14th April. I said recently that I would be back to Druridge Bay soon and so I was, if a little sooner than I had anticipated. Sam and I began our walk at Druridge Country Park. On arrival we were soon listening to numerous Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and song from a lone Blackcap. This more than made up for the fact that I had found neither Willow Warbler nor Blackcap on patch so far this year. The feeding station at the hide was quiet with Goldfinch and Chaffinch amongst the visitors, but we had some nice sightings over the pool. The best sighting of all was watching Red-breasted Mergansers displaying with much bowing, neck stretching and frantic movements on the water. Unfortunately we were unable to hear any nuptial song coming from open bills as we were too distant from the birds, but a great sight none the less and if this kind of display doesn’t excite then I can only think that bird watching is not for you.
Other birds on the pond included Little Grebe, pairs of Great Crested Grebe, three Pintail (2 males and a female), Gadwall, Teal, Tufted Duck Goldeneye and other species. Swallow and Sand Martin numbers seemed to be building up nicely and Skylarks and Meadow Pipits sang. The Exmoor Ponies caught the eye and we saw several today, unknown to them is the fact that they do such a good job for conservation. They really are beautiful beasts. I told Sam that I would like one, but we agreed it might find my garden restrictive, although I do think it would keep the cats out!
Hey Ned, do we get owt for all of this work? Neigh marra, has no one told you, this conservation work relies on volunteers!
Our aim was to end the walk at Cresswell, so we set off in a southerly direction with the wind at this point not being too strong, but chilling enough to ensure we kept a few layers on. Kestrels put in an appearance from time to time and Reed Buntings were often present. A Common Sandpiper was found feeding around the rocky area of the island. It wasn’t long before we were watching a pair of Marsh Harriers in what appeared to be display flights with one of the harriers being harassed by a Greylag Goose which didn’t seem to take kindly to the harrier’s presence. I think it was around this time that Sam caught sight of Roe Deer just before they headed off into the reeds.
We took the chance of a short sea watch at the burn but didn’t find much out at sea, although we found our first Sandwich Terns of the year (eventually having one fly close to us and over to North Pool), more Red-breasted Mergansers, Eiders displaying and a Grey Seal. More interesting was watching the waders which included Oystercatcher, Ringed Plovers, Sanderling and Dunlin. Most interesting were the Ringed Plovers that were displaying. Sam had told me of a small area which has been fenced off in this area by NWT presumably as an area to attract Ringed Plovers and possibly terns. It does seem an ideal spot a very good idea and I hope it is successful. I’m assuming if terns are attracted there may well be a permanent watch on the site similar to the site at Long Nanny? We took a small detour along the path that follows the reed-bed and although I think any Bearded Tits would be well out of the way of the wind we did find Grey Herons flying out of the reed-bed. None of them were purple I’m afraid! There were quite a few eyes on the look out for the Purple Heron which had been seen to fly north over Swallow Pond.
Why's everyone avoiding me? Is it because of the state of me hair?
We found once out on the open pathway again that the wind speed had risen considerably, although the sun now coming through clouds helped warm the air. Our next stop was Druridge Pools and a late and much needed lunch. The large pool held very little and the water as seems usual these days was high. From the hide looking south we watched Lapwings displaying and listened to the calling birds and on one occasion watched a pair mating. Shelduck, Mallard, Shoveller, Gadwall, Teal, Wigeon and Tufted Duck were on the pools. Curlews could be heard and a flock flew around the area.
A pair of Stonechat was found as we headed off towards Cresswell again, but I think the wind ensured that there were few other passerines found in the area. I hadn’t seen Twite this year despite looking for them on a couple of previous occasion. We took a good look in the area where they are usually found feeding. Disappointingly we picked up Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and a sizable flock of Linnets and were about to move on when Sam got his eye on a handful of Twite feeding alongside the Linnets. We ended up having good sightings of five Twite, now added to my year list. There may have been more Twite amongst the sand dunes but five were all that we saw. We’d seen House Sparrows at the farm as we passed by, but little else.
Two or three time son our walk we had been told of two Little Ringed Plovers amongst a small flock of Ringed Plover and it wasn’t long before we were having reasonably good sightings of them although the wind was making things a bit difficult. We ended up sat on the ground and this helped.
Sam had his first sighting of the year of the Avocets although there were only four present today. In the same area we found a White Wagtail amongst the Pied Wagtails. As we approached we had seen the distinctive white rump of Wheatear as it flew across the field but it was a while before we found any more. Eventually Wheatears did return and we had quite a number of them showing well. As we walked to the hide at the south end of the pond Sam found another Wheatear in field to the left and then we watched what looked like a newly arrived Wheatear resting on the stone wall near to the parking area. It was being photographed by photographers who had perhaps arrived in the hope of Barn Owls. We thought that there was every possibility that the Barn Owls would stay out of the windy conditions.
The walk down the path to the hide brought us the usual sightings of Tree Sparrows. The pond itself was very quiet with most waterfowl probably been cleared by the strong wind. The Shelduck were braving it out and we were treated to some more displaying by them. This time it ended with what appeared to be two males in combat and entwined together for some time. Eventually one of these birds was exiled to the centre of the lake having seemingly backed down. It was almost time to leave now, but we watched four summer plumage Dunlin on the sand bank and occasionally in flight, Redshank, Curlew and Common Snipe. Two Common Snipe were disturbed by gulls and they lifted from the area in front of the hide where they had been well camouflaged. Another was watched as it headed from the sand bank into the reeds. Lapwing and Kestrel were also in the area.