Coltsfoot at Seaton Sluice
23rd Feb. I began my walk from near St Mary’s Island and headed in the direction of Holywell. I thought it best to catch the tide whilst it was out rather than meet with high tide in the afternoon. The atmosphere is usually good down by the sea in the morning and today was no exception. The day began well with Skylarks singing (my first of the year...singing that is), Curlews on the golf course (feeding not playing), and a Grey Wagtail and Rock Pipit on the beach. I quickly found two year ticks in the form of large numbers of Ringed Plover and five Bar-tailed Godwits. Then birding wise things went down hill some what. Oystercatchers, Lapwings, Dunlin and Redshank were added to the wader list, but no other wader species were seen during the walk. The sea was a desert apart from a few gulls and a few Eider Duck and Cormorant.
I took the chance to look at the wetland area following reports of its make over. A make over long, long overdue. I wonder if the council have now got a Friends of St Mary’s Island Wetland Group started, as that appears to be the direction of things at present in North Tyneside. Get the friends to do the business and to claim the grants, make more staff redundant and try to cut the salaries of those who remain, or maybe I have that wrong! I shouldn’t be so cynical! Anyway the wetland is looking rather good following its haircut. There was still almost nowt on there today, but the future looks better. There was a handful of Teal.
The walk to Seaton Sluice was uneventful with not even a Turnstone on the rocks. So little was the opportunity for birding, I took time to look at my first sighting of Coltsfoot this year. Spring is not quite ‘bursting out all over,’ but the Coltsfoot was. I found no waders apart from Oystercatchers below the hide at Seaton Sluice, both before and after lunch. I felt a shiver run up my spine when I found a note in the Fish and Chip café mentioning ‘closed for refurbishment’. Thankfully the door was opened and I found that the refurbishment isn’t until next month. Note to self…..remember the sandwiches in March! A most enjoyable lunch served by very nice staff who seem to know me well now. Well spring is not bursting out all over, but if I eat anymore chips I’m not so sure about my belly!
The dene was quite sparse of birds too. Flocks of tits were by far the predominant species. Great Spotted Woodpecker was eventually sighted and another heard. No sign of Dipper. A Sparrowhawk made a brief appearance.
Before reaching Holywell Pond I’d found several Stock Doves feeding close by Wood Pigeons. There was little else about and the wind was not helping.
The new(ish) feeding station held Tree Sparrows, as did the hedges leading up to it. I was unable to get a count of them. Greenfinches were also in the hedges, but not as many as I used to find in the area. Chaffinch and Goldfinch were also seen along with Robin, Dunnock and tits. Robin song had been heard throughout the dene.
The pond water itself was high and being blown by the wind, ensuring that there was not much life on it. I did count one Little Grebe, one Pochard, maybe six or seven Canada Geese, two Mute Swans, a handful of Wigeon, Teal, Tufted Duck, and Mallards. Moorhen and Coot were also seen. Gulls were Black Headed apart from maybe a half dozen Herring Gulls. Sadly the feeding station near to the members hide appears to have been almost deserted these days, despite looking freshly topped up with feed. It used to be really good, especially in winter. All I saw there today was the odd Greenfinch and a couple of Pheasants.
Despite it being what I consider a very quiet day, I still consider this a great area to walk and to bird, and it remains a favourite with me. The dene is great, as it seems to be left to develop naturally and not kept to clean and tidy, if you know what I mean. In this respect I much prefer it to Jesmond Dene which is overly spruced up for the public in my opinion. Trees do appear to be dropping at an alarming rate though. I’ve not been down so often recently. Still managed a day list of fity-one species. An enjoyable day was had.