Friday, 19 February 2010

Stag, Budle, Spindlestone and Ross

Budle Bay Geese

A castle with childhood memories.

18th Feb. No, not a firm of solicitors, but the areas visited yesterday. Having seen some recent reports the urge to have a look up there was irresistible. I’d initially planned to go to Fenham Flats having read Crammy Birder’s recent report, but Ross Back Sands pulled me in that direction, and time didn’t allow for both areas. The journey to Bamburgh was uneventful apart from Kestrel and a fleeting sighting of a Sparrowhawk flying over the hedge. My forecast was correct and we were dry all day although did run into snow on the roads near Bamburgh in the morning and apparently left heavy snow showers behind us too! Passing Lucker always reminds me of childhood holidays at a caravan site at the back of the Apple Inn, where I used to collect bottle tops. Well, we didn’t have computer games then! The site of Bamburgh Castle always brings back memories of childhood excitement too.

The car park near Stag Rock was almost full. I’d forgotten it was half term. The tide was well out, but there was good sightings of rafts of Common Scoter, a couple of Red Throated Divers and a lone Long Tailed Duck. The flock of Purple Sandpiper were on the rock and waters edge, but I didn’t see any other waders apart from Oystercatcher, Redshank and Curlew. Too many folk around I suspect. The next stop was Budle Day. The tide was still well out so it wasn’t ideal viewing. I was surprised by the large numbers of Bar-tailed Godwits which were all across the bay. Other sightings included Shelduck, Wigeon, Teal, Dunlin, Redshank and Curlew. There were no geese about at all.

We soon headed off in the general direction of Spindlestone and whilst we drove around in circles trying to find the pool a Common Buzzard, Greylag Geese and Yellowhammers were found. The pool was found and so were more Greylag Geese. I found the Bean Geese. I confess if I hadn’t heard that these taiga Bean Geese were there I may have missed them. A very nice year tick. Then with some sign that the weather might be changing for the worse we were off to Ross. By the time we parked up the skies were bright again. We walked down to the shore avoiding the flooded areas with only Redshank and Curlew catching the attention. I initially thought we were going to be unlucky, but soon began to pick up birds on the sea.

The large rafts of hundreds of Common Scoter were impressive and some were constantly on the move. I reckon I saw twenty plus Slavonian Grebe and almost as many Long Tailed Duck. I’ve seldom had better sightings of these birds many of which were close to shore. I soon got the scope onto a Great Northern Diver which was also very close to the shoreline. There was also numbers of Red Throated Diver. This is the kind of sea watching I like! Eider Duck were about in number, as were Shag and Cormorants. We didn’t have as much time as I would have liked in this area, but I’d like to get back to explore at length.
As we were heading back to Bamburgh for a cuppa at the Copper Kettle, I suggested another stop at Budle Bay as the tide would be coming in. The view was wonderful as we drove towards the bay, as the sun lit the waters. I spotted geese in the fields north of the bay and we took a sudden stop here. It wasn’t until I was out of the car that I realised the numbers were so high. I had hoped for pale bellied Brent Geese today and here they were. I reckon many hundred, and a sizeable proportion of the Northumberland population. There were a number of Greylag and Pink-footed Geese amongst them. For all I know there may have been some Bean Geese in there too. This was a great sight, which only got better as the entire flock lifted and flew above us with the bay and open seas providing a grand backdrop. This was without doubt the highlight of my birding in 2010 up to now and why I find winter birding so exciting. It wasn’t easy to leave, but just before we did four Canada Geese flew over the now settled flock below. I was surprised to find the tide had filled the bay. Only a few Teal and Wigeon were on the water as we passed. We’d had some real quality birding in great surroundings today. The roads had cleared of the morning’s snow, but some fields still held a thin covering.

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