30th Nov. Lee, Sam and I were three men on a mission today. We headed for Druridge Bay with Shore Larks on our mind. I also reminded my comrades to keep an eye open for the Hen Harrier, not that they needed reminding. It was only slightly milder than yesterday, but the light was perfect. A small skein of geese, probably Pink-footed Geese flew over as we journeyed north.
No sooner had we parked up at East Chevington and I looked across the open space and immediately called Hen Harrier. The ringtail initially distant flew directly at us and past us onwards to the dunes. It was a perfect sighting to begin our day and we had further good sightings of this bird seen in perfect light as we walked to and arrived at Chevington Burn. Then it wasn’t long before the seven Shore Larks returned to the area giving a very good showing on the sands. To the south east large skeins of Pink-footed Geese lifted in the vicinity of one of the wind turbines. I’m sure these turbines are breeding! Individually these massive objects have a beauty to behold, with that wonderfully curved design of the blades. On mass they are a blot on the landscape. I half expected to see an irate Don Quixote ride by on Rocinante. A flock of Twite and a flock of Goldfinch flew close by, a Kestrel hovered to the west of us and on the sea Red throated Divers swam, one or two very close to shore. Guillemot was also seen. The Kingfisher also made two or three appearances. Our walk back to the car brought sightings of Redwing. North Pool proved to be quiet, Mute Swan, Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall and Little Grebe were among birds seen before we headed for Druridge Pools.
With time limited now our visit to Druridge Pools was fleeting, Common Snipe and Pintail being the highlights. We actually spent more time in the dunes overlooking the sea and walking a short way along a sun lit beach in order to get close to Red throated Divers which were swimming very near the shore. A Long tailed Duck was also seen. Our first pair of Stonechats for the day also showed really well in the sunlight.
Our next stop was Cresswell Pond where we found a Little Egret at the north end of the pond. Another Kestrel, this time perched on one of the posts south of the farm. Once in the hide we found the pond fairly clear of birds although two Red-breasted Mergansers and an odd Goldeneye were about. Large numbers of Wigeon edged the water, a flock of Lapwing joined by a few Golden Plover stood on the mud area and a Common Snipe was seen on the edge of the reed-bed.
The day ended quietly as we walked past Tree Sparrows in the hedge, but our mission had been successful and enjoyable and we thought there were many less rewarding ways in which we could have spent the hours. The sighting of the Hen Harrier would have been my bird of the day had it not been for the appearance of seven Shore Larks. Winter birding at its best and Druridge Bay seen at its best too.