Northumberland with a bit of Teesdale, Durham and South Yorkshire 6-10 June 2016
A selection of images from the Farne Islands (all images Martin J McGill).
This was a repeat visit to this attractive area with visits to Teesdale and South Yorkshire along the way. We travelled 980 miles during the trip and enjoyed some brilliant birding, most of it in sunshine with near cloudless conditions. We explored some new sites and visited some very familiar ones assembling a decent list of birds and some memorable birding.
6 June 2016
Our party of six (including me) met early for departure at Whitminster to make the most of the long June day. We encountered some traffic along the way, after North Lancashire it was clear. All congestion issues were quickly erased with stunning views of moorland scenery and excellent weather. Our first birding stop followed soon after leaving Brough on our way to Middleton in Teesdale.
Scanning the moors whilst eating our lunch we spotted over 20 Red Grouse, three Buzzard, two singing Meadow Pipit, 3+ Golden Plover, Kestrel, two families of Greylag Geese and pairs of Curlew with young. Our next stop was at the magnificent High Force waterfall, it was very warm and sheltered here as we all watched and listened to a male Redstart singing, in addition we saw 3+ Spotted Flycatcher, Willow Warbler (including a bird feeding young in the nest), Dipper, Common Sandpiper and Grey Wagtail on the river and Chaffinch, Bullfinch and Siskin in the woods/plantations.
Our next stop was at Langdon Beck where it was a pleasure to watch 9 Black Grouse feeding,a Redshank was ‘chipping’ Curlew ‘bubbling’ and Lapwing ‘pee-wit-ing’. Another Spotted Flycatcher was seen on wires near the hotel as we passed by. A walk to Widdybank gave us more excellent wader activity, Curlews, Oystercatchers, Lapwing, Snipe and Golden Plover all called, displayed or kept an eye on their young as we passed. We were briefly caught in a shower so sheltered behind a stone shed, not before seeing another 8 Black Grouse fly across the fields.
Watching from our latest viewpoint we picked up two male Ring Ouzel and a juvenile worming in the rain, a pair and single female Red Grouse, Pied Wagtails and undeterred a male Wheatear sang. Back at the stream a Song Thrush posed and Grey Wagtail fed, skipping from stone to stone. The area is also notable for Spring Gentian and other wild flowers.
We had used the time well and although we had already done very well there was time for another quick stop. Grindon Lough was a new site, it sounded to be an interesting place but also had a specific attraction. Arriving at the Lough it was not long before we spotted the recently reported Red-necked Phalarope spinning on the water, though it quickly disappeared.
Other species included 4 Ringed Plover, 6 Dunlin (some singing), 8 Redshank, a Greenshank, Teal, Shoveler, Mallard and 20 Wigeon. Subsequently searching the shoreline the female phalarope was relocated on the shoreline fast asleep with Redshank. A fine end to the birding day but we had get to our accommodation, we arrived mid evening making a short shopping stop and arranged to meet up the following morning.
7 June 2016
The weather was still favourable if a little cool on the coast so it was decided to stick to our plan and visit the Farne Islands, it took a couple of journeys due to an issue at the accommodation (small scale wetland creation) but we were all eventually reunited on the quay in readiness for the boat trip out to the rock stacks and islands. As usual the Grey Seals and seabirds did not let us down, the crew skilfully got us in close to enjoy views but not cause disturbance. The seabirds were superb, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Kittiwake, Shag were all seen in vast numbers about the boat or on the cliffs. We landed on Inner Farne to be among (as well as plenty of other visitors) the vast tern colonies. Huge numbers of Arctic Terns with Common and Sandwich Terns in their respective colonies. Eiders and a couple of Red-breasted Mergansers were also great to see.
Back on the mainland we stopped at Beadnell Bay where it took seconds to get onto our fourth tern species of the day- two Little Terns fished the beach at high tide. Our next stop was at Amble for high tide, on the river Coquet we watched Eiders with young some of which were struggling to eat small crabs, also Sand Martins, Shelduck, two female Goosander plus in the fields behind a welcome find by Ian was a single Grey Partridge.
Another nearby stop overlooked Coquet Island, in the distance some of could make out 20+ Roseate Tern as well as the Sandwich , Common and Arctic Tern colonies and plenty of Puffin. A Stonechat fed in the dunes nearby. This concluded another day in the field.
8 June 2016
Our destination for the morning was Holy Island (Lindisfarne), the tides were favourable so we crossed early in the day, as a reward for being the first car in the car park a Barn Owl flew past (Barbara called it). A very pleasant walk along the Crooked Lonnen, out to the Lough and back along the Strait Lonnen was enjoyed although migration was almost non- existent. A Willow Warbler in the sallows perhaps the only bird classed as still moving. The breeding birds were much as you would expect, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Lapwing,House Sparrow, Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Gadwall, Reed Bunting, Reed and Sedge Warbler.
A search of the dunes at the Snook gave us two Grey Partridge, Stonechat and Meadow Pipits. Moving off the island to Budle Bay we stopped to scan the channels and mudflats, Little Egret, Mute Swans, Gadwall and Eider the best we could muster.
Driving south we headed for Hauxley NR which was closed so it was off to East Chevington instead, we saw a pair of breeding Marsh Harrier, Great Crested Grebe with young, Sandwich, Common and Arctic Tern visiting to bathe. We had booked boat trip to circumnavigate Coquet Island with time drifting off the tern terraces. A similar range of species were seen but a Red-throated Diver flew past South on our way out. The crew were very good to give us a few drift pasts aboard and to really look at the many Roseate Terns in detail and compare with the other tern species present.
Everyone seemed to be very happy with the views of Roseate Terns and agreed it was now acceptable to count as our fifth tern species of the trip. Being so focussed on our target bird it was easy to forget the thousands of seabirds that were also on show. Back ashore a quayside stop for a chippy tea was followed by our drive back to the accommodation to end another good day.
9 June 2016
After breakfast we made a visit to a local gravel pit and surrounding fields, breeding Goldeneye was a bonus and a brief Tree Sparrow was nice but we also saw/heard 2 Redpoll, 3 Common Sandpiper, Reed Warbler, Blackcap, Yellowhammer, Tufted Duck, Little and Great Crested Grebe.
We moved off South to Widdrington open cast (now full of water) and picked up on two first summer Little Gulls hawking over the lake as well as more familiar wetlands birds. At Druridge Pools a brief Grasshopper Warbler was seen, Whitethroat, Tree Sparrows with broods, Lapwing, Shoveler, Teal, 2 Yellow Wagtails, Gadwall, Snipe displaying and Curlew on the shallow floods and marsh.
At Cresswell Pond we watched more Tree Sparrows (on feeders) and a few Lapwing and Shelduck, the nearby cafe was a popular stop for a fresh brew. Having a bit of time on our hands to finish the day off I decided to go even further South to another new site- the River Wansbeck river mouth.
We arrived in good time but took a while to establish where the footpath actually was, a local boatyard chap pointed us in the right direction so we walked along the cliff top looking down onto the channel and mudflats. It wasn’t long before everyone was getting great views of our afternoon target- a first summer Bonaparte’s Gull. This North American visitor fed on the mud and stream despite getting a bit of negative attention from the other gulls. This happened to be another sun trap so the chance to soak up a bit of heat was taken before finishing for the day.
10 June 2016
A travel day to make our way home with an iffy forecast on the cards, we decided to get going and take in a site on the way. The weather was not great on the homeward drive, we abandoned any notion of looking for Honey Buzzards in Yorkshire so planned to visit another new site- Potteric Carr YWT. Approaching the reserve the rain had stopped and sun was out, we made our way through the visitor centre and walked the whole route taking in a stop at the cafe along the way. The reserve was superb.
Species seen on our interesting route included a large variety of wetland birds but the highlights were Pochard, Mediterranean Gulls, breeding Black-necked Grebe with chicks and the dragonflies and Roe Deer , it says it all that we didn’t even mind not seeing the Hobbies and Bitterns. This was our last stop before getting home. Thank you to all five for joining me on this very productive June tour.
A few more images from the trip follow.
Martin J McGill
Roseate Tern (left)
Roseate (left) with Common Tern
Bonaparte’s Gull, River Wansbeck.