Monday, 12 October 2009

Holy Island Invasion!

Time to go.
Lough and Dunes.

Fox Moth Catterpillar

Salad Burnet ???

Fungi ???

There's four Scaup there somewhere!

Spot the Birder. Newcastle L G in action.

10th Oct. It was neither an invasion of Vikings nor rare migrant birds, but of forty-one keen Newcastle RSPB Local Group members on their annual October trip to the island. Durham group were up there too. The early morning mists had soon cleared to leave us all in an excellent frame of mind and the island very atmospheric, an atmosphere added to by the haunting calls of the hundreds of Grey Seals basking on the sands. Some of the seals came up close giving excellent sightings. We were early arrivals on a then quiet island, having on the journey spotted Sparrowhawk and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

We were soon around to St Cuthbert’s Island where we soon picked up on and near the island Grey Heron, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Curlew, Red-breasted Merganser and Kestrel. Thousands of waders were way off in the distance. Flocks of Eider Duck were numerous as were small flocks of Brent Geese in flight. There was no bright sun to hinder watching and so Red Throated Divers, four Scaup, Razorbill and a Velvet Scoter were quite easily picked up on the water. Cormorants were in large numbers and a smaller group of Shag were found.

Around by the harbour Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Rock Pipit and Pied Wagtail were found. Over on the rocket field we found Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Lapwing and Snipe. By now gulls seen had been Black Headed, Common, Herring and Great Black Backed. Black Tailed Godwit was also seen on the island by some members. After dropping one or two items onto the coach we set off along the long lonnen where we took a lunch stop where we were joined by nother more than Dunnock and Robin but talk of Yellow Browed Warblers has many of us making a U turn and retracing some of our steps. Those that did return were in the main rewarded by brief but good sightings of two Yellow Browed Warblers. I confess a lifer for me! Always good to see a new species even if somewhat plain as this one is.

As we carried on towards the Lough we found numbers of Linnet, Meadow Pipit and Stonechat. We had no sign of the reported Short Eared Owl. Only one member of our group did sight it today and that was our coach driver! We did find a few Red Admiral Butterflies, some large caterpillars (I’d appreciate an I D. Edit. Now confirmed as Fox Moth), some interesting fungi (again an I D would be appreciated), and lots of what I’m told was Salad Burnet Sanguisorba minor (again help would be appreciated as the leaves shown in my Blamey and Fitter book look nowt like this). One of our members who had done a bit of a sea watch had found Black Necked Grebe, Kittiwake and Guillemot.

We saw numbers of Gannet as we approached the Lough and a member suggested that they were out at sea. I certainly hope that they were, or following their dives they would have had severe headache! At the hide a group were watching the bushes. Someone had spread the word about a Lapland Bunting which all agreed was in fact Reed Bunting of which there were several around! When a further two reported Yellow Browed Warblers were found they had magically turned into Goldcrest. In the same bush was my bird of the day a stunning Brambling. At the Lough we added Little Grebe, Moorhen, Coot and Pintail to the list.

During the day we had seen several Redwing, Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush, and of course the usual pigeons and corvids. There had also been numbers of Swallow and House Martins still on the island. Certainly there was no shortage of insects for them to feed upon and at one point I walked through a cloud of them. As we prepared to leave for our customary stop at Buddle Bay the clouds began to disperse and the sun shone. I hadn’t minded the cloud cover which had added to the atmosphere, especially during the morning, and had helped the bird watching. I can still hear those Grey Seals and see Lindisfarne Castle under a wonderful sky!

The late afternoon atmosphere was equally good at the bay too, where although the tide remained quite far out there were birds in good numbers. There were more Brent Geese and we added Pink-footed Geese, Shelduck and Grey Plover to the list. There was good numbers of Lesser Black Backed Gulls. After around thirty minutes of watching the bay we were on the coach for the return journey and our compulsory bird count. The list today came to 84 species! Then as we were nearing home several of us who had not drifted off to dream land caught sight of a Common Buzzard as it flew in front of the coach, bringing the list up to 85. As I said, bird of the day for me was the Brambling.
The only headache of the day was wondering how we can transport so many members in future as demand for places is growing fast. Thanks to Durham RSPB group we managed to get seven members on their coach today. I must say it’s not a bad headache to have as recruitment of new members has been my top priority. Such numbers can be easily managed when divided into smaller groups ensuring everyone has a good day. The next group trip is to Martin Mere.

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