Sunday 26 May 2013

Which is scarcer, Avocet or Spoonbill?

So, which is scarcer, avocet or spoonbill?

Well at Druridge Pools the answer is avocet. Avocets seem to prefer bare ground, like shingle or sand, at Druridge, the pools are grassy and therefore less-favoured by avocet. Spoonbill, on the other hand, like deepish, fresh water (and seem to prefer things a bit vegetated) and are therefore more suited to Druridge.

I saw both avocet and spoonbill at Druridge tonight and I can tell you, I was more excited about the avocets that I was the spoonbills.

Both were pairs and both were fly-through's spotted from the big dune. The avocets were first through, headed south. They didn't even give the Budge fields a second-glance as they passed over.

I spotted the spoonbills either lifting off, or flying low over and picking up height, from the Budge fields. They weren't on the fields when I checked them from the hide. They flew/took off high and kept going north, straight over East Chevington and away. One of them had a red darvik ring on it's right leg (above the 'knee').

To put both into perspective, I've seen spoonbill in five of the last six years at Druridge whereas I've only seen avocet twice and not since 2008 until tonight.

Other notable sightings tonight included the drake velvet scoter back on the sea, interestingly distancing itself from the c32 common scoter and a turnstone flew south.

I also had a quick visit to the patch this morning and saw little of note and yesterday evening when I saw my first whimbrels of the year and Colin Bradshaw (the latter being much more rare on the patch).

The Budge fields are looking really good for breeding waders. Lapwing seem to very late and be having a second go, as many are still 'sitting'. There are a few chicks now, but the crows and magpies are always a threat. There is also a pair of redshank looking like they might be breeding and some skulking snipe - who knows what they're doing?

There are also lots of Hares this year

122 whimbrel
123 avocet 
124 spoonbill

Friday 24 May 2013

I tried an evening seawatch

I checked RBA at lunchtime and before leaving my office tonight and there were some pretty impressive seawatching totals from the regular east coast sites, including a few long-tailed skuas, so I thought I might chance my arm at Druridge after work.

But.....not before a quick check of the Budge fields which produced a nice year-tick in the form of a wood sandpiper. 

So to the dunes. It was still very cold, with a force three north-north westerly blowing. Within 20 minutes I was freezing cold, the cold didn't put-off some eediots though who thought jumping into the sea would be fun (they looked like young farmers or summick - obviously trying to impress the girls!).

I did an hour and 20 minutes, but things had obviously tailed off. I saw no shearwaters or skuas, not even a manxy! There were long lines of kittiwakes heading by and plenty of fulmars, some flying along the dunes right past my nose. there were also strings of gannets and guilliemots (with the occasional razorbill) all heading north.

The highlight of my seawatch was a male velvet scoter sat on the sea, not too far out.

I've got the whole Bank Holiday weekend off which makes a change so hope to be out birding or ringing for most of it.

120 wood sandpiper
121 velvet scoter

Both of these species are worth two points in the patchwork challenge (unbelievably the same as nightjar!!), taking my total to 148.

Monday 20 May 2013

Nightjar - PATCH TICK!!

My first visit back to the patch on Sunday morning after ten days in Spain and I scored with a full PATCH TICK - a Nightjar.

This rounded off a superb trip and a Northumberland and British tick at Chevington the same morning - Great Reed Warbler.

After wandering up to Chibburn Mouth to see the great reed, we set about doing the WeBS count at Druridge, after checking the Budge fields from the screen-hide, I walked through he bushes and virtually immediately flushed a large bird from the path. It flew off low, like a sparrowhawk, generally brown, but showing lots of white in the wing. It wasn't a sparrowhawk and with the white in the wing, nightjar immediately sprung to mind, but I didn't have good enough views to be sure. It caused much consternation with the nesting whitethroats as it flew off.

I continued along the bushes where a willow warbler and whitethroat were scolding something - below them was a nightjar, sat out on a low branch, looking straight at me. I could hardly believe it. I called on Janet who was on the road and called Dave Elliott, who was up at Hadston. Whilst on the 'phone, the bird flew off, low again, but kept going. We searched for it but couldn't find it. Seemingly the Dack boys saw it later that afternoon, still being scolded by warblers.

Nightjar is a species that was never on my radar for Druridge, so it was nice to literally stumble across one. Shame it's only worth two measly points in Patchwork Challenge.

This is my first patch-tick since last August's honey buzzard and takes my patch list to 228

I'm on a bit of a run, having found Catalunya's first-ever shore lark whilst we were in Spain

I missed a few good birds on the patch whilst I was away. ADMc re-found the great egret on the Budge fields which also hosted ruff and wood sandpiper in my absence.

118 nightjar
119 reed warbler

Tuesday 7 May 2013

Looooong Weekend

Here's a quick catch-up from a longer than usual bank holiday weekend (I had today off work). I managed a few visits to the patch over the weekend amongst long bouts of gardening and the obligatory socialising that comes with a 'B-H Weekend'. Sorry there are no pics, my camera is still in the car.


Saturday didn't start on my patch at Druridge, but on Dave Elliott's patch at East Chevington, to twitch the purple heron he found there. Almost eleven years tot he day since the last one he found int he same spot (Stewart Sexton and I scoped that bird from the big dune at Druridge for the patch competition that year and I have to be honest, I tried the same trick again but with no luck.)

Back at Druridge a drake garganey was on the Budge fields with five black-tailed godwits. Three year-ticks followed, whitethroat (now singing everywhere), cuckoo (one over the Budge fields) and tree sparrow at High Chibburn Farm.


An earlier start. A quick check of the Haul Road flashes which are still holding some water produced only five ringed plover and a dunlin. At least five 'groppers' were reeling. The rest of the day was spent gardening and BBQing


I was a bit fragile on BH Monday, but a text message reporting two 'stints' on the Haul Road flashes had me scurrying to the patch. I eventually found them, hunkered down in the grass, Temminck's stints. A nice sighting and my first on the patch since 2008. Arctic and common terns were numerous offshore, Arctic being new for the year.


No waders on the flashes this morning, but two wheatears of the leucorhoa race and a smart yellow wag were there. There are lots of warblers singing from the bushes now, most notably whitethroat,  blackcap and sedge, grasshopper and willow warblers.

An evening visit for a look on the sea produced three year-ticks. Puffin and gannet, predictably and a pair of great-crested grebes, less so.

110 whitethroat
111 cuckoo
112 tree sparrow
113 arctic tern
114 Temminck's stint
115 gannet
116 puffin
117 great-crested grebe