This weekend marked the second annual Bespolka patch bird race, an event undertaken by Next Generation Birders members in memory of Cameron Bespolka, talented and dedicated young birder that sadly lost his life in a skiing accident. As with any bird race, the aim was simple, to see as many birds as possible within a 24 hour period on your local patch. Though I only achieved a modest 57 species on this occasion, the day itself proved rather enjoyable with some great species on offer. I also bumped into young local birder Jordan Warner and was able to help him add three lifers to his list.
Starting off in Ha’Penny Woods and before getting to the nitty gritty I took the opportunity to once again check the trail cams I have hidden here. Lots of Grey Squirrels on this occasion plus a terrible image of a distant Fox but also my first (and only) footage of an Otter on patch! Hurray. – I will post the video soon. Anyways, back to the birds and Ha’Penny allowed me notch the first of the days common species noting Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Blackbird, Long-Tailed Tit et al, I am sure you get the picture. Also here two Nuthatch were picked up alongside both Goldcrest and Treecreeper, both common species but ones that have a habit of making themselves scarce during such events. A little more interesting here was the addition of Dipper and Grey Wagtail on the River Blyth while the return leg out of the woods produced Moorhen, Pheasant and Jay.
Beginning to pick my way along the Blyth towards the estuary and bumping into Jordan in the process, a small flock of 7 Fieldfare and a single Mistle Thrush passed overhead while a rummage around in the riverside scrub produced further ticks of Bullfinch, Song Thrush and a few sizable charms of Goldfinch making the most of the abundant Alder cones. A Little Egret proved most confiding as it fed in the mouth of a small burn and both Kestrel and Sparrowhawk hunted the adjacent grassland. Things were clearly improving as I made a b-line for the more coastal reaches of the site..
Beginning to pick through the masses of flighty waders on the flats, numbers of all species were clearly down from the day before. Perhaps the local Peregrine had made a pass prior to my arrival? Anyways, picking through the flock a lone Black-Tailed Godwit provided a promising start, feeding alongside a healthy mix of Golden Plover, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Curlew and Redshank. The lack of both Turnstone and Grey Plover proved somewhat disheartening though both Dunlin and Ringed Plover provided some form of compromise. In addition to all the regular gull species, a statuesque Grey Heron and a handful of Cormorant little else could be found here however thus my attentions soon fixated on the deeper expanses of the neighboring Boatyard.
A nice surprise upon arrival here as a as a Red-Throated Diver surfaced mere meters from the path sending me fumbling for my camera in vain. Indeed the bird shown in the cover photo above represents a bird from Druridge Bay, thanks to Sacha Elliot for loaning the photo. As the Diver drifted off another bird caught my attention drifting amid the moored fishing vessels. Not quite sure which species it was, a better look with my scope produced a superb Great Northern Diver, perhaps the bird that spent the entirety of last winter on the patch? Though I do not really know how site faithful wintering divers are? Due to distance I soon opted to move on from the diver however and set about searching for the drake Velvet Scoter that has graced us with its presence for the past week. Failing to pick it up at first, Teal, Gadwall, Eider and a loose flock of 8 Red-Breasted Merganser were added first before the scoter surfaced in front of us, giving great views and providing another lifer for Jordan. Believe it or not, this time last year I was yet to see a Velvet Scoter.
Starting out for home, a brief scan of the nearby sewage works turned up female Reed Bunting while a Water Rail was heard doing its best impression of a pig suffering an agonizing death. – Only my second Blyth Water Rail to date so quite a good addition to the days tally. Heading home a few more familiar odds and ends were added including Little Grebe and a second Grey Wagtail though admittedly most of the journey was spent scornfully thinking about all the regular birds that had eluded me. Indeed, species seen almost daily including House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Linnet, Redwing, Goldeneye and Collared Dove were all conspicuous in their absence, just going to show that you cannot count on nature to provide on a whim. Still, with birds such as Velvet Scoter and Great Northern Diver on show you will not catch me complaining..
For more information about the Cameron Bespolka Trust please visit: http://www.cameronbespolkatrust.com/