19th June. The all weather birder trio of Tom, Sam and Brian were off in the sun to the coast today and it turned out to be quite a day.
We began rather late at Hauxley Nature Reserve, as timings had been arranged after the S and B of TSB had spent a very long day and evening on and around the Farne Islands yesterday (more of that at a later date). There was much botanical interest at Hauxley today and lots of Orchids in flower, but our day was to focus on birds in the main. We were greeted by Tree Sparrows. The reserve looked good in the sun, although there was nothing to set the pulse racing. We watched from the hide as one Mute Swan cleared the pond of a flock of Greylag Geese and everything else apart from the Mallards which seemed happy to ignore the Mute Swan’s presence. One of the Greylag Geese was split from the group and spent most of it’s time under water being hounded (perhaps that should read ‘swanned’) by the Mute Swan, until it got off the pond in a rather bedraggled state. Canada Geese, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Redshank and Grey Herons were around in numbers. Willow Warbler was seen and heard before we left for East Chevington.
Sam was briefly introduced to the metal hide at East Chevington, but we all remained outside of it. The sun was warming up now. It was good to note that two pairs of Great Crested Grebes have nests on North Pool. Hopefully they will be successful. We pondered upon whether there may be a relative of the Killingworth pair here! Tom found an eclipse Pintail in the distance. We checked for Roseate Terns, but found only Common, Arctic and Sandwich Terns. Other birds on North Pool included Shelduck, Shoveller, Mallard, Gadwall, Wigeon and Tufted Duck. A Curlew was spotted on one of the islands as was a summer plumaged Dunlin. The reed-bed held Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler and Reed Bunting. It was Sam who initially heard the reeling of Grasshopper Warbler and we found it out in the open and all had good long sightings. More Grey Herons flew in the area. And Skylark and Meadow Pipit sang. A female Sparrowhawk flew over and headed for the trees. Common Buzzards were seen on a couple of occasions around the area.
Grasshopper Warbler. Courtesy of Tom M (digiscope with mobile)
The sighting of the Grasshopper Warbler had been a good one and I thought it might well be my bird of the day, and then as we prepared to move on we found the pair of Druridge Marsh Harrier. The male was seen first of all and give very good sightings. As the male went off hunting over the reed beds the female appeared. The male eventually returned with prey and the two birds flew together in the sky at times, being approached by corvids. The prey was eventually taken down and the male lifted once more. It was all quite a sight so I hope the couple we had spoken to earlier who had come to the area to try and spot the harriers actually saw them. We bumped into K H at this point and enjoyed a chat whilst I got the macro out to photograph a large caterpillar.
Drinker Moth caterpillar. Thanks go to Andrew H for ID suggestion.
So named because of the habit of the caterpillar of drinking droplets of rain or dew from the likes of grass stems.
We set off towards Cresswell and stopped on the way at Druridge Pools where Sam had seen Little Gulls last week. We found four Little Gulls today, a year tick for me. We were all thrown a little by the appearance of a not long fledged Black Headed Gull. The highlight here was finding with in a few minutes Pied, Grey and Yellow Wagtail, the latter being a lifer for Sam who has had quite a week! Before setting off for Cresswell we found both Cinnabar Moths and Small Copper Butterflies. The Macro was back out again and with a little persistence images were got.
Small Copper Butterfly
As we approached the pond at Cresswell it became obvious that the water levels were high. We took a stop at the north end but found little apart from Pied Wagtail. Tree Sparrow was seen as we walked towards the pond. Once in the hide we added Little Grebe and Pochard to our day list. Sandwich Tern flew over and more numbers of Sedge Warblers and Reed Bunting were seen again. Then we had another very good sighting of a female Marsh Harrier as it hunted over the reeds close to the road. We felt that because of the present dynamics this was unlikely to have been the female we had seen earlier in the day. It was mid afternoon by now and I was beginning to feel hungry as I’d only eaten a couple of Sam’s crisps earlier. I remembered I had a sandwich left over from yesterday, so as needs must, I ate it.
Marsh Harrier at Cresswell
Newbiggin was our next stop in the expectation of finding Mediterranean Gulls. I initially thought we were going to be unlucky but one a lone distant bird seemed to be what we had been after, so we set off walking and eventually had a very good sighting of Mediterranean Gull. This was another lifer for Sam and another year tick for me. Unfortunately the gull clearly had a badly damaged leg which it seemed unable to place weight upon so this may explain whilst it was out there all alone. As I was wondering if it could fly, it proved it could by flying off over the beach and houses. Eider Duck were seen on what was an otherwise very calm and quiet sea. It was getting hotter as we set off for Seaton Sluice and the fish and chip shop.
Mediterranean Gull. Courtesy of Tom M. (digiscope with mobile)
On arrival at Seaton Sluice we found that the ‘chippy’ wasn’t open for another hour so we went off to St Mary’s Island. It was very hot by now! The wetland was very quiet but we did add Common Whitethroat to the day list and Sand Martins were seen. Both male and female Common Scoter were seen on the sea and the small number of passing birds include Puffin and Guillemot.
So there was only one place left to go to now and that was for our fish and chips. All three of us feeling quite tired by now I think. We’d had a great day and it was wonderful to feel the cooling breeze on our faces as we left to make for home whilst watching the hovering Kestrel. There had been some great sightings amongst the day list of seventy-one bird species. It had been good to watch and think about bird behaviour. Quite a few insects had been seen, including lots of day flying moths, and Tom had seen a Weasel as we passed through Cresswell.