Birdwatching in an iconic landscape; Lindisfarne 23/09/2013

by on Sep.24, 2013, under Birdwatching, Holy Island, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

After two long hard days offshore (8hr pelagic on Saturday – blog post coming soon! – and 14hr offshore on Sunday for a North East Cetacean Project transect survey) today brought some light relief from the rolling swell of the North Sea as I headed north to Seahouses to collect Phil and Ann (who had won a morning out with NEWT in a competition on Visit Northumberland) and Rachael and Alex, who by happy coincidence were all staying at St Cuthbert’s House.

In weather that was glorious, even by the high standards set during this year, we headed north towards Holy Island.  In the north of Northumberland, with a falling tide, it was looking like a good waders and wildfowl morning.  Mudflats were dotted with a mosaic of Mallard, Shelduck, Curlew, Dunlin, Lapwing, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Pink-footed Geese and, as we drove along the coastal road towards Holy Island, we had the treat of watching a Sparrowhawk as it flew just ahead of us, only inches above the road.  Ringed Plover and more Dunlin, Curlew and Redshank were feeding in the mud of Holy Island harbour, Pied Wagtails were, well, wagging their tails along the pebbly edge of the harbour, a flock of House Sparrows was engaged in stripping the seeds from grasses just above the tideline and House Martins and Swallows were sallying back and forth in search of insects in the warm autumn sunshine.  Flocks of waders in flight are a spectacle to rival any other and as we watched, and listened to, a group of Grey Seals that were hauled out on the sandbanks between the island and the mainland, the amorphous twisting turning shapes in the air high overhead resolved into flocks of Golden Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit.

The final part of the plan for the morning was a short session of seawatching.  Sandwich and Common Terns were diving close to the shore, Gannets were a bit further out and the sea was dotted with the dark shapes of EidersTurnstones were perched on the top of rocky outcrops, a Harbour Porpoise proved elusive as it surfaced to breathe and an Arctic Skua raced south before everyone could get on to it.  Obligingly it came back north, settled on the sea for a little while and then continued steadily north before breaking off into a aerobatic attack on a Sandwich Tern with another skua joining in as the tern twisted and turned in an attempt to evade the pirates of the sea as they attempted to rob it of it’s recent catch.

Lots of birds, lots of interesting wildlife behaviour to watch, and four clients who were all great fun to spend the morning with – if I ever suggest that I’m going to return to teaching, just point me in the direction of this blog post 🙂

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