Friday 28 February 2020

Late February update

There hasn't been a blog update for a while for two reasons; firstly, I've not managed to get down to the patch very much and secondly, there hasn't bee much to report when I have been there. As storm after storm have chased each other across the Atlantic bringing bands of heavy rain and gale force winds it hasn't been conducive to birding.

Recent highlights have included three, sometimes four Eurasian white-fronted geese, which seem to be hanging around with the Canada geese or the feral greylags. 

The week before last a drake (American) green-winged teal was reported from the Budge fields, I tried a couple of times to see it but without luck, it may well have been there but Storm Dennis was lashing the reserve and the teal were all cowering behind rushes for shelter. ADMc also found a female Garganey - seemingly only the second winter record for the County!

Last Sunday I was down on the patch for dusk. An impressive arrival of (mainly) common gulls came in from the west and settled on the sea, the tide was well in. By the time I left, I (conservatively) estimated 2500 had gathered on the sea or on the beach.

On Thursday afternoon I went up to Chibburn Mouth to see if the beach is going to be suitable for fencing for terns this year - it has potential. On my way north I counted about 82 twite in the dunes amongst the cattle to the north of the turning circle.

Some of the 82 twite in the dunes
I returned by the beach as the sun dipped behind the dunes. Black-headed gulls and passing red-breasted mergansers entertained me on my way. 

Drake red-breasted merganser headed north

At the mouth of the Dunbar Burn, the water has taken a northerly route, cutting away at the face of the dune and making progress along the beach impossible without wellies or a diversion to the cycleway bridge. I opted to use the concrete blocks as giant stepping stones, which could have been disastrous with a tonne of camera around my neck.

Giant stepping stones
On the 'other side' a passerine was scouring the edge of the water for food - bins on it - a snow bunting! I sat on a bit of concrete and waited for the bird to make it's way along the shore from the shadows into the late evening sunshine and it duly obliged.

In the shadows

Beautiful 'golden-hour' light on the snow bunt

My presence didn't phase the snow bunting and I took dozens of shots and could've taken more but frostbite had set in. Back into the dunes, the sun had dropped as had the temperature, 2 degrees, feeling colder in the stiffening wind. I was freezing after spending half an hour with the snow bunting but the cold didn't deter two brave girls who were in the sea  - in bikinis! Nutters.

Things got stranger as I headed for the Budge fields, with what appeared to be a scantily-clad girl in some kind of glamour shoot... It's a strange place Druridge. 

Wigeon in flight as dusk

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