Monday, 24 October 2011

Two Hundred and Fifty Up!

Autumn leaves under frozen soles,
Hungry hands turning soft and old,
My hero cried as we stood out their in the cold,
Like these autumn leaves I don't have nothing to hold.
Paulo Nutini Lyrics

Clifftop abode offering fine sea views. May need a little restoration.:-)

24th Oct. That’s blogs, not my year list! I think my arithmetic is correct. I always write my blog for myself, but hope at least an odd few people get some pleasure from reading it. I follow a few blogs myself, usually ones where the authors love of birds and nature shines through, so thanks to the authors for them. (If you don’t already do so take a look at Geltsdale Wildlifewarrior blog. Always a good read, informative and someone who doesn’t take himself too seriously). You can blame Cain (Holywell Birding) for encouraging me to start my own.:-) It’s fitting that today’s blog focuses on my favourite walk which includes Holywell. Over the past year or two there is someone who has fired my enthusiasm for birding more than I can ever express and I want to dedicate this blog to him. I don’t need to name the guy as he knows who he is, but he has my thanks and more importantly my complete respect. I’m pleased to say, just like me, he enjoys chips and occasionally the odd beer, so if that is not the basis of a great friendship I’m not sure what is!

I was alone today and headed for the Rising Sun Country Park with Jack Snipe in mind. Failed again. At least up to now I haven’t come home and found it on Birdguides. The little detour did bring me a nice sighting of a hunting Kestrel, a few Teal and several healthy looking Greenfinches in the hedges. I didn’t hang around to look for anything else so left after a chat with Graham the caretaker who I have come to know very well.

Soon at St Mary’s Island I got a bit of a shock when I found how strong the winds were and even worse was the fact that it looked quite misty out at sea. I was intending on doing a bit of a seawatch. Fortunately it wasn’t misty enough to stop me, and before I reached Seaton Sluice I had found a couple of sheltered spots to watch from. Top bird of the day was a close up Manx Shearwater heading south just off Hartley. My hopes rose when I found this bird, but they didn’t stay that high for long as there wasn’t much through passage of sea birds whilst I was around. I did find Common Scoters, two or three flocks of Teal and a single Guillemot. Let’s not forget the Eider Ducks!

Is that someone asking ‘what about the Yellow Browed Warbler in the willows at St Mary’s’? All I can say is, what Yellow Browed Warbler?!

As usual the waders saved the day. Just before I entered the luxurious tower hide at Seaton Sluice I found one Purple Sandpiper, two Knot, one Turnstone and several Redshank along with the Oystercatchers just below the hide. A flock of Ringed Plover flew past once I had my position in the hide itself. Other waders seen were Golden Plover, Lapwing, and Curlew. I could swear that hide was rocking with the wind. Oh, and yes two rather late Sandwich Terns were still about. One resting on the rocks and one over the sea.

I have to say the main excitement at sea was not avian, but that which was caused by a sea search. The lifeboat had been out on my arrival at St Mary’s Island and at Seaton Sluice I found folk looking over the sea and was stopped by one of the guards and asked to keep an eye out for a body! It seems a Jet Ski had been washed ashore with no sign of an owner and it was thought that some one was missing. It wasn’t long before the Helicopter arrived to join in the search. This is the second time I’ve been asked to keep an eye out for a body whilst I’ve been out birding. The first time was at Killingworth Lake when someone had gone missing. I have to say I’m pleased that I didn’t find a body and hope no one has been lost at sea.

I decided after lunch to carry on and walk to Holywell pond via the dene. It would make a fitting blog in the circumstances I thought. I met someone along the way who tells me he walks from Holywell to St Mary’s and back on a regular basis. I find one way tiring enough. Mind you, the person I spoke to doesn’t do the walk carrying his backpack, telescope and tripod!

The dene was once again very quiet. The winds were ensuring the pace of the fall was hotting up. I did have a good sighting of Sparrowhawk. I may have seen more if I had not power walked to get out of the way of the dog walkers. I’m sure Charlie is a very nice dog, but to have the owner blaring out his name every two or three seconds was not what I was after. I think Charlie had earplugs in his lugs as he took not a blind bit of notice. Both dog and owners were friendly and polite (can a dog be polite, I’m not so sure on that one). In fact everyone I met today was polite.

The Avenue, surrounding fields and Holywell Pond were all devoid of much bird life. I did find Stock Doves in the fields and Skylark flying overhead. There was a couple of Grey Heron at the side of the pond, Teal, Mallard and gulls upon it. Lapwings flew to and from the pond area.

I was surprised to find so many Great Black Backed Gulls. Probably taking shelter from the winds at sea I would think. In the fields left of the path to the members hide were over four hundred Great Black Backed Gulls, and yes I counted them.:-) The pond held at least another thirty. In total I reckon over four hundred and fifty Great Black Backed Gulls. In amongst them were Common, Herring and Black Headed Gulls.

As I was chatting to the only other person in the hide I found the air turning colder and the skies turning darker as if a storm was brewing. I decided it was time to head for home. My favourite walk had not brought the excitement that it does on occasions, but I had enjoyed it and it had cleared my head of clutter. The Manx Shearwater had shown as well, if not better, than any I had seen earlier in the year.

Cheers to all enthusiastic bloggers, passionate birders and polite dog owners.:-)


  1. I'm pleased to say that i fall into the first two but not the third category.
    Another nice post which sums up the joys ( is that what they are??) of birding. You quite simply do not know what to expect. It's quite often the days that you go out with no great expectations ( good name for a book that) when you come across some nice suprise.
    Congrats on y 250 th and many more in the future. I look forward to reading them.

  2. Cheers John. Joys or frustrations?:-) I guess the latter is part of the former.

  3. and I look forward to reading many more :)

  4. Yes keep them coming Brian, always a great read, thanks for the mention....kind words :)

  5. Cheers Cain and Ewan. I think I can almost guarantee one or two more words.:-)