Well, with little chance of any further local birding this week, and excluding a few species seen ever incredibly distantly (Black-Throated Diver) or heard only, it appears I will conclude January with a jolly good #PWC2016 total of 94 species and 106 points. – Not a bad start eh! This being the case I thought I would piece together somewhat of a summary of this months patch birding exploits. It seems I have fallen a tad short of my “100 species in January” challenge but given the birds on offer at Blyth this month I am not all too bothered by that. That said, despite innumerable hours in the field there are still a few “common” species that continue to elude me. Among these; Rook, Yellowhammer, Kingfisher, Skylark, Velvet Scoter and Barn Owl are perhaps the worst. I also rather wrongly assumed prior to new year I would have had Great Northern Diver and at least one decent grebe by now but alas, I was wrong.
Starting out with the highlights and there are a few distinct contenders for “bird of the month” though ultimately that award has to go to the seven Waxwings that were present throughout the first week of January. A species that never fails to put a smile on my face. Elsewhere other contenders include a Jack Snipe flushed from the flooded ground here the Bate’s water treatment plant and two Little Gulls that graced the estuary with their presence during the short influx a few weeks past. Add to these a few more “two-point” species including Little Egret, Red-Throated Diver, Peregrine, Little Auk and a fly-by flock of 15-20 Brent Geese and there has been plenty to ogle and admire this month.
Seawatching from Blyth this month failed to wrack up the points as I had hoped, two Little Auk and the aforementioned Brent Geese the best I could muster of late. Still, despite the lack of anything rare this did allow me to add a number of new species to the months tally. Among these; Fulmar, Guillemot, Eider, Shag and Common Scoter as well as numerous skeins of Pink-Footed Geese. The strand-line and nearby rocky shore at Blyth also allowed for the additions of both Pied and Grey Wagtail, Rock Pipit and perhaps more interestingly, Purple Sandpiper and Sanderling.
Moving inland to the Blyth Estuary itself and of course, the star of the show here were the sites wading birds with good counts of Grey Plover and both Bar and Black-Tailed Godwit obtained alongside a record count of some c1200 Golden Plover earlier in the month. Also here plenty more ‘run of the mill’ additions including Dunlin, Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Redshank and other familiar faces. The estuary also turned up a good variety of wildfowl with both Red-Breasted Merganser and Goosander notched alongside healthy numbers of Teal, Mallard, Gadwall, Shelduck and Goldeneye. Two more interesting records here comprised my first ever Blyth Canada Geese and a pair of drake Wigeon, themselves a relative scarcity at the site based on my experience. Finally, convoys of both Grey and Red-Legged Partridge were picked up in their favoured fields at adjacent sides of the site. The latter comprising a full fat patch tick. Yes, I am easily pleased..
Blyth industrial estate, the site of the Waxwings mentioned previously, proved a real boom to thrushes in January with small flocks of Redwing and Fieldfare noted with fair regularity alongside smaller gatherings of Song Thrush, Mistle Thursh and Blackbird. Finches also appeared to accumulate here with one morning yielding a sizable mixed flock containing a grand total of 45 Goldfinch, c20 Linnet, 4 Greenfinch, 4 Bullfinch, 2 Chaffinch and a few Reed Bunting. These, coupled with the additions of Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and a flyover Buzzard helped make this one of my more productive patch pit-stops.
At the Western boundary of the site, my only sizable block of decent woodland, Ha’Penny Woods Local Nature Reserve helped add a few more species to the mix, including not one but two calling Tawny Owls. Two Siskin and a Stock Dove here were also most welcome over the last few days, both species I feared could be added to the likes of Rook on my list of noteworthy omissions. Also here, the feeding station kindly erected by an as yet unknown local helped me land a nice brace of woodland critters including Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay and Goldcrest while the local pair of Dippers continued to show well on the river.
Bypassing talks of tits, gulls and urban species other additions this month include Snipe and Woodcock in the harbour area, Stonechat at Cambois and five Little Grebe at Furnance Bank. All in all Blyth has not disappointed this month with a host of avian goodies on show and a good overall species count to boot. Aiming to bolster my total as much as possible before I head off to Scotland in the summer, I have decided to set myself a number of targets for the coming month. All, of course, in addition to the common blighters that have proven elusive of late. Five is a good starting point I guess and as such, before the end of February I aim to add Short-Eared Owl, Velvet Scoter, Great Northern Diver, Whooper Swan and Med Gull to the mix. Shouldn’t be too hard given my position on the Northumberland Coast, right?