Saturday, 11 February 2012
Headed north mid morning for a very rough circuit of Druridge Bay.
A brief stop at QEII park, Ashington was rewarding with good numbers of gulls (nothing unusual amonst them), great crested and little grebe, many coot, tufted duck, wigeon, goldeneye and a single whooper swan with the mutes.
The sight of a couple of hundred geese flying off from the West Chevington / Maiden Hall Lake area was not promising, but alas, the main target was still present just west of the "mound"... two bewick's swan. Always tough to get up here, this duo appear to be possibly birds 5 & 6 of the winter, with the Big Waters/Arcot and Ellington bird being two adults. I'd not seen a juvenile quite like this one, the pinkish toned bill was a surprise.
Druridge Bay County Park provided my first smew of the winter - three duck types - all out of camera range.
Onwards to East Chevington and "a missed by a few minutes" bittern made the cold feel ever so slightly colder. The hat and gloves remained nice and warm in the car. A single slavonian grebe frequented the northern part of the north pool, while lake fodder comprised of grey-lag geese, wigeon, tufted duck, a single drake gooseander, cormorant etc.
Pointing the car south towards Cresswell the journey was interrupted by a quick stop near Bells Farm - the pink-footed goose flock were close to the road, and a party of twite (maybe fifty birds) buzzed over the dunes.
An inspection of the goose flock ensued, and much to my surprise, and subsequent fumble into the cars boot, two tundra bean geese were effectively the closest birds to the road!
The clicking of the camera shutter wasn't favoured and the closest group moved into the centre of the field... the photograph below illustrates the darker backed bean geese and thinner white trailing tail tip nicely with the flying pink-foot.
Cresswell was well worth it's visit. Pretty much as soon as I arrived a male pheasant did the decent thing, flushing the jack snipe out of the reeds and onto the sandbank in front of the hide. All too quick for the camera though. Bizarrely the pheasant took a strong dislike to the miniature snipe, and proceeded to ruffle itself up and chase the jack snipe back into the reeds!
Waterfowl were good too... a single drake scaup fed on the pools southern edge, along with tufted duck and some very smart red-breasted merganser and goosander. Early afternoon had completed the triple sawbill fix.
Over the dunes two short-eared owl had been observed from the hide - and the return to the car was delayed as they grappled over dunes-rights. I'm pretty pleased with the "grab" shot below...
Meanwhile a pair of stonechat worked the road edge - the recent hard winters have taken their toll on this species, so it was good to see a pair.
With the 'Bay pretty much cleaned up I headed back towards home - two attempts at black redstart (Newbiggin and North Blyth) were fruitless ~ though Mediterranean gulls at the former always add value to a stop.
West Hartford was the final destination as the dull afternoon progressed to dusk. Two fox were a bonus as they chased each other round the fields - the dog stayed put long enough for a photo. It was intriguing to watch them hunt - pouncing into the grass tufts and digging down into the ground.
Three more short-eared owl put the day tally to five ~ a quick flypast gave another record shot. Bit of an odd day photographically - every shot posted was hand held!