A busy week this week with numerous articles to write and my first shifts back behind the bar in Newcastle (It’s only temporary James), despite this however I did manage two visits to the patch and once again left feeling wholly satisfied. The Blyth and its surrounds have gone from strength to strength of late and it seems that every visit has produced something new and exciting with my two outings this week proving no exception. Indeed this week saw the addition of one full fat patch tick alongside, of course, a host of other estuarine goodies, most of which are listed below.
Spending most of my time in the harbour this week and the the first winter drake Velvet Scoter remains in evidence, on occasion fishing relatively close to shore and giving some rather nice views. It is not often you see this species at close range thus the last few weeks have proven most enjoyable with the bird appearing somewhat settled in its new abode. Indeed the only thing that could possibly make it better would be if the bird in question was in fact an adult drake, cannot be picky though. Also here the juvenile Great Northern Diver continued to show at the start of the week, all be it a tad distant amid the ships on the far side of the port. Red-Breasted Merganser and Eider also fished here while a good number of Cormorant could be found drying themselves on the broken pier, among these quite a few juvenile birds. As ever, while checking the harbour my attentions soon drifted to the small water treatment plan in the same area. Here a Water Rail gave mesmerizing views as it strolled into the footpath in front of me seemingly oblivious (or simply ignorant) to my presence. This, for once, was not the highlight however when a passing dog walker flushed a petite Jack Snipe from a patch of wet ground. The bird gave a quick fly-by before dropping into the reed bed and marked my first patch record of this species. Hurray! – Also here Reed Bunting, Greenfinch and a whopping roost of Common, Herring and Great Black-Backed Gulls were of note.
The below images of a Great Northern Diver were taken almost a year to the day on patch. The current individual is not half as obliging..
Hauling myself away from the more coastal expanses of the patch and a couple of hours spent combing the estuary proved equally as enjoyable. The undisputed highlight here, three Pale-Bellied Brent Geese that circled a few times before settling on the opposing side of the channel. I do believe this marks only my second record of this species at Blyth. In addition to these 100+ Teal fed around the margins in the company of a few Gadwall, Mallard, Mute Swan and a single Shelduck while a scan of the exposed mud came up trumps with a good variety of waders on show. Here a lone Black-Tailed Godwit was notched, followed in close succession by two Bar-Tailed Godwit (a scarce bird at Blyth of late) and a single Grey Plover. With these a hotch potch of more common species including good numbers of Lapwing, Golden Plover, Redshank, Curlew and Dunlin. Elsewhere only a Grey Wagtail and a flyover Greylag Goose proved noteworthy- the latter a rather scarce species on my humble coastal patch.
Picking my way back home along the river a Little Egret was uncovered snoozing in a nearby Sycamore and another Grey Wagtail passed by on route up stream. This however concluded the days wetland offerings and thus I set about picking through the plentiful riverside scrub. The highlight here was surely a small mixed flock of Siskin and Lesser Redpoll, my first record of both species in almost a month. Bullfinch, Redwing and a pair of Mistle Thrush were also had here though aside from these only familiar “garden” species were seen.
Some other local bits and bobs from this week include a convoy of 12 Grey Partridge on the outskirts of Bedlington and two separate Sparrowhawks in the vicinity of my house. For the large part however the last week has been rather quiet and I have been unable to get ‘out and about’ as much as I would have liked. With my driving lessons going particularly well however it hopefully will not be long before I am able to range further afield in search of winged delights. This goes without saying that the ability to drive will surely open up a myriad of new conservation based career opportunities! This time last year I had a number of interviews for some truly wonderful places, Shetland and Orkney included, sadly the lack of wheels lead to failure here. Maybe this year..