Not the best time to be stuck on the island!
A rainbow over Holywell
24th Oct. I’d had today in the diary for a bit of sea watching practice as the weather forecast had appeared to suggest appropriate conditions and I have someone keen to come along and suffer with me. I’m not sure, as it turned out, that the wind direction was so perfect, but Tom and I ventured forth anyway, but not before checking out Holywell Pond and the dene. I’m pleased we decided to include this.
The resident Great Spotted Woodpecker greeted us as we arrived at the members hide and it wasn’t long before we found the Long Tailed Duck on the pond, although it was playing hard to get with head tucked under for most of the time. Other notable birds on the water were Black Necked Grebe, Scaup and a couple of Goldeneye. Numbers of Teal were quite high, with low numbers of Wigeon. Little Grebes were there along with the usual Mallard et al. A Grey Heron flew across the pond as we watched. I have to confess that I took little notice of the gulls today, but remember Black Headed, Herring and Great Black Backed. In hindsight I remember Tom describing what may have been a Common Gull. Two Pink-footed Geese flew over the trees at the back of the pond. Tom had seen a small skein of pink foot on his journey this morning.
The first of several of today’s rainbows was seen over the pond before we set off. The walk down to the dene was pleasant, but largely uneventful although I seem to remember Reed Bunting in the hedge, a small flock of Lapwing over the fields and what is always a good sighting, two Grey Wagtail along the burn. A Treecreeper and Willow Warbler were found, but in the main it was tits and Chaffinches. Robins for some reason were notable by their absence which was in stark contrast to our previous trip and it wasn’t until we were approaching Seaton Sluice that we found one in song. The only shower of rain to hit us was a short one. The dene was looking attractive with the sunlight making for contrasting shades of colour.
I felt the colder air and wind as we approached Seaton Sluice as we found our first Curlew and Redshanks of the day. By the time we reached the point I realised that sea watching was not going to be easy in this wind and the tripod could not be held still. Having explained to Tom that the hide at Seaton Sluice was privately owned by the NTBC and that we couldn’t use it, I had my ‘eureka’ moment. I remembered that I’m a member now (since last weekJ) and as there was someone in the hide we thought we would take a look. Thanks to Rob for letting us in, as I’m not the proud owner of a key as yet! I’d heard the hide was not especially comfortable lets say, but to be honest having gotten out of the wind I found it quite snug and I’ve never been one for wanting central heating and carpeted floors in hides. So we spent a little time in the hide. We’d been hoping for Little Auk today but never did find one although I understand two or three had been seen in the morning. We did have a good sighting of another Long Tailed Duck along with a couple of flocks of Wigeon flying north, numbers of Common Scoter, 5 or 6 Red Breasted Merganser, several immature Gannets and Eider Ducks. There were Purple Sandpipers below us. We had to leave with the key owner, but we will be back in the future once I get my key.
More rainbows stretched over the sea as we departed for a cuppa tea in Castaways. I think Tom thought he had entered a time machine and been taken back to the 1930s, but the tea was good and welcome. I gained the impression that Castaways ‘Caff’ (dare I call it a caff?) is not used to having birders arrive with bags, telescope and the rest! J Refreshed by the tea we set off towards St Mary’s Island. Compared to our last visit during the ‘great fall’ things were very quiet. We decided theta there would be no record counts today. The wader list began to increase however with us eventually adding the likes of Sanderling, Dunlin, Turnstone and Golden Plover, the flocks of the latter putting on the usual aerial performance. The sea was rough, the tide high and the wind strong. I later learnt that the tides are at their peak this weekend.
Having avoided the hole in the cliff that has so nearly brought my birding career to a swift end last winter, we joined some hardy sea watchers outside of the toilet block and heard that they had seen little, but that they had seen a Little Auk. We moved on fairly swiftly, auk-less as it happens, as things seemed very quite. We took a look at the wetland which we found dead, although Teal and Gadwall flew overhead at one point. The real excitement appeared to come form the fact that some youngsters had been trapped on St Mary’s Island and this had brought three police cars, and two helicopters from sea rescue. As we left the area the larger sea rescue helicopter appeared to be preparing to go down for the youngsters. I wonder how much this little escapade has cost the taxpayer.
Tom and I headed for the crematorium grounds where we found absolutely nothing in the way of bird life apart from some noisy House Sparrows. As we prepared to return home another rainbow, probably the most vivid of the day appeared out at sea. We had a list of 63 species, but had found no gold or Little Auk at the end of the rainbow. We had as usual enjoyed the day and more sea watching is at the top of the agenda over the coming months and hopefully some sea birds to add to the year list will be forthcoming