Sunday, 7 November 2010

Diving With the Divers!

Seventy Whooper Swans on the pond bring a great day to a perfect end.
A clear day at Cresswell and a great day to be out birding

6th Nov. To Cresswell today, via Ashington. An early start saw us into Ashington sooner than expected. The skies were clear and I felt the cold despite the sunshine. Tom and I weren’t quite expecting to be greeted by Waxwings and we were both pleased with a year tick outside of the Northumbria police station. We saw Starling like birds fly across the field and there was little doubt that they were Waxwings when we saw them drop onto the berries. A good sighting was had of over twenty birds. I’m not sure what risk you take these days standing outside of a police station with binoculars and telescope seemingly pointing at the building, but we weren’t arrested. Having stocked up with food we made for the bus to Cresswell and reached our destination shortly after 9.30am. These early starts and long days are becoming an enjoyable habit. It seemed a little warmer as the sun had risen in the sky.

The tide was out and the beach was seen at its sunlit best. The sea look, perhaps deceptively, calm. A small flock of Knot were found and the occasional Ringed Plover, but in the main waders seen were Oystercatcher, Redshank and Curlew. Skeins of geese were in the main Pink-Footed Geese, but we also saw Canada Geese as they flew to the pond area and there was a small flock of Whooper Swans in the air. We watched the sea at various times during the day and my mind is playing tricks as to when we saw what. However the best sightings were of the Red Throated Divers. We got well into double figures and, although we may have seen some birds on more than one occasion, we did have a small flotilla of half a dozen divers followed by a lone bird on one occasion. They were often well in to shore giving excellent sightings. Other birds seen over or on the sea included three Red-Breasted Mergansers, numerous Common Scoter and Eider and a flock of Wigeon.

We walked along the road to the pond. There were few passerines about, but plenty of small skeins of Pink-Footed Geese in the distance. A number of cars were parked near the hide and it seemed to remain busy all day. The hide was noisy. As someone who likes to bird in peace and quiet I found this irritating, although I appreciate most in the hide were keen just to watch the birds. I have no objections to talking in hides, but there are limits and they were broken today, with no thought giving to those trying to quietly watch from the hide. I’ve had the same unpleasant experience at Saltholme recently, and I felt strongly enough about it to write to the site manager to complain. I know I’m not alone in my feelings and make a plea on behalf of birders who just want to bird in peaceful surroundings and not a social club atmosphere! Anyway, when peace was restored it felt much better.

A Peregrine Falcon was in a tree in the distance to the left of the hide and remained there motionless for a lengthy period. Pink-Footed Geese landed in the distance, but most disappeared behind the brow of a hillock. There was no sign of a Jack Snipe or Bittern whilst we were present, but I note that the Bittern was recorded at some point during the day. We did wonder about one bird that flew into the reeds. It may have been Common Snipe as there were numbers of them around the pond edges, but it did seem small in flight. It wasn’t seen again, but a Green Sandpiper did fly from the same area giving a very good sighting as it flew across the pond. A bit late in the year for this one I thought. Teal and Wigeon dominated the pond but there were also several Goldeneye and a Scaup, Mute Swans and three Whooper Swans. Grey Herons and Lapwing were around as usual.

We walked on to Bells Farm and Pond where there was a mixed flock of Chaffinch, House Sparrow and Tree Sparrow and lots of activity on and around the pond. At some point we found a flock of Golden Plover in flight. A number of Twite were in their usual winter quarters near the cattle. I noted a large not so friendly looking bull in the field. Chatting to the farmer, he told us Snow Bunting had been around earlier in the week. We decided to take a look for that on our return as we pushed on to Druridge Pool. On the way we had a good sighting of a Sparrowhawk as it flew in usual fashion low down along by a fence and into the trees. It was a wonderful day to be out and about. Druridge Pool didn’t add to much to the list, but amongst new birds seen for the day were Gadwall and Shoveller. At least the hide here was quiet as we were the only ones in it! The water was very high.

The return walk was made through the dunes, where a couple of pairs of attractive Stonechat were found, and then along an energy sapping beach. I took a breather at what I think were wartime concrete defences. I thought the tide was now going back out and Tom thought it was coming in. I think it was whilst we watched a close up Red Throated Diver, that Tom was proved to be correct. We ended up with wet feet as we were caught by a wave and my tripod and bag stood in sea water. That got us moving again as several Sanderling flew over the sea.

When we come to the burn we decided to search for a possible Snow Bunting. All we found were the Twite, Goldfinch and Pied Wagtail having checked the flocks out very well. I kept an eye open for that bull! Then we found the burn had become deep and cut off our path. We tried a number of methods to get across without getting feet soaked. Tom tried to cross over on a piece of old tree trunk, but I think having become envious of the Red Throated Divers habits and not wishing to be up staged, took to diving himself. I can tell you he was out of that water quicker than the Red Throated Divers. Luckily not too soaked. I shall award him ten points for the dive however.:-) Its usually me who has the falls! We decided to walk along by the burn and a few yards along it we found a small foot bridge. Never mind, we don’t like to take the easy ways! So off we trod on four wet feet my old walking shoes squeaking all the way. Tom spotted a Kestrel on the fence. We eventually got back on the road.

We’d had a long day, but time had flown. We came across Meadow Pipit and Reed Bunting and continued to watch the flocks of Pink Footed Geese in the air. We wondered if another visit to the pond hide was worth missing the bus and getting a later one. Decision time was made very pleasant when we found that a flock of circa seventy Whooper Swans had flown onto the pond. A wonderful sight as the sun began to go down and the light disappear somewhat. I’m not sure what made our final decision to go for the bus, although seeing the hide full once again was certainly a factor as I think were wet feet! We’d both had another great days birding with 64 species being the days count, easily beating the species list from our previous visit. It was a mega journey to get back home and I was sleepy, damp and cold at the end of it, but well worth it to have the type of day that can only be shared with someone of the same mind set as to what birding is all about.


  1. Totally agree Brian. Always a good sign of a good time when the time flies by. I am not a great hide birder but it has its place and there is nothing worse than a noisy hide. I always struggle more when there are noisy children present. While i think it is great to see kids out and about i can never comprehend why the adults with them usually fail to point out that they wont see much if they make a noise.
    Nice account. If your anything like me these days you would have had a quiet day today recovering, while watching the Toon taking three points from frosty faced Wenger.

  2. Just a p.s. the word i had to put in to allow my comment was DENES, very appropriate for a birding post.

  3. Hi John. Yes, a rest day today. Mr Wenger's face was delight.:-)
    I agree, I much prefer being out in the open than in a hide, although they have their place. My recent irritations of how hides are used have all stemmed from the behavior of people older than myself, treating the hide as a social club. Also recent experience of people allowing their dogs to run into the hide at Low Newton. The rudeness of some folk is hard to comprehend at times. Glad you enjoyed the report. Cheers Brian.