13th Sept. The RSPB Local Group trip to Holy Island usually takes place in October, but for organisational reasons we were up there in September this year. I favour change, as otherwise you simply get stuck in a rut and at least we were able to walk around in sunshine. Unfortunately the sunshine meant crowds, although I noted that few left the path between car-parks and the castle. The rest of the island remained relatively peaceful. Not many folk seem to have a passion for exploration and I think in this case lose out on some of the more attractive areas of the island. Their loss is of course to the gain of those of us who take the time to be a little more adventurous (it tends to be the same where ever you go). It had been quite misty on arrival, but the sun was soon out and temperatures jumped, although with a heat haze around all day it wasn’t a good day for photography. Neither was it a good day for sightings of migrant birds.
Even on a busy day it is still possible to find peace on the island
Common Buzzard was seen perched just before joining the causeway. Roe Deer were seen in the fields and later on the island. The area around the causeway didn’t hold the waders that we normally see except for a few Curlew. I mentioned during the day that perhaps the group ought to explore the Snook at some point as this is always missed on trips. Again a change would be good.
Sam and I headed for a quiet spot just north of St Cuthbert’s Island so that we could look for waders in relative peace and quiet. We were soon joined by two or three other keen birders in the group. It was certainly atmospheric with the calls of waders and Grey Seals in the misty atmosphere. Hundreds of Brent Geese were picked up, but at some distance and I found later in the day that many members had not seen them at all. A small number of the geese showed a little better on a rather closer sandbank. Golden Plovers were around in large numbers and I seem to remember that we counted twenty plus Grey Plovers out in the bay, most still in summer plumage. Nearby there were hundreds of Bar-tailed Godwit. I picked up an occasional Knot, but when Sam walked across to St Cuthbert’s Island he found a large flock of them. Oystercatcher, Dunlin and Redshank were also around in numbers and I’m thinking that there may have been several other species of wader but they were impossible to pick up in difficult light. Eider Ducks and Cormorants were all we saw on this water from this point. Thrushes picked up around where we stood were limited to Blackbird and Song Thrush, although we did hear from another birder that he has seen at least three Redwing during the morning. I understand that the Black Redstart was showing along the beach.
When we caught up to a few other members near St Cuthbert’s Island we were put onto a Pied Flycatcher showing very well in the Vicar’s Garden. The harbour held little more than Redshank, Dunlin, Rock Pipit and Pied Wagtail.
After dumping the cumbersome telescope back on the coach and having had some lunch sat in the harbour we took to the lonnen. A Great Spotted Woodpecker call was picked up. The hedges were in the main devoid of birds but we did have a very good sighting overhead of a female Sparrowhawk and two or three Kestrels. Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Linnet and Mute Swan were flying in the area.
Instead of following the pathway to the hide and small pond we continued through the dunes into the sandy bay which I think is perhaps one of the most attractive parts of the island. Gannets were passing by in large numbers and a large flock of Ringed Plovers were near the tide- line. Sanderlings and Turnstones were also seen. Pied Wagtails, a flock of Linnets and Rock Pipits were passed as we walked along the shore. A small flock of Wigeon were seen flying along the coast.
Now who is that?
The pond held the likes of Little Grebe, Shoveller, Mallard, Gadwall, Teal and Moorhen. The best sighting here was without doubt another Pied Flycatcher which showed well, at times in decent light. Grey Herons and Lapwings had been seen in this area as we walked along the lonnen.
I felt that the light was at its best when it came to the time to leave the island although it was still rather hazy. We left with a couple of members claiming the sighting of what appears to have been a large raptor. This gained the interest of others as they backed away from boarding the coach to take a last look, but nothing was seen.
We made our customary short stop at Budle Bay. It was fairly quiet and lacked the numbers of geese and ducks often seen here a little later in the year. However I did manage to add Little Egret (now seeming to be a fixture here), Shelduck and Greenshank to the day list.
There were a number of folk asleep on the way home. I’d enjoyed my day on the island in the sun, although feeling cream crackerd.