Sunday 24 November 2019

A proper 'back-end day'

Today was a proper 'back-end' day or as the Scots would say 'driech'. Unlike yesterday when it rained non-stop, it didn't really rain today but it wasn't dry if you know what I mean. A day typical of the 'back-end' of the year.

Having been confined to barracks yesterday, by lunchtime today cabin-fever had begun to set in so I headed out for a walk around the patch. It was so grey and with the threat of heavier mizzle, I left the camera at home, so there are no photos on the blog today.

I walked a loop out to the Preceptory, returning by High Chibburn Farm and Druridge. Before I did, I stopped to check the front field at Druridge for geese as a white-fronted geese had been reported earlier. There were no geese but there were two snow buntings in with the beast at the top end of Hemscotthill Links.

Back to my walk - lots of wigeon and teal on the Budge fields with other ducks and a herd of canada geese. The waders were all on the recently resown grass ley beyond, 134 curlew, 149 lapwing and 160 golden plover and three roe deer.

There was little of interest until I go to the farm where five grey partridge flew out. I stopped to chat to Richard the farmer and got on to three yellowhammers in a hawthorn. A scarce bird at Druridge these days and 'new for the year' for me.

Pheasants were everywhere, I estimated 64 on my route but could easily have been double that. Widdrington Farm have been putting them down for the shoot but they seem to favour the coast it seems.

Not much else of note. It's that time of year.

Full list and route here

Sunday 17 November 2019

Winter WeBS

After what seems like weeks of non-stop rain, it finally dried up today... well almost, which was good as it WeBS count day and I was keen to get out on the patch.

The wildfowl numbers have really built up in the last couple of weeks, especially wigeon, which only numbered four on last months count. There were 363 today with 223 teal and 56 mallard. A female pintail was nice to see.

There were also good numbers of waders with 83 curlew and 56 lapwing. Among them were four ruff and two black-tailed godwit and 12 dunlin flew off during the count. I was hoping the Cresswell long-billed dowitcher might put in another appearance but it hasn't yet.

There was a big flock (for Druridge) of 425 black-headed gulls on the Budge fields when we arrived which had two adult Mediterranean gulls amongst them - they all slowly moved off south into the fields by the time we left to go to the 'other side'...

Before we got there a finch flock moved through the alders by the new 'dwarfs screen'  - lesser redpolls, siskins, goldfinch and three bullfinch - a good record for the patch.

On the other side, it was very quiet - brim full and very brown. A sub-adult great-crested was noteworthy.

As we walked up through the dunes to look at the sea, a flock of 90 or so golden plover flew in-off. There wasn't much of note on the sea (which was a long way out) - a great-northern diver headed north was the highlight.

Full bird list here

This spider was on the perspex window in the hide, which I think is Metellina segmentata which has a common name seemingly - Eurasian Armoured Long-jawed Spider. A new one for me.

Metellina segmentata (I think)

Sunday 10 November 2019

Hungary for birds

There's been no updates from the patch lately because I've been to Hungary.

We went for a short winter birding trip and a quick mooch around Budapest where we met up with our friend Gerard Gorman for a beer or two and got some guidance for our days of birding. Rather than target species, which I did have two - red-breasted goose and lesser white-fronted goose, it was the 'birding spectacles we were interested in.

The first of these spectacles was the great bustards in Kiskunsag National Park, where we saw a group of over 60 in one field.

Some of the great bustards in Kiskunsag
Then it was on to geese. Both Kiskunsag and Hortobagy National Parks attract huge numbers of Eurasian white-fronted and Eursian greylag geese as well as a LOT of other wildfowl. We weren't blessed with good weather, most of a whole day in Kiskunsag was written off due to rain and when it was raining it was grey and damp. I took hardly any photos and what I did take are silhouettes against a grey sky.

white-fronted geese at Hortobagy
Greylags and a great egret at Hortobagy
The next great spectacle was watching thousands of common cranes coming in to roost at Hortobagy. great long lines of them flying in at dusk - an amazing sight.

Finally, the surreal experience of an urban long-eared owl roost in trees in a residential cul-de-sac int he middle of a large town. We counted at at least 30 individuals in a handful of trees.

One of at least 30 roosting long-eared owls
I managed to see six red-breasted geese after a long walk in to the main fish ponds at Hortobagy but the lesser white-front was literally liking for a needle in a haystack and with poor light it was even trickier.

Raptors were good with plenty of hen harriers and white-tailed eagle, an adult imperial eagle and a couple of saker falcons were great to see.

Anyhoo - back to the patch.

Yesterday (Saturday) I had a quick wander out before the football. Gary Wren had reported a snow bunting on the haul road so I headed for that and met Gary who was watching the very-confiding bird on the northern boundary of the patch.

Snow bunting on the haul road
It wasn't long however, before it was chased north by a dog (literally) and I headed south through the dunes picking up some twite with a roving flock of goldfinch and linnet. A long-tailed tit flock roamed through the dunes and a second flock was by the path to the hides. Not much else to report. Full list here

When I was nearly in to Newcastle on the bus to the match, a report came through of nine waxwings moving south towards tot he Budge screen. I've still not seen waxwing on the patch so was more than a bit gutted but at least the toon managed a win.

Janet and I went for a walk this morning in the vain hope that the waxers might have hung about but as I suspected they'd just been fly-throughs.

There was a group of barnacle geese, maybe 14, with about 300 pinks on the front field, the bushes were quiet however - a few long-tailed tits. We met up with David Elliott and got on to a finch flock which included a bullfinch and a lesser redpoll.

Some of the pinks in the front field
We walked back by via the beach looking for snow buntings, we didn't see any but the sanderlings kept us entertained.

Full list here