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.

Monday 15 June 2015

Busy Week

I've had a week off work but have been to busy to update the blog. I've had two friends from Malta, Ian and Edward, visiting on a birdwatching trip. They came with a list of target species, which we managed to see most of. They also came with beer...

Cisk - the national drink of Malta
I've really enjoyed it, it got me out some places I don't normally get to, even Durham! I'm not keen on crossing the Tyne.

Before they arrived on Tuesday night however, I managed some time on the patch. On Monday, I spent the morning at Druridge, highlights were an increase in the number of sedge warblers, a male sparrowhawk and a stock dove. Prompted by reports of Manx shearwaters elsewhere, I had a look on the sea and in 50 minutes had 122 manxies go north, including a flock of about 70 birds, not strung out like manxies usually are, these were in a tight flock.

When I got home and checked my email, someone had reported, via my blog, that they had seen and heard a marsh warbler singing in the bushes by the entrance. I headed back to check it out, when I got there, a warbler was singing at the back of the bushes, it wasn't sedge and there was some mimicry, but it was muffled. A few folk stopped by and as the bird made its way forward and the song become more audible, we all agreed it was just a reed warbler - in marsh warbler habitat. Worth checking out though.

The two drake mandarin were still on the Budge fields as was a pair of yellow wagtails.

On Tuesday, I put some nets up and ringed some birds. The increase in sedge warblers was evidenced further as I caught five of them. Worryingly, I only caught four juvenile birds, two tree sparrows and two chaffinches. I think the harsh weather of late did for the breeding attempts of many small birds. There were 24 black-tailed godwit on the Budge fields.

On Wednesday we went to the Farne Islands, it goes without saying how much two birders from Malta would enjoy the Farnes experience. Roseate tern was top of the wish list, we saw four near the jetty.

Ian gets the traditional Farnes welcome

grey seal

Arctic tern

Obviously these fellas were popular

Not a black and white photo, black and white birds on white rocks

Room for a small one?

You can't see me? Puffin hiding from black-headed gull trying to steal its catch
We rounded the day off with a visit to the Long Nanny and Low Newton scrapes.

Arctic tern at the Long Nanny
On Thursday, Janet was in charge and we went down to the North Pennines. Red and black grouse were the targets here and we weren't disappointed. We finished the day at RSPB Salthome, the first time I have been since RSPB tarted it up.

On Friday we walked up to East Chevington from Druridge, grasshopper warbler was our target species. We were checking the bridge area out when Dave called to say he had one reeling to the north, we were off and the Maltese boys were soon enjoying great views of a singing gropper. Edward had all five of his targets in the bag.

Whitethroat at East Chevington
Back to the patch, there were 33 islandica black-tailed godwits on the Budge fields. There were also two curlew chicks, which is very significant. I have never recorded curlew as breeding on the site, I am waiting to hear if it is a new record for the site.

One of the curlew chicks, heavily cropped
One of the proud parents
 After breakfast we headed out a 'Puffin Cruise' from Amble to see more roseys.

Roseate terns 'urn the jurb
We sauntered back down the coast via Warkworth, East Chev, Cresswell and finished at Snab Point with red-throated diver, manx shearwaters, harbour porpoise and an arctic skua.

Saturday morning took us back to Druridge where we had a cuckoo, which was a welcome year-tick for me. We then went to Warkworth lane for yellowhammer and on to the airport via Bothal and Scotch Gill Woods, dipping marsh tit. Both Ian and Edward had a great time, Edward got all five of his targets and Ian saw 19 new species. We saw 117 species in three and a half days, all but four of them in Northumberland.

It's hard work guiding people,  I was exhausted on Saturday night, but had thoroughly enjoyed the three days. I had a quick look at the patch this morning, once the rain had stopped. No new migrants had dropped in (it's a bit late now...) but Saturdays cuckoo was still present.

126 Manx Shearwater
127 Cuckoo

Friday 5 June 2015

Gull watching

The wind moved into the South-east this afternoon and increased in strength to force 3-4. It was high-tide when I arrived at Druridge this evening and they are quite big tides with the full moon, which meant that the gulls would be close tot he dunes, so I decided on a bit of gull photography.

99% of the birds passing close were going south and 99% of them were black-headed gulls. I took lots of shots, most of which I have binned.

Three different black-headed gulls
I picked up on Mediterranean gull, a first-summer headed south.

Two views of the same first-summer Med gull
Big gulls were few and far between, I managed a shot of this first-summer great black-backed, though I willing to be corrected on this one... more practice needed.

First-summer great black-backed gull (I think)
125 Mediterranean gull