Saturday, 9 January 2016

Days with James: Naturalist Blonde meets Common by Nature

A few months back I wrote a post about the Blyth's Reed Warbler in Aberdeen, I had chatted to a few birders during the day, one of which turned out to be a friend of a friend (birding can be a small world). Well, I've never been one to miss making a new birding buddy, and now we're both back down in England-shire, a twitch seemed in order.

On Friday James came to Yorkshire. After swinging by the station at 8:30 to pick him up, we headed for our first target - Richard's Pipit at Swillington; we batting the traffic out of the city in the general direction of Leeds. After 30 minutes we were schlepping a mile through the mud (me trying to avoid slipping with camera and scope), heading for Caroline bridge where the bird was last seen. 

By the time we arrived the mud was up to my knees and the bird was absent, having very recently flitted out of sight. Over the next 30 mintues we brush bashed with the local birders, effectively traipsing back and forth after flushed meadow pipits... Then, salvation. 

One of the birders closer to the bridge pointed out a bird overhead... The dicky pipt had go over. We tracked it to a scrub covered spit, where we had a nice, albeit brief view of the bird. Time to move on (and for hot chocolate).

I, unfortunately, did not manage a picture

From here, we jolted across to Filey for the juvenile surf scoter that had been hanging around of the Brigg. Thankfully the traffic had cleared and we made a trip in an ease hour and thirty. Pulling up we were happy to find two birders already in place, intently staring at the sea. Unfortunately, they hadn't seen it.

It was blisteringly cold facing into the wind, and the chop made observing any sightings impossible. We spent 15 minutes at the car park (enjoying chicken and leek pasties), occasionally looking into the piercing wind. Then we gave up, and made out way out onto the Brigg in favour of shelter and - perhaps - a better view. We scanned the sea, picking up little gull in the process, then looked back toward the shore. Then James spotted another black shape back towards the Brigg, almost under the cliff. I spun the scope and there it was. Job done. 

Saturday I went to Northumberland, Fist of we headed for the Iceland gull that had been seen at QE2 Park... No joy.Then Almouth green-wing teal... Nope. Dejected we headed for Stag Rocks, surely there would be something good on the sea...

Even  the journey was a chore. a wrong turn en route and a flood barring the coast road. Neither of us was optimistic. But then we arrived, to ge greated by a flat calm sea, a weak onshore breeze and birds everywhere. Long tailed ducks  (around thirteen in total), great northern diver, at least three red throated diver, slavonian grebe, little gull and velvet scoter. With bonus purple sandpiper on the beach. Hot chocolate, coffee, pasties and a sea water in dry, calm conditions. Fantastic.

Wish I'd taken this, but the view we had was slightly further away and the bird was facing right. Otherwise spot on!

Finally we went for the little auk at Blyth, well we should have known not to bother. Ten minute before we arrived there was a report of it being visible through bins... When we arrived there were jet skiers, and no bird... We pottered around for a while longer before giving up and heading home.

Despite the numerous dips, I managed 3 new birds this weekend and made a good didn't in my year list. And I've still got one day of the weekend left... time for a well earned whisky.

For James's take on the trip, or more info on birding in Northumberland, check out his excellent blog here.

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