29th Oct. The heavens opened just as Sam and I left Killingworth, but by the time that we reached Brier Dene the rain had stopped although the cloud remained thick and threatening and there was still mist over the sea. Surprisingly we only found a single Redwing in the dene, although the calls of others were heard faintly in the distance. Blackbirds were everywhere and an occasional Song Thrush was seen. Bullfinches were attracted to easy feeding and a Willow Tit was picked out from among parties of tits.. The star bird whilst we were in the dene was what appeared by its behaviour, a newly arrived Short Eared Owl flying overhead and westwards whilst being harassed by corvids. The owl appeared to be seeking a suitable landing area, but the corvids ensured that it kept on flying westwards until out of sight.
Having checked the bushes and willows where the burn meets the coast and finding only Greenfinches (so few around these days), Goldfinches, Robins, Wren, more Blackbirds and an unidentified warbler, possibly Willow Warbler, we made off towards St Mary’s Island catching sight of newly arriving Fieldfares lifting off the cliff edge and flying west. As the afternoon moved on the cloud began to break, the sun shone for periods and the mist departed which seemed to encourage a movement of birds.
As we walked around the back of the wetland a second Short Eared Owl was found hunting over the fields. This bird eventually stooped to the ground and only its head could be clearly seen from behind the tall grasses. As we watched over the wetland a few minutes later a Short Eared Owl lifted from the reeds and gave an excellent sighting as it flew north over the trees before disappearing. We couldn’t be sure that this was a third owl, but we think it was. At this point and with the air clear and the sun shining numbers of Redwing (and one or two Fieldfare) began to take to flight, but they were far out numbered by the Blackbirds. Skylark, Linnets, Goldcrest and Reed Bunting were seen.