Wednesday, 14 September 2016

St Mary's Island

High in the sky is a bird on a wing
Please carry me with you
Far, far away from the mad rushing crowd
Please carry me with you
Again I would wander
Where memories enfold me
There on the beautiful island of dreams

 Lyrics of the Springfields

13th Sept.  I regret that I missed the photography opportunity recently when the Tall Ships left Blyth Harbour and sailed past St Mary’s Island, but at least I was on the island under a September sun yesterday.  We were able to look over a flat calm North Sea and watch some rather threatening sea mist gather over the horizon.  Sadly that mist is upon us today and has put an end to our short Indian summer in the Northeast of England.

Sam mentioned to me that some gent had recently reminded us that St Mary’s Island isn’t really on island.  I feel that view whilst geographically correct is a rather pedantic view lacking in imagination, so I don’t intend to give the gent in question any credit for his learned view.  Try telling the families enjoying the rock-pools to either side of the causeway that they aren’t approaching an island with Smugglers Creek to the north of it, where Anthony Mitchell, a customs man, was found dead in 1722, probably murdered by smugglers.  Or telling Thomas Bates who owned the island in the 1580s in his capacity of Surveyor for Northumberland under Elizabeth 1st.  Or the Russian sailors put into isolation here when they were struck down by cholera as they journey to fight against Napoleon Bonaparte’s troops.  As far as I’m concerned it’s an island!

The lighthouse was reflected wonderfully in the pools left by the ebbing tide, but a decent photograph was never going to be possible due to the folk along the causeway enjoying the September sun.  The island itself was peaceful and a few images were obtained.  We also watched a couple of Grey Seals in the sea, although bird passage was scarce   with only Gannets, Eider Ducks, Cormorants, a single Guillemot and waders being seen.  The present lighthouse was officially opened in 1898, although it is said that a light was provided in the tower of now non-existent chapel dedicated to St Helen as far back as the 11th century.

The rather attractive, but probably often ignored window of the visitor centre on the island
Before walking down to the island we looked in the crematorium grounds and found very little in the way of bird life, but did find one Speckled Wood Butterfly.  As we walked down to the island we bumped into BR and enjoyed a chat.  I seem to remember that my first ever encounter with BR was down at St Mary’s Island some years ago as we watched  Roseate Terns perched on the rocks.  I remember it was August and a time when local folk on a certain Birdforum used to meet up and socialise.  Such social events seem to have petered out years ago as did my involvement in the forum.   The Roseate Terns back then had begun their migration from Coquet Island to West Africa.  There were no Roseate Terns to be found today, but there was a number of Sandwich Terns, both adult and juvenile.

Sam watches from the island
Further along the pathway we watched Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Turnstone Dunlin and Redshank feeding beneath us and we chatted to another pair of acquaintances.  Before we had reached the island we had added Oystercatcher, Curlew and Golden Plover to the wader list along with many more Redshanks and many more Ringed Plovers in North Bay. The occasional Eider Duck was seen on the sea and there was numbers of both Rock Pipit and Pied Wagtail present around the shore area.



 Before we walked onwards to Seaton Sluice we enjoyed an ice-cream.  It remains a mystery to me why ninety-nines are not called ninety-nines these days.

The fact that birdlife was scarce did nothing to lessen the enjoyment of the walk and we had in any event plenty to talk about.  From the headland at Seaton Sluice we watched a single dark phase Arctic Skua fly south.  We had earlier been told by another friend and local that there had been quite a passage of divers and Meadow Pipits earlier in the day.  We didn’t get much else than the Arctic Skua, more Gannets, the odd Fulmer and a bit chilled as the sun lowered, although it has t be said we were only in shirt sleeves.  We found one Painted Lady ButterflyAfter a look around the area we decided that it was time for fish and chips, as had many other folk so the queue was rather long.  Worth the wait though and we sat and ate our meal on the outside tables as the regular Kestrel hovered over the dunes, as the sun prepare to set.  Rather oddly I had been asked about and hour before if I had taken images of the sunset.  Could I have missed one this evening I wonder?

I must go and see if Delilah is OK in cold and damp.  She returned sometime ago and says hello.

Delilah, safe and well, but hoping I think to call in!

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