Saturday, 23 May 2009

Pond, Wood and Coast Again!

Mateing Orange Tip Butterflies
Celery-leaved Buttercup

Greater Stichwort

Holywell Dene

Star of Bethlehem

Holywell Pond

22nd May. The decision today was whether or not to visit Cresswell, or take my favourite local walk from Holywell to St Mary’s. The latter won the day, as the thought of a stop for fish and chips was a temptation just too hard to resist. The forecast was for rain showers around mid day, but the morning began in sunshine. We were soon picking up large numbers of Swallows and House Martins in Holywell Village and on the walk to the hide a high flying Sparrowhawk was seen just before a singing and active Whitethroat was found. The first of three or four Whitethroat to be seen today.

The feeding station at the hide was deserted. The first bird I saw on the water was a Ruddy Duck, the first one I have seen for sometime. Sedge Warblers were soon heard and when I walked to the public hide I had my scope on one. A Kestrel hovered in the air at the east end of the pond. Birds on the water included Little Grebe, Canada Geese, Greylag Geese, Mute Swan, Mallard, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Moorhen and Coot. Pairs of both species of geese led large families of goslings around the pond. I couldn’t find the Great Crested Grebes which had been nesting on the edge of the pond on my previous visit. Once at the east end of the pond I found Grey Heron which appeared to have been hidden behind the island, and two Shelduck flew in and landed on the water directly in front of me.

On walking away towards the track leading to the dene I heard Greenfinch and found a Reed Bunting in its usual territory. The first Willow Warbler was heard and seen on the track towards the dene and once in the dene the occasional Chiffchaff was heard. It was very noticeable just how quite the Chiffchaffs have now become compared recent weeks. It’s the same on the local patch. I guesed birds where not going to be easy to view in the dene with so much foliage now, and on the whole I was correct. Birds seen included Blackbird, Song Thrush, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Robin and Dunnock.

Small White Butterflies had been around in large numbers from the start of the walk and I spotted a Green Veined White too. I was surprised to find a good number of Orange Tip and Speckled Wood Butterflies in the dene. I found a pair of the former mating with another trying to join them. I managed to photograph the pair. When I went down to the burn to take a couple of photographs I found a Spotted Flycatcher, with bill full of insects, flying to and from a branch perch over the burn. This is a first sighting of Spotted Flycatcher I have had on this walk and I remembered Holywell Birder’s very recent sighting of this species near to the hide. I’m afraid I went one better, as I seem to have found a pair with the other bird perched above the burn on the wires. A nice find in deed and a first for the year. Just before this find, a Tawny Owl had called at around mid day.

There had been much botanical interest. One of the banks of the burn was a mass of Wild Garlic Allium ursinum. The hedge verges were often covered in Red Campion Silene dioica and Greater Stichwort Stellaria holostea. Herb Bennet Geum urbanum was beginning to show and Herb Robert Geranium robertianum was quite abundant. The pick of the flowers I found were Star of Bethlehem Ornithogalum angustifolium (which may be a garden escape) and Celery-leaved Buttercup Ranunculus sceleratus which I found growing in a wet area near the salt marsh. I remembered that I had found this plant groing in the pond in the dene last year.

As I had come out of the dene I had seen a number of Brown Hares. A pair with young I reckon. We chatted to a couple who where locals and friends of Holywell Dene. They had the same views as me with regard to thoughtless dog owners. In the dene I had been obviously watching birds on the burn when someone decided to throw a stick into the water for their dog. The lack of common sense and manners of some people never ceases to amaze me!

Lunch Taken at Seaton Sluice, he walk was continued along the cliffs to St Mary’s Island. Dark thunderous cloud was over Blyth and I thought I was going to get a soaking. It was clearly raining out at sea. Thankfully only the odd drop of rain was felt before the cloud moved further out to sea and the sun shone again. There was very little wind and for once conditions were pleasant for a short sea watch. Unfortunately there was not a great deal to watch and I have never known the area between Seaton Sluice and St Mary’s to be so devoid of birds. Having said that there was good numbers of Fulmar nesting and flying along the cliff line, a single Kittiwake was seen and othe birds included Gannet, Black Headed Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black Backed Gull and Greater Black Backed Gull. Eider Ducks, Cormorant and odd Shag were also about. The only waders seen were a small group of Oystercatchers. Lapwings had been seen further inland. Common and Sandwich Terns dived for fish.

Over the fields Skylarks sang and there was good numbers of Meadow Pipit and Linnet. Another Reed Bunting was found and Goldfinch were seen at some point.

I thought we might find some waders nearer St Mary’s but it was not to be. The wetland was quite too with only Mute Swan, Moorhen and Teal. Sand Martins were eventually found in number and we watched as a small number flew to and from the nesting site. A Willow Warbler sang on the wetland and gave a very good scope view. I had added Wall Brown Butterfly to the list as we walked along the cliffs and noticed large patches of Cowslip Primula veris.
The latter part of the walk had seemed very quiet and I felt a number of birds which I would have expected were missing. I ended the walk sitting in the sun admiring what appeared to be an empty sea. Never the less I was pleasantly surprised when I got home and added up the list which came to 65 bird species


  1. I seem to seeing Orange Tips everywhere at the minute, can't remember seeing this many before?

  2. Must admit I have never seen so many before. I had felt they were more common in Durham and further south. I'm wondering if climate change is a factor here which is leading to increased numbers further north?