Something in the air; Holy Island birdwatching 10/10/2013

by on Oct.15, 2013, under Birdwatching, Holy Island, Northumberland

Mist, drizzle, rain, howling north/northeasterlies, dreich…just what I pray for on our Lindisfarne birdwatching trips in mid-October 🙂

I collected Malcolm from Newbiggin, and we headed north in weather that can best be described as less than pleasant.  Dunlin, Curlew, Lapwing, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Bar-tailed Godwit were on the mud by the causeway as we crossed onto the island, and the heaviest shower of the morning greeted our arrival in the carpark so, as it eased slightly, we set off to walk around the village.  Occasionally, the weather conditions will throw out an oddity with the visible migration of just one species, and this was one of those days.  Although every tree and bush seemed to hold Robins and Song Thrushes, the high-pitched flight calls of one of our favourite winter visitors cut through the rushing wind.  Redwings, those beautifully marked thrushes, were arriving from the north.  Overshooting the island on the strong breeze they turned back into the headwind just over St Cuthbert’s Isle and battled back towards the sanctuary of the trees around St Mary’s Church.  Wave after wave of birds arrived, intertwined with wave after wave of rain and we had one of those frustrating moments that birdwatchers occasionally suffer during poor weather in the autumn.  Malcolm spotted a warbler flitting in and out of cover (the warbler that is, not Malcolm!) and, with rain spotting our binoculars, and the sudden arrival of another heavy shower, we only had a split-second to identify it as a Phylloscopus warbler with an obvious pale supercilium and a yellowish breast before it dropped back into the depths of the bush and we took shelter ourselves.  As the rain eased we checked the bushes again and a Chiffchaff popped out, very different to the earlier bird.  Another rain break, and now both birds had departed…

Down the coast, a short spell of seawatching produced an impressive raft of Eiders on the rather angry-looking sea, and a stream of Gannets heading south as we headed that way ourselves and back to southeast Northumberland.  It’s always a pleasure to have a local birdwatcher as a client on one of our trips.  With local knowledge, and a slightly different perspective on the issues that affect our wildlife and landscape, there’s always so much to chat about that the day seems to go too quickly.

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