Having extended an invitation to birder, blogger and a man who has just discovered Irn Bru Stephen Rutt to spend a day birding on Holy Island we finally managed to get a suitable combination of tides, trains and free days. I picked SR up from Morpeth last night and after sampling a couple of local real ales we retired reasonably early in preparation for an early start.
With the wind in the north and forecast of showers we didn't expect too much from today, a halt on the causeway provided Stephen with his first Pale-bellied Brent Geese albeit at some distance. As we pulled into the layby for Snook House we obtained much better views. A few yards away a Stonechat observed us from a low hawthorn in the dunes.
Autumn on Holy Island in the wrong conditions can be a stark affair and a walk to Snook House and the scrub fringed pool beyond adequately demonstrated this. A couple of Linnets, a single Skylark and a calling Chaffinch.
From Chare Ends the encroaching tide pushed wave after wave of waders in our direction, the browns and greys of myriad Dunlin and Sanderling mingled along the edge of the water whilst Grey Plovers stood motionless occasionally stooping forwards or taking a step. One that was conspicuous by its absence was Bar-tailed Godwit, despite deliberate searching we didn't see a single individual today.
A Goldcrest calling was the first sign of any migrants in the village, quickly followed by 2-3 Chiffchaff in the sycamores at The Lindisfarne Hotel. A walk around the school produced nothing, a male Blackcap was in the gardens beyond.
Down on the shore west of the vicar's garden a Red-necked Grebe preened in the sunshine and a Black Redstart fed around the seats. Single Red-throated Diver and Red-breasted Merganser loafed off shore. At least two juvenile Gannets wandered into the bay and back out again.
More Chiffchaff and Robins in the priory grounds and then Stephen found a very pale Chiffchaff in a nearby garden. Sadly all the views were from underneath and we lost it after a few minutes never to be seen again, despite a twenty minute search. Typically my photos are crap, the bird never called so i'm not even going to call it a 'possible' but is that the hint of greyish tips to the coverts in the first shot or wishful thinking.
A short seawatch from beyond Lindisfarne Castle produced some distant skuas, a single very distant Sooty Shearwater, a close flyby Long-tailed Duck and hods and hods of Kittiwake.
Pleasantries exchanged with Ian Kerr on the Crooked Lonnen we headed onto the Straight Lonnen where 3-4 Bramblings, a single Fieldfare and a Stoat were the thinly spread fare.
Back at the car with news of a new Red-flanked Bluetail at Mire Loch as well as two Yellow-browed Warblers we headed north for the last couple of hours.
A diligent half hour wading through Goldcrests at the south end of the loch duly produced one of the Yellow-browed Warblers. The only other birder on site added news of a Firecrest at the south end so we surrounded the end plantation for a while, a Redstart, Blackcap and more Chiffchaff and Goldcrest were looking to be a dull end to the day until Stephen glimpsed the Bluetail flashing low across the wood. It remained steadfastly elusive and was not seen again. With light fading we headed off, Stephen duly deposited at Berwick for the train back north and I headed back down the A1, two raptors that looked suspiciously like Marsh Harriers dipping over the road just before the Fenham Mill turn-off were lost to view before they could be claimed.