|The Howick - Craster Patch.|
Its a funny thing to ask, but I see loads of people on social media the length and breadth of the country who's local patch is Spurn, Bardsey, Cley or where ever their county hotspot is. Most people have a nature reserve or a large inland water body, or a migration place where many sets of eyes scour it every weekend for the latest 'rare' but I only see a few people with a random place that very few birders visit. Steve Gale at ND&B has one such place here.
My patch is another. Before I lived here, I used to call in to the area occasionally, but only once did I come here to see a good bird - a juv Red backed Shrike found by Julie Roper about 12 years ago. Even the coast line facing east to the North Sea is quite mundane. It is a rocky shore with no areas for gatherings of birds. The landward side is just as bad, intensively worked, mixed farmland. It is scenic but not too bird friendly really.
It is this that makes it quite a task to keep to the patch when half an hour drive North takes me to Holy Island and another half an hour South takes in the ponds and wetlands of Druridge Bay or Newbiggin. But, I live here, so technically I can visit every single day, even if its just watching out of the window, so over the past 9 years I have stuck with it.
Maybe once a year, if I am lucky, is there a period of weather that makes even this place worth a look, and most often that involves Seawatching. Its the sort of activity that can put you on a level with some other places, at last. This weekend, proved to be my 2018 window of opportunity to add a few good species to the year list.
On Saturday and Sunday I spent 6.5 hrs, alone, glued to my scope and bins enjoying the conveyor belt of birds rattling through my mediocre patch. For once I felt like a contender!
My list looks like this -
All moving North unless otherwise stated.
Pale bellied Brent 3
Shoveler 6 attached to scoter flocks of all things.
Pintail 3 a scarce patch bird
Long tailed Duck 51 best count ever on patch.
Scaup 3 only 3rd record.
Tufted Duck 1
Common Scoter 1034
Velvet Scoter 33
Red breasted Merganser 13
Red throated Diver 50
Black throated Diver 2 a rare visitor.
Great Northern Diver 8
Slavonian Grebe 1 second patch record
Manx Shearwater 11
Little Auk 9
Pomarine Skua 1 distant but carrying the full spoons.
Purple Sandpiper 9
Glaucous Gull 1 fw right over our heads N.
Plus uncountable Gannets, Kittiwakes and Auks and a Short eared Owl and a few Starlings in-off right past me. Further south observers had Leaches Petrel ( one even on Howick patch per Ben Steele but I missed it along at Craster) double figures of Little Auks and Poms, but when sitting watching by yourself its easy to miss out.
I am not too concerned, after all I had a right old hatful of decent patch birds to boost the total but its high time some quality passerine action came my way. Fingers crossed.