With ADMc back from visiting Paddington, sun-tanned and a list as long as your arm we headed off up to the north of Northumberland today for some winter birding on a cold but bright day.
First stop Beal where we spent a little time noting colour rings on some of the confiding Pale-bellied Brent Geese, single Skylark and Reed Bunting were year ticks for both of us, at least ADMc had an excuse.
Over to Holy Island and from the lower reaches of The Heugh we had soon picked out five Slavonian Grebes, a single Red-throated Diver and one or two Razorbills. A little further along overlooking the harbour ADMc spotted a single Red-necked Grebe feeding just off the harbour. Suprisingly we couldn't find another diver or a single Long-tailed Duck in an area normally very good for both.
The 'Rocket Field' was quiet with just a single Black-tailed Godwit and a single Short-eared Owl so we headed south to Budle Bay. Lots of Barnacle Geese and common wildfowl and waders whilst we dipped into lunch. Surprise of the day was a smart looking Hooded Crow at the south end, presumably the same individual that has been recorded at Rock and Howick (early Jan and November 2011)? We watched it repeatedly picking up 'cockles' and dropping them from a height to try and break them open.
A brief look from Stag Rocks produced more Slavonian Grebes, a small number of Common Scoters, a single Stonechat and a few Purple Sandpipers. Incredibly here too we found not a single diver or Long-tailed Duck in an area that would have teemed with both a few years ago, the mild winter or long term trend?