Sunday 29 October 2017


The weather forecast today was for strong northerlies, become lighter as the day went on - which meant it could be good for seawatching. The wind was out of the west until the early hours of the morning so I figured later in the day would be good for a seawatch - I was wrong.

Before I got down to the patch, I had to go to Cresswell for a meeting for my second job, as I was getting ready to leave, a message arrived saying that a white-billed diver had been tracked up the coast and had just gone north at Seaton Sluice. I made quick progress to Cresswell Ices car park, as it was reported at Newbiggin, and set up my scope, no news came from Snab Point... and then I got onto a large diver heading towards to me, it was headed my way until I lost it in the breakers and it didn't re-appear, had it landed? I scanned but couldn't find it then a second diver appeared, this one was closer, just beyond the breakers. It was tricky to do much with until it got level with me and I got great views of it, the very pale, upturned bill was obvious in the sunshine. It passed by all too quickly. I presume the first bird that ditched onto the sea was great northern diver, but I never re-found it.

If I hadn't been going to a meeting, I probably could have had it on the patch but it would've been tight and given that this was a new bird for the world for me, I probably did the right thing.

I eventually made it down to the patch for a seawatch just after 2pm and was in my seat by ten-past.

seawatching seat

The first bird I saw was a drake scaup headed north but it seemed to be very quiet with hardly any birds moving other than gulls. There certainly wasn't the variety that other seawatchers had enjoyed in the morning, with no skuas or shearwaters recorded. The highlights were four long-tailed ducks, which included a stunning drake that landed on the sea in front of me, a single little auk, which was put nicely into perspective when two guillemots motored north, dwarfing it as they passed it and two groups of whooper swans. other ducks included common scoter, wigeon, eider and 39 goldeneye. A flock of at least 50 twite flew north along the dune front.

The seawatching wasn't frenetic but the light was nice - here area few iphone shots. By 4pm the light was starting to go but I persevered until ten-past to get the two hours in.

Another busy day on Druridge Bay 
Looking south

Looking north

My view


Seawatching totals 14:10 - 16:10 (excluding gulls) - all north

Scaup 1M
Goldeneye 39
Long-tailed duck 4
Gannet 5
Guillemot  7
Razorbill 1
Eider 10
Wigeon 7
Red-throated Diver 8
Common Scoter 4
RB Merganser 2
Whooper Swan 21 (eight and 13)
Little auk 1
Shag 1
Twite 50+
Pied Wagtail 2
Snow bunting 1 (heard only)
Sanderling 14 (on the beach)

Wednesday 18 October 2017


I thought about calling in to the patch this morning on my way to work, but I decided against it and went straight to the office. I'm at my desk and check my phone to find a message 'Bee-eater, Druridge Pools, 0820-0920 per RBA'

Bugger, I thought, if only I'd gone...

Then another message 'Bee-eater still at Druridge'

Bugger it! I've got plenty of flexi-time in the bank and I've got evening meetings until 8.30pm, my seat was still spinning as I headed down the stairs. Despite being held up by old duffers doing 30mph I got to Druridge in good time, but had just missed a fly-by by a few minutes...Would that be it?

A good crowd was gathered on the path to the hides where the bird was last seen - the tension was unbelievable! Then ADMc appeared with news that the bird was heading our way. Peering over the top of the bund, distant views were had of a bee-eater hawking over the fields beyond the big pool, until it disappeared towards the bushes by the turning circle. 

Alan Jack and I decided to head that way and this is what greeted us in the single ash tree by the turning circle...
a bloody bee-eater

It was like being back in Spain! 

A good crowd had gathered to watch it, it sat for ages in the top of the ash tree before flying off and hawking for insects over the dunes, picking prey off the tops of bushes before landing out of site and I had to reluctantly leave it and head back to work.  It is a juvenile, told from the pale colour of the mantle and the amount of chestnut brown in the wing being limited.Surely this is one of the 'Chevington two' from the weekend?

heavily cropped shot
 What an amazing bird, a first for the patch and a first for me in Northumberland. I've seen the breeding birds in the UK and thousands in Europe, I've even ringed them in Malta, but this is still probably the best bird I've seen on the patch.

And what an amazing year I'm having on the patch. With no more effort than usual, I've seen eight new species this year already - it is tricky to see two or three new species a year usually.

European Bee-eater takes my patch list to 248 species.

Monday 16 October 2017

Ringing again

On Saturday morning the forecast looked a bit dicey for ringing but we gave it a go. When we first arrived, it was overcast with a light westerly, but with a light mizzle falling it was too wet to ring. By the time we wandered up for another look at the red-necked phalarope, which was still on the Budge fields, the mizzle had moved through.

We only put three nets up because of the threat of showers, which didn't materialise. A couple of chiffchaffs were in song when we were setting up and we soon caught a couple. Catching was slow though and we only caught 17 birds before the breeze picked up and we packed up at 12.30.

We did catch two male bullfinch, both first-year birds, this follows a single female last weekend. Bullies are rare at Druridge so nice to catch a few.

male bullfinch
This shieldbug was on the grass by our car, I think it is Red-legged Shieldbug Pentatoma rufipes

Red-legged shieldbug?
We've had notification from BTO about a couple of interesting recoveries.

The first was a reed warbler that we caught back in July, it already had a ring on it, but not one of ours. It was a breeding adult male, probably nesting in the little reedbed at the corner of the big pool.
Controlled reed warbler
BTO informed us that it had been originally ringed as juvenile back in August 2014 in Suffolk. I am presuming that it was caught on migration having been born up here somewhere but I could be completely wrong...

The second report was recovery of a blackcap that we ringed as a juvenile on the same day in July as we caught the reed warbler. 57 days later it had traveled 510km and was caught by the Cuckmere Ringing Group at Litlington in East Sussex.

Tuesday 10 October 2017

Tick and run

I was in a meeting up at Lindisfarne this morning when I got a message to say that there was a red-necked phalarope at Druridge Pools. With a full diary for the rest of the day it was looking unlikely that I would get to see it. My meeting finished just after 1pm and I had to be at another in Morpeth by 2.30pm... As long as I didn't get held up on the A1 it was do-able.

I was walking along the path to the hides at 1.45, no sweat...

I bumped into Stewart and John on the path, they pointed the phalarope out of over the bund and I headed to the hide for better views. It was waltzing about on the pool to the right of the little hide when I got there, picking invertebrates of the surface of the water. I hate a 'tick and run' but I didn't have much time to stay and watch it for long but I did manage a snip of phone-scoped video as a record.

The phalarope was found by Janet Dean so well done to her. 

2017 has been an incredible year for new birds on the patch, the phalarope being the seventh addition to the patch list and the third in four days. 

2017 so far...

The phalarope brings the patch list up to 247 - if we have a good tail-end to the autumn 250 this year could be feasible...

Sunday 8 October 2017

A bit about ringing

You wait for ages for a blog post and two come along together ( or maybe not...)

The ups and downs of ringing...

A week past Tuesday, it was late September,  the wind was out of the east, but light and there was fog on the coast, should've been great condition for ringing birds so I took the day off and I ringed 15 birds all morning.

It's been either windy or wet ever since and the wind has been constantly out of the west. Not one to be deterred, the forecast for today predicted light westerlies, so we decided to ring. We weren't going to be inundated with birds so we put six nets up. Janet and I were joined by one of Phil Hanmer's trainees, Sasha. Skeins of barnacle geese flew overhead at first light as the nets went up and about 2000 pink-footed geese lifted off the Budge fields.

Catching was steady, with robins, wrens and blackbirds early on and a female bullfinch and a couple of tree sparrows, which are always nice to catch.

Tree sparrow
Reports came in of yellow-browed warblers elsewhere on the coast and on the next net-round we caught one. We caught another soon after which came in with a flock of twelve long-tailed tits. I think these birds may have just arrived on the coast.

One of today's two Yellow-browed warblers
Yellow-browed warblers are now more common on the patch than both pied and spotted flycatchers, garden warblers, redstarts and even lesser whitethroats.

Tom Cadwallender arrived and we chatted, I was going to pack up the nets then, but he came with me to check them so I decided to wait until next time around - I'm pleased I did.

Tom went and I started to take down the nets, there were a few birds in the second net including a warbler, which, to be honest, at first had me flummoxed - I thought I knew it what it was, but the bubblegum pink legs had me confused. I phoned Tom, who was still on site and took it back to the car.

Tom and I quickly agreed the ID of the warbler and Janet (who had gone to ride the horse) was summoned. We'd caught a Cetti's Warbler! (I'd never taken much notice of their legs before)

Cetti's warbler
Cetti's warbler is a recent colonist to the UK (first breeding in 1973 - the year I was born!), it's range is expanding northwards but is still a very rare bird in the north and even more so in Northumberland with only a handful of records.

I've put my neck on the line and said that Cetti's will be breeding at Druridge within five years - even more reason to keep on top of our coppicing efforts as they like a scrubby habitat. Not that we should need a reason as we know it benefits breeding warblers and other songbirds.

Blackbird's nest in coppiced alder stool
We ringed 69 new birds today.

Cetti's warbler is my 246th species for the patch and my sixth new species for the year and my second new species of the weekend. Happy days.

Saturday 7 October 2017

A great morning's birding

More apologies for the lack of activity on the blog, but I have been down to Tarifa for the Raptor Migration, that's my excuse.

I arrived on the patch this morning with the intention of walking the whole place, not expecting to see much after a run of westerlies. I parked at the entrance and  had a quick look in the plantation which was quiet - a few crests. Then I went back to the bushes by the entrance, the elders there are hanging with elderberries and I fancied that they might pull something in.

A few blackbirds, songers and robins and then I got onto a sylvia warbler, well, bits of one as moved low through the elder - I was 'lumbering' about and I fancied it was barred warbler but I needed better views.... Then a message came through about a white-billed diver passed Whitburn and a unidentified diver passed Newbiggin.

I legged it up to the dunes, as I clambered onto the dune ridge a bird flew of the wrack on the beach, calling - snow bunting,  a male, flew straight over my head - nice.

Three red-throats came through together, then a minute or two later a larger diver. It was a canny way out and silhouetted against the rising sun -  I had no chance. Shape-wise it was either a great-northern or a white-billed - I couldn't do any better with those views so back to the elder bush.

I got quickly on to the warbler, it was plucking elderberries from the front edge of the bush- a juvenile barred warbler. Typically bulky with well-marked 'panels' in the flight feathers, darker undertail and greyish upper and with that typical pose with it's tail held high. My first patch barred warbler since 2010 when I had two in the same autumn. 

As I was watching it, a bird heading toward me from the north caught my eye. It was big and had an undulating flight, closing it's wings between flaps...woodpecker...but not a great-spot. It flew between me and the bushes I had been watching,  GREEN WOODPECKER! It flew on towards the plantation and swerved into the trees, showing the lovely lemon-yellow rump as it went. I followed it in there but I couldn't find it again. A full-fat patch tick.

Martin Kitching had mentioned that he had seen a green woodpecker at Druridge earlier in the week, so surely the same bird? It makes up for missing the one that was on the feeders at the cottages a few years ago.

The barred was still there when I returned, I went to the car to grab the camera. As always happens with my camera, it disappeared for ages, before showing very briefly a couple of times, deeper in the bushes (a few folk had turned up by this point). I'd seen another sylvia warbler, whilst I was watching the barred which turned out to be a garden warbler, an increasingly scarce species at Druridge and my first on the patch since 2013. Jonathon Farooqi got a couple of shots of the barred warbler. 

Since I got back from Spain the other highlight was a yellow-browed warbler on Saturday and Monday behind the Budge screen.

Green Woodpecker is my 245th species for the patch and my fifth new species this year.