Friday, 18 January 2019

One-Hundred and Onward

16th Jan.  Lee and I had intended to head straight to Druridge today, but instead changed plans and focussed initially on Snow Buntings, me for the year list and Lee because he was yet to see them at St Mary’s Island.  It didn’t take me long on arrival to find the three Snow Buntings on what was a quite morning, but prior to spotting them I’d seen Golden Plovers flying above the sea, so Snow Buntings proved to be a rather nice 100th species on my year list.  A good way to reach one-hundred I thought.  Thankfully the morning was dry and bright, if somewhat cold.  Not such good photographic opportunities as on my previous visit but still good sightings of what are after all very confiding birds, if only birding was always this easy!

Snow Bunting

Spurred on by the Snow Bunting sighting we decided to delay moving up to Druridge and try for the Black Redstart at Tynemouth and The Firecrest in Northumberland Park.  The Black Redstart proved to be once again an easy find and was accompanied by Rock Pipits.  The only downer here was that we got wet as a short but heavy downpour came from the direction of the sea, the only wintry shower we had to face today.  The downpour was followed by sunshine and amazingly good light.  I was never confident of finding the Firecrest as I have had two previous failures with this one, but as we arrived at the park my confidence lifted a little when we found several birders apparent intently watching something.  On this occasion I did have sighting of the Firecrest, but it was a very poor sighting and I think a further return is on the cards.

Snow Bunting

We did eventually get to Druridge for a short time.  Druridge Pools were very quiet indeed and we found nothing of real note there today, although did have a very good sighting of a flock of Pink-footed Geese in the fields and close to the road on our journey there.  I also added Little Grebe to the year list and had the chance to admire Goldeneyes that looked stunning in the sunlight on the north pool.  We took a short walk northwards along the back of the dunes, but saw only Reed Buntings and Goldfinch.

Goldeneye

Having found no Little Owls, our next stop was Widdrington Pool.  It was bright but bitterly cold up there and there was no sign of Smew today.  Whilst watching Red-breasted Mergansers we were advised that we had missed a Peregrine Falcon fly past by the only other birder up there braving the conditions.  After a few minutes the other guy picked up a Peregrine Falcon again in the distant trees and we managed to get a decent if long distant sighting of this bird, thus putting me on one-hundred and three.

On our return home, we had a short day today, we found numbers of Wigeon at the north end of Cresswell Pond, but we didn’t stop here.

Probably now time to stop boring people with my year list until I reach two-hundred.  I’m personally quite impressed with it so far in terms of quality of sightings rather than quantity.  Time to catch up with a bit of reading now before taking to the field again.  I’m now reading the new, Collins New Naturalist Book, The Burren and it’s a good one.  Also looking forward to reading John Coulson’s new book, Gulls, in the same series when it is published in the spring.  One of my favourite ornithological authors is Tim Birkhead and he’s giving a talk concerning his research of Guillemots, which will take place for the NHSN on 1st Feb at 7.00pm.  That’s one not to be missed and I’m thinking the place will be packed out for this one.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

A Windy Patch Walk

13th Jan.  I didn’t let the wind deter me from keeping to one of my resolutions and I walked to the north of the patch today, not with any great expectations of seeing many birds because of the conditions.  The sun was shining however, it was mild and the light was good.


Just as I thought I was going to see little but corvids I got my eye on a distant flock of birds that eventually proved to be in the main Fieldfares, along with a few Redwings.  As I stood by the edge of the fields Chaffinches flew up into the trees and I heard alarm calls, at the same time the Fieldfares and Redwings took off.  The action had been caused by a Sparrowhawk which flew across the hedge within a few yards of me.  The hawk hadn’t disturbed three Grey Partridges in the centre of the field.
I continued my walk following the pathway across the fields until I reached what I count as the northern boundary of my patch.  The flash which often attracts waders was completely dried up and there was nothing to be seen or heard in the hedges.  A Common Buzzard did appear over one of the more distant hedges.

On my return walk I found that the one-hundred plus flock of winter thrushes had resettled in the field, but there was now no sign of Grey Partridges.  What I had previously thought to be a large sandstone type stone in the opposite field turned out to be two Brown Hares hunkered down from the wind.

Although in the main farmland, this area gives off a feeling of wildness not found on other sections of the patch, especially now that so much work is ongoing throughout the area.  Long may that feeling of wildness last.  The minutes were ticking by fast as I kept an eye on the changing skyline.  Changing in more ways than one in that from one of highest points from which the lighthouse at St Mary’s Island is clearly visible, a one-hundred - and eighty degree view contains several areas of wind turbines, something I guess we are all having to get used too.

The ‘noise’ of House Sparrows gradually increased as I re-entered the housing estates.

15th Jan.  Nice to find Tree Sparrow at the Rising Sun C P today and even nicer to see this species apparently doing well there.  My year list creeps slowly towards 100 (now on 98) which I am hoping to pass before the weeks out.  I’m still to find a Greenfinch this year!

The C P was generally quiet, although I found a Common Buzzard on a fence in the farm area and watched a good display of typical circular feeding given by Shoveler’s on the pond.  Water Rail had been recorded at Duke’s Pond, but I had little chance of seeing it as dog walker with mobile phone stuck to ear allowed his dog to run through the pool chasing the birds.  He managed to unglue ear long enough to ask if I was watching the birds (as if he cared) and if so he would remove the dog.  Dog was removed and about ten minutes later further along the path a horse with rider was panicked and had to be settled down when an uncontrolled dog came at it barking.  Yes, you have guessed, the owner still had his phone stuck to ear further along the pathway, about 60 yards from the dog.  Nice dog, shame about the owner, there always has to be one! 

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Lindisfarne and Coastal Route...Sunrise to Sunset

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears
From Fiddler on the Roof Soundtrack

8th Jan.  We left Killingworth in the dark and headed northwards towards Lindisfarne where we hoped to find good birding and good lighting conditions.  Sam took a detour to Widdrington so that we could catch sight of the female Smew not long after sunrise.  The day was beginning positively and the weather looked promising as the sky cleared and there was just a touch of a cold northerly wind.  A flock of Whooper Swans was seen as we carried on north.

Sunrise

The lighting conditions were Turneresque as we reached the causeway for Lindisfarne.  A pull in prior to crossing provided us with sightings of Yellowhammer, a mixed flock of Twite and Linnet and a lone Fieldfare.  At some point we saw a skein of Pink footed Geese.  As we crossed to the island I was admiring the patterns in the sky as much as looking out for birds.  Reaching the car-park we found only a couple of cars and 3 Lapwing alongside us, so for the earlier part of our visit we were to have the island to ourselves, more or less for a couple of hours, prior to a few more visitors arriving.

Sky over Lindisfarne

We followed our usual route where we found that waders were scarce, perhaps driven to another more sheltered area by wind.  We did find numbers of Grey Plover and other birds included Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Redshank, Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit.  There were many Brent Geese in the distance and in the opposite direction numerous Shelduck.  Another flock of Whooper Swans could be seen in the distance too.  We also had a very nice and close sighting of a Long- tailed Duck.  We eventually walked through what appeared to be a deserted village, passed St Cuthbert’s Island and climbed before dropping again towards the harbour.  From a height we had good sightings of Red Breasted Mergansers, a Red Throated Diver, Great Northern Diver (seen by Sam), Eider Duck, Common Scoter and Shags.  We talked to another birder who informed us that he was looking for the Red Necked Grebe (we hadn’t realised there was one reported) and Sam quickly had it in the scope.  One of the birds of the day for us.  Grey Seals occasionally showed themselves in the water.   Ringed Plover were amongst birds seen in the harbour area.  A decision was made not to walk the lonnens as the wind was now so strong it was unlikely that we would see much activity.  It was going to be better we thought to move south again.  Teal, Grey Heron and Black Tailed Godwits were amongst birds seen before we left the island that we had had in the main to ourselves.  The causeway was not easy to negotiate, now in places covered in sand and grit and water such as had been the power of the wind.  We managed to keep on track, but only just!  A Little Egret flew almost parallel with the car.  Are we getting blasĂ© about Little Egrets I wonder?


Sky over Lindisfarne

Lindisfarne Castle minus summer crowds

Next stop was Stag Rock.  The wind was vicious, as was the sea.  There was no one on the beach on this occasion!  Such was the conditions we stayed in the car, sighted the Purple Sandpipers and then left for lunch at Seahouses.  After lunch we strolled around deserted harbour on the off chance that birds had been driven into the harbour by the winds.  There were plenty of Eider Ducks and a Guillemot took off from the harbour waters.  There was going to be no boats leaving for a while as the high waves came in the harbour mouth.  We did manage to sight several Gannets and a lone Fulmar over the sea.  It was then off to Newham to search for these reported Taiga Bean Geese.

Rough sea at Seahouses and Bamburgh Castle

It wasn’t long before we found our Taiga Bean Geese, aided by the fact a couple of birders were watching them through their telescope.  Probably our sighting of the day made all the better by a background of skeins of Pink-footed Geese in the air.  Winter Birding at it’s best.  Record images were taken and we decided it was not in the birds’ interests or anyone else following us to get close for a better image.  A good bit of time was spent with the Bean Geese and their companion, a single Pink-footed Goose and the lighting conditions were perfect.  Great stuff as we discussed markings and adaptations of these birds.

Taiga Bean Geese (record image only)

A walk at Long Nanny in hope of finding Shoe Lark was a bit much to ask we agreed, not in this wind anyway, so we headed down to Druridge and had a walk in the hopes of maybe coming across a Short-Eared Owl in the dunes.  On arrival we found a stunning female Sparrowhawk perched on the fence and it can easily be understood why such birds can often be mistaken for Goshwak.  Anyway, we added this to our raptor list of the day, two Common Buzzards, one of them lit wonderfully by the sun on our drive south and at least three or four Kestrels also seen today.  A flock of Goldfinch were seen during the walk as was a single Reed Bunting.  I felt unusually fit as we stepped out on a walk back to the car, although I felt this might be a passing phase.

The sun was setting now and the wind had almost ceased when we had arrived at Druridge, so we decided to make one last brief stop at Cresswell just in case the Barn Owl was beginning to hunt.  We soon gave up on watching out for Barn Owl and we began to make for home, still under attractive skies, although darkening rapidly by now. 

Sunset

By the time Sam dropped me off at home in the dark we had been out for nine hours and it had been hours well spent on winter birding at its best.  The day being marked almost as much by those fantastic skies and brilliant light as it was by the birds.  Our day list had amounted to sixty-eight species including four species of geese, Taiga Bean Geese, Pink Footed Geese, Brent Geese and Canada Geese.  Taiga Bean Geese must be bird of the day with the Red Necked Grebe as a close second.  The fitness I had felt at Druridge soon wore off as I entered a warm house and I was cream crackered, but what a day, and I still say winter birding is the best!  My year list is now on a healthy ninety-five species all enjoyed at a relaxed pace.

Monday, 7 January 2019

2019, Birding Begins Close to Home.



We've only begun
Before the risin' sun, we fly (Carpenters)

Jan 1st.  I don’t as a rule make resolutions, but once again I’ve decided to stray from character and unexpectedly make some.  First on the list is a determination to spend more time on patch whilst there is still time to enjoy it before the planners and builders move ever closer with their concrete and bricks.  Second, having talked at the end of 2018 about using all the senses whilst communing with nature, I’ve decided that I need to ensure that I am practicing what I preach and so brush up on this skill in 2019.  Third, I am to organise my book collection into some order and be more discerning in what I read and collect in future and this may include ditching a few books in the direction of a charitable organisation.  Incidentally my first read of the year is a book from the 1980s, Flight of the Storm Petrel by Ronald Lockley.  Mr Lockley began to study Storm Petrels on the island of Skokholm where he lived prior to World War Two.

My birding got off to a rather relaxed start on News Years Day with a garden watch.  I’d like to say that I found an exotic visitor on the feeders, but it wouldn’t be true, although I’m only too pleased that we have our House Sparrows back which seems to suggest that the killer domestic cats don’t always get their own way.  After lunch rather than a long walk around the patch I spent ninety minutes in the vicinity of the village.  Sadly, I found that that North Tyneside Council have decided to put wire fencing around much of what is a good area for wildlife in an attempt to keep walkers to linear pathways.  I spoke with someone who had walked in this area for over seventy years who seemed convinced the area was going to be built on.  I had a wonderful thought that perhaps the council are to make it into a wildlife reserve, then I reasoned that I was more likely to see pigs flying over the tree-tops!  Birding was fairly quiet, although I did come across a feeding party of birds which included Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Blackbird, Robin, Bullfinch, Chaffinch and Goldcrest.  On my return home I passed a flock of calling Goldfinch which seemed unusually loud in the quietness of the afternoon and I was pleased to find the regular Song Thrush in the garden.  As darkness crept in I had amassed a bird list of only twenty-three.  However, there were 364 days of the year left for me to build on this so I was far from concerned.

Jan 2nd.  The temperature had dropped today, but it was still mild for the time of year and I decided upon another short walk, this time down to the lake.  An early surprise was a skein of Pink-footed Geese overhead.  The smaller of the lakes held Gadwall, now regulars to the lake and Shoveler also having become a regular.  A lone Grey Heron stood on the edge of the lakeside with the sports centre as background.  The south side of the large lake is fenced off because of site work but this has had no apparent effect upon bird numbers.  Mild weather has meant that at least one of the Great Crested Grebes has stayed on the lake and more than likely will only leave now if the lake ices up.  There were good numbers of Pochard and Goldeneye, but very few Goosanders of which I counted no male birds today.  Other regular birds were about in numbers and I added Pied Wagtail and Mistle Thrush to my list.  With two short walks I had now  amassed a list of forty-two, only three short of the total from a long walk around the patch on New Year’s Day 2018.  I now had to prepare for my father’s birthday, he reaches ninety-nine on 4th January.  Now if I have inherited his healthy genes, you could still be reading my blog in thirty years’ time.  Now won’t that be nice?!

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Jan 6th.  Today Sam and I planned to visit some sites within or at least on the boundary of North Tyneside, thus not straying to far from home.  We began at Northumberland Park hoping that we might find the Firecrest.  We failed with this one last year and failed again today, along with several other birders.  We felt we had given plenty of time to this task and during our stay we did have good sightings of some woodland birds including a pair of Nuthatch.  We heard Great Spotted Woodpecker and had a fleeting sighting of it.  Stock Doves were also seen.  There are worse places to watch the sun rising in the sky and studying Goldcrests!  I tend to be critical of North Tyneside Council, often with good cause in my view, but I’ll give credit where it is due and I have to say Northumberland Park is an excellent area and very well cared for.  Grey Squirrel was seen here along with Brown Rat.

Coal Tit

Next stop was the Fish Quay which was very quiet with nothing of note although plenty of Cormorants and the odd Turnstone was seen.  We soon moved on to Tynemouth where we had better luck with the Black Redstart which appeared as soon as we arrived and showed well, on one occasion next to a Grey Wagtail.  The Black Redstart was attracting several birders.  Rock Pipit was also seen and I enjoyed the peace and quite and the sound of the sea.  Common Scoter were seen at the entry to the Tyne.

Great Tit

St Marys Island was busy today and we were unable to find the Snow Buntings on this occasion.  I did add Teal and Wigeon that were on the wetland to my list and several waders including Lapwing, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Turnstone, Sanderling, Redshank and Curlew.  Common Scoter were seen again and on this occasion the raft included a female Velvet Scoter identified by face pattern as the white wing was not showing.  Bird wise it was rather quiet here so we have several waders to catch up with and as the tide was high at Seaton Sluice we were unable for find our targets there either.

Our final stop was to be Gosforth Park Nature Reserve.  If there is one reason to be a member of the Natural History Society of Northumbria, the reserve is it.  Of course, there are several reasons and I’m very pleased to see the work that is being done by the society especially with young people.   As I think I have said before, there are other agencies that could learn from this.

Having entered the reserve, we spent some time at the feeding station where good sightings were had of numerous woodland birds including Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Great Spotted Woodpecker.  As we later walked around the reserve Jays and Siskin were heard and a Squirrel seen disappearing in the tree tops.  It was probably a Grey Squirrel, but I understand Red Squirrel has returned to the reserve after some long absence so we did try to identify this one with some certainty, but were unable to locate it.

Spot the Bittern!

As we arrived at the small hide I joked with a lady just leaving that she would no doubt have lots of photos of Bittern.  She casually said ‘oh it’s sitting in the reeds’.  I assumed she was joking and said, ‘oh yeah’.  We opened the hide door and decided not to bother entering as it was so packed, then we noticed that cameras and binoculars were being pointed so we got inside to find everyone watching a Bittern and it was perched high in the reeds.  Apologies to lady!  For at least the next hour we watched this Bittern as it turned and preened and showed its plumage off wonderfully.  This was a perfect example of how this bird relies upon camouflage to remain hidden and it took some folk quite sometime to find it.  In many ways this was a better sighting than seeing it out in the open.  Sam saw it swallow a feather and we are assuming this is done for the same reason/s that grebes swallow feathers (something I have written about in this blog the past).  After all, these species have a similar diet.  We’d come to the reserve with the Starling roost in mind, but that was soon forgotten once watching the Bittern and in any event we saw no Starlings.  This Bittern sighting will without doubt be one of my sightings of 2019 and the atmosphere had been added to with the calls of Green Woodpecker, Water Rail and Willow Tit.

Cormorants watch over pond as light fades.

I noted that everyone in the packed hide were keen to give their seats up to others so that they could have a good sighting and to point the bird out.  That’s how it ought to be, but sadly on a minority of occasions in the birding world some are never so keen to share, which is their loss as sharing is one of the real signs of a true birder/naturalist.  One lady I am pleased to say saw her first ever Bittern encouraged to keep looking by me, which makes me feel warm inside.  There was an amusing minute or two as everyone searched the dark hide for a young man’s camera cap.  He eventually found it in his pocket.  Everyone said, ‘don’t worry we’ve all done that’.  I’m not sure if I have! Ha ha

We called into the Ridley hide but nothing was going to beat the Bittern although it was a nice way to wind down as the light began to fade, and in fact we did find a Little Egret in the trees. 

So, my year list now moves onto seventy and I’ve ‘Only Just Begun’.  Today was one of those special days and we met some nice people along the way, and the Bittern was one of those special sightings.  Great Day.





 [B1]

Monday, 31 December 2018

2018 Birding Ends on Northumberland Coast

30th Dec.  It was surprisingly mild for the time of year and apart from some grey and threatening cloud we passed under on our way north, the skies were clear.  Our first stop at Fenham Flats was to be very different in terms of temperature than last winter when we were here in thick frost and biting temperatures.  Our first birds of any significance were seen as we walked towards the hide, these were Brent Geese (pale bellied), and not too far distant.  We spent a good bit of time outside of the hide and watched what appeared to be a movement of Skylarks overhead, and photographed the geese as best we could.  At some point Sam picked up the distant call of Peregrine Falcon, but we never had a sighting of the bird.

Brent Geese

Once in the hide we found the sea fairly quiet of birds but did pick up a small raft of Long Tailed Duck in the distance, Red breasted Mergansers and Eiders.  A flock of Dunlin in flight put on a bit of display, More Brent Geese flew in to feed and a few Wigeon also landed at the tide-line.  To the north there were large numbers of Shelduck and many Dunlin and Curlew, and amongst them we counted into double figures Grey Plover and the odd Knot.  Some birds were just too distant to make out with the scope.  Other waders seen included Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Black-tailed Godwit and Redshank.  We left for Stag Rock only because we would run out of time if we had not.  Befoe we left we had a Queen Bee checking out the area.  There can be great birding in winter light but the days are so short.

Brent Geese

We were surprised to find so many people on the beach at Bamburgh and it wasn’t easy to park.  A walk along the beach brought us little other than Pied Wagtail and Rock Pipit.  It seems the number of folks about had disturbed the birds and this was confirmed when we met AJ who informed us that the Purple Sandpipers had flown north having been disturbed by a dog walker.  Nevertheless, we had good sightings of close in Long Tailed Ducks and eventually Common Scoter.  A single Slavonian Grebe was seen briefly nearby a flock of Eider Duck.  Other birds seen included Shag and Guillemot and over the fields to the east Kestrel and a mixed flock of Linnet and Twite, but I can’t say I personally found Twite amongst the flock.  Conditions here today were far calmer than on our last visit.

Brent Geese

On the way to Seahouses we took a cursory glance at Monk House Pool where we saw little of note.  After lunch we decided to try for the Bean Geese reported nearby Seahouses.  We found large numbers of Pink footed Geese but no Bean Geese were identified.

We decided to end our day with a bracing walk at Long Nanny thinking we might still have a chance of finding the Shore Larks even though the light was beginning to fade a little.  We found no Shore Larks but had an excellent walk in a wonderful atmosphere now that we almost had the area to ourselves with all other visitors making their way home.  It was a very pleasant way to end the day and we did see a pair of Stonechat and a Little Grebe.

Having ended the day with long Nanny almost to ourselves and in peace with the world I’m mindful of one of the best books that I read in 2018 which was The Outermost House by Henry Beston (1888-1968).  Beston spent a year of his life in the 1920s living a solitary life in a beach house on Cape Cod.  We should use all our senses when with nature, although how many people can say that they do I wonder?  Well, whether you do or you don’t I would suggest that anyone would benefit from reading the Outermost House.  My copy has already been shared with two other people who thoroughly enjoyed it.

I usually end the year with a recap of lots of experiences during the previous twelve months.  Well, not this time.  I don’t wish to become predictable!  I will say however that my best experiences of the 2018 were during the two weeks I spent touring with Sam on the Out Hebrides.  The year has not all been plain sailing for me, but I am not going to make any complaints.

All the Best for 2019. 

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Let it Snow, let it Snow, let it Snow Bunting

Oh, the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful.
And since we've got no place to go,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!



22nd Dec.  Well there is to be no white Christmas, but I thought it best to set the mood, and at least we have some local Snow Buntings to admire.  The scientific name for Snow Bunting is Plecrophenax nivalis.  The specific name of nivalis is Latin for snow white and is also used in the scientific name of the flower, the snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis.  The specific name nivalis is most appropriate for the Snow Bunting in summer plumage, but such is their winter plumage the name remains appropriate.

We took the route past Backworth and Earsdon as we made our way towards St Mary’s Island and the hoped-for Snow Buntings.  Passing the fields along the way we passed flocks of both Greylag and Pink-footed Geese.  Kestrel was also seen.  On arrival we began a search for the Snow Buntings, a search made very easy when we very quickly spotted a keen young lad taking photographs of birds which we guessed were what we were after and we were correct, and so went on to make use of some very good photographic opportunities.  The Snow Buntings were far from retiring and even when disturbed by dogs and walkers they would take flight, but remain in the area and soon return to feed.  There was quite a lot of calling between feeds.  As per the norm most folk walked past without paying any attention to the birds, a few of them slowing to take a look simply to see what was being photographed, but seemingly with little real interest.  A small minority of folk did show real interest and asked what species we were photographing and one elderly lady knew that they were Snow Buntings.  Probably because of the length of time the Snow Buntings have been in the area we saw no other birders the entire time we were present, time very well spent.  Although in theory temperatures were quite high, around 8 to 9C, the breeze made it feel much colder.



After a walk around the wet-land area where Teal and Gadwall were seen, Sam and I decided to try our luck looking for another reported Water Pipit.  There were plenty of Rock Pipits, but the nearest thing we saw to Water Pipit we decided was a littoralis Rock Pipit.  We found that there were few waders about but we did eventually find numbers of Lapwing, Redwing and Turnstone, the odd Sanderling and Curlew and once back on the road to Seaton Sluice numbers of Golden Plover in the fields.  It had been well worth the trip for the Snow Buntings alone and warmed up over a fish and chip lunch plus complimentary glass of Sherry.



Next stop was Holywell Pond.  In my mind this reserve is simply not what it used to be.  I remember when I first began to visit this reserve there used to be large flocks of both Teal and Wigeon on the pond at this time of year.  There were a few Teal today, but not in the numbers of the past.  Other bird sightings were sparse here today, but included Grey Heron and Mute Swan.  As the light began to fade we walked a circular route back to the car but saw little in the way of birds, but the 3 Bullfinches in flight and lit by the low but bright sun was a nice sighting.


A good day out with some decent images amongst many taken to show for it.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

So Water Pipits Exist and Killy Birder Returns!

9th Dec.  We drove north on Sunday under a clear blue sky and with the occasional flock of Lapwing flying above the A1 and hovering Kestrel at the road edge.  It was good to be out and about on such a clear winters day.  Our first stop having driven by Spindlestone was at Budle Bay where we found the tide receded way out in the bay.  There were the expected Wigeon and Teal, Shelduck, Shoveler, Mallard, Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit but nothing to keep us standing around in the biting cold for too long as we watched from the roadside car-park.  A Grey Plover with an injured leg did catch the eye and I felt unless the leg improved quickly the bird may not last for too long.

We’d set off early and so found Bamburgh still quiet as we passed through and made our way to Stag Rock.  It was slightly warmer in the sun here if you managed to avoid the northerly wind.  We were out to find the Water Pipit recently reported.  There were certainly many Rock Pipits which we checked out thoroughly before finding our target bird.  We failed to find the Water Pipits in Druridge earlier this year after several attempts and I think Sam was wondering if such a species really did exist.  It had been a bogey bird for him, but he now has a new lifer.  I have to confess I ‘ve seen few Water Pipits, the first encounter being with a summer plumaged bird in the Transylvanian Mountains of Romania some years ago.  Anyway, we checked our bird well against identification details so were confident of ID.  Once we looked at the sea through the scope we found it rougher than first appearances would have suggested.  I think I caught sight of one Long tailed Duck just a little way from a small flock of Eider Duck.  Guillemot and Gannet were also seen along with a cetacean species near Inner Farne.  Although we could not be definite about species it was an interesting find.  We ruled out several species and Sam plumped for a possible Bottle-nosed Dolphin.  Waders here included the expected Purple Sandpipers, Turnstone, Sanderling, Ringed Plover and Redshank.  A sizeable flock of Linnet flew nearby and may or may not have held other species.  A walk along the beach brought us a pair of Stonechat and a Pied Wagtail.  We left happy with our Water Pipit sighting.  Cloud and a thin mist began to encircle Bamburgh Castle and as we headed for Seahouses a passing shower of rain fell but the sky was soon clear again.  I was surprised to see so few people were out on such a wonderful day.

We decided to have an early lunch in Seahouses having checked out a quiet Monk’s Pool where we found little but Mallard and Shoveler.  We drove down the coastal route and decided to take a look at Buston Links, an area neither of us had visited before.  Well, we drove down a road that Sam described as Medieval.  It certainly makes the pot-holed road down to East Chevington, North Pool look like an autobahn!  We were rewarded with one Redshank and a Blue Tit, but admit we had little time to explore what seems to be a very nice area of habitat.  We’ll be back when we have more time.  We may walk!

Setting off for East Chevington we passed a sizable flock of Goldfinch flying over the fields.  We walked to the burn missing out the pools today, where after some minutes a small flock of thirteen Twite flew in and landed close by.  There were flocks of Ringed Plover and Sanderling on the shore line and when they took off and flew low over the advancing waves it looked almost like snow being blown along the tideline with the sea blue making for a very pleasant effect.  A flock of Pink Footed Geese flew overhead and Whooper Swans were heard but remained unseen.

It was very cold indeed when we stopped at Widdrington in the hope of seeing the female Smew.  We failed to sight it and I admit we didn’t stand around too long.  If it had ben a drake Smew we may have been more inclined to face the cold.  We’d seen Tufted Duck and Pochard.

Cresswell Pond was generally quiet.  Lapwing were there on the mud in number along with a few Golden Plover and Dunlins.  Two pairs of Red breasted Merganser were on the pond.  It was mid afternoon and already the sun was heading for the western horizon and the light beginning to fade.  Good numbers of Tree Sparrow fed along the pathway to the hide.  We made for home having really enjoyed the winter’s day, perhaps not that much of great note bird-wise but an excellent day anyway and very few folks about to get in the way.  I did note that the Drift CafĂ© was still doing a roaring trade as we passed.  I wonder how many of the customers had been out and about on their feet and how many were talking about the renewed consideration being given to Banks Mining!

In the main I had travelled light today hence no images from the day.  It’s good to be back.