4th Jan. Unlike English cricketers I was praying that rain wouldn’t stop play today. As the clouds darkened overhead I was so sure that we were in for a drenching that I informed participants that Sam and I would finish today’s walk what ever the weather, but that I would understand if others wanted to drop out and return to their vehicles. A Coal Tit fed in the pine trees as I spoke and as we left a Pied Wagtail flew in the car-park. As we had approached our starting point we had found a large flock of Greylag Geese near Woodhorn along with Mute Swans, Wigeon and Gadwall. A Kestrel was also in the area and another perched in trees just before we parked up.
We soon set off from Druridge Country Park car park and headed long the beach towards Hauxley with the wind behind our backs. The warmth ensured that the beach walk was not as bracing as everyone had been led to expect. The grey skies ensured that the light was not good for sea watching, but some good birds were seen never the less, including ten plus Red Throated Divers, one Great Northern Diver flying south (a welcome sighting as I hadn’t seen one during 2013), Eiders, Common Scoters, Red-breasted Mergansers, auk species and gulls. Waders seen included Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Sanderling, Turnstone and Curlew. As we left the beach and got back onto the pathway we found that there was a dearth of small passerines.
Once up to Hauxley Nature Reserve the Ponteland Hide provided nice sightings of Goldeneye and a pair of Little Grebe. There were large flocks of Curlew and Canada Geese near to the reserve. I’d noticed the water in the reserve was very high.
We timed it nicely to ensure that participants could take their lunch in the hides. I thought by now that they would all be glad to get out of the rain, but up to this point there hadn’t been any! I think folk were impressed by the number of Tree Sparrows that were feeding and I’m pleased to say everyone had good close sightings of a Water Rail. Participants seemed less taken with the over fed Brown Rats which are the first mammal to appear on my and Sam’s 2014 list. The rats seemed to ensure that the Water Rail wasn’t going to hang around to long, although I noticed that the Moorhen wasn’t phased by them at all. I found my first Chaffinches of 2014 in this area along with a beautifully coloured Pheasant. Just to return to the Tree Sparrows I have to say that the work of NWT and others is to be applauded in ensuring that this species has been given a chance in Northumberland.
As participants watched the Wigeon, Teal, Tufted Duck and Little Grebes (I was unable to find the Black necked Grebe which may have been in the corner of the pool that we didn’t reach), one or two visitors seems shocked to find the hide full.
Having added some energy everyone was happy to make the return walk. I couldn’t believe that it still wasn’t raining and folk were commenting on the fact that they were too warm as they removed gloves and hats. Sam looked over the beach and found us Ringed Plovers and Bar-tailed Godwit to add to the list and at least one Goldcrest was found feeding frantically. Wrens and Rock Pipits then took our attention and a Common Buzzard was watched flying before it perched on a fence.
We had a chat about the archaeological dig that has taken place in the area and before to long we were back at the car-park in Druridge CP. We’d managed to find fifty-seven species during our four hour walk and I think everyone had enjoyed the habitat. I do think a few had struggled with some of the seabird sightings, but it didn’t seem to concern them too much and Sam and I were always at hand with the telescope for those who wanted to share it. Amazingly it still hadn’t rained! Sam and I along with others enjoyed a drink in the café (Sam in shirt sleeves by now) which I hadn’t expected to be open at this time of year. We then set off for a return which was to include a stop at Cresswell Pond.
Our stop at Cresswell Pond was a fairly short one but a very enjoyable one. Sam had hoped for Whooper Swans today and despite missing the fifty plus which we have learnt were present on the pond in the afternoon we did at least have a nice sighting of three that remained. Other additions to the day list were Song Thrush, Dunlin (around in numbers), Common Snipe and Collared Dove. More Tree Sparrows were also seen. This brought the list up to sixty-two for the day and gave me thirty-three new species for the year.
Three remaining Whooper Swans
We reluctantly left Creswell as the sunset and the Lapwing flock flew over the peaceful area whilst the rather handsome farm cat was on the prowl.
There were thirteen participants on the walk today. It was a nice number to have. When we get higher numbers the group tends to split making for a less friendly feel I think. This is the third New Year walk that I have been involved with and thankfully the weather has been very good on all three. I enjoy the walks because they tend to attract people who are really interested in birds, habitat and conservation rather than those simply looking for a day out. My thanks to all who took part, especially Sam for his co-leading and general input. We already have the plans made for our New year walk in 2015.