16th May. Marsden was blessed with sun today, but it was still cold! I’d gone down there for lunch with a friend and we took advantage of the fine day to walk the cliffs and beach. I’m always in my element when there are sea bird colonies to watch. The cliffs were covered with the nests of Kittiwakes and Fulmars of course. Several pairs of Razorbill were also seen on nests and visiting the sea to fish. We commented about our initial view along the cliff edge and past what remains of Marsden Rock that surely if this landscape was on some hot continental coastline that there would be much show made of such an area. Thankfully it isn’t and it was cold so quite quiet and peaceful. I do think I was tanned a little.
We walked along to the Sand Martin colony and watched the birds flying in and out of the nest site. I looked north and picked up many familiar sites on the coastline. At one point on the walk I almost convinced myself that I’d picked out a Red-rumped Swallow, but then accepted that it had probably been a trick of the light (although I am left wondering). A pair of Kestrels was watched copulating near what I think was the likely nesting site.
Before leaving we took a walk south of Souter Lighthouse. Initially I thought there was little about but I soon picked up the song of Common Whitethroat and Blackcap. It had been a really nice way to spend a few hours and Razorbill was a year tick.
I spoke to Sam on the way home and we agreed our arrangements for a visit to Holywell in the evening. The sun was shining when we arrived at Holywell Village, but there was still that nip of cold in the air. We arrived at the members hide to be told that a Cuckoo had been seen and heard. Surely enough after a few minutes we heard the call of Cuckoo. Not only a first of the year for me, but a first for me on this walk. Sam picked up the song of Reed Warbler and there were numbers of Sedge Warbler singing that manic song of theirs. Swallows were flying over the pond. We later found larger numbers of House Martins and occasionally Swifts swooped low past our heads making quite some noise as they did so. Other birds on or near the pond included Little Grebe, Mute Swan, Greylag Geese, Canada Geese, Mallard, Gadwall, Shelduck, Pochard, Tufted Duck and Grey Heron. We found a pair of Common Sandpiper near to the public hide. Lapwing, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Skylark and Reed Bunting flew in the area.
It was the intention of Sam and me to walk down to the dene and then walk back across the open fields. This is such a pleasant way to spend such an evening. By the time we had walked to the east flash and checked it out our plans changed and we just continued walking northwards. Our walk was a slow one as we were trying to capture images of the many Common Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Goldfinch, Linnet and Yellowhammer.
The light went quite quickly this evening as the clouds quickly came in from the south and west. We took a stop in the open fields on our return hoping for sightings of owls, but we had no luck with that, finding only distant Pheasants. We walked back to the public hide and the Common Sandpipers were showing well. I saw no sign of Green Sandpiper as reported in the hide when we looked.
Malcolm had kindly offered to pick us up. When Sam made contact he was out walking the dog so said he’d be thirty minutes. I suggested checking out the members hide again. I thought this would fill in the time on a very nice evening before we went home. I hadn’t expected to find anything of importance. As we chatted in the hide and prepared to close the shutters and leave for home I caught, from the corner of my eye, something flying in from the west end of the pond. I took a look and it was an egret being mobbed by corvids. It was a split second when I called Great White Egret. The bird gave a great sighting as it flew to the east end of the pond and landed in on the edge of the reed-bed. Sam was off, texting Malcolm on the way to say we might be a little longer arriving at the village. I locked up and followed. As it happens the bird wasn’t visble from the public hide, but it soon took off again and flew back across the pond. The hole in the hedge gave us a good viewing point. It flew into the reed-bed again than onto the top of the trees. It was for a short time accompanied by a Grey Heron giving a really good perspective of size. We did check for Purple Heron! We watched it on top of the trees for several minutes as I sent a txt to Holywell Birding who unfortunately was otherwise engaged. We knew we couldn’t hang around much longer in the now dimming light so we agreed to make of home with apologies ready for keeping Malcolm waiting.:-) As we prepared to go the Great White Egret took to flight again and eventually flew behind the tree line, I thought probably getting prepared to roost for the night. I note that Great White Egret was reported at Druridge Pools today and assume this is the bird that has been showing around Northumberland the past week or two.
On my travels outside of the UK I have seen I estimate hundreds of Great White Egrets. I’ve been on trips where they are almost completely ignored as they are so common and the birders prefer to concentrate on finding other species. They’ve always attracted me, but this is only the second Great White Egret I’ve seen in the UK. Sam and I are very rarely involved with twitching as we prefer to do our own thing in our own way. I have to say though, that finding such a species ones self on what is really our ‘second patch’ gives a very rewarding feeling and I’m pleased that I can still get excited about bird watching. I was delighted that Sam had only his second sighting of this species and certainly his best by a long chalk. Made even better as we had so narrowly missed the species at Prestwick Carr recently, presumably the same bird.
Yeah I know! You had to be there really.
On reflection I realised that had not Malcolm taken the dog for a walk, we would have missed the Great White Egret. We definitely owe one to the dog!