Thursday, 31 March 2011

All Weather Birders Out of the Mist.....Eventually!

It does look so different without frost, ice and snow!

A Room With a View.

A Poser

30th March. The weather forecast had been for poor weather today! When I met Tom and Cain at Killingworth Lake at least it wasn’t raining, so I was hopeful. The plan was that we were to pay a quick visit to Cresswell Pond to try for the American Wigeon. Before setting off we had ticked the usual lake birds including three Great Crested Grebes, Canada Geese, Oystercatchers, Reed Bunting and the one and only Sand Martin. The martins tend to be around in more numbers come the evening.

As Cain drove to Cresswell the mist seemed to thicken more and more on route. On arrival we found a number of Reed Bunting and Meadow Pipit. We were soon heading for the hide finding once again, numbers of Tree Sparrow in the hedge. Although the light wasn’t wonderful at times, the mist in the main remained over the sea and there were only a couple of heavy showers of rain. The time here proved to be well spent indeed. There was still a number of Pink-Footed Geese about in the fields and a party of Greylag Geese flew in at one point around the same time as five Whooper Swans landed on the pond. There were a couple of Stock Doves in the field. Other birds on the water included Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveller, Wigeon, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Red-Breasted Merganser, Coot and Moorhen. Oystercatchers, Redshank, Lapwing and Curlew were around in some number. Grey Heron appeared at some point and another was seen on the small pond as we left. The American Wigeon was not going to make a quick appearance it seemed, as we all checked out the flocks of Wigeon, some of them way off in the distant fields. There were large flocks of Black Headed Gulls and our frustration at not finding the American Wigeon was eased a little by Tom’s sighting of an adult Mediterranean Gull. Certainly not regulars at Cresswell Pond I believe. Could Tom have recorded the first one? It wasn’t long before Cain got his eye on another and the two Mediterranean Gulls remained close together on the far side of the pond. A great sighting indeed. Lesser Black Backed Gulls were present too.

The Wigeon flocks kept moving from shore to pond as other flocks joined them. Still, there was no American Wigeon. Then someone in the hide called it just as I was beginning to feel that it wasn’t going to be our day. We all had good sightings of an American Wigeon to the field left of the hide. We had to leave soon afterwards, so it had timed things very well. Unfortunately Cain had to leave us soon afterwards, but dropped Tom and I off at Seaton Sluice as that mist remained over the sea. Thanks to Cain for the lift and company. It certainly beat the long haul bus journey!

Tom and I looked around the Sluice area in the hope of possible Wheatears, but found none. The tide was high by now so looked for Knot and Purple Sandpiper with no great optimism. They may have left anyway. We did manage to add Turnstone to the list. A sea watch from the area of the tower hide (haven’t got my new key yet) brought us some decent sightings despite the mist over the sea, and the sun was beginning to break through now! We found both Black Throated and Red Throated Diver quite quickly. Fulmars were about in good numbers. A single Kittiwake was seen as were other gulls including Great Black Backed. There were numerous small rafts of Eider Duck. Pleased with ‘our divers’ we took a walk along to the horse fields in the hope of finding Wheatear there. No luck again. We walked back and adjourned for lunch at the chippy.

After a filling lunch and cup of tea we set off in the sun and warmth towards the dene. The calories we had added had done the trick and seemed to be racing around our bodies causing a build up of warmth. In my case it may have just been the up hill walk towards Holywell! The odd shower was no problem for us. It was simply water off an all weather birders back.

It initially proved to be quiet bird wise. Once into the dene proper we did then pick up a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers and one of the species we had set out to find, a pair of Grey Wagtails. There were the usual woodland birds but we failed to find either Nuthatch or Treecreeper. The odd Song Thrush was found and just before leaving the dene we had a brief sighting of Sparrowhawk. The sound of Chiffchaff had been with us as we had walked through the dene, and at least two Chiffchaffs had been seen. The dene was looking so different now that the winter has left us, that I think Tom had begun to feel we had taken a different route.:-)

The avenue provided us with Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting and Linnet. I can’t remember seeing north pool with so much water in it. We found a pair of calling Little Grebe on the water along with Moorhen and Tufted Duck. Lapwing were displaying in the area. Two Grey Partridges were seen as they lifted from the fields on the right of us. We took a look across the farmland and began to hear the first of several Skylarks and we found numbers of Linnet, both in the hedges and the stuble field.

We eventually reached the pond. It had seemed to have been a long day in the field but in fact it wasn’t 3:30pm yet. There were at least four pairs of Little Grebe on the pond along with the likes of Mallard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Teal and Goldeneye. The feeding station was fairly quiet, but still attracted birds such as Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Reed Bunting, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Pheasant. One of the male pheasants was an especially attractive one from the torqatus group. I remembered the Green Pheasant Tom and I had seen last week at Cresswell. Does anyone know it these are likely to come from the stock of Japanese Green Pheasant?

Well after a cuppa in the hide it was time to leave. Tom was off to do some studying and I was off to have a kip! :-) Yet another great day in the life of the all weather birders. We’d actually beaten the weather today as it turned out rather nice on the whole. There was a ‘lifer in the day of Tom’, the American Wigeon, and our list of species by my reckoning came to seventy-three. After a short interval throughout April we will be back on the Holywell and St Mary’s route to try and break our record of seventy-six species. We are after eighty, but will confine this to the Holywell to St Mary’s Walk.

Looking forward to the NTBC talk tonight and pleased these winds did not come a day earlier.


  1. A good list of birds and the American Wigeon was a nice one to have got!

  2. Good luck on breaking the record,A drive through Cresswell yesterday did not award me with a peek of the American Wigeon

  3. Cheers guys.

    Geordie.......I noted that the American Wigeon appeared to fly in with a flock of Wigeon just before 11:00am and had flown in late morning the previous day too, so that may help if you visit again.