November is not the month to put your feet up and relax, whilst the onset of darker nights makes it more difficult to squeeze in birding opportunities it’s most definitely worth making the effort.
Newbiggin on a bright shiny Monday morning on the first day of a bright shiny new month found me full of optimism. After a couple of hours around the Mound and Ash Lagoons with a Treecreeper as the highlight and not a sniff of any real migrants aside from some light Skylark movement south my optimism levels were a little lower.
A BirdGuides ‘ping’ rescued a quiet morning with news of a Wilson’s Phalarope at Newham Flash some 55km to the north, a species I’ve not seen in Northumberland previously. Within the hour I slid the car behind two others just before the bend and drop down the small hill to Newham and was watching a frantically spinning phalarope on this small farm pond. In the event it remained in place for several days and performed very well.
On 2nd a female Mandarin was a nice surprise at Bothal Pond and was the 131st species seen within a 5km circle of home in 2021. Gadwall numbers reached 57 there that same day. The following day whilst sheltering from a particularly heavy shower 33 Whooper Swans flew south over Newbiggin’s south bay, 10 Mediterranean Gulls were scattered around the beach and a single Red-throated Diver slipped quietly into the waters of the sheltered bay.
Recent years and mild winters have seen Stonechats increasingly winter away from the coast in suitable habitat. Two at Longhirst Flash and a third beside a hedge at West Chevington Hill on 3rd will no doubt be about as long as the weather stays mild. Time in the field on 3rd ended with two Little Gulls and 11 Mediterranean Gulls feeding in the high tide surf melee at Snab Point.
A five hour seawatch from Newbiggin Point didn’t produce any fireworks on 5th but 5 Great Northern Divers, 3 Velvet Scoters, 4 Little Gulls and 5 Puffins over the period ensured there was always something of interest. 14 Siskins moving north were a small part of a much larger movement along the East Coast over this period. The suspicion is that these birds make a short sea crossing from Netherlands/Belgium then track back north to winter in the northern forests.
Early into the second week of the month I spent some time in the scrubby horse paddocks and hedges inland of Lynemouth Power Station, a single Willow Tit was the highlight. 41 Mediterranean Gulls roosted on rocks just north of Spital Point that morning. Later in the day Barn Owls were noted at Cresswell Pond and along the Morpeth Northern Bypass.
Argentatus Herring Gulls of various shades were prominent in the month and included a 1st-winter pale varient with milky way brown primaries with white tips and a white-headed individual with incredibly pale greater coverts and tertials.
Leading a guided walk along the Wansbeck on 11th produced a single Greater Scaup, 3 Little Egrets, a Black-tailed Godwit and a Kingfisher as well as reasonable views of three cavorting Otters.
I headed to Cambois on 16th, highlights included 5 Whooper Swans south along the beach, a Woodcock arriving in off the sea and a male Blackcap in the beachside plantations. On 19th a Great Northern Diver was to the southof Spital Point and a single Little Auk, 3 Puffins and a distant but obvious biscuit-coloured juvenile Glaucous Gull were noted from Beacon Point; the latter in a swarm of large gulls around an active fishing boat.
Walking with the dog (Bubo) features in my daily routine and offers hyper-local birding opportunities, a Fieldfare was feeding in arable two fields north of the house on 24th and later that same day a Marsh Harrier flew west over West Stobswood Pools whilst i perused a Pink-foot flock. Widdrington Moor Lake is developing into a fine site and a visit on 24th produced Red-necked Grebe, Great Northern Diver, Slavonian Grebe and a Little Egret. Chibburn Links added another Great Northern Diver and three more Puffins for the month both species having an exceptional November locally.
On 28th I was keen to try out a newly acquired scope so dropped down to Newbiggin Point for a brief seawatch in the morning, a single Red-necked Grebe was the highlight, 2 more Puffins , 4 Mediterranean Gulls and a couple of Gannets the also-rans. Back the following day for a Velvet Scoter/Long-tailed Duck combo with another 8 Puffins noted. The Linton Hooded Crow back for another winter ended the month on 29th.