Sunday, 1 November 2009

Winter Beckons

“Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god”
Francis Bacon Sr 1561-1626
After October days of birders and hustle and bustle I chose to spend the last day of the month in solitude. With warm sunshine and a gentle southerly breeze I went to the emptiest place in Northumberland, Ross Back Sands. This three mile stretch of beach lies between Budle Bay and Holy Island and a half mile of dunes that are an SSSI.
I wasn't to be disappointed, from the moment I left the car pushing Blackbirds before me through the berry filled hedges leading to Ross Farm Cottages for the next two and a half hours I saw or heard not another single member of my own species.
Ross Back Sands, north to Holy Island
No roads, no engine sound, no overflying aircraft, no barking dogs. Curlews called in the grassy fields as I approached the dunes and a single Common Snipe flushed from one of the damp hollows. The constant crashing of the waves masked my tinnitus as I walked north feeling like Robinson Crusoe, my own shadow the only sign of human company.
On the sea Red-throated Diver was almost the commonest bird, six together my biggest group but there could have been 20 along the full stretch of the beach. Toward the north end a single Red-necked Grebe wasn't too far offshore and three Long-tailed Duck showed well in the late autumn sunshine, first in flight and then on the sea. Two males and a female.
As I headed toward the gap in the dunes where surges occasionally force their way through to Fenham Flats the noise of the waves slowly disappeared and was replaced by a yapping noise that increased as I approached the salt marsh of Lindisfarne NNR. It was of course the sound of thousands of Pale-bellied Brent Goose calling in unison as the incoming tide pushed them closer. Here I had up to 30 Skylark feeding in the salt marsh and the first of the morning's six Common Stonechat.
Common Earth Ball (?)
The walk back through the dunes was largely quiet, a single Common Buzzard as well as small numbers of winter thrush and the occasional Skylark overhead. There was lots of fungi in the dunes perhaps six or seven species in total including the one above which might be Common Earth Ball (?) Scleroderma aurantium. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was in the gardens around Ross Farm Cottages along with 20 or so Chaffinch.
A stop at Monk's House Pool on the way home yielded 11 Northern Shoveler and a huge 400 strong flock of Linnet in the stubble field just south of the pool. I spent a while searching for other species, Twite or Snow Bunting but it seemed to be a single species flock, perhaps the biggest I've seen for some years.
Linnet Flock, Monk's House Pool


1 comment:

Stewart said...

I suppose I'm the negative to your day Alan. Most birding days, just about, are in solitude with occasional visits down south for a chat...