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