A blustery, cold and generally rather dull few days on the local patch though despite the unfavorable conditions the local wildlife continues to impress and entertain. The patch is now caught up firmly in the grips of winter it seems with overwintering wildfowl and waders flocking back to the area in droves, all be it a tad later than usual. Likewise most of the leaves have now gone from the trees, making for easy viewing of passerines and Squirrels and my mammal stump continues to prove popular with the local rodents. Many of which appear to be caching food as opposed to eating it there and then. The below account comprises sightings from the past couple of days.
Starting of the northern side of the patch and a few hours seawatching at Cambois proved enjoyable despite the biting wind. Migrating birds were well represented here with 20 Whooper Swans passing overhead upon arrival and a lone White-Fronted Goose causing a little confusion as it came in high above the waves. A small flock of Brambling came next with six birds “in off” passing overhead as they made their way inland. My first of the winter no less! Elsewhere two Goldfinch flew in from the sea (a first for me I think) and a couple of Redwing made their way south.
Setting about scanning the bay and the sea itself proved rather quiet compared to previous weeks. No Great Northern or Black-Throated Diver on this occasion though four Red-Throated Diver did show rather well. With these a pleasant mix of familiar faces including Guillemot, Gannet, Eider, Cormorant, all the regular gulls and a flock of 11 Common Scoter. Further along the seafront a lone female Common Scoter showed well just behind the breakers though the persistent wind soon got the better of me and I opted to set off for warmer climes. The Whooper images below were from last winter but they support the winter theme..
This morning found me taking my regular route along the River Blyth from Bedlington to the sea and upon reaching Furnace Bank I was greeted by a Dipper struggling to dip amid the floodwaters. A lone Little Egret also fished here and both Mallard and Moorhen lazed along the margins. Pottering up stream things began to pick up somewhat with both Buzzard and Kestrel doing their utmost to the spook the waders that had accumulated in their regular high tide roost. Once the birds settled and the raptors moved off a rough count here produced c220 Golden Plover, c150 Lapwing, 30 Oystercatcher and a dozen or so Curlew. The small amount of mud left exposed by the high tide here held further leggy offerings with around 75 Dunlin scampering too and throw alongside smaller numbers of Ringed Plover and Turnstone while 68 Redshank snoozed on the shore. Not a bad wader tally in truth though this was soon improved with the addition of a few Woodcock in the surrounding scrub and a lone Snipe overhead near the sewage works.
Wildfowl numbers are building nicely on patch with the resident Mallard and Shelduck now joined by a host of new arrivals. Teal numbers rose to 75+ this week as opposed to only 8 two weeks prior and 13 Goldeneye made for nice viewing as they fished in the narrowest part of channel. Goldeneye are one of my favourite birds and I have been awaiting their return for some time now! Echoing the arrival of Teal to the Blyth, Gadwall numbers are likewise on the up with 12 birds noted on this mornings trip. Elsewhere 4 Red-Breasted Merganser were noted in the company of a somewhat grotty looking immature drake Eider, 30 Pink-Footed Geese passed overhead and a few Little Grebe were picked up on the return leg. The latter species still rather sparse compared to this time last year.
Paying more attention to the various shrubby areas, the route home found Redwing, Mistle Thrush and a lot of Blackbird added to the days tally whereas three Bullfinch and two separate troops of Long-Tailed Tit made for endearing viewing. Also here a nice array of other common goodies including Grey Wagtail, Greenfinch, Collared Dove and Linnet while the cherry on top of an already productive trip came in the form of a Kingfisher heading up stream following an outing to the estuary. – Nothing overly scarce but who cares, some great birds noted on patch of late and I look forward to entering the Blyth into next years Patchwork Challenge competition!
On a side note, my mammal cam stationed in the nearby Ha’Penny Woods continues to draw in rodents with both Wood Mouse and Bank Vole visiting on a regular basis and costing me a fair amount in peanuts and sunflower seeds. More surprising however was the addition of both Nuthatch and Coal Tit to the footage. Both of which can be seen removing seeds to store for the hard times ahead.
Off patch this week I also managed an outing up the coast to catch up with the Cresswell Pond Long-Billed Dowitcher that has been delighting local birders for some time now. Another addition to my measly life list. The same day also provided good views of Purple Sandpiper, Slavonian Grebe and yet more Whoopers at various other coastal sites. Very nice indeed.