Thursday, 24 March 2011

Spring is sprung

Well it's almost spring! I had a trip up the coast at noon and there are plenty of signs that spring is imminent. Lots of birds holding territory, spring flowers are out and, although I have yet to catch up with any summer visitors, the crack in the hide at Cresswell Pond showed that there are a few around.

A quick stop at Snab Point on the way to Cresswell Pond found the tide out and a fine mist over the sea that made the horizon and the sky melt together, so that birds far out looked as though they were floating in the sky.

My arrival at the pond was heralded by two Grey Partridge flying west across the track. Bill from Sunderland had been in the hide for an hour when I arrived and he gave me a quick account of the birds present and set me the task of finding the odd one out in a flock of 120+ Pink Feet; a solitary Brent Goose.

I stayed for two hours; both Bill and I hoping that the Bittern, not seen for a few days, would put in an appearance, but it was not playing out today. The three Mergansers refused to come close to the hide when the sun was out, so this shot is the best I could do.

This is the first time that I have visited the pond and not seen or heard a Little Grebe. The tide being out probably contributed to the sparse show of waders. Plenty of Lapwings, a smattering of Redshanks and a few noisy Oystercatchers were joined towards the end of my stay by 12 Curlews.

A single male Stonechat was briefly on view towards the beach, next to the drain that links pond and sea. Several male Reed Buntings were holding territory, but I saw no females.

No sign today of the Hooded Crow, but there now appear to be two sheep carcasses in the field and there were Carrion Crows and Rooks in attendance. A single Buzzard drifted over the fields towards Widdrington and a Kestrel flew over at altitude.

The ducks were busy displaying and chasing across the pond. A Shelduck furiously chasing a pair of Gadwall for no apparent reason. Wigeon whistles filled the air, punctuated by regular Teal calls. Several Goldeneye dived constantly whilst a few Tufties drifted lazily and Mallards mostly slept on the bank or explored the reeds.

After leaving the pond, I drove up to Widdrington. Twenty one Whooper Swans gazed in a field north west of Calico Barn. I thought I caught sight of a Hare, but it turned out to be a very large Rabbit.

I stopped off at Snab Point on my way home and three Long Tailed Ducks were quite close to the beach. There was a male and a female, plus what I assume was a young male. One or two Guillemots bobbing on the gentle swell accompanied small groups of Eider Ducks. Apart from a small passing flock of Knot and another of Turnstones, a few Black Headed and Common Gulls, there was little else to see. Three White Fronted Geese were with Grey Lag at the pond that follows Woodhorn Flash and at the Flash there were a lot of Mute Swans, but busy traffic prevented my looking for the odd Whooper or two previously reported in Bird Forum.

A single Brambling continues to visit our garden, mainly first thing in the morning. We had three earlier in the year and I think this is the one of those that I guessed was a young male, not showing the colour of an obvious male, but not as muted as the other which was definitely a female. The singleton is gradually developing more colour, but I fear that the warmer weather will call it north before it has fully turned into breeding plumage.