Friday, 29 August 2014

Ringing, Patching and Local Lurkings

Well thats that, another month drawing to a close heralding the arrival of September. Perhaps the most longed for month in the birding calendar, certainly for a carless Northumberland lad like myself. Soon enough I should be able to immerse myself in a fall of Redstart's, Flycatchers and perhaps something rarer and with Druridge just down the road and a lot of time on my hands presently I really fancie my chances of reaching the 200 species mark in the coming weeks. You must remember that I've only attended two twitches and the majority of my birding is done within five miles of my house, so as such 200 is not a bad milestone. I do however promise to make more of an effort in 2015, especially if I can weasel my way into a trip or two alongside some other like minded members of NGB. So what have I been doing? Well it appears i may finally be on track to becoming a ringing trainee, just as soon as I'm able to head up North and meet with my potential trainer. I've been heading out and about with Iain recently and though I have more than a lot to learn (understatement of the year) feel I could in the future grasp the whole business. Elsewhere most of my time of late has been spent as usual patching and wandering a select few other local sites, excluding a failed attempt and seawatching I will discuss presently. 

First on the ringing front a couple of trips out with Iain have been most informative. if still a little daunting. I am however learning, all be it slowly. The last two sessions have turned up a good range of birds for me to observe with good numbers of residents such as Robin, Wren, and Blue Tit coupled with a healthy dose of passage species including Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff whereas singles of both Lesser Whitethroat and Wood Warbler came as a pleasant surprise. It may take the next ten years of my life but I am determined to persist with this and hopefully after I finally manage a trip up north will be able to register as an official trainee. How exciting! 

Wood Warbler
Lesser Whitethroat courtesy of IR.
Elsewhere a couple of jaunts up the coast have turned up a good range of birds though admittedly nothing of serious note. Druridge Pools has been a regular haunt of late (it's the nearest reserve and I'm lazy) and has held a good views waders. Best of these was a single Spotted Redshank which provided a somewhat overdue year tick though Ruff, Greenshank, Whimbrel, Curlew and Black-Tailed Godwit were equally impressive. Aside from the long-legged things the pools have been quit lately excluding the monstrous number of Mallards now residing on the larger pool. Tufted Duck, Teal, Mute Swan, Little Grebe and Snipe were as usual on show though perhaps the best sighting came in the form of stonking Yellow Wagtail that showed outside the hide for a good 20 minutes allowing for some vaguely acceptable photos to be captured. Away from the pools and Goldfinch numbers are clearly on the rise whereas both Linnet and Stonechat are showing well in the dunes. Moving on to Cresswell and I was pleased to see a few more birds on show! Among these a oddly showy Water Rail was a personal highlight though good numbers of waders made the visit worthwhile. Perhaps the best of these were 3 Avocet and a single Bar-Tailed Godwit (I believe my first record for the site!) whilst a good number of Lapwing, Redshank, Snipe, Dunlin and the odd Common Sandpiper also entertained. Couple these with nice views of Little Egret and the usual array of Coots, Moorhens and ducks and Cresswell made for a pleasant few hours. More so given the refreshing banter amongst birders in the hide. Too often lately I hear local birders moaning about how busy the area has become and how they "can't abide idol conversation" with others birders. To this I say one thing, get a grip! Surely more people enjoying the great natural sights of our region is a good thing? I for one appreciate a good chin wag whilst birding, especially during spells of complete nothingness. The antisocial stigma surrounding birders really annoys me, we're not all social recluses devoid of all conversational skills.. Okay rant over! 

An oddly showy Ruff at Druridge
A couple of days past I opted to try my hand at seawatching, first from the large dune at Druridge and second from Snab Point. At first I was extremely hopeful given the flurry of good birds observed passing the same day including Black Tern, Balearic Shearwater and Long-Tailed Skua. Alas none of these birds showed themselves during my time on the coast though I did pick up a hideously distant Shearwater which in hindsight I'm pretty sure was a Corys. I say this due to its light colour and whopping size but more but I wouldn't like to hazard a guess either way. A party of 4 Arctic Skua overhead on the beach was pleasant however whilst Red-Throated Diver, Common Scoter and Eider all fished in the bay. A party of 7 Goosander flying south came as somewhat of a surprised whilst the best of the rest consisted of 2 Manx Shearwater, 10 Gannet, 4 Fulmar and numerous gulls and terns. Not exactly a brilliant haul but enough to keep me entertained. 

On the patch front things have calmed considerably with no new birds added since the addition of Hobby during last weeks NGB patch bird race. Wader numbers have tailed off considerably with the exception of Greenshank which have now increased to at least 8 individuals. The last brood of Ringed Plover appear to have moved on though a few individuals remain on the larger pool whilst a spot of careful scoping has turned up Lapwing, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Ruff and Snipe though all in single digits. Wildfowl numbers continue to increase with around 50 Teal now present alongside c30 Tufted Duck, 5 or so Wigeon and the odd Gadwall whilst other odds and ends located around the pools include Cormorant (what on earth are they eating?!), Little Egret, Grey Heron, Little Grebe and Mute Swan. Elsewhere a few sporadic visits to the wooded/scruby areas of the patch continue to turn up plentiful Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warblers though I still await my long overdue Redstart or more ambitiously perhaps Pied Flycatcher.  Stock Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Buzzard and a good number of Greenfinch have also been noteworthy. So there you have it, more tales from my end of Northumberland. After working this weekend I intend to try my utmost to locate my own long awaited autumn rarity to watch this space and prepare for a lot more bird related drivel! 

Seems to have been a good year for Stonechat

Said Yellow Wagtail