#PatchChat: Spring Soldiers On

I posted last week about the resurgence of spring on my local patch – a few bees, buds and butterflies heralding the arrival of the changing season. Of course, these things have continued to factor into my daily ventures this week though, of late, things appear to have stepped up a gear or two. The local birding this week has been fantastic – a number of summer migrants making it back to the area, usually unobtrusive species bursting into song and much, much more. Indeed, with 72 species seen around Blyth in the last two days alone, things have been far from dull!

One of 14 Common Frogs enjoying the sun around the pond this week

Starting off at the coast and yesterday found me rooted to the dunes at Cambois and North Blyth – the most easterly expanse of the patch and the first port of call for any migrants making landfall in the area. Things started very well here, a shore walk through the dunes revealing 8 Sand Martin hawking for insects above the heads of the many dog-walkers that adorn the site on sunnier days.With these, a single Swallow was also seen – another first for the year and sure indicator that warmer times could soon be upon us.  Hirundines were not the only migrants offer however and throughout the visit no less than 32 Meadow Pipit passed by on route North alongside a handful of Pied Wagtail and a single Skylark. More interesting was the addition of a White Wagtail on the beach – the continental “alba” race of Pied Wagtail for any non-birders reading this. This was not alone here either, feeding alongside it, a cracking male Wheatear provided a sight for sore eyes and another year tick. Elsewhere on the migration front, both Grey Wagtail and Rock Pipit were logged heading North while a short walk inland turned up a second Swallow and another Wheatear, this time perched conspicuously on a pilon. Jet lagged perhaps? These, alongside 12 singing Chiffchaff lifted the mood considerably following weeks of palpable tedium.

While pottering around the coast, it would have been rude not to commit to a spot of seawatching, thus this morning I opted to put in a few hours from my favoured spot at North Blyth. This proved to be a worthwhile venture with the highlight comprising 4 Sandwich Terns fishing in the bay – another returning spring migrant. Auks were very apparent here, a surprising total of 14 Razorbill noted alongside 3 Guillemot and a single (and all too distant) Puffin. Of course these were not the only species to be seen and as the minutes ticked by a number of other goodies sailed into view. First came three Red-Throated Diver, among them a splendid summer plumage individual. Next, 7 Red-Breasted Merganser followed by a small flock of Pink-Footed Geese flying low above the waves. This goes without mentioning the dozen or so Kittiwakes that passed by during my stint here and, of course, the numerous Eider bobbing behind the breakers. Yesterday also turned up a small flock of Common Scoter close to shore and a pair of Great Crested Grebe – my first in a number of weeks.

Moving away from the coast and to the estuary where the undisputed highlight this week was the arrival of a further five Avocet – bringing the patch total up to a rather good seven birds. With the monochrome waders, a healthy array of other species, perhaps the best of which comprising three superb summer plumage Black-Tailed Godwit and a lone Bar-Tailed Godwit. Not to fault the numerous RedshankTurnstoneCurlew and Oystercatcher on display but godwits in breeding colour are in a league of their own. Also on the estuary; 2 Little Egret fed up stream towards Kitty Brewster – different birds (I think) to the three seen daily on the Sleek Burn though I could be wrong. Gadwall and Teal remain abundant here, as do Shelduck while other highlights here include a drake Goosander, 4 Red-Breasted Merganser, a pair of Goldeneye and a good number of returning Lesser Black-Backed Gulls. Lots to see as ever.

What else? Well, plodding around Cambois and North Blyth produced a good haul of more familiar species; among them 4 Stonechat, all of which proved as obliging as ever. The scrub here held Reed BuntingBullfinchGoldcrest and Linnet while a Stock Dove was found amid the local Feral Pigeon roost. A gander around the Sleek Burn and its adjacent farmland was similarly productive; Grey Partridge heard croaking and a nice mix of YellowhammerTree Sparrow and Reed Bunting helping pass the time. Finally, a jaunt around Ha’penny Woods where all the regular woodland denizens performed admirably. The best of these comprising; 3 NuthatchGreat Spotted WoodpeckerSiskin and a few Goldcrest in full song.

Grey Wagtail, River Petteril.

With less than a month left before I depart for the summer it looks like the next few weeks will be spend combing the coast for more early migrants, if only to bolster my mediocre Patchwork Challenge score. I very much doubt I will happen across the likes of Cuckoo, Grasshopper Warbler and Swift before I head off but surely with a little perseverance, species such as Blackcap, House Martin and Ring Ouzel should crop up. We will see..

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