Northumberland weekend – April 21/23

Club trip to Northumberland

21st to 23rd April 2017                                Leader: Peter Watson

Fifteen club members went on this weekend. Having agreed to meet up at Seahouses, where we were staying for the weekend, most of the group headed early for Hulne Park (via a stop off for hearty breakfast on route), to try somewhere new to many club members. This proved to be an excellent choice, with several hours spent there, and a wide variety of woodland birds were seen, highlights including Crossbill, Siskin, Wood Warbler, Nuthatch, Bullfinch, Treecreeper, several Mistle Thrushes, late Fieldfare and Redpoll. Firecrest was also heard and a Kingfisher seen, each by one lucky person. The river running alongside the edge of the park also afforded great views of Dipper, Common Sandpiper and Grey Wagtail. Everyone else met up here by 2pm, and the competitive spirit was well and truly sparked on swapping details of the morning’s birding, with the Rob and I having seen a Black Tern and a Grasshopper Warbler on our stopover at East Chevington on the way north!

Late afternoon saw us all visiting Budle Bay where the tide was out, but Knot, Curlew and Grey Plover were added. On then to Seahouses where sharp eyes picked out Purple Sandpiper on the rocks, and we added the first Shags, Kittiwakes, Turnstones and Ringed Plovers of the trip. Watching a flock of Eider waddling up the slipway at the harbour to come and beg bread alongside Mallards was a first – how often can you put out a hand and have it pecked by one of these stunning sea ducks? An excellent first day saw a combined total of 106 species seen.

A number of us ventured out on an early morning walk round the harbour in biting cold on Saturday morning (northerly winds); good to see House Martin here as well. We headed off to Lindesfarne after breakfast as the tides were favourable – a planned trip to the Farne Islands was ditched on hearing that many of the nesting birds weren’t back there yet. Despite the cold weather and periods when it was very dark overhead in the morning the weather improved markedly towards the end of the day. Whilst nothing particularly rare was about, highlights included good views of Bar-tailed Godwit, Red-breasted Merganser, Golden Plover (in full breeding plumage, on the ground), Sandwich Tern, streams of Gannets (heading both north and south as we sat seawatching by the triangulation point), a flock of Sanderling on the beach, Red-throated Diver and Rock Pipit. Coming off Holy Island we made our way to Fenham-le-Moor and some great birding, the undoubted highlights being close views of Whimbrel, then a Short-eared Owl which flew past close by before heading over the mud flats towards Holy Island. Distant views of pale-bellied Brent Goose and a flock of Little Terns feeding were also much enjoyed. The moaning of the large Seal colony could also be heard clearly – an extraordinary sound.

Sunday dawned bright and sunny and stayed that way all day. After another early morning harbour walk, we birded our way back south stopping first at Low Newton, which was rather quiet apart from a Pink-footed Goose, White Wagtail and a couple of Stonechats, then at Hauxley to try and pick up a Green-winged Teal reported from there (sadly not seen), though we did have our first Whitethroats. We also spent some time looking across to Coquet Island, but the terns were just too far away to reliably identify any Roseate Terns that might have been there, though Puffins were visible. Then on to Druridge CP where we cut through the car park to East Chevington pool. To everyone’s relief, the Black Tern was still on the pool flying up and down so we spent ages enjoying it. Most of us then moved on to Druridge Pools, where a Grasshopper warbler obligingly showed itself to all those who had not seen one on Friday. Other highlights included Yellow Wagtail, Whooper Swan, White-fronted Goose (probably injured as it had a dodgy looking wing) and some Ruff. Sadly the Hooded Crow seen in fields nearby earlier in the day did not reappear for us. A small group that went to the ‘usual’ parking place at East Chevington before heading to Druridge Pools picked up a pair of Garganey and a Marsh Harrier there. The last stop was Cresswell Ponds where we had a Bar-tailed Godwit in full breeding plumage, several Avocets and Little Egret.

It was a highly enjoyable trip despite the cold weather on the first couple of days and we pooled a grand total of 135 species – about the maximum we could have hoped for short of a major fall of rarities!

Thank you very much to Peter Watson for arranging it all and leading the trip.

Jane Chapman

(Apologies for the late write up for those of you wondering where it had got to!)