Sunday, 13 December 2009

Back to Berwick.

Cliffs at Berwick. Mist lifting.

Bracket Fungi (species???)

12th Dec. Conditions were considerably different today than on my recent visit a few days ago, and when we drove into thick mist I didn’t think the group were going to end the day with a decent bird list. I am never in favour of using birding time for long stops in cafes, but I must confess that today our stop to use the facilities was welcomed even by me as I warmed up with a hot chocolate before heading down to what felt like Arctic conditions at the harbour. The tide was high and out there in the mist I could see the faint outline of birds on the sea, but just a little too far into the mist to make any definite identification. Fortunately we had several Red Throated Divers close in to keep people alert and I sighted a Great Crested Grebe, but only briefly before it disappeared into the mist. Eider Ducks were on the water and Red-breasted Mergansers were seen in flight. Cormorants were around in large numbers along with a lesser number of Shag. Apart from Curlew and Oystercatcher, waders were absent because of the high tide. We found at least two Reed Buntings close to the shore and numbers of Rock Pipit. I was glad for a chance to get back on the coach to warm up a little as we made for the cliffs near the golf course, not really expecting to see very much.

We broke for lunch and that was taken in the warmth of the coach and I sensed several people were not to keen to rush it! In fact once onto the cliffs it appeared warmer than the harbour and the mist did lift for sometime. We found one of the pair of Kestrel hunting over the cliffs and waders seen were Oystercatcher, 8 Grey Plover, Purple Sandpiper, a lone Sanderling, Turnstone, Redshank and Curlew, more in fact than seen on Monday. When the mist at least partially lifted, the views were atmospheric. I picked up a lone Fulmar as I had done on Monday, but this time it flew along the cliffs directly towards us and past us. A Song Thrush was heard then eventually seen and a raft of Eider Duck was on the sea.

Our last stop was to be the river walk. As we had crossed the road bridge the river had been almost totally obscured by mist, so we were not expecting too much along the walk. We weren’t able to park in the town as it seemed a minor matter of a football match was staking place so we were dropped off up river where we walked down a rather long and muddy footpath towards the River Tweed. Along the way we got our eyes on some bracket fungi and its orange colouring added some brightness to the gloom in the hedging below us.

The river walk was completely different from the walk on a bright day earlier in the week, but never the less atmospheric and enjoyable. The only sign that the railway bridge was there was when the sounds of trains crossing it emerged from the mist. Even at close quarters only the faintest outline of the bridge could be seen. Most of the birds on the river appeared to be Mallard, but I did notice birds diving on one occasion and on closer inspection found numbers of Goldeneye. Oystercatchers, Curlew and Redshank were along the river side once again and we found one of the Grey Wagtails and Rock Pipit. Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Dunnock, Wren Robin and tits were seen along the river bank. A few members caught sight of the Greylag and Canada Geese on the far bank of the river as the mist temporarily lifted. There were numbers of Grey Heron and Mute Swans about. Once back at the coach I found a mixed group of thrushes, which included Redwings, feeding in the hedge.
Even on a misty day as this had been, I always feel there is something very special about winter birding. Maybe it’s the light, maybe just the quietness or maybe it is the waders and waterfowl that are about in number, birds which I find quite special. Whatever it is, it certainly more than makes up for the often cold conditions and if I had to make a choice between summer and winter birding , it would be winter for me every time! We had a trip list of fifty-two species, which on a misty day like this, I thought non too bad at all. Add on to that a few seals, sadly one young seal lying dead in the harbour, and Roe Deer and it provided a very good trip. We had mince pies too and some very tasty treats provided by our French member! It must be Christmas soon! I had better get ‘me’ cards posted.

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