21st Feb. The cold air of a south-westerly wind and sprinkling of rain hit me as soon as I stepped out at Cresswell today. Again we were to see some fine habitat in many moods. Sam and I hadn’t discussed exactly where the day would take us, but we intuitively knew that we shared the same plan. A plan that as it happens changed as the day progressed. Our first action was to look over the Carrs and sea. I seem to remember that Kestrel was already on the list and we were to see at least five or six of them today.
The Carrs provided Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Turnstone, Dunlin, Redshank and Curlew. There was no real sea passage of birds, but we did find Shag, Cormorants in breeding plumage, Red Throated Diver, Common Scoter, Goldeneye, Eider Duck, a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers and Guillemot. The male merganser putting on a really good courtship display. The female merganser was harassed by gulls.
We decided to walk along the road towards Cresswell Pond with the probable intention of later making a return along the beach. The walk warmed us up a bit and the shower was minimal. Birdlife was sparse, but we did have a sizable skein of Pink-footed Geese flying north. A flock of Linnet was picked up over and on the field.
Tree Sparrow calling
The path to the hide provided good sightings of the Tree Sparrows along with House Sparrows, Goldfinch, Robin, Dunnock and the seemingly resident Song Thrush. The pond itself was in the main taken up with large flocks of Wigeon and Teal, although Mallard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Little Grebes were amongst other species seen. One or two Common Snipe were seen on the fringes of the reed-bed and when we moved to the north end of the pond two Common Snipe were flushed. The best sighting we had at the pond was that of an Otter which showed distantly but well for approximately an hour as it dived and fed on Eels and what looked like a Flounder. It was certainly feeding well. We later watched it swim towards the reed-bed and eventually disappear. It had always been too distant for photographs. The sandbank held only Wigeon, Teal and the odd Lapwing.
Changing moods...the rainbow led us to some special sightings
We eventually made off towards Druridge Pools, hoping to find Twite on the way. The large flock of birds we did find flying in the wind near Bell’s pond were Goldfinch and Chaffinch. A smaller number of passerines were seen near to the cattle, but I wasn’t confident that they were Twite, so we have to admit failure on that score. We found a flock of one hundred plus Pink-footed Geese in the fields to the west of the dunes. One of the geese was alone in the adjoining field. We weren’t able to scan the flock before they took off and flew south towards the Cresswell Pond. It became apparent that the lone bird was injured in some way as whilst it attempted to take of with the flock it landed and remained alone. Two Grey Partridges called and flew off from an area very close by and they had clearly been there all of the time that we had stood in the area. More rain came down for a few minutes and eventually a deeply toned rainbow arched over the land and sea. I wasn’t expecting a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow but commented to Sam that there might be some decent birds to be found. As it happens there was!
Rain and shine over Druridge Pools
We made off towards Druridge Pools, looking out for Stonechats along the way. The pools provided us with two male and a female Pintail, a species we had been disappointed not to see on Cresswell pond. Shoveller and many more Wigeon and Teal were amongst waterfowl fond here. A Common Buzzard flew over trees to the west.
We chatted to another birder who reminded us that there were some decent birds to be seen on North Pool at East Chevington. Not having transport we had intended to return to Cresswell to be picked up. The draw of the birds at East Chevington made us change our minds (fortunately) and we decided to carry on walking to East Chevington and change the pick up point.
As we began our walk a pair of Stonechats held us up as Sam was determined to try and photograph them. That proved difficult! We had at least found our first Stonechats of the year. At times now the light was excellent before more could came over and changed the atmosphere completely. A pair of Kestrels was watched as we joined the cycle path as were more Goldfinch and numbers of Reed Bunting. A Marsh Harrier was picked up over the reed-beds. Song from a Skylark helped us along our way.
No way was this Stonechat going to pose for a close up!
We kept up a good pace and were soon at East Chevington North Pool. By now the grey clouds were looking rather threatening and I was pleased that a hide was available, despite the fact that it is such a horrendous metal box hide! We preferred to stay outside in the main, although a sit down inside and a chat with a visitor from Kent was eventually welcomed.
There were certainly lots of Goldeneye on the pool, but the Black-throated Diver had departed and I also thought we were going to be unlucky with the grebes. We did eventually pick up the two Slavonian Grebes and the Red-necked Grebe at the north end of the pool. The latter was a lifer for Sam. A Great Crested Grebe also eventually appeared from around the corner of the pool, thus giving us four grebe species today. Long-tailed Ducks also remain on the pool. Another Kestrel hovered over the north east corner of the pond.
A sunlit North Pool
We eventually decided it was best to make our way towards Red Row for our pick up, but not before taking some images of the now sunlit area. The atmosphere was wonderful and I reflected upon the day and the species (sixty-nine bird species) we had seen which had included seven new species of bird for my year list not to mention the Otter sighting. I was surprised that we had not seen a Grey Heron and it was on the tip of my tongue to mention this to Sam. It seemed such an obvious point to make I just kept quiet. Within three of four minutes we came across a Grey Heron in the fields as we walked along the pot holed road towards Red Row. Incidentally that road never seems so long when you come by car, but having walked from Creswell Pond carrying all of our gear including the telescope, it began to seem very long indeed. We took a break to photograph the silhouettes of Greylag Geese against the sunlit sky.