An icy grip

by on Dec.21, 2009, under Birdwatching, Grey Seal, Lindisfarne, Northumberland, Photography

I’m resolute in my belief that the winter is an excellent time to visit Northumberland.  It’s relaxing and quiet (not that it’s ever really anything else), there’s a lot of wildlife (ditto) and we often get stunning weather that showcases our remarkable landscape at it’s best.

Today was a day when everything came together just the way you hope.  As I drove up the A1 Kestrels, Common Buzzards and Roe Deer were all in roadside fields and Redwings and Fieldfares were hedge-hopping from one side of the road to the other.

I collected Tracey, Guy and Connor (and Ghillie – their collie dog) just after lunch, from their holiday cottage near Belford, and we headed to Holy Island.  The sea by the ends of the causeway was frozen and a sprinkling of snow covered the dunes.  As we crossed towards the island a Merlin flushed from a roadside post and we stopped to admire the beautiful diffused light that illuminated the mudflats.  Our walk on the island was on ground frozen solid, and covered with ice and snow.  The wind was bitingly cold but Grey Seals, Meadow Pipits, Shags, Curlews, Eiders, Red-breasted Mergansers,  Pale-Bellied Brent Geese and flocks of Teal heading towards the mainland all diverted the attention.  As we headed back to the mainland a handsome male Stonechat played hide-and-seek with us along the edge of the causeway, but persistence paid off and Tracey and Guy managed some good shots.  I love having keen photographers on our safaris – especially ones who really appreciate the quality of light that we enjoy up here – so we made several stops as the changing light produced a series of photo opportunities.  I can only hope that we get similar conditions for our first Beginners Photography workshop in January.  The rising tide and fluffy pink clouds of the late afternoon combined with Bamburgh Castle in the snow to offer more memorable images, while we were watching Oystercatchers, Turnstones, Redshanks and a Ringed Plover on the frozen beach.  The route back was made easier by being in a Landrover, and the steady journey allowed us to pick out Brown Hares in the snow-covered fields – seven in total, standing sentinel-like as we approached.  Once I was back on the ice-free A1 and travelling south it was like a different world  to the one I’d been in for the last few hours.  Environmental escapism at it’s best.

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