Thursday, 17 November 2011

A Great and Greater weekend in Northumberland

After our weekend in Northumberland in June we decided to return to see the Autumn/Winter visitors to the NE coast. On the way we stopped off at Prestwick Carr to view a Great Grey Shrike which seemed to like the area close to Newcastle Airport. We had reasonable views before it moved too far away to see clearly. A Peregrine, a small party of Bullfinches and a flock of Fieldfare and Redwing were also seen.
Great Grey Shrike (distant)

After lunch we went to Low Newton, where despite very blowy conditions, we saw a number of Purple Sandpipers, Oystercatchers and Turnstones on the shore and Eider ducks, Red-Throated Diver and a Merganser in the shelter of Long Nanny. 
Highlights of a pre-breakfast birdwatch on Budle Bay - increasing light revealed large numbers of Pink-foot, some Brents and a few Barnacle Geese accompanied by two very white Snow Geese (later put out on Birdguides as Ross's). There were also large numbers of Shelduck, Wigeon, Oystercatchers, a few Godwit, Goldeneye and a Merganser. A couple of Mistle Thrushes in the trees behind us and a beautiful male Hen Harrier hunting across the fields.
After breakfast we spent the day on Lindisfarne, checking out Straight and Crooked Lonnen, the sea, shore and harbour and anywhere else for birds. Thrushes were bountiful, Fieldfare, Redwing and Blackbird. 
A young Blackbird - very confiding.


Gannets, Eider, Kittiwake, Guillemot and Red-throated Diver were on or above the sea, whilst Starlings and Turnstones busied themselves along the shore.

There were a few Water Pipit scavenging along the shore opposite the castle. 
Two Water Pipits 

Groups of Eider, some males looking very smart, gathered in the lea of the island, just outside the harbour.
A group of Eider

The sunset was beautifully displayed behind the Priory with the purple and pink skies over the Cheviots viewed from the Lonnen. 
Sunset behind the Priory
Fading light over the mainland

We watched as numbers of Starlings wheeled and swirled into a good sized roost over the fields, slowly heading towards the reed beds. Keeping our eyes out for Short-eared Owls, which have been reported regularly in the area, we re-traced our steps along Straight Lonnen until we had views over the dunes and banks. Just as the light was fading we spotted at least one SEO out hunting across the fields and dunes.
Sunday was dull and damp. A pre-breakfast trip to Fenham Flats yielded more Geese, mainly Brents, Twite and Yellowhammers. 
The mouth of the River Tweed held Eider, Shag and Red-throated Diver. 
Red-throated Diver on the River Tweed

Whilst we were lucky enough to have two Snow Buntings fly in close by. Only minimally disturbed by dogs and walkers.
Snow Bunting

North of Berwick we found a young seal that appeared to have stranded itself, high above the tideline. The rocks held Purple Sandpiper and the only Ringed Plover of the trip (seen by the 'boys').
A trip to the Kyloe hills in the afternoon proved an enjoyable walk and hill climb but not many birds. Treecreeper being the only addition to the list.
On Monday we re-visited Lindisfarne briefly for a pre-breakfast birdwatch. Nothing new but it was good to check it out. Finally we set off for home via Druridge Bay. Starting at Hauxley we were amazed at the number of cars around - until we found ourselves in the middle of a twitch for a Greater Yellowlegs and a Grey Phalarope! Sometimes it's really good to be 'in the right place at the right time'. We had good views but not good photographic opportunities. Fortunately a very kind, local birder who had managed to get a reasonable shot of the two sent us a copy and agreed to allow us to put it in this report. So many thanks to Len Waterworth for the photo.
Greater Yellowlegs and Grey Phalarope at Hauxley
(Courtesy of Len Waterworth)

A Slav Grebe at Druridge Country Park was our last bird of note and having failed to locate the Green-winged Teal we set off back home.