Sunday 23 September 2018

A surprise catch

We were ringing birds at Druridge this morning.  It was the same day as the North-East Skinny Dip at the Country Park and we had the dippers 'on call' as we put our nets up and they went into to the sea - It must have been cold as the calls were all high-pitched!

On a day dominated by tits, we were very surprised to catch this in one of our mist nets.

Adult female barn owl
Janet and I were extracting a robin when we heard a bird, which sounded like a woodpigeon, crashing through the bushes behind us. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a bird hit the net a bit further along from where we stood, expecting it to be a woodpigeon, I was very surprised to see a barn owl in the net! It was quickly extracted and taken back to the car to be ringed.

Sasha the trainee with the barn owl
It was an adult (probably in it's third calendar year) and a female - you can tell this from the dark spots on the breast and flanks (this one is very spotty - they are variable). We've caught a few long-eared owls in mist nets at Druridge but never a barn owl.

Between 0630 and midday, we caught 33 birds, mostly tits, including a blue tit which we ringed as juvenile in September 2014, canny for a blue tit. We also controlled (caught a bird that had been ringed elsewhere) a robin and a blue tit. The blue tit will probably be local, but it will be interesting to see where the robin has come from.

Controlled Robin
We also caught our first goldcrest of the autumn, chiffchaff, whitethroat, blackcap, dunnock, and reed bunting.

Common Whitethroat
Between about 8 and 10 am there was steady stream of skylarks headed south but only single figures of meadow pipits. This kestrel was feeding nearby but I only managed to get 'arse-on' shots of it.

Kestrel - arse-on
I went back down to the patch in the evening, prompted by some seawatching reports from elsewhere in the county. I arrived at 6pm and stayed until just before 7, leaving in time to catch The Archers on Radio 4. Seawatching totals from 1800-1850 were (all north)

Manx Shearwater 41
Pomarine Skua 1 adult
Velvet scoter 1 drake
Sooty Shearwater 3
Red-breasted Merganser 5 (south)
Sandwich tern 3
Wigeon 3
Gannet 200+
Shag 1
Cormorant 3
Guillemot 3

and 7 red-throated diver on the sea

By the time I left there were upwards of 3000 gulls on the beach between Druridge and Chibburn Mouth, mostly common and black-headed.

Just waiting for some easterlies now...

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