Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Double Day...Ducking, Diving and Plodging at Druridge and Lindisfarne

7th Mar.  The road down to East Chevington North Pool has been done no favours by the recent severe weather.  More potholes than ever and pre-existing small ones have grown.  The whole area looked badly hit by the weather.  Happily spring was once again in the air and the sounds that greeted us on arrival was the calling of Reed Buntings, a pair was seen in the hedge by the flooded car-parking area, singing Skylarks and calling geese, in the main Pink-footed Geese.  We walked to the mouth of the Chevington Burn which has once again changed course in the forever moving sand and no doubt melting snow accounted for the fact that it was running deeply and fast towards the sea.  The sand banked up at the sides of the burn was every now and again crumbling and it felt that we were watching geological change in action, which of course we were.  Surprisingly not even Pied Wagtails were feeding on the sea litter on the beach, but we did watch a large raft of Common Scoter directly in front of us and close to the tidal edge.  Ringed Plover and Sanderling were on the shore at the tideline and Eider Duck, Red Throated Diver and Guillemot were amongst birds seen and there was also a possible sighting of Black-throated Diver, but that is surrounded with some uncertainty.  Watching from so low down did not help with identification, nor did the waves and the diving and the diver quickly disappeared.  Flocks of Oystercatcher flew by.  We both agreed how good it was to be out again in relatively mild conditions.  As we walked back and along the path between the dunes and North Pool a single Scaup was seen on the otherwise quiet pool that did not appear to hold anything out of the ordinary, although numbers of Goldeneye remain.

On our way to Druridge Pools we watched five Common Buzzards as they displayed over the fields south of North Pool.  One of these birds was especially active.
We were to have another try for these Water Pipits at Druridge Pools.  As I joked that we might not get to the hide we found just how true that was to be the case.  The place was flooded.  We were aware of floods, especially further north and so should have known better and taken out Wellington Boots.  At least we could hear the whistling Wigeon and watch through the trees from the road side.  I took some comfort in a fellow birder telling us he had visited 10 times before seeing the Water Pipits.  The other path was also flooded, and in any event, we were feeling hungry so made off to the café, but not before being reminded about the two Great Northern Divers on the pool at Widdrington Moor and being told that a Marsh Harrier had shown there today too.

Well fed we moved off to the hide at Cresswell Pond.  After having passed here several times in recently in conditions not conducive to birding, it was good to find the place a little more settled, in sunlight and with even a bit of mud showing.  Also, good to see a knowledgeable youngster in there with his mum, both avidly watching.  By now we had seen large numbers of Pink-footed Geese, Greylag Geese and Canada Geese and here we found my first Lesser Black Backed Gull of the year and large flocks of Teal and Wigeon.  No sign of an Avocet when we were there.  I enjoyed the time in the hide which I had not visited for some time.  I remember reading that a judgement was to be made by the 5th March about the proposed plans for the Banks Opencast Site.  Have I missed something or have things been bogged down in the usual red tape and delays? 

Great Northern Diver courtesy of Samuel Hood (Scoped)

Anyway, we didn’t forget the Great Northern Divers and took a drive to the moor where we had an excellent sighting of what turned out to be bird of the day.  It was like spring now as we stood at the side of the road and enjoyed the sunshine as well as the divers.  An excellent day as per usual, but no sign of a Marsh Harrier for us.

Colourful Lapwing.  To many folk see things in only black and white!

11th Mar.  After the dismal weather of yesterday it was good to see the sun shining as we left for Lindisfarne.  The usual wonderful light was met as we arrived at the island and oh how different it was from the freezing conditions of our previous visit.  We set off along the lonnen and possibly because of the flooded conditions had the area to ourselves for most of the time as we tried to dodge the puddles.  A plodge was occasionally necessary, the waterproof boots going a good job.  We’d been met at the car park by a stunningly marked Lapwing and the sound of Skylarks, Curlews and Oystercatchers.  The song of Skylark was to accompany us for much of the walk, although in general it was a very quiet day in terms of bird numbers.  It was nevertheless an excellent walk and having completed it I felt I had earned my bacon sandwich, piece of cake and bottle of a type of coke that tasted more like ginger beer, very nice.  The walk had ben enhanced by the sight of a group of 14 Roe Deer (I honestly don’t remember having seen such numbers together in Northumberland before), my first Rabbit and Frogs of the year.  Best sighting was of the Brent Geese with the priory in the background.  The island is one of my favourite places in Northumberland and I enjoy the fact that no matter how many visitors are converging it is always possible to get away from the maddening crowd and find one’s own space.

Some plonker plodging along the lonnen

A look across one of the bays and out to see brought sightings of Great Northern Diver, Red Throated Diver, Eider Duck and Red-breasted Merganser.  It was noticeable by now that mist was encroaching from the sea and it wasn’t long before temperatures plummeted considerably.  We noticed that a good deal of work has been done to protect the pool on the island from Otters and Foxes.  Sadly the only birds on the pool at the time we were there was one Coot and one Red-breasted Merganser.  Behind the pool ducks could be seen and included Wigeon, Teal and ShovelerWe continued our walk and enjoyed watching the Brent Geese before making back to the village and preparing to set off for a stop at Fenham Flats.  The sun was still breaking through at times, but it seemed that the weather was on the change.  A number of Common Buzzards had been seen during the day.

This colourful guy was was better equipped for the conditions.

The birds at Fenham Flats gave in the main only distant sightings, the best of them being many Brent Geese strung out along the shore.   Both black and pale bellied seen today. I reflected that the period from October to March has provided us both with some wonderful experiences with geese, both in Dumfries and Northumberland.  In fact, over recent years I’ve seen geese in habitats that I once thought I’d never see when I used to look at Peter Scott paintings in books I have.  This winter has been the best I’ve had watching geese.  Deciding to give Stagg Rock a miss we now made for home more than happy with our trip.  By the time we were nearing home it almost looked as if the darkened sky held within it a storm, and the rain has come today.  Bird of the day?  Brent Geese.

Brent Geese

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