Blyth birding and a Dunlin in distress

Before I get into the usual local patch based rambling, I thought I would draw your attention to one of today’s more unusual events. Walking along the length of the estuary, as I do most days, a commotion on the shore caught my attention. From a distance I could see a Springer Spaniel bounding around at the waters edge and its owner, a young woman, yelling somewhat halfheartedly for it to return. Only when I got a little closer did I realise the dog was actually chasing something, a small bird that kept flying short distances in an effort to evade the mutt. Hardly a daring rescue but I decided to intervene, yanking the dog back to its owner – something apparently did not please her and scooping up the bird which turned out to be the Dunlin shown below. Fast forward a little bit and after a short while  wrapped in my coat the little chap soon perked up, enough for me let it go and it soon shot off to the seawall, narrowly avoiding a previously unseen Great Black-Backed Gull which I initially thought had eaten it (gulp). As you can see from the pictures below it was soon scuttling about and I felt comfortable leaving it to its own devices. Great to see this species up close but I only wish it had been under different circumstances. I do hate dogs..

Anyways, back to the patch reporting and as ever the estuary  proved the main hub of activity this week, although wader numbers have dropped drastically. Scanning through the feeding leggy flocks, three Black-Tailed Godwits were picked out looking resplendent in their rosy summer plumage. Further exploration revealed a further ‘Blackwit’ looking somewhat more drab, four Bar-Tailed Godwit and two Grey Plover while as of Sunday four Knot also remained in evidence. Elsewhere the usual odds and ends delighted as ever though the total absence of any Lapwing and Golden Plover was unexpected. Peak counts of additional wader species this week came went as follows; 52 Dunlin, 80 Oystercatcher, 43 Curlew, 18 Turnstone, c100 Redshank and a single Sanderling. Moving on, the gull roost failed to provide anything of note with the exception of two returning Lesser Black-Backed Gulls though both Little Egret and Grey Heron were picked up combing the shallows.

In stark contrast with the sites waders, wildfowl numbers on the Blyth are continuing to build nicely, Shelduck showcasing the sharpest increase with up to 70 now in residence. Alongside these; 89 Teal, 22 Eider, 2 Wigeon, 10 Mallard, 5 Goldeneye and 12 Gadwall. More interesting was the presence of 7 Red-Breasted Merganser and 2 Goosander in the boatyard. The majority of the former comprising rather dapper drakes. A tad more unusual here was the addition of a lone Guillemot fishing in the harbour with a further six seen during a short seawatch from North Blyth yesterday morning. Said seawatch also threw up a new Patchwork Challenge tick with a Razorbill fishing close to shore and a good mix of Common ScoterRed-Throated DiverShag and Cormorant also noted.

Elsewhere things remained largely quiet this week, excluding a few jaunts to Ha’penny Woods where my volunteer work with Red Squirrels NE continues, despite some unsavory character stealing one trap and hurling another into a ditch. Perhaps they need reminded that freeing Grey Squirrels is against the law? Anyhow, mooching around in the woods did provide a number of nice encounters. The best of which being a pair of Grey Wagtails foraging around one of the small woodland streams. Spring is certainly in the air in my little corner of Northumberland, Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming, NuthatchGoldcrest and Song Thrush belting out tunes and only a few winter migrants remaining, among these a few Siskin and Redwing. Three Roe Deer provided the cherry on top of what has, all in all, been a rather joyous week on the patch.


That’s all from me this week, tomorrow finds me heading off to Extremadura for my first ever press-trip (eek). With species such as Eagle Owl, Black Vulture, Red-Knobbed Coot and Purple Swamphen on the cards, it’s safe to say its going to be an exciting few days. Topped off wonderfully with a trip to the Spanish Birdfair!







  1. I also hate dogs in this context… or rather the owners who insist on letting them off the lead with nary a thought of the impact on wildlife. Are there any provably effective strategies for dealing with this?

    1. James Common says:

      i’m not too sure in truth Seamus, fine owners for letting them off? Not very realistic I fear. Dogs do a lot of damage so I would like to see something done, won’t hold my breath though!

      1. I wonder have any schemes been implemented – even at the big-sign-saying-keep-your-dog-on-a-lead level.

        There isn’t much I can find online – rhere is this leaflet from the UK Forestry Commission$FILE/eng-dogs-CCW-dogownerbooklet-English-05.pdf

        Closer to home I found this link on the Wicklow National Park website, which seems to implicitly accept dogs being off the lead “in respect of other walkers, please slip a lead on your dog as you approach.” The Irish National Park I am most familiar with takes a firmer line: “Please keep dogs firmly under control. Their scent will scare wildlife and reduce your chances of seeing animals.”

        As for anything approaching evaluation of what works and what doesn’t , there is very little I can find, the closest being this site which when you look around the site is more from the dog training/discipline point of view than being specifically wildlife focused.

  2. amythebirder says:

    Oh dear, good on you though! Don’t get me started on dogs. If only they were all well trained and under control. Then again, some visitors to beaches etc are just as bad, even without dogs.

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