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