Truth be told until now October on the patch has been uncharacteristically underwhelming. Excluding the return 'my' Pink-Feet and my first Redwings of the season there has been little to capture the imagination. Even the addition of Slavonian Grebe to the patch list this month failed to delight due to a combination of gale force winds, chilly temperatures and poor viewing conditions. I've now noted this bird on five occasions during the past week or so, each time struggling to see anything other than a shaky blur of black and white diving at the far side of the man made ocean at Widdrington. Today however things were different, the remnants of "Gonzalo" were now blowing in a favorable direction forcing what few birds remained on the lake towards the near shore. Thankfully said grebe was among them and I finally received rewarding views of the Slav complete with its characteristic and rather demonic red eyes. Wonderful! Admittedly I ticked this bird upon our first encounter though this was the first occasion I could actually kick back and enjoy it. A spot of wind isn't that bad after all I guess.
Elsewhere on the patch things have been rather placid; my new feeding station the apparent highlight with things finally picking up. House Sparrows and Blue Tits still appear to have the monopoly on the seeds, nuts and fat balls, closely followed by Coal Tits, Dunnocks and Great Tits. Today however saw a little more variety in the garden with both Great Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch drawn in by the promise of a free meal. These however pale in comparison to the splendid pair of Willow Tits that dropped in not ten minutes past, frustratingly departing before I could focus my camera. With any luck they'll be back! These critters were the reason I erected the station in the first place so it was wonderful to have my efforts actually pay off.. for once. Away from the comfort of my garden things have been a little less interesting though a nippy rummage around Stobswood turned up c100 Goldfinch, a Sparrowhawk, 4 Yellowhammer and quite a few Goldcrest and Long-Tailed Tit. Skeins of Pink-Footed Geese remain a regular fixture with about fifty or so birds passing over every hour whilst the lake at Widdrington held a Great Crested Grebe and a few Wigeon alongside of course, the Slav.
|Always the first to the bird table.|
|A regular feature of the feeding station of late.|
I've only really managed one jaunt 'off-patch' this week with the Tuesday gone spent roaming around Druridge and Chevington in search of a Yellow-Brow or two. Alas a single Chiffchaff in the pine plantation at Druridge Pools was the only migrant of the day and indeed the only warbler. Druridge, like Stobswood was deathly quiet with the only passerines putting on anything reminiscent of a good show being the many Goldcrests now flitting around the shelter belt and the odd Stonechat in the dunes. The large pool held a good number of Gadwall alongside a few Teal and Little Grebe whereas 6 Dunlin, 2 Redshank and a lone Curlew were the only waders on show. Again Goldfinch numbers here have skyrocketed with numerous flocks of 100 or more now scouring the dunes and scrub. A few Greenfinch amongst one such gathering came as a little bit of a surprise, these have never been a common bird in the area. At least by my reckoning. A walk along to Chevington again was fairly unproductive, a pair of Kestrel my only reward. Thankfully the main lake at Chev redeemed the day somewhat with a gargantuan number of ducks on show. Here c300 Teal were joined by c150 Wigeon, c60 Tufted Duck, 35 Gadwall, 50+ Mallard and perhaps best of all some 40 Shoveler. A firm favourite in my books. Wildfowl aside, Chevington too was quite thus I opted for a leisurely return trip along the beach in the vague hope of catching up with the long staying Shore Lark or perhaps my first returning Snow Bunting of the year. Both of these were denied me however, as is the norm when I dare to make predictions about birding trips. I really must learn not to expect too much, this way everything from the small and obscure to the rare and grant will be a surprise! Despite the lack of passerine activity the beach still came up trumps with a whopping count of 75 Sanderling scuttling around in the surf. Taking confiding to a whole new extremely, these delightful white waders kept me enthralled for a good half hour even allowing for some acceptable photos to be taken. A rare feat given my total lack of photography skills. Elsewhere here a handful of Oystercatcher, 12 Ringed Plover and a dead and somewhat smelly Dab were of note.
A few other interesting odds and ends from the past few week include a convoy of 12 Grey Partridge on route to Druridge. A good count of what is essentially still a scarce and declining species. A pair of Red-Legged Partridge around Widdrington Village, only my second record in the region and three separate Barn Owl encounters along the stretch of road between my Widdrington home and the bay. Always a pleasure! Work commitments have me pretty much house bound this week but I should manage a few short jaunts trips out whilst I will of course continue staking out my feeders in the hope that today's Willow Tits put in a return appearance. This time I will have my camera ready, instead of charging in my room.
|A Dab looking, well.. Dead.|
|Contender for my favourite winter wader.|