Thursday 31 December 2015

Left it late for a full patch tick!

I left it a bit late to squeeze another patch tick in this year but a long-billed dowitcher flying around the patch before heading back to its favoured Cresswell pond this morning was a very welcome addition to the patch list. Not the greatest views, I wished I had seen it on the deck, but it still counts.

A big thank you to Jonathon Farooqi for the tip-off that it was there.

My second patch list addition of the year following September's fantastic red-footed falcon. This takes the patch list up to 238.

Jonathon had also found a couple of water pipits on the Budge fields, they were joined by a third for a while. These are the first water pipits I have had on the patch in eight years, the last ones being in front of the Oddie hide and along the haul road.

The dowitcher and water pipits take my year list up to 161 species. Not a disaster, but not great.

This snip from my spreadsheet shows the last eight years totals from the patch. Maybe 2013 and 2014 were just exceptional years...

So what did I miss?

The obvious omissions from this years list include

Salvonian Grebe - six out of the last eight years
Grey Plover -  5/8
Bonxie  - 7/8 (the first year I not recorded bonxie!)
Redstart and Pied Fly - 4/8
Garden warbler - 6/8
Lesser whitethroat - 6/8
Bullfinch - 5/8

Also of note today was an odd duck that I still can't make my mind up about. It was with the pochards and looked like an Aythya. At first I thought it might have some shoveler in it, as the head was green and the bill looked long and spatula shaped. The more I looked at it, the more I ruled out shoveler - although the bill was very long and flatish

The head shape was right for scaup and the colour looked good. The bird seemed to show some reddish brown on the front and under the tail - in certain light. I still think it is a hybrid - probably scaup x pochard - but it could be a first winter drake scaup in moult. I'll need to have a better look.

Well, that's it from me for 2016. Not sure when I'll get back to the patch, but when I do, I hope that dowitcher is there.

Sunday 6 December 2015

Recovered Stormy

We only caught two storm petrels in a single session this summer, the weather getting the better of us.  One of them was already ringed (a control in the language that ringers speak).

We've just heard back from BTO with details of where it was ringed; Eilean nan Ròn which is off the Kyle of Tongue on the north coast of Scotland, only 26 days before we caught it.

A distance of 403km. It is amazing the distances these tiny seabirds travel!

Here is a google map of storm petrels we've 'controlled'

Nothing much to report from Druridge today. The long-staying 'Cresswell' long-billed dowitcher put in another appearance on the Budge fields again this morning before heading back south to it's favoured spot. It obviously doesn't think much of Druridge - it doesn't hang around for long.

There are now six pochards on the big pool, a handful of goldeneye and a red-breasted merganser - there were 15 'mergs' on the sea.

Sunday 22 November 2015

From the north

The wind came right out of the north on Friday and through to today, bringing a blast of  proper winter weather after a spell of unseasonably mild weather of late.

The northerly had come from way up north - classic weather to bring some northern specialities down, so obviously a seawatch was in order.

I timed my seawatch with the rising tide, giving me more chance to get some good waders pushed off the rocks by the advancing tide. It was bitterly cold, but as the wind had swung around out of the NNW I managed to find a little shelter in the dunes.

No sooner had I set up my scope when I had the first of many little auks headed north. There was a steady passage of these fantastic little birds throughout the morning. Mostly in small groups, all headed north. Many were very close in, flying between the breaking waves on the shore. At one point I had a 'mixed flock' of two purple sandpipers, two dunlin and two little auk flying up the shore.

It was great to get purple sandpiper on the list for the year, the light was nice so they really stood out from the dunlin.

Other highlights were two great northern divers (sadly no black-throated passed me), an adult little gull flying south, two groups of three long-tailed duck, two velvet scoter and a drake scaup. A flock of 25 twite flew north along the dunes.

Seawatching totals 1120-1250:

little auk 173
goldeneye 24
cormorant 2
little gull 1 (S)
guillemot 34
red-throated diver 3
dunlin 6
long-tailed duck 6
wigeon 49
red-breasted merganser 3
great northern diver 2
pale-bellied brent 3
velvet scoter 2
purple sandpiper 4
kittiwake 80+
common gull 10+
scaup 1
pintail 1
twite 25

Today I had to work, but popped down to Druridge for the last of the light at 3pm. I intended on doing a seawatch but the light was nice and there was some close-by gulls so I did some gull photography instead.

Between gulls I did note long strings of kittiwakes  headed north and some sizeable stings of guillemot. There were a few little auks, but nothing like yesterday and a couple of RTD.

Adult common gull

First-winter herring gull 
Arty gull photo
Second-winter great-black-backed gull. Check out the obvious white tip to the bill
Snowy sky over Cresswell - I'm pleased it missed me!
Nice wintry sky at dusk
Pink-footed geese coming in at sunset
 My seawatch brought me a little haul of year-ticks - brent goose, scaup and purple sandpiper (my first on the patch for six years!) taking my total to 159 which is well down on the last few years. Still a chance of one or two more species before New Year...

Sunday 15 November 2015

Forecasters wrong again...

The weather forecasters got their predictions wrong for this weekend. Heavy rain from yesterday lunchtime (it rained at 4pm) which would last until the early hours of Monday. It rained over-night but there's hardly been a drop since.

Even our local WeBS organiser sent an advisory message out yesterday to recorders not to take risks in the weather. The only risk today came from wearing too many layers and over-heating. Light winds increased but it was 15 degrees C, dry, and quite pleasant.

Perfect weather for WeBS counting. Whilst I was counting from the Budge screen, a couple arrived and we chatted about the long-billed dowitcher that has been at Cresswell (and briefly at Druridge...grrr) for the last few days. They told me the tale of seeing it two weeks ago on the Budge fields but weren't confident of the identification (they knew it was something different), so they didn't say anything.

I encouraged them, that if they should find anything 'different' again, to let someone know. We all get things wrong, me especially, and we are always learning. That bird could have easily moved on and nobody would have seen it, let alone at Druridge.

My disappointment was soon gone when I picked up a female merlin sat out on the Budge field, it seemed to pull apart some prey before flying over and landing on a post for a while. My first merlin at Druridge for a long while.

Shortly after that a splendid short-eared owl put on a good show for us, quartering the fields in front of the hide. It was also right next to the path when I went to the Oddie hide - of course I had left my camera behind because of the forecast of rain. 29 whooper swan flew south.

Four pochard were still on the big pool (I saw them yesterday). My first record of pochard this year, they are certainly very uncommon at Druridge nowadays.

Yesterday I walked back along the beach, looking for snow buntings, which I didn't see. I did see a swallow though, a male, feeding over the dunes and beach. There were still plenty of insects about in this spell of warm weather. November 14th is very late for swallow and is my latest patch sighting. I have had a later 'Druridge Bay' record with one on 4th December many years ago, flying north at Chibburn Mouth.

Pochard and merlin put me on 156 for the year, which is very disappointing. If I don't see anything else new, this will be my worst year on the patch since 2012 and my second-worst since 2005. There are still some possibilities - snow bunting, white-fronted goose, brent goose, black redstart, bullfinch, red-legged partridge...maybe even the dowitcher will come back. That would be nice!

Monday 2 November 2015

Feels like summer

Yesterday I spent pretty-much all of the daylight hours on the patch and what splendid daylight hours they were. Warm and sunny with light variable winds, it may have touched 20 degrees in the afternoon.

We were ringing for most of the day and it was so warm I was in a T-shirt for much of the November.

It was soon apparent that the influx of thrushes had quickly passed inland, no redwings or fieldfares to be seen. There were plenty of blackbirds and we ringed a single song thrush. Most of the blackbirds were continental birds, the adult females a nice grey colour and many with longer wings than our resident birds. Some of the blackbirds were carrying a lot of fat - they were on the move.

As well as blackbirds we caught a lot of goldfinches and siskins which are taking advantage the abundance of seeds this year. The siskins are especially liking the alder cones.

We caught a single brambling, a nice first-year male. This is the first brambling we have caught since 2006 at Druridge.

We caught 95 birds of 17 species by the end of the day. The increase in the population of tree sparrows in the area around Druridge and generally in Northumberland means we are catching more of these beautiful birds.

Tree sparrow
Also of note was a late chiffchaff, not a 'sibe' this one, a typical yellowy-green collybita. It was also carrying a lot of fat, it weighed over 11g.

We also caught a female chaffinch that we ringed way back in August 2009 in its first year, odd that we haven't caught between then and now. Six and-a-bit is a good age for a chaffinch.

Early in the morning we watched a short-eared owl being mobbed by passerines over the Budge fields. In the afternoon a peregrine passed through and a large female sparrowhawk was seen chasing blackbirds through the bushes.

 A brief seawatch after the nets had been put away produced two drake velvet scoter on the sea and a handful of red-throated divers.

Sunday 25 October 2015


A combination of man-flu and work meant no patch birding for Ipin this weekend :-(

And now the clocks have changed, my patch efforts will be confined to weekends until March...

Sunday 11 October 2015

Goldcrests and spiders

I was contemplating catching up with some chores around the house late morning when reports came in of birds arriving at coastal spots -firecrests, ring ouzels, Lapland buntings and more yellow-browed warblers... The chores could wait.

Arriving at 1145, I checked the plantation, plenty of goldcrests but little else and then wandered up through the bushes. There were small parties of goldcrests everywhere, some mixed in with a tit flock, some on their own. I checked them all for firecrests, yellow-brows or even an early Pallas's warbler but to no avail.

My highlight was a single female brambling by the Budge screen.

There are a lot of spiders this year, maybe the mild autumn has helped them? Several webs had been strung across my path by garden spiders. I came across one, setting to work on a newly caught bluebottle and documented (mostly poorly as I had the 100-400mm lens on the camera) the battle that commenced.

A second spider arrives at the battle commences

The two spiders do battle, forgetting about the fly

Losing height, they fall to the ground
Meanwhile the poor fly is left dangling
The victor climbs back up the web to deal with his prize
starting to wrap the fly
The fly puts a brave fight 
Which pays off as it manages to struggle free and fly off, leaving the garden spider with nothing

 Such is life...

Another garden spider which caught my eye
148 Brambling

Saturday 10 October 2015


The weather forecast predicted light winds this morning, but it didn't mention thick fog, which Druridge Bay was cloaked in for most of the day.

Luckily,  it was the 'dry' type of fog, not a wetting fog which makes ringing impossible as the nets and therefore the birds, get wet.

So, dry fog and no wind, meant good ringing conditions.

As I was putting the last of the three nets up that we were going to sue, I flushed a long-eared owl for the nearby bushes, it flew off, silently...

Our first net-round only yielded a couple of birds, both retraps, until we checked the last net. The long-eared owl had obviously returned to its roosting spot and was now in the net, quickly extracted, we returned to the car to ring it.
Long-eared Owl

Fantastic eyes! - click for bigger image

Long-eared owls can be sexed quite easily, this was a female, told by having less white about the face and the 'ground' colour of the underparts being more buff than white. This bird was in active moult, growing a new fourth primary feather on both wings, making it at least a 2nd calender year bird.

This is the third long-eared owl we have caught over the years at Druridge, the last one was last year, a breeding female, which was sadly found dead by a member of the public only 12 days later.

After the excitement of the long-eared owl, we continued to catch steadily throughout the morning until the fog lifted and wind picked up in the early afternoon.

It was obvious that the last two dry and sunny days had encouraged the migrants that had arrived on Tuesday and Wednesday, particularly the thrushes, to move on. We caught 40 birds in total, the only warblers were blackcaps of which there four, three juveniles and a retrapped resident female that we ringed with a brood-patch in August.

 This is a male Blackcap, told by the black crown, but you can still see some of the brown juvenile feathering in the crown.
Three goldcrests and a song thrush were 'passage' birds. We also caught 12 of the huge goldfinch flock that is hanging around Druridge, making the most of the bumper thistle crop, there are a few lesser redpolls in the finch flock and we caught two of them.

Whilst putting up the nets first-thing, a yellow-browed warbler was calling but was not relocated and later a couple of great-spotted woodpeckers put in an appearance by the car.

Throughout the morning, at least until 11am, there was a virtually constant sound of pink-footed geese flying over. Mostly, they appeared to be going south, but we couldn't see them for the fog, some of the groups sounded quite numerous.

Sunday 4 October 2015

Ringing session

I've got lots of things going on at the minute so I am finding difficult too get our birding never mind finding time to update my blog. This lack of time means that I still haven't seen yellow-browed warbler on the patch this autumn, there's been plenty of them!

I did find the time for a ringing session today. The weather has been great for ringing the whole week and it has been really frustrating not being able to get out, so it was good to get a session in today.

It was calm and cloudy this morning with no fog or heavy dew like previous mornings, it was nice not have to wear waterproof trousers all day. The wind has been out of the east, but the calm, dry conditions hasn't dropped any migrants onto the east coast, other than the yellow-browed warblers.

goldcrest (male)
We caught a few migrants including song thrushes, robins, chiffchaffs, a blackcap and a few goldcrests. We caught some of the huge goldfinch flock that is moving around Druridge at the moment (which also contains greenfiches, siskins, redpolls and linnets) and a tit flock.

A first autumn male reed bunting with a ring on it was interesting as it wasn't one of our rings, a quick check with Ian Fisher confirmed that he had ringed as a juvenile at East Chevington back in August.

Reed bunting from East Chevington
Whilst ringing there was a few small skeins of pink-footed geese, mostly headed south and group of five barnacle geese headed north. A couple of vocal mistle thrushes were noted, a proper autumn bird on the patch.

At least two different yellow-browed warblers had been seen, one by a visiting birder just off the track to the Oddie hide and Jonathon Farooqi had found on in the plantation.

The forecast for the week ahead is interesting with some rain and south-easterly winds and then the tail end of hurricane Joaquin may or may not come our way.

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Ringing on Saturday

The weather forecast for last weekend went a bit wrong, Sunday was forecast to be quite windy from the west  whilst Saturday was due to be calm, but bright.

Saturday was calm and bright. Sunday started very calm and was overcast but the wind picked up later.

On Friday we worked to clear some vegetation from our net rides and it was obvious then that there were very few birds around, other than a large number of goldfinches. Migrants were particularly thin on the ground with a only a few 'wheeting' phyloscs and one or two goldcrests, but quite a few robins.

 So on Saturday we decided to try a ringing session despite the forecasted sunshine and the lack of any migrants (the clear, calm night with light westerlies would not drop anything new in). As predicted we didnt catch many birds, only 20 in fact. We caught a few robins, goldcrests, goldfinches and a nice juvenile siskin. This whitethroat was our only warbler, it was carrying a lot of fat so was obviously on the move.

migrant whitethroat caught and ringed
There was some vizmig going on, with a few skylarks headed north, a grey wagtail over (always a autumn bird at Druridge) and a few siskins and lesser redpolls moving through or joining the goldfinch flocks.

Car problems have prevented any further visits to the patch.

Friday 11 September 2015

Back to the patch

Back to the patch (proper) this evening after a trip down to Tarifa for migration. I say 'proper' because I did run briefly onto the patch on Wednesday evening to tick the red-footed falcon.

After watching tens of thousands birds migrate through the Straits of Gibraltar and then coming home to a red-footed falcon on the patch, the patch was going to have to conjure up something spectacular not to disappoint - it didn't

Adult male honey buzzard roosting in gale-force winds in La Janda near Tarifa
There was a few good birds reported from Holy Island and the Farnes today, so it was always going to be worth a look through the bushes. All I found was a few willow warblers and blackcap, it was getting on for dusk and quite breezy.

There was a migrant hawker flying around the bushes, it didn't land, but this common darter did.

Male common darter
So no scarcities at Druridge tonight but the forecast for the weekend through to Monday looks a bit tasty and will hopefully drop some birds in.

Wednesday 9 September 2015


Red-footed Falcon on the patch today is a FULL, FAT, PATCH TICK!

As I turned up with no scope or camera, I've nicked this from Tom Cadwallender (cheers Tom)
I was in Warkworth this afternoon watching the Tour of Britain cycle race come through the Northumberland Coast AONB, as I was leaving I got a phone call from Frank Golding who said "I think I might have had a red-footed falcon over Hemscotthill Farm"  - Frank had also been watching the TofB but had put his camera away when the bird cam by and he hadn't seen where it went.

I had some more work to do, but I drove by that way on my home, checking fence-posts and overhead wires as I went, not seeing anything.

An hour or so later, I got a phone call from Dave Elliott to say he was watching a male red-footed falcon just north of Bell's Farm. I was soon on the scene (without a scope or camera, luckily I had my bins) to watch a fantastic male red-footed falcon sitting on some straw bales by the side of a field that was being sown, eating a worm.

Not technically on the patch, but the rules of PWC are that if it is seen from the patch - it counts. So off I ran, up the road, with Janet's scope, to watch it from my patch boundary.

We watched it for a half an hour or so, getting good views as it flew from the straw bales to the fence and back. There were two generations of feathers in the wing and it was in active moult, showing it to be a second-calender-year male. - A stunning bird!

A good handful of county-listers came for it, but a lot hadn't arrived when the red-foot was flushed up by a passing marsh harrier. It flew off, north... right over the patch (so it is a proper patch-bird now) and just kept going. It was last seen heading over the plantation towards Low Chibburn and Red Row.

The addition of red-footed falcon to my patch list takes it to 237. I did wonder whether I would see any new birds on the patch this year after an incredible five new species last year.

R-FF was also a new bird for Northumberland and Britain for me.

Big thanks to Frank and Dave!

Sunday 16 August 2015

Quiet start to the Autumn

Autumn has started quietly on the patch. On Wednesday I put some nets up for a ringing session. I caught a mixture of adult and juvenile warblers (chiffchaff, willow and sedge warblers, blackcap), which I presume were all local birds as nothing was carrying any fat. I also caught a grasshopper warbler, a female with the remains of a brood patch, very close to where a male was singing for a few nights four weeks ago. A bullfinch was calling nearby but I didn't catch it.

I also caught a few robins, wrens, a chaffinch and a tree sparrow. I watched a stunning juvenile marsh harrier flying over the Budge fields, right in front of the little hide - no photographers at that hour!

I spent some time on the patch today. A Saturday night out at the Cluny meant it wasn't an early start. I think all of the birds were asleep by the time I arrived.

Little grebe - asleep
Mute swan  - asleep
This common gull must have had no 'craic' as the black-headed gull was obviously bored
There were three juvenile ruff and black-tailed godwit (which was also asleep for much of the time) from the little hide and two common sandpipers on the far bank of the big pool.

There were a few 'wheeting' phylloscs in the bushes and a family of four juvvy blackcaps. I checked the fences and bushes at the north end for whinchats but none were found. I photographed some insects as there were no birds about.

Lime-speck Pug on wield

Noon fly or Noonday fly on knapweed
I headed back to the patch this evening, hoping the high-tide might have pushed some waders off their usual haunts. Six oystercatchers and five turnstones flew south, but not the hoped-for knot or grey plover. Three red-throated divers were on the sea - they were asleep too!

Sunday 9 August 2015


Not much to report, spent the weekend pointing brickwork and watching football, but before all of that we went to Druridge on Friday night to try and catch storm petrels.

We set the nets up on the beach at by 11pm and had caught two bird by 11.40, one new bird and a control. By 1230 a big, bright half-moon appeared on the horizon and the mini-rave/beach party further up the shore was louder than our set-up so we packed in and went home.

Sunday 2 August 2015

Under the weather

What is going on with the weather this Summer? Even  the forecasters can't get a thing right.

Last night, I checked all of my usual sources of weather information and it all looked good for putting some nets up this morning. Based on this research I got up at 4.30 and headed to Druridge and got some nets up, no wind, hazy sunshine and the weather forecast still saying no rain. First net round done and it starts to rain... light but persistent. Nets furled.

A quick check of the Rain Alarm app showed rain heading our way for a considerable time...Nets down.

I did manage to catch some juvenile willow warblers and adult sedge warbler, willow warblers and a whitethtoat. The sedge warbler was quite fat, looking like it was on its way south.

Back at home drying me and the nets, I got a message from Jonathon to say he was watching a green sandpiper from the little hide. I do like a green sandpiper and it is a species that can be missed at Druridge so I headed down for a gander. It was wandering around the mud in front of the hide with a common sandpiper, an adult dunlin in summer plumage was lurking in the wings.

On Thursday evening I had a 45 minute seawatch, the highlight of which was a single sooty shearwater heading north about half-way-out. Other totals - 42 manx shearwater, two arctic skuas, one goosander,  two Med gulls and 15 common scoter north.

On Friday evening there was a common sandpiper and a yellow wagtail on the Budge fields and a whimbrel flew south, calling. Offshore, four arctic skuas, including a stunning pale-phase bird with huge white flashes in the wings, were loitering in the bay, parasitising terns. A few red-throated divers have returned and are still looking smart in their summer garb.

Sunday 26 July 2015

Hard Graft

Not much to report this week. A couple of short visits to the patch produced little of note other than some rather smart summer-plumaged sanderlings on the beach.

Today I spent the morning at Druridge before the rain arrived. First I checked the Budge fields where a common sandpiper on the mud was year-tick, it was accompanied by a couple of juvenile dunlin, a few snipe and a handful of lapwing...oh and two yellow wagtails.

To the dunes - There was some kind of co-ordinated cetacean watch this weekend, which saw Neil and Andrea Anderson and Tom an Muriel Cadwallender spending most of the weekend sat at Snab Point slowly freezing to death. So I thought I would have a quick look in the Bay to see if there were dolphins and amazingly there was - a pod of bottlenose dolphins about half way out.

A call to Tom confirmed that they had already seen these beasts heading north passed Snab. The dolphins were very active, breaching regularly with some getting out of the water altogether, performing pirouettes. They swam pretty quickly north and were soon just specks heading towards Coquet Island.

Excitement over, I headed for the Little hide where the same common sandpiper or a different one was on the mud. Buzzards circled the far shelterbelt and a little owl was perched on the farm buildings.

I couldn't see much from the Oddie hide as the grass was so high in front of the shutters. Nothing else for it - I trooped back to the car and got my trusty grass-knife and went back to cut the grass. What seemed like a good idea at the start seemed less-good when I had only done about half the job and I had blisters on my hand and was knackered - not used to hard graft.

I persevered and eventually had the whole lot cut. I headed off, hand bleeding, to the Country Barn for a well-deserved pasty. I hope the photographers will thank me when the mega yank or eastern wader turns up this week.



134 Common sandpiper

Sunday 12 July 2015

Wader clear-out

I was down on the patch a couple of times today having only managed one visit during the week, on Thursday. There were 18 black-tailed godwits and a ruff of note on the Budge fields.

Today however there weren't many waders at all, just a few curlew and lapwing. There were lots of butterflies out in the sunshine this morning, but trying to photograph them was very difficult due to the strong westerly wind. 

There were as many dark-green fritillaries as I have ever seen, well into double-figures. This one was in the dunes, a crap photo, but I liked the detail of its eyes.

worn dark-green fritillary on thistle - open for detail
ringlet on yarrow
Also on the wing were lots of ringlets, meadow brown, common blue, small copper, wall, red admiral, speckled wood, small tortoiseshell and small skipper...

There were also lots of burnet moths on the newly-in-flower ragwort. All of the burnets I photographed were narrow-bordered five-spot burnet moths. 

narrow-bordered five-spot burnet moth on ragwort
Whilst photographing butterflies in the dunes, I heard such a commotion - high-pitched squawking followed by people shouting. I looked up to see a springer spaniel, off the lead, scattering a family party of grey partridge left, right and centre. The owners were obviously concerned at the noise the young partridges were making and desperately tried to get the offending dog back. They had absolutely no control over it whatsoever.

The offenders with the dog back on the lead
They turned around when they saw me taking their photo.  I caught up with them later and the springer was still off the lead. I pointed out the error of their ways and signs asking people to keep their dogs on a lead during the breeding season and gave them a leaflet about taking dogs to the coast. Shortly after, two different women appeared with another springer doing exactly the same thing. 

These soldier beetles were clearly enjoying the summer sunshine!

Soldier beetles
This evening I had a look on the sea, the tide was out but the light was nice. The scoter flock has now built up to about 600 birds and they were really close inshore. I went through them a couple of times, but could only see common scoters - July is a good month for surfies! Five juvenile type goosanders flew north.

Sunday 5 July 2015

Blackcap - To Biarritz...and back!

I've got some really interesting news of a returning blackcap, but first a round-up of the weekend on the patch.

On Friday evening there, autumn wader passage was underway with a greenshank and ruff on the Budge fields, an avocet and a single black-tailed godwit were also present and an adult little egret was feeding.

Adult little egret feeding on Budge fields
A grasshopper warbler was 'reeling' from the umbellifers on the dune-back opposite the path to the Budge screen - it was still reeling today from 5am to midday!

Offshore, there were at least five roseate terns fishing, which isn't surprising given that there are over 100 pairs nesting on nearby Coquet Island. I also saw my first Arctic skua of the year, harrying the terns.

Red admiral
There are a lot more butterflies on the wing now that summer has arrived. Ringlet, small skipper, meadow brown, wall, red admiral, small tortoiseshell, speckled wood were all seen and,today, my first dark-green fritillaries of the year.

As it rained for much of yesterday morning, I put my patch-visit off until the evening. On the edge of the patch, between Bell's farm and the plantation, I stopped to watch some swift passage - a steady stream of these early migrants headed south. Whilst scanning them, a strikingly dark swallow flew past me. I watched it for while, it was male, but the underparts were much more chestnut/orange than any other barn swallow I've seen. It almost reminded me of the North American race, but it had a good, dark breast-band. It was certainly a striking bird, but I don't think it was anything other than a darker than average rustica.

A 'bog-standard' swallow taking a feather to line it's nest
On the Budge fields there were 28 black-tailed godwit and yesterdays ruff and a new ringed plover. A male marsh harrier flew in and started hunting over the Budge field, scattering some duck and lapwings.

male marsh harrier hunting over the Budge fields
Also of note were five large shoveler youngsters. I've seen this on previous years at Druridge, where a female shoveler will turn up late in the summer with well-grown young. I am not sure if these birds were capable of flight, but they were nearing adult size, so they probably were.

Today, I got up early and put some nets up to ring birds. I didn't catch much, I presume a lot of the warblers are sat tight on second broods. I caught 14 new birds, all but two of which were juveniles. I would have expected to have caught more young warblers (I caught two backcaps and a chiffchaff), I think the prolonged cold spring and erratic storms may have done for some first broods.

Between net-rounds I had a scan from the dunes and picked up a small falcon flying west. I automatically assumed it would be a kestrel, but when I put my bins on it I was surprised to see a fine adult hobby. It had a small bird of some species in its talons (maybe a sand martin, there were a lot of them), it continued west over the bushes and turned south with it's prey, maybe looking for somewhere suitable to deal with it?

So, to the story of the blackcap. I retrapped a female breeding blackcap today, which we ringed as a juvenile last year. This got me thinking about thinking about the blackcap that we ringed that ended up in France (read the story here ) and whether it may have come back, so I checked our retraps for the year and it has!

Y540945 was ringed as a juvenile male on the 27th August by me and James Common, we caught it again on the 5th September. On 25th September it was caught by a ringer 1251km in Landes near Biarritz in France.

Looking at our retraps for this year I discovered that Y540945 has returned! I caught it on 9th June as breeding male. This is the first time we have ever had a long-distance migrant trapped elsewhere other than Druridge, return to our site. Isn't migration amazing!

130 greenshank
131 Arctic skua
132 hobby

Monday 29 June 2015

Light nights

These long, light nights leave little time for updating my blog, so I apologise for the lack of activity lately.

I have also discovered another way to waste my valuable time - Flickr. I have started uploading photos from various trips on my new Flickr page - have a  look at

As spring is over and autumn has yet to start, birding on the patch has been slow. I've tried a couple of sea-watches and managed to add roseate tern to the patch year list, but nothing else. With over 80 pairs on Coquet Island, it was just a matter of time.  There were two harbour porpoise in the bay tonight.

The Budge fields are still proving popular with black-tailed godwits, there were 28 there tonight. No other migrant waders were noted over the last week though. The two curlew chicks are still alive and well and getting bigger, their bills are lengthening too.

I saw a colour-ringed little egret on the big last weekend. You can see from the record-shot below that it has a yellow ring with a black 'T' on the left tibia and a red ring with a white 'F' on the left tibia. has anyone else seen this bird around?

I saw my first patch-grasshopper warbler of the year tonight, it was reeling in some umbellifers  on the edge of the dunes. This species seems to be a bit boom-and-bust at Druridge in recent years.