My thanks to Cain Scrimgeour (Holywell Birding) for allowing me to use his images.
12th Jan. I visited Gosforth Park today with Cain (Holywell Birding). It had been a long time since we had the chance to take in a days birding together (and quite some time since I had been to the reserve), but today was well worth waiting for. The previous nights wind had departed and the heavy shower of this morning had soon passed over to leave sunshine and clear skies.
The new feeding station was quiet on our arrival, but soon picked up and several Nuthatches were seen. Other birds visiting included Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Blackbird Robin, Dunnock, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Magpie, and Stock Dove. I reckon the cost of seed must be quite substantial! It’s an excellent station though with a nice view through the woodland. God forbid that Newcastle City Council allows planning permission for houses on the land next to this reserve. It would be an absolute disgrace if such a plan is allowed to go through and ruin this reserve!
We next headed to the pond and hide with thoughts of Bittern on our minds. I remember when you walked through this reserve and never saw a soul. It seems that the long needed modernisation of the Natural History Society has brought with it many new members who now visit the reserve. We arrived at the hide having negotiated the very muddy pathway. A Common Buzzard was quickly found in the bordering tree line and I thin k I caught a fleeting sighting of a Sparrowhawk before it dropped into the reeds. A Common Snipe was picked up along one of the channels, although not showing well. Wigeon had overtaken the pond although a few Teal were there, along with five Shoveller.
Patience eventually paid off and the Bittern made a momentary appearance at it flew out and then straight back into the reedbed. It was only a few yards from the hide. I wanted more, but settled my mind to the fact that at least I had taken in the briefest of sightings and had myself a year tick of one species I rarely see. After some time the Bittern reappeared and gave a far better sighting as it stood at the edge of the reedbed in typical Bittern posture with neck stretched. It eventually came further out of the reeds although it was very much on guard and nervous. We had several minutes watching before the bird took off and flew to the other side of the pond. This is without any doubt what so ever my best ever sighting of a Bittern both on the ground and in flight. A guy who had joined us in the hide told us he had been a casual birder for forty years and had never seen a Bittern. He had not realised that Bitterns were in the reserve, so the sighting had come as a complete surprise. He was over the moon and delighted that we had initially pointed the bird out to him. I was over the moon too and very pleased for him. You could almost feel the delight within the hide. Already this year I have another top birding experience for 2012. Great to share it with Cain and others.
We completed the circuit of the reserve, ‘plodging’ through the mud, during which we found Jays and a number of relaxed Roe Deer which watched us through the trees as we watched them. Unfortunately the only squirrel we found was of the grey variety.
Next stop was Prestwick Carr. The sun was bright by now and the area had again attracted numerous birders. We’d hoped for the Great Grey Shrike and did do a careful search for it up and down the bumpy road. We chatted to PCW and a number of other birders. The shrike was being seen, but it was one of those days when we arrived just a few minutes too late. The sun didn’t help when scanning the area and like a number of other people we just had no luck in finding this bird at all. We did find at least six Common Buzzards, too many Kestrels to remember, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Willow Tit and Mistle Thrush.
The Short Eared Owls were what had attracted most people of course and they did put on a wonderful showing on both sides of the road, both perched and in flight. We reckoned that we had seen ten birds by the time it was going home time. Another Roe Deer appeared in the tall grass. It had been a really grand day. Great stuff! I’m now in love with a Bittern