Wednesday 31 December 2014

Pura Vida

I was back on the patch today after a three-week birding trip to Costa Rica.

Not the most colourful of species, but clay-coloured thrush is the national bird of Costa Rica 

We had a fantastic time, seeing lots of great birds in brilliant, friendly and very beautiful country. As they would say in Costa Rica  - Pura Vida!

Some photo's might appear on Ipin's Birding Trips at some stage..if I ever catch up.

Back to reality today though, back on the patch, hoping for one more addition to he patch year-list. I tramped around the whole patch and of note were;

a small flock of goldcrest in the bushes (good winter record)

a dog otter, showing really well on the big pool

a woodcock in the plantation

and, a pair of pintail on the Budge fields

So nothing new added to the year list leaving me on 171 species, the same total as last year. As ever, some species that I would have expected were missed, notably:

garden warbler
grey plover

I did see five new species in 2014, which is way more than I would have predicted:

Egyptian goose in April

Woodchat Shrike in May

Stilt Sandpiper in August

Stilt Sandpiper - Image (c) Ian Fisher
Wood Warbler in August

Fea's Petrel in September

These 2014 additions take my patch list to a respectable 236 species.

I've enjoyed the Patchwork Challenge again this year, a good bit of harmless fun.

So all in all, a very good year on the patch. I would love to see another five new species in 2015...surely a red kite at least?

I wish all of my readers a very happy, prosperous and bird-filled 2015!

Happy New Year!

Sunday 30 November 2014

Sunday sunshine

Today's  sunny spells, although brief, were very welcome after four days of dreichness. And in the sunshine, it felt quite warm.

I took advantage and had a quick roam about the patch. In the bushes, there were still a lot of blackbirds, unless there has been another influx this week? Single fieldfare and song thrush were also noted. Wrens are still everywhere, they seem to have had an amazing breeding season, we ringed 47 new wrens at Druridge this year, more than ever before.

Two male bullfinches were standing out like sore thumbs against the bare hawthorns  and mixed flocks of chaffinch and goldfinch were moving about.

I walked up to the top bushes, where one of four stonechats was sat on the fence.

I walked back along the beach, no sign of snow buntings, but there were lots of people out emptying their dogs.

These McDonalds balloons were on the beach, a sight we will no doubt see more of on the Northumberland coast when the new store opens in Alnwick.

Dangerous to wildlife, but seemingly McDonalds could give a shit.
Add caption
No new species to add to the year list on what could be my last chance of the year to visit the patch....

Sunday 23 November 2014

Sibe Chiff

An afternoon visit to the patch, catching what was probably the best weather of the weekend, hardly any wind, cold but bright.After a quick look around the plantation, which held the a few goldcrests, robins, wrens and the like, I set off for the bushes, hoping for a Hume's or Pallas' warbler. 

Just north of the second clump of trees at Druridge, there are few sparse willow and alder bushes, which are always worth checking, which I did today. I was almost past them when I spotted a warbler out the corner of my eye. I retraced my steps for better light and got onto a chiffchaff, a very grey looking bird, almost off-white on the underparts, with only some buff in the flanks. It looked every inch a classic tristis chiff. It was showing well in the afternoon sunshine and gave a few calls - tristis it was. I gave DE a call and a few other birders called into see it, although it was much more skulking later on.

I think this is only my third Siberian chiff for the patch. It scores me some extra points for the PWC comp as well.

Elsewhere, there was collybita chiff nearby and a few groups of feeding finches in the bushes, making the most of the good alder crop.

Twelve whooper swans flew south and there were at least a dozen pied wags on the beach.

Whooper swans headed south

Sunday 16 November 2014

Last ringing session

Today was the last ringing session for the year at Druridge, with no leaves left on the trees, it was time to pack up and close down the site for the winter.

To be honest, I thought last week might have been the last week and it would've been if I'd had more time to take in the poles last Sunday. I am pleased as I didn't though, as today was very worthwhile, with variety being the name of the game, catching 59 birds of 15 different species.

We ringed six species of finch including three bullfinch, which are scarce at Druridge, nine siskin and six lesser redpolls.

You can't beat a bit of bully on a Sunday!

One of six lesser redpolls 
 We also caught a very late chiffchaff.

All packed up and ready to go
There were lots of pink-feet moving south this morning and this afternoon a well-marked barn owl was hunting the dunes.

Yesterday, I did my WeBS count, a week late, but better late than never I suppose. Wigeon numbers are picking up with 55 present along with 61 teal. Also of note was a single black-tailed godwit on the Budge fields and on the big pool, a great-crested grebe and a drake red-breasted merganser.

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Patch year listing

So, I'm now now on 171 species for the patch this year, matching last years total and there are still some species that I have a reasonable chance of seeing, namely:

Scaup - seen in six out of the last six years (6/6)
Merlin (5/6)
Grey plover (5/6)
Goosander (4/6)
Little owl (3/6)

With some outsiders including smew, rock pipit, treecreeper, kingfisher and the two white-wingers - Iceland and glaucous gulls.

I've missed some species I've no chance of seeing now including cuckoo (6/6), garden warbler (6/6), redstart (4/6), little tern (4/6) and barnacle goose (3/6).

It has been the best year for patch-ticks for ages, with five in total, which I would never have predicted;

Egyptian goose
Woodchat shrike
Wood warbler
Stilt sandpiper and
Fea's petrel

I have got records going back to beyond 2001 other than for two months in 2007 due to misplaced notebook. One of these winter nights I will add them to my spreadsheet.

I am out of action for much of December so have only four weeks left on the patch this year. 175 would be nice....

Monday 10 November 2014

Little Auks and Long-tailed Tits

The northerly blow during the middle of last week brought some seabird action. I was at work on the Wednesday, so missed the main action, but I managed a 30 minute seawatch before work on Thursday. Between 0830 and 0905 I counted at least 68 little auks headed north, most quite distant in poor light, but some little flocks came in a  bit closer.

I also saw two great northern divers, one headed not and one south. The other highlight was two small groups of fieldfare coming in-off the sea, 23 in total. I love to see thrushes, or any migrants, coming 'in-off'. Vizmig at its best.

There was evidence of a small fall of birds on Friday afternoon. I only walked a short section of the bushes and counted 40+ blackbirds, a few song thrushes and great-spotted woodpeckers.

By Saturday morning, most of the blackbirds had moved out. There were four black-tailed godwits on the Budge fields and the water rails were very vocal.

In the dunes to the north of the bushes, there were hundreds of finches feeding on thistle, ragwort and burdock seeds, over 350 goldfinches and at least 60 greenfiches with a few chaffinches, linnets and a handful of reed bunting among them.

The only flying thing I managed to photograph all weekend
On Sunday morning we put some nets up to ring some birds, probably for the last time this year. We caught an amazing 75 birds,  25 of them being long-tailed tits, 14 goldfinches, our first two siskins of the year and a great-spotted woodpecker amongst others.

The addition great northern diver puts my patch year-list onto 171, the same as last year and my equal best in eight years. There's still time yet....

170 little auk
171 great northern diver

Sunday 2 November 2014

October ends, November begins

So that was October.... It flew by - and now we're into November. Autumn is running out.

I've been scanning the pressure charts all week, things were changing, but by Wednesday afternoon I had decided to take Thursday off work. A good decision as the easterly wind and overnight rain brought a lot of migrants in. It wasn't a classic fall, or even a fall, but it was exciting.

A bright start gave way to a short spell of rain. Once that cleared, I got out for a proper wander. By now, thrushes were piling overhead, in flocks of about 70-100, mainly redwings with a few fieldfares. They were mostly high and just kept going west. Some of the later arrivals rested on top of the bushes for a while but were soon off, inland.There were a handful of woodcock in the bushes, exploding out as  walked through.

The forecast had been for strong winds, but they didn't materialise, so I could have had some nets up, but it was too late. It was unseasonably mild, 18 degrees C according to the car. There had been an influx of blackbirds, but no song thrushes and there were plenty of wrens, robins and dunnocks.

I saw my first bullfinch of the year, just a fly-through,a male, piping as it went. Bullfinch is a scarce bird at Druridge, not annual by any means.

On the pool, there had been a inundation of goldeneye, I counted at least 26 and six black-tailed godwits flew over calling.

No birding on Saturday due to the Toon being at home with an early kick-off which all led to a later start this morning.

There was still a couple of woodcock about and three song thrushes in the plantation were indicative of an over-night arrival. There were one or two redwings still and a handful of blackbirds, but they've mainly headed out west.

The water rails have been very vocal the last few days, on the edge of the big pool by the phragmites bed. I spooked one, a juvenile, which flew off without calling.

169 bullfinch

PWC Score 261

Sunday 26 October 2014

Wild Westerlies

Strong westerly winds dominated the weekend's weather, not conducive to good autumn birding. A slow start on Saturday morning following a night at the Cluny, we met up, over a cup of tea and a bacon buttie, with Steve Taylor and Dave Elliott at the Drift Cafe, to swap gen on Poland and Spain.

Onwards to Druridge, Janet and I had a good wander around the patch seeing not very much. From the Oddie hide, lapwings, golden plovers and curlews were put up by a passing helicopter from RAF Boulmer. The lapwings gave some nice views from the hide, the goldies were much higher (later settling in winter wheat at Hemscotthill). A late swallow flew south and a buzzard was floating around to the north - it was well-grilled, given the recent records of rough-leg nearby.

Two views of passing lapwings
We decided to walk to the Preceptory, to check it for roosting owls. It was empty, not even a skemmie or jackdaw. We walked back via High Chibburn, I had my heart set on year-ticking bullfinch - the long shelterbelt by the farm is often good for them, but not today...

Cows at High Chibburn
On the way back to the car, a great-spot called from the bushes. A quick look on the sea yielded nothing - the strong westerly had whipped it up and nothing was passing.

With even stronger westerlies today, I didn't even venture out.

Saturday 18 October 2014

Friday and Saturday

Friday 17th

A brief visit before work, Janet had already started to put some nets up when I arrived. The first bird I heard, then saw, when getting out of the car was a yellow-browed warbler. It was flitting about the whitebeam berries in lovely light.

I left Janet to it, to go to Amble and take a whole class of seven year-year-olds on a birdwatching walk around Amble. We didn't see very much, but they enjoyed learning about common species like jackdaws and collared doves.

I took the afternoon off and relieved Janet at the ringing site. A shift system. She had caught about forty birds - wrens, robins, blackbirds, goldcrests as well as a redwing (our first of the autumn) and a blackcap.

After I arrived we caught a flock of long-tailed tits and this great-spotted woodpecker.

First-winter male great-spotted woodpecker
The yellow-browed warbler was moving about with goldcrests all afternoon.

Saturday 18th

Curry night at the local and a few pints of ale made for a later start this morning. I checked the plantation which contained the usual suspects and a bunting, which I only saw twice, for about 30 seconds each time. It flitted about, a bit like a leaf warbler, amongst the pines. It had a really strong supercillium, but I didn't get much else on it. Despite looking quite sparse, there is a lot of cover in the plantation  and it easy to loose birds (as I know only too well.....

I gave the bunting 40 minutes with no further sign and headed north. There are still butterflies and dragonflies on the wing. The butterflies are looking at a bit tatty now.

tatty-looking speckled wood

There was about six migrant hawkers amongst the bushes and on the sheltered edge and some common darters too.

male migrant hawker
Bird-wise I found little else of note.

On Wednesday morning I saw a brambling in the plantation - my first since 2011.

167 Brambling
 PWC Score = 259

Sunday 12 October 2014

Long weekend

I took Friday off work so I had a nice long weekend to do some ringing and birding on the patch.


An early morning, pre-work visit. There seemed to have been an arrival of birds overnight with more robins, goldcrests and wrens than the previous day. There were also three great-spotted woodpeckers, blackbirds, lesser redpolls and a single blackcap - all new arrivals.

grey heron over

Work beckoned though....


I spent Friday morning checking the bushes, from the plantation in the south, up to the north end. Robins, wrens (over 32 counted), goldcrests and chiffchaffs were really evident. Thursdays redpolls had been joined by a flock of siskins and blackcap and great-spotted woodpecker were still present.

I finally got my yellow-browed warbler, just off the 'Mike Carr' path. picked up on call and found with goldcrests and a chiff in the willows. It didn't hang about. The birds were moving in waves like you get in the tropics.

One of many  robins
 There was at least nine stonechats in the dunes - showing how good a year this species has had.

Male stonechat
Vizmig was obvious with a constant movement of skylarks (35+) and meadow pipits (24+) moving south in small groups. A juvenile marsh harrier flew south, low over the bushes.

Pink-footed geese were also on the move. I estimated this skein at 150 when they flew over, I counted them on the photo and there were 151 - how's that for accurate guesswork?

151 pink-footed geese headed south


We put some nets up on Saturday. It was 3 degrees C when we arrived and there was light frost, first frost of the year on the patch.

We caught 43 new birds, including an incredible 16 wrens. We also caught five song thrushes, which must have been freshly in. We didn't catch any chiffchaffs, but we did ring a single willow warbler, which is quite late. A great tit was a control (meaning that it had been ringed elsewhere, it had a larger 'B' ring on, so it was probably ringed as a pullus from a nestbox.

Goldfinches eating last years alder cone crop - this years very good crop is not quite ripe yet.
Yesterdays yellow-browed warbler called from the bushes. Skylark and mipit migration was still evident.


Today was WeBS count day. My attempt at an early start was thwarted  with car problems. After a jump start and a trip to Kwik Fit for a new battery, I got down to patch at 15.40, £110 lighter.

An interesting wader on the far bank of the big pool had a few of us guessing for a bit. It looked a bit like a dunlin, but the jizz was wrong and some features didn't tally. It looked 'rounded and compact' and small, but difficult to judge size at such range with no comparison. It had no pectoral band, with colouring only reaching the throat. We decided that it was just a odd-looking dunlin. Interesting though.

Notable on the WeBS count was 18 little grebe, 26 gadwall and a great-crested grebe.

164 lesser redpoll
165 siskin
166 yellow-browed warbler

PWC Score - 258

Tuesday 7 October 2014

A lark on the shore

I was at work today, which is a thing that less and less birders appear to be doing, when I saw some tweets, from those without jobs, about a shore lark at Druridge.

Luckily, I wasn't far away from Druridge and had eaten my lunch on the hoof, so could afford a quick dash to the patch.

When I arrived, some more birders without jobs were walking along the road "You'd better be quick, it's on the beach but the tide is coming into the base of the dunes"....

I had the forethought to put my wellies on, and legged it to the beach, when I got to the top of the dune, the tide was well and truly in - I feared the worst. 

Further north, at the Dunbar burn, I spotted some photographers, lenses pointed down the dune front, they kept moving and I presumed the bird was too. At this rate they'd chase it to Chevington. 

I staggered along the beach, wading the burn (thank god for the wellies), the incoming waves lapping at my feet as I set up my scope. And there it was, the shore lark on the front of the dune, about level with the Druridge bushes.

Shore lark on the dune front - iPhone scoped shot
I watched it for a while, it was going down onto the beach to feed between waves, flying back up to the dune when a breaker rolled in. I managed to get some video of it, just hand-held the iPhone up to my scope.

Shorelark druridge from Iain Robson on Vimeo.

This is my first shore lark since the spring bird on 5th April 2011

The tide was huge (5.2m at Amble), with a big swell. Quite impressive - could be good for grey phalarope somewhere tomorrow.

Big seas  - looking south
And looking north
On my way back to the car, I popped into the bushes (as you do) and flushed a woodcock, my first of the Autumn.

163 Shore lark

PWC Score = 250

Sunday 5 October 2014

More Meds

I only managed two very brief visits to the patch this weekend. Unfavourable winds and yesterday mornings rain meant I had the chance to catch up with some chores and drink too much wine.


Not much to report. Goldcrests, robins, wrens and chiffchaffs in the bushes, the other highlight was an arrival of six mistle thrushes. They arrived from the northeast and settled in the lone pine at the back of the plantation, calling, before flying off north. I am presuming they were freshly in.

teal from the Oddie Hide

Another afternoon visit. The bushes were still quiet, coal tits have been omnipresent in the plantation since the start of September, making the most of the pine cone crop.

coal tit with a pine seed
As a result of the recent warm weather, there are loads of insects about. Butterflies included comma, red admiral and speckled wood and a (migrant?) hawker was still on the wing. There were also lots of mozzies and midges. I had a go at photographing them.

On the beach, the gull roost was building up. Amongst about 350 gulls (mainly black-headed and common), I counted SIX Mediterranean gulls - easily a patch record count for me. They seem to be much more common this year.

Spot the meds - there are two in this shot
One of Meds was carrying a green darvik ring, with a white three figure code, I couldn't get the actual code but it would appear that it was ringed in France.

So, mistle thrush puts me on 162 for the year. Already an above-average year and there is still time for a fall....I need nine more species to equal last years 171.

162 mistle thrush

PWC Score = 248

Sunday 28 September 2014

Westerly Woes

A settled high pressure with westerly winds has meant that this weekend has been a lot more sedate than last weekend was.

Sedate = boring. Bring back the easterlies please.

It felt like summer at Druridge yesterday morning. There were lots of butterflies out, mostly red admirals and speckled woods with a single dark-green fritillary which must have been off a second hatching?

Red admiral on whitebeam berries
Speckled wood

These drake gadwall thought it was spring - chasing a duck around for five minutes or more.
Birding was very quiet, robins, wrens, dunnocks and chiffs most notable in the bushes. Overhead, skylarks were moving south throughout the morning with a sprinkling of meadow pipits and swallows.

There was a hint of winter though, pink-footed geese are back.

Pink-foots, headed south
Today was even warmer, but more cloudy. I could only manage some evening birding, by which time, the wind had dropped to almost nothing. It was high tide, so I had a look on the sea, hoping for some fly-by waders, pushed off the rocks.

There was an incredible 71 divers in the bay, but all I could pick out was red-throats. In amongst them were five red-breasted mergansers and a great-crested grebe.

In common with elsewhere, Druridge has had an influx of little gulls, not an impressive count in comparison with other sites, but there were about 12-15 which is good for Druridge. Most of them were distant, with a feeding frenzy of bigger gulls, well offshore.

I had a really frustrating episode with a gull, when I picked it up in my scope, it was heading south and it didn't deviate from it's course, it didn't bank or turn once, just kept on going. What I saw, and its jizz, was good for a juvenile sabines, but I will never know.

At dusk, the two juvenile kestrels that have been hanging about were joined by a third. I got a couple of pics before it go too dark, after I abandoned photography due to bad light, they put on a great display over the dunes in front of me, tussling with each other.

juvenile kestrels at dusk

Sunday 21 September 2014

Risky strategy paid off

As reports came in of a Fea's Petrel being tracked up the north-east coast this afternoon, I got twitchy and had to make a tricky decision. Do I go to a good seawatching spot such as Newbiggin or Snab Point and give myself a better chance of connecting with a lifer, or do I stay loyal to the patch and hope I can see it there.

I decided to go to Druridge. To be honest, the decision was easily made but I was aware that it was a risk. When I set off the bird had only just gone past Seaham, so I had plenty of time.

Not long after I was set up I had an unexpected bonus, an adult Sabine's gull was flying around offshore, about half-way to the pot flags, I watched if for a good three minutes as it zigzagged in a generally southerly direction, before it flew south-east into the gloom. I tipped off Neil and Tom and Snab. 

A few minutes later, what I presume was the same bird, an adults Sabs, flew north, again not very far out at all. A fantastic start and only my second ever patch Sabine's gull, the first was back in 2009.

I was joined on the dune by Alan Hall, as news came through of the Fea's northerly passage. A risky strategy for Alan too. So news in came in from Newbiggin and shortly after from Tom and Janet at Snab. What seemed like an age passed, and then two manx shearwaters came through, as I watched them, I saw another bird bank and tower quite high with a different jizz all together. It looked quite a bit bigger, the dark, almost black wings, looked really obvious when it banked and turned - it did this twice before dropping down. I was struggling to get Alan onto it though, there were too many black and double-black flags (we should have been more organised with hindsight and made sure we were on the same flags).

I lost it behind a wave and couldn't re-find it after re-positioning my scope.

I was gutted for Alan, but delighted to have seen it myself. These 'tracked' seabirds certainly get the adrenaline going.

It was followed by a sooty shearwater, the first of five that I saw. I continued to seawatch until after six o'clock but it had really tailed off after five.

Red-throated diver 4S, 3N
Sabine's Gull one adult southeast then north
Pale-bellied brent 4N
Manx Shearwater 8N
Fea's Petrel (1620ish) N
Sooty Shearwater 5N
Bonxie 1N
Arctic Skua 1N
Velvet Scoter 1 drake with flock, 1S with smaller flock
Dark-bellied Brent 5N
GC Grebe 1N
harbour porpoise 2

So Fea's takes the patch list to 236

I took Friday off work as it looked like the easterly winds were going to end. I had planned to ring from first thing, but the heavy, almost drizzle-like, fog persisted until mid-morning. I tramped the bushes, but it felt very quiet, almost as if there had been overnight clear-out. Pied flycatcher was all of note. 

I put some nets up by 11am, but only caught 12 birds. Hardly worth the effort.

158 grey wagtail
159 Sabine's Gull
161 sooty shearwater

PWC Score 247

Monday 15 September 2014

In the bushes

I called in at the patch before and after work today. Yesterday's red-breasted flycatcher was still in the plantation this morning joined by a pied flycatcher. 

It had been seen on and off all day and some photographers got some good shots this evening. 

I walked the length of the bushes tonight. There were plenty of robins and wrens, but the only warbler activity was with a tit flock by the feeders at the Budge screen and a couple of chiffs by the 'Mike Carr Path' (as it is now known). Otherwise the bushes were quiet. 

I probably won't have time to get down there tomorrow, which is a pity, as there must be a yellow-brow somewhere. 

Sunday 14 September 2014


I found a patch mega this afternoon - red-breasted flycatcher.

I found it late afternoon in the plantation, a first year bird by the look of it, no orange on the throat, just a buffy wash on the throat, upper-breast and flanks. When I fist got onto it, it was flitting around in the pines, perching occasionally, flicking its wings, often obscured. When it did perch out, my crap ability with my camera let me down again as I couldn't get the auto-focus to find it amongst the background pine twigs.

For a flycatcher, it was very illusive, disappearing at times completely, relocated by its rattling call. 

Cracking bird.

This was my second RBF at Druridge, the first one was back in September 2007 when Janet caught one in her nets

I had originally intended to put a high-tide seawatch in this afternoon, until texts from my friend Steely on the Farne Islands with tales of migrants arriving convinced me the bushes were a better option.

We were ringing this morning. It was quite quiet in the bushes, with a lot of birds seemingly moved out overnight. The highlight was catching some meadow pipits, nine in all, in one of our more open nets.

meadow pipit
We caught our first song thrush on the autumn but only one warbler, a chiffchaff.

156 red-breasted flycatcher

PWC Score 225

Saturday 13 September 2014

More birding, more ringing

The wind is still in the east so I took another Friday off work and put some nets up at Druridge. It was much quieter than last week but we caught 24 birds so it was worth while. 

It was definitely a day for goldcrests, robins and chiffchaffs with a few wrens for good-measure. We caught this pied flycatcher on the last net-round as we were packing up.

Pied flycatcher
Away from the ringing, meadow pipits and skylarks could be heard going over all morning and there was a steady passage of south-bound swallows. A great-spotted woodpecker was headed the other way, towards East Chevington.

I gave the bushes a good thrashing this morning. There were still plenty of chiffchaffs, goldcrests and the odd willow warbler, whitethroat and robin. Meadow pipits and skylarks were still going over, but not as many as yesterday.

Blue tit on one of the numerous feeders that have appeared at Druridge. You can see this is a first-year bird, there is still some juvenile feathers on the head.
Despite wall-to wall easterlies (and for the foreseeable future), the conditions aren't right to drop migrants in, if they are coming over the north sea, they must be going straight inland. Monday night/Tuesday morning could bring an interesting band of rain. A single ruff was on the Budge fields and a male sparrowhawk was about.

Northumberland County Council (Mike Carr) have been in this week and resurfaced the path to the Oddie Hide (a public right of way). They've done a great job, constructing a path that should be accessible to all, drain freely and last a few years and visiting birders will be able to find the hides now.

The new path
Janet turned up on a white horse.

Janet, on a white horse.

155 Pied flycatcher

PWC Score 219

Sunday 7 September 2014

Bit of ringing, bit of birding

Friday off work meant a long weekend for me, I put my day off to good use and put some nets up.

It was really calm and a thick sea-fret was in, although it was a 'hanging' fret rather than a 'wetting' one, which was good for ringing.

I only had three nets up and caught and 45 birds, seven of which were retraps. We caught a few passage migrant warblers, mostly chiffchaffs and blackcaps with lesser whitethroat, sedge warbler and willow warbler adding to the diversity. We also caught seven goldcrests, the first of the autumn.

Meadow pipit passage was evident on Friday and for the rest of the weekend along with a few skylarks. A great-spotted woodpecker was noted flying through as were a whimbrel and 4 ruff with some lapwings.

The weather forecasts for Friday night to Saturday morning were all over the place. They all predicted rain, but differed in how long it would last. It was clear by dawn, so I was out looking for migrants. I started in the plantation, with a spotted flycatcher and a 'hippo' type warbler, which I had the briefest of views of and was never seen again despite and hour and a half spent in the pines searching for it. It appeared to be a compact warbler, slightly larger than willowchiff, warm buffy brown above and on the flanks, off-white-grey on the underside. That is all I got on it.

I gave up on it and went to check the bushes elsewhere. Lots of goldcrests, robins, chiffchaffs and whitethroats were flitting about. On the fence by the entrance there were two wheatears, they were later joined by a whinchat, which was my second of the morning. I was beginning to think I might miss whinchat this year then two come along at once (I saw two more at Snab Point later in the day).

wheatears on return passage
Skylarks and meadow pipits were going south all morning.

This morning, I went to ring a brood of barn owls. This is a second brood from a pair that has already fledged a brood of four. There were five of them, with quite a size difference, this one being the largest.

young female barn owl (you can see how spotty she is), the biggest of five from a second brood.

Today was also WeBS count day. Highlights were a good count of moorhen (17) and little grebe (16). This evening there were 16 red-throated divers in the bay, many in breeding plumage still. there are still red admiral and lots of speckled wood butterflies on the wing, the latter being the commonest butterfly at Druridge which was not even noted here until 2006. Migrant hawkers and common darters were about too.

red admiral
common darter on a bramble leaf
153 spotted flycatcher
154 whinchat

PWC Score 217

Sunday 31 August 2014

End of summer?

I do like my notebooks and there is always something nice about finishing and old book and starting a new one.

The first two birds written into the old book were pied thrush and Kashmir flycatcher, in Sri Lanka - that will take some beating. The first bird in the new book was a blue tit, in the bushes by the entrance at Druridge. I wonder how long it will be before the notebook is replaced by an app that sends the records straight to the cloud? The technology is here now.

Yesterday there were a lot of warblers, mostly juveniles, in the bushes. Between the entrance bushes and the Budge screen I counted 9 whitethroats, 10 willow warblers, 4 chiffchaffs and a sedge warbler. A goldcrest called by the Budge screen.
willow warbler
There were also a lot of hirrundines moving south. At first they mainly appeared to be swallows, but soon house martin took over as the most numerous.

On the pools, 13 ruff dropped in with two smaller waders (later tracked down by Dave as an LRP and a dunlin).  And that was it, I had limited time as I was off to the match

Due to a massive hangover, it was after 4pm when I got down to the patch today. Yesterday's ruff were still on the Budge fields with at least nine snipe and a redshank. A dunlin was out in front of the Oddie hide.

little grebe enjoying the sun
In the Oddie hide, there was a swallow mystery. The two chicks were still some way of fledging when I checked them on Wednesday, with perhaps another six to eight days to go. Today, there was no sign of them, nest empty and deserted. It is feasible, as they were on a ledge, that a rodent or mustelid got them.

There were still some butterflies on the wing including red admiral, wall and this speckled wood.

speckled wood

So the dunes. This arctic skua was harassing terns just offshore, most of my photos of it were out of focus, these two weren't bad.

arctic skua

common gull

There were 21 sanderling, one dunlin and one ringed plover on the beach.

Juvenile dunlin
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So, today is officially the end of summer, it's felt autumnal since the first week of August I reckon. There might be some easterlies this week, with a potential low pressure moving in towards Friday....