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…!