Wednesday 28 December 2016

Off work but off patch

I've been off work since 23rd for the festivities, but have hardly managed any time on the patch. A walk on the beach in a howling gale on Christmas day and a quick look through the geese yesterday. The look through the geese brought what will be my last addition to the patch list before we head off for New Year - bean goose, my first on the patch since 2010.

I've spent my free time on a project to track turnstones, we have been colour-ringing and radio-tagging them. Working on the birds meant I had no time for photos, but Dave Elliott has some good shots on his blog.

Here are some photos I managed today from the catching site.


Sanderlings in flight 

colour-ringed and tagged turnstone

Turnstone in flight 
Feeding waders

So, my bean goose meant I finished the year on the 174 species for the patch two ahead of any previous year. Omissions from the year list include bullfinch (again), pomarine skua, little auk, grey plover, hobby (seen for last six years) and spoonbill (seen every year bar-one since 2006). I added two new species to the patch list - broad-billed sandpiper in May and Leach's petrel in July. The patch list now stands at 240.

I've been doing the Patchwork Challenge thing again this year - a bit of harmless fun. I am doing okay but can't compete with the Spurn/Easington boys. Here is the latest report from the Coastal North . I've already signed up for the 2017 competition.

It will probably be January 7th before I am back on the patch, so I will take this opportunity to wish you a happy, healthy and bird-filled new year.

Friday 18 November 2016

It's a record breaker!

2016 has been a record-breaking year on the patch - I have seen more species on  the patch in 2016 than any previous year.

Sundays hen harrier - my first on the patch since before 2002, took this year's species tally to 172, beating the previous record of 171 set in 2013 and repeated in 2014.

I am not sure what has made this year so special as despite the very good autumn for passerines, I didn't see many unusual species for autumn - firecrest being an exception. It has been a good year for waders with broad-billed sandpiper new for the patch and good year birds like jack snipe and pectoral sandpiper - grey plover and Temminck's stint where the only real 'missers'.

I missed a few regulars though - spoonbill (recorded annually since 2010), pomarine skua (one miss since 2009), garden warbler and bullfinch. I suppose there is still time for a little auk, purple sand, long-tailed duck, rock pipit or even a white-winged duck to further boost the tally.

Last Sunday was my first day back on the patch after a nine-day trip to Fuerteventura. I was watching these on the saturday morning.

Cream-coloured Courser
It was really nice to see a hen harrier back on the patch. I was loathed to mention it's presence on here, but as they are all over social media there is nothing to lose. The photos show this to be a juvenile - the dark secondaries on the underwing being a tell-tale sign.

Juvenile hen harrier being mobbed by a crow

I did the WeBS count on Sunday too. There were a lot more wigeon and teal than when I left for Fuerteventura and the snipe numbers had increased to 18 (at least - although a passing hen harrier helps to get an accurate count). Three little egret and 18 black-tailed godwit gave the count a hint of summer. There were three nice red-breasted mergansers on five goldeneye on the big pool.

Good numbers of lapwing and duck on the Budge Fields
There has also been an obvious recent influx of blackbirds as there were many of them feeding up on hawthorn berries. Two greenfinches (a scarce species at Druridge) in the willows by the entrance were the first of the autumn and there were still plenty of robins about.

Today, a hen harrier passed through briefly and a female sparrowhawk was causing havoc on the Budge fields. I had a walk through the bushes, there were still plenty of blackbirds on the berries. This fella was watching me, watching him, through the fence.

The inquisitive Mr Fox 
At the top end, I inadvertently flushed a roosting long-eared owl. It flew from it's perch, straight at me - it's bright orange eyes looking straight at me, before it back-flipped and flew off north. I wonder if it is a recent arrival?

Sunday 23 October 2016

Easterlies that did not deliver

After the excitement of the last couple of weeks on the back of a run of easterly winds, the forecast of more easterlies for this weekend got me going again, I was even contemplating an emergency flexi-day from work. It was too windy to ring so I made do with a later start and a wander through the bushes.

It soon became apparent that it was all very quiet, nothing at all in the plantation, a few robins, tits and crest in the entrance willows and other than the area by the feeders, nothing behind the Budge screen - same further north - bar a couple of great-spotted woodpeckers. There had obviously been no arrival of birds.

Grey-looking robin
A great white egret was on the Budge fields when I checked from the screen-hide. A bonus of three finders points for the PWC.

Dejected, I headed home.

Golden plovers funneling back to the ground
Some of the golden plover flock
On the way north later in the day, Janet and I stopped to see a flock of about 1800 golden plover in ploughed field opposite High Chibburn. I returned later in the day to have a scan through them as there had recently been an American golden plover at Low Newton. The light was fading fast and the birds were restless, nothing stood out as being unusual in any way. By 1740 the light had gone and so had my eyes.

I hope that I don't regret not taking that that flexi-leave day tomorrow...

Monday 17 October 2016

The easterly wind that just keeps giving...

The wind has been out of the east for well over a week now and it just keeps bringing the birds. I didn't manage to get onto the patch during week because of work, other than a quick look around the plantation on Thursday evening when I saw and heard a siberian chiffhcaff (tristis) in the willows by the entrance. It looked very drab compared to the collybita that was in the same tree, It's call was really obvious - quite a sharp, almost monosyllabic 'peep' which it did frequently.

Not really being one for twitching, I decided against heading south to see any of the Siberian Accentors that have turned up and concentrated on the patch (and football) instead. There will be one in the county by the end of the week...

Saturday morning was damp, with light rain/mizzle most of the morning, I started in the plantation and work north towards the 'Mike Carr Path'. There had been a big arrival of birds on Friday (I was on Holy Island and it was 'hotching') and it looked like little had cleared out in the foul weather and more birds were arriving with flocks of thrushes being obvious - blackbirds, redwings and song thrushes did drop in, the fieldfares perched on treetops before moving off inland quite quickly. Goldcrests and robins were really obvious but I couldn't find anything rarer amongst them.

A single male brambling was in the willows and few siskins were seen towards the Budge screen. From the bushes, I heard some commotion of the Budge fields and looked across to see a juvenile marsh harrier coming through - it pounced on something and stayed down - presumably eating what it had caught. Eventually I had to drag myself away to go to the match.

This morning I started in the plantation where I had a group of six mealy redpolls fly in together and perch before moving on - these are the first mealies I have had on the patch since 2005! Moving on north through the bushes there were still huge numbers of goldcrests - I estimated 80-100 and plenty of thrushes, even some fieldfare were still feeding on hawthorn and whitebeam berries.

A kingfisher called and I got onto it flying north over the Budge fields -  a good year for a very scarce species on the patch.

Siskin, lesser redpolls, goldfinches and brambling were roaming about the alders. As I got to the Mike Carr path it had started to rain and I thought about heading home for lunch, luckily I couldn't drag myself away and got onto a firecrest on the edge of the path, but I was looking through the bushes at it - when I was repositioning myself to try and get a photo a male sparrowhawk shot through and scattered everything and I couldn't find it in increasingly heavy rain - time for lunch.

These two large woodpigeon young were still in the nest
The rain stopped by 2pm and I was back on the patch by 2.30 and headed for the area that the firecrest was in. The first bird I saw was a lesser whitethroat - a species I had given up on this year. I didn't get long on the bird before it flew off, not even time to reach for the camera. Superficially the upperparts appeared brown, the head was grey and the dark 'mask' was obvious but not striking. I would have loved to had more time on this bird and got some photos but it vanished and I couldn't relocate it. Onwards...

In the same area I came across a willow warbler, quite late for this species and my latest ever record on the patch. Here it is...

Willow warbler
I spent some time by the low whitebeams and watched a constant stream of goldcrests coming through with at least three chiffchaffs and then a strip warbler - not as stripy as I was hoping for though - a yellow-browed warbler - not it's more flashy cousin that I was hoping for,,,

I had to leave the warblers to do my WeBS count before it got dark. five black-tailed godwit, one ruff and a couple of little egret of note. This cormorant was nice in the setting sun.

The addition of brambling, mealy redpoll, firecrest and lesser whitethroat takes my year list 170 - one off my record tally of 171 in 2013 and 2014. Could this be a record breaking year?

Sunday 9 October 2016

From the east

The wind has been out of the east for the last five days or so, and it is really coming from the east with an airflow coming from from Siberia and beyond.

An easterly wind in October...the perfect combination.

And so it was, White's thrush on Holy Island on Wednesday and a supporting cast of several Pallas's warblers, red-breasted flycatchers  and little buntings and lots of yellow-browed warblers and that was just in Northumberland. Not so much excitement on the patch. There have been at least two yellow-browed warblers in the bushes by the entrance from Sunday.

The start of the week was quite summery, on Sunday speckled wood butterflies were obvious in the rides with 20 noted, common darters and migrant hawkers, including this pair, were still evident.

Speckled Wood
Migrant hawkers

The wind did come out of the north and a seawatch produced three sooty shearwaters and a summer-plumaged great northern diver headed north.

On Thursday morning, thrush passage was evident with mistle thrushes and a few fieldfare passing over, song thrushes, redwings and blackbirds in the bushes. A group of ten swallow passed south - could be the last?

Sunset on Thursday
On Friday and Saturday mornings we put some nets up. We caught about 70 birds on each session. Goldcrests were the most abundant species with 18 on Friday and 26 on Saturday - we also caught a lot of robins and a handful of song thrushes, redwings, chiffchaffs, wrens, dunnocks and blackcaps. Lesser redpoll and siskins were newly arrived on the patch and a couple of great-spotted woodpeckers were new-in.

Great Spotted Woodpecker - this photo shows its incredibly long tongue
Redwing  - one of three
Pink-footed geese were heard regularly overhead and about 500 have settled in the stubble field at High Chibburn and about 65 barnacle geese headed south on Friday

Bright and breezy conditions were forecasted for this morning so a more leisurely start was in order. A wander through the bushes from 11am this morning - there had obviously been a clear out with goldcrests being particularly less obvious. A yellow-browed warbler was very vocal in the willows by the entrance and a few redwing sprung out as I passed by and blackcaps were gorging on elderberries.

As I loitered by the middle bushes, I heard a rustling in the grass and a stoat popped it's head up, I managed a to grab a photos...

There were a few waders on the budge fields and I thought I must return with my scope and then a message arrived on my phone 'red-flanked bluetail at Amble Yacht Club'. I was hungry so a drive by the pasty shop and onto Amble but there was no sign of the bird so back to Druridge.

Bob Gadjus was in the Budge screen when I arrived, and had picked up a distant owl. It flew south then closer, I got onto it in the scope and at first I thought it was long-eared but on reflection it was probably a short-eared owl - it never got close. A second Asio owl was much closer, over the bushes by the path to the Oddie hide and was definitely a long-eared owl.

I scanned through the waders and came across a group of dunlin, there was a bird amongst them that was different - about 1/4 bigger than the dunlin with a no markings on the flanks or belly, the streaking on the breast ending abruptly against the white lowerparts. Pectoral sandpiper - my first on the patch since 2007. Seemingly there has been a 'pec' at Chev for much of the week so I am guessing this is the same bird - nonetheless a welcome year-tick.

Two juvenile ruff, four black-tailed godwits, three redshank and 20+ snipe made up the rest.

The easterly airflow is set to continue until at least next Monday. I will be grilling the patch for my first Pallas's warbler, little bunting or maybe...even... a Siberian Accentor....

With the addition of kingfisher (first since 2007) and the above, my year list stands at 166. 171 is my highest ever count in 2013 and 2014. My Patchwork Challenge score is 241.

Saturday 30 July 2016

Nocturnal ringing

I am guilty of abandoning my blog a little lately. My camera has been off to get mended, the camera wasn't reading the CF card. It's back now and I am £220 lighter. A blog shouldn't need photographs, but I found it harder to get motivated to write posts without them. It is also a busy time of year with barn owl boxes to check.

Last night we decided, a bit on the spur of the moment, to try a storm petrel ringing session. The weather forecast looked a bit dicey all day, but a quick check at 9.30pm when the wine/ringing decision needed to be made, showed that the showers had cleared and the wind was going to be light.

So, by 10.30 we were all set up on the beach, but it was still quite light in the western sky. By 11.30pm it was dark and we caught our first storm petrel at 11.45. We caught three more before 1.30am, when I was ringing the last of these, Janet returned from the nets with a 'bigger bird'.

The bigger bird was a Leach's Petrel. It was already ringed so it will be really interesting to see it's history. They are much bigger than stormies - almost twice the weight, there is certainly no mistaking them.
Leach's Petrel
This is our third year of petrel ringing at Druridge and we've caught storm petrel on every occasion but this was our first ever Leach's. I've never seen this species anywhere so it was great to have a close look at one.

We caught another two storm petrels, bringing the total to six, before we packed up 2.30am. Whilst we were ringing the last two, we had Leach's petrel calling over our heads and over the net.

Hopefully we will be able to have a few more sessions before the end of the summer.

Sunday 19 June 2016


There's been no blogging for while as I have been away to the Scottish Highlands for a few days. We stayed in a cottage in Glen Cassley - about as remote as it gets! No wifi, no mobile phone signal and no TV but there were greenshanks nesting at the end of the garden, dunlin and snipe displaying and an osprey pair just up the glen.

Being a coastal type, I was spoilt for choice with Handa Island, Lochinver and the Coigach to the west and the Dornoch firth and Loch Fleet to the east. We didn't make it north to the Kyle of Tongue, but did spend a couple of hours in Thurso which was long enough. Unfortunately my camera refused to read or write to any memory cards after day two so I don't have many photos.

The view up the glen to Ben More Assynt

Home for the week - the neighbours popped by to say hello! 

Another Bonxie on Handa Island

Pale Arctic Skua on Handa

Him'n'her - Arctic Skuas on Handa
Back to Druridge this morning and a bit of ringing. I caught mostly juvenile birds including family parties of wren, willow warbler and great tit and a few young robins.

The great tit family was interesting, there were 10 birds in the net, nine juveniles and an adult - the whole brood and dad! The adult male was a retrap. I first caught him in July 2010 when he was fresh juvenile himself - he hasn't gone far in six years, but is obviously doing well. I've only caught him on two other occasions - in October 2011 and June 2013.

We also caught an adult stonechat today. Although stonechat is a common species at Druridge, we rarely catch many as they tend to stick to the dunes, any we do catch are usually wandering juveniles.

2nd year male stonechat
You can see from this photo that this is a second-year bird, the fringing on some of the crown feathers is the give-away here.

There seems to be a few more lapwing on the Budge fields now. I presume that these are returning birds that have failed to raise chicks - which is the story on the Budge fields this year, despite many sitting birds, there are hardly any chicks. The cold and wet spell a couple of weeks ago did for many ground nesters.

The swallows in the hides aren't faring any better with only one occupied nest.

Tuesday 31 May 2016

Some you win...

Well...where to start?

What a weekend  - on so many levels.

It all started on Friday when I was just to about to get on the train at Widdrington, headed for the Test Match at Chester-le-Street when I get a call from Dave Elliott to say he was watching either an icterine warbler or melodious warbler at Druridge - both new patch birds. It ended today, with me watching a stunning broad-billed sandpiper on the Budge fields - a new bird for the patch.

Dave soon nailed the warbler as an icterine and by the time I was downing my first pint in Newcastle Station he'd found another new bird for the patch - common rosefinch. No turning back now, I was bound for Chester-le-Street and like a tory recession - a double-dip (the cricket was good though).

With much restraint on Friday night and against all odds, I was up at 5.30am on Saturday and setting my nets up at Druridge by 6am - the weather was perfect for ringing but I wasn't catching many birds. I think most of the warblers are on eggs now. I did catch a grasshopper warbler, reed warbler and a low-flying swallow.


Fridays double-dip was partly avenged with a pair of glossy ibis dropping briefly onto the Budge fields (thanks for the call Alan G!) just next to one of my nets. These birds had previously been at Newton-by-the-Sea, after calling at Druridge they made their way via Whitburn and Hartlepool to Saltholme.  These are the second and third patch glossy ibis - the first being  a long-stayer in 2011. The great-white egret that has been around for ten days or so was also there.

On Saturday evening there were six ruff on the Budge fields - five males displaying with full ruffs to a reeve. I've not seen displaying ruff like this on the Budge fields since the early nineties, it was amazing to see again. Far more exciting than glossy ibis! There was also a first-summer little gull, 16 summer-plumaged sanderling on the beach, my first two manx shearwaters of the campaign, a med gull on the sea and a pair of goosander on the big pool.

On Sunday there was an avocet on the Budge fields, with a handful of dunlin and ringed plover as well as two little gulls.

Bank Holiday Monday brought  little of note, just the usual campers, mini motorbikes and tribes of dog-walkers with out-of-control hounds.

So back to work today...just before lunchtime I come out of a meeting to find a message about a broad-billed sandpiper on the Budge fields - yowzas! The benefits of flexi-time brought an early lunch-break and I was off to Druridge, arriving in already-full little hide behind Stef and Mrs Stef, I had to blag a look through someone's scope as I had no gear with me (thanks Hector!)...and there it was, wandering around between the rush clumps - a very stripy wader indeed! A wood sandpiper and garganey also put in appearance.

I was a very-happy patch watcher, though still smarting from Friday).

The addition of broad-billed sandpiper takes my patch list to 239 species. That and the common rosefinch take the patch list to 261 (there had been an icterine in 1966).

My year list at the end of May stands at 135 and my PWC score is 186.

Monday 16 May 2016

First ringing session

Finally there are enough leaves on the trees and bushes at Druridge to attempt a ringing session, with light winds and cloud first thing on Sunday morning the weather was ideal. The forecast said the wind would ease further throughout the day and become more cloudy - of course it did the opposite.

It was a good first session though with only three nets up. I caught a good number of warblers including grasshopper, reed and sedge along with willow, whitethroat and blackcap. I had some interesting retraps including a willow warbler first ringed in 2014, a blackcap ringed as an adult in 2013, a blackcap ringed as a juvenile in 2013 and a whitethroat, also from 2013.

A great white egret was found on the Budge fields on Friday morning by Time Dean, I saw it then and saw it again flying north over the big pond as I was ringing. A drake garganey was also on the Budge fields along with a three ruff, two of which had 'ruffs' and smart male yellow wag.

The warm weather had brought a few butterflies out - speckled wood were the most common and I saw my first orange-tip of the year.

This family of Canada geese goslings kept me amused for a while.

At least one of us can manage to stay awake
Pied wagtail
Still a few wigeon about - Mrs wigeon
Mr Wigeon

Sunday 8 May 2016

Should've stayed at home

On Saturday I went down to Villa Park to cheer on the Toon to what should have been a straightforward three-points. Nothing is straightforward with Toon and we came home with a draw, which probably means Championship football next season. I should've stayed at home and gone birding on the patch.

Since my last blog post, I have had a couple of quick visits to the patch, adding a handful of summer migrants to the year-list including common tern, arctic tern, house martin, puffin and swift.

I had an evening visit to the patch today to do the WeBS count having spent the morning checking nestboxes. Wintering duck have all but gone with only two teal and four wigeon. The highlight from the WeBS count was 12 whimbrel on the Budge fields and a great-crested grebe still hanging around the big pool.

No lapwing chicks to report yet, but there are plenty of birds sitting on eggs, I guess the winter conditions we had for the best-part of two weeks put them back a bit. There is also an oystercatcher on eggs - a very rare breeder at Druridge.

Sedge warbler was the only new bird for the year - and there were plenty of them, at least five singing males between the Budge screen and the Oddie hide.

Offshore there were plenty of terns and 12 red-throated divers in a range of plumages including some in full-breeding garb.

There were two mallard brood on the big pool, one of two and another of six.

This little chap got left behind
Mum with family

Monday 2 May 2016

At last... a change in the weather

This weekend brought a change in the weather,  something more resembling the spring-like conditions we should be expecting. That-said there were some vicious hail storms coming through until this evening.

Leading up until Sunday, conditions were decidedly wintery and not conducive to birding or I am sure, for our newly arrived migrants, a bit of a shock!

Snow storm approaching
The conditions, alongside an important football match to attend meant little time for birding the patch, although the Bank Holiday Monday gave me an opportunity today. The two visits that I did manage brought a little flurry of species that were new for the year. Yesterday I saw fulmar, sandwich tern, ringed plover and grasshopper warbler (one reeling by the path to the hides last night) and today brought whimbrel (several flying over and eight coming in to land ahead of a hail storm), goosander and whitethroat.

There was a pair of red-breasted merganser on the big pool. Sadly the goosander was distant and in direct sunshine.

Red-breasted merganser pair
Drake red-breasted merganser having a stretch
This white wagtail was on the Budge fields - apologies for the heavily cropped pic.

White wagtail  - apologies for the heavily cropped pic

Finally, we had interesting news of a ringing recovery this week. A first-winter male siskin that we caught at Druridge on 16th November 2014, our last ringing session of that year, was caught by ringers in Warsop in Nottinghamshire on April 9th. A distance of 228 kilometres.

My year list now stands at 116 species.

Sunday 17 April 2016

A Changing Landscape

Only one visit to the patch this weekend - Saturday was spent watching the Toon get three points, too little, too late I fear.

So today wasn't an early start. I checked the dunes from the haul road first - there is a nice little flash pool holding water again on the northern boundary of the patch, just along the haul road towards to East Chevington. If it doesn't dry up this week, it will be worth checking for waders. There were only two gadwall on it today.

Under construction
The new wind turbines have been delivered this week for the wind farm next to the inland sea at Widdrington. Now I am not anti-wind farm, as long as they are in the right place. This place would have been okay had the opencast mine not left behind a massive pond that would obviously, and has, attracted birds. Not much thought or planning gone into either scheme which results in nature losing out again.

It will certainly change the landscape of the patch - I will try to get down more often and document their construction.

Back to birding, with my back to the new wind farm. There was a steady swallow passage with a bird headed north every minute or so along the dunes whilst I was there. There was very little on the sea other than a handful of red-throated divers - some of which were sporting their summer garb. Strings of gannets heading north on the horizon were a welcome year-tick. No terns were in the bay.

A willow warbler was singing by the car when I headed to the Budge screen, with another by the screen hide.

Jonathon Farooqi had been to the Budge before me and reported an adult little gull. I couldn't find it, but did see the three ruff and four black-tailed godwits that he had also reported. There was a second-summer med gull amongst the black headed gulls.

Patch year list 109
PWC Points 139

Sunday 10 April 2016

Arriving, departing or just passing through

I like this time of year - birds are on the move. I am fascinated by migration and at this time of year we have birds arriving, freshly returned from their wintering areas in Europe or Africa. We have birds that have spent the winter here in Northumberland moving on to breed in continental Europe or high into the Arctic tundra. And we have birds passing through our patch, on their way from wintering grounds to breeding areas - just stopping on their way or flying overhead.

This weekend has seen the arrival of a few summer visitors onto the patch - chiffchaffs are singing, a stunning male yellow wagtail was in the dunes (my earliest Druridge record by four days) - he may of course be just passing through and swallows and sand martins have increased in number. There's a lot more skylarks and meadow pipits around too.

Birds just passing through include wheatears, these early ones will probably be staying in the UK, soon the Greenland race will pass through - headed for much more northerly climes.

Some of the birds leaving us include whooper swans and pink-footed geese - the five remaining whoopers that have been in the front field for the last month or so have gone this afternoon. A skein of 60 pink-foots flew high to the north and about 30 whoopers passed through in the same direction today. Wigeon and teal numbers have decreased rapidly but there are still about 120 curlew in the vicinity of the Pools.

A jack snipe was out in front of the Budge screen this morning, probably its last stopping point before crossing the North Sea as it heads for its breeding grounds. I love jack snipes and this one gave us some great views, watch it bobbing in this video.

Jack Snipe Druridge 100416 from Iain Robson on Vimeo.

There's been a huge influx of black-headed gulls onto the Budge fields this weekend and with them some Mediterranean gulls. For my WeBS count today  I estimated 750 BHGs and there were a minimum of four Meds. Jonathan Farooqi counted a minimum of ten Meds yesterday - easily a patch record.

There'll no doubt be some more arrivals in the next few days, willow warbler is overdue - it will soon be followed by the other warblers from Africa.

Patch year list is 107 species.

Monday 28 March 2016

More like winter than spring

Maybe it is just because I have just come back from Cuba, but I thought this weekend felt more like winter than spring. Even on Friday, which was certainly the best day of the weekend, it still felt like winter at Druridge and the lack of any migrants reinforced my thinking.

Cuba was excellent - great birding in a really interesting country. Cuban tody stood out as 'bird of the trip'. I will sort some photos and put them on Flickr soon and might even get around to writing a trip report.

Cuban Tody
Good Friday was my first visit back to the patch. It wasn't that good... although I did add a few common species to the year list - meadow pipit, kittiwake, eider, snipe, great crested grebe and oystercatcher. There were still four pintail on the Budge fields, a female scaup on the big pool and seven whooper swans on the front field.

No proper migrants were seen.

Despite the forecast of a southerly airflow for today, the wind was plumb out the north first thing, moving through to a strong and very cold nor'westerly later. Any migrant with thoughts of self preservation will of headed back south. So, I only added lesser black-backed gull to my year list. 

Interestingly, Andy McLucky reported a red kite over the Budge fields this morning  - a long-overdue addition to the Druridge patch list. This takes the patch list (my own sightings with any other published sightings) to 259 species. I've seen 238 of them. I would like to think I will add red kite to my own list this year. I might post a list of the things I haven't seen on here at sometime.

For this year, I am on 99 species. Hopefully I will add something else before the month ends, but unlike most of the birdwatchers in Northumberland, I am back at work tomorrow.

Saturday 20 February 2016

Long-billed Dowitcher on WeBS count

I did my WeBS count today.

There was a very blustery SSW wind blowing which didn't make counting easy. A lot of birds were seeking shelter behind the tussocks of reed so I have probably under-counted some species.

Whilst counting ducks from the little hide, the curlews and redshanks that had been over by the Budge screen lifted and and settled a bit nearer to me. As I was counting the curlews, a smaller bird shoved its very long bill under it's wing and went to sleep - "that's the dowitcher" I said to myself as there was nobody in the hide.

Curlews counted (53) I came back to the long-billed bird. It was now obscured by sleeping curlews. Patience eventually paid off when the pack reshuffled and the dowitcher was exposed in all its glory - having a bit of a preen.

This is the third time I have seen this bird at Druridge. I am sure it must get up here more often than it is reported. There are definitely less birders getting to Druridge whilst the road up from Cresswell is closed which is no bad thing.

Amongst the wader flock were also two dunlin, two black-tailed godwits and a ruff. There are still about 300 wigeon and 70 teal on the Budge fields.

Away from the WeBS count, there was little to report. The National Trust were having a bush-craft day for kids.

Four whooper swans were in the field in front of the cottages, hanging around the feeding troughs with a couple of mutes and a greylag goose.

Whooper swans - a family party?
Mute swan