Monday, 20 March 2017

First spring arrivals

Last weekend brought the first proper spring arrival to the patch - lesser black-backed gull, this was followed by a chiffchaff singing in the bushes by the entrance yesterday. A meadow pipit displaying on the dunes was my first of the year! A good walk around the patch failed to produce any more migrants.
Tree sparrow - still good numbers coming to the feeders
Visiting birders reported a common sandpiper on the Budge fields. As I was out for a good walk, I had no scope with me and failed to find it. The Budge is looking good mind and as it starts to dry out will look even better - as long as the cows arrives in good time.

I counted at least 24 black-tailed godwit and there were still plenty of curlew, snipe and redshank with plenty of lapwing display going on too.

This grey heron was finding food in the ditch.





On the big pool, there were still two great-crested grebes and a couple of goldeneye. In the field to the north there were 31 whooper swans - there has been a huge movement of whoopers through the county this week as they head north to the breeding grounds.

In the dunes to the north, a mixed flock of finches held at least six twite - they were looking good as they get into breeding nick.

I walked back to the car along the beach, hoping for a snow bunting. Despite big numbers of dog walkers, I have found snow bunts to be quite tolerant of people - there wasn't any sign today - probably all at Chevington eating the seed put down for the shorelarks.

A harbour porpoise was breaching just beyond the breakers and this red-throated diver was close in.

red-throated diver

Sunday, 5 February 2017

February - the longest month?

Yes, I know that if you count the number of days, February is the shortest month. But for the patch watcher it always feels like a long month - the long wait for spring. A new year and a new year list makes January quite exciting, by the time February comes along you've seen most of the birds that you're going to see until the first spring migrants turn up at the end of March.

I saw three new species of the year on a brief visit to Druridge this afternoon - little egret on the Budge fields and a buzzard over the haul road were new. Fulmar was the other addition, flying south offshore. A January Fulmar is rare at Druridge,  I always think of them as a February bird, a bit like gannets.
Little egret feeding on the Budge fields
There were at least five black-tailed godwits on the Budge fields and alongside the little egret a drake pintail was nice. I couldn't find the earlier-reported knot but the light was against me. Two lapwings were having a right barney so spring might already be in the air.

territorial lapwings
Black-tailed godwit
The same bird - feeding
Offshore the tide was well out and the birds distant. A scrambler bike on the beach did for any shore bird interest.

Two white-fronted geese flying over - from last weekend

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Travelling tree sparrow and moving geese

We had news of an interesting ringing recovery from the BTO this week.

Back in late October, just before I headed off to Fuerteventura, I caught a tree sparrow by the feeders near to the Budge hide. It had a ring on it which wasn't on of ours - this interesting things about the ring that it was a 'B' ring. 'B' rings are only put onto tree sparrows when they are pullis, adult birds take an 'A' ring - which meant this bird had been ringed in the nestbox - and more likely a nest box.

I presumed that it would not have travelled too far and I was right. It was ringed back in June this year out of a box of five chicks at Whinney Hill, near Longhorsley, by my friend Phil.

An easterly movement of 16km, which isn't bad for a tree sparrow.

I've been off work but have only managed one more visit to the patch - on Friday 20th, household chores have prevented any more birding...

As i arrived on the patch I spotted a small flock of 250 or so Pink-footed geese in the field in front of Druridge Farm, so I had a scan through them and found a single 'tundra' bean goose (soon to be regarded as a species in its own right when the BOU move to the IOC list) in amongst them. No sooner had I found this bird when they all got up - a pheasant shoot was going on in the shelterbelt to the west. I watched the hunters for a while blamming (or trying to - the chap I was watching wasn't a great shot) the pheasants as they were kicked out of the wood by the beaters - hardly sport I thought to myself. There was a pheasant walking around behind him, he could of walked up and shot that, would have been as much sport!

So I never found out if there were any more beans in amongst them.

It was cold, grey and damp again - the type of cold that get's to your bones! There was still plenty of wildfowl and waders on the Budge fields, no sign of the recently report pintail or ruff but two black-tailed godwits were new-in. A nice female sparrowhawk was sat out on the side of the shelterbelt. There were a few pheasant on the Budge fields looking a bit lost - I wonder where they had come from?

In the field to the north of the big pool where the usual flock of canada geese, a quick scan with my bins found a Eurasian white-fronted goose and a handful of pinks in with them.

Interestingly on our way back from twitching the pacific diver at Chevington on Saturday, we spun by Druridge and neither the white-front or the pinks were with a depleted canada flock. There were 2500+ PFGs in the front field at Druridge Farm but we couldn't pick up a bean goose - just goes to show that these geese are moving around a lot.

Off shore on Friday, a single great-crested grebe was an interesting patch record - they are rare in winter here. Dave Elliott's huge flock of 2500+ wigeon were still off Chibburn mouth.







Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Grey days

Yesterday was supposed to be 'Blue Monday' - the gloomiest day of the year. Well, it was certainly gloomy when I arrived on the patch - overcast and misty with drizzly rain setting in. Today wasn't much better but it was my birthday and the day was brightened up with a little bit of sunshine...

On Sunday I did the WeBS count. Not a great variety species on the Budge fields, but plenty of what was there, particularly wigeon and teal with both species numbering over 400. I couldn't see the ruff that has been recently reported.

The big pool was very quiet, a couple of goldeneye and red-breasted mergansers and then I spotted why... two otters were swimming across the pool from east to west. It's ages since I last saw otter on the patch, probably over two years. These two looked the same size and the way that they were playing when they reached the west shore of the pool suggested they were siblings. This might also explain why coot and moorhen aren't on my year list yet.

Coot killers - record shot of the two otters making their way across the big pool.
On the path to the Oddie hide, one of last weeks bullfinches remained and a weasel legged it from one side to the other. 

female bullfinch feeding on dock seeds
Also of note were over 1000 golden plover on the field by the haul road, 30 sanderling, 18 turnstone and 12 ringed plover on the beach and 150 common scoter offshore.

Yesterday was very grey, Janet joined me for a walk through the patch and up to Chibburn mouth to look for the shorelarks as she hadn't seen them. They weren't to be seen (they were reported today) so we walked back along the beach in the mizzle. 

Today was my birthday. I headed out for walk to Chibburn Preceptory and back via High Chibburn and the cottages. The walk was largely uneventful. House sparrow and stock dove were added to the year list at the farm. The highlight came at the end of my walk, just by the cottages, when I found a little flock of yellowhammers with reed bunting in the isolated hawthorn on the roadside. 

Yellowhammer are a very scarce bird on the patch these days, in fact I only saw one in the whole of last year.
A little bit of sunshine to brighten up a grey day
I am doing the Patchwork Challenge again this year - they have a new fancy-dan website, check it out  - http://patchworkchallenge.com/ I am on 71 species and 78 points. 

I've got the rest of the week off work so might get out again between chores...










Sunday, 8 January 2017

New year, new list

Another new year, another year list begins on the patch. I sometimes wonder what is the point of a 'year list' - a date in the calendar by which the list is reset, it could be any date I suppose, but most people stick to the calendar year.

What having a year list does do is give the patch birder some motivation to get our onto the patch in those dark January days. It gives a bit of focus to patch-birding, something to aim for when you know you that you are likely to see one or two new species in a year - if you are lucky!

My 2017 year list got off to a slow start. A trip to Islay for Hogmanay meant it was Saturday 7th before I hit the patch. Islay was great trip, it is a great place with lots of interest for the visiting birder and of course it is famous for its whisky...

So Saturday morning it was and I didn't have much time so I concentrated on the bushes, pools and up onto the haul road - I usually like a walk to out the farm in early January but there wasn't time.

In the plantation I was surprised to see a small flock of goldcrests - I am seeing them more in the winter now, once-upon-a-time they were strictly an autumn species at Druridge. There were also blackbirds, song thrush and mistle thrush in the plantation.

Robin
The Budge fields still held plenty of wildfowl including two drake pintail, waders were limited to redshank, curlew and lapwing. A sparrowhawk was perched out on the edge of shelterbelt - my only raptor of the morning and five whooper swan flew south.


Plenty of wigeon on the Budge fields
A siskin was with goldfinches on the path to the Oddie hide and then,ahead of me on the path, I could hardly believe my eyes, three bullfinches! This species is now a patch mega, these were the first partch bullies I Have seen since November 2014.

Bullies!
Out on the haul road, a huge flock of goldfinches, maybe 250, were coming down to bathe in puddles on the road and in the ditch - with them were a few twite, linnet, reed buntings, dunnocks and chaffinches.

Goldfinches bathing in the puddles
One of the chaffinches
In the dunes, a covey of 12 grey partridges were put up by the only other birder I saw (it was birdrace day).

Offshore, the sea was flat calm. There were a couple of shag, ten red-breasted mergansers, a few common scoters and red-throated divers and most excitingly a slavonian grebe - a good January species.

My 2017 year-list now stands at 60 species - not a bad start. Exactly half of the winning tally in the county winter birdrace.

I am doing the Patchwork Challenge again this year and will update my totals as and when.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Off work but off patch

I've been off work since 23rd for the festivities, but have hardly managed any time on the patch. A walk on the beach in a howling gale on Christmas day and a quick look through the geese yesterday. The look through the geese brought what will be my last addition to the patch list before we head off for New Year - bean goose, my first on the patch since 2010.

I've spent my free time on a project to track turnstones, we have been colour-ringing and radio-tagging them. Working on the birds meant I had no time for photos, but Dave Elliott has some good shots on his blog.

Here are some photos I managed today from the catching site.

Sanderling

Sanderlings in flight 


colour-ringed and tagged turnstone

Turnstone in flight 
Feeding waders


So, my bean goose meant I finished the year on the 174 species for the patch two ahead of any previous year. Omissions from the year list include bullfinch (again), pomarine skua, little auk, grey plover, hobby (seen for last six years) and spoonbill (seen every year bar-one since 2006). I added two new species to the patch list - broad-billed sandpiper in May and Leach's petrel in July. The patch list now stands at 240.

I've been doing the Patchwork Challenge thing again this year - a bit of harmless fun. I am doing okay but can't compete with the Spurn/Easington boys. Here is the latest report from the Coastal North . I've already signed up for the 2017 competition.

It will probably be January 7th before I am back on the patch, so I will take this opportunity to wish you a happy, healthy and bird-filled new year.

Friday, 18 November 2016

It's a record breaker!

2016 has been a record-breaking year on the patch - I have seen more species on  the patch in 2016 than any previous year.

Sundays hen harrier - my first on the patch since before 2002, took this year's species tally to 172, beating the previous record of 171 set in 2013 and repeated in 2014.

I am not sure what has made this year so special as despite the very good autumn for passerines, I didn't see many unusual species for autumn - firecrest being an exception. It has been a good year for waders with broad-billed sandpiper new for the patch and good year birds like jack snipe and pectoral sandpiper - grey plover and Temminck's stint where the only real 'missers'.

I missed a few regulars though - spoonbill (recorded annually since 2010), pomarine skua (one miss since 2009), garden warbler and bullfinch. I suppose there is still time for a little auk, purple sand, long-tailed duck, rock pipit or even a white-winged duck to further boost the tally.

Last Sunday was my first day back on the patch after a nine-day trip to Fuerteventura. I was watching these on the saturday morning.

Cream-coloured Courser
It was really nice to see a hen harrier back on the patch. I was loathed to mention it's presence on here, but as they are all over social media there is nothing to lose. The photos show this to be a juvenile - the dark secondaries on the underwing being a tell-tale sign.

Juvenile hen harrier being mobbed by a crow



I did the WeBS count on Sunday too. There were a lot more wigeon and teal than when I left for Fuerteventura and the snipe numbers had increased to 18 (at least - although a passing hen harrier helps to get an accurate count). Three little egret and 18 black-tailed godwit gave the count a hint of summer. There were three nice red-breasted mergansers on five goldeneye on the big pool.

Good numbers of lapwing and duck on the Budge Fields
There has also been an obvious recent influx of blackbirds as there were many of them feeding up on hawthorn berries. Two greenfinches (a scarce species at Druridge) in the willows by the entrance were the first of the autumn and there were still plenty of robins about.

Robin
Today, a hen harrier passed through briefly and a female sparrowhawk was causing havoc on the Budge fields. I had a walk through the bushes, there were still plenty of blackbirds on the berries. This fella was watching me, watching him, through the fence.

The inquisitive Mr Fox 
At the top end, I inadvertently flushed a roosting long-eared owl. It flew from it's perch, straight at me - it's bright orange eyes looking straight at me, before it back-flipped and flew off north. I wonder if it is a recent arrival?