Friday, 6 April 2012

Approaching Easter

Sun sliding out of the sea, a relatively traffic free A1 and Thursday morning had barely shaken the sleep from its eyes and I was on an empty causeway to Holy Island. A Short-eared Owl watched my progress from the tank traps at Beal and another headed towards The Snook. Sandwiched between them a cracking male Peregrine readied himself for the day ahead atop a large stranded tree-trunk 50m off the causeway.

At a deserted Chare Ends I quickly tracked down three Lapland Buntings including a smart male just coming into summer plumage. Feeding with Skylarks and a single Meadow Pipit in the north-east corner of the field, I parked myself behind the bus stop and spent a pleasant half hour in a silent world of my own as they pottered along through the furrows, appearing and disappearing intermittently.

Heading down past the Rocket Fields I scanned back across the harbour into St. Cuthbert's Channel and was delighted to see a couple of small groups of Long-tailed Ducks basking in the morning sun along with some superb looking Shags and over 100 Grey Seals. Inspired I headed for The Lough, watched all the way by Meadow Pipit after Meadow Pipit adorning the dry stone walls.

The Lough quiet with 3 Little Grebes I moved on to Emmanuel Head where 2 Sandwich Terns and a single Red-throated Diver lingered offshore. The walk back to Chare Ends was quiet with only a couple of Reed Buntings around the willows at the end of the Straight Lonnen.

By now the tourists were massing in the car park and there was a steady stream of folk passing me as I headed back to the car. At the Beal end of the causeway 40 Whooper Swans were towards the sluice and at least three alien-like shimmering shapes over the sand were the ghosts of Pale-bellied Brent Geese yet to depart.

Later that morning I heard a Green Woodpecker just over the border at Hutton Mill Bridge and 3 Buzzards patrolled the treetops of the steep sided valley. On the border at Union Bridge six Sand Martins provided a welcome sign that at least some seem to have made it back in a worryingly late arrival; below them 8 Goldeneyes hugged the bank and each other in a tight group as they dived in the smooth dark water.

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Today the rest of the family met kin at Beamish. I couldn't face the Easter melee so dropped them off and high tailed it west towards Derwent Reservoir. I kicked around a little just over the border west of Shotley Bridge. Best here were 20 Crossbills coming down to drink near Blue House Farm. Nearby 3 Jays fed amongst roadside trees along Pike Hill. Other roadside sightings included another Jay and 2 Red-legged Partridges at Shotleyfield.

Derwent was quiet, 4 Great Crested Grebes on the Northumberland side, anything that may have been in the nature reserve area had moved off as the owners of a nearby camper van parked 20m from the 'nature reserve no entry' sign had decided to climb two fences and take a wander across the nature reserve, presumably to see some nature...

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