All images courtesy of Samuel Hood
11th Oct. Sam and I had debated whether we ought to visit the coast on Saturday or Sunday. Thankfully we chose Sunday. We had a quiet start at Brier Dene. What a difference a week makes. Unlike the previous Sunday, today was dull and damp and there were far fewer birds about the area, although we picked up the likes of Grey Wagtail and saw a rather large looking pipit fly overhead which we will never know the identity of although the name Richard came to mind. I was surprised there were so few birds attracted to the Rowan, Hawthorn and Elder berries.
On our walk to wards St Mary’s Island we found watched a Goldcrest fly off the sea and land on the low mud cliff side and slowly work its way to the top feeding frantically on the way. Little did we know that this was to be the first of so many Goldcrest seen as the day moved forward. Rock and Meadow Pipit were also seen, as were numerous Pied Wagtails.
We began to watch the waders on the low tide line until a friend of ours bumped into us and asked if we had seen the Lapland Bunting. We knew that one had been reported earlier in the morning, but had not intended to search for it and our reply was in the negative. It’s just over there was the reply. A few yards away a handful of birders watched along the pathway. So easy to find Lapland Buntings then! We watched this bird at length and at close range. I took the opportunity to take in the characteristics of a species as it fed oblivious to us watchers. I’ve seen this species only briefly in the past and it was a lifer for Sam. There’s a wonderful quick painting of it on City Birding’s blog which I feel captures the likeness and character so well. During our watch Goldcrest began to fly from the sea towards the wetland. Golden Plover and Lapwing were up in air, although other waders on this occasion didn’t take up much of our attention.
Once around by the wetland we stopped counting Goldcrests such were their numbers which increased even more as the day went on. You get a new perspective of Goldcrests during a fall such as this when the birds are so busy feeding they seem unphased by the presence of us humans. We put a few folk onto the path where the Lapland Bunting remained, only flying off occasionally when disturbed by passersby. A Kestrel was chased off by a crow.
We had been chatting to a fellow birder from Durham who asked us where the mounds were as he had been told there was a Firecrest there. We decide to have a walk along there with him and it wasn’t to long before we had picked up the Firecrest from among numerous Goldcrest. It was pretty elusive, but when it did show it showed really well, if fleetingly. Lifer number two for Sam and a real nice find. We decided to hang around the area rather than walk to Seaton Sluice and made our way back to the Lapland Bunting after carefully checking out all of the mounds. On this occasion we missed the Peregrine Falcon hunting across the fields and we didn’t spend much time looking across a quiet sea although we did pick up a couple of small flocks of Wigeon. Teal and Mallard were later seen on the wetland.
We decided after a break for lunch that we deserved an ice cream. We ate it and Sam suggested that it would be good if we could report having seen Yellow Browed Warbler whilst eating an ice cream. Well no sooner had we finished licking our lips we did hear Yellow Browed Warbler in the area that we had sighted one last week. On this occasion we couldn’t get our eyes on it. Hearing is believing as far as we are concerned. We walked around the wetland again and watched the Goldcrests at length before making a last visit to the Lapland Bunting.
There was tension in the air as the Lapland Bunting seemed almost doomed as it was narrowly missed by a car along the roadway. Now that the tide was up the bird appeared to be flying onto the road when disturbed as it was unable to gain access to the rocks, now covered by the sea. All was well when we left and folk continued to seek it out.
A great day with some really great sightings and some friendly chat with fellow birders and non birders too who were simply taking an interest. Butterflies were on the wing too despite the damp and chilled air and these included numbers of Red Admiral.