Nothing overly exciting to report from the past few days, a few visits to some regular local haunts the sum of what has, for the large part, been a rather quiet spell here in Northumberland. The huge flocks of Redwing, Fieldfare and Brambling that have been reported elsewhere on the Northumberland coast have largely passed me by of late. As have most new arrivals! Indeed I am yet to witness large scale arrivals of any winter migrants, excluding Pink-Footed Geese of course. Even Whooper Swans have been few and far between. Despite the lack of festive glamour the last few days on patch have not been a total waste however..
A short jaunt to Newbiggin first and a two hour seawatch proved thoroughly wet and miserable, persistent rain interrupted only by howling winds and “are you mad” looks by passing dog walkers. Nothing too scarce here though a pair of Pale-Bellied Brent Geese heading North were my first of the winter. Gannets seemed to be the only species undeterred by the appalling weather, around 40 seen during the duration of my stay. A few Guillemots were seen, mostly heading South in the company of one rather petite Auk that I would feel confident calling as Little Auk, though on this occasion I will refrain due to distance and the abhorrent conditions. A few Red-Throated Diver were picked up alongside the ever present Cormorants and Eiders though excluding a distant skein of Pink-Feet this was really all the big blue had to offer on this occasion..
Exploring the exposed rocky shore at Newbiggin proved much more rewarding by comparison. A Kingfisher was noted briefly before it was spooked by a local lady and her pooch. As ever a large roost of waders had gathered on the rocks adjacent to the golf course and a half hour stint with these proved typically noisy and enjoyable. Golden Plover were as usual the most numerous here, 350 of them in total, all making quite the racket as they scuttled around on the rocks. A Grey Plover was a little more suprising, trying and failing to go incognito amid the vocal flock of Goldies. Also nice to see were 3 Purple Sandpiper, one of my all time favourite wading birds. Elsewhere other species on show included an impressive 68 Sanderling, 20 Curlew, 14 Oystercatcher, 10 Dunlin, 12 Ringed Plover and a good few Turnstone picking through the exposed Bladderwrack. Departing the shore a pair of Mediterranean Gulls showed nicely in the car-park as I waited on my bus. Only when I reached home did I realise that one of the individuals was ringed, the number sadly unreadable from my mediocre pictures. Drat! I must go back for that one.
Cambois next and I finally managed to connect with a few welcome winter migrants, the right mix of both wind and fog bringing in a number of thrushes with a total of 68 Fieldfare and 100+ Redwing noted throughout my stay. This marked the first time I have actually seen these species making landfall and thus my morning proved rather enjoyable. Redwings “seeping” overhead, out of sight in the gloom and Fieldfare and Mistle Thrush snaffling the plentiful berries in the small stands of coastal woodland. These were however perhaps the most exciting offerings from Cambois today, the poor weather making seawatching nearly impossible and the other areas uncharacteristically quiet. Still, a Kingfisher on the shore provided a welcome touch of glamour. It definitely appears to have been a good year for this species up here! Never before have I seen so many dispersing individuals on the coast and my local birds are now seen on a near daily basis.
Elsewhere here a skulk around in the undergrowth behind the village provided 3 Bullfinch, 10 Greenfinch, dozens of each Goldfinch and Linnet and the odd Reed Bunting (though not the hoped for Brambling). Goldcrest, Robin and Blackbird numbers were also up from my last visit, no doubt bolstered by continental birds. Heading home, the only additions of note comprised a pair of Rock Pipit, 2 Stonechat and a Kestrel hunting the railway verges.
Finally, a visit to the Blyth Estuary proved enjoyable even though my terrible time keeping resulted in my visit coinciding with the high tide. The sites numerous waders therefore pushed well up into the surrounding fields to roost. Despite this however I was still able to pick out c150 Dunlin, 55 Redshank, 40 Oystercatcher, a few Curlew and a handful of Ringed Plover snoozing around margins. The estuary itself held a handful of Teal, no doubt the first of many returning birds, alongside the regular Eider, Red-Breasted Merganser, Shelduck, Mallard and a pair of fluffed up Little Grebe. Cold perhaps? I know I was! A little up river at Bedlington and a pair of Little Egret stalked the shallows alongside a single Grey Heron and one of the local Kingfishers had returned to its regular perch near furnace bank. Lovely!
I also managed a few new pan-species ticks at Blyth this week, all of which are shown below: Edible Crab, Long-Clawed Porcalin Crab, Butterfish & Lepidochitona cinerea the most common species of Chiton in the UK.