Sunday 31 July 2022

Med Gull Madness

 After a walk up to north end of the patch and back on Friday after work, I did a bit of an evening seawatch , until it was nearly dusk. 

It was relatively quiet, but there were a couple of close scoter flocks, numbering around 350 birds combined, so I went through them looking for a velvet or better. Three great-crested grebes and a red-throated diver were I could manage. Interestingly, the scoter flock was made up of over 95% drakes. 

Otherwise, a few terns and gannets... that is, until I noticed a couple of Mediterranean gulls flying south and then for some reason, I turned to look inland to see a small flock of Meds head south behind me, they were soon followed by another flock of 25 birds, they were all flying south, over the reserve, as far away as the shelterbelt. Several more flocks followed and they were still passing, in small numbers by the time I left. My final count was 72, there were also 15, including 5 juveniles, in the gull roost on the beach.

One of the passing Meds at dusk

I can only assume that they had been feeding in fields north and west of Druridge and headed south to roost at Lynemouth or Newbiggin. 

There were 48 sanderling on the beach, the adults molting out of breeding plumage. 


On Saturday, it was a still and humid evening. Janet and I had a walk along the beach, there were plenty of Sandwich terns offshore including a few juveniles which is promising. 

Sandwich Tern
Sandwich Tern

There was big southerly passage of sand martins, we counted at least 200 passing through. 

Sand Martin

Today (Sunday), there was a northerly wind for most of the day, so I tried an afternoon seawatch but it was quiet. 15 Manx went north and there were at least 8 Roseate terns offshore. A flock of about 30 southbound redshanks were noteworthy.

Here are some photos of the stonechat family in the dunes. 

Male stonechat



Thursday 21 July 2022

New Hovers

It's that time of year again - birding is quiet and the macro lens comes out instead of the 400mm.

I've managed to find three new hoverflies for the patch over the last couple of weeks. The first was Eristalinus sepulchralis - one of the 'spotty-eyed drone flies'. Not something I was expecting on the patch, although Chris Barlow has seen them here before. A new hoverfly for me. This one was along the track to the hides, between the bunds. I am disappointed not to get the whole creature in focus - the joys of macro photography. I'll update the hoverfly gallery which can be found in the top menu.

Eristalinus sepulchralis

Next up was Leucozona laternaria - not a common hover in Northumberland I think. This one was by the road, where the track heads to the hides. 

Leucozona laternaria

The last species that was new for the patch is under-debate, as to whether it is one or more species. At the moment it is regarded as 'complex' of  Melangyna compositarum/labiatarum. Complex Melangyna compositarum is how it remains on my list.

Melangyna compositarum/labiatarum

This Cheilosia sp could be new but it can't be identified to species form these photos. 

Tuesday 19 July 2022

A long-awaited patch tick

 Red Kite has been my most anticipated patch tick for about four years and today I finally nailed one. 

I was looking west from the dunes this morning after my WeBS count when I spotted a long-winged raptor over the shelterbelt by the haul road. I put the scope straight on it and there it was, a red kite sauntering along the top of the pine trees (what's left of them). I watched it for a while as it went it back and forth. A stunning bird.

Record shot - you can just make out the forked tail

Red Kite has been on the official Druridge patch list since 2016 but it's taken me another six years to catch up with one. There have been many more records from this part of Northumberland in recent months so it was only a matter of time.

Red kite takes my patch list to 254 species. 

The belated WeBS count this morning was quiet (we were away on the Solway Coast at the weekend). A handful of dunlin and snipe and three black-tailed godwit were all of note. The Budge fields look good but East Chevington seems to be attracting all of the waders at the moment. 

Today was hot, it probably touched 30 degrees this afternoon and it was still humid and warm this evening. I headed to the patch for an evening seawatch. A flock of 700 scoters were close in, I scanned them several times but could only find commons scoters. About 24 manx shearwaters flew north in several groups and two red-throated divers and two great-crested grebes were still in summer plumage. There were a few terns feeding including up to seven roseate, which is good given the Avian Influenza tragedy unfolding on Coquet Island.

A beautiful sunset drew close on the hottest day of they year (so far...). I started the day with a red kite and ended it with a red sky.

This my first blog post for ages. I'm struggling to find the time to keep with things and the blog has slipped. I've got some new hoverflies for the patch to report, I just need a wet evening to write another post.