Saturday 30 June 2012

Patch tick dip

My 500th blog post but I am gutted. I've just dipped a full patch tick - Mandarin Duck!

After a busy day, I got down to Druridge after six this evening, starting with a look on the sea and quick scan for owls from the big dune but if I'd gone straight to the Oddie hide I would have a patch tick in the bag. 

I didn't go to the Oddie hide because yesterday there was nothing to so see there.

So, I wander down from the big dune and bump into Alan Hall and Steve Rippon heading towards their car and tell me they'd just been watching a female mandarin duck on the big pool...."That'll be a patch tick for you?"...

They both headed down to the Oddie hide with me to show me where it had last been seen. I gave it an hour or so until we all agreed that it was either gone or had gone to roost. Gutted.

There's always tomorrow.

Aside from the anguish of dipping a patch mega, the highlights were a summer-plumaged red-throated diver offshore (first one of the autumn), a drake scaup on the big pool and the best bit of all - the long-eared owls have fledged three chicks, they were all calling on the reserve tonight.

This morning I've been up to Dunbar for the annual ringing session of the kittiwake colony there.

Dunbar Harbour kittiwake colony
I also got to ring herring gull chicks
I've been trying out the macro facility on the new camera, not sure what I am doing with it yet (like how to i get the whole damselfly in focus not just the head or tail) but here are a couple of efforts.

Azure damselfly

Large skipper and viper's bugloss
121 Scaup

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Monday and Tuesday on the patch

I had a day off work yesterday so spent the morning on the patch. The sky was overcast and rain threatened all morning. I had a bit of a play around with the new dSLR but the light was awful, so didn't do much.

male scorpion fly Panorpa communis
Through the reeds. singing male reed  bunting   

juvenile stonechat
Highlights of the morning where barn and long-eared owl and a female marsh harrier.

I would love to take the credit for this excellent long-eared owl shot, but I can't, it's one of Alan Gilbertson's.

hunting long eared owl (c) Alan Gilbertson
This morning, I had a quick pre-work look around the patch , in the fog. A great-spotted woodpecker was unusual for this time of year. They are normally an autumn passage bird at Druridge.

Sunday 24 June 2012

Dodging the showers

My alarm was set for 4.30 this morning, with a  plan to go ringing. I didn't even need to get out of bed to realise that ringing wasn't an option as the rain was hammering off the window.

So, a more leisurely start to my morning, sauntering down to the patch for 11ish to the WeBS count and have a nosey about. I had to dodge the showers though, heavy showers, arriving one after the other from the north.

I was heartened to see that two of the County's scarcer breeding duck species had produced broods of ducklings; shoveler (one brood of four) and gadwall (at least two broods, one of nine - maybe a quarter size and a brood of four tiny ducklings not long out of the egg). Gadwall are becoming much more common, but shoveler only breed at a few sites each year. It was nice to add a hunting marsh harrier to the WeBS count too.

It is difficult to tell exactly how the waders have done this year as the vegetation is so high. I've counted a handful of lapwing chicks, a pair of oystercatchers were behaving like a nesting pair a week or two ago, they've vanished and the snipe?  It's impossible to say.

The Exmoor ponies grazing the Budge fields have been better than nothing but not ideal, they are too selective. What NWT need now is some big hairy cows to chomp the rank grass, flatten the rush and eat the vegetation in the pools. If they get them on in the next couple of weeks, we might get to see some passage waders.

I had begun to think great-crested grebe were going to evade my 2012 patch-list. Once much more common at Druridge, they've become trickier in recent years so I was pleased to see a pair out on the big pool.

record shot of great-crested grebe in awful light
I've got the day of work tomorrow so hope to give the patch a bit a flogging and if the light is better, have a play with the new camera.

120 Great-crested grebe

Monday 18 June 2012

late evening visit

A late evening visit to the patch, spent entirely scanning from the top of the big dune yielded a me a very nice year-tick - a spoonbill.

I was chatting to a mate, showing him a male marsh harrier when tit flew over the spoonbill on the Budge fields. It was up to its belly, feeding in the pool, so I couldn't tell whether it was the same bird that was at Newton recently sporting lots of jewellery (see the Stringers post)

As well as the spooner and the marsh harrier I also had barn owl, long-eared owl and a couple of roseate terns offshore. Also on the budge field at dusk was a male roe deer, it must be a couple of years since I saw deer on the patch. Not a bad haul.

Still no groppers

115 roseate tern
116 long-eared owl
117 spoonbill

Sunday 10 June 2012

Absence makes the heart grow stronger....

Sorry for the lack of blog activity lately. Don't worry, the excitement of the two red-rumped swallows didn't send me over the edge, there are two good reasons.

The first was an excellent birding and mammal watching trip to NE Poland and the second, much more mundane reason was a trapped nerve in my back which debilitated me for the best part of two weeks. Before I round up the latest news from Druridge (there's not much!), here are some photos from Poland. We went to the amazing Bialoweiza Forest NP in the extreme NE of Poland first then to the Biebza marshes. If you haven't been to this area before I can thoroughly recommend it.

Bog alder and spruce forest - home of white-backed woodpeckers
middle-spotted woodpecker at the nest
Pygmy owl (poor quality, nearly dark!)
European bison at dawn - worth the 3.30am start
black redstart  - just out of the nest
common cranes

great reed warbler in FULL blast
whiskered tern
white-winged tern
So, back to Druridge. My bad-back literally put me out of action until Monday/Tuesday so no visits at all til then. Even though I am a bit more mobile, I've only managed four short visits to the patch.

Barn owls seem ever-present at the moment, with both parent hunting around the patch from early evening. (I did fear for them the other night when three 'shoot anything that moves' types turned up with air rifles). A male marsh harrier is hunting regularly over the Budge fields too. Two little terns were feeding in the bay, a species I failed to see in 2011.

What is worrying is the total absence of grasshopper warblers - where are they? I spoke to Dave Elliott who hasn't heard any at East Chev either. Is this situation the same across the County?

Today was generally grey, the sun did put in a short appearance in the afternoon. I had a good walk around the patch this morning but didn't see much of note. It wasn't easy to see anything from any of the hides as the grass has now grown up in front of the windows. Normally I would cut this myself, but not with my bad-back! Hopefully NWT are on the case. I spent some time wandering around with the new camera, just trying it out. The light was awful so not much success.
View from the hide - good if you like wildflowers
cuckoo flower or ladies smock
There were fledged grey heron youngsters on the Budge fields. We tried to ring some at the colony before we went to Poland, but couldn't get into the nests. There were eight occupied nests this year, down two from 2011.

Tonight I had a quick look on the see and scan over the patch. The oddest thing was a party of 19 sanderlings, all in breeding plumage, that appeared on the beach from nowhere. The question is...are they late migrants heading north or are they either failed or non-breeders moving back south?

Hopefully normal bogging service will now resume.

PS the patch year-list now stands at 114 (must try harder)