Thursday, 29 January 2009

Birds Have a Day Off.

With Spring in the air a mild sense of panic set in over which of the huge number of winter visitors not on my list to try and squeeze into the almost non existent birding time over the next few days. If I am about to be distracted by Cranes and Hoopoes and other such tarty Continental spring migrants I need to get my skates on with Bitterns and White winged Gulls and Twite and why has nobody found a Shore Lark yet?

So with reports of Iceland and Glaucous this month as well as the odd Snow Bunting and a hot cup of tea and extra hands 100yards away at my parents I headed off after the school drop to Blyth South Harbour.

Now I lost my cherry in Blyth South Harbour, metaphorically (and close in real life too!). It was my first birding location, growing up within a two minute walk It was my playground in the Seventies. Kittiwakes roosting on the jetty opposite the Harbour Master's office and Cormorants, gull roosts and high tide wader gatherings were all absorbed into my subconscious. Tide line corpses and Gannet skulls, 'Skemy's' eggs, Linnets in the sand dunes and oiled Guillemots often brought home for safe keeping were all part of growing up.

Sadly it has changed with the old wooden fish sheds filled with lobster tanks now a distant memory and the fishing fleet decimated. The cormorants have moved from a jetty on the North pier to a pontoon in the South Harbour. On the positive side the Eider population seems to have grown, I counted over thirty today and I was struggling to recall ever seeing more than half a dozen when I was a lad. The old Nautical school site which is to be developed for housing currently looks like prime migrant habitat and worth a sniff once things get going. I remember often having small falls of winter thrushes in the allotments just north of the site when I was a kid.

Unfortunately the Birdguides blog was right, Spring has obviously arrived as in full sunshine there wasn't a white winged gull or a sniff of a bunting to be had. In fact the best bird of the day was a freak, a Pied Wagtail without a tail, which made it look kind of Dipper-ish when it flew.
With fifteen minutes spare late afternoon, I pitched up at the top of Whorral Bank and had a quick recce for Skylark and Meadow Pipit or maybe even an SEO. Barren landscape. I think I manged one distant Crow although it could have been a Rook. I came home to slaver over the explosion in Bittern numbers in the North East with birds now appearing to occupy almost every puddle with a phragmites sticking out of it and tomorrow is work.

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