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.