Tuesday 31 December 2013

Perseverance pays off

With the wind howling and light mizzle falling at home this morning, it would have been very easy to say "Sod it", not go down to the patch and find something better to fill my day. After all the likelihood of a year-tick was slim.

But no, I thought, it's your last chance, get yersel out. I decided on grand tour of the patch, starting at the bushes then down to the Oddie hide and a good chinwag with Ian Douglas. Then I headed inland, for the Preceptory. I sneaked in, walking over some fresh barn owl pellets and caught a little owl sneaking out from one of the chimney stacks, it flew out to perch on the fence. A very unexpected year-tick.

Ian Douglas and I had just been discussing how poor an owl year it was.

My route then took me down to the farm, where there was a decent flock of chaffinches but nothing else among them and back towards the cottages.

A final quick scan of the Budge fields revealed nothing new and the rain had started to lash down, so I headed for home without my usual look at the sea.

So the year ended on a bit of a highlight with my 171st species for the patch for the year, the best year I've had for at least the last six. I can't put my finger on why the year has been so good. I eventually got most of the common waders, despite passage being slack, there was no real 'falls' of the autumn so I missed stuff like redstart. Seawatching was canny at times so that would have helped, but we caught and ringed less birds than any previous year.. All in all though, an above average year.

So the highlights...

The greatest highlight was catching and ringing a breeding pair of marsh warblers and then seeing fledged young later. We had to keep this to ourselves at the time for obvious reasons. If accepted, this will be the first confirmed breeding record for the County.

Marsh warbler (male)
Three new species were added to the list.

The first was nightjar back in May, which you can read about here. Nighjtar was a species I hadn't even considered might occur at Druridge.

The second species to be added was Jay. Long awaited and I didn't even find it myself, but thanks to Roger and Dave.

The final species was belter, not found by me, but by Martin Kitching. Subalpine warbler, later confirmed as being of the 'eastern' race and hopefully split very soon.

I've really enjoyed my year on the patch again. I'll not be starting over again tomorrow as I am off to West Bromwich Albion. Maybe on the 2nd....

Thanks for reading over the last year and all the best for 2014!

171 Little Owl

Saturday 28 December 2013

The end is nigh

The end of another year on the patch approaches. I don't know why we birders concentrate on our 'year lists' as much as we do. It is just another date in the calendar after all and doesn't really relate to natural seasons at all.

For me, a patch year list gives me a new challenge, an impetus to get off my arse in January and February and go bird watching on the patch. So regularly starting a 'new list' to keep giving me something to aim for needs a start and end date, so I guess January 1st makes sense.

Another way to keep interest fresh would be to change patches every few years. This would be interesting, but I think for it to work, I would have to move house, so that my new patch was closer home. I have mulled over the thought of a on-foot-from-home patch, a triangle between Ellington, the Lyne Burn and Cresswell. It would certainly have the potential to turn up new birds but I think the people and the activities they get up to on this patch puts me off, it would be even be worse than Druridge.

What a new patch might look like
So for 2014 at least, I will stick with what I've got. I've signed up for next years patchwork challenge now, so I may as well.

So back to this year, even with likelihood of adding anything to my year list diminishing, so had yesterday's storm, so I had a mooch around the patch. Nothing stirred in the bushes other than the goldfinch flock and a small roving tick flock and there was nothing new on the Budge fields On the big pool, there were still two long-tailed ducks and a 'female type' common scoter.

Offshore, there were lots of red-throated divers again, easily 45 in the bay. As I scanned through them, a bigger diver was its own and it wasn't a great northern, it was a black-throated. Not a common bird at all at Druridge, but there has been a few around this autumn, there was even one on East Chevington this morning. This is my first patch black-throat since 2010 and a welcome, if late, addition to the year list. A further scan also turned up a great northern further south and a harbour porpoise.

So, they year list rockets to 170, my best total in at least the last seven years. Not much chance of another new bird this year....

This evening I went to East Chevington for the starling murmuration. It was nearly 3.34pm before things got going with a small group of a couple of hundred birds. Small flocks seemed to arrive to join them from all directions and by 4pm there were thousands. It was very windy but the display was still excellent.

count them! some of the murmuration.
Word is out about the murmuration and there was quite a crowd tonight. I took this video, which is just some of the birds. Might try some video on the SLR if the wind drops.

Friday 27 December 2013

Thailand Blog

As the weather has been so awful today and any attempt at birding would have been pointless, I spent my day writing-up the second part of our trip to Thailand (last December/January) onto my birding trips blog.

You can read it here http://ipinsbirdingtrips.blogspot.co.uk/

If tomorrow is as bad as today, I might get the last bit done. Then I've only got Catalunya and Tarifa to do and I'll be caught up :-)

Sunday 15 December 2013

WeBS Count

Today was WeBS count day and it through up a couple of surprises.

The first surprise was a black-tailed godwit amongst the curlews, a further scan revealed a second blackwit. Black-tailed godwits are really uncommon at Druridge in winter. The only other winter record in my database was on 2nd January 2012.

Wildfowl numbers on the Budge fields are picking up with 152 wigeon, 43 teal and 13 shoveler. Lapwing numbered 237 and curlew 46.

On the big pool, the common scoter (female/first winter type) reported on Birdguides during the week was still present. A first record of this species for the inland WeBS count.

common scoter on the big pool - it never raised its head for a better photo.
I popped back to Druridge at dusk. The starling murmuration at East Chevington was visible with the naked eye. It's a pretty impressive site, numbering thousands of birds. The birds finally went into roost just before 4pm, so if you get the chance, head up there for about 3.30 for some great views.

Saturday 7 December 2013

Turned out all white

At lunchtime today , I was sat in the Oddie hide with Graeme Bowman and Les Robson contemplating heading home to watch the Newcastle match and eat last nights cold pizza when Graeme got a muffled call about an ivory gull at Seahouses.

We were soon on our way and this is what greeted us when we arrived at the golf course.

A stunning juvenile ivory gull, which showed incredibly well, thankfully the course was too flooded for it to be bothered by golfers.

The assembled crowd watched as it took off and headed south and almost in unison shouted 'there's two of them' with various expletives rightly added. They called to each other and continued south together. Amazing. Congratulations to Gary Woodburn on another great find.

As regular readers of this tosh will know, I rarely twitch, because when I do I don't see the bird, so it nice to twitch a bird and see two!

The 'Seahouses-two' were relocated on the beach at Annstead and everyone enjoyed further views of them on the rocks before the tide pushed them off and they flew off north.

A new bird for me and a lot of the Northumbrian birders there, the last being in Seahouses in 1979. This takes my county list to 311.

There was little doing at Druridge before I left. There wasn't a bird on the sea, all the divers from last week have gone (tell a lie, there was a single shag). On the big pool there were two long-tailed ducks.

Outside of the patch at Hemscotthill links the finch flock had about 40 twite among it. I scanned them for colour-rings without success. There were tree sparrows, reed buntings and strangely a rock pipit amongst the linnets, goldfinches, chaffinches and twite.

I would love get access to the Hemscothill Links to woosh that finch flock.

Sunday 1 December 2013


Having only added one new species to patch list in November and the Patchwork Challenge coastal North mini-league hotting up at the top, I'm going to have to get down to the patch more often in December. The countdown to end of the year has begun.

My visit started with a bit of drama. A sheep in the paddock south of the plantation had got itself onto its back and couldn't get back onto its feet. As much as I detest sheep (they are the stupidest of creatures), I couldn't see the poor thing suffer, so I went to its rescue. My good deed for the day done.

Off it goes, not even a thank you
Sheep rescued, I went to the north end where there about 1200 pink-footed geese in the fields west of the haul road. The weedy areas of the dunes held three stonechats and a handful of linnets, dunnocks, goldfinch and reed buntings.


On the sea, there were an impressive 38 red-throated divers and three red-breasted mergansers. 16 sanderlings were pushed back and forward along the beach by dog walkers.

Talking of dog-walkers. When I got to the Budge screen hide, one of the lazy bastards had left a full bag of stinking dog-shit on the seat of the hide. And then, I trod in a heap by my car. Druridge is becoming a massive dogs-toilet and I am getting fed-up with it.

Wildfowl numbers are picking up on the Budge fields with 90-100 of teal and wigeon. Two long-tailed ducks were on the big pool.

Sunday 10 November 2013

Finally....We caught a twite

I spent today off the patch, not even on the mainland - I was marooned on Coquet Island.

If you've read this rubbish since I started writing my blog, you may recall our mission to ring twite and how we have failed miserably for six years. Well today we finally ringed a twite on the Northumberland coast

Our first efforts were concentrated in the National Trust paddock, just to the south of the plantation at Druridge. The NTBC funded us to buy some niger seed with the hope of colour-ringing twite as part of the national scheme. For two winters we baited the area up but couldn't encourage the twite to leave their favoured habitat of the denuded dunes at Hemscotthill, feeding on weed seeds amongst the silage used to feed the over-wintering beast.

Everything else ate the niger, including rooks!

So plan B was hatched when I discovered that Coquet Island holds a twite flock each autumn.

Year 1 - Natural England permission wasn't received before the twite left
Year 2 - It snowed
Year 3 - Every trip aborted because of the weather.
Year 4 - Finally today, we caught our first twite.

The first twite to be colour-ringed on the Northumberland Coast
The Coquet twite appear to leave the Island once the food has gone or it snows, heading for saltmarsh or dunes on the mainland?

We hope to catch some more before they leave, but even if we don't, please keep an eye open for colour-ringed twite on the coast this winter. We still don't know where our wintering twite breed, so hopefully some more colour-ringed birds might shed some light. Here is Coquet Island lighthouse shedding its own light at dusk tonight.

Saturday 9 November 2013


Two brief visits to the patch today between chores.

It was bright and cold today with brisk westerly wind, I tramped around the northern end of the patch. No snow buntings to be seen on the beach, Dave Elliott must have tempted them north to feast on pin-head oats or whatever else he's been spreading.

There was a huge flock goldfinches in the dunes, maybe 250 or more, they're feeding on burdock and thistle seeds.

Some of the goldfinches

The finches weren't the only golden thing in the sky.

RAF Boulmer 202 Squadron flying over Druridge. I will miss seeing these when they go.
This evening I had a look for a black-throated diver that had been reported on the sea off the plantation. No sign of it, but plenty red-throated divers and a great-crested grebe.

Saturday 26 October 2013

Swift Exit

After a look around the plantation and bushes by the entrance to Druridge, having seen a chiffchaff, great-spotted woodpecker, goldcrests and Ian Douglas of note, I was chatting to Roger Foster when he said 'I've got a swift'

Any swift in October requires a grilling. Unfortunately this bird was already quite distant and was heading north. It did bank around, three or four times, even looking like it might head south once, but it didn't. I saw it briefly in the scope before we lost it as continued north.

We had nothing better than silhouetted views in very poor light against the sky. At times, when it banked, the wing-tips looked sharp and when it banked again they looked blunter. Pallid swift has to be a possibility at this time of year but we couldn't do anything with it at this distance and in this light. Pallid/common swifts can be tricky in Spain with stunning light against the hills.so this one will go int he notebook as 'Swift sp'

I had an hour on the big dune, scanning the skies - nothing.

Seemingly it, or another swift, was seen again mid-afternoon. I don't know who by.

There was a bit of vizmig today, with groups of skylarks going over, a few pied wags and meadow pipits and a flock of redpolls headed south. A steady stream of herring gulls also headed south. A peregrine put up the gulls and lapwings from the fields - my first of the year unbelievably.

I was back on the patch in the afternoon after three snow buntings were reported on the beach by the turning circle. They'd moved south a bit (thanks for the wave Neil) just beyond the blockhouse.

After been absent from Druridge for a few years, I've connected with snow bunting in the last three winters.

Snow Buntings

167 peregrine
168 snow bunting

Sunday 20 October 2013

The weekend

Time on the patch was limited this weekend due the Toon kicking off at 12.45 yesterday. This meant two things;

1) Limited birding time on Saturday morning to catch the 10.30 bus
2) A guaranteed hangover this morning as we were going out for dinner after the match

So I had an hour or so on the patch yesterday morning before heavy rain set in. There were newly-arrived blackcaps and blackbirds in the plantation and willows by the entrance. It was quiet, so I gathered some field mushrooms to go in my pre-match bacon butty and headed home.

field mushrooms
The predicted hangover wasn't as bad as I expected, so I was down on the patch for 11am. The rain hadn't dropped many birds in, the plantation being virtually bird-less other than a fly-in great spotted woodpecker, I saw two more great-spots later too.

12 lesser redpols flew over and kept going. The other bushes were quiet too, with only a few goldcrests of note

Dave Elliot's goosander had gone from the pool, but I picked up three together offshore. There were 6 red-throated divers on the sea.

166 Goosander

Thursday 17 October 2013

Ringing and stuff

I had a quick pre-work visit to Druridge yesterday morning and spent an hour in the plantation. Highlight was a pied flycatcher, quite late I though, so I gave it a good grilling but it was nothing rare than a pied fly.

There were a three or four chiffchaffs, one very grey bird called like a Sibe, the others were bog standard chiffs. Three swallows flew south, a few goldcrests flitted about and handful of redwings were present.

I took this afternoon off. Today looked like the only day of the week that would be suitable for ringing. I had a good session, catching 24 new birds. A chiffchaff was the only warbler in the nets, also caught eight long-tailed tits (another 12 flew south), three goldcrests and assorted tits, fiches and wrens.

A great-spotted woodpecker passed through the bushes.

Once I had packed the ringing site up, I had a look offshore were the highlight was a drake velvet scoter leading the pack north as it was being followed by 21 common scoters.

It as a fab sunset tonight, took this with my knackered old phone on its last day before I join the 'iphone generation'

165 pied flycatcher (first since 2010)

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Ten year ringing report

Bird Ringing as part of the BTO ringing scheme has taken place at Druridge since April 2003. To mark the the tenth season of ringing, we decided to write a 'ten-year ringing report' which we have been slaving over for the last ten months.

Well it is finally here. The report contains species accounts for all of the species 58 ever ringed at Druridge with some interesting graphs and tables as well as maps of recoveries and controls and interesting histories of re-trapped birds.

We hope you find it interesting. You can download a copy here as pdf but be warned it is nearly 10mb.

Sunday 13 October 2013


Looking at the pressure charts last week, this weekend looked very promising. It didn't fail to deliver, with some excellent seawatching on Friday, but a classic fall of migrants didn't happen.

Yesterday (Saturday) morning started damp, with light rain/mizzle ruling out a seawatch, so I concentrated my efforts on the bushes and gave the patch a good trashing.

Other than a few goldcrests, there wasn't much to get excited about until lunchtime, when pursuing a thrush-sized passerine, I flushed a crake from an area of thick, dry, nettle. It was quite large, but smaller than a moorhen, it's legs were dangling as it flew, briefly over the nearest hawthorns. It didn't call. It was silhouetted against the sky, so it looked generally dark (but anything would in that light). The dangling legs reminded me immediately of corncrake.

I headed off in the same direction, holding out little hope of seeing it again as I didn't see it land, as I approached a hawthorn thicket, a bird took off, through the branches, clattering them as it went, making nearly as much racket as a woodpigeon. It emerged out of the top of the bushes, legs dangling....my crake again. Again it flew north, this time I never saw it again. Probably a cornflake but not clinched. Another one gets away. A 'Country Barn' pasty and mars bar crispie cake was required.

I tried an afternoon seawatch but the light and visibility were awful.

Today was WeBS count day. A dunlin on the big pools was the highlight of the count. There was nothing of note in the bushes and a 40 minute seawatch was unproductive with two manx shearwaters and five red-throated divers (in a group) the only highlights.

Friday 11 October 2013

A much better seawatch.

After this mornings dismal seawatching experience, I took a long lunch to squeeze in a two-hour seawatch this afternoon and I am so glad I made the effort.

Before I had even set up my seat, I had bonxies going north just beyond the breakers - a taste of things to come.

Bonxies certainly dominated the afternoon, they mainly came through in little groups, with an amazing 13 in one group alone. The two main highlights though were two Balearic shearwaters, the first one came through at 15.04, quite close in. I had hardly finished writing in my notebook when a pale pomarine skua came past very close, quite high above the breakers. An hour or so later (16:10), a second Balearic flew north, closer than the first, just over the breakers.

A steady run of sooty shearwaters, mainly singles, but a group of five in a line were amazing. Other highlights were a single slavonian grebe, 3 drake velvet scoters together and a great-northern diver. Compared to this morning there were very few duck, with only wigeon and scoters noted.

Posted totals from elsewhere have included leach's petrel - still very much a bogey bird for me...one of these days

The full tally (1440-1640) (all north unless stated)

bonxie 61
gannet 981*
common scoter 102
kittiwake 416*
sooty shearwater 15
great black-backed gull 47N 1S
common gull 3
slavonian grebe1
guilliemot 3
black-headed gull 8
fulmar 8
balearic sheawater 2
pomarine skua 1
wigeon 32
velvet scoter 3
manx shearwater 3
cormorant 2
eider 3
red-throated diver 2
kestrel 1
razorbill 1
great-northern diver 1
shag 1

* under-count as ignored when something more exciting came through! Gulls under-counted too as many flying under eye-level, close to the dunes.

162 balearic shearwater (first on the patch since 2010)
163 pomarine skua (first since 2011)
164 slavonian grebe

tried a seawatch

I tried a quick pre-work sea-watch this morning.

It was dry when I left home, the sun was just coming up. When I got to Druridge it was lashing it down with rain. The light, looking out to sea, was awful. The rising sun was catching on the rain droplets making visibility poor, anything beyond half way out was little more than a silhouette. Gannets and few duck flocks were close in, but anything exciting was obscured. I gave it half an hour before packing in and heading to work.

This was the view looking back from Cresswell (where it was still dry) to Druridge.

I'll give it another go later.

Totals (for what they are worth) (30 mins)

gannet 57
mallard 37
red-throated diver 3
eider 6
cormorant 1
kittiwake 21
wigeon 24

Sunday 6 October 2013

Ringing Demo

I've said it before and I will no doubt say it again. I've given up with weather forecasts. Look out the window and see what its doing is the best way, especially as we can now see 13 wind turbines from our bedroom window.

The forecast for this morning was 13 mph westerlies, gusting up to 28mph - no good for ringing at Druridge. The reality at 7.30am was virtually flat calm with a light southerly. So we put some nets up.

There was a bio-blitz type event organised by NWT this weekend, so we agreed to do a ringing session as part of it. Quite a few folk turned up to see what we were up to. We caught 23 birds, which wasn't bad considering a lot of the new arrivals had obviously shipped-out in the clear conditions overnight.

Star of the show for the punters was undoubtedly this great spotted woodpecker (not so much fun the poor ringers who had to extract it and hold it for a photo - but to be honest it was quite well-behaved)

Great-spotted woodpecker
Other ringing highlights were whitethroat, blackcap and two chiffchaffs.

It was still good for viz-mig with small groups of goldfinch, tree sparrow, meadow pipit and skylark going through with the occasional pied and grey wags, linnet and lapwing. Pink-footed geese were moving through most of the morning in small groups.

In the bushes one, probably two, yellow-browed warblers were still calling.

What is most worrying is a incident of cattle rustling. The cows, that have been doing such a great job of tackling the rank vegetation on the Budge fields have vanished. As they were doing a grand job, surely NWT wouldn't have taken them off? The only answer is that they have been rustled. The thieves were obviously not being keen on ponies as they left them behind. 

I will report the disappearance to NWT tomorrow and report back.

Saturday 5 October 2013

A tale of 'the one that got away'

There is an interesting pre-amble in the latest issue British Birds to the rare bird report for 2012. The introductory text talks about changes to the way that records are submitted, the decline in note-taking and the increase in digital images as well as 'single observer records'.

It also mentions the line that is drawn between 'the one that got away' and a return from the BBRC of 'not proven'.

We saw a bird today that is well into 'the one that got away' territory. Hopefully it will also be a useful learning experience. Here's the tale...

Ten to eight this morning and I was in the plantation at the entrance to Druridge Links. Janet had just called to say she arrived and asked where I was.

As I was talking a warbler popped out from some low pine and nettle vegetation and I got the briefest of views before it dropped into cover. It was a chunky looking acro, brown above, pale-creamy buff below - but the most striking thing was the way it's tail was 'cocked' pointing up the way like a cetti's warbler or sprosser holds its tail (it did this every time we saw it).

Janet arrived, I explained the situation. We got two more very brief views as it skulked about in the thick, low-lying, pine. I managed to get some detail on the bill, dark above, paler lower mandible and on the legs which looked dark. The second time it flew a little into a higher pine, still obscured, then dropping back into the low stuff it preferred. It never called. I tried a record shot, but just got over-exposed twigs. It skulked away into the vegetation. Nick Adams turned up and joined the search but we never saw it again.

Describing our bird to Dave E, he said 'shaped like a banana'  - and that's exactly what it was. I found the reference to 'shaped like a banana' - http://punkbirder.webs.com/acroholics.htm

In fact that photo that punkbirder used could have been our bird...

We had ruled out the 'bigger' acros and paddyfield. So, we probably had a Blyth's reed warbler today we didn't clinch it because we couldn't rule out reed warbler as didn't see the upper-parts for long enough to gauge primary projection and we never heard it call. So it will always be a 'one that got away'.

Viz-migging was good again today, especially earlier in the morning with pipits, skylarks and oddly, tree sparrows being really obvious, the latter headed south in small groups. There were also a few swallows and martins, small groups of pied wagtails, siskin and redpoll with a couple of  grey wags over too.

We heard, but didn't see, a yellow-browed warbler and the subalpine warbler was again in the 'Druridge bushes' north of the turning circle. We watched leave those bushes, land briefly in a lone hawthorn, then disapear into a large clump of Rosa rugosa 15 yards south of the turning circle. It may never be seen again - that rose clump is very dense!

161 golden plover

Friday 4 October 2013

PATCH MEGA! that didn't go quite to plan.

Yesterday I decided to take today off work on the strength of the pressure charts and overnight rain. Last night on Twitter I said that I would find something good on the patch, if I had to be out all day.

Well, that kind of went to plan, something very good indeed was found on the patch today - just not by me.

I'd been out from first-light, flogging the patch, Martin Kitching (aka Scotland Gate's second-best wildlife tour guide) saunters up to the Druridge bushes at lunchtime and finds this.....

Subalpine warbler

A stonking male subalpine warbler. PATCH MEGA!

Thankfully he phoned me, I wasn't far away in the bushes by the Budge screen and was soon on the scene enjoying good views of this stunning little bird. I managed this record shot, it looks, from the brown in the wing that it is a first-year male and by the colour and extent of colouration on the breast/flanks that it is the nominate race (or full species, western subalpine warbler, according to some authorities). But I haven't had much time to do any research.

Elsewhere on the patch, massively overshadowed by this bird, was a lesser whitethroat, garden warbler, yellow-browed warbler, a few whitethroats, chiffs, blackcaps and goldcrests. Skylarks and meadow pipits moved through all day and a handful of swallows and sand martins (late!) headed south first-thing.

So, second patch-tick in a week. On a roll (hopefully on a roller - that would be nice). This takes my patch list 231 and today's haul takes the year list to 160.....canny gannin.

158 lesser whitethroat
159 garden warbler

Tuesday 1 October 2013

A trio of waders

A brief visited to the patch tonight after work netted me a trio of waders. A tip-off about two little stints from Scotland Gate's second best wildlife tour leader* had me heading for the Oddie hide. Straight from work in shirt and smart(ish) strides and only carrying my bins was not the best approach, especially as martin was leaving, with his scoped I hoped to borrow, as I walked towards the hide.

I soon picked up four waders on the far bank, two were dunlins, two were smaller, presumably the little stints. I couldn't year-tick them on these views, they could have been anything... Luckily they were spooked and one of them, along with the two dunlins landed on the shore in front of the hide, but not for long, before they all flew back tot he far side. As I was closing the shutters to leave, I spied a wader still on the shore, something new though, a juv curlew sandpiper, which must've just pitched in. It was 2009 the last time I saw either of these species on the patch, 2009 was a golden year for waders at Druridge as the Budge fields had been well grazed and there was mud for much of the year.

The third wader species was added to the year list I walked through the weedy dunes at the north end looking for ground dwelling species. I saw three waders fly onto the fields where the flash pond used to be, further inspection showed them to be grey plovers. They didn't hang around though, flying off north towards East Chev. Not an annual species at Druridge so another nice addition to the year list.

There were no passerines of note tonight, despite me giving the weedy dunes a good thrashing.

155 little stint
156 curlew sandpiper
157 grey plover

157 is the average year-list total for Druridge so, October going to plan, this could be a record-breaking year (that's jinxed it).

* Scotland Gate's best wildlife tour leader is of course Martin's wife, Sarah!

Saturday 28 September 2013


I added a new species to my patch list, a MEGA for the patch......JAY!!!

Jay has been seen on the patch before, but not by me. A bird that has so far alluded me on the patch, it's nice to add it to the list.

We were ringing this morning, between net rounds I was having a chat to Dave and Roger when they both saw the bird flying over. I saw it, with my naked eye, but had no bins, luckily Dave passed me his and I saw it well before it disappeared over the top of the bushes heading north.

Jay isn't a bird you see very often on the coastal plain and even less so right down on the shore. It's addition to my patch list takes me to 230 and is the second new bird for the list this year after my spring nightjar.

Ringing was quite slow, despite the arrival of birds during the week. Though after the huge arrival of yellow-browed warblers to the east coast, we predicted we might catch one this morning, we caught two.

Yellow-browed warbler number 1

Yellow-browed warbler number 2
After the arrival of the yellow-browed warblers on Wednesday, I was back on the patch on Thursday morning and saw three, probably four, in the bushes. Mike Carr saw one at High Chibburn Farm at the same time, so there were at least five on the patch on Thursday. We also had siskin and redpoll fly over but the redwings that arrived on Tuesday and Wednesday had moved on.

Last night, I had a very brief visit and a single bird skulked in the thick hawthorn by the Budge screen, but that was a far as I got.

152 lesser redpoll
153 siskin
154 JAY

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Invasion of the yellow brows

The word unprecedented is a very overused word in my opinion, especially in the popular press, by politicians and corporate bollock-speak. So I tend not to use it, but today warrants the use of the word 'unprecedented'.

The massive arrival of yellow-browed warblers that occurred today in Northumberland has never been seen before on this scale. At least 51 have been recorded in the County today with an amazing 17 on Holy Island, ten at St. Mary's and nine on the Farne's. Druridge didn't miss out on the action either.

I had a quick pre-work bash of the bushes, but didn't find any yellow-browed warblers. There were a few chiffchaffs, a handful of redwings (first of the autumn), coal tit (first of the year) and other bits and bobs.

Working in Amble today meant I could have an extended late lunch-break and have another go. There was a heavy mizzle, verging on light-rain, when I arrived and I was downhearted. I read a tweet from young Jack at Whitley Bay which motivated me, it said that down at St. Mary's new birds were still arriving.

I came across a small tit flock, deep in the bushes. The flock had attracted not one, but two, yellow browed warblers, which moved along with the tits as they went roving north. I walked on and found another (or one of the previous birds) in one of our net-rides. It was three feet from me in alder, I had no camera because of the rain - gutted.

Later, I found another bird; right at the northern end of the bushes. So there were at least three, maybe four yellow-brows, just at Druridge (and I hadn't checked the whole patch)

If this little fall of eastern delights had happened over the weekend, when many more observers would be out, we might have topped a three-figure count I reckon.

On Monday evening I saw two little egrets on the Budge Fields.

149 little egret
150 coal tit
151 yellow browed warbler

Sunday 22 September 2013

Ringing, WeBS and Darters

We put some nets up on Saturday morning but ringing was very slow and by midday we hadn't reached double figures. We caught our first goldcrest of the autumn and a couple of warblers, goldfinches, a blackbird and blue tit.

There seemed to be a few birds int he bushes, but maybe it looked as though there were more than there actually was when the birds gathered on the eastern edge to make the most of the warm sunshine?

This spotted flycatcher was the star amongst the whitethroats, blackcaps, chiffchaffs and willow warblers. A great-spotted woodpeckers was heard but not seen and a pair of kestrels and a sparrowhawk were the raptor highlights.

spotted flycatcher
I had a quick look on the sea in the evening, there were lots of red-throated divers in the bay in varying plumages.

Today was WeBS count day. The Budge fields didn't take much counting, 12 teal, one mallard, two curlew and grey heron.

There was little more life on the big pool, although a great-crested grebe was nice to see - a bit of a scarcity at Druridge in recent years.

This little grebe was amusing, it seemed determined to be sat on a rock, trying three before it finally settled on one it liked.Quite odd to a little grebe perched out like this.

Second choice of rock

Maybe this one will do?

A bit more company here...

The 'Indian summer' the newspapers are heralding hadn't brought many butterflies out bu there were lots of common darters. A good chance to practice my dragonfly photography.

I wasn't down at Druridge in time to see, or take part in, the mass skinnydip, but you can read all about it here 

 148 spotted flycatcher

Sunday 15 September 2013

Sooty Saturday

Saturday was like the calm before the storm. I should've had some nets up on Saturday morning, but didn't. I had a couple of nets up on Friday evening and only caught a single wren, the bushes were empty. Which didn't inspire me to bust-a-gut on Saturday.

I had a look around the patch at lunchtime. The bushes were still quiet. A couple of chiffs on the path to the hides with the tit flock was a highlight. There were no waders at all on the big pool and only a couple of curlews on the Budge (that were visible). Lots of moorhens though, at least 15.
One of  the many moorhens
I had a scout around the bushes to the north and a quick look offshore. A harbour porpoise loitered just offshore and there were 14 sanderling on the beach.

This dunnock loitered in the 'Druridge Bushes'
I returned for last-gap seawatch before dusk. 1820-1920 after reports of skuas and sabine's gulls further south. It started quietly. Plenty of gannets on the horizon and few kitti's.

Then I got onto a sooty shearwater, about half way out, flying north. It's been a good autumn so far for sooties, so about time I connected with one. I had another sooty north and a distant skua going south which remained other unidentified.

The light got the better of me by twenty-past-seven, so I headed home, happy with my soooties.

The storm that was forecasted for today didn't seem as bad as the weathermen predicted, though it was very windy. So no birding for me, instead I spent the day preserving garden and foraged produce.

147 sooty shearwater

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Long-tailed Skua!!

I was working in Alnmouth today, a stressful day, cooped up indoors. When I left Alnmouth there was stiff northerly wind, so I decided an hours seawatching at Druridge would be worth a go.

I got down there for ten-past-five and it was really quiet. Other than long strings of gannets on the horizon and few groups of kittiwakes, I had eight pale-bellied brents north, a flock of wigeon, a red-throated diver and a handful of fulmar......that was it. I checked my phone for the time and twitter updates and decided to call it a day, but I had a quick scan south, just in case I had missed anything and got onto a really close skua heading north, so close it was a bins job as it went by. It was a stunning juvenile long-tailed skua in amazing light. 

A pale bird, with a good attenuated, dark,  rear end. It was among the breakers as it flew north, the jizz of these birds is quite different from our other skuas.Of course, I had no camera with me (well I did, in the car, with 17-55mm lens on for my work event), it would have been close enough for a record shot at least with the 400mm lens.

I've not seen a long-tailed skua on the patch since before 2008, at least. It made a brilliant end to an otherwise disappointing seawatch.

145 brent goose
146 long-tailed skua

Sunday 8 September 2013

Show Weekend

This weekend was our village show, so yesterday was mostly spent 'buffing my veg' and baking scones and cakes. I was like a cross between Alan Titchmarsh and Paul Hollywood!

I snook out yesterday afternoon, after the veg and baking was in the hands of the judges. The predicted 'fall' conditions hadn't happened and the bushes were quiet. I checked the big pools for waders, with East Chevington hosting white rumped, pec and curlew sands, there had to be a good wader at Druridge. There wasn't.

This curlew was very obliging.

First a bath
Then a stretch
Then a yawn
Then a wander
There was a few migrant passerines in the bushes, willow warbler, whitethroat, sedge warbler and blackcap.

Today was show dominated, so I didn't make it to Druridge until after 3pm. Dave Elliott had tipped me off about whinchats and a cuckoo at Druridge. I saw both the whinchats which were associating with a family of stonechats but not nearly as obliging. Two off the young stonechats looked like they weren't long out of the nest - third broods which I have missed?

record shot of whinchat
Adult male stonechat
juvenile stonechat - not long out of the nest
The cuckoo flew from the dunes into the bushes. It is very late for a cuckoo, presumably a late, locally bred individual?

144 Whinchat

Thursday 5 September 2013

A bit of an anti-climax

Druridge this morning was a bit of an anti-climax after having spent the last nine days in Tarifa for migration. I'll put some more photos on Ipin's Birding Trips and Facebook soon but here are a couple of honey buzzards shots, I watched over 3,000 come in to roost in two consecutive evenings.

A fab trip.

So, white-rumped, pectoral and curlew sandpipers all up the coast at East Chveington, there had to be at least on tasty wader at Druridge this morning. If there was I couldn't find it. A single whimbrel with the curlews and a fly-through, calling, green sandpiper was the best that I could do.

There seemed to be a few common migrants in the bushes, sedge, reed and willow warbler were noted. There were also a few speckled wood butterflies enjoying the autumn sunshine, like this one on brambles.

speckled wood butterfly

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Off to Birdfair

There was a green sandpiper in front of the Oddie Hide this evening, no photo's I'm afraid, didn't have the camera with me.

On the beach, I grilled the assembled gulls for a Bonaparte's with no joy. Offshore there was a a lot of fulmars moving north, four arctic skuas in the bay and three black-tailed godwits going south.

I am going south too, tomorrow, to Bird Fair.

If you want to pop by and say hello, I'll be on the Birdwatching Northumberland stand (53/54) in Marquee Number 1.

So, I wonder what will urn up at Druridge this weekend?

Saturday 10 August 2013

Tern Frenzy

This morning I headed to the dunes for a quick scan, the sea was miles away, a really low-tide. The beach profile at Druridge at the moment is a series offshore sand bars, which can trap water at low tide, leaving a tidal pool.

One of these pools, at the southern end of the patch, contained a family of folk, watching dozens of terns literally feeding among them. I ran back to my car, zoomed south and armed with the camera headed for the pool.

I spent the next hour, strides removed, down to my under-crackers, so I could get closer shots, in the pool photographing terns. I was hypothermic when I had filled my 16gb memory card. I tried to tweet, but my hands were shaking too much.

I've deleted tons of shots and played around with some of the better ones. Here they are.

Common tern

Common tern

Common tern

common terns eyeing up some food

Common terns

Like planes landing at Heathrow, a queue of terns waiting to feed

mixed terns

A colour-ringed bird. hopefully enough in this shot to trace it

Roseate tern - one of at least five

Another roseate tern

Sandwich tern action
I've got masses more shots, but I guess you're all bored with terns already? There were some arctic terns on the beach, but none feeding, only sandwich, common and rozzas. There are no photos of me in my pants you'll be sorry to hear.

HMS Severn was loitering in the bay today 
HMS Severn was in the bay today, I  think the crew may have been twitching roseate tern for their year lists.

Other news from the patch - I tried a ringing session on Thursday morning which was poor, Sundays little influx of birds has moved through leaving only local breeders. I only caught five birds from 0530-1130. Two robins, two sedge warblers and a wren - all juvenile birds.