The floodgates are opening, at last

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Migration really is a wonderful thing: one minute you can be gazing forlornly at a decrepit stand of brambles, hoping against hope to hear the faintest hweet from an elusive Chiffchaff; and next, you can be dashing around like a lunatic wholly surrounded by birds. Such is the nature of Spring, as the frustrating trickle of new arrivals that coincides with late March soon gives way to an exhilarating flood of colour as the season advances.

The floodgates appear to be opening here in Northumberland, with the few intrepid warblers and martins now joined by many and more familiar faces. And a few more unusual characters too. Druridge, as ever, continues to prove its value as a hotspot for weird and wonderful bird life with the past two days alone providing two standout species. With yesterday’s Common Crane – a species I have wanted to see in the UK ever since I was able to make out the words in my childhood bird book – a definitive highlight; though one outshone, on this occasion, by an altogether unexpected treasure today: a Red-Rumped Swallow. The latter, having been unearthed five minutes before at East Chevington, careering overhead as I stood, entranced, on the coastal path. A wonderful bird which, by merit alone, eclipsed the aforementioned crane entirely. Though both left me equally giddy.

Glaring rarities aside, today alone provided a host of other goodies; with a Spoonbill at Druridge Pools foremost among them. This being only my third of these lethargic waders in the county, and a most welcome addition to this years county list challenge to boot. Visiting Druridge Pools early this morning, I was also lucky enough to pick up a Red Kite flying south above the floods. A reasonably common bird elsewhere in Britain (where they are not ruthlessly persecuted or fed KFC to such an extent that they do not spread) though one that, for some unknown reason, remains scarce in Northumberland. The raptor sailing overhead just as my attention turned to the call of a likely Sedge Warbler emanating from the South corner of the deep pool. I missed the warbler, but kite and Spoonbill provided more than fair recompense.

Elsewhere, common migrants were abundant throughout Druridge Bay. Wheatear being particularly apparent – at Cresswell, Hemscott Hill and Chevington – and a beautiful Yellow Wagtail picked out in the company of a lone Alba Wagtail in a nearby field. Sand Martins were the most numerous new arrival on show, with around 120 birds seen throughout the day, while 14 Swallow and a single House Martin were also observed. The best of the rest, at least in terms of migrants, consisting of a male Marsh Harrier, 2 Sandwich Tern, 14 Willow Warbler, 10 Chiffchaff and 11 Avocet at Cresswell Pond. No Grasshopper Warblers to be heard yet, and no chance encounters with the likes of Ring Ouzel or Cuckoo, but there is plenty time for that.

Spring visitors aside, there was plenty to keep me entertained elsewhere today. With some highlights including two Grey Partridge, a male Yellowhammer and 15 Tree Sparrow at Cresswell. Where a good-sized flock of 22 Linnet and loose gathering of 7 Shoveler were also seen. Druridge Pools held the usual variety of wildfowl, alongside the added bonus of both European White-Fronted Goose and Whooper Swan – the latter being constantly terrorised by the resident Mute cob during the duration of my stay – while 10 Twite fed in one of the nearby paddocks. Finally, at Chevington, a Water Rail was heard giving its best stuck-pig impression from the Northern reedbed and a Kestrel hunted the dunes, much to the alarm of the plentiful Meadow Pipits and Skylark who temporarily abandoned their vocal antics to hassle it.

As you can tell, lots to see and hear of late, and I, for one, have had a marvellous time. This week looks set to centre around planning for my upcoming Masters thesis though, given the way of things of late, I can see myself being drawn out of hiding again in the very near future.

Cover image: Tero Laakso, Flickr CC,