Monday, 8 February 2016

Northumberland: Birling and Cresswell Pond

Well, lectures started again today, so what better excuse to run off twitching for the day? Northumberland was the chosen destination on account of its potential two lifers and generally pleasant birding.
I got off the train at 8.00 in Alnmouth and then got the bus down to Birling for the Arctic Redpoll that had been there for a while now. Just about managed to catch the bus to save myself some time, followed by a short walk down to the very vague location of the bird. along the way I picked up my first yeartick of the day, Whooper Swan. There were a small number of individuals feeding with the Mute Swans in the fields along the side of the road.
-Whooper Swan
I had a rough idea of where to look for the Redpolls and it was not long before I was able to pick up a number of birds in flight moving along in the field but I was not able to get them down for about an hour. An entire hour spent chasing Redpolls before I finally got them in an open area. I had a scan along the fence with the scope and within seconds I had the Cous' Arctic Redpoll sitting on the fence. It was obvious it was unbelievable, I barely had to wait to see the white rump, although it did not take long for it to duly oblige. 
The flock kept moving and I had my best views in the car park about half an hour later, although then it was in the trees and the views were quite obscured at times. I was quite pleased with my shots though. It was quite a bird to look at. In addition to the Arctic I tried to mind a mealy redpoll among the ranks of birds, but alas I found none.
Arctic Redpoll is my first lifer this year, and a real super looking bird. It was quite an education looking at Redpolls for so long. This bird is quite something.
-Cous' Arctic Redpoll
Whilst there I got a host of other goodies too. Perhaps the highlight of these was during my five mins seawatching when a super Black-throated Diver flew south not too far out. An unexpected yeartick to say the least, and possibly the best view I have ever had of the species.
Also a bonus yeartick were the Grey Partridges that abounded in the game crop. The crop was tall but from it I could heard strange croaking noises. I had no idea what was going on and it took around half an hour before any of the culprits decided to fly out of it and reveal themselves, but once they had I found that there were Grey Partridges everywhere around the site.
-Grey Partridge
I had intended to get the bus down to Cresswell Pond for the LB Dowitcher there but as it happens there were a couple of local birders at the Redpoll and one of them offered to take me, saving me plenty of time and allowing me to arrive right at the pond rather than a substantial walk.
The Dowitcher was not on the near scrape, but Another birder in the hide picked it up on the very distant far side of the pond. Second lifer of 2016 in the bag. This does mean I labored to get any photos and the ones I did get were not helped by the fact that the bird spent most of its time with its head underwater.
It was nice to see it in context with the other waders though, so stumpy compared to the redshank it was feeding alongside. Whilst I did not manage to get a good photo of it I did manage a very poor quality video which is a bit better, although if that will be the same on here we will have to see.
-Long-Billed Dowitcher
-Long-Billed Dowitcher
A double lifer day, both birds playing ball, what more could I ask?
There were plenty of other birds at the pond too, yearticking Bar-Tailed Godwit and Dunlin among the other waders present. There were also masses of Pink-Footed Geese in the fields around the ponds. I knew there were a couple of Eurasian White-Fronted Geese in with them and so was painstakingly analysing all the flocks in the hope of picking them out.
Somehow the flock I found them in was the one directly opposite the pond which I had already scanned 3 times before I finally got them. I counted 4 White-fronts in total, a species I have not seen for many years and a really nice addition to the yearlist.
The geese were feeding in the fields along the side of the road, and so when I left Cresswell and headed up to Druridge Pools I got to walk right past them and get a few nice record shots...
-Pink-Footed Geese
-White-fronted Geese
Along the walk to Druridge I did not pick up much; a Stonechat and a few Yellowhammer the best of them. By the time I arrived at Druridge it was early evening and there was not much that there had not been at Cresswell. I added Pintail to the day list but the real highlight was a nice Short-eared Owl that was hunting around the area. A really nice way to finish off the day.
-Short-eared Owl
By the end of the day I was knackered but to have seen both my targets, plenty of other stuff and had a pretty sweet all-round day I could not ask for anything more. Thanks again to the local birders who gave me a lift and information about birds in the area and what best strategy to take. What an incredible days birding. 

Species List:
Birling Carrs: Rook, Tree Sparrow, Woodpigeon, Chaffinch, Jackdaw, Mute Swan, Whooper Swan, Yellowhammer, Grey Partridge, Oystercatcher, Lesser Redpoll, Guillemot, Black-throated Diver, Grey Heron, Cous' Arctic Redpoll, Blackbird, Dunnock, Wren, Golden Plover, Herring Gull, Black-headed Gull, Skylark, Pheasant, 
Cresswell Pond: Dunlin, Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwit, Long-billed Dowitcher, Lapwing, Wigeon, Common Teal, Mallard, Shelduck, Pink-footed Goose, Moorhen, Common Snipe, Starling, Jackdaw, Rook, Great Tit, Red-breasted Merganser, Carrion Crow, White-fronted Goose, Oystercatcher, Little Grebe, Sparrowhawk, Cormorant, Goldeneye, Magpie, Turnstone, Eider, Herring Gull, Goldfinch, Robin, Yellowhammer, Wren, Reed Bunting, Stonechat, Kestrel, Lesser Redpoll, Pied Wheatear, Sanderling,
Druridge Pools: Mallard, Shelduck, Pintail, Wigeon, Common Teal, Carrion Crow, Blackbird, Shoveler, Grey Heron, Lapwing, Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Short-eared Owl, Pink-footed Goose, Carrion Crow, Gadwall, Tree Sparrow, Siskin, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Canada Goose, Red-breasted Merganser, Little Grebe, Coot, Pheasant, Long-tailed Tit, Stonechat, Red-throated Diver, Feral Pigeon, 


  1. You amaze me Daniel. Well done, reminds me of my early birding days too - especially the Wallcreeper day in the Cheddar Gorge in 1970's - must look up the date!. Keep up the good work so to speak.....

    1. I had no idea you had seen that bird Dave? What a gripper.