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Druridge Diary

A diary of wildlife sightings and other goings on from Druridge Pools and Links

Updated: 2018-01-15T16:32:34.572+00:00




The weather forecast today was for strong northerlies, become lighter as the day went on - which meant it could be good for seawatching. The wind was out of the west until the early hours of the morning so I figured later in the day would be good for a seawatch - I was wrong.Before I got down to the patch, I had to go to Cresswell for a meeting for my second job, as I was getting ready to leave, a message arrived saying that a white-billed diver had been tracked up the coast and had just gone north at Seaton Sluice. I made quick progress to Cresswell Ices car park, as it was reported at Newbiggin, and set up my scope, no news came from Snab Point... and then I got onto a large diver heading towards to me, it was headed my way until I lost it in the breakers and it didn't re-appear, had it landed? I scanned but couldn't find it then a second diver appeared, this one was closer, just beyond the breakers. It was tricky to do much with until it got level with me and I got great views of it, the very pale, upturned bill was obvious in the sunshine. It passed by all too quickly. I presume the first bird that ditched onto the sea was great northern diver, but I never re-found it.If I hadn't been going to a meeting, I probably could have had it on the patch but it would've been tight and given that this was a new bird for the world for me, I probably did the right thing.I eventually made it down to the patch for a seawatch just after 2pm and was in my seat by ten-past.seawatching seatThe first bird I saw was a drake scaup headed north but it seemed to be very quiet with hardly any birds moving other than gulls. There certainly wasn't the variety that other seawatchers had enjoyed in the morning, with no skuas or shearwaters recorded. The highlights were four long-tailed ducks, which included a stunning drake that landed on the sea in front of me, a single little auk, which was put nicely into perspective when two guillemots motored north, dwarfing it as they passed it and two groups of whooper swans. other ducks included common scoter, wigeon, eider and 39 goldeneye. A flock of at least 50 twite flew north along the dune front.The seawatching wasn't frenetic but the light was nice - here area few iphone shots. By 4pm the light was starting to go but I persevered until ten-past to get the two hours in.Another busy day on Druridge Bay Looking southLooking northMy viewSunsetSeawatching totals 14:10 - 16:10 (excluding gulls) - all northScaup 1MGoldeneye 39Long-tailed duck 4Gannet 5Guillemot  7Razorbill 1Eider 10Wigeon 7Red-throated Diver 8Common Scoter 4RB Merganser 2Whooper Swan 21 (eight and 13)Little auk 1Shag 1Twite 50+Pied Wagtail 2Snow bunting 1 (heard only)Sanderling 14 (on the beach)[...]



I thought about calling in to the patch this morning on my way to work, but I decided against it and went straight to the office. I'm at my desk and check my phone to find a message 'Bee-eater, Druridge Pools, 0820-0920 per RBA'Bugger, I thought, if only I'd gone...Then another message 'Bee-eater still at Druridge'Bugger it! I've got plenty of flexi-time in the bank and I've got evening meetings until 8.30pm, my seat was still spinning as I headed down the stairs. Despite being held up by old duffers doing 30mph I got to Druridge in good time, but had just missed a fly-by by a few minutes...Would that be it?A good crowd was gathered on the path to the hides where the bird was last seen - the tension was unbelievable! Then ADMc appeared with news that the bird was heading our way. Peering over the top of the bund, distant views were had of a bee-eater hawking over the fields beyond the big pool, until it disappeared towards the bushes by the turning circle. Alan Jack and I decided to head that way and this is what greeted us in the single ash tree by the turning circle...a bloody bee-eaterIt was like being back in Spain! A good crowd had gathered to watch it, it sat for ages in the top of the ash tree before flying off and hawking for insects over the dunes, picking prey off the tops of bushes before landing out of site and I had to reluctantly leave it and head back to work.  It is a juvenile, told from the pale colour of the mantle and the amount of chestnut brown in the wing being limited.Surely this is one of the 'Chevington two' from the weekend?heavily cropped shot What an amazing bird, a first for the patch and a first for me in Northumberland. I've seen the breeding birds in the UK and thousands in Europe, I've even ringed them in Malta, but this is still probably the best bird I've seen on the patch.And what an amazing year I'm having on the patch. With no more effort than usual, I've seen eight new species this year already - it is tricky to see two or three new species a year usually.European Bee-eater takes my patch list to 248 species.[...]

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.ChiffchaffWe 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 bullfinchThis shieldbug was on the grass by our car, I think it is Red-legged Shieldbug Pentatoma rufipesRed-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 warblerBTO 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.[...]

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.

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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...

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 sparrowReports 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 warblersYellow-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 warblerCetti'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 stoolWe 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.[...]

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.

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...

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 knapweedPeacock on teaselWe 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)[...]

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.

Waders and warblers


It's been a bit quiet at Druridge so I've not had much to write about. We spent a long weekend in late July in Cambridgeshire exploring the fens, looking for dragonflies and butterflies.Waders have been a bit of a highlight this week with wood sandpipers, green sandpipers and a nice juvenile spotted redshank on the Budge fields along with plenty of snipe, dunlin and redshank. They can be very frustrating to see because of the rush cover. The birds were still present this morning with at least two of each of green and wood sands.I didn't have the big lens with me so here is a dodgy-phone-scoped pic of the spotshankDodgy phone-scoped shot of the juvvy spotted redshankWe put some nets up this morning for a ringing session. We had a steady morning catching 30 birds in only three nets. Warblers formed the majority of the catch, with 18 of the 30 being willow warblers and all but four of these were juveniles.We caught two scarcities for the patch - a lesser whitethroat which is barely an annual here and even more rare - a treecreeper! Only our fourth for the site, the last being in 2012 and previously in 2011 and 2008.TreecreeperLesser WhitethroatAs neither of these species breed at Druridge, it is nice evidence that local breeders are on the move already - post juvenile dispersal.Lastly, some sad news. In my last post I mentioned checking the egret nests. Well, there were three occupied nests and a fourth that was a probable. Sadly none of the chicks fledged, probably victims of the heavy deluges of rain we had whilst hey were still in the nests. The nests aren't substantial and are open to the sky, so the prolonged and heavy rain we had probably did for them.[...]

A bit of ringing


Well, the bloody weather forecasters got it wrong again.With thoughts of ringing this weekend, I've been checking out the forecast for this weekend since Thursday and it was constantly changing. By Friday night it looked like Saturday would be the better morning for ringing, dull with light westerlies, so I left home at 5am to set some nets up. When I pulled out of our street the wind turbines on the horizon were moving too quickly for my liking and it was glorious sunshine.And so it was... bright and breezy with the wind out of the west. The worst conditions to ring at Druridge. I persevered, but gave up by 9am having only caught 6 birds.Today was supposed to be bright and breezy again, but the wind was to be stronger and move more southerly. I didn't wake up until 7.30am (it had been a late night) and looked out of the window - still calm and overcast... I was at Druridge and nets up by 8am.Despite the late start, I caught 20+ birds, mostly juvenile warblers.There were two highlights. The first was catching a whitethroat that we first caught in July 2014 as an adult female - so the bird was at least five years old. Not a record by any means - the BTO record longevity record is seven years and nine months, but it does man that this little bird, weighing only 13 grams had crossed the Sarah desert at least eight times.Five year-old whitethroatThe second highlight was controlling ( this means catching a bird that has been ringed elsewhere) a reed warbler. We will have to wait to hear from BTO exactly where it was ringed. Reed warblers are a bit of a success story at Druridge. They started breeding in the little Phragmites reedbed in the south-east corner of the big pool about six years ago with one pair, before that they were a passage migrant.This year we have already ringed six breeding males and three females and today, our first juvenile of the year.Controlled reed warblerOn Friday I popped down to the patch after work. Terns were feeding close into the shore including a handful of roseate terns, I even managed a photo of one of them.Sandwich ternSandwich ternRoseate ternOffshore, a good flock of common scoter has built up in the bay, numbering up to a thousand. They were dispersed into several smaller groups on Friday, here are some of them...Some of the 1000 common scoter in the bay at the momentOn the Budge fields there were two wood sandpipers, a little ringed plover and 15 black-tailed godwits. These waders were joined by a whooper swan on Saturday that has been knocking about on the bay. A water rail was calling from the corner of the big pool this morning and a few whimbrels were in the silage fields with the curlewsIan Fisher and I have been checking the egrets and herons in the shelterbelt this year, we did our final check tonight but I'll write about the outcomes next time.[...]

Patch Tick - White-winged Black Tern


A belated post about a patch tick.

A dead computer means I haven't been able to post about the latest addition to my patch list - white-winged black tern.

Saturday gone was a long day...

We were down at Druridge shortly after 5am for a ringing session - our first of the year. We had a good morning catching over 30 birds, mainly resident warblers and remarkably five reed warblers, all by the little the reedbed in the SE corner of the big pool. Reed warbler is recent colonist to Druridge Pools and seem to be doing very well, as they are at other wetland habitats in the county. A green sandpiper flew over the site first thing with swifts !

After packing up the ringing site and checking the heronry with Ian Fisher, I thought a quick check of the sea might be in order as others had reported skua activity. The light was awful and just as I was about to leave, a message about a white-winged black tern at Chevington came through.... Interesting.

I hung around, scanning inland when Twitter said it was at Druridge Pools. But where? Big pool or Budge fields?

I sprinted to the top of the big dune, my heart was pounding when I got there, figuring I could see the while patch from there. I was right and picked up the bird feeding over the Budge fields. And what a stunner it was - an adult white-winger in breeding plumage.

It flitted back and forth between the Budge fields and the big pool for an hour or more. Sadly no photos for me as my camera was in the car but others did well.

A bonus came on Sunday when I was scanning the sea and a message came through from Martin Kerby who was watching a pectoral sandpiper from the Budge screen. I was soon in the hide and watching the bird, albeit occasionally, as it moved through the emergent vegetation and stands of rush.

White-winged black tern takes my Druridge Pools list to 243, creeping ever-so-slowly towards that big 250!

It's been a while


It's been a while since my last blog post. My excuse for this tardiness was a two-week trip to Finland and Norway and an ailing computer that now struggles with big RAW files.I'll hopefully have some Finland and Norway photos processed soon and up on Flickr. But here is a video of me enjoying my 'summer holiday'. allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='' class='b-hbp-video b-uploaded' FRAMEBORDER='0' />Summer in VarangerI've managed a few visits to the patch since I got back, but have been busy catching up with work, the garden and chores. A combination of the above and changeable weather has meant no ringing yet.On 18th June There were 18 black-tailed godwit on the Budge fields - having been away, I was trying to work out whether these were late birds headed north, early returning birds or loafing non-breeders - I suspect the latter.Barn owls from nearby farms are being seen regularly, hunting in the dunes and grass fields and attracting their share of photographers. A cuckoo in the dunes has also attracted attention.Offshore, there have been some good rafts of scoter, but these have often been distant. A few manx shearwaters have been noted passing-by.NWT have been busy getting their new Hauxley Discovery centre ready to open (well worth a visit just for the building) so I helped them out by strimming in front of the hides. It was a very warm evening and I sweated buckets! Hopefully the photographers will appreciate it, I know that the resident swallows will.StrimmingOn 20th June there were two avocets on the Budge fields - still an uncommon visitor to Druridge Pools despite their increasingly colonisation of South East Northumberland.On 22nd whilst checking the heronry, a male marsh harrier passed through - my first on the patch this year. A pair of curlews had a chick or chicks in the silage field. I knew it was going to be cut, so alerted the farm who looked out for them.This weekend, I saw my first patch roseate terns of the year, with at least two feeding offshore on Saturday, a few manx went through too.An early morning visit on Sunday was nice, through cold and blustery -  we've had our summer I think. I was kitted out in a jumper and fleece jacket (and was still cold). I wandered up onto the dunes for a look on the sea and there, strolling, nay marching, along the beach, was a bloke who was completely starkers. A braver man than me.There were at least 200 swift feeding behind the bushes, taking advantage of the shelter they afforded from the strong wind.On the Budge fields, it felt autumnal with little-ringed plover and wood sandpiper. Three spoonbills were also on the fields - doing what spoonbills do best, sleeping.Sleeping Spoonbills allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560"> The warmer weather of last week had obviously brought a few butterflies out - there were lots of ringlets, red admirals, speckled woods, large skippers and meadow browns in the shelter of the bushes. There were also common blue and blue-tailed damselflies on the wing.Speckled WoodRingletLarge skipperRed AdmiralCommon blue damselflyBlue-tailed damselflyTwo collared doves headed north were a year tick.In the evening, the LRP and wood sand were still on the Budge along with 18 black-tailed godwits and there were now at least 300 swifts feeding in the lea of the bushes.[...]

Not seeing red...again


You may remember this post from April? It was about me not seeing a red-rumped swallow and red kite on the patch because I was at work.Well, it happened again yesterday. Stuck at work in a meeting when news comes through of another red-rumped swallow at Druridge and then it gets worse... there were two! Worse still, straight after my meeting I have to go to an evening event in Bamburgh and don't get home until after dark. So no chance!Meanwhile, lots of birders are enjoying crippling views of the birds over the path to the Oddie hide and getting some great photos to boot.Oh well...I have had some luck this week, I caught up with a few good birds on the patch. On 8th I managed to see jack snipe and a channel wagtail from the little hide at the same time. The jack snipe was just in front of the hide and I managed to get this nice video of it bobbing along. allowfullscreen="" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="" frameborder="0" height="266" src="" width="320">The Channel wagtail was close enough for a photo too. This was my second 'Channel' wagtail at Druridge, the previous one was on 18th May 2010 which you can see here. There were also six yellow wags and five ruff.'Channel' wagtailOn 9th, two little ringed plover were with a group of dunlin and ringed plover and there was a velvet scoter offshore.On Friday, I was working at home when a message came through about a citrine wagtail just down the road at Lynemouth flash - I could be there in five minutes. So a midday lunch break was taken and I was soon enjoying close views of a stunning citrine wagtail. Only my second ever in Northumberland and the best I've seen away from the breeding areas in Poland.Citrine wagtail off-patch at Lynemouth flashWe popped into Druridge on our way home where there were two avocet and a drake garganey on the Budge fields.On Saturday the drake garganey was still present with a wood sandpiper. Reed warblers were back in the little reed bed and a long-eared owl flew across the Budge fields. Offshore, I saw my first puffins of 2017.Sunday was WeBS day - the wood sandpiper was still there with two black-tailed godwit and a nice male ruff.Drake gadwallCootOn Sunday evening it was obvious that Cresswell barn owl botherers had decamped to Druridge in hope of long-eared owl photos - there wasn't a sole at Cresswell. It was nice to bump into Cain and Heather.'Toggers'Tonight, there were plenty of swifts and hirundines but no red-rumped swallows. There is a lapwing on eggs on the budge fields, she got disturbed by the arrival of a heron and I managed to get this video of her returning to her nest. allowfullscreen="" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="" frameborder="0" height="266" src="" width="320">The year list now stands at 132 - still missing collared dove though.[...]

Mayday Mayday


Life has been pretty hectic lately, so much so I haven't been able to update my blog. Since the last post I finally caught up with a patch RING OUZEL on Saturday . The bird had been reported two days earlier by a visiting birder in the dunes to the north , I had two brief chances to look for it on the Thursday but couldn't find it. After another couple of hours on the Friday I finally found it in what remains of the Druridge bushes (the cows have hammered them lately). No photos unfortunately as it was a skulker.On 10th April a spoonbill arrived and was joined later by a second bird.Since then I have been visiting the patch whenever I get a second. As I was away to Jersey for a long weekend last week, Saturday brought a flurry of year ticks. First off was this reeling grasshopper warbler - so much for being a skulking species, this one hadn't read the rulebook, it's been singing from this fence for three days! allowfullscreen="" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="" frameborder="0" height="266" src="" width="320">It was amazing to watch at close hand, it's entire body vibrating when it was reeling.Next up was a drake green-winged teal on the Budge fields. This bird had been around for a day or two, so it was nice to catch up with it - mind it took some finding! Other highlights on the Budge fields were three to four ruff, an amazing 28 whimbrel - which flew off when the cows arrived, a stunning brick-red bar-tailed godwit and a few blackwits. Also new for the year was sedge warbler, little owl and common tern.Little OwlOn Sunday I had a quick around through the dunes to the north looking for migrants - it was very windy but a count of 15-20 wheatear in the grazed dunes was impressive.One of the wheatears This poor hedgehog must have investigated the pipe socket that is by the turning circle and drowned itself or decided it couldn't face a bank holiday weekend at Druridge and did itself in.Suicide?Today the wind was a bit lighter but still out of the east making it feel cold. I headed for the Budge screen and bumped into Peter Williams of Patchwork Challenge fame. Peter picked out the wood sandpiper that arrived yesterday. Also of note were at least five ruff, two of which were starting to look a bit dapper, a handful of blackwit and a single dunlin. No sign of the green-winger.I mentioned cows earlier - four have arrived on the Budge fields and the timing couldn't be better for the breeding and passage waders so 'Well done' to NWT. (seemingly, according to the local farmer they had been released last week but had escaped - anyway it is good to see them.One of the 'Druridge four'I've got another couple of busy weeks ahead of me but hopefully I'll find time for a visit to the patch.[...]

Not seeing red


Whilst I was trundling up the A1 on the way to work on Monday spoonbill watchers at Druridge reported not one, but two species that would've been full patch ticks for me.

Firstly Alan Curry had a red kite flying through - A species that I have been predicting as my next patch tick for ages and still am - see left hand column of this blog.

Secondly a red-rumped swallow  - tracked down from East Chevington and seen by several birders seemingly.

Red kite has been recorded on the patch before (28th March 2016) but as far as I am aware red-rumped swallow is a new bird for the Druridge patch - taking the overall patch list to 264 species.

(not so common) Crane - Patch tick


I popped down to the patch this evening after a full day on the allotment and thought I would try a bit of viz-migging for an hour. Common crane and spoonbill had been fly-overs further north or I might even fluke something rarer like an Alpine swift.

What was obvious was a big influx of hirundines, adding my first swallow of the year to my year list. Not seeing much else and thinking of packing up when I was approached by a birder called Graham who said he had been watching a common crane from the Budge screen. We both hurried back there but couldn't see it, despite scanning the fields several times. A blackcap was singing behind the hide which was new for the year.

Graham headed off north and I decided to scan the surrounding fields from the top of the big dune. I re-scanned the Budge fields first - and there it was, a common crane standing in the middle of the field. A full patch tick!

It must've been behind some of the taller rushes when we checked from the hide.

I've dipped two cranes before that have been reported as fly throughs from nearby so it was nice to finally nail one. A handful of birders came for a look whilst I was there, including Hector who managed to pick me out a red-legged partridge perched on a fence by the cottages. A brucey-bonus indeed! Red-legs are very scarce on the patch and this was my first since 2014 - they are a species I usually associate with harsher weather.

The great white egret appears to have gone.

The crane takes the patch list to 241 species. Hopefully it's not the last addition of the year.

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 feedersVisiting 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 diver[...]

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 fieldsThere 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 lapwingsBlack-tailed godwitThe same bird - feedingOffshore 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[...]

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.

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 seedsAlso 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 dayI am doing the Patchwork Challenge again this year - they have a new fancy-dan website, check it out  - 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...[...]

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.RobinThe 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 fieldsA 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 puddlesOne of the chaffinchesIn 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.[...]

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.SanderlingSanderlings in flight colour-ringed and tagged turnstoneTurnstone in flight Feeding wadersSo, 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.[...]

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 CourserIt 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 crowI 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 FieldsThere 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.RobinToday, 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?[...]

Easterlies that did not deliver


After the excitement of the last couple of weeks on the back of a run of easterly winds, the forecast of more easterlies for this weekend got me going again, I was even contemplating an emergency flexi-day from work. It was too windy to ring so I made do with a later start and a wander through the bushes.

It soon became apparent that it was all very quiet, nothing at all in the plantation, a few robins, tits and crest in the entrance willows and other than the area by the feeders, nothing behind the Budge screen - same further north - bar a couple of great-spotted woodpeckers. There had obviously been no arrival of birds.

Grey-looking robin
A great white egret was on the Budge fields when I checked from the screen-hide. A bonus of three finders points for the PWC.

Dejected, I headed home.

Golden plovers funneling back to the ground
Some of the golden plover flock
On the way north later in the day, Janet and I stopped to see a flock of about 1800 golden plover in ploughed field opposite High Chibburn. I returned later in the day to have a scan through them as there had recently been an American golden plover at Low Newton. The light was fading fast and the birds were restless, nothing stood out as being unusual in any way. By 1740 the light had gone and so had my eyes.

I hope that I don't regret not taking that that flexi-leave day tomorrow...