Last week we agreed that today we would have a morning on John's patch at Alnmouth, to give the 2023 list a kick up the backside.
The morning dawned very pleasantly especially after last nights gales. We expected things to be quite disagreeable today but as you can see, we had a cool fine morning with a light SW3 breeze.
We began with a short seawatch from the beach shelter as it was high tide.
4 Red throated Divers flew S and one N, 8 Great crested Grebes were in the bay and 2 drakes and one duck Red breasted Merganser chased back and forward close in. A few Rock Pipits all seemed to be grey streaky littoralis birds, a pair of Stonechats and a Pied Wagtail were all we could find on a beach stroll.
We headed a short way around the corner for a brew while scanning the Aln estuary. Small groups of Wigeon and Teal were dotted around with roosting gatherings of Curlew, Oystercatcher and Redshank. A lone Whooper Swan glided in to land near us for a while before taking off again and heading south to locate its wintering group.
While scanning with the bins I noticed a bird on the far side saltmarsh behaving oddly. It looked like a thrush with a snail but also a wader? A quick scopeful saw that it was only a Redshank wiping some prey on the grass maybe to clean it before consumption. At the same time I noticed this bird, another round creature was sitting in a dead hedge behind it. I never thought much about it really until John said 'that's a Little Owl!' Well I never, sure enough a spotty greyish ball catching the first sunshine was indeed a nice Little Owl. Neither of us have seen one in VC68 fr a few years now. They used to crop up occasionally most years but not recently, so this bird was all the more enjoyable.
It fluttered and hopped around and through the twiggy mass until we eventually left it to its roost. A nice unexpected year addition for John.
Next stop was a brief scan of the geese at Foxton. Apart from 2 dead bird flu candidates the main interest out of the local Canadas and Greylags were 2 Barnacle Geese. A drake Goldeneye and a Little Grebe were on the river too.
Goldcrest was the only yearlist addition in Lesbury with the river being too high for Dipper, Goosander and Grey Wagtail so it was off further upstream to Greenrigg for a look along the banks.
It was passerines here that were worth a look. A close Willow Tit showed well, then a mixed flock in some weedy stubble held Reed Buntings, Yellowhammer, Linnets, Chaffinches and one female Brambling.
So not a bad morning, John secured 16 new additions. I hope I can do half as well next Sunday when my patch will get the once over. You never know, I might even take the camera....