Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Two Owls in Northumberland Part 2

Our fourth day, 12th June, saw us heading for Cresswell, Druridge Pools and East Chevington.  We arrived at Cresswell and started birding as soon as we were out of the cars with Swifts overhead and singing Reed Bunting, Coot, Mallard on the pond.  We made our way towards the hide and en-route had good views of Tree Sparrows which were obviously nesting in the barn, Blackbirds, Greylags and more Lapwing including some young chicks.  From the hide we quickly found the breeding Avocets and one or two chicks running about on the muddy banks.  Almost immediately noticed three small gulls roosting on the mud bank to our right and on closer view with the scope confirmed them as 1st/sum Little Gulls a real bonus.

From here we went to the Drift Cafe where we always go when in the area as they provide good coffee the best freshly made sandwiches and cake plus much more at a reasonable price.  Not only that we picked up some birding news and an update on how stopping the open cast mining from going ahead in the area. Things at the moment are look promising fingers crossed as it would be the end to a fantastic birding site and would ruin this wonderful coastal area.

After a while we moved only a few miles down the road to Druridge Pools which is essentially flooded meadows.  Here we started off with Whitethroats, Stonechats and Swifts feeding overhead.  
Swifts over Druridge Pools © Nick Hull
We saw a good number of waterfowl here highlights were Teal, Shoveler, Wigeon, Pochard and Little Ringed Plover and Little Egret.

After our lunch we headed for East Chevington we visit here as it can turn up anything and we had always picked up the odd bird of prey here.  In fact it produced our first and only Marsh Harrier with a beautiful male bird which gave some of the group the run around for a while as it persisted on ducking out of sight for minutes at a time before reappearing.  From the hide we had feeding Common Terns and an odd Arctic mixed in with one or two Sandwich Tern and the usual common gull species.  
Male Marsh Harrier East Chevington
Before we finished here Jackie called to check if the Coquet Island boats were going out as it was very windy and we needed time to get there if they were.  As it happened they weren't so Jackie and I decided that we would follow up on a little info received at the Drift Cafe and we headed off the Bothel Pond only around five miles away.  We found the location without any problems thanks to good directions given earlier and quickly started scanning the pond which was fairly large.  It took me about ten minutes before I located it, in the far left corner of the lake, a chocolate brown duck with white face, black head and blue bill with a stiff tail, a drake Ruddy Duck.  Since DEFRA ordered the shooting of the British feral breeding population to preserve the White-headed Duck in Spain, this bird was either a very clever duck or a genuine vagrant, either way it was very nice indeed to be able to watch it for a while.
Drake Ruddy Duck per Wikipedia 
As we were unable to get out to Coquet Island and see the Roseate Turns from the boat the next best thing was to drive to Hauxley and view across to the island from the sand dunes which we did.  I was able to find a Roseate standing in front of one of the nest boxes on the island, even with the scope wound up to 60x it was hard to see detail, but the long streamers of the tail were visible when the bird moved and they caught the evening sunlight.  Nonetheless it was a good way to finish our day watching the comings and goings of all the terns and auks moving between feeding ground off the coast and feeding their offspring on the island.

Back on schedule for the 13th and a visit to Wooler to pick up our lunches and walk along the river, this  broke our journey and gave us good views of Grey Wagtail and our main target Dipper.
Dipper - Wooler © Nick Hull
We continued a on to favourite valley in the Cheviot Hills, where we spent the rest of the day seeing various wildlife in glorious sunshine and finding our target species of Red Grouse, Ring Ouzel, Spotted Flycatcher, Common Sandpiper, Wheatear and Whinchat, amongst other commoner species.
Ring Ouzel Cheviot Hill
Our last day, 14th, we back towards Wooler, stopping at various points in the local area, one stop gave us stunning views of a male Yellowhammer, of course everywhere seemed to have displaying Skylarks and Meadow Pipits, Curlews, Buzzards and Linnets.  We lingered quite a while at Doddington Bridge which held several pairs of Sedge Warblers and the first of our trip plus Blackcap, Whitethroats, Sand Martins, Spotted Flycatcher and Reed Bunting.  We lunched at Wooler and the Dippers showed even better this time with one individual so unperturbed by our presence that it fed, preened and just stood on his rock in the middle of the river and binoculars not needed!

We drove across to Holy Island as many on the trip were interested to visit, the highlight was actually having tea and cake sat out in the sunshine of the cafe garden.  We did see a few common birds and lots of Eider including young ones offshore.  John and Linda had a Weasel run across their path a new mammal for the trip list.  But this was meant to be a lazier afternoon as we were having an early dinner to get out in the evening for owls.
Barn at Dusk Cresswell © Nick Hull
After another delicious meal at the hotel we set off to Cresswell Ponds, on the pond Tufted Duck and Reed Warbler singing from fringes.  Tree Sparrow were busy and then Nick said I'm sure I just saw the Barn Owl across the field, finally it showed again carrying prey back to its young.  We moved down to Druridge Pools and stood by a photographer who was waiting for a Barn Owl to come past that he saw earlier.  By this time the sun was lowering and the dunes opposite us were bathed in a beautiful pink glow, Jackie then spotted the Barn Owl coming in and as it flew low over the dunes it also turned pink, the most beautiful sight.  Unfortunately no one in our group managed to capture a photograph.
Sunset at Druridge Pools © Nick Hull
We had a look over the pools, really in the hope that we might see the Long-eared Owl that had been seen here.  It was not seen that evening but we did have a Little Owl by the farm and Grey Partridge calling in the field next to us.  A superb end to our Two Owls Birding Break to Northumberland.