Sunday 26 April 2015

Football or birding?

On Saturday afternoon I had the choice - go to St James' Park and watch the Toon or go out birding. My patience with the regime at SJP is all but worn out, so at the last minute I abandoned my plans to catch the bus and went birding instead.

The birders I met at Druridge were very surprised to see me there I think. It proved to be a profitable visit to the patch - quite the opposite to a visit to SJP!

I stopped at the southern end of the patch to scan for hooded crow that had been reported the previous day. There were lots of carrion crows and jackdaws but no hoody to be seen. All of my Druridge 'hoodies' have been seen in mid-April. A couple of wheatears in the dunes were my first for the year though, so not all lost.

Next I headed for the Budge screen, where a wood sandpiper had been reported. A male blackcap was singing in the bushes on the way to the screen.  As I scanned the mud, I picked out three nice, summer-plumaged 'islandica' race black-tailed godwits and there were at least five ruff, including the striking black and white bird. Six whimbrel dropped in with some curlew.

A little egret flew in towards the Budge screen and began to feed, so I took some video of it ( click the 'turn on HD thingy for better resolution)

Little Egret from Iain Robson on Vimeo.

Whilst I had the camera on the tripod, a wood sandpiper type wader wandered across the mud in front of the little hide, so I had a wander over there.

From the little hide the wood sand could be seen much better, but it was still frustrating because of the amount of rush on the pool.

A walk through the bushes by the big pool produced two or three singing sedge warblers and singing common whitethroat, which was ringed.

There were still 50+ red-throated diver on the sea and at least 20 red-breasted mergansers. 

103 great northern diver (from Wednesday)
104 blackcap
105 wheatear
106 wood sandpiper
107 sedge warbler
108 whitethroat

PWC Score = 129

Sunday 19 April 2015

One hundred and counting...

A little flurry of migrants lifted my patch year-list to 100 species today.

I was out on the patch for a short ringing session n Friday morning, the first of the year. With only two nets up I caught a few birds including three willow warblers and chiffchaff. 

willow warbler - first bird ringed on the patch in 2015

Whilst checking the nets, I had a whimbrel fly over and a very early reed warbler was singing in the little reed bed in the corner of the big pool. Offshore there were 47 red-throated divers and 26 red-breasted mergansers on the sea - both good counts. There was also a handful of puffins on the sea, a common tern and fulmar as fly-through's were all new for the year.

Today was WeBS count day. I was sure I was going to  a garganey or an avocet, but I was disappointed, however, the first bird I saw was a little egret, just in front of the hide, which was my first of the year on the patch. 

There were only four wigeon left on the Budge fields, still a few teal main though with about 30 or so, they'll be gone soon and at this rate, shoveler will replace them as the commonest duck on the patch - there were 19 today. There was a pair of great-crested grebes on the big pool.

Whilst I was counting ducks, two or three house martins were feeding over the Budge fields - my first of the year.

That little flurry brings my patch list up to 100 for the year.

93 willow warbler
94 reed warbler
95 whimbrel
96 puffin
97 common tern
98 fulmar
99 little egret
100 house martin

PWC Score 118

Saturday 4 April 2015

Natural Causes or Suspicious Circumstances?

I had a short wander around the patch yesterday afternoon. I walked back along the beach and made a diversion through the plantation.

My pleasant afternoon was spoiled by this gruesome discovery...

A dead barn owl. It looked as though it had been dead a while, it was quite smelly and I disturbed a sexton beetle when I turned it over. It was a second calender year male and was wearing a BTO ring, it had been ringed by me as a nestling in June 2014 at a nearby farm.

I knew that an owl had been using the plantation as there has been pellets under a tree for a few weeks.

So, what caused its demise? Well it could, of course, be natural causes. It may have also ingested some poison destined for something else or it could have been shot.

This isn't the only owl to die in odd circumstances at Druridge recently.

On 5th May, last year, I caught a long-eared owl in a mist net, an adult female with a brood-patch We received information back from BTO that it had been found at 'Druridge Bay' 12 days later, without a head.

It isn't unusual for mammalian predators to remove heads of prey by shaking them, foxes and dogs for example would do this. What would be unusual, would be for a mammalian predator to catch a long-eared owl. My suspicion was that this bird had been shot. I tried to find out more about the circumstances in which the bird was found, but didn't get anywhere.

Lads with guns are regularly seen at Druridge, mostly after rabbits. Some of them, however, fall in to the 'shoot anything that moves' camp. I've always been reluctant to call the police as, because the incident involves a firearm, they send the armed response team. I have spoken to the local Police wildlife crime officer about this and he encouraged me to give them a call, at least with information.

If you are at Druridge and see lads with guns, give the police a call on 101 and take down as much information as you can. They will be on National Trust or the next-door farmers land and they haven't got permission to be on either.

On a more positive note. There were eight yellowhammers at High Chibburn today in a mixed flock with tree sparrows and reed buntings. I only saw one yellowhammer at Druridge last year.

A sand martin was at Hemscotthill on my way home, but none on the patch yet.

sparrowhawk 84
yellowhammer 85

PWC 2015 Score: 98

Friday 3 April 2015

Good Thursday

I took a day off work yesterday and I'm pleased I did, as the weather today (Good Friday) is awful. It was bright and sunny but the  wind which moved from north-west through north to north-east whilst I was there, was very cold, making it feel like winter.

I set off to Druridge hoping to see some returning migrants..sand martin, black-tailed godwit, garganey, sandwich tern, wheatear maybe? Maybe even some something more scarce like an osprey or ring ouzel?

I was disappointed.

Other than a signing chiffchaff, the only 'migrant' was a smart male white wagtail amongst the beast in the dunes north of the bushes.

There are still about 30 teal and wigeon on the Budge fields and a few shovelers. A single dunlin was 'new-for-the-year' it was with a handful of snipe and a redshank.

Other than canada geese and mute swans, there was only tufted duck and gadwall on the big pool. Nearby, this robin was collecting nesting material - at least the robins think it is spring.

Robin with nesting material
Out in the dunes, the stonechats seemed to be paired up. There was a flock of about 30 linnets in the dunes where the beast are fed, with a few goldfinches and a pair of grey partridges.

female stonechat
About 15 sanderling were on the beach, these could well be returning birds. Offshore, a pair of eiders were a year-tick but there were not terns and I still haven't seen a lesser black-back!

Looking back toward the preceptory, there was a 'kettle' of four buzzards, they soon split off into their respective pairs and parted company.

82 dunlin
83 eider

PWC 2015 Score: 96