Thursday, 8 December 2011

A Wheatear, a Warbler and a Killy!

A sunny Newbiggin coast line.

Wind, high waves and sea spray. It was near here that the warbler nearly took to flight!

Yet another room with a view. This time at Hauxley.

It was getting cold in Warkworth gut by now!

7th Dec. The warbler was John, Sedgedunum Warbler who had asked me if I’d like to join him on a trip up the coast. Having been lacking a little in motivation recently I found it a golden opportunity to get moving again. The wheatear was the Desert Wheatear which we hoped had remained at Beacon Point, Newbiggin, and which was to be our first target of the day. Of course, there is only one Killy. John picked me up before the sun had risen and despite the wind and cold air we set off dressed for a Siberian winter, as as it turned out, it was just as well we were!

The sun was rising from the sea as we trekked along to Beacon Point. We seemed to be sheltered a little from the winds, although I believe John was nearly blown away on one occasion. Despite the wind the day was blessed with perfect lighting conditions, except when facing the sun. Flocks of Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Sanderling, Golden Plover, Turnstone and Redshank entertained us as we walked. The target was found quite easily and the Desert Wheatear give us good and close sightings as it stayed near to the coastal edge and out of the wind. A very nice bird, although I did notice the displaced alula as mentioned elsewhere. It was a good start to the day. The Desert Wheatear became flighty and flew off northwards along the land edge. We did continue to sight it, but unfortunately not well enough for John to get a good photo opportunity. Full marks to John for putting sighting and study of the bird before getting a photo! A life tick for both of us. It didn’t appear to return to the area we first came upon it so I hope the late comers who we spoke to later got to see it. On the return walk we found the lone Snow Bunting which I almost dismissed, as initially any distinguishing markings were washed out by the sun. Rock Pipits were about and a lone Guillemot was picked up at sea. I found Mediterranean Gull before setting off towards Cresswell.

The pond at Cresswell was more like a sea today and it’s a while since I saw the mud area so deeply covered. The whole area was monopolised by large flocks of Wigeon with far fewer Teal. The first Lapwings of the day were seen here. Incidentally, I’ve just had a flock of Lapwing over the garden today! One Lapwing remained in situ all of the time we were at Cresswell. A lone bird, and I began to wonder if it was injured. Amongst other birds seen at the pond were Cormorant, Shoveller, Redshank, Curlew and Common Gull.

As we made off towards East Chevington I saw no sign of the flock of Twite. A rare sighting these days of Stonechat was made on the walk to the viewing point at north pool. I realised something of importance was about when I saw the line of birders outside of the ‘metal box’. It was of course the Greater Yellowlegs that had drawn attention. It was nice to get yet another sighting of this bird. I must be honest and say I was even keener to find the Smew as I required it for my year list.:-) I did eventually find the redhead Smew, but not before finding a Long Tailed Duck, also a year tick. The pool provided some good birding today. Birds counted included fifteen Gadwall, at least twelve Goldeneye, three male Pintail, a Red-breasted Merganser, and again, numbers of Wigeon and Teal.

Perhaps the star turn at East Chevington was in fact the Otter which provided great sightings as it tussled with and ate an Eel out near the islands. At one point it was on the island. It seemed to be enjoying itself in the water as Otters so often do. It was pointed out again later and so we had great opportunities to watch. I have seen many Otters but confess this is my first sighting in Northumberland. Great stuff indeed. This visit and my previous visit to East Chevington have both been very rewarding.

Next stop Hauxley, was very quiet in comparison to what had gone before, but did provide the only grebe of the day in Little Grebe. A few Greylag Geese were seen (we saw no other geese species today, although someone mention large flocks of geese, probably Pink-footed Geese in the fields south of Hauxley) and more Wigeon and Teal. Some of these ducks were showing really well in the lighting conditions. Near to the entrance numbers of Tree Sparrow were seen along with Chaffinches, Wren, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Song Thrush and Blackbird.

Last stop of the day was at Warkworth gut. The previous occasion I was here I saw very little because of thick sea mist and hail blowing into my eyes. It has to be said, even though conditions were very different today there wasn’t that much around in the way of birds. It was an enjoyable walk none the less and by now the sun was setting. It was very cold. More Wigeon and Teal were around, along with Redshanks and gulls. Curlew too, and their haunting calls added to the atmosphere as the light began to depart. I confess I don’t know whether the small flock of birds flying quite near to us were Linnet or Twite, although I tend to think Linnet. The wind was by now making it difficult to hear any calls at all. We did find another Song Thrush and Wren.

The day had included some very good highlights including a lifer and three year ticks. Sixty-one bird species in total, on my reckoning anyway. The wind had not spoilt a very good day at all. It certainly cleared my head which occasionally needs clearing! My thanks go to John and also the people we came across who were all friendly and keen to chat about the birds and area. The Desert Wheatear was a real bonus as I had thought my chances of getting to see it were slim.


  1. I couldn't have(indeed didn't) put it any better myself. A few birds mentioned there that i had forgotten about, making it an even more enjoyable day.
    Very much looking forward to our next excursion. Can't promise as much success.....that's birding, i'm pleased to say.

  2. Nearly forgot.......great post heading.

  3. Cheers John. I'm pleased you liked the title.:-)