Wild Geese and small predators; Druridge Bay 20/09/2013

by on Sep.23, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

After a damp morning around Druridge Bay on Thursday, Friday looked much more promising.  I collected Simeon and Kathy from their holiday accommodation in Warkworth and we set off down the coast for an afternoon around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.  Late summer/early autumn trips often feature plenty of waders and wildfowl and this was no exception.  Common Snipe were playing ‘hard-to-spot’ as they slept in sparse clumps of reed, Dunlin, Ruff, Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Lapwing and Golden Plover were all either roosting or sticking their beaks into the mud and a lone Greenshank was sitting on the periphery of a big flock of Lapwing.  On slow deep wingbeats a Sparrowhawk flew low across the water towards us, pulling sharply up and over us at the last minute.  Over a coastal reedbed a juvenile Marsh Harrier drifted lazily along, swooping down towards the water and scattering the Mallard and Teal that had been dozing contentedly there.

Mid-afternoon we were treated to the spectacle of the sky filled with skein after skein of geese; mainly Pink-footed, but with small groups of Greylag and Canada interspersed amongst the yapping flocks of one our favourite Icelandic winter visitors.  Our next magic moment came courtesy of a mustelid.  Not the Otter that we were searching for, but instead the beautiful little predator that has featured on so many of our trips in the last few weeks.  For several minutes we watched as a Stoat ran backward and forwards along the water’s edge, perched on rocks, had a good look at a Moorhen and finally bounded away through the poolside vegetation.  Another small predator provided the next wildlife experience.  Lapwing, Golden Plover, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwits, Dunlin, Teal, Mallard, Gadwall and Starling all took to the air; had they spotted an Otter lurking in the reeds?  maybe a Fox?  No, what was coming was the Grim Reaper on tiny pointed wings.  A Merlin was suddenly amongst the scattered birds in the air.  Twisting and turning, the tiny falcon had singled out a Dunlin from the multitude of possible targets in front of it.  The chase was on and could be easily followed by watching the path carved through the tightly bunched Lapwings that had taken to the air in alarm.  As the Dunlin made a final bid for freedom, the Merlin gave up the chase and settled, out of sight, in a hawthorn bush in the dunes.  It didn’t have long to catch it’s breath before it was disturbed by a dog walker and flew into a dune slack away from disturbance.  Simeon’s comment after this life and death chase echoed those of many of our clients previously “it’s gripping, but I was really willing the Dunlin to get away”.

As the evening progressed and the Sun dropped below the western horizon, geese began arriving to roost, bats were flitting back and forth across our field of view and, as the light finally faded to black and we headed back to Warkworth, a Barn Owl flew low over the car.

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