Monday, 14 November 2011

Northumberland long weekend day 1

As my brother and I had an extra two days added onto our weekend due to teacher training days, we decided it would be an idea to go up north to see some Friends. Initally we wanted to go up for the whole weekend. However, something else came up (FC Halifax vs Charlton Athletic) I requested that we go up after the match for the two days. so we drove up on Sunday evening. It was a long journey, tinged with defeat, but eventually we arrived at the holiday cottage of some friends that we were using in Wooler.
The first morning was cloudy and gloomy, but the tide was right, so we decided to go to Lindisfarne for the day because we hadn't been for a while, a while being a few years. As we drove over the mudflat you could see that it was there was going to be a lot of wildlife to see. we parked the car and headed into the small town so that we could reach the dunes and hopefully see some seals.
As we joined the path we could see a pond, as no sooner had we arrived did a flock of brent geese fly in. Its the first time in at least 5 years since i have seen these, so it was great to see them and get a record shot. Unfortunately they were quite a way out, so I didn't get a great view I would like.

-Brent geese
However, looking at the geese I had overlooked a group of about 6 curlews right in front of me feeding in a sheep field. They were really close, so I was able to get some great views of them.


As we walked down the hedgerow lined we were joined on either side by feildfares and blackbirds feasting on the hawthorn berries. unfortunately they were too flighty for a me to get a photo, so I have no record of them.

in a field opposite us I spotted a flock of starlings, with a few curlews in with them. Sadly they all took flight as we arrived so we didn't really get a great view.

-Curlews and starlings
Shortly after that we arrived at the dunes. If I was honest, I was disappointed with the lack of birds we saw whilst crossing the dunes, but we did see some spectacular lichen formations and also a caterpillar of some description, which did seem rather late.

so after a short walk across the dunes, we arrived at the beach where my dad said there would be a seal. How naive we were, there wasn't a single seal anywhere. However, for me at least, there was quite a few interesting birds on the sea to make up for it. There were large groups of cormorants roosting on rocks slightly further out. but there was also a mixed flock of goldeneye and eider on the shore. We were viewing this from the cliff top, hence the dodgy camera angle. I looked at every bird to make sure i wasn't missing any king eiders or long-tailed ducks, but I wasn't in luck.

However one of the eiders didn't quite seem to be behaving properly, and no wonder, as when i actually checked it out, it was the bobbing head of a grey seal, so there was a seal in the end anyway.

-Eiders and Goldeneyes
We decided to walk back the long way, along the coast to the bird hide. I said that I would walk on the beach, while the rest of my family walked across the dunes. Good thing I did too, because I spotted a small group of waders on the shoreline that I didn't immediately recognise. I took a photo and then had a look, and saw that they were bar-tailed godwit, a bird I haven't seen since i knew what to look for. before then, any godwit was casually considered one or the other without proper I.D. But since i learned what I was looking for they have all been black tailed, so it was nice to associate with the other godwit, probably for the first time.

-Bar Tailed Godwit

I followed them up the beach, as they kept moving away from me, as birds generally do, until I lost them onto a natural rock breakwater. Then I spotted my family walking along the beach too so I went up to them. My dad said that my brother had seen a pair of short-eared owls in the dunes, so I went with my brother in an attempt to try and track them down. we walked round the dunes for some time. We tried to use the height to get a vantage point, and on top of one of the dunes, we found a rather nice common frog.

-Common Frog
We continued to look for the owls, but it looked increasingly unlikely as we headed deeper into the dunes. However, just when i was at the point of giving up we found them, and up they went. Only this time I would be able to see where they went. However, it wasn't as simple as that as they continued to fly even without being spooked, until I just decided to try and get them in mid air. The photos don't represent how close we were to the birds, but they are a reasonable effort at a record shot.

-Short eared owl
In case you hadn't guessed, we did manage to find both birds, but sadly we also lost them, and decided to leave them to it. As we headed over the bird hide we spooked a small mammal, mice or vole or summit, so there was clearly plenty of food for the owls.

At the hide we had lunch. However most of the birdlife was on the other side of the pond. That included shoveler and teal, those being the main attraction. However, as we neared the end of lunch a pair of teal appeared in the small pool in front of us, so I was able to get some shots of the encounter. it was also good because it let us appreciate these beautiful birds, at such close quarters.

-Common Teal

After lunch, we left the hide and walked along the coast towards the holy island castle. At a point where there was a small dip and shorter grass along the seafront, I flushed a small passerine. my first though was that it was a linnet, but the white bars on the wings made me realise my mistake almost immediately. I then had an excitement attack, as i realised that it was a snow bunting, only the second time I have ever seen one.

While these thoughts were going around my head, the bird moved a few meters further up the path, which I was relieved about, as I didn't want to not a get a view of it. I crept up, eating the distance between me and the bird, but there was no real reason for stealth, as the bird was seriously bold. But I didn't know that, so I spent five minuets creeping up. Only when I was less than 1m away did I realise that maybe the bird didn't care. It did, however, allow me to get some great record shots that I wanted. sadly the overcast Sky's meant that I had to alter most camera settings, leaving me with some shots that were not as good as I wanted. Even so, it was still a great thing to see, and for only my second ever...Not bad.

-snow bunting

I eventually left the bird, although rater reluctantly due to the fact that I might be pushed for time, and that my parents had never stopped, but carried on walking on a different path.

As I walked towards the car park I passed the pools where that morning there had been a flock of brent geese. Just before i reached the pool, a pair of brent geese flew right over me, sadly too close and quick to get the photos I wanted, but I managed to get a close record shot.

-Brent Goose

As I mentioned before, I was about to pass the pool, where sadly there were no brent geese, but there was a grey heron fishing in a small drainage ditch, and also a few other wildfowl species that were unrecognisable for this distance, and with no bins...

-Grey Heron
I caught up with my parents, and we started to make our way across the causeway. it was almost high tide, so most of the shoreline birds were being pushed up towards the road, so we got some great views of birds. No sooner had we left the island than we saw a flock of brent geese, feeding offshore.

-Brent geese

furthur on the causeway where we would be nearer to where most shorebirds would have been feeding we found the wave edge dotted with hundereds of wading birds, dunlins, redshank, godwits and curlews. It was quite cool to see, although we knew we diddnt have long to savour the experience.


-Wading Birds


-wading birds

Nearer the mainland we spotted a group of four red-breasted mergansers fishing nearer the shore

-Red-Breasted mergansers

-Wading Birds

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