Monday, 24 August 2015

Magic in the Air and Magical Migrant Waders

One dream, one soul, one prize,
One goal, one golden glance of what should be,
It's a kind of magic
Queen Lyrics

23rd Aug.  With the thunder storm of the evening before out of the way, Sam and I met up with Tom at St Mary’s Island at 6.15am.  We’d watched the sun rise as an orange glow in the sky as we approached the coast and the light blindingly bright as we walked towards the island.  It was a truly magical morning, warm with little wind.  A heavy fall of rain last night without doubt, but there had been no heavy fall of migrant birds.  Perhaps we were just too early!  We did find a number of Willow Warblers (and possibly Chiffchaff) and Common Whitethroat.  Other than that it was in the main numerous Linnets and a few Reed Bunting showing.  Initial sea watching wasn’t especially easy with the bright sunlight in our sights.  The flock of Golden Plover circled the area of the lighthouse and the usual coastal waders (with summer plumage Knot standing out) were watched before we made for Seaton Sluice.  A Kestrel hovered over the cliff edge and a couple of naked bathers enjoyed the morning air.  I can’t imagine myself ever deciding to bathe naked on the shoreline, no matter how pleasant the morning and I’m sure readers will be relived to hear that.  I shudder to think how the cold rocks would feel on the posterior!

A sea-watch from the headland at Seaton Sluice brought sightings of Sooty and Manx Shearwater, although I missed the former, Red Throated Diver, Shag, numerous small flocks of Common Scoter both north and south and flocks of maybe 300 plus Kittiwake which eventually rested in the bay south of Blyth.  Terns, gulls, Fulmars and Eider Ducks were the supporting cast.  We chatted to fellow birders who advised us that a Merlin had been watched and we later picked up a brief sighting of this magical species as we prepared to head towards Holywell.  Despite the wind having picked up somewhat on the coast the heat of the day continued to rise.

Pectoral Sandpiper courtesy of Tom Middleton
More Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and numbers of tacking Blackcap were seen in the dene along with two or possibly three Dipper and a Kingfisher.  A dark butterfly was seen flying around the tops of trees and after the excitement of a previous visit perhaps there was some wishful thinking this time as to species.  It was never identified, however we had plenty of White species around us, Red Admiral, Wall Brown, Meadow Brown and Speckled Wood were also seen as well as a number of Common Darter Dragonfly.  An unmistakeable Greenshank call was heard, but the bird wasn’t sighted. 

Common Sandpiper courtesy of Tom Middleton
The Pectoral Sandpiper that Sam and I had found was still showing well when we arrived at the pond as were four Common Sandpipers and a Dunlin.  Water Rail calls were heard once again and are now becoming almost expected when we visit.  Other bird life on and around the pond was similar to our previous visit, although the two Pintail have moved on.  Eight hours in the field passed very quickly.  Another great day, providing us with a day list of 73 bird species.

Pectoral Sandpiper courtesy of Tom Middleton

24th Aug.  After a quiet beginning it turned into another magical day.  The quiet beginning so Priors Park, Tynemouth as quiet as I have ever seen it with even the local Sparrowhawk seeming a little lethargic.  A walk down to the pier gave Common Whitethroat below the Priory and we watched Kittiwake, Fulmar, Redshank, Turnstone and Rock Pipit before we headed off to Holywell Pond.  We weren’t aware of what magic awaited us.

The public hide was busy with folk, I guess some drawn by the Pectoral Sandpiper (which remains) and other migrant waders.  Yes Holywell Pond continues to deliver the goods aplenty.   Sam and I chatted to some very nice people today (especially nice were the ones who read my blog :-)) among them Joe (JL) who I’ll dedicate the mention of the eleven Common Sandpipers too.  All eleven lined up on the fence at one point and many of them stayed there for over an hour unmoved by the frequent lifting of the Lapwings and other waders.  By the time we left eleven Common Sandpipers had become twelve!

We’d planned to walk down from the pond to Seaton Sluice but we couldn’t pull ourselves away from the waders so we spent the afternoon at the pond.  The Pectoral Sandpiper was rather overshadowed today by a stunning Spotted Redshank which will be I’m sure one of my birds of the year.  It was catching and eating fish almost continually, taking only short naps in-between feeding.  A beautiful bird giving a fine sighting.  Also present for all, much or part of the time were Green Sandpiper, Ruff, Dunlin, Curlew and Common Snipe.

Spotted Redshank.  Phone scoped courtesy of Samuel Hood
Sam and I departed the public hide for a break during which we disturbed a bird as we passed along the path to the members hide and by the temporary flash formed after the recent storm.  Its flight call was very distinctive and we wondered if it could be Wood Sandpiper.  A fellow birder helpfully played us the call later when we returned to the public hide, but not until now have have Sam and I had the chance to listen at leisure to recordings.  We are confident that we heard Wood Sandpiper which we know had been seen earlier in the day at Holywell.  One of many in the UK at present of course.  The water had risen a great deal near the members hide in comparison to last week when we had such fine sightings of the Green Sandpiper.  This end of the pond was very quiet today, but we did hear Water Rail once again and watched Common Buzzard fly over the pond.  Sparrowhawk was seen from the public hide and Kestrel was also seen in the vicinity.

As we left for home we checked out the temporary flash again.  As we were preparing to leave a wader flew into the field and landed amongst the gulls.  It was a Greenshank!  This took our list of waders seen at Holywell this afternoon to eleven.  Days like this don’t come along very often.  I reckon that Merlin we saw yesterday had worked some magic!

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