Late September and October 2020

The evening of 27 September felt like a good time to take a brief look around the Woodhorn Church Field and Hedge. Earlier in the year the builders from a small site opposite had dumped a fair amount of spoil at the north end presumably to reduce the flooding that occurs through winter. It was on the now weedy-fringed spoil that the best birds of that evening were found 3 Grey Wagtails. Passage Grey Wagtails are regular at Newbiggin with a small number of individuals seen annually but almost always single birds. This is probably the first time I’ve had more than one on the patch. In the event the rest of the visit was below par with 4 European Stonechats and 3 Common Chiffchaffs all that I could find.The following day the semi-regular Ash Lagoon walk produced an overflying adult Mediterranean Gull a Grey Heron roosting on the bank, one of the now regular Willow Tit and a brief Short-eared Owl.

Over the next few days further visits provided Yellow-browed Warbler along the edge of one of the East Lea Plantations and a Jack Snipe out of the west end of the central ditch. On the morning of 8th I was at the south end in the Spital area when Dave Elliott bumped into a Barred Warbler at the south end of the Ash Lagoons. Luckily Alan Priest was just leaving as I arrived so there was no need for much searching. Reasonably showy in the bright morning sunshine it muscled its way through a small stand of tall Whitebeam before crashing around a Hawthorn and some bramble. A relatively unmarked individual that I think must either be a 2cy or adult due to the pale yellow iris, grey-toned mantle and white rather than buffy tertial edges. The relatively unmarked flanks and undertail coverts suggest a female.

Barred Warbler, Newbggin-by-the-Sea

Later the same day I took advantage of the fine Autumunal sunshine and hoping for some raptor movement headed up to my Lockdown Migration Watchpoint on Pegswood Pit Top. A pleaseant afternoon with 3 Common Buzzards and 4 Common Kestrels noted though all were local birds I suspect. A late Barn Swallow and small distant flocks of c 30 Pink-footed Geese and c 50 Golden Plovers rounded off the day.

It’s been such a difficult year for any travel so I was pleased to have a weekend away in Scotland to the Rosneath Peninsula in Clyde mid-month. More a couple of days of walking and re-charging batteries there was the occasional bird of note including a Little Egret, much scarcer in that area than it is in anywhere in England these days, also a nice close Red-throated Diver and a couple of Carrion Crow x Hooded Crow hybrids which are always of interest as they are uncommon back home.

The highlight of the weekend was stumbling on two of the Northern Bottlenose Whales that have been in the area for some weeks at Arrochar on the Sunday morning. An amazing sight seeing these animals in such shallow water but tinged with sadness at the knowledge that their fate is probably to perish.

A return to Newbiggin on 20th provided several glimpses of a small looking sylvia sp. at the extreme northern end of the golf course. Constantly on the move, rarely in the open this pale sandy-mantled individual with white outer tail defied any attempt at images or conclusive identification. Over the next two days several other birders have glimpsed it, possibly a female subalpine warbler sp. but no one has managed to nail it. Frustrating that time wasn’t available to fully do it justice as it may, just may, have proved to be a new bird for the Newbiggin List.

Sunday 25th at the third attempt I finally caught up with Newbiggin’s fourth Hoopoe that’s lingered for several days in the power station compound. To be honest I might have gone home empty-handed again but for Mark Whittingham frantically waving from atop a spoil heap as I lazily chatted to Geordie exile Brad Robson over for the last couple of weeks from his normal Irish haunts. The Hoopoe has stayed longer than might be expected, presumably having made the fatal error of mistaking the bleak coal-blackened Lynemouth peninsula for a volcanic Mediterranean landscape.

The month appears to be ending in several grey days, six Tundra Bean Geese locally found by Andy Mclevy have lingered for three days and the Linton Hooded Crow has returned for it’s third consecutive winter. A brief late morning visit to look for gulls at Linton on 29th produced a decent count of Gadwall at the site, perhaps my largest ever flock at 93 strong in grey conditions.

Common Gull in the rain at Linton Lane NR

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