Back from a bit of a roadtrip – instead of the usual circuit round Druridge Bay this time it was Bedlington -> France -> Germany -> Switzerland -> Germany -> Belgium -> France -> Bedlington.
A few lifers and year ticks… rough legged buzzard and black kite in France… white stork in Germany, red-crested pochard in Switzerland.
As much as anything I was impressed with the black redstarts in Germany – as common as sparrows and starlings in the black forest where we stayed with my brother for a few days.
Good on the butterfly front as well with pale clouded yellow, sooty copper and mazarine blue being lifetime firsts
Oddly… I had booked a day off for today and there was a large fiery thing in the sky and all there seemed to be holes in the grey bits of sky with blue showing through. Surely an unusual day was afoot.
I headed out up to Druridge bay for a bit of a wander. Druridge Pools was pretty dead… the budge pools had just a grey heron, a pair of tufties and a greylag goose and a pheasant watching from the sidelines.
On to East Chevington and there were better signs. Within 30 seconds of arrival I had a female marsh harrier hunting over the reed beds. From the hide the north pool was very quiet – a handful of terns and gulls at the south end and the odd reed bunting scooting past and a common sandpiper circling the pool.
Around the dunes at least four little gulls were bouncing around on the breeze amongst the black headed gulls and the sandwich terns.
The bushes around the track were alive with linnets, willow warblers, chiffchaffs, dunnocks and stonechat.
The real highlight though was as I returned to the car and suddenly flashing past was a cuckoo with a meadow pipit in hot pursuit. I reckon the last cuckoo I actually *saw* was about 15 years ago in Surrey, so nice to see one and grab an action shot as it evaded its diminuitive pursuer.
Grey and murky this morning as is the norm at the moment, but I did finally manage to add avocet to my year list after missing out at Greatham Creek earlier in the spring and on several short stops at Cresswell.
Today hit lucky with four at Cresswell on the North side of the causeway, busily sweeping around in the shallows.
I then managed to add to that with a single bird at the Beehive flash (or at least what I assume is the beehive flash – a largeish pool right by the roadside just by the Beehive pub!).
Took the chance of a day without parental responsibility to take a good drive out, despite the unpromising fog that started the day.
The A697 heading up towards Wooler was buzzard-central with regular birds along the way and up to three at once in places.
My first stop was Happy Valley looking for dipper and I didn’t even have chance to park the car before I had added it to my year list. Two birds were prominent dashing up and down the river and a pair of grey wagtails added a splash of colour.
From there I cut across to the coast as the fog was burning off and I picked up my second year tick of the day with red-legged partridge in the fields near Doddington. I also managed three mammal species – stoat, weasel and hare all within a few miles.
I arrived at Holy Island with only an hour before the causeway was due to close so I just had a quick drive across the causeway and back in the mist that was still lingering at the coast. A few curlew and gulls were all that I could make out in the murk.
From there down to Budle Bay and a quick scan of the sands – hundreds of gulls – black heads, greater black-backs and herring gulls, plus shelduck and a few redshank.
On down to Stag Rocks hoping for a lingering grebe or diver but the sea was fairly empty – a few eider flew past but only gulls on the sea and no sign of any waders on the rocks which were rapidy disappearing under the incoming tide.
On further down to druridge bay and cresswell was shrouded in mist – I could barely see the pools from the road. Water levels looked very high and no sign of avocets in my brief stop.
I covered a fair few miles today but not a lot to show for it because of the mist. Maybe tomorrow will bring a bit more luck!
For a change this morning I headed back to my native Teesside for a trip to Saltholme and a change of scenery.
It was disappointingly quiet on the bird front, given that some interesting birds like Glossy Ibis have been around recently, but there were a few year ticks to provide a bit of variety.
I got down to the area an hour before the RSPB reserve was open so opted for a walk along Greatham Creek to see if the recently arrived avocets were around. No sign on the saline lagoon but a single little egret was skulking around the edges. Walking along the creek and the tide was receding revealing plenty of mud but not a lot of activity other than a couple of redshank and a purple sandpiper. On the next pool along there was a bit more activity – a dozen more redshank were rooting around accompanied by three black-tailed godwit, making a change from the bar-tails that are more prevalent closer to home. A handful of shelduck stood around half-dozing on the mud but keeping a wary eye on what was going on.
On to the RSPB reserve and a quick walk around the various hides came up with… not much! The wildlife watchpoint just held a handful of coot, moorhen, mallard and tufties with goldfinch and greenfinch at the feeding station. Black-headed gulls are starting to make themselves at home on the shingle islands that will also hold tern colonies in a few weeks, and plenty of greylags and canada geese (including a leucistic canada goose looking huge compared to her mate – a prime example of how white birds seem larger than dark ones) are sharing the grasslands with curlews that will be heading for the moors soon. A lone great crested grebe drifted about the lake asleep and refusing to acknowledge the sunshine and the visitors peering through their binos and scopes
And on that note I decided it was time for me to head to the moors – I upped sticks and headed off to see my parents near Danby on the North York Moors. I was half hoping to have the chance to get shots of the hares boxing but I was out of luck, and after a light lunch I headed to Danby beacon where red grouse were in plentiful supply and particularly unfussed by human presence, sitting happily by the side of the road as I drove past. A few curlew and lapwing were around but nothing to what there will be in a month or so.
So…not a huge number of birds, but a pleasant enough day and nice for a change of scenery.
I’ll be back up at druridge bay tomorrow!
..EDIT.. cross post… sorry this was meant for my other blog but as it may be of interest I’ll leave it up anyway.
Forgot to mention… according to the stats from the website (www.naturerecorder.com) i’ve now had 100 downloads – from different people not just upgrades. I have users in 11 countries on three continents – from Canada and the US – through Europe (UK, Sweden, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Poland, Russia and Turkey) to New Zealand.
Many thanks to all who have offered their time and constructive criticism (and touch wood so far all the feedback has been constructive)…
I’m aiming for a proper beta launch with a full set of usable functionality by Easter, through to a full lauch in the summer.
I say “full launch” – I’ll be wielding the full force of my corporate marketing machine (ie me) to publicise… so word of mouth is going to be important. At some point I’ll be drawing up a feature comparison between what I’m offering for free and what the commercial offerings have and I hope that will show in a favourable light what you get with Nature Recorder.
Thanks again for the invaluable support and encouragement- without the interest shown by people I’ve never met this project would never have got off the ground and I’d still be using a spreadsheet and shaking my head at what people expect you to pay for!
The next 12 months should be pretty exciting with lots of cool new stuff on the way including integration with Google Earth and Google Maps and online functionality to allow you to share your data if you’re in a club or just with your mates.