10th Feb. I’d been looking forward to a return to Druridge Bay. I wasn’t really expecting such a wonderful winter’s day of sun, warmth (at times), clear blue skies and lots of action. Sam and I walked from Druridge Country Park to Cresswell and often seemed to have the area to ourselves
Druridge Bay looking south
Druridge Bay looking north
Even with the sun in our eyes we had good sightings across East Chevington North Pool with large numbers of Goldeneye and the Black-necked Grebe showing well along with Little Grebes, Teal and Wigeon. The feeders were attracting Great, Coal, Blue and Long-tailed Tits, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker and a single Siskin and Reed Bunting et al. From one of the eastern hides we eventually spotted the Long-tailed Duck and nearby found our first of several pairs of Stonechats seen today. The first of many Grey Herons seen today was stood on the island and the large flock of Lapwing was restless. Perhaps the highlight of the day was finding a Stoat in ermine as it appeared to hunt the Stonechats without success. A little later another Stoat was found, this one in its brown coat. Now the sighting of the Stoats had me asking myself some questions. Until I checked I have to admit that I didn’t know that the change to white ermine is governed by the change of temperature and day length upon the Stoats pituitary gland. I’m still asking myself ‘so why do some in the same area and habitat turn white and others don’t?’ I did find that in the winter of 2010/11 70 records of Stoats in ermine were sent to the NWT from a wide range of areas in Northumberland.
We eventually walked through the dunes to the open coastline where the sun shone brightly over the North Sea. Sam searched for possible Snow Buntings where we had photographed them last February, but was without success. Five Red-breasted Mergansers swam lose to shore as did Eider Ducks. A lone Sanderling was found high on the beach feeding amongst the seaweed and I heard a Pied Wagtail before spotting it. Oystercatchers were seen in the distance. By now large skeins of Pink-footed Geese were flying overhead and they stayed in the air for some time. This is one of the real rewards of winter bird watching. Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Goldfinch where numerous along with the odd Reed Bunting. The views in the perfect light were wonderful and by now the sun was beginning to warm us. There was no wind at all over the sandy beach. We reluctantly moved on to continue our walk and as we headed southwards we listened to the calling Pink-footed Geese still in skeins in the air. The occasional Kestrel was picked up. We later found a pair of Kestrels being mobbed by corvids.
East Chevington North Pool
Time seemed to go fast and by 1.30pm we were beginning to feel peckish so were glad to reach Druridge Pools and sit down to eat. As we did so a Peregrine Falcon swooped across from the east causing flocks of Lapwing and waterfowl to lift. It gave a good sighting as it took a level flight westwards over the pools before flying off into the distance. The pools held Shoveller, Mallard, Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal, Tufted Duck and Grey Heron et al. The larger pond to the north was very quiet and so we set off again. We stopped at the viewing point just off the road and found a number of Common Snipe at the edge of one of the pools.
Pink-footed Geese were often with us.
It wasn’t long before we could hear Pink-footed Geese in the fields. When we reached them there appeared to be at least 1,500 and very likely more. They lifted at one point, but only moved a little before landing in the field again. A wonderful sight and sound. Ok, there may or may not have been Bean Geese in the flock. We weren’t going to find them if they were there and I was too busy enjoying my day to feel overly concerned about that!
Pink-footed Geese Lift
We looked for Twite in their usual habitat and where Sam had watched them two or three weeks ago. Unfortunately none were found and I think they may have been feeding in the dips in the sand dunes. Only more Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Goldfinches were seen along with corvids and gulls and Curlews. The latter species seemed numerous and active today and weren’t often out of earshot. House Sparrows were making a racket at the farm. I began to wonder as to the effects of the proposed opencast mining in this area. Having walked through an area that owes much to past industry, all I can say is that I remain positive for the future. Anyone who believes that wildlife cannot survive alongside industry ought to read Michael Warrens Langford Lowfields. My concerns tend to concern areas that are to be put under brick, concrete and tar and will be forever lost, as will its biodiversity. Sadly this often happens without many folk giving it a second thought.
Sam and I eventually approached Cresswell Pond which was to be the end of our walk. I’d got my second wind! We soon found that there was large numbers of whistling Wigeon and Teal on the pond. We knew we’d have time for a short watch from the hide so made towards it. The hedges down to the hide were fairly quiet today but did hold good numbers of Treesparrows.
Records on the board in the hide included thirty plus Whooper Swans earlier in the day. We were happy enough with the one Whooper Swan we found. The sand bank held more Lapwings and Redshank. Shelduck were added to our day list. When I’d managed to prise Sam away from his favourite species, the Whooper Swan, we set off on our way home. There was a line of three Grey Herons in the filed as we left.
A lone Whooper Swan at Cresswell Pond
It had been one of those great winter day’s in Northumberland. What a fine county we have and what a wonderful area Druridge is for wildlife and scenery. We were out for over five and a half hours and must have put a few miles behind us considering the diversions. You see far more and take in far more on foot and we had perfect weather for it today and as Cilla would say, we had a lorra lorra laughs along the way. The Stoat in ermine was today’s star.