Sunday, 18 October 2015

Ice Cream Birders on Lindisfarne

Seeing the sun as it wants to be seen by ev'ryone
Melting the sky throw a hole in your eye where the magic comes
Turning your heads to the skies with the clouds in your eyes
'cause you never know what you might find
Lyrics from Clear Bright Light/Lindisfarne

Barred Warbler.  Record image of the 'bird of the day' courtesy of Samuel Hood
17th Oct.  With Goosander and Common Buzzard seen on the journey north we crossed to Lindisfarne as the tide ebbed.  The pool filled sands of the vast open area always makes me feel that I’m entering another world, a more peaceful and at times silent world with wonderful atmosphere no matter what the conditions.  On arrival today it was dense cloud with only occasional rays of sunlight breaking through, but these rays gave a wonderful effect over the channel and open sea.  Small areas of brightness standing out from the greyer surroundings.  The horizon behind the Farne Islands was clear cut between sky and sea, the sky falling onto the sea like a theatrical curtain.  The RSPB Group members were quickly of the coach, but not as quickly as Sam and I left them behind and headed through the village.  We like peace on the island and made our way from any crowding.

I recently read some derogatory remarks about Lindisfarne on one of these web-sites that allow comments to be made about areas and places and where the authors of the comments know there can be little in the way of face to face comeback.  This sadly one of the negatives of social media and such like.  The derogatory remarks were made amongst many more positive ones and in the main seem to have come from folk who never left the village or the heavily walked track down to Lindisfarne Castle.  So many people don’t like to move too far from the car-parks and cafes which is a great shame as the island has so much to offer, not least in quiet contemplation and atmosphere.  Although not a shame for us who prefer peace.  For some I know the religious senses are touched on the island, but I can’t say that is what does it for me, although we all have our own God/s and for me it is the power of nature and the island has this in spade loads.  My God is nature and it has helped me through some difficult times and no doubt will do so again.

Once through the village, an interesting enough area, but nothing out of the ordinary Sam and I found our starting point for the walk around the island.  Brent Geese had been seen as we crossed to the island and there was many more close by us now (if there were any dark bellied amongst the pale bellied we didn’t pick them out), along with a large patch on the sands to our right which turned out to be a flock of maybe thousands of Golden Plover.  Bar-tailed Godwits were in hundreds.  Grey Seals were hauled out across the channel although I didn’t hear them calling as on past visits.  Oystercatchers, Lapwing, Sanderling, Turnstone, Redshank and Curlew were amongst other waders.  The haunting cry of the Curlew heard throughout the day.

After a time we made back into the village and headed for the church grounds, vicar’s garden and the area beside St Cuthbert’s Island.  After chasing around for a Yellow Browed Warbler we did finally hear it, but the bird for me was the Brambling, heard before seen, one of my favourite winter visitors.  Mistle Thrush called from high on the trees and flocks of Redwing and Fieldfare flew overhead, probably newly arrived from off the North Sea and their differing calls were easily picked up.  Skylark was also seen. Finches and Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Goldcrest  were amongst birds  in the vicars garden.  We met AJ here and we were to bump into him several times through the day.

Looking over and past St Cuthbert’s Island a Slavonian Grebe was clearly seen as were more Brent Geese and a lone Little Egret.

We headed for the harbour now picking up some passerines along the way including of course more Goldcrest.  The harbour itself provided Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Redshank and Rock Pipits.  I was as usual reminded of David Copperfield as we passed the upturned boats.  Darkening cloud in the west threatened rain but apart from a sprinkle in the air this never materialised although it was still quite cold.  So cold the ice cream seller was almost asleep.  I thought we ought to waken him and support local tradesmen and so we had our ninety-nine as we headed past the Rocket Field where we found Wigeon and Teal.  A Sparrowhawk which seemed to follow us throughout the day flew over our heads as we 
 headed for the lonnen.

The hedges along the lonnen were fairly quite, but provided more Goldcrest.  I did catch sight of a Short Eared Owl which immediately dropped behind a wall and hillock.  As we walked towards the sand dunes we had some of the best birding of the day with at least one more Short Eared Owl, Long Eared Owl and repeat sightings of Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Merlin.  The Merlin provided one of the highlights of the day when Sam and I retraced our steps to get a closer sighting.  The Merlin left its perch on the stone wall and began to hunt, birds lifting as it swooped up and down, eventually taking a pipit which was taken off to be plucked.

Having had our fill of raptors and owls we headed for the dunes passing ten Roe Deer in their usual position in the fields.  Although this area is farmland, it has a feeling of wildness.

Once in the dunes we climbed to the top of what must be one of the highest natural points on the island.  We took in the views across the areas we had walked through and also watched eastwards over the sea and the Farne Islands and southwards to Ross Bank Sands and Bamburgh Castle.  There were few birds about, but we watched Gannets flying along the coastline.  Our walk eventually took us to the new bird hide at the Lough just as flocks of Teal flew in.  We had the hide to ourselves for a time and took lunch here.  Shoveller and Wigeon were amongst birds on the Lough.  After a time we headed back towards the village with plenty of time to look again in the vicinity of the church and vicars garden.  That turned out to be a very wise decision!  On the way we admired the changing light patterns across the Lough and over the dunes.  I was more than a little warm by now.  There were many more Goldcrests along the way.

Once back in the village we explored the church yard again and also inside the church.  As I mentioned earlier I’m not a religious person in the conventional sense but I do like religious buildings and stained glass windows in particular.  Once outside again we met Ian Kerr who probably knows the island and its wildlife as well as anyone.  He told us that there was a Barred Warbler in the vicars garden so it didn’t take us long to get down there were we found numbers of folk waiting for an appearance of from the bird which had not been seen for sometime.

I was aware that we couldn’t wait around for long as the coach would be leaving before the tide cut the island off once again.  The hedges and trees held far more activity than during our morning visit with the Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs` and Goldcrests showing well, as a Brambling called.  As we waited the sun came out and lit a passing skein of Brent Geese as they flew down the channel and past St Cuthbert’s Island.  This was another highlight of the day, a wonderful sight that could well have come from a Peter Scott oil painting.  Would the Barred Warbler appear?

As if timed to perfection the Barred Warbler did make an appearance just before it was time for us to leave, and it eventually showed really well in the open, it’s size being very notable having watched the other warblers and Goldcrest.  My bird of the day and another lifer for Sam.  I have to say that the Brent Geese in the sun provided the sighting of the day.

Well, our hours on Lindisfarne could not have ended in any better way.  We eventually made of towards Budle Bay where the light was very poor now.  Our short stop provided sightings of Pink-footed and Greylag Geese, many Shelduck and other waterfowl and two more Little Egrets.  Our final stop was at Bamburgh where some of us enjoyed a brisk walk to Stag Rock. It was very quite here although we enjoyed watching the juvenile Gannets diving into what must have been very shallow water very close to the shore.  We’d heard that there had been a White-rumped Sandpiper on the shore but that it had flown.  I can’t honestly say we lost any sleep over that fact.  As we headed back we watched a flock of Linnets in the fields.

So a very rewarding and all round great day.  I arrived home cream crackered wondering why anyone can not appreciate Lindisfarne.  At least seventy-two species of bird seen today plus one Red Admiral out in the cold.

18th Oct.  A much more leisurely day today with Sam and I walking along the sands from Blyth Harbour to Seaton Sluice.  Highlights included a skein of fourteen Barnacle Geese flying north, a party of forty-three Sanderling, feeding as only Sanderling do, a hunting Kestrel and the usual excellent chatter.  I was home in time to watch four of the six Magpie goals go into the back of the net.  Have faith!

Addendum.  I had planned some scenic images of Lindisfarne but lighting conditions were not at their best plus the mind was elsewhere to be honest, so only the odd image was taken.

1 comment:

  1. That trip on the 17th sounded fab! You saw some great stuff. I reckon it was a wise move to just walk around with Sam. I remember seeing the Short Eared Owls with you there, under similar circumstances.