Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Storm Ciara lashes WeBS counters

Two WeBS counters who were stupid enough to go out on Sunday found themselves lashed by Storm Ciara at a nature reserve in Druridge Bay, Northumberland.

Actually , it wasn't that bad...

Okay it was a bit blowy, especially counting hundreds of ducks with precious-little shelter provided by the Budge screen.

I started counting the grazing wigeon which were the most numerous duck, I got to 294 when they shot up in the air - a reaction to a creamy-crowned marsh harrier headed their way. All of the waterfowl had relocated to the middle of the widest part of the pool. Back to counting 1,2,3.... 348 - not a bad count for Druridge but nearly one hundred less than last months count.

A second marsh harrier came through  - this time an adult male.

Other notable counts included 13 grey heron which were seeking shelter behind the trees, nest-building on hold until the storm died down (whenever that will be), 42 shoveler, 168 teal and 57 curlew. Other notable waders included singles of  black-tailed godwit, ruff and dunlin.

A third marsh harrier came through - this time a sub-adult male.

Off to the Oddie hide. There were waves on the big pool and all of the birdlife was seeking shelter at the western end. In the field north of the coal haul road, there was a group of whooper swans, obscured by the hedge, they would require a closer look from the turning circle.

I estimated 44 whooper swans, they were difficult to count as they were also hunkered down out of the wind. They were loosely associated with a flock of 140 Canada geese and 60 pinks.

On our way home we stopped to scan a flock of pinks - over 400 - in the front field and picked up 4 Eurasian white-fronted geese at the back of the flock. There seems to be a few more white-fronts in the county this week.

Full list on eBird

Monday, 27 January 2020

Sharing the patch

On Saturday I had the opportunity to share my local patch with a group from the Natural History Society of Northumbria. This is the second guided tour of the patch I've given recently after the North Northumberland Bird Club visited in October.

About 18 participants came along and my colleague Ellie made sure that we didn't lose anyone along the way. I think I was allowed to lose up to 10 per cent of them.

We had three hours and I took them on what would be a normal walk around the patch for me. We had to be done by midday so I could get to the football on time so we didn't have time for a seawatch.

And in the round window...
We started at the entrance to the reserve after some confusion about the meeting point had been resolved and everyone enjoyed good views of the local celebrity - the little owl was in his favoured spot of the round window.

Five whooper swans were in the front field.

Four of the five whooper swans
Passerines were thin-on-the-ground but everyone enjoyed the spectacle of hundreds of waders and ducks on the Budge fields, notably curlew, lapwing, wigeon and teal. We had a huge count of 19 grey herons and watched them carrying nesting material into the shelterbelt. They'll be on eggs soon.

Onward to the Oddie hide. There wasn't much to see on the big pool, a couple of goldeneye and little grebes were nice, so we made our way north to the dunes along the coal road. before we got there a huge flock of pink-footed geese came south, well over 1000. A lot kept going bu hundreds landed in the fields west of the road.

Some of the pink-feet heading south
A flock of 40 or so twite flitted back and forth, settling close-by at time affording great views through the scope. There were linnets, reed buntings and chaffinches in with them. Tariq Farooqi kindly put the group on to a huge female peregrine that he had found perched on a fencepost beyond the geese and everyone enjoyed good views of it.

The group enjoying the peregrine on a post
We managed to see 38 species by my reckoning, which isn't bad given the size of the group and the time of year.

I made it to the match on time. Maybe I should've just stayed at Druridge?

Our list on eBird

Thursday, 2 January 2020

Two things are guaranteed...

Two things are usually guaranteed on New Years Day on the patch:

1) I will see a species that I didn't see in the previous year. Over the years this list has included merlin, peregrine and slavonian grebe amongst others. This year it was pochard.

Two drake pochards heading south
I half-expected it to be long-tailed duck as one was reported on New Years Eve and it was LTD I was looking for when I saw the two drake pochards on the big pool.

2) Some mentalists will be in the sea

At least this girl kept her bikini top on, the two in 2018 didn't!

New Years Day was beautiful day and Janet and I had a good wander around the patch, taking in the big pool, Budge fields, bushes, sea and dunes to the north and saw 56 species - not a bad start to the year list. Other than the two pochards, other highlights were two velvet scoters flying south offshore, 60 twite in the dunes, a goldcrest (very rare in winter), a pair of pintail, a kestrel (first since July!), 250 golden plover and two of the four ruff from last week. We scanned through the pink-footed geese in the front field but couldn't find the white-fronts.

Busier than a summer day
By the time we headed home just before 2pm, the place was rammed, everyone and their dog(s) had descended on Druridge Bay. When we left, we had to queue to get out because people had parked on both sides of the road, leaving no room for cars to pass. It was like August Bank Holiday Monday!

Link to eBird list for NYD

Today was colder with a stiff breeze from the SW. I quickly checked through the geese (still no white-fronts) and the Budge fields where the four ruff had returned and had been joined by a dunlin. I also added blue tit and shelduck to the year list

List from today