Monday, 11 October 2010

Record Breakers!

10th Oct. I’d gone to bed on Saturday night thinking that birding might be that extra bit interesting on Sunday, and so it proved to be. I set off with my mate Tom, having made a slight change to plans, and headed for Tynemouth on what was a warm, but still misty morning. We were greeted by an overhead pair of Sparrowhawks as we passed Priory Park and we were soon onto the Dusky Warbler , which was calling and on the move constantly below the priory. We both managed good sightings of what was a lifer for both of us, before taking a look around for the Great Grey Shrike that had been reported the day before. There was no sign of it, so I settled for the Siskins and the first waders of the day in the bay. We didn’t want to spend too long here and we soon made off towards Whitley Bay Crematorium. I was surprised that there were so few birders about at the late hour of 9.30am. I guess even some twitchers may like to stop in bed of a Sunday morning!:-) I became aware later that both Shore Lark and Red Breasted Flycatcher were reported at Tynemouth, but car-less, as I am, we were allowed only one shot, as a return was impossible.

The crematorium failed to throw up the Brambling of the previous day and I recall in the main only tits and several Mistle Thrush. St Mary’s Island area was pulling us towards it and we soon made off. The tide was way out on arrival and we soon found that not all twitchers had stayed in bed! There was a real mix of birders down there today and a few non birders kept asking what all the fuss was about. The mention of Red-Flanked Bluetail brought only vacant stares from one or two. For once the wetland was alive with birds, although there was little on the pool apart from Gadwall and Mute Swan. During our wander around the wetland area and the willows we came across large falls of Goldcrest and also Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Sedge Warbler, Song Thrush, Redwing and Reed Bunting et al. Oh yes, and we did have excellent sightings of the Red-Flanked Bluetail. Everyone was being very polite and forming queues to watch it and moving on and letting others in to take a look. Another significant lifer for both Tom and I, and no doubt many others. We did see an interesting warbler which we couldn’t place at all and I wonder how many rarer migrants may have gone un-noticed today. We narrowly missed both Redstart and Redpoll. Every bush seemed to have Goldcrest in it and at times it became difficult to know which way to look!

We crossed to the island and had a look on the sea and found only gulls, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Common Scoter, several flocks of Eider, and a juvenile Gannet very close to shore. We were joined at lunch by more Goldcrest. Rock Pipits had been encountered and we later added Meadow Pipits. There hadn’t been too many waders about, but the incoming tide brought a few more and we ended with quite a number of Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Turnstone, Sanderling, Redshank, Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit and we added Common Snipe as we later took a look in the fields. I saw no sign of Knot or Purple Sandpiper.

Eventually heading off towards Seaton Sluice we bumped into Holywell Birding and one or two other familiar faces. I was pleased to hear Cain also had a good sighting of the Red-Flanked Bluetail. Tom and I found numbers of Skylark and the sighting of Lapland Bunting in flight was a ‘lifer in the day of Tom.’ I’m now an old hand with this Lapland Bunting, having had them as a lifer last week. I just wish I could get a decent sighting of one. There were lots of Reed Bunting about, a single Wheatear, Linnets and at least four Grey Partridge in the field. We found the latter on returning for another look after Cain had mentioned sightings of Lapland Bunting. A brief sighting was had of Merlin and better sightings of Kestrel.

We found little apart from Wren and House Sparrow in the scrub area at Seaton Sluice and quickly made off through the dene towards our final destination of Holywell pond. We added nothing new to our list on the quiet and pleasant walk through the dene, but found another Goldcrest. Early evening seems to avoid many of the dog walkers in the dene, so it is rather more peaceful.

We’d set a new record for this walk of seventy-four bird species way back in early summer and Tom had in his sights the target of eighty today. I was never really confident of reaching such dizzy heights today, but by the time we had reached Seaton Sluice I did think seventy species was on the cards. With lifers for both of us and such good birding I realise numbers don’t matter but it adds a bit extra fun to the day.

On the walk up the avenue I suggested we take a look eastwards across the fields and as we did a small flock of eighteen Greylag flew overhead and we had a brief sighting of Yellowhammer. Nearby we found Pied Wagtails in the ploughed field.

It was almost dusk now, but the pond brought us a few new species including a few Swallows, Little Grebe, Mallard, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Moorhen and Coot. We walked from the public hide to the members hide to find that the pool was deserted at that end. A Helicopter flew over and everything lifted from the far end of the pool. We were more than satisfied to find our list had risen to seventy-five and a new record just waiting to be beaten when we reach the magical eighty in the future! As we left the hide to make for the village the regular Great Spotted Woodpecker flew into the feeding station, where I noted a number of trees have been taken down. That put us onto seventy-six for the day.

Well, the forecast had been for a sunny day. Well I suppose it was, if you were in an aircraft above the mist and cloud. It had been quite warm and I had a real sweat on as I walked uphill in the dene. In any event Tom had said we would have a good day even if it rained. That’s that’s kind of attitude to birding I like, and we have reached a good time of year for being out there in autumn and winter. As it happens we kept dry and that hasn’t always been the case. It had been a great days birding and good to chat too, to passing birders.

I’m very much into waders at the moment and have just begun to read Tundra Plovers/Byrkjedal and Thompson, having just finished The Lapwing/Shrubb. The latter was a bit dry spending, a bit too much time describing agricultural practice. If I have read Amazon correctly, it seems that Poyser are bringing out a new addition of Nethersole-Thompson’s Greenhanks, which I must get a hold of, as I fear the early editions may be a tad too expensive these days. So while I’m not watching them I shall at least, part of the time, be reading about them.

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