16th March. The all weather birding team left Killingworth for the long bus journey to the distant shores of Cresswell as the mists swirled around us. Tom and I had not given up hope of sun, migrants and butterflies! Would our hopes be dashed I wondered, and I had plenty of time to wonder as the bus seemed to take in every street between our departure point and the metropolis of Ashington. Yes you must change at Ashington. An uninterrupted journey to our final destination would be far too straight forward! I did pass comment later in the day that we could fly to Spain in the time it takes to get to Cresswell on public transport. Then later I remembered departure lounges, hassle and security checks and decided that Cresswell was in fact a better option.
The change over at Ashington wasn’t altogether unwelcome as we had hoped to find some remaining Waxwings. We didn’t find any and realise we wouldn’t have time to search all areas. A quick look was taken of the wooded area near to the QE11 reserve. I noted that there seems to be a good number of staff and volunteers employed here. They seemed to be arriving for work and the warden asked if we had spotted anything of rarity. The answer was no, but we had found the likes of Goldfinch, Greenfinch and singing Song Thrush. We were soon on the second leg of the journey. There were numbers of swans seen as we approached Creswell but from the bus we could only see Mute Swans and we were unable to identify the more distant birds.
The mist was down when we arrived at our destination, but we still held hopes of it lifting. It wasn’t bad enough to spoil some decent birding and in fact it was quite atmospheric. The sea watch was short as the tide was high and the waves rough. Eider Ducks, Oystercatchers and a few gulls were about all on offer. The walk to the pond hide was enjoyable however. I began to wonder why Tom had suddenly taken such a keen interest in the corvids, and then I remembered of course that one of our target birds was the Hooded Crow.
There were quite a number of calling and displaying Lapwings in the fields as we approached the pond. I remembered I have yet to see them back on patch! Redshank, Curlew and Moorhens were in the same area as the Lapwings and Snipe were also seen. Skylarks sang. A Stonechat was heard in its usual territory but we were unable to sight it. Three Stock Doves were seen in the field to the left of the pathway. The hedge which lines the path to the hide held numbers of Tree Sparrow. I’ve not seen them here before in such numbers. The pond looked quiet on first approach and the mist was not making for easy viewing. I’d been surprised to fine someone else in the hide on such a day. There was no way we were going to spot a Hooded Crow at the other end of the pond in these conditions. At times the mist did seem to begin to dissipate only to fall again.
After a while we did knock up quite a number of species on and around the pond despite conditions. Waders included Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Redshank and Dunlin. The pond held at least three Red-Breasted Merganser and two Goosander along with Mallard, Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Moorhen and Coot. Oystercatchers were flying in all of the time we were there and the odd Cormorant was about. After a cuppa we decided to make of towards Druridge and into the mist which at this point in time we were still hopeful would lift. Those hopes began to recede as we became damper and damper on the walk.
We stopped a while at the brow of the hill to look for the Hooded Crow. Not easy in the mist. We’d been warned about the danger of parking the car here. We all weathers needn’t trouble ourselves about such things. We found the dead sheep which the crows were tucking into, but no Hooded Crow. As we walked further on Grey Partridges rose and flew on either side of us. One of the Pheasants that we spotted was of deep vivid green colouring. Skylarks were seen in flight, but the area was generally quiet. There were few cars on the road and even fewer people about.
We took a look at the area just before Druridge Pool and found Grey Herons, Shoveller and more Wigeon and Teal. Then we walked the plank through a pool on the pathway to the hide. Thoughts of falling into the burn were on our minds but there was to be no such mishaps today! Druridge Pool didn’t have much to offer today, but the hide gave shelter for lunch before we walked back towards Cresswell, this time along the beach. Tom had managed to find a bottle of water in the bottom of his bag, which he had forgotten about. I decided to blot from my mind all thoughts of what else might be lurking in the depths of that bag! :-) Having had our feet wet the last time we were up here I had made sure the tide was definitely going out this time. The sea was rough and we realised that there was little chance of finding much in the way of birds. The only sightings were Herring Gulls and Oystercatchers. We eventually rejoined the roadway for another chance to look for the Hooded Crow. By now the mist was thickening and we couldn’t even see the dead sheep. However we weren’t the only ones looking for the crow. The other three people we spoke to had had no success either. Then we were approached by a couple who had sadly lost a small terrier dog in the area. They have put up notices with contact details should anyone find it.
The all weather birders where beginning to tire a little such had been the exertions of the day. The outward walk had been atmospheric, but now it was simply damp and misty, and that mist was getting thicker. We decided that it wasn’t worth giving the pond another look so we made off towards the village with the intention of looking for waders on the rocks. I think both of us by now would have been happy to jump on the bus and make for home, but we had just missed it so a look for waders it was. By now however the mist was such that bird watching wasn’t really an option, although we did manage to add Turnstone to our list. We sat on the rather wet seat and had a chat until the bus turned up.:-)
Despite the conditions (it would take a lot worse to put us off) it had been another great day for the all weather birders and we’d managed to find fifty-one species. Not at all bad in such conditions. We both nodded of on the way home, but I kept a firm hold on my salted peanuts! We’re looking forward to the next adventure. :-)