This week has been a rather stressful one in truth, financial issues and atypical festive worries causing no end of concern. Come Tuesday I had officially had enough and thus opted to head out for a little “me time” on patch. Walking the Blyth for a good four hours proved most enjoyable (as ever), a lack of people and some unusually pleasant December weather making for a rather lovely spell on the coast. On top of this, the local birds (and other critters) performed admirably with 52 species logged onto Birdtrack during the duration of my stay including some real goodies. – The Blyth Estuary and its surrounds truly are one of my favourite places to visit during the winter period.
Starting out at Ha’Penny Woods and check of my mammal stump revealed some lovely videos of the local Wood Mice, many of which seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the peanut cakes recieved as a prize from Wildlife Articles/CJ Wildlife a few weeks back. Whoever said such things were just for birds? Anyways, also here a Jay squawked from high in the canopy and a number of Moorhen burst from cover as I made my way along the riverside. Exiting the woodland and taking the bridleway towards the estuary and the adjacent fields could be seen bursting with thrushes. A total of 44 Blackbird were noted here, perhaps comprising a patch record whereas a few Redwing, Song and Mistle Thrush were also notched. I do love winter! The horse paddock here also held a single Curlew, no doubt the same bird that has been in the field for the past six visits. I am beginning to think said bird could be injured and will head back to check it out as soon as possible. I do hope not..
Picking my way along to the muddier expanses of the estuary, a flock of 12 Lesser Redpoll in some nearby Alders came as a welcome surprise, the highlight of a finch smorgasbord that also included 7 Bullfinch, 20 Goldfinch, 15 Linnet, 6 Chaffinch and a pair of Greenfinch. Indeed, the only thing that could have improved the medley somewhat would have been the addition of Brambling or Siskin! Also here, a troop of roving Long-Tailed Tits caught my attention and a huge flock of some 300+ Woodpigeon passed overhead on route to the opposing stubble fields. Moving on to the estuary itself things were soon to pick up however..
Arriving at my favoured vantage point, both Kestrel and Sparrowhawk were observed patrolling the margins of the channel. A good start! Determined to conduct a somewhat accurate count of the roosting waders, if only to improve my survey skills, I soon set about counting the various feathered blobs snoozing on the alternate side of the site. Here Golden Plover were, as ever, the most numerous with some 750 birds noted followed by Dunlin with well over 100 birds present. Redshank came next, a total of 86 birds picked out proceeded by Lapwing and Oystercatcher with around 40 of each in attendance. Moving on, 15 Ringed Plover were extracted from the fray, as were a further 13 Curlew and 4 Turnstone. Not a bad haul but one that was soon improved upon with the addition of 2 Bar-Tailed and 4 Black-Tailed Godwits feeding on what remained of the exposed mud. These, alongside 3 Grey Heron and a single Little Egret made for excellent viewing and helped keep me enthralled for well over an hour.
Dragging myself away from the wader roost, an attempt and counting the Blyth’s wildfowl proved similarly enjoyable despite the fact that the long-staying drake Velvet Scoter appears to have moved on. Scanning the dabblers first and 17 Mallard were noted in the presence of 9 Gadwall and 65 Teal, many of which were engaging in characteristic (and rather adorable), head-bobbing courtship displays. No wayward Wigeon yet but I live in hope for the new year! – Next, 9 Eider floated into sight, as did a pair of Red-Breasted Merganser while the fringes of the boatyard also held a good count of 5 Little Grebe and the resident pair of Mute Swans. Aside from these however, little of note was seen in the area excluding a good count of 20 Cormorant and a rather un-seasonal Lesser Black-Backed Gull. Just before heading home however a Grey Seal surfaced not far from my position giving brief but exhilarating views before it plunged once more into the depths of the harbour.
Making my way home to Bedlington and 12 Goldeneye dropped in for an all too brief visit, among them some superb drakes. In addition, 4 Collared Doves soon passed overhead, not a common bird on patch believe it or not, despite the close proximity of nearby towns. This however concluded the days offers. As you can see, a lot to see as ever on the local patch and more than enough to help take my mind off the menial troubles of day to day life. Once the next few days at work are over I hope to get out and conduct my first NEWS surveys on the more coastal expanses of the patch, these will no doubt make for a good blog post should I be lucky enough to actually observe any birds! Ta’ra for now.