Thursday, 11 December 2014

Brass Monkeys...Where are they all?

11th Dec.  I ventured up to Cresswell today with Sam and Lee.  Not a single brass monkey to be found and rumour has it that for some reason or other, they were all at home wrapped in blankets.  I have to say that despite being dressed and padded out like a Christmas parcel, I wished on occasions that I had also stayed at home!  The wind made the already low temperatures feel bitterly cold although thankfully the sky was clear and the sun shone.  An ominous layer of cloud slowly approached from the west and seemed to be biding it’s time before dropping its contents over South East Northumberland.  What had I been saying recently about really enjoying winter birding?  I really do of course.

Things started well with a Common Buzzard hovering in the wind as we joined the A19 at Killingworth.  Whilst the Common Buzzard is now seen by many as just that, common, I have to say they still excite me.  Fields nearby held a large concentration of Lapwings.

A short stop at Castle Island allowed us to taste the air.  There was little about although three Goldeneye flew up river.  The drive to Creswell has us passing Pink-footed and Greylag Geese near Woodhorn.

 The sea watch from Cresswell was cut short.  It was pointless trying to fight the wind and cold.  There seemed to be plenty of gulls on the sea, but little else apart from the odd Eider Duck.  Even the waders proved to be scarce although flocks of Golden Plover were seen flying north.  We made for the pond and found Tree Sparrows at the feeders.

Before entering the hide a skein of maybe 100/125 Pink-footed Geese flew north directly overhead.  A smaller skein of 7/8 were seen from the hide flying west.  The wind had cleared the pond of most of its birds but later we watched a flock of 500+ whistling Wigeon on the water.  I thought I had found Scaup but as the bird moved towards us it proved to be Tufted Duck.  There were a few Goldeneye about.  We picked up a well camouflaged Common Snipe in the reeds directly in front of the hide.  On taking a better look we found another two very well hidden birds.

One of the Common Snipe decides to show itself in the sun but another to the left remains hidden.
There was very little at Druridge Pools (although I did catch sight of a Grey Partridge crossing the road as we approached), so we headed for East Chevington.  As we turned right at Red Row both Lee and Sam got their eye on a male Bullfinch in the hedge.  Some how I managed to miss it.  Fearing that we would soon chill out looking over North Pool we entered the metal box.  Now, it would be unfair to expect hides to be homely, inviting, quiet and relaxing (we have some awful hides in Northumberland) and so it proves with this metal box.  As Sam suggested acoustics bear some resemblance to the Albert Hall.  I’ve been reading a little about torture treatment of alleged terrorists.  Perhaps sticking them in this box and playing recordings at full volume of X Factor vocalists would be a time saver.

North Pool held 50+ Goldeneye, Little Grebe, Mute Swan, Mallard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and co.

We decided to head for home.  The wind had ensured that the birding was not at its best, but we’d still clocked up near enough fifty species.  A flock of Fieldfare flew over the fields as we headed back.

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