Tuesday 30 June 2020

Someone has turned the volume down!

I squeezed a quick hours walk around the patch before work this morning, just up to the turning circle and south as far as the Budge screen but compared to recent mornings it was like someone had turned the volume down.

There were still a few warblers singing - willow, chiffy and sedge, the odd wren and meadow pipits and reed bunting in the dunes but otherwise birds have fallen silent. A song thrush (a scarce breeder at Druridge) hadn't got the memo and belted out his repetitive song the whole time I was there.

Even at 8am there were plenty of butterflies on the wing - large skippers, ringlets, speckled woods and red admirals as well as lots of blue-tailed damselflies.

large skipper
Speckled wood - looking a bit worn now
There were a few of these latticed heath moths basking in the sunshine too.

latticed heath
Other than the aforementioned warblers and stuff, a family party of magpies were making a row up by the turning circle and 40-50 swifts fed low, just over the bushes. As I headed south a little egret flew over and from the Budge screen there were two spoonbills, fast asleep as usual. There were also at least 20 black-tailed godwits, most of which were the islandica subspecies. A couple of ringed plover fed on the mud.

Little egret headed north overhead
As I headed for home a grasshopper warbler piped-up from the dunes and started to reel. It's not quite autumn yet.

eBird list here

Great tit youth

Monday 29 June 2020

Vizmig and the two bird theory

I've tried a bit of viz-migging this week, but probably missed the vizmig highlight of the year today - a huge southerly movement of swifts, with thousands of birds logged at east coast hot-spots including 28,0000 at Hummanby Gap. I hadn't anticipated it so didn't get down to the patch until lunchtime, by the time I did there were still lots of swift headed south but nothing like the numbers reported earlier.

After reports of crossbill movements, I positioned myself on the big dune at 5.30am on Wednesday morning. When I arrived on site, there were 11 siskins feeding on the alders before moving north. I estimated about another 100+ siskins, all moving south in small groups of 15-25 until 7.30am. Nothing like the 6500 Tom Tams had at Tynemouth and no crossbills - my target for the morning.

I tried for crossbills on another two mornings but no joy.The meadow pipits kept me entertained though and fly-through little egrets on two mornings were welcome sightings of scarce bird this year. The big dune is a good place to scan the budge fields and I picked up both wood and green sandpipers from there.

Meadow pipit song-flighting from the big dune
In the bay, the common scoter flock reached a peak of about 1400 birds midweek. On Friday, I abandoned viz-mig and had walk north and south. A family group of pied wags entertained me at the Dunbar burn and a new moth...

New moth - Pammene aurana (there were at least eight of them)
One of the pied wag youths
New hoverfly for the patch Cheilosia illustrata - one of the bumblebee mimics (iPhone photo)
As is typical, the weather deteriorated just in time for the weekend. I manged a wander between showers on Saturday morning and it was nice to catch up with Bob Biggs and ADMc. Waders from the Budge included  four, maybe five ruff including gingery, black and white/cream coloured birds, 19 black-tailed godwits (most or all Greenland race birds), two knot, two ringed plover and two dunlin. A female marsh harrier was my first since lockdown and an adult cuckoo shot through the dunes - northbound.

Today, Janet and I had a walk to the hides, mostly looking for hoverflies but we found the four spoonbills, that have commuted between Cresswell Pond and the Budge fields, feeding on the doughnut pool from the little hide.

Four spoonbills- an they were all awake!
mating common blue damselflies
This evening, news came through of a female pied flycatcher near the Budge screen. Pied Fly is a scarce bird in any year at Druridge, unheard of in June, so worth a look before the footy I thought.

Graham Sorrie reported north of the path to the screen-hide. The first bird I got my bins on was a spotted flycatcher.

Spotted Flycatcher
I knew Graham wouldn't have mistaken spotted fly for pied, but for two flycatchers of any species to be at Druridge in June would be mega rare, but I couldn't rule out the two-bird theory and I was right not to as shortly after that a female pied flycatcher appeared on the same edge. My first pied fly since 2014!

Pied flycatcher
I'm not sure what is going on here. Is this early returning birds or very late northerly migrants? Someone on Twitter sent me a link to a wind map and a report of high temperatures and forest fires in Arctic Siberia - which is worrying in itself but might explain these birds?

Monday 22 June 2020

The longest day

Today was the longest day of the year - not for me, when I woke up at 4.30 it was tipping it down so I went back to bed.

I was on the patch for an early start on Saturday though, birding the bushes first before looking for hoverflies later. Janet and I went to Druridge this afternoon but were dodging showers the whole time.

On Saturday I covered nearly 5km birding around the bushes and pools. In the bushes there were lots of recently fledged warblers with family parties of sedge warblers, whitethroats, blackcaps and willow warblers, adults feeding their still-dependent young. There were family groups of great and blue tits - their young a bit more independent.

Adult whitethorat
Whitethroat feeding two of its three chicks
Young sedge warbler
A weasel dodged traffic on the road

Offshore, the scoter flock has swelled to over 900, they were a bit distant making it difficult to pick out velvets amongst them. Plenty of terns and auks offshore including 3 roseate terns (on Friday evening I picked up a single little tern feeding offshore).

Barn owls hunted all morning and were taking plenty of food away but the highlight of the morning was an adult long-eared owl in the bushes near to the Budge screen.

Barn owl with a short-tailed field vole
From the Budge screen, there was no sign of the wood or green sandpipers from the previous days but there was a single knot, two dunlin, two ringed plover and ten black-tailed godwits. The three avocet chicks are getting bigger by the day and look good for making adulthood (that's jinxed them!).

A Kestrel feeding was my first post-lockdown sighting,

The rest of the morning was spent with the macro lens looking for hoverflies and other stuff. I found a couple of new hoverflies for me for the patch and an amazing wasp beetle. I still need to ID some stuff but below are some photos.

A post-football visit this afternoon. heavy showers rolled in from the west so we didn't hang around. Janet went for a walk whilst I grilled the sea and then we both went to the Budge screen out of the rain. The same waders as yesterday apart from the knot had been replaced by a wood sandpiper.

A bee-mimic hoverfly - Leucozona lucorum (female)
Common Cardinal Beetle Pyrochroa serraticornis
Funky Caterpillar - the caterpillar of moth Depressaria daucella in final instar. There are only county 23 records according to Northumberland Moths

Diamondback Moth Plutella xylostella

Hoverfly Eristalis arbustorum (f)

Syrphus Sp
I thought that this was a wasp at first but it's a beetle - a wasp beetle Wasp Beetle Clytus arietis

Hoverfly Syrphus torvus (female)

Hoverfly Helophilus hybridus

Hoverfly Helophilus pendulus

Hoverfly Eristalis pertinax (female)

Marmalade hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus
Sawfly Tenthredo mesomela
22-Spot Ladybird  Psyllobora vigintiduopunctata

Bloody Cranesbill - the county flower of Northumberland

larvae of 7-spot ladybird Coccinella septempunctata but I'm not sure what the little mite thing is, there were three of them associating with the larvae.

One of the Chrysopa lacewings - needs to be ID'd but that might not be possible from a photo
Crabro cribarius  - Slender-bodied digger wasp (I saw one of these in June last year in the same place)
Crabro cribarius  - Same as above

Large Skipper Ochlodes sylvanus

Hoverfly Meliscaeva auricollis

Buff-tailed Bumble Bee Bombus terrestris

Hoverfly Tropidia scita -  a new one for me and for Druridge, it can be ID'd from the triangular 'tooth' on the hind femura

Wednesday 17 June 2020

A nice selection of waders

There was nice selection of waders on the Budge Fields this evening. At this time of year I can never work out whether these birds are late migrants, failed breeders returning or non breeders just making the journey.

Wood sandpipers and green sandpipers, two of each, were the highlights and nine black-tailed godwit, 15 redshank, 7 avocet (including chicks), two dunlin and two ringed plover made up the supporting cast.

No photos of anything from tonight as it was very foggy...again.

I had a quick look offshore last night for an hour at dusk. The scoter flock on the sea had swelled to something around 700! I was working my way through them, having picked up two drake velvet scoters when I came across two smaller ducks at the edge of the flock. They were about half to two-thirds of the size of the scoters with pale underparts, they were on their sides, both having a good preen. When they finally stopped preening, I got a better look at them, but only briefly as two very loud scrambler motorbikes arrived on the beach and sped towards the tideline, flushing the entire flock. They were small-billed with pale cheek patches and darker crown. From my limited view of them I can only think that they were two non-breeding 2nd year long-tailed ducks.

If you aren't interested in hoverflies, you can stop reading this now.

Here are some hoverfly photos from Sunday as promised:

Scaeva pyrastri (male)
Eupeodes Sp.(male)

Rhingia campestris
Eupeodes Sp 
Marmalade Hover Fly - Episyrphus balteatus

Marmalade Hover Fly - Episyrphus balteatus

Platycheirus albimanus (female)

Platycheirus sp (female)
Eristalis tenax (m) - head-on. Zoom for detail!
Eristalis tenax (m)