The Bank Holiday weekend has been interesting, I've worked some of the last three days so birding has been slotted around that and family and with mixed luck it's been a real rollercoaster.
Last night I grabbed an hour to walk the dog and getting down to the first Ash Lagoon scrub almost immediately had a bird fly-catching silhouetted against the evening sky and through a tangle of branches. Any flycatcher species was going to be a patch year tick. It settled briefly, though still obscured, before pitching into the thick hawthorn/elder nearby and not re-appearing despite me hanging about for half an hour. I headed back this morning and had another hour on site but couldn't produce anything more interesting than a Chiffchaff. Have a look at the two heavily cropped images and make your own mind up as to what i let slip, do note the eye-ring in the first image though.
A little pissed at getting up really early for nothing more than a Chiffchaff I headed down to Castle Island to check for waders or big white herons. Walking down the path behind the houses built on the old miner's welfare site I was not a little surprised when first one then two Tree Sparrows appeared on the path, in front of me. Put into context I've birded here since 1989 (even in my wilderness years I'd visit a few times each year) and never had Tree Spug. They were collecting food so presumably are breeding fairly close, perhaps even in the mature trees that now form a garden for the houses built there.
The island itself was fairly quiet with little or no mud exposed, I noticed a bit of commotion on the south side, a brood of Shelducks scattering from a lone... Egyptian Goose. Presumably the individual that has been wandering the Northumberland coast in recent weeks and was last reported on the Aln Estuary a few days ago. Another new bird for the site and a tarty county tick to boot as I've never attempted to twitch any of the recent individuals.
Time to head home, I cut through the housing estate at Ashington to get onto the A1068 and check Cooper's Flash as I headed back.It was warm now and with two fleeces on I was feeling the heat so the window was down. Approaching Cooper's Flash I heard a Whitethroat singing and glanced across to a bird sat on the top of a hawthorn; thankfully no one was behind me as the car lurched across the road to a halt. The car was slammed into reverse and sure enough sat astride the hawthorn was a spanking male Red-backed Shrike that promptly flew over the car and pitched into a hedge on the other side of the road. Scope out it was working its way west along the hedge and by now was a little distant.
Within a couple of minutes it had disappeared over the brow of the rise. I headed around to the public footpath at the top of Bothal Bank and walked east trying to intercept it but as later reports suggest it obviously returned to original area as I had no further joy.
Home and late morning post-breakfast dog walk, Joel and I cut north to Longhirst and back in a loop to Pegswood. Singing Lesser Whitethroat and Garden Warbler on the road home the highlights. Not 200m from home I glanced up to the east and noticed a pale-looking raptor thermalling. A quick dash to the car boot for the scope and we both enjoyed decent views of an Osprey as it drifted in lazy circles, skirting the village and moving off northwest toward Longhirst Golf Course, a 'garden tick' and not a little pleasing after many hours spent watching the skies to the east of us for just such movements in Spring.