Monday 30 August 2021

Mostly Seawatching

 This week I've mostly been seawatching.

With the wind switching to the north for most of the week, I've been seawatching at every opportunity, I've even abandoned Druridge for Snab Point a couple of times for rarer species.

It all started last Sunday, I had an evening seawatch, the wind was NE but light but it was a good start.

Arctic Skua 2

Bonxie 2

Little Gull 1

Roseate Tern 3

Sooty Shearwater 1

Manx Shearwater 11

Two Velvet scoter with 460 Common.

Young Gannet

On Tuesday evening the seawatching was quiet but the light was amazing and it was nice to just watch the common species. A juvenile Black Tern going north was a nice year-tick.

Oystercatchers in evening sunlight - a mix of adults and juveniles.

Curlew in silhouette

On Thursday another evening seawatch was more productive. 12 Manx and four Sooty Shearwaters, a Great Norther Diver in summer plumage, four Roseate Terns and four Bonxies.

On Friday evening, the wind had dropped but was still NE and it was overcast. 18 Pale-bellied Brent Geese headed north were my first of the year on the patch. Seemingly the same group were in Norfolk the previous day. 

Northbound - Pale-bellied Brents

A few Sooty and Manx Shearwaters, five Bonxies and two Arctic Skua, as I was about to head home when I got onto a distant shearwater. On jizz, before side-on views,  I thought 'Balearic' - the flight was too languid for Manx. It was distant and and the already poor light was fading fast (19:20) - it probably was Balearic but I wouldn't want to claim it.


On Sunday morning reports came through of a Balearic Shearwater headed north past Whitburn. I decided, rather than risk not seeing it at Druridge I would go to Snab Point, still inside my 5km Patch. News came from Newbiggin that the bird had gone past Church Point, we waited, and waited. 40 minutes passed, two angling boats that had been offshore motored north, Ashington Gary suggested the shearwater might be behind them, I scanned wit the scope and there it was, some way departing boats. It was distant but gave good views, showing a 'dark' armpit, but not a very dark 'smudgy mark'  - jizz was more Balearic than Manx but it looked different. 

Photos and videos taken at Whitburn show this bird to be atypical for Balearic and it certainly looks like many photos of Yelkouan Shearwater. One for the experts...

An amazing number of Med Gulls, at least 75, were on the beach in Lynemouth Bay. A Greenshank on the beach there was nice. I like Snab Point, it's nice to see some rocky shore species. 

One of the Meds

The wind was still out of the north this morning, it was cold and raining when I arrived on the patch. I headed for the Budge hide rather than the dunes. The Spoonbill was still there but little else so I braved a seawatch. 

The showers kept coming, they were light, but squally, and the visibility was awful. Two Pale-bellied Brent went through, followed by ten more and a single bonxie. Another squally shower, and from inside the bay, through the murk, a shearwater came through, again I thought Balearic, again, because of the poor light, not enough to clinch it. I was more certain of this closer bird than Friday's mega distant bird. A single Manx followed it shortly afterwards and I was more certain the first bird was a Balearic but I'll not be submitting it. Another shower loomed so I gave up and went home.

I was back out at Snab Point later for another north-bound Balearic that didn't make it much beyond Newbiggin, where it stopped for lunch. I did the same.

One of the resident Fulmars at Snab - much closer than the passage birds

Juvenile Arctic Skua

Same bird as above

Sunday 15 August 2021

Viz Mig - it's just a hobby!

Firstly, apologies for the lack of blog updates. There just aren't enough hours in the day and when it is still light in the evenings I would rather be out birding than sorting photos or writing blog posts, especially as most of my time these days is spent in front of the computer in my office.

Since my last post we had a holiday to Wales - a week in the Llyn AONB with an excursion to Anglesey for the Elegant Tern at Cemlyn Bay and two new damselflies. All in all, a great trip!

Back to Druridge, I've managed a few visits before and after work and the patch year-list is now on 146, a couple of decent seawatches and a few early migrants, like Cuckoo and Green Sandpiper, have pushed it up in July.

Common Tern feeding offshore in 'Golden Hour' light in July

Barn Owl - un-ringed second year female

Back to the here and now, on Friday I took a day off work and spent the morning on the patch. I did a bit of viz-migging from the high dune, it was reasonably quiet but I did scope the Little Owl at the preceptory. I had a wander down to the hides with the macro camera to look for bugs and beasts, where, bizarrely,  I bumped into a chap from Oxford whom I'd met at Icklesham back in 2011, where I'd spent a week ringing with him as a trainee. As we were chatting a small falcon flew fast, over the bund, spooked by seeing us, it banked around over the Budge fields and headed off in the direction from which it had come - Hobby! An adult. My first on the patch since 2015.

I scrambled up the bank to look out over the big pool but I had gone. Shortly after I was sat in the little hide with a chap called Harry and we saw the same bird come back over the Budge fields before again heading our over the big pool. I think it must've been hunting hunting dragonflies. Both views were brief but the grey upperparts, lighter plain tail, paler underparts and heavily streaked under-carriage with reddish buff 'trousers' all visible, but it was it's jizz that made us all call hobby before detail as noted. 

Common Field Grasshopper - pink form

New for the patch - Denticulate Leatherbug (Coriomeris denticulatus)

Comma Butterfly - not common on the patch

Roe Buck headed south across the Budge Fields

Yesterday, on arriving at the patch, just before 8am, I saw a few Swifts overhead, Janet sent me a message to say she had seen Swifts moving over the marina in Amble. Another viz-mig session I thought... The wind was stronger from west, which is good for viz-mig at Druridge as birds are 'pinched-in' to the middle of the bay, but also tough-going so I chose a lower spot, rather than the big dune.

Swift passage continued and by 9am I'd counted 109 going south with strong passage of hirrundines, mostly House Martins. This continued until after 10 am when it seemed to ease, in total I counted 245 Swifts south in two and a half hours.

One of over 245 Swifts that went south

A Hobby, presumably yesterday's bird, soared high on two occasions, between Druridge and East Chev and over towards Low Chibburn before drifting south. Scope-views was I all I had, but they were prolonged as it soared on the thermals. Two Merlins and two Sparrowhawks came through as did a juvenile Marsh Harrier  - it was almost like being in Tarifa (maybe not). Green Sandpiper (with a Snipe), Little Egret, four Black-tailed Godwits and 17 Meadow Pipits went south.

One of two Sparrowhawks

And it was gone... one of two Merlins

I went looking for Harebell Bee in the dunes afterwards with no joy but did see some other interesting critters. 

Dune Robberfly (Philonicus albiceps)

Small Copper Butterfly in the Dunes

Hoverfly Scaeva pyrastri