Sunday, 7 August 2016

Northumberland- Coast and Castles

I almost couldn't believe the Bonapartes Gull on the Wansbest Estuary was still present come the start of summer, and ever since June I have been crossing my fingers that this bird would stick so I could get a look on the way up to our holiday cottage in Northumberland. I surely deserved some luc, having left East Anglia just as a first for Britain shows up. And so it was , on Saturday July 30th Debs and I descended the concrete bank of a fly-over (cue various remarks about the places we end up) to view the Wansbeck Estuary near Ashington. It did not take long to pick up the Bonapartes, a smaller Gull than the Black-headed species with which it was associating. Paler, and with an all-black bill, this was a learning curve for 2 Gull amateurs and a great start to the break. Also on the mud here were Whimbrel, Dunlin and a few Sandwich Tern more distantly.

We stayed near Bamburgh, and the rolling countryside around our cottage was home to plenty of House Sparrow, Yellowhammer, Hare and best of all a few Tree Sparrow. We were a short drive from Seahouses, the gateway to The Farne Islands and although we had been across before, our visit this year was timed a little earlier and we were treated to fantastic views of breeding Puffin, Razorbill, Shag, Kittiwake and the 3 'Common' Tern species. Many of these were viewed from the boat, and whilst docking at Inner Farne an Arctic Skua caused havoc amongst the Tern colony on Brownsman Island. This piratical bird was chased off by a swell of Terns, and will have to wait until they disperse before considering another attack. Fulmar and Gannet were regular over our boat, and a few Knot grazed amongst the Grey Seals and Seaweed.

Other than The Farnes, the trip was light on real birding. Some new contacts on Twitter had kindly given me details of both Golden-ringed Dragonfly and Black Darter sites, but the 2 days we headed into the uplands were windy and punctuated by showers, so we spent more time exploring ruined castles which was great fun! Budle Bay must get a mention though, right on our doorstep and a couple of trips here when the tide was right yielded close views of Curlew, Whimbrel, Red-breasted Merganser and young, Greenshank and Oystercatcher. Similar tidal habitat on Holy Island added Bar-tailed Godwit to the holiday list. We decided against a Heleborine search when once again rain stopped play.

So, another lovely visit to this county which for me says two things- Seabirds and Castles!

Bonapartes Gull, Wansbeck estuary with larger Black-headed for comparison
King of the cliff
 Edlingham Castle. Middle of nowhere, proper wild ruin. 
Dunstanburgh Castle. A fair walk, well worth it.

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