16th Aug. Sam and I headed north today and our first stop wasn’t for birds, but for books. We called into Barter Books at Alnwick, not only a bookshop but a bit of history. Northumberland is blessed to have a bookshop such as this. The only other one I know that comes close is Michael Moon’s Antiquarian Bookshop in Cumbria. Anyway, Barter Books was heaving with folk today and it was difficult to move without bumping into someone. We headed initially for the Natural History section, or I should say sections. There were numbers of New Naturalist and Poyser additions we were keen on but just like our local football club we shopped in the bargain basement today and I purchased a nice copy of Derek Ratcliffe’s Bird Life of Mountain and Upland before we moved onto Budle Bay.
One I took earlier as they would say on Blue Peter.
The tide was high and just on the turn when we arrived at the bay and all I could pick out that were in anyway close to us were flocks of Redshank of which there were many. It was a bright sunny morning, bit of a rarity in its self this summer, although there was still that hint of a cold wind. We stuck around for over an hour and watched the tide quickly ebb. It wasn’t long before we were able to count at least six Little Egrets feeding and found a couple of Knot and Curlews. Eider and Shelduck began to appear and we got talking to a guy visiting the area from Somerset and the conversation of course turned to birds and good birding sites in our respective home areas. As we were talking a flock of birds feeding at the waterline was disturbed and we quickly saw why, as a Peregrine Falcon was flying over a remaining Redshank. The Peregrine made several dives at the Redshank in an attempt to make it lift, but to no avail. I had no sooner said, ‘the Redshank should be fine if it stays put in the water’ when the Peregrine swooped down again and lifted the Redshank and flew off with it alive and possibly kicking. The Peregrine seemed to be heading inland but then turned, perhaps put off by us watchers, and flew out into the bay. Several birds nearby had just kept on feeding throughout. White species of Butterfly were numerous and we picked up Wall Brown Butterflies too.
We eventually made off south along the coast and stopped at Monk’s House Pool. There were good numbers of Lapwing here but little else although we saw four waders lift which were probably Dunlin. I did recently get hold of a signed copy of The House on the Shore by Eric Ennion, again purchased from Barter Books. It appears to have been signed at Monk’s House in 1960 and owned by a gentleman who lived in Seahouses. I found it very much a book of its time, the 1950s, and I enjoyed reading about Monk’s House Observatory, although I must say whilst I recognise the high quality of E Es artwork I didn’t rate the written text too highly, but that is just my opinion.
Seahouses was heaving with tourists as were the fish and chip cafes so we had our lunch at a pub in Newton. It advertises itself as a ‘Gastro’ pub and so we had Gastro Burgers before visiting Warkworth Castle. I’ve not been to the castle for many a year. It was a bit difficult to imagine Robert The Bruce involved in his siege of the castle or Edward 1 paying an overnight visit, as today the castle grounds were more like a theme park or adventure playground. We decided to visit again when things are quieter. As Sam said on occasions throughout the day, ‘who is it that says Northumberland is quiet?’ Never mind it’ll soon be winter.
Later, we paid our first visit to the NWT Hauxley Wildlife Discovery Centre. The car-park here was almost full and the centre quite busy. I’m not a great fan of Hauxley reserve but if the centre can be put to good use as an educational establishment then that is all to the good. The building itself seems quite pleasant. We didn’t go out on the reserve as it looked very quiet as far as birds were concerned, although we saw a flock of Black Tailed Godwit and Dunlin. I knew about the new pathways, but I can’t say I noticed any real habitat changes.
Next stop was Druridge Pools where Sam picked up a lifer in White Rumped Sandpiper. There were more Black Tailed Godwits and Common Snipe. We had a further sighting of Little Owl. We later stopped at Cresswell Pond which was very quiet but we enjoyed a chat to a long-standing friend. The Spoonbill on the west shore was dozing and there was no way we were going to see that bill! We also found a lone Avocet. By now we had also seen Red Admiral and Peacock Butterflies.
Today wasn’t a matter of getting away from the maddening crowd but simply joining them, it is August after all and we did have some pleasant chat with a few individuals. Birding was quiet but as you can see from my report it wasn’t all about birding and so we had a very good day and the Peregrine Falcon sighting was special.
I’m eventually getting around to writing up our Swedish adventures so more of that anon.