21st Feb. Very high tides today, although Sam and I arrived at St Mary’s Island when the tide was at it’s lowest point, exposing land that I can’t remember seeing for a long time. Skylarks were singing as we approached the area and although wader watching was more difficult that usual as the birds were feeding so far out, we still managed to have decent sightings of the following between St Mary’s Island and Seaton Sluice, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Knot, Sanderling, Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone, Dunlin, Redshank and Curlew.
There was little sea passage to be picked up. but I did manage my first sighting this year of Gannets. Also seen were Teal, Goldeneye, Eider,Guillemot and Fulmar and Sam managed to pick up distant Red Throated Diver and a Kittiwake.
The skies had been cloudless throughout the day until we entered the dene and there seemed to be a threat of snow or rain as grey cloud began to build up from the west. In fact we were hit by a shower of hail lasting only a few minutes before the sun was back out. This area was very quiet except at the feeders which attracted Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Dunnock, Robin, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit a sizable flock of Long-tailed Tits and Chaffinch. The open farm land was also very quiet.
Holywell Pond was, yes you’ve guessed, pretty quiet too, but did have Canada Geese, one Shelduck, Mallards, Gadwall, Teal, Wigeon, Pochard, Tufted Duck and Goldeneye and we also heard sharming (word of the week) from the Water Rail.
I’d commented to Sam on a number of occasions on the lack of birds and as I did so again I got my eye on a Common Buzzard flying over the trees at the back of the pond. It showed really well in the sunlight. Sam got his eye on another raptor. The Common Buzzard now perched in the trees and this other raptor was attempting to fly in and mob it. We suddenly realised it was a Peregrine Falcon, the first I’ve seen in the Holywell area for a while. The peregrine eventually flew off at some speed towards the coast.
So beginning with a low (tide) we’d ended our day on somewhat of a high with the Peregrine Falcon sighting. Wonderful that these birds are once again seen so often but not so wonderful is the fact that they are still persecuted. Once home and sorting out my day list of species I realised that such a quiet day had still managed to provide sixty-two species of bird. So maybe not so quiet after all. It was bitterly cold by the time we arrived back home.
20th Feb. I’d had much business to attend to on Friday so decided to take a short stroll down to the lake to get me into the right frame of mind for the day. I’d heard that a Great Crested Grebe had returned. In fact we’d had one on the lake very early in February (noted by Sam) but it had disappeared again. I caught up with the species today. It’s almost into summer plumage.
It’s good to see Mute Swan numbers have increased again. Someone was at the lake feeding from bags. This won’t go down well at all! However it did appear that the gulls took all the food and not the swans. It’s disturbing to hear that there is some thought that the Mute Swans (twenty plus found dead) on the river at Chester-le-Street may have been deliberately poisoned with a lead based substance. It didn’t sound to me as though there is any definite evidence of this and we may find that it is simply lead substances that have found their way into the river.
After a quick look over the lake I walked to the church grounds and it was spring like here with song from Song Thrush, Blackbird, Wrens, Chaffinches and tits, the corvids very active overhead, a Magpie carrying nest material and a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming. Parts of the lawns were a carpet of Snowdrops along with a few Crocus.