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

Sunday 1 July 2012

Patch Tick!

They don't come often these days, but today saw another new bird added to my Druridge patch list. Mandarin Duck. OK, it's not a mega rare eastern migrant, but it's new for the patch and it's on my list.

It took a bit to get, after last nights failed efforts, I had a 6.30 start this morning but the duck proved to be illusive. Thankfully, whilst I was having a wander, it was re-found by the original finder, Steve Rippon. It only showed for a couple of minutes before disappearing again, probably sat up in the trees.

The mandarin takes the patch list to 226, my first patch tick of 2012 and the first since last years storm petrel.

Elsewhere this morning the long-eared owl juveniles were very vocal, calling all morning. This one was visible from the public right of way.

Peek-a-boo. Juvenile long-eared owl watching me watching it
 They are also very mobile but are still being fed by the adults.

Silhouette of long-eared owl adult with a vole

A female tufted duck had a brood of five newly-hatched ducklings.
Adult female tufted duck with five ducklings
Cute. tufted duckling

A tip off from Dave Elliott helped me add cuckoo to the year list as I scoped an adult flying south past the plantation toward Hemscotthill. Seemingly, Dave had seen six cuckoos at East Chevington this morning.

This afternoon I was back on the patch, this time ringing the barn owl chicks from the nestbox on the farm. I've been watching the adults hunting around the patch for the last couple of weeks, taking plenty of prey into the box so is suspected there might be a good-sized brood and I was right. When we checked the box we found four good-sized young inside, two of them not far off fledging.

One of four barn owl chicks ringed from the nestbox
Even at this age it can be possible to sex barn owls. The spots on the underwing of this bird shows it will be a female

Ringed and 'posted' back into their box. They'll be fledging soon.

After ringing the owls, I had a drive along the dune road and my luck was in. A raptor caught my eye, flying toward the car from right, from the dunes. As it drew level, I could see a 'moustache' - an adult hobby flew over the car and then over the bushes...gone. There has been a hobby reported regularly over the last week or so from Cresswell up to Chevington. Nice to see it at Druridge.

122 mandarin duck
123 cuckoo
124 hobby