9th Dec. I spent yesterday afternoon with Sam as we looked at the likes of Golden Eagle, Capercaillie and Ptarmigan. Rather nice prints in a book in this case, but at least we were warm! Today we completed the walk from St Mary’s Island to Holywell Pond via Holywell Dene in rather colder conditions. There was a chill wind, but at least the skies were clear and the sun shone. Surprisingly there were few folk about. This was the first time for a while we had completed the whole walk. We set off with thoughts of a fish and chip lunch on our minds.
It was ideal weather and lighting for watching the flocks of Golden Plover and Lapwing in flight. Quite sizable flocks of both were in the fields to our left as we approached St Mary’s Island. Greater numbers of Golden Plover had congregated on the island as the tide was high and these lifted from time to time to join separate flocks already in the air. It was quite as sight and a one that I never tire off seeing. I’m just surprised so few people on such a glorious morning were there to admire them although I confess it was nice not to have the crowds disturbing the peace. Other waders seen today were Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone, Knot, Redshank and Curlew. The sea was calm and quiet of birdlife apart from a few Eider Duck and a couple of more distant ducks, which I think were Wigeon.
Golden Plovers flocks
Sharing a platform
As we approached Seaton Sluice we were entertained by aircraft with a Hercules passing by on at least two occasions.
This RAF plane is a C-130 Hercules, They are/were produced by Lockheed in America, the RAF use two different variants of the aircraft the C-130K and the C-130J, they are used to haul freight and troops, the Americans have been using them since the Vietnam war and I believe they the aircraft that the American met office use to fly into the centre of hurricanes to get readings! (Info provided by Samuel Hood)
Boeing 777 (largest aircraft to use Newcastle airport )
Then disaster occurred. We found that the fish and chip shop was closed. My fault, as I had forgotten that there is no Sunday opening during winter. We dejectedly headed for the Kings Arms, but after some thought we decided just to carry on with the walk. I got through the day on a banana and half a packet of crisps. The path between Seaton Sluice and the dene was almost impassable in places. I can’t remember ever seeing it so muddy and waterlogged. We found a Common Buzzard being mobbed by corvids, and a Kestrel was also in the area. Further on Sam suggested we take a look at one particular area as we might find a Kingfisher. I think this was said jokingly, but on remembering that I had found one here before. No sooner had Sam said this and a Kingfisher flew across the burn and headed down stream! A brief, but nice sighting. Only the second sighting I have had of Kingfisher actually in the dene, although I did have a third sighting of one flying along the cliff side and turning into the burn. A single Redwing was seen at distance. The burn itself was muddy and deep. There were no Dippers to be seen today!
We had a very nice sighting of a male Bullfinch at one of the feeding stations. Other birds visiting included Wren, Robin, Dunnock, Blackbird, Nuthatch, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit and Chaffinch. Goldfinch was seen later as was Grey Heron, possibly the one that seems to roost in the dene.
The Avenue provided a sighting of two female Bullfinches and Song Thrush. The fields towards the obelisk didn’t provide anything of interest but we decided to check out the flash which has appeared in the field east of the pond. I counted seventy-nine Greylag Geese (no not obsessed by numbers just had the time) which we had heard on approach. Sadly this area had been dry during wader passage and so had not attracted species ( iget the impression that the farmer doesn't like a pond in the centre of his field which I suppose from his perspective is understandable), unlike the previous autumn when the area had been well worth watching. Temporary flashes had formed further east earlier in the year and I’m told had attracted some birds, although I saw nothing out of the ordinary.
The pond itself proved disappointingly quiet again. Wigeon and Teal were seen, along with the usual Mute Swans. A Sparrowhawk flew over the pond towards the tree area and six Jays flew into the Willows at the back of the pond. Now the latter species was of interest as I don’t recall having seen Jay on this walk before! A Kestrel provided some entertainment as it perched in the trees at length seemingly unconcerned by our presence and that of other passers by. Sam didn’t mind getting muddy boots in order to get a decent photograph. Tree Sparrows were in the hedge in some number as where Goldfinch and just as we were making off a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew in to take up its usual position above the feeding station. Another was seen in the village. I reflected on some great hours spent in this area over the past year.
I’m cream crackered tonight, so I hope tiredness hasn’t meant I’ve missed anything of importance. Perhaps the cold wind (or the lack of fish and chips) has had an effect on me! A great day, great chat and great walk as always.