Wednesday, 19 January 2011

All Weather Birders Take a Diversion to Blyth

The sun begins to warm the air at Holywell Pond
A few of the feeding Sanderling and Turnstone

19th Jan. Yes, after a mid winter break in play, Tom and I are back in birding partnership again and where better to kick off again that on a favourite walk from Holywell to St Mary’s Island, where we rarely fail to score. Today was to include a diversion to Blyth South Harbour however, so we were up at the crack of dawn, out with Jack Frost and in the hide at Holywell Pond before the birds had come to the feeding station. As we were commenting on how quiet the pond was, and it really was quiet, with Teal and Goldeneye being as interesting as it got, the birds awoke and seemed to arrive at the feeders en-mass. Pheasant, Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock, Goldfinch. Greenfinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit and Chaffinch all appeared. However the highlight was the female Brambling which Tom initially got his eye on and which hung around long enough to give us a really good sighting. Then it was off along the new path which is being built by the trust, their staff just arriving as we set off. The public hide brought us little. The water was high.

After finding Redshank, the first diversion of the day took us across the fields to look for geese. None were found, but a distant skein was seen, which we took to be Greylag, but we couldn’t be sure. Back in the direction of the dene we found a lively group of seven Red Legged Partridges. Grey Partridge was also seen at some point. We found the dene itself, in contrast to the pond to be lively with birds. At least four separate Great Spotted Woodpeckers were seen, two Treecreepers and Nuthatch was heard. Great, Coal, Blue and Long Tailed Tit were all seen in number, but not Marsh Tit that had been mentioned by a passer by. I suspect he had mis-identified Coal Tit. Robins were numerous around the feeder areas and of course the usual Wrens and Blackbirds were seen. I’m pleased to say we found a Tree Sparrow in the same area as we had found it on our previous visit. Little Grebe was seen on the burn.

We were soon at Seaton Sluice and catching a bus along to Blyth. In fact we got off the bus to quickly and had a hard slog along the beach to get to the South Harbour. The walk was worth it as we soon found our target bird, the Red-Necked Grebe. Nearby was a Red-Breasted Merganser. As we wandered around a little we did find the odd Eider Duck and Cormorant on the water. A few birds flew in and landed in front of us. I asked myself, are we going to be lucky here? We were, and the birds proved to be five Snow Buntings. They gave us excellent views. Three or four years ago I had watched Snow Buntings in almost the exact same place. We had our lunch sat in the sun and were soon off again with new enthusiasm.

Once off the bus again at Seaton Sluice we decided not to christen my ne NTBC hide key as the weather was so good. We just watched form the headland although with the tide really high now there wasn’t too much about. Common Scoters were seen.

The highlight of the walk to St Mary’s Island was a male Stonechat. Flocks of Golden Plover were seen at distance and in flight. Oystercatcher, Curlew and Sanderling were added to the day list. More Sanderlings were seen nearer to the lighthouse along with a single Grey Plover and Turnstones. The wetland held Teal, Tufted Duck and Lapwing.

As we came towards the end of our walk another mixed flock of Sanderling and Turnstone were found frantically feeding at the tide edge. A raft of circa ninety Teal was on the sea. As we made for the end of the walk a lone Bar-Tailed Godwit was seen amongst the Curlew flock. The air was turning cold again after a warm afternoon when I had felt the warmth of the sun for the first time in many weeks. We made towards home as the lowering sun continued to shine brightly in a sky of mixed colours. Greylag Geese were seen near to the Bee Hive flash. The forecast was for another frosty night with temperature lowering to minus one centigrade. As per usual it had been another great days birding and it was good to get back out there with my mate. Red-Necked Grebe and Snow Bunting shared top of the bill, with Brambling running them close. We had sixty-two species in total. And our year lists are coming along nicely. Once in Killingworth I walked home thinking of our trip to Rainton Meadows coming up on Saturday and another early start. Perhaps I was thinking of Saturday too much, or perhaps I was just cream crackered again, but I tripped and fell flat with all my gear landing beside me. Tom I think was by now getting on the bus and oblivious to my ordeal.
:-) Thankfully I have youth and fitness on my side……………well a bit of fitness anyway, and I hopped up. Don’t despair, I am in one piece and so is the gear. Having taken a needle and tweezers to the splinter I picked up at Blyth, I shall have made a full recovery by Saturday’s kick off.


  1. If your anything like me you would have checked that your gear was Ok before you checked yourself out. Of course, there is the embarresment factor where you jump up and carry on like nothing happened.

  2. I was in to much of a hurry to get home and check the scope was OK to feel too much embarrassment John.:-) Although must admit I was pleased the light was going. Just hope the lady at the bus stop didn't read my lips when I went down! Never mind, a great birding day. Brian