Gone the heady days of autumn, the dregs of the year and darkest day awaits. I’m sure I’m not alone in dreading the season of sparkly lights and plastic blow-up lawn santas. Crisp cold spells however can produce some interesting bird movements…
Friday 2nd Suzanne and I decided to combine some walking with a browse around the best Rothbury has to offer in Christmas Shopping. We puffed and panted up onto Simonside from Lordenshaw and walked about half the length of the ridge before retracing our steps. A flock of 13 Meadow Pipits and a Stonechat still up there reflecting the mildness and 14 Red Grouse urged us back.
Monday 5th one of my regular post-work pre-school fleeting visits to Bothal Pond turned up a poorly looking 1st-winter Kittiwake a first record at this site for me. Seawatching at Newbiggin Point was productive on 6th with 9 Little Auks, 2 adult Whooper Swans, a drake Velvet Scoter and 13 Med Gulls. Later in the week four Northern Fulmars drifted around Spital cliffs and two Chiffchaffs including one showing some characteristics of an eastern individual were in the church paddock at Woodhorn.
With temperatures plummeting and most local water bodies frozen off I had a look at Linton Lane NR on 9th and managed to pick oou two 1st-winter Caspian Gulls on the ice.
I pottered down along the partially-frozen Wansbeck at Castle Island on 13th. A forlorn looking Little Egret amongst the gulls was the only ‘white-winger’ but a single Jack Snipe in with 30 Common Snipe, a decent 342 Eurasian Teal and the first Coot after a several-year absence offered up something to get excited about (relatively speaking). Further down below the weir on the estuary section it was clear that there were lots of passerines that had moved closer to the coast and the relative unfrozen areas there. A Grey Wagtail flew over, 40 Fieldfares dropped into Sea Buckthorn briefly before continuing south, 24 Magpies and 31 Crows fed on the pale orange berries in the same patches of scrub.
A late afternoon in the Longhirst Flash area on 15th produced a hunting Short-eared Owl despite several similar visits up until the end of the year it wasn’t seen again. I also counted 41 Magpies in the Abyssnia Wood roost which is the most I’ve had there to date. The slightly thawing fields by the 17th hosted some returning lapwings and a small 16-strong flock of Curlews that departed east at dusk.
And so to the Christmas week, a walk around Pegswood Moor CP on 21st produced a couple of Treecreeper in the Phase 1 woodland and Cormorant and Teal on Phase 2. Bothal Pond was unremarkable on 22nd but for 116 Lapwings back after the cold snap.
Three Russian White-fronted Geese were found at Woodhorn over Christmas which I managed to catch up with from the windmill gate on 27th. New Year’s Eve produced a decent count of 22 Pochard on Bothal Pond and a wander south of the Wansbeck ended the year with the wintering Whimbrel and 2 Black-tailed Godwits in Charlton’s Fields.