The Three B’s Tour on 09 March 2019
Weekend forecasts of stormy weather did not augur well, but our all day tour started on Beadnell beach in clear sunshine with hardly a cloud in the blue sky. Admittedly, it was cold and blustery, so we quickly learned to stand in the lee of any shelter like the sand dunes to our right. On the sea Eider duck were in plentiful supply and it wasn’t long before a drake Long-tailed Duck flew into view and landed on the water. A summer plumaged Shag was showing its iridescent glossy green plumage tones and a drake Red-breasted Merganser looked resplendent in the sunlight. Four species of gull were also on show including a Lesser Black-backed Gull, one of the first of the year as a summering bird. We walked south along the bay towards the Long Nanny burn where we came across good numbers of small waders - Sanderling, Ringed Plover and Dunlin. Curlews were commuting between the shoreline and the fields behind the sand dunes and we could hear their beautiful bubbling call. Andrew scanned the saltmarsh and soon found the birds of the day - 2 beautiful Shorelarks. We knew they had been seen several weeks earlier, but given the lack of recent news their presence still came as a wonderful surprise and they performed well. We had prolonged views of these rare visitors from the Arctic feeding on the ground and could easily see their attractive black and yellow head patterns. Stunning! A Linnet flew over and called as we walked the short distance upstream to find a drake Goosander and a briefly glimpsed Rock Pipit. We walked back north inland of the dunes past a flash pond with impressive numbers of Wigeon plus a few Teal amongst them, as well as large numbers of Curlew. Then on the final stretch back to the car we added Pied Wagtail and a Goldfinch overhead.
Shorelarks - © Andrew Kinghorn
We stopped for lunch at Bamburgh overlooking the sea where a Slavonian Grebe was seen briefly. By contrast the waders on the rocks below us showed well; Oystercatcher, Turnstone and several Purple Sandpiper. By now the wind was strong and the sea was foaming with 'white horses'. It seemed devoid of birds, but a few Gannets flew past at distance going south and a lone Great Black-backed Gull slowly battled north into the head wind. Much closer to us were a couple of Stonechats and we could hear a Skylark.
By mid-afternoon we had arrived at Budle Bay for the incoming tide. There were plenty of duck with Wigeon, Teal, Mallard and Shelduck in good numbers and a couple of Goldeneye for good measure, alongside considerable numbers of Redshank as well as Oystercatcher and Curlew. Some distant Greylag Geese were trip ticks and solitary Grey Heron flew over - our only one of the day. For a short time, the weather threatened as the sky darkened, the gusting wind strengthened and the first raindrops fell as we beat a retreat to our cars. Thankfully, it proved short lived and by the time we made our final stop at the Harpers Heugh lay-by we were once again bathed in sunshine. From here we could see for miles, overlooking the fields west of Budle Bay and north towards Holy Island itself. We spotted a flock of several hundred Barnacle Geese with a few Brent Geese in their midst. In another large field we could see a herd of dozen Whooper Swans with a few Mute Swan. Close to hand a Blackbird cried in alarm and a Greenfinch called as it flew over.
All in all, it was a great day with particularly good views of birds in bright sunlight. The strong winds throughout the day kept most small birds grounded and hidden from view, as reflected in our relatively low total of 50 species. No doubt at all about our star birds - it's always a treat to see Shorelarks!