Friday, 31 October 2014

Chats with Whoopers and Dolphins

27th Oct.  I met up with Tom at Tynemouth, perhaps a day to early having seen (or in our case not seen) the influx of winter thrushes etc the following day.  Never mind we did have good weather!  The Ravens had seemed to have left the cliffs under the priory by the time we arrived, but sightings of Grey Wagtail and waders were made.  We saw our first Rock Pipits here and continued to count them along the coast throughout the day.

The area surrounding the car-park whilst not holding anything out of the ordinary, was alive with Robins and tits in particular.  Long-tailed Tits being the most represented.  At least two Goldcrest were heard and seen.

We soon made off towards St Marys Island where Golden Plover numbers in the air were high.  A lone Ringed Plover was seen amongst numbers of Turnstone and Redshank in North Bay.  The wetland was…….well the wetland…..and vey quiet, although Teal was found here.  A search of the willows brought little until a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew out and across to the wetland area.  Our time here wasn’t wasted though, as I picked up the sound of Whooper Swans and eleven of them flew south down the coast and over our heads.  My first of the season.

Stonechat.  Image courtesy of Tom Middleton.
Walking towards Seaton Sluice we watched numbers of Curlew, Golden Plover and large flocks of Lapwing flying above the fields.  Passerines were low in number, so it was very pleasing when we found a family of four Stonechats flying near to the gun mounds.  More were found further along the pathway, but I suspect that it was the same birds moving along the cliff edge.  Great to see these birds about though.

Stonechat.  Image courtesy of Tom Middleton.  Obviously a stroppy bird if the sign is correct!  
The sea surface was pond like and when we reached Seaton Sluice we thought there was going to be little to watch over the sea.  After queuing for a seat at the fish and chip cafĂ© and then enjoying a meal, we took a look from the headland.  We picked up a sizable flock of Common Scoter (no Velvets to be seen) towards Blyth in the exact same spot as I had found a smaller flock last week.  Near to them were numbers of Red-throated Divers, a couple of Wigeon, a single female Goldeneye, Eider Duck and what I think may have been a grebe species which remained unidentified and quickly lost sight of all together.  A number of Little Gulls remain in the area and more Wigeon were seen either in flight or near to us on the sea.  Three Red-breasted Mergansers flew north and Guillemots were quite well represented.

Grey Seals were present in the area and Tom initially picked up at least two dolphin species way out.  I eventually found them.  We are pretty sure they were two White-beaked Dolphins.  North towards Blyth and near to the Common Scoter we picked up what we think was Harbour Porpoise.

It was great to be out and about on such a day.  Is it really November tomorrow?

Thursday, 23 October 2014

A Rarity at Holywell

23rd Oct.  Circumstances of late have meant that I have made few visits to Holywell or any other of my usual haunts for sometime.  So don’t get excited, as the rarity I refer to is myself.  I understand that a rarity in the shape of a Red Squirrel has been seen in the dene recently.  Apparently the first one in twenty years.  I hope to get the blog back into shape in the future and to get myself out onto patch (I can’t remember the last time I did a full circle of the patch and got out onto the wagon-ways).  Difficult times can be made a little easier if you know you have friends around and I was out with the best of mine today.

I was feeling warm as Sam and I approached Holywell Pond and flocks of Greylag Geese flew across and landed in the fields to the south of the pond.  They were accompanied here by a large flock of Canada Geese.

The pond itself held numbers of Wigeon numbering around sixty birds.   Also seen here were Little Grebes, Mute Swan, Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Tufted Duck and a single female Goldeneye.  Sam’s keen eye picked up a Common Snipe well hidden at the edge of the reed-bed.  A Grey Heron stood sentinel like on the island.  Lapwings were on the mud and also in flight over the pond.  The fields around the area held numbers of Meadow Pipits which I think were probably on the move.  We’d picked the first one up on the wires in the village.

By the time we’d crossed the fields and entered the dene I was feeling even warmer as the mottled sunlight shone on the burn through autumnal trees.  This really is a pleasant area at this time of year.  I t was unusually quiet for such a fine day and even the Dipper was relaxed.  The highlight of the day was watching this Dipper, its shape reflected in the burn whilst it stood motionless amongst colourful fallen leaves on the rocks.  It would have made a stunning photographic image, but to have got this would have at least meant disturbance and our priority is to watch and grab the images with the camera only when appropriate.  Unusually, so relaxed was this bird that we saw no dipping at all.  Sam did pick up calling and therefore there was likely to be another bird nearby.  The scene was added to as a Grey Wagtail flew up from the burn and a Speckled Wood Butterfly flew across in front of us.  Well, you don’t always need photographic images to paint a scene as words can do so too.  Stock Doves were about the area.

By the time we reached Seaton Sluice I wasn’t just warm, I was dripping in perspiration.  We cooled off over cans of coke and a fish and chip lunch.



From the headland we saw Red-throated Diver, Common Scoter and Eider Ducks.  Oystercatchers and Turnstones were on the few remaining rocks left uncovered by the high tide.  We walked on until we reached St Mary’s Island and ended the day lying on the beach.  No, I hadn’t finally give into the heat as in fact I was a lot cooler by now, although the sun still shone when not covered by ominous leaden grey cloud.  We were photographing waders.  For once we had South Bay to ourselves as we braved the high tide and timed our move to avoid getting the feet wet at the bottom of the steps.  There had been numbers of Rock Pipits around today and a few Pied Wagtails.  Waders seen had been Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Sanderling, Turnstone, Dunlin, Redshank and Curlew.

We left for home relaxed and dreaming of far away places.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Quiet Day Ends With New Garden Tick

5th Oct.  I took the opportunity to get down to St Mary’s and Seaton Sluice with Sam today so as to enjoy a day of sun before the weather takes its forecast downturn.  It was a rare outing for me at the present time.  At the start of our walk we noticed that some sea defence walling (I think) is being placed in South Bay. 

We soon picked up at distance a number of offshore Little Gulls and a Mediterranean Gull was seen amongst the Black Headed Gulls on the rocks.  The tide was reaching its highest point bringing in with it a number of Sandwich Terns and the odd Common Tern.  Sea passage was sparse.  We did have Red-throated Diver, Wigeon and Common Scoter along with Puffin, Guillemot, Razorbill, Gannet and Eider Ducks.  The wetland area was silent.

The walk to Seaton Sluice brought us little in the way of passerines although numbers of Rock Pipits were seen and wader numbers were high.  The Golden Plovers looked at their best as the flock was in the air and occasionally lit by the sunlight.  Other waders seen were Oystercatcher, Lapwing of which I had seen numbers in the fields as we approached the coast, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Turnstone, Dunlin, Redshank and Curlew.  A number of Grey Seals showed their heads today.

Sam and I spent a bit of time at Seaton Sluice where the bird of the day was a migrating Wheatear which showed at length on the edge of the cliff until it decided chase of the Robin which had appeared to fly in off the sea.  We spent sometime watching and listening to displaying Eider Ducks.  I’m thinking that we’ll both be interested in the new Poyser monograph from Chris Waltho and John Coulson concerning the Common Eider Duck.

As the air began to warm up later in the day we decided to walk back to St Mary’s Island.  The occasional butterfly was noted.  It had been a quiet day but an enjoyable and relaxing one with good chat and bumping into fellow birdwatchers.  I heard about the places available on a trip to Shetland going at I think £650 per head, targeting I seem to remember a Siberian Rubythroat!  We decided to give that a miss and continue to watch the Eider Ducks instead.

When I returned home Sam’s mother pointed to something on my roof.  Oh no, I thought, the damn slates are coming off (there’s been a problem with the roof).  I needn’t have worried as in fact it was a Grey Wagtail.  We all had a good sighting.  Whilst this species is quite often seen near the lake and very occasionally in the parkland near the village, it was a new garden tick for me and a nice way to end the day.