Thursday 26 March 2020

Covid not Corvids

Well it looks as though it might be sometime before I get back onto the patch. With the Covid-19 pandemic forcing the country into lockdown current restrictions prevent me from driving to my patch. It doesn't seem to prevent the masses of dog-walkers who still think it's okay to drive down there to empty their dogs.

I've not been on my bike for a couple of years, but I might have to get it sorted so I can bike down to Druridge - obviously being sensible and not using hides and keeping as safe distance from everyone.

In the meantime I'm pottering around, taking short walks from home which has been quite nice. All around our house are fields and wooded denes where you can walk for hours be unlucky to meet others. It's been nice to see woodland birds that I don't usually see like jays, nuthatches and willow tits. Strangely no great-spotted woodpeckers though... but sadly, plenty of grey squirrels.

I did get to the coast this morning by walking down to Snab Point which is only a mile from home.

My last visit to the patch was Sunday. We'd driven for six hours back from the Scottish Highlands where we'd been staying in a cottage for a week near to Tain on the Moray Firth so went down to Druridge to stretch our legs. We didn't get there until 5pm and it was still like a Bank Holiday weekend, wall to wall cars by the entrance. It was like people had one last freedom and they were going to use it.

We avoided the crowds by wandering through the bushes. We flushed a roosting barn owl, it's unusual to find barn owls in those bushes but not unheard of, we also flushed a woodcock. I haven't seen a woodcock on the patch since the 18th January last year! This must be a bird resting before continuing it's eastward migration.

Full list here

There'll be a lot less blog posts for a while unless I get the bike sorted.

Red kite from Scotland - maybe I'll see one at Druridge this Autumn?

Stay safe out there.

Saturday 14 March 2020

Not in Andalucía

I shouldn't have been at my desk writing a blog post this afternoon, I should've been in Bolonia near Tarifa in Spain, looking at vultures and migrating raptors.

Ages ago we booked a 10-day trip to Andalucía, with a few days around Tarifa followed by a trip out the wonderful Doñana National Park, staying at El Rocío - a place I've not been to since 2004.

As the news about Coronavirus began to unfold from Spain on Thursday our trip was still on but looking doubtful, by yesterday afternoon it was looking dicey and by 8pm last night we decided to cancel as Spain declared a state of emergency and it looked likely that the whole country would soon be in lock-down. We did the right thing as Jet2 flights bound for Spain turned around mid-air this morning and headed back to the UK.

I was really looking forward to this trip. I've got two weeks (valuable) annual leave, which I have to take this month - wasted!

So this morning, instead of being on a plane headed for Malaga - guess what? I was at Druridge in the gloomy grey and cold dampness, counting ducks.

I missed the WeBS count last week, so caught up with that. There was a lot to count with many of the wintering species still present in good numbers including 196 wigeon and 84 each of curlew and redshank. Predictably lapwing numbers have decreased but birds are displaying now.

Displaying lapwing 
A good smattering of waders including the first two avocet of the year, four ruff, eight dunlin, two black-tailed godwits and a single snipe.

Teal numbers have decreased to 41 but the shoveler count remains high at 31. A pair of pintail were still present. A flock of 35 whooper swans flew north overhead, bound for Iceland - Coronavirus doesn't stop them from flying. 

On the big pool, tufted ducks numbered 26 and a couple of cormorants fed. A single great-crested grebe is holding territory but no sign of a mate yet. 

Feeding cormorant

This hybrid/domestic/mallard thing has been hanging around for a couple of years, this drake mallard seemed particularly attracted to it...
In the bushes, spring is starting to stir with singing resident birds evident. It won;t be long before the first chiffs are back. In the dunes, the first meadow pipits are back - parachuting in song. 

Scarlet elf-cup fungus - looking a bit chewed since I first found it last week
Offshore there was plenty of red-breasted mergansers, red-throated divers and a flock of about 35 common scoter. My first lesser-black backed gull of the year flew south and a couple of gannets passed by. 

We've booked a few days away in Scotland so not all my annual leave will be wasted but I fear that it won't be long until the UK is in 'lockdown' to use tabloid language. Will that stop me going to Druridge?

Friday 6 March 2020

Could it be spring?

Could it be Spring?

It felt like it this afternoon but down on the patch first thing it was a cold and frosty start. -1 degrees C but hardly a breeze and a lovely white frost.

Frosty start
Despite the cold, spring was in the air for the stonechats as they chased each other around the turning circle and for the skylarks who sang out above my head. Towards Chibburn lapwings were tumbling - it is spring y'know!

One  the stonechats - pausing for a while before resuming his courtship
Out in the fields about 780 pink-footed geese grazed - it's still winter...

I continued down to the Budge screen where it was nice to catch up with ADMc who was counting the grey herons, he'd got to 29 which is an impressive count for the patch and might indicate a good breeding season ahead - they'll be on eggs soon.

The other 'Budge' highlights included the three almost resident ruff, one of which is very lucky to be still with us. Andy called out a peregrine speeding low, north, it flushed the waders and ducks before gaining some height to stoop on one of the ruff, the ruff darted left and avoided being breakfast.

The three ruff coming back in to land - one of them very lucky to be there!
There weren't many wader s on the Budge in contrast to Saturday when there 153 redshank, 16 dunlin and 53 curlew.

One of Saturday's 153 redshank
In the fields beyond the Budge were more geese, pink-foots mostly but a scan through them produced three Eurasian white-fronts. Disturbed by something, all of the geese got up and estimated 1000 or so, added to my 780 earlier by the haul road,  I jotted down 'c1700'.

Shoveler numbers are still good - I estimated 41.

With chores to do I, I left Andy chatting to Marty Anderson and headed home. One of my more enjoyable chores was to clean out and check our 30 or so tree sparrow boxes at Ellington Pond Nature Reserve. Two water rails weren't put out by my presence and chased each other around the pond-margins squealing like pigs!

Two views of carrion crows
Coot from Saturday