Tag Archives: Holywell Pond

All quiet at Holywell


Waders and Wall Brown butterflies were my hoped-for species at Holywell pond this morning but despite fine weather and oodles of suitable mud, neither were to be seen.

Holywell can be a frustrating place for the easily disappointed but luckily I am not that kind of person and I was pleased with a smart pair of Red Admirals at the end of my morning.


Disappointingly the farmer appears to have destroyed the small area of marsh in the centre of the field immediately east of the pond, no doubt with the intention of ploughing in this area for next year.

Though it was a relatively small bit of habitat it was great cover for Snipe and Grey Partridge and doubtless home to much else besides. It seems a pretty pointless act of destruction given that the area will surely flood again as soon as winter arrives.


The farmer had also trimmed the verge in one of the fields on the other side of the bridle way, just where I was hoping to find my Wall Browns…d’oh!



I saw my first two Swifts of the year on Saturday evening at Holywell Pond, along with plenty of Swallows and House Martins which were hawking insects over the water.

It’s great to see the migrants returning, especially with the terrible weather recently. Here’s hoping winter is now finally over and spring is free to unfurl itself…

These were my earliest ever Swifts, mainly because I tend to look for them over residential areas rather than open water. “My” Swifts are yet to return but they can’t be more than a week or so away. Bring it on…!

24th March


A day off work and some reasonable weather saw me doing the rounds of some of the local sights. The first stop was Tynemouth where the Black Redstart was still in situ close to the base of the pier. This was third time lucky for me, as the previous two occasions I had visited both drew a blank.

Aside from gulls, there weren’t many birds to be found other than a vocal flotilla of Kittiwakes resting on the sea just north of the pier. I can’t wait for a trip into the city centre to get a closer look at these birds nesting on the Baltic art gallery. The cliffs below the Priory held only a couple of pairs of Fulmar, as opposed to the six or seven pairs I saw on my last visit – I guess it is still too early for them to settle, though it won’t be long now.

My next stop was St Mary’s headland in the hope of some spring migrants. Surely I would manage a Chiffchaff, if not a Wheatear or Sand Martin? But alas, all was relatively quiet here as well. I did spot a couple of Goldcrest in the wetland scrub and there were a few Meadow Pipit about on the headland.


I had to content myself with the Coltsfoot in the dunes and some nine or ten Eider ducks out on the sea below but by now the sun was beginning to show and it was pleasantly warm out of the wind, so that was fine by me.

When I had had enough at St Mary’s, I moved up the coast to Seaton Sluice. My target bird was Little Egret on the salt marsh where the Seaton burn feeds into the harbour, as I have seen one fishing here before. Needless to say there were no Egrets although I could hear – but not see – Curlew calling close by.

I pushed on, following the path as it led further towards Holywell Dene, approaching from the opposite side to which I normally travel. There were plenty of woodland birds about, with Great Tit, Blue Tit and Long-tailed Tit calling and flitting from tree to tree. Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Goldfinch were also abundant, and I picked out a very smart female Bullfinch too.


Spring flowers are beginning to add a splash of colour to the dene, so I took the chance to get a few shots of Lesser Celandine and Red Campion, which were showing nicely. A couple of Buff Tailed Bumblebee queens zigzagged over the more open ground, possibly seeking out nest sites. I love bumblebees and it’s always a thrill to see the queens emerge from their long hibernation. When one considers what a single queen bumblebee must do to establish a new colony, often in pretty inhospitable weather and with many other obstacles to overcome, it becomes apparent what a miracle of nature these creatures really are.


Back at the harbour there was a large flock of Starling whirling about. There are always plenty of Starlings at Seaton Sluice but I wondered if their numbers had been swollen by migrating birds ready to make the journey back across the north sea. It was a great spectacle and nice to get close up views of their beautiful iredescant plumage.

My final destination was Holywell Pond which never disappoints. I half expected a Sand Martin or Chiffchaff but neither seemed to be arrived here either. A smart pair of Shoveler on the water were my first of the year at Holywell, though I probably missed them in January. Also new for me at Holywell was a pair of Red-Legged Partridge that were feeding along the eastern boundary of the reserve, along with a Redwing. So  there is always something new or unexpected to be seen here.

As always after a day in the field, I left with a thirst to spend even more time surrounded by nature. Surely that lottery win is just around the corner…!



It was a stunning spring morning on Sunday, so much so that I couldn’t wait to get outside. Once arrived at Holywell, birdsong filled the air; House Sparrows chirruped along the path to the reserve, Skylarks performed their flight song over the fields and a Song Thrush belted out its incredible melody from a tree-top perch in the reserve.

The pond itself held the typical species for the time of year, with good numbers of Pochard and Goldeneye, as well as Gadwall, Tufted Duck and a few pairs of Wigeon. A duck close to the reeds opposite the public hide caught my eye and after it performed two lengths of the pond, revealed itself to be the long-staying Mandarin. Wow, what a beauty!

Geese were on the move and a large flock of Greylags arrived, swooping into the middle of the water. As well as a few Canada Geese, I counted a single Shelduck among their number.

Away from the pond, the fields and hedgerows held Linnet and reeling Yellowhammer which added to the warm spring feeling. I took a detour through one of the fields east of the reserve where cattle are grazed, flushing a Grey Partridge on my way.

Close to the gate I spotted a bird fly-catching from a perch of Gorse; it was a female Stonechat, my first for Holywell although right where I would have expected to see one.

Other highlights of the morning were the back end of a Stoat as it disappeared along the path in front of me, as well as a displaying Lapwing which performed some amazing aerial acrobatics over one of the newly ploughed fields.

With the stillness and the warmth of the sun I thought I might have had my first bumblebee or butterfly of the year but unfortunately not. A Small Tortoiseshell did fly over the garden during the afternoon but the day ended without the buzz of any kind of bee.

Mute Swan

Mute Swan

Going back a few weeks now, I started the year with a superb early morning visit to Holywell Pond. One of the first things I saw was the resident male Mute Swan, in the process of evicting last year’s young from the vicinity of the pond.

Two of the young had already departed but two remained. One was pinioned against the fence by its neck, courtesy of the male parent, whilst its sibling cut a forlorn figure close to the public hide.  This is the bird in the photograph.

We often take these majestic birds for granted but they really are beautiful. It’s a marvel to me that such large birds can breed so unobtrusively and with great success, throughout our lakes, ponds and waterways.

Perhaps it’s down to the tough love? Whatever it is, I am sure that the young birds will find their own territories in due course and settle down to become successful breeders themselves.

I love redheads

Female Smew with male Goosander

Rather forlornly I left Killingworth lake this morning having been unable to locate the female Smew that has been frequenting both the small and large ponds over the last few weeks (although I did manage a bonus female Scaup).

My next stop was Holywell pond, for only my third visit of the year where the fields and hedgerows on approach seemed almost bereft of any life. On the way to the public hide I could see some of Friday’s geese, as well as three or four Goosander but when I sat down in the hide and had a good look at what was on the water I was amazed to spot a female redhead Smew close in to the shore.

The same bird that has been at Killingworth? I reckon so but who knows. What I do know is that this redhead was gorgeous!


Holywell Pond

No sun – no moon!
No morn – no noon,
No dawn – no dusk – no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member,
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds!

Thomas Hood

Well it felt a bit like how November should on Saturday, although not quite, as there were still some leaves on the trees. The cold grey weather was about right for the time of year and that dim quality of light that seems to mark it out.

Holywell Dene

Holywell was pretty quiet apart from a few ducks, gulls and the odd Grey Heron on the pond, joined by the family of Mute Swans. The hedgerows held quite a few Blackbirds, some of the Scandinavian variety, as well half a dozen Greenfinch mixed in with the Tree Sparrows.

On the surrounding fields a party of geese also held a pair of Whooper Swans which was a nice surprise.


Sunday was a different affair altogether with some very warm weather which felt weird. On the path close to home a Comma butterfly was basking in the afternoon sunshine, no doubt woken from hibernation by the unseasonal temperatures.