This week has been a jolly good one; one jam-packed with exquisite encounters, cold fingers, early mornings and, of course, some brilliant birds. Each day taking me somewhere new in the local area as I attempt to get the year list off to a decent start and reacquaint myself with the local wilds from which I have been woefully far removed of late. I blame university and the general tedium of life at present.
Where to start? Well, the obvious highlight of the week has to be the Pacific Diver currently languishing on Ladyburn Lake – a little further up the coast from me. This individual, a juvenile, representing a county first; expertly identified by Alan Curry after a few days spent touring various coastal sites, including my own local patch at Blyth. I won’t live that one down in a hurry.
The diver itself really is a sight to behold: ridiculously obliging, distinctively marked and generally rather lovely. A visit to Druridge Bay earlier today providing the perfect opportunity to scrutinise the bird in greater detail. A welcome occurence given my first encounter with the bird a few days past at East Chevington; where I, along with others viewing it that day, wrongly labelled it as a Black-Throated Diver. Enjoying it and moving on absent much thought. The differences between the two species becoming much clearer today, with better views. My second visit, while conducted solely for educational purposes, also providing opportunity to silence the disparaging Twitter grumblers quick to pick up and comment on my misidentification. An added bonus, though the bird itself was well worth the trip and I even caught sight of the chin-strap! Just look at these pictures.
On a more familiar note, my earlier trip to Chevington also came up trumps with delightful views of the seven Shorelark currently wintering near the burn mouth. A lovely species and always one to be savoured. The experience here made all the better by the appearance of 35 Twite, 19 Pied Wagtail and numerous Sanderling; all of whom seemed equally keen to exploit the festering piles of Bladderwrack here. A scan offshore here, a little later, providing a pleasant surprise in the form of 5 Scaup – four females and a rather dapper drake – as well as 13 Red-Throated Diver and a good haul of other winter goodies. The only “new” bird for the year here consisting of a Water Rail doing its bestsquealingg stuck pig impression from the Southern reedbed.
Shorelark – East Chevington
Further south; Druridge Pools held the usual suspects – Shoveler, Tree Sparrow, Red-Breasted Merganser and some c2100 Pink-Footed Geese the best to be seen here. Though I am 99% sure I had a Tundra Bean Goose at one point too. Cresswell was quiet, the best bit coming in the shape of a female Peregrine harassing Woodpigeons in view of the Drift Cafe. Viewed and enjoyed while sampling some mighty fine carrot cake and a large Latte. A soggy trip around a flooded Stobswood later on producing little: a few Snipe, Fieldfare, Redwing and five Whooper Swans the best to be seen, while the walk home from the country park this morning yielded two separate Willow Tits and a large flock of some 100 Siskin.
Further afield, yesterday found me roaming around inner city Newcastle in the company of the significant other. Attempting to shake off a port-induced hangover with a trip around first, Jesmond Dene – where we failed to unearth the hoped for Parakeets but contented ourselves with nice views of Dipper and Jay, and, later, the housing estates of Heaton. Where perseverance paid off and we found ourselves gazing briefly at a very mobile flock of Waxwings. I do believe I am gradually converting Matt to birds…
Back home on the local patch, the winter continues to provide. Three visits proving incredibly enjoyable despite missing Glaucous Gull, Slavonian Grebe and, of course, the diver. A half hour stint at North Blyth coming up trumps with nice views of the wintering Black Redstart – at long last – in the company of a few Rock Pipit, Grey Wagtail and Linnet. And a seawatch proving enjoyable, despite the biting wind and resulting rosy cheeks. Common Scoter, Red-Throated Diver, Gannet, Eider, Razorbill, Guillemot and others all helping build this years Patchwork Challenge tally. Which reminds me, PWC have a cool new website which is well worth a visit. See here.
The estuary remained busy on Thursday: new species here for 2017 including Wigeon, Knot, Little Egret and Black-Tailed Godwit. A count of 19 Grey Plover representing a personal record, the plover ogled breifly before the birds (alongside everything else for that matter) fled upon the arrival of a male Peregrine. The outskirts of the site, later, providing nice views of Kestrel and Sparrowhawk, in addition to a wealth of common yet no less interesting passerines. The vibrant tones of Yellowhammer, Bullfinch and Greenfinch a welcome balm for eyes wearied by grey onslaught of winter.
A little further back but un-blogged, as of yet, and a trip out with Jack culminated in convincing views of the Goswick Black Scoter – at long last – with a drake Long-Tailed duck also welcome. Our journey home broken up by a trip to Prestwick Carr; where the Great Grey Shrike showed well at the top of a forlorn looking Beech and at least four Willow Tits were seen.
As you can see, I have had a whale of a time of late.
Cover image: Pacific Diver http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/pacific-loon