Saturday, 18 August 2012

Out of county birding

Busy month, and on composing this ere blog post I almost forgot a significant bird that got August off to a flyer- an adult Purple Heron at Sutton Gault in Cambridgeshire. A cracking adult it was, donning full war paint and regalia. Also a British lifer, don't see too many of those these days.
This unlikely out of county twitch came about thanks to a kind invite from a friend to visit his thesis site in Berkshire, which is focussed around river restoration. He listed various inverts I cannot recall and explained the significance of the now resident Ranunculus on the river bed, whilst I watched Buzzards and Red Kites catch the thermals. Lovely stuff.
I should preface this next section by saying I do not work for the Northumberland Tourist Board but what a fantastic county! I won't bore/grip folk with a day by day account here, but instead a few highlights:

1) The coast. Unspoilt, sandy beaches, amazing dune systems and muddy harbours. Eiders floated in the bays, and we were lucky to pick up Arctic, Great and a possible Pomarine Skua at sea. (the latter appeared barrel-chested, but not enough to confirm an ID. I believe juveniles are unlikely at this time of year anyway, and a full set of spoons was not in evidence, sadly).
2) The islands. Coquet still had a few Roseate Terns present, nesting alongside Arctic, Common and Sandwich. Some interesting ID conondrums were posed, mostly involving juvenile birds. Some seabirds like Kittiwake were still on the cliffs of Inner Farne, but Puffin, Guillemot and Razorbill were all seen from boats. Inner Farne was amazing, the buzz and electricity of a fall of migrants cannot be beaten. Icterine Warbler, Pied Flycatcher and Whinchat all in an hour!
3) The moorland and hills. A rugged contrast to the coast. Red Grouse, Goshawk and Stonechat all enjoyed up here.
4) A 'Viking invasion' on Holy Island and a walk to the castle (great county for castles, if you're into that, which we both are).
5) The best bookshop I have ever been in. Stocked up on Barnes, Greene and King.

Druridge Bay was the destination for our final day. Some decent birds including Little Stint, Wheatear, Arctic Skua, Whimbrel, Marsh Harrier and Spoonbill. The locals were particularly interested in the Spoonbill and Harriers (one pair breeding near here) which reminded me never to take these for granted back here in Norfolk.
The Northumberland Wildlife Trust appear to have adopted a Laissez Faire approach to reserve management, much to the annoyance of the locals I spoke to.

Got back last night, itching to be out in Norfolk again. Popped to the patch, and along with a lot of Ducks there were 2 Common and 1 Green Sandpiper on the lagoon. Surlingham is back, I'm back, and I have 2 weeks left to find something decent before school beckons.

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