Since we returned from Somerset in August, family commitments, poor weather and illness have prevented me from having a good day's birdwatching. So with my beloved away for two days, I decided to visit St. Mary's and Cresswell.
I went via Beehive Flash and was rewarded by a Long Tailed Duck, busy feeding in full and close view. Just as I drew away, a Sprawk drifted north across the field opposite.
At St. Mary's, the absence of other birdwatchers implied that all was quiet. As I walked down the track to the east, a female Sprawk flew low over the fields towards the caravan park, spooking a few Lapwings and Curlews on the way. I sat near the bushes to the rear of the pond for 90 minutes, to see what turned up. A juvenile Kestrel was busy hovering over the grassland between the pond and the willows. I had brilliant views, as it occasionally came nearly overhead, only a matter of 6 or 7 metres away.
A few Blackbirds argued amongst themselves in the undergrowth and a Robin struck up in song. Another attempted to follow suit. If there is such a thing as a tone deaf Robin, that was it! The occasional peep from a Blue Tit and crescendo from a Wren were the only other sounds.
A few Reed Buntings and Goldfinches appeared from time to time, and Golden Plovers joined the Curlews and Lapwings doing circuits and bumps from the plough towards the caravans.
On arriving at Cresswell Pond, there were lots of cars. My immediate thought was that, if there are a few rare things about, they will soon disappear when they see me coming.
The gathered throng were peering in to the reads to find a Jack Snipe. Eventually we found two, with one emerging from hiding behind Common Snipe on the spit, giving excellent views, albeit only of its head and beak.
There were lots of ducks. Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Gadwall, Tuftie, Goldeneye, a single Long Tailed Duck and two that looked very very good candidates for the reported Scaup. There were at least 5 Little Grebes and one Great Crested. On the spit, there were at least 40 Snipe and plenty of Lapwings and Golden Plovers. There were a few Dunlins and Redshanks, but I found no Little Stint.
On a couple of occasions about 110 Pink Feet put to the skies towards Druridge. I do love their exuberant call; much nicer than the vulgar honk of a Greylag. A single Canada Goose and 14 Mute Swans were also present on the pond, together with a smattering of Coots and Moorhens.
I spent a lot of time searching the reeds and my patience was eventually rewarded as a Bittern poked its head out of the reeds at the far end. There followed a lot of 'look to the left of the car roof - no it's gone - oh! it's back - here, have a look through my scope' etc etc. I suspect that the Bittern will be around for a while, even if not frequently seen.
Just before I left, a Short Eared Owl graced us with its presence. I joked that the day would be complete if the local Barn Owl put in an appearance. Guess what flew over my head as I left the hide!
On the way home, I went to look at the 4 Whooper Swans that were very close to the road to Widdrington. They all seemed to be very white adults, rather than a family. Although one that showed its face seemed to have a less well developed facial pattern than the very obvious mature bird next to it.
A brief look over the sea in the gathering gloom at Cresswell revealed a single female Scoter, which would not flap its wings, so still no UK Velvet. There was also a Shag and two Eiders.