Thursday, 10 September 2009

Killy Birder Takes a Bus.

Deserted Beach
Red Admiral

Cresswell Castle

8th Sept. Having noticed that everyone seems to be taking holidays but me, I decided to give myself a treat and so caught the bus from Killy to Cresswell. The sun was shining and the skies were blue as we trundled through such metropolises as Burradon, Dudley, Cramlington, Bedlington and Ashington and onwards to finally reach our destination. I was biting at the bit to get out into the fresh air and do some birding. As I stepped form the bus I caught site of numbers of butterflies flying over,and settling on, the grass verges. I found them to be Small Tortoiseshell and Painted Ladies. Other butterflies seen today were Small White, Peacock and Red Admiral, several of them appearing to be in pristine condition. The Swallows and House Martins were massing in numbers in preparation for migration. I had noticed numbers of them on the journey too.

Despite the school holidays in the main having ended, Cresswell was still quite busy, although most human life appeared not to be straying to far north of the caravan site and so leaving the rest or the shore line deserted apart from one or two dog walkers, ourselves and the birds. I think we often take our wonderful beaches for granted up here in Northumberland and it wasn’t until I looked at the photograph that I realised how clean (at least on the surface) and deserted the area was! I remember as a child of around 7 or 8 spending a weeks holiday at Cresswell in a small chalet right on the dune edge where one just stepped onto the sandy beech after breakfast. I still have a photo somewhere in the house. It was one of those childhood summers where I have no memory at all of rain, only sunshine as I played on the beach. Cresswell was a very quite fishing village then of course. On the family arriving a fisherman and I think owner of the chalet promised me that he would take me out in his fishing boat that week. I never saw him again so I’m still waiting! That broken promise has for some reason stuck with me and having worked with youngsters, I always had a rule of never making promises to them unless I intended to keep them, or at least explain why a promise might have to be broken. Anyway I know I digress. I remember no birds or other wildlife from that childhood adventurem although as it is likely to have been August I now can’t help wonder what wildlife I may have been around, and would there have been passing migrants. I do remember my times on the beach and the rock pools. I don’t remember the castle though, although from my photograph I see there are handrails on top of it now so I’m wondering if it is open to the public and if it is how you get in? My local walks have given me an ever increasing interest in local history.

Looking over the shore from the cliff edge I could find only Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Redshank and Curlew. I walked along the beach and soon found large flocks of terns. Now I could either look at these from the shelter of the dunes, which were acting as a suntrap, and have a poor sighting as the tide was very low indeed. Or I could get closer on the beach and face the strengthening wind. When I did the latter and struggled with a rather blown and unsteady tripod, I found the birds were in the main Common Terns with a few Arctic Terns amongst them. I saw no Sandwich Terns. Eventually I did pick out two Black Terns looking very small against the Common Terns. The flocks of tern were very restless and kept taking to flight over the rocky area and then quickly settling again. The flocks looked stunning whilst sun lit in tight flocks in the air. I could have spent the day watching these birds if I’m truthful as I find it appealing to focus the attention on one or two species, but I wanted to also visit the pond. I did come back before leaving Cresswell for the homeward journey and if anything the flocks of tern had grown even larger and were still very restless.

On returning to the beach I also found separate flocks of Knot, Dunlin and Curlew. The Redshank and Oystercatchers were still around of course and calling constantly. Gulls included Black Headed Gull flocks, Common Gull, Great Black Backed Gull and the odd Lesser Black Backed Gull was seen flying over. I saw little on the sea, although I confess I didn’t look too long as the heat haze made for poor sea watching. Cormorants and Eider Duck is all that I recall.
The visit to the pond was disappointing although on the way we were entertained by a dual for territory between a Carrion Crow and Kestrel. I saw few passerines today apart from Goldfinch and Greenfinch. As I was looking at the Tansies Tanacetum vulgare ( apparnently once eaten at Eastertide to clear phlegm and worms brought about by the Lenten fish diet) which always remind me of small suns when at their best, unfortunately they were now well past their best, a couple leaving the hide said there was plenty of action. When I got into the hide I can only assume it was one of those ‘if only I had been here five minutes ago moments’ or my idea of action is at a different level! I did see from the board that there had been Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff and an Otter about earlier in the day. My only reward of any significance was the Greenshank. When the Lapwings lifted I thought we might have a bird of prey, but none was seen. I guess because the tide was out the waders had left to feed elsewhere and things were extremely quite. The odd Curlew remained and other birds included Shelduck and Little Grebe. As I focused on the lone Curlew I was entertained by tales of all the birds that have recently visited the area. I must try and get back up there soon. After so many gloomy wet days it had been a real treat to be out there in the sunshine on one of those days when the coast is at its best. I was relaxed and ready to face the return bus ride. I have Newbiggin marked down for a visit and I’m also wondering if Plessey Woods may prove fruitful

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