Friday, 10 April 2009

Pond, Wood and Coast

Greater Stitchwort
Pond Dug By Friends of Holywell Dene

Holywell Dene

6th April. I’ve been putting a lot of effort into the Local Group recently so as to get things settled and stable for the future so today I was determined would be for me! I decided that the best bet would be for me and my mate to walk the pond, wood and coast path that I am so fond of. I thought we might hit upon at least some early summer arrivals. It was a cool, but pleasant spring day.

On arrival at the village at the beginning of the walk we soon ticked of Swallow and House Martin, the first of the year for me. In fact the village seemed alive with birds including numbers of Goldfinch. The pond was quite lively to with Greylag Geese, Canada Geese, Shelduck, Mallard, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Moorhen and Coot. I also quickly found some rather handsome summer plumage Little Grebe and Great Crested Grebe, one of the latter on the nest at the edge of the reeds. A single Grey Heron was also on the fringes of the reed bed and gulls seen were Black Headed, Herring, Great Black Backed and a single Lesser Black Backed. The feeding station was quiet apart from Greenfinch and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

I was beginning to give up hope of finding the reported Garganey, just as I heard an unfamiliar call as three birds flew in and landed on the water. I was sure I had caught sight of the familiar white stripe of the drake and sure enough on inspection there were 3 Garganey (2 drakes). This was to be my bird of the day and one I rarely see, and I shall be getting the C Ds out to listen to and learn the call for the next one I find, although I’ll have probably forgotten it again by then. A great start to the walk. As we made down to the other end of the pond a Kestrel was seen. Whilst searching for the Garganey again I had a brief sighting, I’m certain, of Green Sandpiper which flew from the reads and straight back in again not to be seen again.

We made down the track to the woodland area and found numbers of singing Linnet in the hedges. We found the burn in the dene to be very low indeed. Floral interest included Primrose, Primula vulgaris Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scriptus, Dogs Mercury Mercurialis annua and Common Dog Violet Viola riviniana . Treecreeper was soon found and I heard Nuthatch and quickly found it high in the trees on the other side of the burn. I was surprised that I didn’t find the Grey Wagtails. Numbers of Wren were in song and Long Tailed Tits were about. When I went across the burn to photograph the Primroses I found two Stock Doves in the trees.

The area of the salt marsh was quite as per usual with only a small flock of Redshank found other than corvids and pigeons. This is an interesting are flora wise however, and the Common Scurvygrass Cochlearia officinalis was covering large parts of the area and I also found Greater(??) Stichwort Stellaria holostea. The fish and chips at Seaton Sluice tasted as good as ever and I swear that you can’t find any tastier any where in the north east! The tide was at its highest point when we reached the sea.

I soon found numbers of Eider Duck and a lone Guillemot on the sea along with a large raft of Kittiwake which appeared to be moving south. I had hoped for Wheatear but failed to find any so made do for numerous Meadow Pipits which seemed to be everywhere along the cliff tops today. I later found only one Rock Pipit. The song of Skylarks, with an occasional sighting, had by now replaced the constant song of the Chiffchaff, heard earlier in the woods.

I was pleased to find a flock of maybe 150/200 Golden Plover which lifted from the fields. They flew overhead for sometime seeming unwilling to settle again in the field as the tractor occasionally moved around. I saw them well enough to make out the wonderful summer plumage of these very attractive birds. Lapwing and Curlew were also around but in quite small numbers. An occasional Fulmar flew near to the cliff. And small flocks of Oystercatcher flew by over the sea.

The north beach had one Redshank on it and nothing else. I found only two Turnstone later, as we approached the golf course. I have to admit I rarely see much of note on the wetland area but today at least found a single Snipe with the Mute Swans, Teal and Gadwall. I really do think the drake Gadwall is an attractive bird.

With the tide being high it had not been the best time to walk along the cliffs, but by the end of the walk I was more than satisfied to note that I had 68 species on my day list, 6 of them new for the year list.
This is always a grand walk with a variety of habitat. I have Holywell Birder to blame for my raising my interest in this area sometime ago ;-) His enthusiasm is catching!


  1. Sounds like a good walk, I think I should join you one day as your knowledge of the flora down the dene is impressive and aspect of natural history I am lacking, only be able to indetify a few edibles. Thanks Cain

  2. Thanks Cain. I'm learning about flora myself. I'd be pleased to join you and you never know I might pick up some ideas on the edibles although I'm none to sure I'd trust my judgement on that! :-) Cheers Brian