Monday, 16 October 2017

Ringing again

On Saturday morning the forecast looked a bit dicey for ringing but we gave it a go. When we first arrived, it was overcast with a light westerly, but with a light mizzle falling it was too wet to ring. By the time we wandered up for another look at the red-necked phalarope, which was still on the Budge fields, the mizzle had moved through.

We only put three nets up because of the threat of showers, which didn't materialise. A couple of chiffchaffs were in song when we were setting up and we soon caught a couple. Catching was slow though and we only caught 17 birds before the breeze picked up and we packed up at 12.30.

Chiffchaff
We did catch two male bullfinch, both first-year birds, this follows a single female last weekend. Bullies are rare at Druridge so nice to catch a few.

male bullfinch
This shieldbug was on the grass by our car, I think it is Red-legged Shieldbug Pentatoma rufipes


Red-legged shieldbug?
We've had notification from BTO about a couple of interesting recoveries.

The first was a reed warbler that we caught back in July, it already had a ring on it, but not one of ours. It was a breeding adult male, probably nesting in the little reedbed at the corner of the big pool.
Controlled reed warbler
BTO informed us that it had been originally ringed as juvenile back in August 2014 in Suffolk. I am presuming that it was caught on migration having been born up here somewhere but I could be completely wrong...

The second report was recovery of a blackcap that we ringed as a juvenile on the same day in July as we caught the reed warbler. 57 days later it had traveled 510km and was caught by the Cuckmere Ringing Group at Litlington in East Sussex.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Tick and run

I was in a meeting up at Lindisfarne this morning when I got a message to say that there was a red-necked phalarope at Druridge Pools. With a full diary for the rest of the day it was looking unlikely that I would get to see it. My meeting finished just after 1pm and I had to be at another in Morpeth by 2.30pm... As long as I didn't get held up on the A1 it was do-able.

I was walking along the path to the hides at 1.45, no sweat...

I bumped into Stewart and John on the path, they pointed the phalarope out of over the bund and I headed to the hide for better views. It was waltzing about on the pool to the right of the little hide when I got there, picking invertebrates of the surface of the water. I hate a 'tick and run' but I didn't have much time to stay and watch it for long but I did manage a snip of phone-scoped video as a record.



The phalarope was found by Janet Dean so well done to her. 

2017 has been an incredible year for new birds on the patch, the phalarope being the seventh addition to the patch list and the third in four days. 

2017 so far...







The phalarope brings the patch list up to 247 - if we have a good tail-end to the autumn 250 this year could be feasible...


Sunday, 8 October 2017

A bit about ringing

You wait for ages for a blog post and two come along together ( or maybe not...)

The ups and downs of ringing...

A week past Tuesday, it was late September,  the wind was out of the east, but light and there was fog on the coast, should've been great condition for ringing birds so I took the day off and I ringed 15 birds all morning.

It's been either windy or wet ever since and the wind has been constantly out of the west. Not one to be deterred, the forecast for today predicted light westerlies, so we decided to ring. We weren't going to be inundated with birds so we put six nets up. Janet and I were joined by one of Phil Hanmer's trainees, Sasha. Skeins of barnacle geese flew overhead at first light as the nets went up and about 2000 pink-footed geese lifted off the Budge fields.

Catching was steady, with robins, wrens and blackbirds early on and a female bullfinch and a couple of tree sparrows, which are always nice to catch.

Tree sparrow
Reports came in of yellow-browed warblers elsewhere on the coast and on the next net-round we caught one. We caught another soon after which came in with a flock of twelve long-tailed tits. I think these birds may have just arrived on the coast.

One of today's two Yellow-browed warblers
Yellow-browed warblers are now more common on the patch than both pied and spotted flycatchers, garden warblers, redstarts and even lesser whitethroats.

Tom Cadwallender arrived and we chatted, I was going to pack up the nets then, but he came with me to check them so I decided to wait until next time around - I'm pleased I did.

Tom went and I started to take down the nets, there were a few birds in the second net including a warbler, which, to be honest, at first had me flummoxed - I thought I knew it what it was, but the bubblegum pink legs had me confused. I phoned Tom, who was still on site and took it back to the car.

Tom and I quickly agreed the ID of the warbler and Janet (who had gone to ride the horse) was summoned. We'd caught a Cetti's Warbler! (I'd never taken much notice of their legs before)

Cetti's warbler
Cetti's warbler is a recent colonist to the UK (first breeding in 1973 - the year I was born!), it's range is expanding northwards but is still a very rare bird in the north and even more so in Northumberland with only a handful of records.

I've put my neck on the line and said that Cetti's will be breeding at Druridge within five years - even more reason to keep on top of our coppicing efforts as they like a scrubby habitat. Not that we should need a reason as we know it benefits breeding warblers and other songbirds.

Blackbird's nest in coppiced alder stool
We ringed 69 new birds today.

Cetti's warbler is my 246th species for the patch and my sixth new species for the year and my second new species of the weekend. Happy days.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

A great morning's birding

More apologies for the lack of activity on the blog, but I have been down to Tarifa for the Raptor Migration, that's my excuse.

I arrived on the patch this morning with the intention of walking the whole place, not expecting to see much after a run of westerlies. I parked at the entrance and  had a quick look in the plantation which was quiet - a few crests. Then I went back to the bushes by the entrance, the elders there are hanging with elderberries and I fancied that they might pull something in.

A few blackbirds, songers and robins and then I got onto a sylvia warbler, well, bits of one as moved low through the elder - I was 'lumbering' about and I fancied it was barred warbler but I needed better views.... Then a message came through about a white-billed diver passed Whitburn and a unidentified diver passed Newbiggin.

I legged it up to the dunes, as I clambered onto the dune ridge a bird flew of the wrack on the beach, calling - snow bunting,  a male, flew straight over my head - nice.

Three red-throats came through together, then a minute or two later a larger diver. It was a canny way out and silhouetted against the rising sun -  I had no chance. Shape-wise it was either a great-northern or a white-billed - I couldn't do any better with those views so back to the elder bush.

I got quickly on to the warbler, it was plucking elderberries from the front edge of the bush- a juvenile barred warbler. Typically bulky with well-marked 'panels' in the flight feathers, darker undertail and greyish upper and with that typical pose with it's tail held high. My first patch barred warbler since 2010 when I had two in the same autumn. 

As I was watching it, a bird heading toward me from the north caught my eye. It was big and had an undulating flight, closing it's wings between flaps...woodpecker...but not a great-spot. It flew between me and the bushes I had been watching,  GREEN WOODPECKER! It flew on towards the plantation and swerved into the trees, showing the lovely lemon-yellow rump as it went. I followed it in there but I couldn't find it again. A full-fat patch tick.

Martin Kitching had mentioned that he had seen a green woodpecker at Druridge earlier in the week, so surely the same bird? It makes up for missing the one that was on the feeders at the cottages a few years ago.

The barred was still there when I returned, I went to the car to grab the camera. As always happens with my camera, it disappeared for ages, before showing very briefly a couple of times, deeper in the bushes (a few folk had turned up by this point). I'd seen another sylvia warbler, whilst I was watching the barred which turned out to be a garden warbler, an increasingly scarce species at Druridge and my first on the patch since 2013. Jonathon Farooqi got a couple of shots of the barred warbler. 

Since I got back from Spain the other highlight was a yellow-browed warbler on Saturday and Monday behind the Budge screen.

Green Woodpecker is my 245th species for the patch and my fifth new species this year.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Scarce grebes

It's been a weekend of scarce grebes on the patch.

On Friday a juvenile red-necked grebe was reported on the sea to the south of Chibburn Links. I headed down there in my lunch break and picked up the grebe with a raft of scoter about half way between the Dunbar burn and Chibburn mouth. Red-necked grebes have always been scarce on the patch, my last was in January/February 2014 but most records on the patch have come from September and October. The species was more regular in the early 2000's, I saw them every year from 2002-2006.

Today a report came of a black-necked grebe on Druridge Pool, I trapped in the office so had to head down there when I got home, which I did. Colin and Jimmy were in the hide when I got there and were watching the bird and got me onto it. Another juvenile, it was hanging around with a group of tufties and coot on the edge before making it's way towards the floating island.

Incredibly, this is my first patch black-neck since 2005, when there was juvenile on the pool (there was also a red-necked grebe on the sea that day).  I'd only seen two before that, A juvenile for a couple of days in August 2002 and an adult int he May of the same year.

This makes black -necked grebes scarcer than long-tailed skuas, spotted crakes, sabine's gulls and red-breasted flycatchers on the patch!

I've not see much else on the patch at the weekend, I was too busy buffing my marrow for the village show...

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Hard to spot crake



In case you missed it, it's been Birdfair weekend down at Rutland Water. I'm normally there with my work, in fact I haven't missed a Birdfair since 1999... until this year that is. It was becoming like groundhog day, same people,  same places, same conversations... So I took a year off.

Quite often, when I've been down at the fair, there's been a fall of birds on the east coast, so it is about right that the year I don't go we have wall-to-wall strong south-westerlies. It wasn't all bad though, I took Friday off work and we were lounging about at home when a message came through that ADMc was watching a spotted crake in front of the little hide at Druridge. I was quickly on the scene and saw the bird for all five seconds through my bins before it darted left into thick grasses and wasn't seen again until much later that evening, by which time i was in the pub. Piss-poor views but enough to year-tick it.

Luckily it was picked up again this afternoon by Hector and I had much better views, brief as they were though as it crossed open ground between the clumps of soft rush.

This is my third 'patch' spotted crake. My first was in September 2002 which was found by Steve Taylor on the edge of the big pool. My second was found, but not identified, by a photographer who has snapped it on the old boardwalk in April 2013, it hung around for a week or so.

Offshore this afternoon there were 10+ red-throated divers, many still with red-throats, three arctic skuas but little else of note.

These butterflies were on the path...

Wall on knapweed

Peacock on teasel
We did some nocturnal ringing last Saturday for storm petrels. We caught one at 11.25pm - our earliest ever catch so we hoped for great things but it wasn't to be, it was another two and a half hours before we caught the second and final bird of the night. A few folk came down for a look, so it was nice to share these amazing little birds with them. Thanks to Cain Scrimgeour for this photo - if I had known I was in the shot, I might have smiled :-)

Storm petrel (Photo: Cain Scrimgeour)

Friday, 11 August 2017

White-rumped Sandpiper new for the patch

Well, 2017 has proved to be a great year for new birds on the patch, with three patch-ticks already this year and white-rumped sandpiper added to my patch list this evening making it four.

White-rumped sandpiper isn't new for the patch however, before my time, back in 1981 a white-rumper was found at Hauxley on 12th September which then relocated to Druridge Pool on 19th. It was only the third county record at the time. Any local birders remember this?

Today's bird was found on the Budge fields this morning by Dave Elliott seemingly who put it out on Twitter, but as he's blocked me I didn't see the tweet. It's the same bird first found at St. Mary's Island which then relocated to Cresswell Pond/beach earlier this week.

I was in my office by the time I heard about it and as no more news came out I didn't go and look for it. I was in the supermarket when I got a message from Jonathon Farooqi to say he was watching it from the Budge screen. Shopping was quickly done but I was held up by the damn self-service isle which wouldn't recognise the weight of my items, the woman who had to reset the machine was being particularly tardy which didn't help.

Shopping dumped at home, I headed for the patch and the Budge screen. It was empty, so I started scanning through the waders. It was all very frustrating with small groups of dunlin spread out, mostly hidden by the juncus. I couldn't find the bird amongst them and was getting worried, the light was awful which didn't help.

Something disturbed the waders and they all got up and resettled and I was joined by some other birders. Eventually I picked out a paler, greyer bird amongst the dunlin, it was asleep and partially obscured. I stuck with it and eventually got better views - it showed a broad off-white supercillium and the upper-parts were greyer than the juvenile dunlins it was with, but it was still head on. I was convinced I had the bird and then it wandered behind the juncus...

When the birds took flight again, we picked up a white-rump in the flock and were able to watch it back. It landed and gave us much better views, it was preening and showed the white rumped when it turned and spread it's tail. We watched it for another half hour or more in better light.

White-rumped sandpiper takes my patch list to 244.

Also on the fields tonight were 60-70 dunlin, 60+ black-tailed godwit, 2 ruff, juvenile spotted redshank and 30+ snipe.