Sunday, 27 February 2011

Day of Contrasts

Walking in the rain.

Walking in the sun.

26th Feb. Exactly one year ago to the day had led to the soaking of ‘two wet birders’ on the Holywell/St Mary’s walk, which is my favourite local walk. I thought it fitting to walk the route today and whilst I managed to reach the members hide just as the rain began, I soon began to wonder if another soaking was in store. As I sat in the hide, memories of wet holidays in Lakeland as a youngster come to mind, as the rain steadily become heavier. A female Great Spotted Woodpecker had been at the feeding station as I arrived and a small skein of Greylag Geese had flown over before I’d even left Killingworth.

The pond held Mute Swan, Greylag Geese, Canada Geese, Mallard, Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal (by far the most numerous species present), Pochard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Moorhen, Coot, Black Headed Gull, Herring Gull, Common Gull and Great Black Backed Gull. The whistling of the Wigeon added to the atmosphere as the rain fell heavily onto the already high pond. A small flock of Lapwing were on the wing over the pond and later calling as they flew over the fields nearby. It was a grey beginning to the walk without a doubt. Once I’d left the hide a bit colour was added to the day by a number of Yellowhammers making an appearance and if snatches of song. Reed Bunting was found in the usual area and Skylark sang.

The heavy showers soon petered out giving only the occasional light shower once I was into the dene. Heavy rain returned before I reached Seaton Sluice. Song Thrush sang in the dene and there was the usual woodland bird interest mainly in the form of Great, Coal, Blue and Long Tailed Tit. A Nuthatch was found nearby and on the feeders. I’d been hoping for Grey Wagtail, but saw no sign of one all along the burn.

After lunch I noticed a drop in temperature as I stood on the cliffs and hat and gloves were found. There was a flock of eighty plus Knot at Seaton Sluice and the odd Purple Sandpiper was nearby. I found my first Kittiwake of the year over the sea, although most birds were way out and I couldn’t identify the auk species. Common Scoter were in small rafts offshore and of course there was the usual small flocks of Eider.

Once I’d set of walking again the clouds began to disperse and not long into the walk towards St Marys the sun was shining and the sky was blue, giving a very different feel to the day than had been the case in the morning. A rainbow was over the sea.

The flocks of waders made up for the lack of other bird interest. I soon found the large flock of Golden Plover in the distant fields and with them were Lapwings. Gulls stood sentinel like amongst them at what seemed to be fixed distances, no doubt waiting to take an easy meal from the plovers. The Lapwings soon took flight, but the Golden Plovers remained on the ground. There was one hundred plus Curlews on the rocky island north of St Marys and more in the fields to the east. In amongst them were Oystercatchers and Redshank. The walk ended nicely with more flocks of waders south of the island. This included large flocks of Redshank, Lapwing, Sanderling, Turnstone and Dunlin. The Dunlin and Sanderling flocks being especially alert, and constantly taking to flight. A lady asked me if what she was watching was a Purple Sandpiper. I had to admit that I hadn’t seen it until she had pointed it out. The lady had been doing her homework and knew that Purple Sandpipers are often seen with Turnstone. She had also been able to identify the Bar-Tailed Godwits which have been around for some weeks now. These had dispersed when dogs had run into the wader flocks and had not returned, so I missed them today.

So my walk had begun under grey cloud, but had ended under blue skies. I’d felt the day had been quiet, but a count showed I had found sixty-one species. Kittiwake was new for the year list and I had not repeated the drenching of 26th February, 2010, not that this would have put me off.

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