Friday, 12 November 2021

An Autumnal Southeast Northumberland

So mild, so quiet breathes the balmy air,

 Scenting the perfume of decaying leaves

Such fragrance and such loveliness they wear-

Trees, hedgerows, bushes – that the heart receives

Joys for which language owneth words too few

To paint that glowing richness which I view.

From Colours of Autumn.  John Clare

 It was more mid-morning than early morning when Sam and I headed for Widdrington Pond.  It was a morning of blue skies, relative warmth, only the slightest of breezes and a millpond sea.  A perfect autumnal day.  I was even warm watching over Widdrington Pond, and that is a rarity even in summer.  Even the wind turbines looked good against blue the sky today.  This area has become a real magnet for birds, although I fear as the tress grow watching will not be easy unless special provision is made.

Whatever one thinks you have to recognise the beautiful mechanical design

As we basked in the sun, some very good sightings were made including four grebe species, Slavonian, Red necked, Great Crested and Little Grebe.  A Marsh Harrier made a fly past, flying parallel to the pond, a Kestrel hovered directly in front of us, a Common Buzzard flew by, a Sparrowhawk flew in the far distance and a Peregrine Falcon flew swiftly past and away from us.  So not a bad way to begin the day, four grebes and five raptors from that one spot.  Unfortunately, were unable to pick up the Great Northern Diver which must have been hidden by the side of the pond.  Even after we returned later in the day we had no luck in finding this one.

Grey Herons were posted equally spaced and sentinel like along the bank at the back of the pond, a Common Snipe lifted at the edge of the pond, a skein of calling Pink-footed Geese flew northwards and a small party of Whooper Swans were also in the air.  Waterfowl on the water included Canada Geese, Wigeon, Teal, Goldeneye and Tufted Duck.  A Roe Deer moved through the field behind the lake, half hidden by growth of similar pastel colouring to itself.  Calls from or over the trees behind us included that of Siskin, Coal Tit and Goldcrest.  A Water Rail called from the pond area.  A confiding Robin watched us walk by.


Many of the trees were colourful, but none more so than the Aspens which showed so well against the blue sky.  The rustling of the leaves recalled Edward Thomas’s poem Aspens.  Having taken a photo or two we headed off to East Chevington, with a quick stop off at Druridge Park for a Long Tailed Duck, where we walked to the mouth of the burn.  On the walk we spotted several Dragonflies on the wing, reflecting what a mild autumn we have experienced, all Common Darters I think, including a mature male and over mature females.  The reed beds looked most attractive in the bright sunlight.

And it would be the same were no house near,

Over all sorts of weather, men, and times

Aspens must shake their leaves and men may hear

But need not listen, more than to my rhymes.


Whatever wind blows, while they and I have leaves

We cannot other than an Aspen be

That ceaselessly, unreasonably grieves,

Or so men think that like a different tree.

From Aspens by Edward Thomas (July 1915), Edward Thomas died in the Great War at Arras in 1917)


Over mature Common Darter

We found little birdlife by the mouth of the burn which meandered attractively seawards.  Gulls and a few Sanderlings were at the tideline, Meadow Pipit and Pied Wagtail were present and a flock of Goldfinch flew by.  A few walkers were seen but overall, it was a peaceful experience here.  One of the good experiences in life is watching and listening the tide as it meets the shoreline.  The sea was as calm as it ever is in these parts.  We walked back past the Sea Buckthorn and found a pair of Stonechat before reaching the car.

Natures shapes

Sea Buckthorn

The North Pool provided another Slavonian Grebe along with 250/300 Lapwing, and a large flock of Gadwall.  The Lapwing looked spectacular in the sun as they lifted in two or three flocks before merging into one large flock prior to settling on the island again.  I love to watch flocks of waders in flight.  Other birds on the water included a male Pintail, Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe, Mute Swan, Moorhen and Cormorants.  A Water Rail squealed three times in quick succession from the reed-bed, and a Cetti’s Warbler called from the left of us.  From the corner of my eye, I caught sight of a bird fly in front of the reeds at the edge of the pool.  I watched the gap in the reeds and saw the Kingfisher fly past which Sam later heard calling.  In the sun it looked of emerald colouring.

As we made off towards the car we watched another Marsh Harrier.

Sunlit reedbed

We had lunch a late lunch at Cresswell before looking at the north end of Cresswell Pond.  A Little Egret was seen flying over the pond.  It was quiet here and the light was beginning to fade but that did not spoil our watch of another hunting Marsh Harrier close by.  This was the same bird that we had seen at Widdrington Pond, identified by missing primary feathers.

Now in fading light we decided to give the hide a miss.   Content with our few hours birding in wonderful autumnal conditions we made for home.

Qeesti giorni guando vien il belle sole Questi giorni guando vieni belle sole

On Days like these when skies are blue and fields are green

I look around and think of what might have been.

Matt Monro et al


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