Sunday, 17 March 2013

A Spindlestone Adventure and Trouble on the Farnes

16th March.  After two aborted attempts because of snow in January, Sam, Marie and I finally got up to Spindlestone today to check out an RSPB walk planned for May.  Sam has connections in the area and knows it well, so I was depending upon his guidance.  We set off from Killingworth at 8:00am and travelled through heavy rain and at times mist.  It wasn’t long before we were parking up at Budle Bay by which time the rain had become drizzle and even this soon cleared to give us a far better days weather than I had expected.  The sun shone at times!

The tide was out and many of the birds in Budle Bay were distant, but birds we picked up included large numbers of Wigeon, Shelduck, Redshank and Bar-tailed Godwit.  We didn’t spend too long here before setting off on the walk.  The walk in May is aimed at bringing us a wide a range of natural history experience as possible and although we weren’t expecting too much today I’m pleased that we had good sightings of both Red Squirrel and Roe Deer.

A little shy........

But not for long........

Where's me nuts?........

Very tasty

Our walk took in a number of miles and some very good habitat.  Following on from my exertions at Gibside I feel I had a right to be tired at the end of the day and I was!  I’ll save details of this historically interesting area until I write a report of the walk in May so not to spoil things for those taking part that may read my blog.  I found the area fascinating and although we didn’t include the Heugh in the walk yesterday the plan is to include it in May.  Sam and I felt we would like to have the area as ‘our patch’.  No facilities and under watched, it seemed ideal.  Of course the no facilities issue will I hope mean we get only really keen participants along in May.  No café stops here I’m afraid.

I found my first singing Skylarks of the year today and we also heard a Tawny Owl calling during early afternoon.  The woodland areas provided us with the likes of large numbers of Great, Coal, Blue and Long-tailed Tits, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and the most Chaffinches that I’ve seen for sometime.  Yellowhammers seemed to crop up everywhere we went and in total I’m sure we must have seen fifty plus.  The small hamlets provided House and Tree Sparrows in some numbers along with flocks of Goldfinch and smaller numbers of Reed Bunting.  The burn near the old mill provided brief sightings of Dipper and Grey Wagtail.  Certainly bird song is beginning to fill the air and we heard several Song Thrushes and managed to see some of them.  Mistle Thrush was also about.  The call of Curlew was with us most of the day and we did finally catch sight of Lapwing.

Three pairs of Great Spotted Woodpecker entertained us and there was quite a bit of drumming going on.  Mallards and Moorhen were about on some of the smaller pools.  At least two Common Buzzards were seen and also a female Sparrowhawk flew overhead.

Great Spotted Woodpecker
So all in all we were very pleased with the walk and I offer my thanks to Sam for leading the way.  I know I can rely on you one hundred percent.

 Sam was the first to spot this.  I thought maybe the Lone Ranger (not sure Sam knew him! :-)), but we decided eventually that it was some guy riding the Spindlestone Worm (although I think maybe it looks more like a Camel than a Dragon).

Having returned to Budle Bay which was as usual looking stunning in the sun we headed down to Seahouses hoping to catch Long-tailed Ducks in the harbour.  Unfortunately they had gone, probably having been tempted out by the calmer and finer weather.  Instead we watched the Eider Ducks and Goldeneye and added more waders to our lists.  Waders seen included Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Turnstone, a flock of eighteen Purple Sandpipers which were very active, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit.  Pied Wagtail and Rock Pipits were also seen.  On the way to Seahouses I had hardly got out the mention of not having seen a Kestrel today when one appeared hovering over the dunes.

Having been out from early morning we hadn’t heard about The Danio grounding on the Farnes although we had noticed much activity on the sea.  Some one mentioned the incident to us and we were soon watching through the binoculars.  We managed distant photographs which was helped when the area and ship was lit by the sun.  I understand there has been no oil spill up to now and I’m sure we are all hoping this incident can be sorted without environmental disturbance or disaster ( I see that the latest news is that the vessel may be stuck there for two weeks).  It will be interesting to eventually hear how this incident occurred.  I assume we will hear?  I would have though modern technology would ensure these things were not going to happen, although I know they do.  This really does underline how fragile our ecosystems are in the modern world.  Hopefully a disaster will not occur and I wish everyone involved in controlling this and sorting it out good luck and safety.

On the rocks!
It had been an interesting and enjoyable day in the company of people who share a passion for nature.  Common Buzzard was seen on the way home.  So, once again my thanks to Sam and also Marie for ensuring our safe journey to and from the area.  I’m really looking forward to the return in May.  I have to say so far the response from RSPB group members has been minimal (there’s time yet for that to change) so anyone who feels they might like to join us on 25th May, please don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss (07903 387429).  Maximum number of participants will be thirteen plus the two leaders, so all is done on a first come basis.   Birds will be the main focus, but I’m hoping it will be an all round naturalists day possibly offering good photographic opportunities.

17th March.  I met Sam at the lake today.  The Whooper Swan seems to have disappeared a few days ago.  I did see my first Lesser Black Backed Gull of the year.  Goldeneyes remain and are in double figures.  The family of Greylag Geese remain but I found only four today.  A couple of Goosanders also remain.  The pair of Oystercatcher and Shoveller are regulars now too.  Sam and I had a short walk to the village but neither saw nor heard Chiffchaff.  We practised a little macro photography and talked about some planned nature trips likely to take place both short and long term.  The Chiffchaffs appeared on patch on 18th March last year so given decent weather I may take a walk tomorrow and take another look and listen.

The fencing is now around an area near the car park in an attempt to improve the area and protect from the Mute Swans and geese.  The Mute Swans have as course as we predicted simply moved to the other side of the lake.

My year list moves slowly upwards.  I’ve been in no hurry at all to see this rise quickly in 2013.  There’s a lot to be said about being laid back about this.


  1. A well written account of the Day (As always I must add) I'm really looking forward to the walk in May and look forward to getting back up to the area!
    Sam :)

  2. Thanks for helping make it such a good OGG day Sam. :-) Brian

  3. Seems like a great area! I look forward to being there with you in May.

  4. Aye Mark, given a decent day weather-wise it promises to be an excellent walk in May, with some good birding and all round interest.

  5. Cheers Brian, hopefully by then it will be a dry spell.