Saturday 30 March 2019

It's all great at Druridge

Rained-off from my gardening duties this afternoon, I was sat at home preparing a pub quiz when a message appeared on the grapevine from Jonathon to say he'd had a great egret fly past him and it was now on the big pool at Druridge.

The rain had stopped and the quiz abandoned. 

Mixed messages on the grapevine had me confused but I headed to the Oddie hide to find a few folk watching great egret on the southern bank of the pool. A nice adult coming into breeding plumage. It was too obscured by a willow bush that has shot up near to the hide for a photo (note to self: ask NWT about dispatching (I mean coppicing) the willow).

A good year-bird that is becoming much more common. Incredibly it has been recorded on the patch in five out of the last six years. Both great egret and spoonbill used to be megas a few years ago, now they're annuals! 

Jonathon was having a good day - whilst I was admiring the egret, he was watching a velvet scoter offshore.  I hung around and counted the gadwall  - 30! that's an impressive count for Druridge. Six red-breasted merganser and a handful of goldeneye were also noteworthy.

I headed for  the dune-ridge.There was no sign of Jonathon or his velvet scoter- in fact there were no scoters or Farooqi's at all. There were 27 red-throated divers which was a good count and my first puffin of the year, just the one, but a good start for March.

The Whoopers, about sixty, and the lone Bewick's swan were scope-able from the dunes.

We've had news of a ringing recovery from BTO, which is always exciting. One of the eleven lesser redpols, which were mostly 'younguns', that we caught on 14th October last year has been caught again by a ringer in Swaffham, Norfolk - 329km from Druridge, 160 days later and now identifiable as a female bird. 

Not the bird caught in Norfolk as this is an adult, caught on the same day -nice though.

Thursday 28 March 2019

Begad - it's a Bewick's

Without checking my phone for grapevine messages I headed for Druridge for a bit of a walk after work, Janet came with me and we decided that we'd walk through the hides towards the Preceptory and back via the Haul Road.

As we walked along to the hides, we could hear a number of whooper swans on the big pool. At the Little Hide we met a visiting a birder who'd been watching them... then we bumped into Andy Cowell - Andy is a prolific county year-lister so to see him heading towards us, at 6pm, at Druridge, set alarm bells ringing in my head! He must have come specifically to see something I thought - I quizzed him and my suspicions were right, he'd heard about and successfully seen a Bewick's swan with the whooper flock on the pool - but they'd flown off onto the fields beyond the haul road.(I checked my whatsapp to see that the Bewck's had been reported earlier that day...Note to self: check whatsapp before heading out).

Walk abandoned as our proposed route would've flushed the birds from the fields and we couldn't risk that. Instead we headed back to the road and north to the cycle path for a look at the swans, the light was crap but we soon picked up the slightly smaller Bewick's amongst the grazing whoopers.

Really crap record shot - the Bewick's is the smaller bird on the right
According to my database I've not seen a Bewick's on the patch since 23 October 2003 when two were with 28 Whoopers. There are some bits of notebooks missing from my database so there might have been a more recent record, but I can't recall one.

Bewick's swans are a really scarce species in Northumberland nowadays. When I was younger there were regularly several with huge flocks of wintering whoopers behind my house at Warkworth Lane, which was once a nationally important site for whoopers - not any more.

 The Bewick's swan was with a flock of 66 Whoopers and there were 28 mute swans in the next field.

Sunday 24 March 2019

First migrants - but some good birds missed

This weekend saw my first visits to the patch this month.

It was nice to catch up with ADMc on Friday morning at the Budge screen, it was sunny and quite warm and felt like spring. Seven ruff  at the back of the field were newly arrived and spanking male wheatear was out on the grass in front of us. 15 Black-tailed godwits, 3 dunlin and over 90 curlew were notable.

In the bushes near the big pool, I disturbed a water rail and my first 'patch' chiffchaff was calling.

On Saturday evening, Janet and I had a wander through the dunes to the north of the Dunbar burn. In the bushes before we set off north, six reed buntings were feeding on willow catkins. No sign of the red kite that had been seen earlier on the patch  - a species that still eludes me.

In the dunes there was a mixed flock of finches and buntings which included about 12 twite, six reed buntings, eight chaffinch and 18 linnet with some goldfinches. The grey partridges have split up form their large coveys now and are now paired up. A pair of stonechats were perched up near the Dunbar burn - the male singing sweetly in the afternoon sunshine.

In the fields beyond the haul road there were at least 40 lapwing with many displaying birds. Several juveniles fledged successfully from this field last year so, being site faithful, they've come back. beyond them, in the fields a bit further away, were about 110 swans - there were certainly both mute and whooper in the herds but with only bins, it was impossible to say how many of each. We stopped by the Budge screen on the way home and watched a pair of pintail on the Budge pools.

Today was WeBS count day, I didn't do the count until late afternoon as we were out this morning doing a willow tit survey for RSPB. Our tetrad was west of Ellington, taking in the Linton Burn and Warkworth Lane Ponds and we were amazed to find two pairs of willow tits.

Whilst we were out reports came through of a glaucous gull and great egret on the Budge fields. I've not seen a glaucous gull on the patch for over 10 years so I would have loved to have seen that - it didn't hang around and was tracked up the coast. The pain of a patch birder...

There were no waders on the Budge fields at all. There are still decent counts of wigeon (119) and teal (92). The pintail pair were still present and a count of 47 shoveler was impressive. Two pair of red-breasted merganser looked smart on the big pool and a pair of great crested grebes look settled.

Now migration has kicked-off I'm going to adjust my work-life balance and get down to the patch a bit more often!