Thursday, 13 August 2009

Retracing Steps

It was about the same time of year, twenty one years ago, that I made my first visits to Cresswell and Druridge. Looking back at my records I saw my first Common Snipe exactly 21 years ago today at Cresswell Pond. A fine morning with a light breeze I thought I would head back today and wander around again at the ponds then on the beach between Cresswell Ices and Snab Point.
The walk up to Druridge Pools was pleasant albeit bird less. Lots of butterfly activity up the weed & wildflower strewn banks either side of the footpath, 5-6 Painted Ladies, 5-6 Large White & 2-3 Wall Brown. The whites and the Wall were looking a little ragged around the edges whilst the Painted Ladies obviously newly emerged were pristine.

Wall Brown
The bench added behind the hides in a strange location as you can only see eight feet in any direction had a darter species on it. I re-found two a little later walking back about seven feet up in Alder. I think they are probably Common Darter, although the bulbous looking rear end is suggestive of Ruddy Darter. The one below I suspect is an immature male. (comments welcome).
Common Darter, imm male?
Next up I drove back to Cresswell Pond, mainly it has to be said, to add Curlew Sandpiper to the county year list. Two Common Stonechat were very confiding in the field adjacent to the entrance gate, a juvenile and onlooking overseeing parent (Dad). There was a few passerines around the field, Goldfinch picking at thistle heads, Tree Sparrow and a very bright Willow Warbler creeping around the old branches overgrown with nettles near the cottages.

Common Stonechat, male.

Common Stonechat, juvenile.
On the pond common waders dominated the picture with a couple of hundred Lapwing, several Curlew, 10+ Redshank, 8-10 Dunlin and one sleepy Curlew Sandpiper. The CS roosting with back to hide generously picked out by a visiting birder from Scotland, not that I needed the help he just got there before me. A single Common Snipe perhaps a descendant of my very first obligingly lifted and flew north before dropping back into the Mare's Tail.
I headed off to the beach, hoping it was empty-ish and I got my wish. Some woman with her bloke doing a dare involving an early morning swim and photo session, either that or Cosmo or cutting back their location budget.
The beach was heaving though, with birds. 20+ Pied Wagtail in various stages of plumage fizzed across the sand and seaweed chasing after invisible prey I assume were sandflies of some description. The activity was frenetic. males, females, juveniles perhaps a bird every 10yards, dashing and lunging just above the ground.

Pied Wagtail, female.

Pied Wagtail, male.

Pied Wagtail, juvenile.
The large areas of beached seaweed also held 100+ Common Starling, almost exclusively juvenile, actually I don't remember seeing a single adult amongst them. Perhaps the beach offers easy but less nutritious prey and the adults having better knowledge and feeding technique exploit 'higher value' opportunities? All of them in that halfway between plumage they have in August.

Common Starling, drinking.

Common Starling.
A good 15 Common Ringed Plover, adults and juveniles fed around the small rainwater drain that runs across the middle of the beach. They were a bit wary making it difficult to get close and by this time it was getting cloudy so not ideal. Not really happy with the shots below but they are the best of a poor set. I sat for 15-20 minutes and they did start getting closer and settled with me there but then 'Dogman' and his German Shepherd decided walking south into the empty part of the beach was less preferable than walking north and throwing a stick for me to photograph, at least the stick kept still and didn't fly off when the dog ran at it.
Common Ringed Plover, adult & juvenile.

Common Ringed Plover, juvenile.
A quick shufty at Woodhorn Pond produced little on the pond although the hedge was crawling with Common Whitethroat & Sedge Warbler offering their usual August views, which had I not been trying to capture mind numbing detail would have been fine

Common Whitethroat doing skulking.

Sshhh he's still here?


ST said...

I can see where your going.

If you have another angle on the darter.
Ruddy has two large black sploges on tail. Whilst the common has much more subtle black markings.

I'm opting for common on the size of the head. as i have loads of macro shots of commons and Ruddy's are slightly smaller.

Alan Tilmouth said...

Unfortunately not Stephen, it was seven feet up and not budging so getting a 'down' shot would have required a stepladder and I draw the line at carrying one of those.