Saturday, 4 December 2010

So Cold My Nose Snapped

The early morning sunshine and the exertion of once again digging through ice to free a car warmed me up on a morning where the ground temperature was showing -7c. I had a small party of Bullfinch a couple of days ago feeding on sea buckthorn along the Spital Burn whilst looking for Jack Snipe, I went back first thing to look for their larger counterpart Northern Bullfinch but without success, Three Song Thrush had joined the buckthorn berry-eaters though.
I moved on to the north bay at Newbiggin thinking that the hard weather will have moved some birds to the coast and there may be some buntings and pipits around on the snow free golf course edge and coast path. If there had been a large movement of Skylark I was too late for it but there were singles and small groups dotted up the coast trying to search out food where they could.
The icy conditions appear to have accelerated the erosion of the bank edge along the beach, soil was still falling away whilst I walked along. This fresh unfrozen soil providing 'grazing areas' for Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Rock Pipits. A single 1st-year male Stonechat also darted along the grassy ledges. One Rock Pipit stood out as being another excellent example of identifiable littoralis or Scandinavian Rock Pipit though a different individual to the pale legged bird of a last week. Extensive yellow on the bill,  very pale underparts with little streaking, seemingly white edges to outer tail feathers but indistinct supercilium and subtle smudging on the flanks ruling out Water Pipit.

I drifted between the beach and the coast path, managing to flush the best bird of the morning up near Beacon Point as a Shorelark shot across in front of me calling and flew off, first to the south before turning back and flying over into the NW corner of the golf course where I eventually lost sight of it amongst the pylons. At Beacon Point two Dark-bellied Brent Geese were on the rocks including a colour ringed individual. A Woodcock was flushed at the north side of the point.
Back on the beach with a helpful incoming tide I took advantage of the good light and parked myself a few feet from the waves as 50-60 common waders fed along the tideline in a mixed flock Sanderling, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwits all mingling together. Patience paid off as some of the smaller waders ventured close as the tide pushed up.

Higher up the beach on the wrack some Turnstone fed on dead crabs, I often find when they have a good food source they are incredibly confiding and will come back to it over and over again.
After sitting on the beach for over an hour I struggled to my feet, my face despite the current beard, feeling like it had been burned away by the sharp cold. A casual and quick rub of the nose produced an incredible 'snap' of the cartilage in the end, no pain but the end of my nose now feels remarkably loose. Another short stop at an unfrozen stream further inland produced Water Rail, four Woodcock and several Common Snipe but no Jack Snipe. I drove towards Cresswell, another Stonechat near Snab Point and a flock of about 100 Pink-footed Geese in the inland stubble. I worked through them looking for Bean Geese unsuccessfully, though a single Snow Bunting made a bit of a racket as it flew around the field margin. What were probably the same two Dark-bellied Brent Geese from Beacon Point were with more Pinkfeet at Cresswell village in the grass field below the tower.


Stewart said...

That Dunlin with seaweed is a cracking photo Alan...

Kerri said...

Really awesome photos!

laura K said...

Sorry to hear about your nose (damn cartilage). But as I quoted in a recent post: "Birding. If it doesn't hurt, you're not doing it right."

Leave it to you to prove it. : )