Monday, 7 November 2011

Short Eared Owls Begin and End the Day.

There were few positives to World War 1, but at least it did bring to an end the idea of making Seaton Sluice a large holiday resort.

Morning sunlight

Morning advances

Gradual thaw

Frozen dipping pond

Open space

Reflecting at Holywell.

7th Nov. The most severe frost of the winter so far didn’t stop me taking a trip to Seaton Sluice, but by, it was chilly. The morning light was wonderful until eventually cloud began to appear from the south. I was taking note of the waders below the Tower Hide when up popped a Short Eared Owl which appeared to have been taking a rest on the side of the cliff. I assume it had come in from the sea this morning or maybe last night. After circling two or three times it flew off in the direction of Blyth. It was a nice beginning to the day. These Short Eared Owls seem to be everywhere at the moment.

The waders below the hide were being drawn closer together by the incoming tide. Represented were Oystercatcher, a single Grey Plover, Turnstone, three Purple Sandpipers, twenty-five Knot, numbers of Redshank and Curlew. I stayed out of the hide to admire the views towards St Mary’s Island and found my first Red Throated Diver of the day, close in. I eventually gave in and moved to the hide, but found that I was colder and damper in there than outside today, as there was no wind. Before I left, my score on Red Throated Divers was six, all individual birds. Four of which were flying north. Otherwise sea passage was vey quiet with only Cormorants, Eider and gulls. A single Rock Pipit was seen.

I decided that even if I stayed in the hide all day I wasn’t going to see much sea passage, so it was decision time. Do I walk to St Mary’s or take the longer walk to Holywell? I decided on the latter. It was still only mid morning. The hard frost seemed to have put new life into the area as bird sound was everywhere, but predominately the calls of Jackdaws, and it was nice that there was so few folk about. Redshanks were numerous in the saltmarsh area and Grey Herons stood motionless as their shape was reflected perfectly in the still and clear water. It’s at times like this that I wish I had a decent camera, but I can’t carry everything! I felt the sun’s warmth each time I moved from shaded areas and noticed that the frost covered plants were quickly being thawed by the sun’s rays. In places, droplets of water sparkled like jewels. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard chipping before flying off towards the east.

I was surprised at how many Coal Tits I saw today amongst the Great, Blue and Long Tailed Tits, the latter only heard. I guessed that the dene would be far livelier than of late, but still decided today to take the high path that dissects the treeline and farmland. I was half hoping for a sighting of a disturbed Woodcock, a bird that I haven’t seen this year, but my hope remained exactly that! I did catch sight of a butterfly and assumed it to be a Red Admiral.

It wasn’t long before I had reached The Avenue and then Holywell Pond. The pond seemed to have been taken over by gulls which after checking seemed to consist of Black Headed, Common, Herring and Great Black Backed Gulls. I shared my time between the public and members hides. Moving from one to the other I found Tree Sparrows in the hedge. I eventually saw four Tree Sparrows together, nervously attempting to feed along side the rather more daring Greenfinches, at the new feeding station. The station has been a success and thankfully not vandalised.

Birds on the pond included Little Grebe, Mute Swan, Moorhen, Coot, Mallard, Wigeon, Teal and Tufted Duck. Grey Herons were at the edge of the water. Two Great Spotted Woodpeckers flew high over the water. I was told that Red Kite had been seen near the obelisk yesterday. This was where they were seen two or three years ago and they hung around for a while on that occasion, so I shall keep a lookout.

I decided it was time to head for home as I was intending to take a look for the Short Eared Owls in Killingworth in the afternoon. I suddenly realised that I couldn’t find my keys. A search brought nothing until I eventually found them in one of my many pockets, but a pocket I never use!

After a very short break at home I headed off along the wagon-way. It was cloudy now and already showing signs of darkness even though only 3:00pm. I was almost into Holystone when I thought I might as well give up the search. It was turning dark and I could feel dampness in the air. To be honest I don’t feel relaxed down there once the light begins to go. I began to retrace my steps, content that I had seen an owl this morning, and just as I set out I had a wonderfully close up sighting of a Short Eared Owl as it flew low down by the hedge that divided it from me. It was a good, but short sighting, as it dropped into long grass and didn’t come back up. It was the only owl I saw this afternoon, but at least it shows the likelihood is that we still have more than one Short Eared Owl on patch. I headed home pleased with my success and to nurse a cold. An early night tonight I think.

I'm always glad to see young people taking an interest in wildlife. Take a look at Sam's blog and website. Some great photos!


  1. Nice account of your day Brian. It was a STUNNING NOV. day.
    Pleased to see you've caught up with Sams blog. I've been following and hopefully encouraging him for a short while. I enjoy seeing "the young 'uns" taking an interest also. It gives you some sort if hope for the future.

  2. Thanks John.
    Certainly a good day, in stark contrast to the one that has followed. I felt the dampness coming in during late afternoon yesterday.