Sunday 18 May 2014

This weekend

Ringing has dominated my weekend so there has been little time to get out onto the patch. On Friday evening I was trying to catch little terns and yesterday I was checking barn owl and tree sparrow boxes.

Barn owlets
We've already checked two barn owl boxes and ringed four chicks out of each, so things are happening early this year and it looks like a good year for voles and therefore owls. Last year was a poor year for barn owls so hopefully they'll have a better season this year.

I was on the patch today to do my WeBS count. The spoonbill was still there, fast asleep as usual. It woke up later, but I still haven't managed to get the colour ring combination from it.

A pair of teal are still here, but all of the wigeon have gone, gadwall and shoveler are still present in good numbers. Lapwings are still defending their chicks from anything that passes and a pair of snipe are drumming and chipping, which is always nice to hear.

Wednesday 14 May 2014

Belated catch up from the weekend

I've been away, so here is a catch up from the weekend.

It was to windy to put any nets up for ringing at the weekend, but we did manage to ring a family party of four lapwing chicks on Friday evening. There were also at least 20 whimbrel on the fields.

I had a wander around the patch on Saturday afternoon, dodging the showers. There had obviously been an influx of swifts and most of the resident warblers were singing and a couple of yellow wagtails were noted.

On Sunday, it was still windy. There were a few wheatears about on the dunes and one or two were definitely of the greenland race. There is also a notable number of linnets around at Druridge this year, more than usual. Most of them aren't on territory yet, just roving about in a big flock. I had a walk up to the Preceptory, but found nothing unusual.

Tonight we ringed another four lapwing chicks, two from a brood of four (two evaded us) and another brood of two. There are still a a few birds sitting, so it is looking like a good year for lapwing on the Budge fields.
Lapwing chick
Most exciting tonight was a family party of shoveler, a pair and four tiny ducklings. Him and her were marching the tiny chicks across the fields to another pool. Shoveler breed most years at Druridge, one of the few places they breed in the County.

There was no sign of any spoonbill, garganey or wood sandpiper, all of which were reported today.

I've been down to Lincolnshire on a training course looking at the creation of coastal grazing marshes. I picked up some good ideas that I would like to see implemented at Druridge, time for a conversation with NWT!

Monday 5 May 2014

Woodchat believe it - A Patch Tick!

I was woken from an afternoon snooze by Tom Cadwallender on the phone, telling me there was a woodchat shrike at Druridge, before I could wipe the drool from my cheek I was in the car and on my way.

Directions from Birdguides were vague and I was frantic. '400m in front of farm buildings', I checked all of the farm buildings, nobody about. As I drove into the pools to meet Janet, a chap comes up to me with a with a Yorkshire accent and says "are you looking for't shrike?"...."yes"...." I found it, I'll show you, follow me". We drove down towards Hemscotthill Farm and there it was, perched on the fence, the fence which forms the patch boundary.

Poor iPhone-scoped record shot

Patch tick - in the bag. This takes the patch list to 233. I don't think it is a patch bird though, according to old reports there was a woodchat at 'Druridge' on 31st August 1966.

The chap was called Nigel Jones, from Leeds. Seemingly his local bird club booted him out, accusing of him of being a stringer (so he told me), he certainly hadn't strung this one!

It looked like a female bird (having ringed a few in Malta last week) and was of the nominate race. Seemingly Woodchat was a blocker for some of the County 'big listers' so there was soon a sizable twitch (by Northumberland standards). I saw the last one in the County, in 1997 at Hadston Scars Boat Club, I was working at the Country Park at the time and didn't even need to leave the park van.

Decent twitch for a good county bird
One elderly birder was having trouble with is 'new-fangled' iPhone adaptor thingy, Alan Tillmouth had to turn away, laughing, "I can't believe he fell for it"
I was ringing this morning at Druridge (hence the afternoon snooze). It was quite slow-going, I only managed to ring six new birds with only four nets up. Highlight of the session was this long-eared owl though, an adult female. This is the second long-eared owl we have caught at Druridge. I also caught four whitethroats, so it seems that last years big increase in breeding pairs wasn't a one-off. lets hope so.

long-eared owl
Also of note, the great white egret is still present and there were at least 25 whimbrel on the fields. Five dunlin dropped into the Budge fields, a greenshank flew over calling, common tern and house martin were both seen and the first lapwing chicks are out and about.

Yesterday, I added grasshopper warbler to my year-list with two reeling males and had a very impressive count of 49 whimbrel on the Budge fields.

119 grasshopper warbler
120 common tern
121 long-eared owl
122 greenshank
123 house martin
124 woodchat shrike

PWC Score = 159

Saturday 3 May 2014

First ringing session of the year

We put our nets up at Druridge for our first ringing session of the year today. We didn't expect to catch much as it always takes a while to set things up on the first session, things grow, strings go missing (do wood mice eat through string and then drag it away to their nests?) and nets come out of bags differently to how they went in.

We caught 13 new birds, willow warblers outnumbered other species, the other warblers were whitethroat and sedge. We caught a willow warbler that we had ringed at Druridge as a recent fledgling last June, it's always nice to catch a returning migrant.

back from Africa, this chap was a bairn when we caught it last June
We also caught a long-tailed tit from last year. The other exciting bird was dunnock, not that exciting in itself, but this was a control (meaning it had been ringed by someone else), given that dunnocks don't often move far and most of our controls come from Hauxley or Chevington, there is a strong possibility that it's come from there.

Whilst we were ringing, we got news of a western bonneli's warbler at Newbiggin. I did the honorable thing and let Janet go to see it first, whilst I kept an eye on the nets. She saw it and came back, I went along to Newbiggin and didn't see it. Ho hum. A passing common crane was nice though.

The great white egret was on the Budge fields this morning, moving back to its other favoured spot on the big pool this afternoon.

Thursday 1 May 2014

Back on the patch with a flurry of good birds

I was back on the patch today after a trip to Malta. It's ten years since I was last on Malta, I did four autumns in a row, working at the Birdlife Malta Raptor Camps. Things have improved a hell of a lot since those days.

We spent four days on the small island of Comino ringing with Birdlife volunteers.


golden oriole


scops owl

We also visited Gozo and the mainland, doing some birding, more ringing and catching up with old friends who I haven't seen for a while.

Back to Druridge today though, firstly with a very rapid lunchtime twitch of the great white egret that turned up whilst I was away. It was lurking by the outfall of the big pool. This is my second great white egret on the patch, the first being back on 3rd and 4th April in 2010. A reed warbler was perched up singing in the phragmites.

I was back on the patch for a proper visit after work. The GWE had relocated tot he Budge fields, unfortunately, it's friend, the spoonbill, seems to have done one.There was stonking brick-red black-tailed godwit and at least five whimbrel were also on the fields.

As I walked towards the Oddie hide, a short-eared owl lifted off and flew over the bund, a migrant I reckon?

Not a bad start to May, hopefully the weather will be good enough to get some nets up on Saturday.

There'll not be many photo's on the blog for a bit. My SLR has packed up.

115 great white egret
116 reed warbler
117 whimbrel
118 short-eared owl

PWC score 149