This week found me once again dashing off towards the hallowed ground of the local patch, on this occasion in search of everyone’s favourite festive treat, the Waxwing. Given the news of seven of the colourful migrants in the area it is safe to say that I had a bit more spring in my step than usual.
On Sunday, local birder Jordan Warner had been lucky enough to stumble across a small flock of Waxwings feeding quite contently by the River Blyth. Rather irritatingly, it seems I had walked past these during my Sunday amble towards the harbor. With this in mind I was delighted to find all seven birds still in evidence on Monday morning, perched conspicuously in the branches of one of the riverside Alders. During a half hour stint with the superb Scandinavian migrants they made frequent foraging trips to a small growth of Alder Buckthorn, chucking back the black berries with gusto as I attempted to manage a few half decent photos. This continued for some time, the birds showing down to mere meters before a dog walker caused them to retreat back to their perch indefinitely. The below photos are the best I could manage on this occasion though as ever, no photo could do justice to these beautiful birds.
Fast forward to today and ready for a second take at photographing these avian punk-rockers, if indeed they had stayed overnight. Thankfully they had and following a brisk jog to Blyth industrial estate I was rewarded with my best views of this species to date. On this occasion the Waxwings proved far more confiding, at times so close that I had to switch to my macro lens in order to capture them. Better still it appeared that I was the only person in evidence on the Blyth this afternoon and thus had the site (and the Waxwings) entirely to myself for the best part of an hour. Watching the birds feed on the remaining berries proved thoroughly entrancing and resulted in a few better photographs though nothing that compares to those taken by “true” photographers. This is one encounter that I will not forget in a hurry. I even managed a selfie with the birds on this occasion..
Peeling myself away from the crested berry guzzlers, a scan of the estuary this morning proved rewarding despite the high tide and occasional drizzle. Here whatever waders remained on show had huddled together in one large leggy mass in their usual roost site towards the north of the area. Setting up the scope I was able to roughly decipher the mass resulting in; 66 Redshank, 20 Curlew, 65 Oystercatcher, 22 Dunlin, 5 Turnstone and a handful of Black-Tailed Godwit. Not much by the Blyth’s usually impressive standards but more than enough to keep me amused for a short while. Moving on in search of divers a good scan of the channel and harbor revealed 5 Eider, 3 Red-Breasted Merganser and a single Little Grebe. 18 Mallard, 9 Gadwall, 2 Shelduck and 65 Teal had also gathered on the spit for midday a siesta while the regular assortment of gulls put on a fine show. No white-wingers among them on this occasion though I did pick out 3 over-wintering Lesser Black-Backed Gulls and 20 colossal Great Black-Backs. Briefly the visiting the sewage work adjacent to the harbor I was a bit put out to find them remains of what I think was a Jack Snipe clearly predated by one of the local raptors. Perhaps the bird I inadvertently flushed here last week? Its a tough life. Anyways, a brief rummage around this area also produced Grey Wagtail, Moorhen and a good sized roost of Cormorants on the broken pier, including a bird displaying a lot of yellow on its face and a good amount of white plumage. A good candidate for a continental “Sinensis” bird.
Returning home, a Weasel briefly darted across the footpath in front of me, my first in sometime and a Little Egret stood statuesque in its usual haunt by the industrial estate. Further up steam three drake Goldeneye passed by at some speed and a Sparrowhawk shot passed in pursuit of a rather unlucky passerine. Aside from these however the area surrounding the river held very little and thus my attentions turned briefly to the various copses and hedgerows fringing the patch. A pair of Reed Bunting were nice to see here, as were a few Bullfinch, Linnet, Song Thrush and a rather soggy Mistle Thrush. Elsewhere however the ‘best of the rest’ comprised only a scattering of Greenfinch, Goldfinch and a Dipper doing its best not to be swept away by the flood waters as I passed back over into Bedlington. All very nice though this weeks Waxwings far surpassed everything else on show. A fitting, festive way to end the year don’t you think? As promised, I have included my Waxwing inspired mugshot below..