This week found me once again grounded firmly on the local patch and set on unearthing something at least a little out of the ordinary. The weather has proven rather nice of late and it really does not feel at all like winter, indeed insects are still rather plentiful and yesterday I noted both Speckled Wood and Common Wasp, perhaps my latest records of both to date. Anyways, taking the “same old” route along the River Blyth, the local patch once again failed to disappoint this week and a condensed account of the last few days can be found below.
Starting off in Ha’Penny Woods local nature reserve and I now have three trail cams rigged in an effort to film some of the areas more elusive mammalian inhabitants. The additional two kindly loaned by Ian Craft of Total Ecology. While I am yet to check the footage on these, a few visits to bait them proved most enjoyable. Here a raucous party of five Jay moved through the canopy in the company of a few Magpie and the typical woodland cast of Great, Blue, Coal and Long-Tailed Tits put on a fine show. A scan of the river here revealed a pair of Grey Wagtail foraging around the margins and a Dipper plonked in its favoured spot amid the rapids. Two Little Egrets also flew up stream here whereas a Kingfisher was heard but unfortunately not seen on this occasion. The highlight of Ha’penny however came from a rather surprising source, a lone Treecreeper that showed down to a matter of feet, utterly oblivious to my presence. These are of course a common bird but it is not often they prove so approachable, at least in my book.
Moving downstream towards the estuary and the Velvet Scoter I found a few days back continued to show well, despite being a little more distant on this occasion. I have seen Common Scoter a little up river before but this is the first time I have seen Velvet away from the sea. I wonder if it will spend the winter? Moving on, a attempt at counting the estuaries wildfowl yielded peak counts of 60 Teal, 15 Mallard and 12 Gadwall, a clear increase on the previous week. Shelduck still remain conspicuously absent however! Also here four Eider fed on crabs alongside the scoter and four Red-Breasted Mergsaner fished the deeper reaches of the site. With these a nice mix of Little Grebe, Grey Heron, Cormorant and another Little Egret, of course alongside the regular mixed gull flock which on this occasion produced a Lesser Black-Backed Gull and 10 Commons among the countless Herrings and Black’eds.
Turning my attention to the mudflats and the first thing that struck me was the exponential number of Golden Plover on show, at least 1000 birds but probably more, my highest count on the Blyth to date. These made for endearing viewing as they took to the air alongside 120 Lapwing upon catching sight of one of the areas resident Buzzards. Aside from these the ‘brown-stuff’ also held 65 Redshank, 40 Oystercatcher, 6 Turnstone, 32 Ringed Plover, 25 Dunlin, 15 Curlew and the surprising addition of a single Grey Plover which fed on the near shore close to the local sewage works.
Heading home, a wander around the adjacent industrial estate failed to turn up any Waxwings (it will happen one day) but did produce a surprise in the form of four Grey Partridge feeding on a grassy verge. A rather unusual urban tick if ever there was one! Checking the various hedgerows on route home proved equally fruitful with a nice variety of thrushes on show including; 22 Blackbird, 3 Mistle Thrush, 3 Song Thrush, 2 Redwing and a single Fieldfare. Reed Bunting was also notched here whereas the best of the rest consisted of a few Bullfinch, a sizable charm of Goldfinch and a few Greenfinch with both Kestrel and Sparrowhawk whizzing through for good measure. A nice medley of birds and more than enough to brighten up these short winter days.
On a brief side note, after noting a number of Grey Squirrels in the area last week I have taken the regrettable but necessary steps to inform the local warden who will be out to remove them in the near future. My area of Northumberland still holds a viable population of native Reds and as such these newcomers are most unwelcome. Not that I blame the Squirrels!