28th/29th Sept. Saturday saw Sam and me heading for St Mary’s Island. The Bluethroat had gone, we couldn’t find a Yellow Browed Warbler and we missed the passing Whinchat, so we just decided to enjoy our afternoon in the sun. Sam managed to get some very good photographs of the Dunlin whilst I checked out the waders from the cliff edge and chatted to BB (NorthumbrianBirding). The usual waders were around and many were showing well, and included Bar-tailed Godwits.
The wetland didn’t offer very much, although I’m told a Yellow Browed Warbler had been showing. We found only Reed Bunting in the hedge. By the time we reached the gun mound I thought there was something special about as a couple of guys seemed to be getting excited. It turned out that a Sparrowhawk had flown into cover with a small brown bird it had caught. It couldn’t be…….could it? The Sparrowhawk didn’t reappear whilst we watched. Skylarks were heard on the move and there was good numbers of Rock Pipits about today as well as a handful of Meadow Pipits. Sam spotted a few Redwings and Sandwich Tern was seen amongst the waders. I was unable to find the American Golden Plover today so we decide to get down into the bay for a closer look at the flock on the rocky island. I still saw no sign of it, but enjoyed the time spent down there anyway and the Golden Plovers did put on a great performance taking off in the bright sunlight. We also examined a few of the weathered and eroded rocks down there. We got chatting to a photographer who decided that the bay was a strange place to bring small children (a family were in the way of his photography plans I think). I have to say I thought it an ideal place to bring children.
By the time we reached Seaton Sluice we realised that time had passed by quickly and it was time for tea, so we didn’t spend much time watching a none existent sea passage. We shared one of the mega sized fish between us. I’m amazed anyone can eat one of those plus a plate of chips! We felt it would be dark by the time we walked to Holywell so decided to end the day here. An excellent afternoon.
Sunday was just too good to waste so I decided to get out onto the wagon-ways on patch. No crowds of folk here, but sadly few birds today either. After I’d walked about a mile and seen little more than Magpies, other corvids, doves and pigeons and one lone Chaffinch, I decided that it was best just to treat today as a Sunday walk. Although breezy enough to be bringing some fall of leaves the sun meant it was warm. By the time I was heading for Holystone I did find a couple of flocks of Goldfinch flying down from the hedges to feed on thistle heads, and a few Linnets.
Near to the small flash I found a Common Darter Dragonfly, but by the time I sorted the camera it had flown off. The delay proved positive however as a Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly turned up (I’d seen one Speckled Wood Butterfly earlier on the walk) and after I’d managed to grab an image of that, five Common Snipe flew up from the area of the flash giving me a long awaited patch tick. I hung around hoping that they would return and they did, but the sunlight made for difficult viewing. The long walk had never the less been worthwhile.
Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly
I walked a more or less circular route and the return element of the walk brought little other than exercise and fresh air. I did find a couple of Pheasants feeding with a group of Magpies. It was amusing to watch one of the Pheasants and a Magpie seeming to square up to one another as if two Premiership footballers. The Magpie seemed to stand on a mound to look larger. There was no real fall out and the birds all continued to feed.
Sow Thistle reflecting today's sun
So all in all a nice weekend with me at least paying some attention to the patch which has I know not been given so much attention this year as in the recent past years. My reward was the Common Snipe.
Earlier in the week Sam and I had gone along to a very unusual talk/presentation/show (I’m not really sure how best to describe it) at the Hancock organised by the Northumbria Natural History Society. It was focussed on seabirds and in particular Manx Shearwaters. It was a mix of facts about seabirds, tales of one of the presenter’s expeditions as a young man to Iceland, folk tales and music. Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, although the place was packed out and it was all put over with passion. The message at the end was that we should be putting pressure on Government to protect our seas and oceans. I think many in the audience were shocked at the way seabird numbers are failing around the British Isles. I suppose it is easy to hear of one or two good seasons in some areas and forget that there is a long term decline.