Thursday 29 April 2021

Black and Red

Garganeys have been giving me the run-around this week. 

Up to four, but most often a pair, have been reported from the Budge fields most days. I go and look them in the evening after work and can't find them. That changed tonight and I finally got lucky, only just mind. Two minutes we arrived in the hide, after only just getting onto the female, the pair flew off north, over the hide, presumably to East Chevington. 

The real highlight was a stunning Spotted Redshank though, in full breeding plumage. My first 'Spotshank' since September 2019 and the first black one since the spring of the same year. Breeding-plumaged Spotty Redshanks are always a highlight of the spring.

The weather has been cold and I've not seen any other new species since the weekend and I don't think numbers of warblers has increased since then. Swift was reported again today - I haven't even seen a House Martin yet.

Waders have been few too, 12 Whimbrel pitched in at dusk on Monday and Avocet numbers vary from four to 20 and Ruff seem to come and go.

Here are some hoverflies and a bee from last Sunday.

Female Eristalis pertinax

Melanostoma mellinum (male)

Male Helophilus pendulus

Male Eristalis sp

Female Eristalis pertinax

Record shot of Marsham's Nomad Bee - Nomada marshamella - a new bee for me for the patch

Sunday 25 April 2021

New arrivals

On Tuesday evening Janet and I wander up to the Preceptory and back. No new arrivals but at least 200 Sand Martins over the Budge Fields with the usual waders, one Yellow and two White Wagtails and Wheatear were also on the fields from the little hide. 

A schoolboy error on Wednesday morning though. I got up early intending to my third territory mapping visit before work but when I arrived at Druridge the wind was strong, about 20mph from the North East and gusty - too windy for a survey so I abandoned and headed for the little hide where it would be sheltered.

The highlight was a male Ruff, coming into breeding plumage, strutting it's stuff in front of the hide. 

Ruff - getting it's ruff

This Ruff was one of three, otherwise there was nothing new to report from the Budge fields. The light was nice and both Gadwall and Shoveler came close into hides.

Drake Shelduck

Gadwall Pair

Chiffchaff in the morning sunshine

I finally got my survey done before work on Friday. The map looked a bit busier with at least 13 singing Willow Warblers and both Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat were new for the year. Blackcaps were noted at three locations. 

Also of note was Wheatear in the dunes and eight Twite including some in full song from the top of as tree. Meadow Pipits, Linnets and Reed Buntings were plentiful in the dunes and three Grasshopper Warblers were reeling there. 

Meadow Pipit in a dune bush

Shelducks are numerous on the Budge fields and in the dunes, giving some nice 'fly-bys'  - I estimated 24 in total.

Male Shelduck

Tufted Duck between the turbines

Nesting Canada Goose with a stick through it's bill - wonder if this is a fashion statement?

This morning Janet and I had wander around the hides. On the Budge fields, two Whimbrel, two male Yellow Wagtails, one White Wagtail, 14 Avocet, three Ruff and five Pintail were noteworthy. There wasn't much on the big pool but a Snipe was feeding just in front of the Oddie Hide. 

Common Snipe

A single Reed Warbler was singing in the reedbed which was new for the year and Sedge and Whitethroat were back in greater numbers. Janet went off horse-riding and I had a look on the sea, it was quiet though with no new terns, but plenty of Sandwich feeding just offshore. 13 Red-throated Divers were mostly in breeding plumage and a raft of 24 Guillemot were loafing on the sea. Twite are still around, 'commuting' along the dunes

I spent the rest of the morning trying to photograph hoverflies and bees on the path to the hides. They'll get their own post later when I've identified them. Meanwhile here's a 7-Spot Ladybird. 

7-Spot Ladybird

Sunday 18 April 2021

Slow start to Spring

Spring is coming to Druridge, but slowly. A prolonged spell of wintery weather with very cold, frosty nights and cold but dry days seems to have held things up a bit and newly arrived migrant birds seem thin on the ground. 

Willow Warblers and Blackcaps arrived on Patch earlier in the week, both species were singing from the bushes on my morning walk on Thursday. A White Wagtail was on the Budge fields too.

Skylark in full song

On Friday,  a 'Blue-headed' Wagtail was reported from the Budge fields in the afternoon. I called by on my way home from work, there was no sign of the Blue-headed Wagtail but a bright 'bog-standard' Yellow Wagtail was nice and new for the year as was a single Whimbrel, flying north, calling. 

Four Ruff, 19 Black-tailed Godwit, 15 Snipe and 21 Curlew were on the Budge fields.

On Saturday morning I went looking for Wheatears and Ring Ouzels, no luck with either or with any other new arrivals for that matter. Still some wintering birds though, including 45 Twite - including eight high in the tree tops by the Budge Screen, signing - most odd!

'I hear them singing on the wire' - Male Barn Swallow

Most of Friday's Black-tailed Godwits had moved on, leaving just three, there were five each of Ruff and Avocet. A Grasshopper Warbler called briefly whilst I was chatting to ADMc. 

Offshore winter met summer again with 19 Red-throated Divers still on the sea and six Sandwich Terns feeding.

No visits to the patch today - I was getting a needle stuck in my arm so that Bill Gates can track my every move.

Male Goldfinch by the turning circle

Wednesday 14 April 2021

Weekend Surveys

I spent most of time on the patch last weekend doing surveys. 

On Saturday I did my second territory mapping visit, it was a few days late but the run of cold, wintery weather has meant that nothing much has arrived and breeding attempts are on hold. Despite it being a warmer and sunnier morning of later, there was less activity than on my first visit - certainly for the dune species like Meadow Pipits and Reed Buntings.

Stunning morning

The only 'new arrival' was a Grasshopper Warbler which was in the small isolated bush by the Blockhouse. As I watched it, it began to reel, half-heartedly at first before putting some ooomf into it. 

Gropper - New in

Chiffchaffs were still vocal as was a Song Thrush that sung all morning. An interesting breeding record is a pair of Long-tailed Tits nest-building along the path to the hides, near to the timber screen. Lotti's are a very scarce breeder on the patch and it might be ten years or more since they last bred. 

One of many Chiffs
One of the breeding Lotti's

Wintering birds are still present however with 45 Twite flying over in three groups. Of note on the Budge fields were 9 Avocet, two Ruff and two Black-tailed Godwits. 

Swallow passage was light but noticeable and there were plenty of feeding Sand Martins over the Big Pool where a pair of Great-crested Grebes were displaying.

Fly-over Shelduck

On Sunday morning I awoke to a light covering of snow (11th April!!). Janet and I set off to do the WeBS count, it was bright but cold, feeling like -5 degrees not 5 degrees. There was plenty to count on the Budge fields with 66 Wigeon and 62 Teal still present. As I scanned, counting Wigeon,  a gull with yellow-legs caught my eye, not a Lesser Black-backed Gull (there were three of them further over playing with a goose egg) - this was a Herring-type gull but with strikingly yellow legs, not just a slight creaminess about them - yellow! The mantle was one or two shades darker than the adjacent Herring Gulls, it moved into deeper water and was head-on so no more detail on shape was to be had. Whilst I assembled my digi-scoping kit, Janet watched it until an incoming Canada Goose flushed it and it flew off, strongly in the direction of Warkworth Lane - we'll never know. Interestingly Dave Dack had a 'possible' adult Yellow-legged Gull later that day at Bell's Pond. 

Waders included a single Little Ringed Plover, four Black-tailed Godwit, four Ruff and two Avocet. Snipe numbers were up to 11. A single White Wagtail was also present. 

On the way home, we stopped to admire the Lapland Bunting and Shorelark at Hemscotthill. 

Digi-scoped Lapland Bunting
Digi-scoped Shorelark

In the evening I had an hours seawatch. It was cold and quiet. Three Sandwich terns feeding offshore were my first for the patch this year. 

A pair of passing Red-breasted Mergansers

Adult Herring Gull 

Common Gull with a knackered leg

Monday 5 April 2021

Few and far between

Despite lockdown easing, visits to the patch (and therefore blog posts) have been few and far between and there's even fewer photos as I've damaged my hand and can't use the SLR until it's a bit better.

I did start my new challenge last weekend which is to map the breeding birds of the Druridge Links side of the reserve using a territory mapping technique similar to the Common Bird Census. This involves mapping all of the birds encountered during morning visits, along a set transects. The maps are then compiled by species to give rough territories for each species throughout the breeding season Visit should be roughly ten-days apart. Below is a sample of a visit map. 

Mapping sample

I'll pull all of the results together at the end of the season and produce some bonny maps. As well as a challenge, this survey is useful to show how management of the site affects bird populations. The survey should be roughly comparable to one I did ten years ago.

Mute Swan  - not a census species!

Otherwise migration has been slow to get going. Although a Swallow on 30th March was very early. It was 18 degrees back then, it was -8 (felt like) this morning with a light dusting of snow and a hard frost. The Budge field is attracting decent numbers of waders including Black-tailed Godwits, Snipe, Avocet, Ruff (up to six) and a single Little Ringed Plover. Several Lapwings are already on eggs.

As I can't manage the SLR at the moment, here are two photos taken with the  TG6.

False Puffball Reticularia lycoperdon growing on a willow stump

Bracket fungus  - Trametes versicolor