18th Oct. I feel a load had been removed from my shoulders and a definite sense of relief and achievement tonight. Yes, I have at last added Jack Snipe to my life list! I’d set this as a goal for the winter and I’ve scored already.
I took the chance of a few hours birding today with my friend Lee. We took in Cresswell Pond first of all and it was nice to feel able to leave the coat in the car. It was like a summer’s day. Tree Sparrows into double figures greeted us as we headed towards the hide. There were already a number of cars parked in the usual area. We reached the hide to hear that the Jack Snipe had been flushed by a Sparrowhawk along with the Common Snipes. I counted sixteen Common Snipe which had returned, but saw no Jack Snipe amongst them. We weren’t the only disappointed faces. It was good to see both Long-tailed Duck and Scaup on the pond however, along with the likes of Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal and Goldeneye (females). (Sam tells me he has found female Goldeneye on Killy Lake today. I have never given much thought to the females of this species arriving at wintering areas first but it does seem to be the case). Lapwings were around in large numbers. As we made off from the hide we found a number of Goldcrest in the hedge along with Goldfinch. We saw numbers of Greenfinch further along the road. More than I have seen for sometime.
We headed for the Ponteland hide in Druridge Bay in the hopes of catching sight of the Slavonian Grebe. Unfortunately it had moved on. I found out later that it hadn’t gone far, but we failed to see it and settled for more Goldcrests and five Red-throated Divers close in at Druridge Bay. On the drive up there we had stopped to look at three Whooper Swans in fields just north of Bells Pond. About fifty Pink-footed Geese showed well a little further to the south, but lifted as a military aircraft noisily flew over their heads. There seemed to be a military exercise going on today. Where’s Sam when you need him? :-) Also seen in this area were large flocks of Curlew both in the fields and overhead and a single Bar-tailed Godwit. I don’t really think I have paid as much attention to Druridge Bay as I ought and remained myself just what a wonderful area this is.
There was little to be seen in the park at Druridge and we decided to miss out East Chevington, having been told there was little about there. Instead we returned to Cresswell Pond as I thought that there was every chance that the Jack Snipe would make a return. After a quick lunch break we made for the hide again to find it busy. As we entered Ian Kerr told us that someone at the other end of the hide had there telescope on the Jack Snipe. I nonchalantly moved to the other end of the hide. Well in fact I may have moved up quite quickly and attempted to push Lee out of the way. The Jack Snipe was close to the hide and it turns out it had been there all of the time! It was not easy to locate and my thanks to the guy who had his scope on it. I eventually located it with my binoculars and we got the scope onto it. Squatting at first, it then began to preen. Then the bouncing began making it more obvious. It continued to bounce. I took time to take in a sighting that I have waited and waited for. A great bird. Jack Snipe will be a challenger for my bird of the year. I eventually left feeling a burden had been lifted. I doubt if anyone in that hide knew just how good I was feeling!
Next stop was West Hartford. I’ve not been here for ages. We found Mistle Thrush and Wren, Corvids and Gulls, but little else. We didn’t get close to the pool as the ground was so waterlogged, but from where we stood there seemed to be nothing on there apart from the odd Black Headed Gull. I admit we weren’t there long. I’ll need to visit again soon.
A quick stop was made at Prestwick Carr on the way home. The rain began as we arrived and looked as though it was going to continue so we only took a short walk along the bumpy road. It allowed time for me to hear Willow Tit and pick up on some very nicely showing Siskins and a Lesser Redpoll.