Monday, 21 November 2011

Yellow, Legs It

Over the weekend we attended a conference at Minsteracres Monastery. On Saturday morning I had another mini conference to attend in Durham. An enjoyable weekend in prospect, but not a birdy one.

One of the silly omissions from my north east bird list has been Red Kite. I first saw Red Kites in Wales about 40 years ago and have since seen them in Yorkshire and Berkshire (and in Germany). In spite of travelling regularly towards Consett, the north east Kites have eluded me.

On my return from Durham, I decided to eat my lunch in a lay by near Derwent Reservoir and a Red Kite drifted over. I then set off again and another (or the same) dipped from a tree ahead of me, picked something from the road with its beak, without landing and casually flapped its way over the car. Having broken the duck (so to speak), I will probably now see them all the time.

Back at Minsteracres seven Crossbills flew over the towering Wellingtonias. There were also a few Siskins and a single Redpoll. So not an intentionally birdy weekend, but very successful nonetheless.

Today, I took time owing and had a day of birdwatching. I decided to start at Hauxley, where a mini bus load were just leaving and I was the sole visitor. Good views of large numbers of Curlews and a large female Sprawk, that shot over the main pool twice, spooking all the waders.

Then a brief stop at East Chevington, where a group of visitors from Scotland told me that the Greater Yellowlegs was at Cresswell Pond. A flock of geese, including at least 50 White Fronts, flew in to north pond and a Short Eared Owl sat on a post.

And so to Cresswell. Only a few in the hide and the Greater Yellowlegs was located quickly. I watched it perform for about an hour. I was joined by a guy from Whitley Bay, whose friend had been the first to identify the Yellowlegs. I had excellent views of the bird in flight and both on land and wading. It looked a lot like a Greenshank, although something other than the legs looked a little different. It seemed slighter, but I have read that their size range is quite large. It did not have the same exaggerated stride as a Greenshank. It had a shorter stride, a bit like a Redshank, both on land and in the water. At one point it ran across the mud, like a long legged Sanderling.

It was catching plenty of small fish and seemed to favour the reed margin to the muddier areas. 

The bird then moved on to the mud spit and started to call, sounding  like a Greenshank. We speculated whether this was a prelude to its taking flight. Eventually it did, disappearing south over the farm and in to the distance. It will be interesting to read whether this was its final curtain call in Northumberland, or whether it returns.

As I left, all the waders took off and, high above the pond a Short Eared Owl was mobbed by Lapwings. Gradually the owl spiraled down and flapped lazily over the dunes. A female Sprawk then landed on the wall, before being chased by a Carrion Crow. A pair of Stonechats were also present.

So Greater Yellowlegs, lifer number 253.

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