler and eight or more goldcrest. Also newly arrived were a party of eight lesser redpolls and six siskin.

lesser whitethroat

Most frustrating though was the one that got away. A bunting, facing me, with a pale, almost white belly but with strong streaking on the flanks, it turned it's head to show orangey-brown cheeks then promptly flew off, never to be seen again. I would bet my mortgage it was a little bunting but I didn't get enough on it to be sure. I didn't catch up with the little bunting that Janet caught in 2005.

Also of note was another bonxie, flying east from the land towards the sea, my second of the week and a steady passage of skylarks still passing overhead and this roe deer which was not shy at all.

roe deer
By Wednesday afternoon there had been a clear-out. Only two or three song thrush remained and no redstarts, everything had moved on. Bob Biggs had a knot on the flooded fields in front of the cottages which was year-tick.

Today was quiet as I dodged the showers. There were still six redpolls hanging about and a few chiffchaffs. Two grey plover flying west, calling, were also of note. There were hundreds of dragonflies on the wing today, especially in sheltered areas of tall vegetation.

It rained again so I thought I would call at Cresswell Pond to have a look at the Long-billed Dowitcher that had been reported but when I got there and saw 15 cars at the end of the track I kept going.

Am I getting old and grumpy? I used to enjoy the 'craic' in the Cresswell Pond Hide on a Sunday morning, now the thought of a hide full of other birders makes me run the other way. Has birding (and birders) changed or it just me?

136 lesser whitethroat
137 redstart
138 lesser redpoll
139 knot

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Interesting warbler

I was on the patch early yesterday (Monday) evening. Conditions were not conducive to birding, the wind was very strong and blustery from the east then north east and it was showery. Nevertheless I checked some of the more sheltered areas of the patch, around the budge screen, on the west side of the shelterbelt and the track to the hides.

It was obvious that no significant arrival of birds had taken place. Even with the fact that most birds would be cowering in cover, there wasn't much about, a few goldcrests, chiffchaffs, chaffinches and tits.

Checking the westward side of the shelterbelt I came across a warbler which immediately struck me as being different. It was hopping around the base of a small willow, the jizz of the bird struck me as odd. It had a long, bright supercillium, stretching nearly onto the nape, it looked like a phyllosc, but which one?

I fired off some crap record shots, in my panic, forgetting to zoom in, so these are very cropped.

The strong supercillium was obvious as was the dark eye-stripe, the legs appeared to be pink-orange, the bill was horn coloured above, pink-orange on the lower mandible and appeared shorter and stubbier than chiffchaff bill. It was generally yellow below and a darker olive green above. There was contrast between the olivey-green mantle and darker wings, the flight feathers were darker but appeared to have pale fringes. It never called.

Viewing conditions were awful and to be honest I wasn't sure what I was looking at, but it was interesting.....My initial thoughts, given the strong supercillium were of dusky or Radde's, but I thought it was too early for them, wasn't it? I had ruled out Dusky and was thinking Radde's, but this bird didn't have the ochre-orange undertail that the bird we caught a couple of years ago had.

I met up with Dave Elliott and we went back to look for the bird with no luck. When I got home and looked at the photo's I was more confused and after a chat with Stewart had ruled out Radde's and dusky. So a couple of shots were emailed to some birders who know a lot more than me about such things.

The consensus appears to be that it is a willow warbler, probably of one of the eastern races, acredula or yakutensis. It certainly isn't one of the cold-grey acredula forms or 'Eversmann's willow warbler'....

In doing some research I looked for other potential eastern phyllosc's that could occur here as vagrants. Tickell's leaf warbler Phylloscopus affinis kept leaping out at me as being very similar, in many ways, to my warbler  - although it didn't look quite right either, my mind wandered into the realms of fantasy....P. affinis has a similar range (both breeding and wintering) to Hume's leaf warbler, so if one was ever to turn up in the western palearctic, you would expect it would in November.

Unless we catch the bird at the weekend, we will never know what it is and then it wouldn't be straight forward...

It's all been an interesting exercise and I know a lot more about 'eastern' willow warblers and Tickell's leaf warblers that I did before.

It's still raining outside. Druridge was virtually cut-off at lunchtime today, the road to Cresswell was flooded and the road to Widdrington was just passable. I am going to try to get to the patch tomorrow morning before work if I can, to hopefully see and more importantly hear this bird again. There may well be some other migrants to see too.

Sunday 23 September 2012


I've managed two visits to the patch over the weekend. Incredibly we've not ringed at Druridge this year yet, the late-start of summer, with many of the alders not coming into leaf until July was chiefly to blame alongside a lack of time and Lynemouth sewage works being good.

So yesterday, we set up the ringing site in preparation for ringing today. Whilst setting up yesterday we were surprised to see an adult bonxie flying over the pool, east, towards the sea. How far inland it had come from we'll never know. There were a few chiffchaffs, goldcrests and blackcaps in the bushes and a few skylarks and swallows moving south. A speckled wood butterfly was sunning itself on an alder leaf.

Today we ringed from 7am til 1.30pm. We didn't put all of the nets up but managed to catch 35 new birds and two retraps;

goldcrest 5
blackcap 2
wren 8
robin 3
blue tit 4 (1)
blackbird 1
chiffchaff 4
goldfinch 2
dunnock 3 (1)
great tit 2
reed warbler 1

Reed Warbler

Skylarks were heading south throughout the morning in small groups and swallows were also moving through. The sound of pink-footed geese overhead was almost constant. Mistle thrush and great-spotted woodpecker were also of note. Offshore, 85 red-throated divers were in the bay (per Dave Shackleton).

Sunday 16 September 2012


This morning I watched the sun rise over the Mediterranean Sea as I drove toward Malaga airport, it was beautiful and I was sad to be leaving Spain behind and raptorfest that is Tarifa in September.

I saw 22 species of bird of prey, 24 if you include owls. There wasn't huge numbers for the most of the days, but last Saturday was a mega day, the very strong levante wind had ceased and thousands of bird of prey and storks made the crossing to Africa.

Whilst I was in tarifa I got a call from my friend Richard Dunn, he was at Druridge, I feared the worst... rare birds have a habit of turning up on the patch when I am overseas...but it wasn't a rare bird, it was one of the Exmoor ponies on the Budge fields caught in the fence. You can read the account here

I told Richard where it was, because it was there on the Tuesday evening before I left for Spain, I presumed it was being stupid. Poor thing must've been pretty grumpy when Richard and the farmers knacked the fence to free it, it had been there for five days, it is lucky that Richard investigated, or it might have been much worse for the unfortunate beast.

A strong wind and showers this afternoon. I had no motivation to go to Druridge whatsoever.

Monday 27 August 2012

Bank Holiday Weekend

Bank Holiday weekend started early for me as I took Friday off work. We ringed at Lynemouth Sewage Works in the morning catching about 30 new birds. The most numerous species was chiffchaff, none of the birds we were catching were carrying much fat so probably all short-hop coasting birds rather then incoming migrants. In the afternoon, I headed to Druridge to do some serious net-ride maintenance - by the time I'd done three rides I was nettled, scratched and sweating like a twitcher on the way to a mugimaki flycatcher, so I headed off to do some birding.

The highlight was a cuckoo, a juvenile, still lingering in the dunes. A group of five red-throated divers were very close to the beach, on the waters edge, but by the time I had gone back for the camera, they had gone so I had to make do with some sanderlings.

Sanderlings on the beach at Druridge
This digital SLR business is going to cost me more than I thought. I've been told by those in the know, that I need to be taking RAW shots rather than jpegs, my poor old computer can't cope with them (in fact it struggles with Itunes) so it looks like I'll have to shell out for a new PC...and then I'll need some software to open RAW files... another £100! I still don't really know what I am doing with it, I might have to harass Alan Gilbertson in Tarifa next week to give me some tips.

I was up early on Saturday (early for me) for a kick around the bushes. There hadn't been a fall of any sorts but there were a few migrants in the bushes including 6 whitethroats, a handful of willow warblers and chiffchaffs and couple of blackcaps. A small influx of blackbirds seemed to have occurred and there was a strong southerly movement of swallows all morning.

I had a look offshore later in the morning but there wasn't much doing. There was no time for birding or ringing after Saturday lunchtime with chores to do, football to watch and a friends BBQ on Sunday.

Bank Holiday Monday was typical - it rained all day. More Chores!

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Honey B

A stroke of pure luck today scored me a new bird for the patch  - HONEY BUZZARD!

Here's the tale...

I was at work and had to drive from Alnwick via Amble to Longhirst - virtually passing my patch at lunchtime, too rare an opportunity to miss, so loaded up with a 'Country Barn' pasty and one of their fab Mars Bar Crispy Cakes and headed to the patch.

With limited time and no wellies, a scan from the dune seemed the best approach. After about 10 minutes, a big flock of canada geese flew up and moved south, I scanned them and picked up a raptor which at first seemed to flying with them, then it became apparent it was actually behind them, it looked big and was flying purposefully south.

The geese turned, giving me better views of the raptor which was now being mobbed by a carrion crow. It was a buzzard-sized raptor but it immediately struck me as different. Firstly, the way it was flying, moving strongly south, secondly it had a flap, flap glide flight and didn't show the classic raised wings of a common buzzard. I was excited!

As I studied the bird which was now flying strongly south other features were apparent, long necked appearance with a small head, it also appeared long tailed - the tail wasn't fanned at all, it was closed and look pointed from some angles. But it was the jizz of the bird that had me convinced.

I didn't get much on colour at all as it was in poor light or obscured by geese. The head looked paler than upperparts. I didn't get a good view of the underparts as it was flying about level with me, but there was some barring visible as the bird turned slightly as the crow mobbed it.

It wasn't a juvenile, but I wasn't able to sex it.

Honey Buzzard has alluded me on the patch and in Northumberland for a long time now, I didn't expect to turn one up today!. Everyone and their dog saw one during the influx of September 2008 except me. I'll hopefully be seeing hundreds of them when I am in Tarifa in two weeks time.

So Honey Buzzard is my second new patch bird for the year taking the patch list to 227. It is a shame that HB in Northumberland has such a stigma associated with it, because of the actions of one or two individuals. As a result I expect some flack about this record...all light-hearted I'm sure. Dave Elliott joined me shortly after the bird had gone out of view, he had seen the geese from the hide but hadn't look up at them which is such a shame.

A look offshore at high-tide yesterday afternoon, which was a big tide, saw me add turnstone to the year list as five flew north and a greenshank on the beach was new for the year.

Sadly, three yellow wagtails calling overhead were also a year-tick - no breeding birds this year.

131 Greenshank
132 Turnstone
133 Yellow wagtail

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Now for something stoatally different

I squeezed a quick visit to the patch in this morning before work. Reports of icterine warbler on the Farnes and several pied flycatchers along the coast had my hopes built up.

All I managed was a garden warbler. Always nice to see at Druridge and can be missed some years. There were lots of 'wheeting' willowchaffs and few sedge warblers in the bushes.

As I drove along the road, heading for work, I saw a stoat dragging a big rabbit across the road in front of me. I was quickly out of the car and taking photo's. The stoat didn't seem to mind me, more keen on dragging, the still alive and kicking (and screaming!), rabbit off the road. 

It takes some effort to drag a rabbit that is nearly three times your mass
A woman in a silver car had no time for the stoat, rabbit or me, and zoomed by giving me 'evils' as she passed. The stoat was soon back though, managing to haul the rabbit of the road.

Some cyclists and a dog walker didn't deter the stoat from its mission. (Mr cyclist remarked to Mrs cyclist "did you see the red squirrel" as they sped by). This gave me an opportunity to swap sides for a better view, to photograph the stoat finally coming back to drag it's breakfast, which was now dead,  into the long grass.

Coming back for another go

sneaking up

stealth like

it's mine now!

When the angry woman in the silver car scared the stoat away and the rabbit was still moving but obviously debilitated, I did think about putting it out of it's misery, but I thought better of it, that was the the stoat's job.

There'll be no blog posts this weekend. I'm off to the Birdfair. If you're going, do pop by by and say hi. I'll be on the Birdwatching Northumberland stand in Marquee 1 stands 53/54.

Sunday 5 August 2012


No blog activity this week. I've been internet free for a week at the famous (amongst ringers at least) Icklesham site in East Sussex. It's been rather nice having not having to deal with email for a week.

Back on the patch this morning before the rain set in. It was depressing. Highlights were a new brood of little grebe (three) and a year-tick stock dove.

It depresses me even more to hear of the new scrapes at Newton coming up trumps with a Stilt Sandpiper. It's brilliant for the Stringer, he has put a lot of work in there and deserves some good birds. Druridge could and should be pulling in birds like stilt sandpiper. It won't attract any passage waders this autumn and won't again until the Budge fields are properly grazed. The frustrating thing for me is that I can't do anything about the situation....

Here are some photos from today.

Hoverfly Helophilus trivittatus 
Hoverfly Helophilus trivittatus 
Green-veined white 'on the job'
small skipper on knapweed

Wednesday 25 July 2012


After hearing that there has been a couple of pom skuas off Beadnell this afternoon (presumably Gary Stringer?) I decided a short seawatch after work was in order.

The highlight was 10 to 12 white-beaked dolphins performing offshore, they were a bit distant but showed well through the scope. There were also at least six harbour porpoise in the bay.

A med gull on the beach was a year tick, other highlights were:

Manx shearwater 22 N
Velvet Scoter 1 drake N
Common Scoter c65
scaup 1 drake N
Arctic skua 3
roseate tern 4
great-crested grebe 1 on sea
red-throated diver 4 on sea
sanderling 57 on beach

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Weekend gone

Finally, a chance to update the blog.

Here we go with some highlights of the weekend just gone.

On Thursday, I did a short seawatch. Nothing much moving by the time I started, 15 manx shearwater north and five whimbrel were the highlights. On the reserve, the long-eared owls were still feeding their scattered young and a female marsh harrier was hunting.

Views of marsh harrier hunting over the Budge fields
I managed another short seawatch on Saturday evening, it looked quite promising but delivered little:-

manx shearwater 10 north
arctic skua 4
common scoter 65
red-throated diver 6

and a nice count of 55 sanderling on the beach.

On Sunday I did the WeBS count. It was very quiet as you would expect for July. Highlights were 15 shoveler and a new brood of gadwall. One wigeon and two teal were notable returnees. Flocks of egrets and cranes may well have been on the Budge fields but the grass is so high you wouldn't see them, it's tricky enough to see the ponies....seemingly cows are on the way. Watch this space.

The swallows that are nesting in the Oddie Hide have succeeded against all odds. We ringed the chicks a week ago and by Sunday all three had fledged.

Tonight I had a wander about, the barn owls at the farm are amusing me. You can see their box from the dunes or little hide. Some of the young have fledged and have been photographed, the smallest young are still in the box but hanging by their feet from the edge of the box, stretching their wings...not long now.

Five whimbrel were on the newly cut silage fields to the west and three (the same ones?) were on the beach later. The evening gull roost is building nicely with at least 900 common gulls on the beach at dusk. The tides are rubbish for gull-watching for the next few days though.

male stonechat on ragwort

Monday 16 July 2012

Auroral Array

Last night, well early this morning actually, we went to Druridge with the hope of seeing the 'Northern Lights' or Aurora borealis to give them there proper name and we weren't disappointed.

At first it just looked a greenish-blue glow in the sky, to the north, so it couldn't have just been the  last of daylight disappearing overt the horizon. We watched it for a bit, it changed intensity a bit, but otherwise just a glow.
The glow - you can make out the Bay and some light pollution.

We decided to leave but before we even got back to the car, this appeared.
Auroral array above the dunes

For the next half an hour or so we watched the 'northern lights' which took various forms from shaft of light - green at the base turning purple - to a long arc of light across the sky with further beams of light radiating from it. All very impressive and to top it off we had a soundtrack of long-eared owls and water rail.

Northern lights Aurora borealis  -PATCH TICK!

Thanks must go to David Steel, Hannah Bayman and the Nastromoners for the twitter updates.

Sunday 15 July 2012

Ringing related

Most of my activities this weekend have been ringing related, but very little of that activity has been on the patch.

The only ringing we did do on the patch was to ring the swallow chicks in the Oddie hide, three of them, all looking fit and healthy, which is good considering the amount of rain the parents have had to endure. Offshore on Friday evening there were three arctic skuas harrying terns in the bay and a lone white-beaked dolphin, heading north at a colossal speed. It was clearing the water in long jumps every 3 seconds or so for a good two minutes.

Today, I had a chance for wander around the patch either side of serious net-ride maintenance. Offshore this morning, I picked up a female velvet scoter flying north before landing on sea just off the Dunbar Burn. At the mouth of the Dunbar Burn, 14 sanderlings were feeding, still looking colourful as they moulted out of their summer garb. Also offshore of note were five red-throated divers (all in summer plumage), a pair of great-crested grebes and a single arctic skua.

At least three cuckoo's were on the patch this afternoon. One of them was an adult, I only saw the other two against the light.

126 velvet scoter

Tuesday 10 July 2012

mostly misty

Here's a weekend round up from a mostly fog-bound Druridge.

This shot of three mute swans flying south on Saturday morning nicely summarises the weekends weather.
mute swans through the gloom that was Saturday's weather
The long-eared owl family are still about, encouraging lots of visiting birders to Druridge, which in itself is a rare thing nowadays. Have a look at John Malloy's blog for some excellent LEO shots On Sunday evening, the young barn owls in the box at the farm were venturing out to have a look around and a wing-stretch whilst they waited to be fed, it won't be long until they're fledging.

A juvenile yellow wagtail feeding with a group of juvvy pied wags was my first of the year, they were up by the 'Druridge bushes' feeding were the cattle grazed.

A whimbrel flying south was my first of the autumn.I think fly-bys are going to be the only waders I'm going to see on the patch this year. The big pool is brim-full so no edge for waders there, this doesn't bother me because it isn't possible to control the water levels on the big pool. What does bother me is the lack of grazing on the Budge fields. The ponies are better than nothing, just, but they're aren't enough of them and they are too selective. What is needed is cows, big, hungry cows at that. I intend to take this issue up with NWT to see if there is anything the birdwatching community can do to assist.

There are a few family parties of warblers, reed bunting and the like moving around, we really need to start ringing at Druridge now....if the rain ever stops.

I've been practising with the new SLR again - here are some non-birdy shots.

The wildflowers in the dunes are at their best right now
buff-tailed bumblebee visiting viper's bugloss
A cinnabar moth caterpillar on ragwort
close-up view of a common spotted orchid

speckled wood butterfly by the Oddie hide. A recent colonist to Druridge
narrow-bordered five spot burnet moth
Silver Y moth  - there was an influx of these into Druridge at the weekend with dozens seen  in the dunes