13th Jan. No apologies for pinching that title from a fellow birder we met today. :-)
It was still dark when I met Sam and Tom in Killingworth this cold morning. We headed straight off to Holywell, stopping briefly between Earsdon and Backworth where we found Stock Doves, but not what we had hoped for. We were hoping for geese at Holywell and we certainly found them, as hundreds appeared above us as they dispersed to various areas as the sky now lightened to give that very good winter light. There were small numbers of Greylag Geese, some found on the pond, but in the main they were Pink-footed Geese. The sun rising painted the sky in attractive colours.
I’d be very surprised if anyone had beaten us to the members hide today! The pond was quiet but we were treated to a single Scaup. Other birds on the water included Wigeon, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck and single Goldeneye. Jays were heard in the trees on the opposite side of the pond and a Common Buzzard seen briefly as it flew low behind the trees. The feeding station visitors included finches, tits, Reed Bunting and the now regular Tree Sparrows. Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard and then seen very briefly. Curlews called and were seen overhead. We walked towards the obelisk area but other birders who told us that the Pink-footed Geese and flown off towards Durham and that our target bird had probably ‘bean and gone’. We too a look anyway and found only empty fields.
We decided to walk down to the dene in search of the Dippers and heard Red Legged Partridge and saw Sparrowhawk and Song Thrush on the way. The walk down was well worthwhile for we did find the pair of Dippers without too much of a hunt. The water in the burn is much lower now and the Dippers were looking healthy. I’m unable to recall now when we saw our first Kestrel of the day but we found five or six in total.
Our next stop was near the Beehive flash which is still over-lapping the road. We stopped as we had found at least some of the Pink-footed Geese. We estimated circa two hundred and when I had a spare moment I did a count and found our estimate to be near correct as I quickly counted two-hundred and ten. It was just a quick count and I will have missed a handful so I reckon two-hundred and twenty were within sight, with more probably beyond the dip in the field. Tom carefully checked all that were visible and found no Bean Goose. We did watch as three Roe Deer moved slowly across the open field. Eventually they joined the Pink-footed Geese and provided a very nice scene. When a few of the geese almost took to flight the Roe Deer were easily spooked and ran off into the distance. One of the highlights of the day. A shot was fired in the distance and it seemed that the geese were going to take to flight en-masse, but they relaxed again and stayed put. A flock of forty Lapwings flew in the area.
We next headed for St Mary’s Island. The tide was way out and the waders were well distributed, but we saw Oystercatcher, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Sanderling, Turnstone, Redshank and Curlew. We didn’t hang around long, but were long enough to find at least forty Common Snipe on the wetland area. Two foxes that seemed to fancy game bird for lunch were reported, but we didn’t find them.
Our brief stop at North Shields didn’t bring success in the way of Iceland Gull, so another visit will be needed.
On returning to Killingworth a walk around the lake provided at least fifteen Goldeneye, the Whooper Swan, but only one male Goosander was seen well on the smaller lake. The Goosanders appear to be moving between ponds and I had seen two flying over Killingworth last weekend. Sam pointed out to me the Mute Swan that had been ringed in Edinburgh. I like Sam’s answer to a lady who asked how a certain bird will have reached the lake. It’ll have flown here he suggested. Not only birds fly however, as time has flown too and we will hopefully see the Great Crested Grebes back in late February.