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.