Monday, 20 June 2011

All Weather Birders Smash the Record!

Light and colour adding to an atmospheric day

And there's nowt the matter with the 'Ahhh' factor as far as I'm concerned.

19th June. It was a wonderful morning as I watched Killingworth Lake whilst waiting for Tom’s bus to arrive. I found two pairs of Great Crested Grebe, plus of course the two youngsters, one now seeming to be fending for itself. I also found a Little Grebe on the larger lake. Little Grebe used to be regularly seen on the lake, but not so in recent years. Three Common Terns flew close by me and I also found Sedge Warbler and Reed Bunting. For the first time this year I caught sight of House Martins flying over the lake with larger numbers of Swallows. One Lesser Black Backed Gull was seen. I had a chat with two interested passers by who told me that a Mute Swan had been killed on the road just a few days earlier. These guys had certainly been keeping an eye on the birds on the lake and its good to know that there are people around who do so. We were soon heading for St Mary’s Island.

Despite the forecast for heavy rain the morning continued to be bright and warm and the sea relatively calm. There was a dearth of wading birds, but a small flock of Ringed Plover, Oystercatchers, the odd Curlew and a few Lapwings were all seen. For a change, the most active area was the wetland. Here we found at least two reeling Grasshopper Warblers (briefly seen), Sedge Warblers, Common Whitethroats, Sand Martins, Goldfinch and Reed Buntings in some number. Both Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were flying and singing over the fields.

We had seen a few Sandwich Terns and the odd Common Tern over the sea before we headed in the direction of Hartley and Seaton Sluice. We began to pick up small groups of Guillemot on and over the sea. Eider Ducks were numerous and a small flock of Common Scoter flew southwards. A bite to eat in the fish and chip shop gave us a short rest before some sea watching, some of it from the Tower Hide. The hide saved us from a soaking from the only really heavy downpour of the day during which time the mist enveloped us for a time. It didn’t last very long however. We noticed large numbers of Kittiwake, numbers of Gannet, some flying quite close to land, numbers of Guillemot, a smaller number of Razorbill and the occasional Puffin. Numbers of Fulmar has been around the cliff areas, with at least one or two on the cliff ledges still. Rock Pipits were carrying food to a nest. We saw our first Turnstones below the area of the hide. Once again there had been no sign of Redshank.

It wasn’t long before the rain and mist passed over and we off in the direction of Holywell Dene. Over all the dene appeared to be quiet. However we eventually added a pair of Grey Wagtail to the list along with three Stock Doves. It’s never easy to watch birds in the dene at this time of year but we came across a number of the commoner species including Song Thrush in full song. Chiffchaffs were around in number as were a few Willow Warbler and Blackcap. The dene was peaceful. One lady out with her dogs recognised that we were bird watching and took dogs off to bathe further down the burn. Good to see that courtesy and consideration is not dead!

In stark contrast to the last time we has visited The Avenue was quiet too. Although once we got closer to North Pool Common Whitethroats began to appear as did Linnet. The water in North Pool is lower now. We didn’t have the excitement of finding any rarer wading birds this time. It was mainly Mallard, Coot and Moorhen in evidence. As we walked to the public hide at Holywell Pond, Reed Bunting was heard. From the hide we fond at least six Grey Herons, the Canada Geese family which included seven youngsters, Little Grebe, Pochard, Mallard, Tufted Duck and a single Lesser Black Backed Gull. Also seen were the first and only Redshanks of the day. Two of them. Curlews were also heard. On the way to the members hide we found that there is now a small feeding station viewable from the pathway. A very good and nice idea, but I couldn’t help wonder how long this will be left alone considering the problems of theft and vandalism that have been experienced at the hide feeding station! Let’s be optimistic and hope it is left alone. We had a great sighting of a young Great Spotted Woodpecker. Not long fledged I would guess. It perched perfectly still on a branch directly in front of us, as if perhaps waiting for a parent bird to appear, before making some not entirely successful efforts to balance on the tree where a feeder was placed.

The pond was quiet this evening, but I enjoyed my time watching from it anyway. Evening at this time of year is so peaceful. The Mute Swans brought their seven cygnets to the front of the hide where they curled up to sleep. Some very young Moorhen chicks appeared and looked as though their heads had been sprinkled with red paint. Mallards also had very young chicks with them. A single Shoveller was amongst some other special sightings. A female Great Spotted Woodpecker visited the feeding station. A parent bird of the youngster previously seen perhaps. The rain began to fall again, although it didn’t last too long. The all weather birders had been very adept at keeping dry on the outside today, but felt that a little wetness on the inside would be nice so we adjourned to the pub for a little break. Well, bird watching is supposed to be fun you know! We weren’t finished yet however. Owls were on our mind.

We were soon walking back toward the pond and we bumped into Holywell Birding (Cain) and British Birder (Stephen). Tom and I took another look at North Pool and as I stood in the hedge (well I had been drinking lager) a Lesser Whitethroat began tacc’ing and popped out of the hedge to investigate. Cain returned and thanks to him we located the Barn Owl very quickly. We had some great sightings of it returning with prey and it had been a great way to end (or at least almost end) a long, but great day. As well as the Barn Owl we added Yellowhammer (heard) to the day list along with both Grey and Red Legged Partridges. A light shower of rain was hardly noticed by us.

What’s this about smashing records then
, I hear you ask. Well on counting up our day list it appeared that we had amassed a total of seventy-eight species (this may yet turn into seventy-nine) breaking our record for the walk which stood at seventy-six. We just failed on this occasion to make the magical eighty, but there will be another time. We took home some new year ticks too. I seem to remember it was well past 9.00pm when our birding ended. Everyone was tired and I’m sure all slept well. I seem to remember dreaming about birds! Today had been one of those days which to me underline what bird watching is all about.

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