Sunday, 3 February 2013

St Mary's Island to Holywell

Feb 2nd.  It was good to begin February’s birding with a walk from St Mary’s Island to Holywell.  It was the first time in 2013 that Sam and I have attempted the full walk.  I was surprised to find the pavements in Killingworth as slippery as an ice rink as we left for the coast.  There was no such problem on arrival with the salty air ensuring that there was no ice, although the wind was icy cold.  The tide was well out and we soon found that conditions were good for wader watching.  Well, they would have been had it not been for one particular ignorant clown.  This elderly ‘one man’ (and his dogs) clearly thinks it a good idea to relax by the cliff whilst his two dogs are left to exercise chasing the waders along the coast line and into the sea for at least twenty minutes.  I had him down as possibly my ‘ignoramus’ of the year until I met another dog owner in the dene later in the day who’s stupidity even left the first guy standing.  More of him anon.

Sam and I gave up for a time on wader watching and found a nice little area providing great views of numbers of Rock Pipits, Meadow Pipits, Pied Wagtails and a stunning and confiding Grey Wagtail.  The latter being my first of the year.  The cameras were kept busy.  We were eventually able to watch the waders without to much disturbance.  Waders seen in this one area were Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone, Dunlin, Redshank, Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit.  A Red-throated Diver was seen flying south.

Grey Wagtail

Meadow Pipit

Pied Wagtail

Such was the time we spent with the pipits, wagtails and waders we thought we ought to get a move on towards Seaton Sluice because another first for the year was to be fish and chips.  Regular readers may have noticed I’m cutting down on these!  The wetland was in any case very quiet when we passed providing little other than Teal.  We did have a nice sighting of a hovering Kestrel along the cliff edge.  After having to queue to get into the fish and chip café (perhaps I’m giving them to much good publicity) and enjoying the mega small fish we headed for the dene.




There’s a good bit of wind and rain damage in the dene and one more large tree has fallen across the burn, significantly changing the view down the burn and taken with it a large area of the bank and pathway.  We found exactly to the minute when this tree had fallen as it is recorded in the hide at the pond by someone who witnessed the event.  Bird life was sparse apart from near the small feeding stations where we found the usual woodland birds including pairs of calling Nuthatch.  At one point  as Sam and I stood by the burn quietly chatting, ignoramus number two came along with his dog and decided to throw a large and heavy piece of log at the burn which just happened to be in our direction.  He seemed to think it quite a joke that it narrowly missed taking one of our heads off!  I think he knew from my response that I didn’t get the joke!  Anyway ‘Mr’ you’re now in pole position for ignoramus of the year and you’ll take some beating I reckon! 


A change of scene

Holywell Pond and surrounds were quiet too.  We found no sign of the White-fronted Goose although it may well have been in the skeins of Greylag Geese and Pink-footed Geese that flew overhead on several occasions.  A couple of Canada Geese were on the pond and eventually two male and a female Gadwall came out of the reeds and stayed on the water for a short time before flying off west.  The two males were stunning in the late afternoon light.  Grey Heron, Teal, Mallard and Tufted Duck were also seen.  The Mute Swans were right outside of the hide as is often the case.  Birds at the feeding station included numbers of Tree Sparrow.  At least one Jay was seen in the area and others heard from the other side of the pond.

A good day as always and it ended with skeins of Pink-footed Geese flying over Holywell Village.  We’d chatted to some very nice people along the way which makes the odd rotten apple insignificant.


  1. Can think of no better days birding than not seeing a doggie and its master, even if i don't see a bird!! ........actually, come to think of it, that's just a walk. Same rule applies.

  2. It wouldn't be too much of a problem if 'some' would exchanged the cotton wool for brains before leaving the house!

  3. In spite of the interruptions, you notched up an interesting and varied list.

  4. It's an excellent walk Andrew for offering variation of habitat and species so we manage to cope with the odd (sometimes very odd) interruptions.:-) Cheers. Brian.