Friday, 29 March 2013

Woodcock Begins Our Day

29th March.  Well, a day out today felt as though a return was being made from the dark side of the moon!  Rather chilly yes, but a little brighter, and I was even thinking that the sun might show its face again today.

Sam and I got off to a good start when Sam spotted an overhead Woodcock flying from our patch over to Backworth, as we set off towards Holywell.  Even in silhouette an unmistakeable sight once I had my eye on it.  A very good spot by Sam though and he continued the good form throughout the day.  We passed geese (all Greylag Geese I think) near to Backworth flash.   Once at Holywell we found at least ten Tree Sparrows at the feeding station and in the hedges nearby.  There wasn’t too much of note on the pond, but we did find three more Woodcock in flight and on East Pond we found a displaying Lapwing, along with Gadwall, Teal, Greylag Geese and Canada Geese.  With the displaying Lapwing, several Skylark singing and the sun now breaking through and taking at least some of the chill away from us, it almost felt as though it could be spring!  A couple passing by asked us if we had seen two Avocets fly into the pond area as they were sure that they had seen them fly west from the  direction of the coast.  We hadn’t and didn’t see them.  Common Buzzard was seen flying east.  Curlews had been seen in the west field.

The atmosphere in the dene was very different from our previous visit when the burn was running deep and fast.  Today was far calmer and in the sheltered areas it felt much warmer.  We saw no sign of Dipper today, but did eventually find two Grey Wagtails which seemed to be representing separate pairs.  There were the expected woodland species including Long-tailed Tits a pair of calling Nuthatch and towards Seaton Sluice we heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming loudly, but we were unable to locate it.  Having heard my one and only Chiffchaff in Killingworth this week, I had expected more in the dene, but none were heard or seen.

There was a good amount of frogspawn in the one of the ponds but no sign of the Frogs.  As Sam suggested, they were likely keeping warm under water.  We continued our walk towards Seaton Sluice attempting to avoid mud and water which proved impossible.

Numbers of Redshank were in or near the burn.  Fortunately we had brought lunch, as the fish and chip shop café was closed and the queue for the take away fish and chips stretched some distance.  We found seven Purple Sandpipers on the rocks and spotted both Fulmar and Kittiwake, but little else out at sea.

Looking north we watched as Blyth began to be enveloped in a grey mist which we assumed was a snow storm coming off the sea.  We thought we were going to be caught in this too, but apart from a few isolated flakes falling on us we managed to avoid the storm, as it moved inland eventually making way for the return of sun and blue skies.  Not for the first time have I seen Blyth hit by storms which miss Whitley Bay.  Flocks of Sanderling and Turnstone were seen in flight before we found larger numbers on the ground.  Two more Purple Sandpipers were seen amongst the flock of feeding Turnstone.  More Curlews were seen and a couple of Meadow Pipits flew by.  Kestrel had been seen briefly at Seaton Sluice.  Guillemots and Eider Ducks seen close to St Mary's Island, on what appeared to be a rather rough sea  A Weasel was seen scampering off into the fields.

All in all it had proved to be a very Good Friday although we both kept thinking it was a good Saturday.  We’d made the most of what signs there were of spring, and it has to be said there still isn’t that many.  We ended the day with a list of fifty-five species as we watched Sanderlings with other waders feeding on the beach.  We decided not to bother looking on the wetland area and made for home.

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