I’d kinda made a promise to show friends the Twite near Bell’s Pond today, so I left with them this morning with fingers crossed. We skipped the planned stop at St Mary’s Island and headed straight for Cresswell where our first stop was at the village to take a look on the sea, where nothing of note was seen. There were plenty of Eider Duck, Oystercatchers and Curlew and the usual Pied Wagtail. I thought it would be a good idea to try for the Twite next, and we set off.
Our journey was broken just before reaching Cresswell pond when we spotted four to five hundred Pink-footed Geese in the fields. We also found a decent sized flock of Fieldfare, initially quite close to the road. This flock was soon one down when one of them was taken out by a Kestrel! This happened vey quickly and I had initially though the raptor was a Sparrowhawk, as it hunted in that manner. We watched the hedge for sometime as two corvids stood guard where the raptor was busy and only the occasional lift of wings was seen. Then we found that it was definitely a Kestrel that flew off. We then made off to look for the Twite. These birds were very active today and initially only settled out of sight in the dips of the dunes. It was quite frustrating seeing the hearing the small flocks on the move. Several eventually settled for a while on bushes and gave a good scope view. My friend had his lifer! I didn’t see any sign of geese near Bells Pond. I must say the Twite have been much easier to find this winter. Last winter I had to climb into the dunes to find them in the large dip, although with them were Snow Bunting and Redpoll and I have seen nothing like this with them this year
We moved on to Druridge Pools where I knew four Smew had been reported. There was much more water in the area than I seem to remember from previous visits. Birds in the pools to the south of the path included numbers of Wigeon and Teal and at least one Shoveller. A few years ago I had excellent sightings of five Short Eared Owls in this area, but I’ve never seen any there again. A fellow birder mentioned that the Smew were still about. We met several birders today, probably like us, with Smew on their minds. Were you one of them I wonder? Well, we found three redhead Smew. I believe there are four, but three will do me as it is three more than I had on last years bird list! A very neat bird. The drake adult Smew is a favourite of mine, I just wish I could find one or two of them! Grey Heron, Red-breasted Merganser and Goldeneye were amongst other birds seen.
We plodged back along the pathway so as to take the drive to Cresswell Pond. Geese were seen as we passed Bell’s Pond so we stopped to take a closer look. It turned out to be a party of Canada Geese. There were also good numbers of Wigeon and a few Teal on the edge of the pond. I didn’t see any other geese down there, but another birder said that he had seen grey goose, but that it was not the reported Bean Goose. Pity as I would have loved to have found one so that I could have told a certain birder ‘south of the border’ that I had ‘bean’ and done it.;-) Several hundred of what I took to be more Pink-footed Geese were seen in the west, flying south.
Cresswell pond was eventually reached. Goldfinch were calling from the hedge near the car parking area and in the hedge lading to the hide Dunnock, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Wren and Great Tit were found. House Sparrows and Starlings called form the area around the buildings.
The water in the pond was lower than I had expected and the mud bank contained numbers of Redshank and Lapwing. Oystercatcher, Curlew and Dunlin were around the edge of the pond in numbers as were more Wigeon and Teal. Birds on the water included one Little Grebe, Mallard, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck and Shelduck, with more of the latter on the edge of the pond. As I took a short walk to the bushes I spotted a small bird drop into the reedbed. When I returned to the hide I watched until what I think was the same bird flew out again, but I still have no idea what it was. We ate lunch before leaving. I was a bit surprised that having seen so many birders about, we saw no one else in the hide.
I thought it would be a good idea to stop and take another look at the Pink-footed Geese, to try and identify the reported couple of White-fronts. With the sun now out and us looking into the light, this proved impossible. It wasn’t made any easier by numbers of the flock being hidden in the dip of the land (that’s my excuse anyway). So no luck there. We did find three Greylag Geese. I saw the Lapwing lift over the pond and my friend spotted a Peregrine Falcon flying overhead, so we did both add a year tick with that one. This seemed to be a good time to set of home. I’d had a good day and I sensed my friends had enjoyed it too, with one taking a lifer home with him. I had found three new ticks for the year list in a list of fifty-one species.