The last few days have found me once again firmly rooted on the local patch, partially due my current volunteer work with my local Red Squirrel group but also for some much needed birding. After the highs of January – Waxwing, Little Gull, Little Auk and Peregrine to name a few, things appear to have quieted down of late. New Patchwork Challenge species have certainly been few and far between, with only two new additions noted thus far in February. Still, despite the lack of anything remotely unusual, Blyth continues to deliver on all fronts, as you will soon see.
Starting out first at the harbour and a few cold and windy visits have provided the usual array of species. Between 5-7 Red-Breasted Mergansers have been noted here recently in the company of 12 Eider and smaller numbers of Goldeneye and Gadwall. A rather lost looking Guillemot was a more surprising addition here, fishing amid the docked boats at the Port of Blyth while a good number of Cormorants continue to use the broken pier as a roost site. The wrack left by the recent floods along the west shore of harbour appears to be going down a treat with the local bird-life; Rock Pipit, Grey Wagtail and a flock of c15 Linnet making the most of it for foraging. Could a Snow Bunting be next I wonder? Elsewhere however the only other bits and pieces of note here include; two Reed Bunting around the Bate’s outflow pools, five Whooper Swans heading North and an impressive gathering of 30+ Carrion Crows feeding on the shoreline. I remember as a child being told that “if you see corvids in flocks, they are almost certainly Rooks as opposed to Crows” – Apparently not as I am yet to catch up with a Rook this year on patch!
Up-stream at the Estuary things continue as usual, peak counts of waders this week consisting of; 220 Redshank, 250 Dunlin, c50 Curlew, 25 Lapwing, 14 Turnstone, c40 Oystercatcher and a few scattered Golden Plover. Bar-Tailed Godwit likewise remain in good numbers with up to fourteen now scattered across the site – A good count based on my observations of previous winters. Also here, Shelduck numbers reached a seasonal peak of 44 birds while other wildfowl on offer consisted of 110 Teal (Still no Green-Winged Teal), 22 Mallard and the three Wigeon which first appeared a fortnight past. Four Little Grebes were similarly nice to see here while the best of the rest comprised; 1 Little Egret, 2 Grey Heron, another Grey Wagtail and the welcome addition of a male Yellowhammer in the gorse growing along the North bank of the flats.
Moving up stream; a flock of 25 Redwing feeding in one of the nearby horse paddocks came as a welcome surprise following very low numbers for the large part of the winter. Finches were likewise abundant here, a quick tally revealing; 4 Bullfinch, 40+ Goldfinch, 2 Greenfinch, 8 Chaffinch and a few more Linnet while the river beneath the railway bridge held Dipper, Moorhen and another Little Egret. A few ventures into Ha’penny woods with the intention of checking my squirrel traps provided the usual assemblage of species including Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch alongside abundant tits and finches while a total of six Song Thrush belted out a tune during one of yesterdays brief sunny spells. Two Grey Squirrels were also seen here, in exactly the same spot favoured by the now absent Reds last winter. With up to six now present in the relatively small woodland it appears I am going to have my work cut out trying to catch them before I head off to pastures new in the summer. Not pleasant work but someone has to do it, if only to help the Red’s still persisting in the nearby area to once again colonize Ha’penny.