Wednesday, 18 October 2017

I don't Bee lieve it!

This morning I set off reasonably early with the intention of covering as much of my usual patch as possible.

Snab Point, Cresswell – The tide was receding. Apart from a large flock of Black-Headed Gulls arguing on the tides edge, it was rather quiet. Only a few Redshanks and no sight of the large number of Turnstones and the single Purple Sandpiper that entertained me on Saturday. Apart from a few gulls, the sea was also quiet, so I moved on.

Cresswell Pond – The water is very high and there is little prospect of the level falling until the sand bar on the beach outflow is cleared, so I decided to give the hide a miss. I parked by the roadside near the north extension, but there was nothing to see in the slowly improving light.

Druridge Pools – I went straight to the middle hide and joined an early riser, who informed me that the Phalarope had not been seen since Monday. After about half an hour of duck watching and hoping for a Phalarope return, a little before 08.22 to be precise, a bird flew in from the field to the west; darting and dashing as it approached – Bee-eater!! A first for my hide mate. If I had been asked to draw up a list of 100 birds I could have seen today, Bee-eater would not even have qualified for the ‘in your dreams’ end of the list.

Gradually others joined us in the hide and word soon spread. We saw the Bee-eater several times, until I moved on at 10.30. Just as I was about to leave, a female Marsh Harrier flew south, with a quick circuit of the west side of the budge field. It showed a distinctive point of brown intruding into its cream forehead, unlike the bird reported later in this blog.

Ducks on Budge Field included Teal, Mallard, Wigeon, Shoveller, Pochard, Tufties and Gadwall. There were at least three Black-tailed Godwits, at least twenty Curlews, a few Snipe, Coots and Moorhens and a single Heron. Two Little Egrets flew over.

During my two-and-a-half-hour stay, there were several flocks of Pink-feet, mainly flying south. One flock of about four hundred and the others were no more than fifty to a hundred in each. Probably around one thousand geese in all. A family group of Whoopers passed by heading north.

A quick visit to the large pond hide revealed a passing Sprawk, several Little Grebes and the same range of ducks as on Budge Field, plus Goldeneye.

Togston Beach – I hoped to see some tweets on the move, so chose to look at the bushes near the beach opposite Low Hauxley. No sign of any thrushes; plenty of Sea Buckthorn berries await their assault. It was very quiet for birds, probably something to do with someone hammering in the hide and a few passing dogs barking.

East Chevington – Scanning the north lake from Northumberland’s noisiest hide, I quickly found one male Pintail along with five females or juveniles. One Whooper only today. A lot of the usual ducks and at least ten Little Grebes were present. A good number of Great Black- backed Gulls, lots of Black-heads and Herring, plus a few Common Gulls.

Again, just as I was about to leave, a female Marsh Harrier, this one with cream forehead intact, spent twenty minutes quartering the reeds on both sides of the hide. I didn’t see it catch anything, but it did go to ground for around five minutes at one point.

Cresswell Pond (again) – On my return trip I checked again from the roadside and could see a female Long-tailed Duck. Other than that, the pond seemed quiet.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Red-Necked Phalarope

Today I joined the many taking advantage of the Phalarope's generosity in staying until the weekend. Poor light and distance meant only a record shot.

It was interesting to see the Phalarope following the Shovellers as they disturbed the mud and water with their dabbling. It was feeding at a rate of around one peck a second for a long time and it seemed to be catching a lot of food. Perhaps, if it thinks it's on to a good thing, it will stick around.

This was my third RNP. The first in non breeding plumage. The first two were a pair on a small temporary pond near Boat O Garten in 1981; the skid marks from my braking are probably still on the road.

Saturday, 18 March 2017


This morning I followed my usual route up the coast via Cresswell. I decided to call first at Druridge Bay Country Park and view East Chevington north pond from the hide where the Pacific Diver has been seen most recently. This was my first time in this hide which, although having a restricted view to the west, is well worth adding to my regular visit list.

On the way, a field between High Chibburn Farm and Widdrington held over four hundred Fieldfares and a few, possibly six, Redwings.

There was no sign of pacifica from the north hide at East Chevington, but there were plenty of other birds of interest.

There were four male and five female ducks showing strong Scaup characteristics. Given the poor light and that they were distant, I will leave other sage minds to decide whether they are or not. Having recently been looking at hybrid ducks, the mind boggles at the possible permutations for Scaup, Pochard, Tuftie. They looked convincing Scaup to me, especially when a more slightly built female Tuftie swam alongside.

A pair of Pheasants plundered the grain under the feeders, which attracted two Blue Tits, and singles of Goldfinch and Reed Bunting. Meanwhile, a Water Rail screeched occasionally from the dense reed.

Everywhere you looked there were Goldeneyes; a few displaying enthusiastically. There was a smattering of Tufties, Teals, Gadwalls and Mallards, a pair of Red Breasted Mergansers, quite a few Mute Swans and a few Coots. Little Grebes were more evident from their calls than from sightings.

A small bird attracted my attention. Dark cap, white cheeks, dark back and light sides; diving frequently. A lovely non-breeding plumage Slavonian Grebe.

There were at least four Chiffchaffs calling in the country park.

I returned to view Cresswell Pond from the roadside to the north. The eighteen Whooper Swans that arrived last week were still there. On the north pool, there were seventy-five Dunlins, four Avocets, one Ruff, four Ringed Plovers and around ten Redshanks. There was an occasional fly-by of four Turnstones and regular visits from very active and noisy Oystercatchers.

As I returned towards home, a flock of Whoopers flew north over the River Lyne, so I turned around in pursuit. As I hoped, they joined the others at Cresswell Pond and swelled the flock to thirty-nine.

The forecast was cloudy but fine at first, followed by rain. Got that back-to-front, didn’t they?

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Out for a lark

I finally managed to make time to see the Shore Larks at East Chevington today. Seed has been distributed near to the dunes and the Twites enjoyed the feast.

One day I will have my new(ish) lens and a sunny day with interesting birds. Today it was overcast, so it was ISO 1000 and 1200. I took a large number of poor record shots and a few of these are below.

There were the usual 7 Shore Larks. They were rather twitchy because of the number of dog walkers, but they came quite close twice in the hour that I watched.

Trying to count a Twite flock is a considerable challenge. You start at one end and half way through the ones you have counted fly to the end of those yet to be counted. I got to 103 today.

The Sanderlings, 23 in all, were mostly busy on the tideline, but occasionally joined the Twites.

A couple of Skylarks joined the throng and one had a brief song flight. 

Along the track several Robins and one Blackbird were singing.

There was not at lot out to sea; I saw one Red Throated Diver.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Would Gyr believe it?

This morning at around 11.00 am I came across, what I assume to be, an escaped Gyr Falcon in the field to the north of Lynemouth flash.

I got some very poor shots that I show below. The flight shots show what appears to be some sort of transmitter on its back.

Its behaviour was very odd. It was settled on the ground for some time, apparently 'playing' with either a clod of mud or a lump of dung. It picked it up and shook its foot, hurling the lump a few feet away, then sort of galloped after it and repeated the process. It looked as though it was either practicing playing with prey or, perhaps, repeating actions learned with a lure. I could not see any jesses. It flew north after I had been watching for about 20 minutes.

I met two guys at Druridge, one of whom has seen Gyrs in Greenland and suggested that falconers would not fit a transmitter and perhaps it is a genuine wild bird that is part of a nestling tagging experiment. I believe that they fit trackers at some of the bird of prey centres in this country.

Comments on this would be appreciated.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Catching up again.

Goodness me! It’s nearly three months since my last post!

A quick catch up starts with the garden. No sign of Siskins before the end of February, when a pair started to visit every day. Then, after a couple of weeks, we had only a male visiting; not a very strikingly marked bird, so I guess he may be in his first year. 

Over this last week we have had up to six Siskins. They have been displaying over the garden and the males have been trying to outdo one another in the singing and calling stakes. Lovely lively song, interspersed with a twanging zing (or should that be ting?). As has happened everywhere, Greenfinch numbers have crashed with only singles visiting occasionally.

Blackbirds hung around in number until the end of March, which gave much cause for scrapping between males. We now seem to be down to the local pair, who guard their feeding ground with a fair degree of ferocity.

My first summer migrants were picked up around Druridge a month ago: Sand Martins and Chiffchaffs. Two weeks ago I saw my first Wheatear near Lynemouth and on the same day Swallows were hawking over Druridge Pools. On that same day I visited East Chevington and had good views of two male Mergansers displaying for all they were worth to a single female who seemed totally unimpressed.

Today there are still three Whoopers in a field just north west of Cresswell Pond and amongst a flock of about twenty Turnstones, I also picked up three Purple Sandpipers at Snab Point, remarkably my first for this year. A single Sandwich Tern was hunting the bay.

This morning I viewed Cresswell Pond from the roadside near the north pool and could see eight Avocets. There seems to be a larger than usual number of Linnets around at the moment, they have probably benefited from the mild winter.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Out and about again.

Over the last two months we have been somewhat busy working around the installation of a new kitchen and have had little time excursions to the coast.

Last Wednesday my beloved and I had a post Drift Café lunch walk along the beach at Cresswell. There were around 600 Pink Feet in the field next to the café. Some birders had reported seeing Bean, White Fronted and Barnacle Geese with these birds, but we detected none. The beach was quiet for birds; quite a few people enjoying the reasonable weather.

I spent most of Saturday visiting both Cresswell Pond and Druridge Pools. Lots of birds at Cresswell, including the long staying Dowitcher, a Ruff, a Knot and two Barwits. Blackwits had been seen, but they evaded me.

Several of the folks that I met in the hide reported a movement of Pink Feet from the north and off the sea earlier in the day. A large flock two fields inland from the pond held at least 2000 birds. Again, I had a close look at the Pink Feet in the field near The Drift Café, but could see none of the reported White Fronts or Bean Geese.

From the Budge screen I looked in vain for the Water Pipit. There were a lot of Widgeons and Teals along with a splendid single Pintail. Shovellers were very actively chasing each other, but no signs yet of their wonderful nodding gudunk gudunk display. At both Cresswell and Druridge there were large numbers of Lapwings, which were regularly spooked by nothing at all and the sky was alive with their calls throughout the day.

From the centre hide I had good views of a female/juvenile Marsh Harrier that flew from south to north. I had a missing primary and another birder that I met had seen the same bird on previous occasions at both Druridge and Chevington.

On the main pool at Druridge it was good to see three pairs of Pochards along with at least twenty Tufties. There was one drake Merganser with two ducks at one end of the pond and at the other end a duck with two drakes.

I watched a Little Grebe that fed very close to the hide. It was catching Sticklebacks. One particularly large fish was not dispatched by the vigorous head shaking before being swallowed, so it stuck in the Grebe’s throat. The Grebe shook its head even more vigorously and ejected the fish, then caught it again, this time making sure it was fully stunned before being swallowed. It was catching at least three fish a minute.

Today I arrived at Cresswell around midday. No sign of any Pink Feet. The only sighting throughout the afternoon was a distant flock beyond Widdrington. I didn’t visit Cresswell Pond, but spent time in the windy Budge Screen. Still no luck with the Water Pipit. Still loads of ducks and Lapwings. This time a pair of Pintails were busily upending. A mystery raptor sat in one of the pines west of Budge Field. I suspect it was the female Merlin that has been around for a while; visibility by then was poor.
I saw two pairs of Stonechats at Druridge. One by the road east of the main pond and the other by the gate in the south west corner of Budge Field.

The feeders at Druridge are very active, with lots of Goldfinches joining the Tree Sparrows. A quick drive by of Widdrington Moor Lake provided a dozen Siskins in the roadside trees. Lots of gulls on the lake – Black Headed, Herring and a few Common, with two immature Great Black Backs. A large flock of Coots grazed on the far bank.

The sea at Snab Point was very quiet. The tide was well in and I am still missing Purple Sandpipers this winter.