Monday, 24 September 2012

Holywell and Coastal Atmosphere

21st Sept.  Sam and I had planned to spend a couple of hours down at Holywell this evening and we couldn’t have picked a better time to visit.  We stayed until darkness set in and out in the fields watched the light gradually fade from what was on the whole clear skies.  The moon became brighter, the sky in the west more colourful and eventually we watched the local farmer ploughing in darkness.  The lights from the tractor adding to the evening’s atmosphere.  It’s no good fooling myself into thinking I’m in the true wilderness here, there’s few truly wild places left anywhere, but at least it does give a sense of wildness and freedom.  I get similar feeling from some of the wagon-way routes on patch and at Prestwick Carr when it isn’t carrying too many visitors.

Sun Setting over Holywell
We’d taken in the pond before moving out onto the fields in the hope of watching owls.  I counted over ten Little Grebes on the water, four of them swimming together in a straight line formation.  The feeding station held at least six Tree Sparrows on the feeders.

As we left the public hide and walked eastwards the first Short-eared Owl was seen hunting.  We were soon watching four of these birds, at times hunting close by us.  At times in front of us, then along the hedges to the side of us and then behind us.  We watched the Short-eared Owls at length.  As the light intensity faded the Barn Owl was seen to appear from its roosting sight.  It was distant at first, but did eventually fly along by the hedges giving closer sightings.  As darkness set in we made off towards the village, but before we had gone very far the Barn Owl appeared along the hedge just yards form us before it vanished from view.  It had been another good evening of owl watching.

Short-eared Owls

Night approaches

 23rd Sept.  Despite the long day out at sea yesterday Tom picked up Sam and I at 7:15am and we headed for St Mary’s Island in the hopes of finding the Yellow Browed Warbler/s.  Mist covered Killingworth Lake after what had been a very cold night and the deep orange sun was beginning to rise in the east beyond the small lake.  As we passed Backworth flash, mist still lay low across the fields.  We arrived at St Mary’s Island Wetland before 8:00am and before the crowds and dog walkers had began to appear, although I believe Whitley Birder and one or two others had beaten us to it.:-)  It was a grand morning with clear light.  The tide was high, but appeared to be now on the turn.

We had no luck with the Yellow Browed Warbler but I was just as pleased to find my first Pied Flycatcher of the year which showed really well (a first winter or female bird).  We checked out the firing mounds too, but found little there, although at some point Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Wheatear and Reed Bunting appeared, although I missed the Wheatear.  The waders had gathered on the island and included large numbers of Golden Plover.  When some divers made there way across to the island the waders lifted and the Golden Plovers flew around the top of the lighthouse, their light undersides flashing brightly in the sunlight.  Other waders included Oystercatchers, Lapwing, Sanderling, Turnstone, Dunlin, Redshank and Curlew.  I chatted briefly to a visitor and he seemed happy to have checked out the waders through my telescope.  He left saying he must get one.  I think he may get a shock when he looks at today’s prices!  I saw at least three Red-throated Divers fly south, two small flocks of Common Scoter and one Manx Shearwater fly north during the short time we were there.  It wasn’t planned as a long visit so we soon headed off.  Time had passed by quickly.  The Beehive flash was checked as we passed, but nothing of an avian nature was seen.

It was late afternoon when Sam and I returned to Holywell.  By now the clear sky and sun had been replaced by rather threatening cloud.  As the evening wore on the cloud did break up and it was a cold, but on the whole a pleasant evening.  The pond was quiet so we headed pretty quickly out into the fields again and took up our positions.  We were entertained by at least two pairs of Kestrels (one had perched on top of the obelisk for sometime before having been joined by another), possibly more, as we waited to see if the Short-eared Owls would turn up.  We had waited about an hour before one was seen and it flew off towards the coast, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it was seen hunting down in the vicinity of St Mary’s Island again.  The only other sighting we had this evening was a distant one as a Short-eared Owl was seen hunting briefly.  We weren’t to be treated to the display we have watched recently, but as I said at the time, it would be boring if things turned up on schedule and there would be no excitement.  In any event we enjoyed watching the Kestrels and to be honest it’s sometime since I have watched them so intently.

Large areas of the fields are ploughed now and although extensive grassy areas remain, this may have an effect on the owls staying put or moving on.  The farmer was certainly busy again tonight and didn’t leave until darkness was well set in.  I’m sure he wanted to make full use of the fine weather having seen the forecast as to what was to come in the next few days!

A very different sky tonight.

Before we left for home we stood and listened to at least one pair of Tawny Owls calling form Holywell Dene.  I’d earlier commented on some dark ominous cloud building up and no sooner had I done so when the rain began.  It was just a sprinkling and didn’t last, but it was warning of today’s weather.

We heard high pitched calling from the tall grasses and thought it maybe a vole or even a vole being predated.  However having looked at this blog joesnaturesmoments I’m wondering if it might not have been Brown Rats!

A hide with a view, even as darkness approaches.
I’ve had a great weekend, so thanks to all involved.  It has been a weekend that provided wide open spaces on both sea and land and some clear wide skies and not least some great birding moments.  It had been so good to be out and it all ended on a high.

1 comment:

  1. You've certainly done some very regular and interesting birding lately! But it's good timing as you can have a couple of days break whilst the weather is bad, hehe.