8th Aug. Isn’t August a great month for watching birds?
I was out with a friend late afternoon and early evening with the intention of checking out a planned New Year walk in January 2014 and of course also to take a look at the birdlife around the South East Northumberland coast at present. It all reminded me of what splendid habitat we have on our doorsteps and the work done by local organisations and volunteers. We began at East Chevington where we immediately bumped into old friends PT and DY who had both seen the Grey Plover in summer plumage on North Pool, but which we missed by minutes. The water was high, but we found a large flock of approximately five hundred Lapwings with a few Dunlin amongst them and a Common Snipe later joining them. A Greenshank and two Ruff were a little more distant, but still providing good scope sightings. Both Common and Sandwich Terns were found. Curlews flew overhead. As we left the Lapwing we put to flight, I think by a passing dog not on a lead.
Next stop was Hauxley reserve where we parked up and walked down to Hadston Carrs and towards Druridge Park. This was the area I wanted to check out. Hauxley provided a good selection of common waterfowl and waders. Common Sandpiper was seen just outside of the Ponteland Hide, as a Reed Bunting flew past. Tree Sparrows, Willow Warbler and a family party of Common Whitethroats were seen in the area. As we walked along the path and beach at Hadston a little casual sea watching brought us good sightings of three Manx Shearwaters flying north, a flock of Common Scoter and Eider Duck and numbers of Gannet. I took a look at the archaeological dig with interest and I’m wondering if I might be able to include a tour of this site when the RSPB walk takes place in January. I shall check this out anyway. There were lots more terns about of course. And as we walked back towards the area of Hauxley and looked at Coquet Island, the air near the sea cooled us down a little. We found a dead Seal near the waters edge.
Common Sandpiper outside of the Ponteland hide
One of several hundred Lapwings seen this evening. This one is outside of the Ponteland hide
Sadly this was the only seal I saw this evening.
Having made use of the picnic tables in the reserve for a very relaxed tea as the sun shone down on us and the Teasels towered above us, we then made for Cresswell. I mentioned to my companion that we might be lucky enough to find the Barn Owl if we were around late enough.
When we arrived at the pond I suggested a stop at the north end. I had noticed however that the water was very high. It was fortunate that we stopped here as just as we got out of the car Marie spotted the Barn Owl flying closely beside us. We watched it for some time. This was Marie’s first ever Barn Owl seen in the wild so an exciting find for her. We walked across the road but could see no Avocets but did find lots of Grey Wagtails and amongst them two Yellow Wagtails with one juvenile. We eventually made for the parking area near to the hide. Once there we watched the Barn Owl which at times hovered very near to us. There were more Pied Wagtails and Tree Sparrows, one of the latter feeding young at the nest.
I’ve experienced quite a number of good and warm summer evenings this year and this was yet another. This is a wonderful area to be in on peaceful summer evenings.
From the hide a Sedge Warbler could be heard, but not seen, and it wasn’t long before I was counting Greenshank. There were five here in total, at times showing very well. Two Ruff were at the north end of the pond. Then out of nowhere, five Avocet including one juvenile appeared at the north end of the pond. They eventually flew down the length of the pond and fed to the right of the hide. Other waders watched included Lapwing, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Redshank in some numbers and a lone Curlew. Birds on the water included Little Grebe, Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Moorhen.
We had the hide to ourselves for most of the time until a photographer joined us. He asked if the Grey Heron had been seen and as he asked one flew from the reed-bed, then another and then another. As the sun began to lower towards the horizon numbers of Swallows suddenly increased as they fed outside of the hide, then just suddenly the area was clear of them. We decided that it was time to leave and as we walked along the path we caught sight of the Barn Owl once again. We didn’t hang around and felt it best to leave the owl in peace.