Sunday 23 May 2021

First patch Osprey in 25 years

After heavy rain and cold northeasterly winds on Friday/Saturday morning Janet and I went out to look for migrant passerines at Druridge on Saturday morning. We stopped at the Budge Screen first and finally caught up with some Little Gulls and the thunbergii (grey-headed) Yellow Wagtail. With two Wood Sandpipers, a pair of Garganey, a Knot, two bar-tailed and three Black-tailed Godwits among the supporting cast we would have been happy to leave it at that. 

We wandered north along the bushes and onto the haul road. It was there, where we were alerted to a large bird flying north pursued by five or six Lapwings. The Lapwings wouldn't have bothered going that high for a gull, so bins onto it and it showed it to be an Osprey! It was heading steadily north and soon lost to sight over East Chevington. 

Osprey heading north pursued by Lapwings (heavy crop)

This is my first patch Osprey since at least 1996 - it was so long ago, the record is in a long-gone paper notebook. 

We didn't find any noteworthy migrants passerines, not even a Wheatear. There were hundreds of hirrundines and the Swifts were flying very low.  The sun came out briefly later and brought out some insects.

Common Cardinal Beetle 

Male Andrena sp of bee

Large Red Damselfy (female)

22-Spot Laydybird

Cheilosia sp of Hoverfly  -STOP PRESS - Roger Morris thinks this is C. bergenstammi

Green NettleWeavil

Sphaerophoria sp of hoverfly - the females can't be identified to species by photographs

Red and Black Froghopper

Today was WeBS count day. Highlights were five Little Gulls, one Med Gull and a single Drake Garganey. Wood Sandpiper and Ruff had been reported but we didn't see them. The Grey-headed Wagtail was gone but there were two flavissima.

Drake Tufted Duck - without the orange eye, this could be monochrome photo

 We walked to Chibburn mouth to check on my fence and walked back along the beach seeing very little along the way - only a handful of Sandwich Terns.

One of the Sandwich Terns

Spoonbill looking miserable on the Budge fields earlier in the week

Sunday 9 May 2021

At last, someone turned the heating up

Saturday was an awful day with heavy rain/sleet and feeling very cold for most of the day, it felt more like January than May.

The forecast was for the rain to clear late afternoon, which it did. Janet and I headed to the patch to see if anything had dropped in. When we arrived it was still cold and damp but within half an hour, the wind moved into the south and the temperature increased by about seven degrees, it was almost as if someone had turned the heating up.

The rain hadn't dropped nay passerines in, a few swifts moved through though. We walked along the beach and 12 Sanderling flew north in nice breeding plumage. Whimbrel called overhead but nothing like Mark Eaton's incredible count of 120 or more at dusk the day before. 

A few more breeding birds have young now. Some of the Canada and Greylag Geese have goslings, a Moorhen attended to four recently hatched young and there were five Lapwing youngsters in field northwest of the coal road.

A couple of mammal photos for a change.

European Rabbit on the Budge fields
Roe deer bouncing through the Teasels

This morning felt much more spring-like. A warmish sou'westerly bringing the temperature up nicely, enough to entice some insects out at last. There were lots of Hawthorn flies out along the path to the hide and some other bits and bobs.

Drinker Moth caterpillar
Common Carder Bee
Noon Fly
Gorse Shieldbug
Gooden's Nomad Bee
This hoverfly wasn't on the path to the hides, but along the edge of the Dunbar Burn on Common Scurvy Grass - Platycheirus clypeatus agg which is new for the patch

A Garganey pair on the Budge fields still and a few Dunlin and 11 Whimbrel lifted off the fields and headed north, leaving a single bird behind. A single Wheatear was the only migrant passerine on the Budge fields.

Off they go - six of the Whimbrel

A very vocal Sedge Warbler by the path to the hides as attracted the attention of the Toggers. 

In full flow - signing male Sedge Warbler

This evening I had an uneventful look on the sea. No new terns were added to the list. A few Gannets and six summer-plumaged Red-throated Divers were on the sea. 

Monday 3 May 2021

More surveys

Saturday dawned  - the new month of May. I didn't expect to be scraping thick ice from my car windscreen in May but that's exactly what I had to do at 6am before heading Druridge for my fourth territory mapping visit. 

As well as the cold start, a wintery shower passed through as I arrived, I sat in the car and let it pass. Once cleared, the sun came out and it was quite pleasant but there were dark clouds on the horizon.

The cold weather has blocked a few arrivals I think, other than Reed Warblers, of which there a few singing away in the small patch of Phragmites in the corner of the big pool, warbler numbers are pretty-much what they were seven days ago with the addition of an extra Grasshopper Warbler maybe.

There are three scarce breeding species at Druridge already this year:

I've already mentioned the Long-tailed Tits, they are now feeding young. One of the adults is ringed, almost certainly by us last Autumn. I can't remember the last breeding Lottis at Druridge.

There is also a male Song Thrush that has been singing his heart out for at least four weeks. I'm assuming that if he hadn't attracted a mate by now, he would've been off and that she is sitting on eggs somewhere. Again, I can't recall Song Thrush breeding at Druridge.

And thirdly, a new find. A pair of Great Tits gathering nesting material. Great Tit isn't an uncommon species on the patch, but not as a breeder. They are hole-nesters and the trees and bushes aren't really old enough to have developed holes yet. They have bred in boxes around the farm and in the buildings at High Chibburn before.

I think this shows that the narrow belt of scrub is maturing and attracting different species. Lesser-Whitethroat and Bullfinch both bred last year. 

I managed to dodge the showers. The only new bird for the year was a single House Martin.

Male Reed Bunting - common in  the dunes
A white hen Pheasant - she's been around a while and is nesting in the middle of the grass field north of the big pool - I assume she thinks she is camouflaged?
Cock pheasant

My second survey was the Breeding Waders of Wet Meadows Survey for BTO. It is all a bit odd,  as the big pools is mapped as suitable (!!), but the field to the north, which is a wet(ish) meadow isn't. And then, most of East Chevington Reserve is included, again with no wet meadows.

Female Stonechat along the Coal Road
Still about 20 Twite about in the dunes, with pink rumps on show!
A migrant - White Wagtail

Anyhoo, I did what I could and found a my first Lapwing chicks of the year. As I write this, the rain is lashing down, it's blowing a gale and it's freezing. I wish them well!

Finally, this weekend is the City Nature Challenge. ERIC the local records centre is coordinating CNC for the North East of England again. I really enjoyed last years event and got stuck in, submitting lots of records (including my first ashy mining bees and the northernmost in England at the time). This year, a combination of chores and shocking weather has meant less records submitted from me. Others have done well though.