Tuesday 31 December 2019

End of the year, end of the decade

The sun sets on the last day of the decade at Druridge Pools
The end of the year, the end of the decade...

Despite being out of action for pretty-much all of May and June this year and having done no ringing at all, it's been a reasonable year on the patch.

One, hopefully two, new species were added to the patch list. The first was Cattle Egret on 6th May , the second is a bit more dodgy - Baikal Teal.

It first showed up at East Chevington on 3rd June and overnight moved to Druridge Pools where it remained until at least 7th July. Rare wildfowl are always treated with some caution by the rarities panels, given the number that are kept in captivity and that 'jump the fence'.  If it does get accepted, it will be my 250th species for the patch.

I finished the year on 162 species - the worst year since 2015 but very much related the lack of observer effort. Notable missing species include (last seen and number of years in last ten in brackets ):

Garganey (2018 - 9/10)
Pochard (2018 - 9/10)
Long-trailed Duck (2018 - 6/10)
Slavonian Grebe (2018 - 8/10)
Hobby (2015 -6/10)
Little Stint (2018 5/10)
Turnstone (2018 9/10)
Little Gull (2018 6/10)
Little Auk (2018 5/10)
Long-eared Owl (2018 7/10)
Short-eared Owl (2018 8/10)
Spotted Flycatcher (2018 5/10)
Whinchat (2016 7/10)

Other highlights included  - Bewick's Swan (fist since 2002), Long-tailed Skua (first since 2013), Marsh Warbler (first since 2013), Red-backed shrike (male) - first since 2008 and Willow Tit (first since 2000),

If I had time, I could've done some jazzy stats for the last ten years but I haven't.

I've been on the patch every day over day over Christmas but I failed to add anything new to the list. I'm off out now curry but will be back on the patch tomorrow to kick of the 2020's and year list.

Thanks for reading this drivel over the last year and sorry it's been a bit patchy.

All the best for 2020!

Friday 6 December 2019

Days off

I've taken a couple of days off work to coincide with a trip to Sheffield Utd last night to watch the Toon win.

I've also managed a couple of short visits to the patch. Yesterday was a bit gloomy with a strong SW wind. I stopped to look at the geese in the fields to the south of Druridge Farm, there were a good number pink-feet in the second field from the road and after a few scans through them, I finally picked out two Eurasian white-fronted geese.

By the gate opposite, at least 50 twite were feeding and there were 10 grey partridge.

twite in very gloomy light
The little owl was in the 'round window' (and again today) and there were lots of wildfowl on the Budge fields which are still brim-full of water.

Full list here

Today was brighter with some sunny spells and quite mild for the time of year.

I headed north from the turning circle and the first bird I go onto was a juvenile merlin in pursuit of a finch. It was so fast, twisting and turning, the camera just couldn't lock onto it - I did manage a couple of shots though - great bird.

first-winter merlin
Heading north along the haul road, there were ten whooper swans and over 1000 pink-feet just off the patch behind Chibburn Links. There didn't appear to many finches in the dunes compared to recent days.
distant whoopers at Chibburn Links
Coquet Island with a 400mm lens from Druridge
There was very little on the sea, a few sanderlings and couple of pied wagtails on the beach.
Pied wagtail on the beach
 The pheasant shooters were out in force towards the Preceptory which was spooking the wildfowl and waders on the Budge so I gave it a dodge and headed home.

Full list here

Sunday 1 December 2019

First day of winter

Today was the (meteorological) first day of winter and it felt like it. Mind, I think it's felt like winter for weeks.

A cold and frosty start, even when I got down to the patch at 11 o'clock, the grass was white. It was pleasant in the sunshine but a light NW wind gave it an edge. Autumn is over and hopefully we've seen the back of the rain that has dominated things recently.

I had a wander through the dunes to the north of the turning circle. Beyond the haul road in the recently-sown field, a peregrine sat, perched on a divot, probably full up with lapwing or some other unfortunate wader.

The dunes were alive with a feeding flock of mixed finches. They wouldn't settle and swirled back and forth behind the dune ridge, making counting them very tricky. I finally guessed at 250 Goldfinch, 50 linnet, 30 twite and a handful of chaffinch and reed buntings. No tree sparrows though - a much scarcer bird now the feeding has stopped in the bushes. Four grey partridge flushed - I wonder if the nearby release of red-legs will do for them, I hope not.

Some of the twite flock
Reed Bunting in the weeds
On to the Budge fields. From the midget-screen (being vertically challenged myself I can say that) not much could be seen on the fields. In the willows along the path a very late (or wintering maybe) chiffchaff flitted about, calling as it went. A very vocal water rail was in the bushes at the other side of the path but it didn't show itself.

Blue tit feeding on Alder cones
Down to the Budge hide. The fields were mostly frozen with a little bit of open water concentrating the fowl. Waders -  lapwings and curlews stood on the still-white ridges until they were flushed by a huge female sparrowhawk. She put up a snipe and an aerial battle commenced, the snipe was the victor as the large sprawk flew off to the fence without its prey.

Passing Mute Swan
I've been checking the fields for the Cresswell dowitcher. As it hasn't been seen at Cresswell for a couple of days I had high hopes... The last long-staying Long-billed Dowitcher stayed at Cresswell until New Years Eve when it relocated to Druridge so I could get it on two year-lists. Maybe history will repeat itself.

From the dune, the spring tides of the new moon meant that the sea was on the horizon. A flock of 120 wigeon and some scoters all of note.

Female stonechat in the dunes

Full list here